Why Does Your Seat Need to Be In an Upright Position During Takeoff and Landing?

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iStock

Landing is no one’s favorite part of a plane ride. Aside from the bumps and jolts, you have to interrupt your nap and put your seat-back into its rigid, straight-up position, which is comfortable for exactly no one. Like many quirks of air travel, the requirement has its roots in safety regulations. There are multiple reasons that flight attendants are insistent about your seat-back position during takeoff and landing, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

Airplane seats are the main source of protection for passengers during a crash, and the upright position is their locked position. In the event of a crash, the whiplash movement of a reclined seat poses a threat to both the passenger sitting in it and the passenger behind it. Plane seats are required to be able to withstand impacts 16 times the force of gravity in a crash, and safety standards like these are widely credited with making plane crashes far more survivable than they used to be. Given that your seat is the one padded thing between your butt and the ground you’re crashing into, you want it to be in its sturdiest position. When the seat isn’t secured in its upright position, you also can’t get into a proper brace position, which the FAA says is three times safer than staying sitting up during a crash.

Plus, putting seats in the upright position makes it significantly easier for the window and middle-seat passengers to exit the row in an emergency. New airplane models have to undergo a mock emergency evacuation before they're cleared to fly to prove that all passengers can get out in 90 seconds or less. It’s much harder to slither out into the aisle if the seats in front of you are reclined and blocking the path. This 90-second requirement has prompted some to question whether planes can still be evacuated quickly enough as legroom shrinks—in 2016, a Tennessee senator unsuccessfully proposed a law to establish a minimum seat pitch on planes (meaning the distance between a seat and the one behind it) on the grounds that there haven’t been safety tests on seats with a pitch of less than 29 inches. Most U.S. planes have a 31-inch pitch, but some, like those used by Spirit Airlines, are even more cramped.

Keeping seats upright during takeoff also makes the plane windows more visible to flight attendants, so that in the event of a crash, they can see out the window to assess whether there’s a fire or another hazard outside the plane. They need to be able to see quickly whether one wing is on fire, say, so that they can direct passengers to exit elsewhere.

Sure, the upright plane seat isn’t terribly comfortable, but those few inches really could save your life.

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Are Any of the Scientific Instruments Left on the Moon By the Apollo Astronauts Still Functional?

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images

C Stuart Hardwick:

The retroreflectors left as part of the Apollo Lunar Ranging Experiment are still fully functional, though their reflective efficiency has diminished over the years.

This deterioration is actually now delivering valuable data. The deterioration has multiple causes including micrometeorite impacts and dust deposition on the reflector surface, and chemical degradation of the mirror surface on the underside—among other things.

As technology has advanced, ground station sensitivity has been repeatedly upgraded faster than the reflectors have deteriorated. As a result, measurements have gotten better, not worse, and measurements of the degradation itself have, among other things, lent support to the idea that static electric charge gives the moon an ephemeral periodic near-surface pseudo-atmosphere of electrically levitating dust.

No other Apollo experiments on the moon remain functional. All the missions except the first included experiment packages powered by radiothermoelectric generators (RTGs), which operated until they were ordered to shut down on September 30, 1977. This was done to save money, but also because by then the RTGs could no longer power the transmitters or any instruments, and the control room used to maintain contact was needed for other purposes.

Because of fears that some problem might force Apollo 11 to abort back to orbit soon after landing, Apollo 11 deployed a simplified experiment package including a solar-powered seismometer which failed after 21 days.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

What Makes a Hotel Breakfast 'Continental'?

Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
tashka2000/iStock via Getty Images

The continental breakfast, which is typically made up of pastries, fruit, and coffee, is often advertised by hotels as a free perk for guests. But why is it called continental, and why don’t patrons get some eggs and bacon along with it?

The term dates back to 19th century Britain, where residents referred to mainland Europe as “the continent.” Breakfast in this region was usually something light, whereas an English or American breakfast incorporated meat, beans, and other “heavy” menu options.

American hotels that wanted to appeal to European travelers began advertising “continental breakfasts” as a kind of flashing neon sign to indicate guests wouldn’t be limited to American breakfast fare that they found unappealing. The strategy was ideal for hotels, which saved money by offering some muffins, fruit, and coffee and calling it a day.

That affordability as well as convenience—pastries and fruit are shelf-stable, requiring no heat or refrigeration to maintain food safety—is a big reason continental breakfasts have endured. It’s also a carryover from the hybrid model of hotel pricing, where American hotels typically folded the cost of meals into one bill and European hotels billed for food separately. By offering a continental breakfast, guests got the best of both worlds. And while Americans were initially aghast at the lack of sausages and pancakes on offer, they’ve since come around to the appeal of a muffin and some orange juice to get their travel day started.

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