Let’s face it: boarding an airplane with luggage is just downright frustrating. Not only do you have to puzzle out how you are going to wrestle your carry-on bag into the aircraft’s tiny overhead compartment, but you have to do it while trying not to get swept away by the tugging current of other passengers.
“OK, everybody count off!”
Courtesy of Steffen, arXiv
But surely not all boarding procedures are created equal—simply boarding the plane back to front would be the easiest and most efficient method, right? Wrong. In fact, boarding by sequential rows is the worst possible approach (pdf), according to a new study by physicist Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics.
World of Wings in Cumbernauld claims Scotland’s “largest collection of birds of prey,” including eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons. The center also served home to a Rüppell’s Griffin Vulture named Gandalf–until Gandalf flew away.
David Ritchie, director of the bird center, told the BBC that the bird flew away during one of the center’s daily shows:
“She got caught in the wind and just went higher and higher until she disappeared…. We would warn people not to approach her but to call the police. She has no fear of humans and she could give someone a very severe bite. Her beak is designed to tear flesh apart.”
There are only about 30,000 remaining Rüppell’s Griffins, native to central Africa, and Gandalf has been at the center since 2006 as part of a zoo breeding program. The birds are scavengers, mostly eating dead animals, and can soar to heights of some 30,000 feet.
So it’s majestic–but its power to reach such heights and its 10-foot wingspan make the escaped vulture a “genuine threat” to airplanes and helicopters, according to Ritchie. The National Air Traffic Services has warned pilots of the threat, the BBC reports. Here’s hoping (for Gandalf’s, the Scottish National Air Traffic Services’, and flesh’s sake) that the vulture returns home soon.
For a prehistoric bird with a bigger bite but no flight, check out Ed Yong’s recent “terror birds” post on Not Exactly Rocket Science.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Are birds smarter than mathematicians? Pigeons perform optimally on a version of the Monty Hall Dilemma.
Discoblog: Male Birds Can Make Their Sperm Travel Faster for Attractive Females
Discoblog: Duck Study: Competition for Mates Causes Males to Grow Longer Penises
80Beats: Mockingbird to Annoying Human: “Hey, I Know You”