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Air Traffic: Surprisingly Entertaining!

This cool-ass video is thanks to the hard work of some Swiss folk who used massive amounts of publicly-available data on flights worldwide to come up with a sweet visual representation of global air traffic.

Wired’s AUTOPIA blog reports:

Aspiring scientists from the Zurich School of Applied Sciences have built a video simulation that displays the flight path of every commercial flight in the world over a 24-hour period. There isn’t much of an application for it, but it sure is cool to look at.

While the map may look complex, Dr. Karl Rege tells us he and his team found it surprisingly simple to assemble using data readily available on the internet.

“We used a commercial website called FlightStats to gather global flight and schedule information,” he says. “So there was no need to contact the different airlines.”

The team mined FlightStats for the departure and arrival times of every commercial flight in the world, then plugged it all into a computer to assemble their simulation. For the sake of simplicity, they assumed every plane traveled at the same speed and every flight took the most direct route to its destination. Then every flight was assigned a position on a Miller cylindrical projection, which is similar to a Mercator Projection but doesn’t distort the poles so much.

“After that we drew it, that was it,” Rege says. “It was that easy. We are astonished that nobody did it beforehand.”

Well, others have done it, but on a much smaller scale…

Autopia then goes on to show a number of other examples, but this next one is by far our favorite. It shows air traffic in the United States on a typical day.

The best part is about 12 seconds in, when all traffic ceases except red-eyes heading east from the Left Coast. Then, in an explosion of activity that will surprise nobody who has ever caught a morning flight at a major East Coast hub, the right side of the country is suddenly illuminated:

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

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