The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Paintings In The Sky …
March 25, 2009, 7:02 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that always stops me in my tracks is when I’m working and I see a plane flying overhead.

Despite spending an inordinate amount of time at airports, there is still something magical about seeing that white plume of smoke rising ever higher in the sky.

I wonder where it’s going. I wonder who are the passengers. I wonder how excited the people going on holiday are feeling.

It’s a little moment where regardless of what I’m doing, I sense a tinge of jealously.

Below is a video that shows how many of these journeys take place every day.

The video is a 24-hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to just over a minute.

What a beehive of activity …

I love how you can see all the planes leave the US and swarm towards Europe before heading back again.

I love how there seems to be more planes leaving Sydney than arriving and more planes arriving in South Africa than going.

I love how you can tell when the airports are open and when they are closed.

I love seeing how bloody Asia seems to be in a constant state of activity and how Singapore seems to be Asia’s key stopover hub.

I love watching the flights between Oz and NZ … it’s as if they’re in battle of who can get rid of the most people.

I love how you can tell it was recorded when it was summer in the Northern hemisphere by the sun’s footprint over the planet. [it didn’t quite set in the extreme north and it didn’t quite rise in the extreme south]

I love how you can see how Earth works.

If we open our eyes enough, we can see there’s real beauty in information, not to mention the fact we can make information, beautiful.

26 Comments so far
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jesus fucking christ have you become so desperate for “material” you have to disect airline movement?

fuck me rob thats even lower than being a train spotting anorak twat but you have got me excited about what horror you will unleash tomorrow presumably something about the things you can learn by analysing hedgehog movements around the a273 near fucking leicestershire

patrick moore and grisham watch your fucking backs

Comment by andy@cynic

ha, classic Andy!
That video was awesome. Think about how much of a BIG DEAL it is planning and getting excited and investing so much energy into an overseas holiday, then you see something like that and it puts it all in a weird (massive) perspective. Awesome find.

Comment by Age

Amazing. I do the same thing – and I live under the flight path for the airport.

My interest is especially piqued when I only see blinking lights, high up, late at night. Where are those hundreds of people, all asleep, going?

Comment by Colin McKay

I should mention Andy emailed a link to this video all around the company so I know he is secretly impressed really. 🙂

I see all that complex, continuous and time pressured activity going on in the air and wonder why it takes a media agency 6 weeks to organise a comms plan which ends up looking almost identical to every other plan they’ve ever presented.

Some say there are only 7 storylines in the World, well I’m beginning to think there’s only 1 media plan.

Brilliant video and I like your observations and comments because they’re funny and interesting and show how there’s always a viewpoint to be made that can generate thoughts and ideas from others.

Comment by Pete

what a sweet post. and isn t it crazy how many planes are up there. they look like ants going their way. the world is a busy place.

Comment by peggy

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I think this is visually stunning Rob and as an image of globalisation it’s incredible. You wax lyrical on the joys of air travel but what really scares the shit out of me is the possibility of the spread of disease. If just one of those tiny dots contains just one person who has a virus…….. Sars was just a rehearsal.

Comment by martin

Lovely video Robert, I have sent it around the office claiming ownership for its discovery.

Slightly concerned you cannot see VA flights leaving/arriving before the competition but I have put that down to our relatively small fleet and the scale of the video. I suggest you do not say otherwise Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Shall I invoice you Lee for that shameless plug on my blog? 🙂

Thanks for scaring the shit out of me with that comment Martin – if I find my airport trips now take an hour longer because I need to pass through an antiseptic bath each way, I know who to blame.

Comment by Rob

I have slept on this so it’s a considered comment. Like you Rob I have looked at the plane since a small boy as both a piece of magic and a display of dynamics that looks impossible but makes sense when considering a fan in an Asian climate can blow a paper of a table. Increase the speed to 700 mph, make the paper the size of a Jumbo and then we see that air is pretty dense soupy stuff that is both capable of supporting a lot and is really slowing a lot down when it wants to move at high speed.

