What's the Difference Between Hotels and Motels?

iStock.com/jganser
iStock.com/jganser

In crime fiction, society's degenerates often meet up in what authors like to describe as "seedy motels." Unlike a hotel, a motel carries connotations of being hospitable to illegal acts, unkempt, cheap, dilapidated, and generally the lesser of travel lodgings. Hotels, though they can be dirty and unpleasant in equal measure, tend to be looked upon more favorably.

Is this kind of hospitality stereotyping even fair? What's the difference between a hotel and a motel?

The answer is in the etymology of the word motel. It's a really two words spliced together: motor (or motorist) and hotel. Motels first came into prominence in the 1920s, when newly-paved highways meant that drivers might be traveling long distances and be in need of accommodations. These early motels popped up along roadways, offering meals, a place to sleep, and a place to park one's car. These car spaces were typically situated right in front of the motel rooms, which were part of a one- or two-story structure. Because motels weren't intended to shelter hundreds of people in a major tourist spot, it made more sense to keep them small and make crashing for the night as convenient as possible.

Hotels, in contrast, have been around for centuries and are meant to both host destination travelers and stand as architectural marvels, with an artery of lobbies offering interior entrances to rooms. The staff can run into the hundreds to keep their sprawling operation clean and efficient.

Because their amenities are more limited, motels might employ just a handful of people. They're also less likely to be prepared for extended-stay guests, who may quickly grow tired of the small rooms and basic features. Motels, for example, typically don't have gyms and room service.

On the plus side, you're more likely to find a motel in remote areas, and chances are the rates will be more reasonable than what a hotel might charge.

As for whether motels have an earned reputation for being sleazy, that's probably not true. While they do offer easier access to non-guests into rooms by virtue of their layout (and therefore make for much better movie-shooting locales), your chances of being victimized by some type of crime probably have more to do with where you are than where you're staying. Crime in nicer New York City hotels is up 20 percent in the past few years, with 2656 police reports filed in 2017.

Hotel or motel, always lock your door and remain alert walking to and from your vehicle—which, if you're in a motel, can be easily seen from your room window. Happy travels.

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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