kottke.org posts about Nelson Minar

All of the riversJun 13 2013

Perhaps inspired by All Streets, Ben Fry's map of all the streets in the US, Nelson Minar built a US map out of all the rivers in the country.

All Rivers

All Rivers detail

Minar put all the data and files he used up on Github so you can make your own version.

Why is flying hard?Feb 12 2010

Nelson Minar on why flying is so difficult (in comparison to driving).

Cars only steer in one dimension; planes steer in two. Even a level turn is hard in a plane, you have to coordinate two controls, except sometimes you deliberately uncoordinate them. Managing engine power is harder in a plane: two or three controls in a piston, not just a single pedal. And then there's auxiliary controls you have to use occasionally: flaps, carburetor heat, fuel tank selector, etc. Even starting a plane requires carefully using four controls in the proper relationship.

My dad was a pilot and used to let me fly when I was little, like 5 or 6. It was easy in clear weather, easier than driving a car in fact...just keep it level. I actually didn't even need to touch the yoke much of the time...the plane just flew itself. When I got older, I realized that what made it so effortless was that my dad was taking care of the hard part, the 95% of flying that doesn't involve moving any of the controls. What made it look so effortless for him, even when things got tough1, was the 10,000+ hours in the cockpit of a plane, flying.

[1] Like when he made a crosswind landing in a Cessna 172 ahead of an oncoming storm which we later learned had spawned some tornadoes while running a bit lower on gas than was generally acceptable by the plane's captain. He'd already attempted one landing, aborting after the wind dropped us like 10 feet in half a second while about 30 feet from the ground. The sensation of that crosswind landing -- of gliding over the runway twenty feet off the ground at ~60-80 mph while pointed about 30 degrees off axis and then, just before touching down and presumably tumbling down the runway wing over wing, straightening out for a surprisingly gentle landing -- was one of the freakiest things I've ever experienced, partly because I wasn't scared at all...I knew he'd get us down safely.

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