So thinking about data patterns like this really just says to me that I can make pretty pictures out of global data for rectal cancer to quote Scamps Blog yesterday so that you know this next part isn’t said with bitterness.

I see travel on planes using fossil fuels as symptomatic of our addition to speed. I loathe flying because it’s just sucking up the resources of the planet faster and faster that’s why business travel is so deadly for us. The faster we work the faster we suck up the resources the quicker we bring forward our own demise and no data visualization for that can be more important than what it means.

So that’s a bit of an arsy comment disagreeing with you but only because I can’t be arsed to do it on my own blog.

If I was a plane carrier brand I’d be doing what I think the energy brands should ALL be doing.

Making, not waiting for a business model with every weapon at our disposal including government and social collective dynamics that charges MORE for LESS.

Hard but not impossible.

I haven’t read any other comments but I will do otherwise the Thai Pornstar I met last night sulking at the table eating pizza alone will just hate me. I kid you not 🙂

Comment by Charles

So that’s no free flights on VA for Charles …

[In the interests of Lee, I should point out VA have been investigating different fuel types for their planes for a number of years and are committed to finding an alternative, even if it is as much for economic as environmental reasons]

Maybe I’ve misunderstood, but for Scamp to say making pictures out of global data is the equivilent of creating rectal cancer is pretty daft given he masturbates furiously at any bit of “work” Juan and the boys at Fallon create for Cadbury.

The video above was just one I found – it wasn’t claiming to make any major statement, it was just a film I found interesting – the other stuff is how I’ve diagnosed it and whilst some of it is just cheeky observation with no real rational or benefit, I think that when done properly the ability to visualise data is a great idea.

Take your issue about the excess of fossil fuel usage. If I was making a preso to the government to push them to put legislation in place to reduce this, would saying “a plane lands at an airport somewhere in the World every 3 seconds” have as much impact showing them this clip? I would say not …

Now putting that aside – you comment about humanities obsession with speed is brill. Not only does it embody the physical element of it all – but it also characterises societies quest for instant gratification in almost all aspects of life be it food, sex, money or information. I have a far greater issue with that side of our obsession with speed than the airline industry – at least it can be argued that by getting people to see/mingle other cultures there’s a chance for greater understanding and acceptance … though if you turn on the news today, I’m sure they’ll be stories that prove otherwise, ha.

PS: Why have you got a male Thai porn star in your house?

Comment by Rob

Ha Ha Ha. Because he’s hung like a donkey you bastard!

She’s beautiful and evil if you want the precis. Just what I deserve in either the short or long term so who knows.

Now then with regard to speed I think it links into immediacy which is why I went to sleep with the subject spinning around in my head and woke up with a bit more clarity because I commented on it over here before I made my way to you.

I don’t have the heart to write posts about this stuff as much as I do in the comments because frankly after losing my Twitter account I know that it’s always been about the great conversation and this place is the best of the best.

Hopefully I’ll get that Prada post done but what the fuck those guys hired you for I’ve no idea. Prada is the sort of shit only gays or divine women wear such Thai porn stars of unspeakable beauty performing stuff that is never done on camera. Any serious wannabe anthropologist would have to know about that before writing about food, sex and money (info is free)

Planning. It’s a lifestyle not a job as I like to say. But what would you know about that when you’re always high in the sky doing business. Or was that me…I’m confused.


Comment by Charles

Charles, a few comments …

1/ You somehow get a Thai porn queen to come home with you and you spent the night thinking about immediacy. Are you bloody mental?

2/ We’re asking Prada that and they sure as shit as asking us, ha. Seems my final pitch of “if you ever make something I’d like to buy or wear, your brand is dead” was somewhat appealing, ha!

3/ Surely being in a plane alot is a lifestyle? Certainly more so than sitting behind a desk … which you don’t do unless there’s a Thai porno legend underneath it, ha!

