Strange things are afoot in the travel world today. It seems like our inboxes have been flooded by announcements of weird and wonderful innovations. Here's a selection of the most interesting news of the day (that would be April 1, by the way).
Ever the publicity hound, Richard Branson announced that his engineering team has secretly developed the world's first glass-bottom airplane. (Picture above) The plane's underbelly will be completely see-through, allowing travelers the "opportunity to look down on the beautiful scenery of Great Britain as they fly." But rest assured: Cabin crew will be trained to calm the nerves of vertigo-prone fliers. (Amy Farley)
This morning on Lat/Long, the Google Maps blog, a proud product manager unveiled new eye-popping, wig-launching Grand Canyon imagery that will be added to the region in Google Maps. (The shots, taken by hikers wearing 40-lb. packs mounted with Google 360-degree cameras, cover 75 miles of trails.)
Take a stroll through some of these spectacular panoramas while solemnly humming This Land Is Your Land. Kind of beats the pants off finding your childhood home on Google Streetview, eh?
- Batter up? Los Angeles’ Cake Museum threatened by budget cuts. L.A. Times
- Dangerous looking French sundial casts pretty cool shadow four times a year. NASA
- Eye-popping, gorgeous, 20-gigapixel navigable view of London’s skyline. The details are so crisp that you can zoom in to check out footwear choices on the opposite bank of the Thames. Life in Megapixels
- The same genius, John Nelson, also mapped NYC-based Twitter feeds that contain the words “love” and “hate” to create what he calls Constellations of Love and Hate, pictured above. Not surprisingly, LaGuardia Airport is a nexus of negativity. IDV User Experience
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.
The Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has released a mesmerizing animation, Perpetual Ocean, in which 2½ years' worth of data recording the oceans' surface currents was fed into a modelling program. The result—extravagant and whimsical and truly beautiful—merits a couple of minutes viewing.
A few years back, when I called South Kensington home, I distinctly recall trundling through London's Underground knowing, even with map in hand, that I had been misled. Eyeballing the official Tube map insinuated that Heathrow was the same distance west of South Ken as Tower Hill was to the east. So you can imagine my surprise when we rolled past Monument station towards Tower Hill 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
True—one should never assume subway diagrams bear any resemblance to street level. But admit it: we all do. An NYU study in 2011 found that passengers put their faith in transit maps far more than they do in their own travel experience. But shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t our maps clearly illustrate that the amount of time it takes to walk from Queensway to Bayswater beats switching lines by almost six minutes?
For those looking for engaging travel maps that provide valuable service info, but with more artistic flair, They Draw & Travel could be the treasure trove you've been looking for. The site is an eye-catching collection of illustrated maps filled with unexpected tips, discoveries, and off-the-radar spots currently covering over 110 cities from about 30 different countries. Instead of getting a guide to the typical tourist traps, you'll be treated to an insider's itinerary to, say, the best parks for an afternoon picnic, a tour through the town's annual festivals, and which neighborhood markets are worth exploring—each map style completely different from the next.
Run out of clever ways to show off your impressive array of passport stamps? Now you can proudly track your travels with this Places on Earth print. The print, a hand-drawn map of the world, comes complete with a container of pushpins, and four heavy bulldog clips (to keep the print from curling).
Foursquare, a social media tool that encourages users to “check-in” at venues, realized a phenomenal 3,400% growth last year, with 381 million check-ins worldwide. The company just released a fun infographic that reveals the most popular places in 2010, according to its members’ updates.
I recently returned from a ten-day sailing trip around the Secret Island of Culebra, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Living aboard a sailboat reminded me of my love for nautical charts—the fluid lines, soft, sea-foamy color palette, and wiry, spare typeface lend an on-trend heritage feel to the handsome utilitarian scrolls. How smart was it, then, that Portland, Maine–based jeweler Charlotte Leavitt dreamed up the idea of custom-crafting various pieces (pendants, earrings, cufflinks, even belt buckles) making use of nautical charts? Childhood summers spent aboard her family’s daysailer in coastal Castine instilled in the formerly desk-bound jewelry hobbyist a similar appreciation for the art of the chart.