This post contains two short movies of the air transportation networks in the globe and the US, respectively. Both movies have been circulating on the Internet for a while, so you may have seen them. If not, you should watch.
The first movie displays everything, namely, all the planes in flight on the planet over the course of a day. That sounds mundane, but the movie takes a perspective rarely seen, putting together satellite images. The viewer can see all the planes flying at one time, as if from 30K up. Your jaw will drop the first time you view it.
We see all planes over the course of a day — everywhere and at once, while some places sleep and others scramble during their waking hours.
It is about a minute long. It is a very elegant way to display the globe’s air transportation network. Each little dot represents a plane. The dots move. It is hard for the human eye to follow any particular dot, but the sum-total of them provides a special fireworks.
Here are some details to notice. For example, pay attention to the change from light to dark as the planet rotates over the course of the day. It is near summer in the north, so the north pole experiences quite a long day.
The composer flattens the earth. This has advantages in this context, but it exaggerates the relative size of the north and south poles. Because there is so few plane flights traveling to or from those regions, so it fades into the background, and does not distract.
Enough words from me. The movie itself is astounding to watch, and that says it all. Enjoy!
Now look at this one. This minute-long video shows only the US. About halfway through the country goes to sleep, and virtually all the plane traffic stops. Then it wakes up again, with airports in Chicago leading the way. Take a look:
I do not know about you, but I can watch these over and over.
Last observation: I am struck by the myriad technologies that came together to make these possible. Each plane is identified by radar. Some clever computing splicing puts multiple radar images together. Another set of clever splicing speeds it up (or samples once every minute to make a frame), and translates it into a short viewable video. Yet another technology makes it available to any viewer, and yet another set of technologies embedded in infrastructure delivers it to your screen. This takes advantage of an amazing leap in mainstream networking technology.