Now back to your divine right – and a word of advice, forget the intellectual musing and get down to some grunting. God, I feel ill just writing that, ha!

Comment by Robert

Porky Prada.

You’ve nailed it! Genius. How do you do it?


Comment by Charles

That’s our secret weapon – if they don’t give us the biz we buy their clothes and walk around the streets.

Comment by Rob

I think the video is great but I would be very interested to know how many of those “dots” were running at full passenger capacity.

I think the question Charles poses about whether the video is information made beautful or pointlessness made pretty is down to the eyes of the recipient. I’m quite positive if I was to show some of the images we create to communicate with our technical teams the majority would think it was the work of an amateur artist but to the right audience it transforms into technological inspiration but I’d be happy to change my view if Charles could pass on any tips for picking up a Thai pornstar. 🙂

Comment by Bazza

Its a great video, and shows just how much of an influence air travel has on our lives.

I thought you’d be sick of planes though. Except VA of course, wonderful airline. Can I get my discount now? 😉

Speaking of which, two creatives here recently went on a number of 1st class VA flights and both talked about how great it was. So thats good for Lee.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Lets be honest Mr M, if anyone gets upgraded they’re happy – and if they’re upgraded to 1st [or Upperclass] – then they’d be as happy as pigs in shit even if they were flying Aeroflot … but I do get your point.

As for being sick of flying … I am beyond sick of it but then I remember I could be working as a bank teller in West Bridgford [or an ASDA checkout operator, which is probably where I belong] and I shut the hell up.

Comment by Rob

nice vid – a little like those pics from a few years ago that captured the world’s flights in jetstreams across the sky. just in addition to bazza’s comment – are those flights passenger flights? or freight too? the instant gratification thing i guess also applies just as much to our ‘stuff’ as to ourselves. [although i guess i can’t really talk, having just returned from a 10000 mile trip across the world and all those resources to say hello to friends in UK/EU. hmm.]

Comment by lauren

The video features the flights of all large aircraft over a 24 hour period so yes, it will include frieght planes as well as the one Lauren took to say ‘Hi’ to her friends in the UK/EU.

To continue with Charles and Lauren’s ‘instant gratification’ point, should all international holidays be banned given in many cases, there are perfectly acceptable holiday facilities in their own country?

Alain de Bottom has a great doco on this [The Art of Travel] … but the question is, where does environmental consideration start and end?

Comment by Rob

international holidays will become a luxury, if for no other reason, that most major attraction suffers from visitor fatigue.

The wall of China, the Rome coloseum, can’t handle the amount of visitors. they are cracking up.

So I think it will come to a point that parents will start booking holidays for their kinds, when they are in the belly still. just like preschool and shit.

nothing to do with enviroment, just with economics..ration access in real life and you can sell the anticipation for 18 years with vids and books and virtual stuff and then see it for yourself. Sense and haptic memories are the new diamond and gold….

Comment by niko

and add to that the irony that we’re making friends from all over the globe so much more easily, thanks to this new fandangled interweb thing and the desire to meet f2f that goes with it. awesome. solution? teleporters, obviously. the deconstruction and reunification of organic particles will save us all.


Comment by lauren

I must admit I don’t know if I agree with your call on International holidays becoming a luxury – mainly because the Costa del Sol is about as luxurious as an outdoor toilet in winter and that continually has millions turn up on their doorstep each year but I do feel it’ll become more ‘regionally’ based than global, at least whilst the economy does its rollercoaster impression.

And Lauren, if this interweb thing encourages interaction with physical strangers [that sounds waaaaaay ruder than it is meant] why haven’t we caught up yet? Don’t answer that, we all know the answer and it’s got the words “birkenstocks”, “embarassment”, “street” and “cred” in it.

Comment by Rob

and add to that the word shit. and timing.

Comment by lauren

and “not” “fucking” “stupid”

Comment by andy@cynic

and “how” “does” “never” “work for you”

Comment by John

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