Keep scrolling for the chart that shows how deep in the ocean MH370’s may be

Richard Deitsch highlights this chart showing the possible depth of MH370’s black box. I’m not copying it here because it is one long chart.

Two things the chart does well:

1. On the way down to 15,000 feet, it shows relative heights and depths of other objects. Buildings don’t even come close and animal life is limited.

2. The effect of continued scrolling highlights just how deep the black box may be. The chart could have shrunk to fit the screen or a typical newspaper page but it would then lose the interactive element of going down more and more.

Panel: keep Washington D.C. building height restrictions, preserving height to street-width ratios

A panel recently suggested height restrictions for buildings should remain in the older areas of Washington D.C.:

Building heights in the 68-square-mile (176-square-km) area are determined by the width of the street on which a structure fronts. The maximum height is 130 feet (40 meters), with some exceptions.The result is a distinctive low-lying skyline that showcases historic monuments and distinctive landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol, National Cathedral and the Old Post Office. The tallest structure is the Washington Monument, which stands at the center of the Mall and is about 555 feet (169 meters) high.

The National Capital Planning Commission recommended leaving intact the federal height rules for the part laid out in the 18th century. The area of wide avenues and traffic circles is home to the White House, National Mall and museums.

The commission left open the possibility that buildings in the area developed beyond the city’s original layout can be higher – but only after additional study and as long as they did not interfere with federal interests.

Another article I saw about this suggested this would restrict growth in Washington, a city whose suburban counties are growing in both population and wealth. Without opportunities for taller buildings in the city, money that could go to the city through property and sales taxes will instead go elsewhere.

But, taller buildings in or near the National Mall would change it quite a bit. These height restrictions are reminiscent of a more traditional kind of architecture. For example, New Urbanists often suggest linking building heights to a particular ratio compared to the width of the streets to create a more comfortable feeling. Contrast the National Mall with the experience of midtown Manhattan, a place busy and interesting but also full of concrete canyons and structures that tower over anything going on in the streets. These two areas serve different purposes but the experiences are quite different.

Height battle between Willis Tower and One World Trade Center reveals each city’s insecurities

One World Trade Center may have been officially declared the tallest building in the United States but one writer argues the debate is really about Chicago’s and New York City’s insecurities:

What this whole thing really measures isn’t the size of a pair of buildings—it’s the size of each city’s insecurity. New York has its hollow confidence, and Chicago has its inferiority complex. Each is painful, but both can be soothed by the balm of the biggest building. Helpful reminder: The reason that Western Hemisphere asterisk has to be applied to the Willis / World Trade debate is because, among the tallest buildings worldwide, these two barely make the top 10.

The tallest building thing is just a stand-in for the real question: Which is the better city? You’ll need a different kind of Council on Urban Habitat to really get to the bottom of that.

Which is the better city? New York City is consistently ranked as the #1 global city. New York has more glamor, more of the global financial industry, more people than other cities in the United States, and one of the most impressive concentrations of people, buildings, and wealth in Manhattan. Chicago has its place as the quintessential American city (from its explosive growth in the late 1800s, its place as a transportation hub, the birthplace of numerous financial industry and commodity trade inventions, and its contrasts of wealth and poverty) and architecture.

But, all places have imperfections. See an earlier post about Chicago’s insecurities. And, it also depends on which other cities are in the comparisons: New York City is commonly compared to the world’s greatest cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Chicago, on the other hand, contends with two larger U.S. cities (including Los Angeles, a city that doesn’t seem to get caught up in these debates) and perhaps the next tier of global cities.

How exactly a building settles these concerns is beyond me. As the article notes, there are other buildings around the world – in some that rank lower on the scale of global cities, places like Dubai, Mecca, and Shenzhen – that are as tall or taller.

Long tail: 17% of the seven foot tall men between ages 20 and 40 in the US play in the NBA

As part of dissecting whether Shaq can really fit in a Buick Lacrosse (I’ve asked this myself when watching the commercial), Car & Driver drops in this little statistic about men in the United States who are seven feet tall:

The population of seven-footers is infinitesimal. In 2011, Sports Illustrated estimated that there are fewer than 70 men between the ages of 20 and 40 in the United States who stand seven feet or taller. A shocking 17 percent of them play in the NBA.

In the distribution of heights in the United States, being at least seven feet tall is quite unusual and at the far right side of a fairly normal distribution. But, being that tall increases the odds of playing in the NBA by quite a lot. As a Forbes post suggests, “Being 7 Feet Tall [may be] the Fastest Way To Get Rich in America“:

Drawing on Centers for Disease Control data, Sports Illustrated‘s Pablo Torre estimated that no more than 70 American men are between the ages of 20 and 40 and at least 7 feet tall. “While the probability of, say, an American between 6’6? and 6’8? being an NBA player today stands at a mere 0.07%, it’s a staggering 17% for someone 7 feet or taller,” Torre writes.

(While that claim might seem like a tall tale, more than 42 U.S.-born players listed at 7 feet did debut in NBA games between 1993 and 2013. Even accounting for the typical 1-inch inflation in players’ listed heights would still mean that 15 “true” 7-footers made it to the NBA, out of Torre’s hypothetical pool of about 70 men.)…

And given the market need for players who can protect the rim, there are extra rewards for this extra height. The league’s median player last season was 6 feet 7 inches tall, and paid about $2.5 million for his service. But consider the rarified air of the 7-footer-and-up club. The average salary of those 35 NBA players: $6.1 million.

(How much does one more inch matter? The 39 players listed at 6 feet 11 inches were paid an average of $4.9 million, or about 20% less than the 7 footers.)

Standing as an outlier at the far end of the distribution seems to pay off in this case.

Seeking height variances for DuPage mosques

I’ve been keeping track of several proposals  for mosques in DuPage County (including one near Lombard) that have been working their way through the approval process. One issue has been the height of the buildings. A group looking to build a mosque near Willowbrook is going to seek an exception to existing regulations:

The Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America is one of two Islamic groups to be denied a height variance request this year by DuPage.

County board members granted MECCA’s request for a conditional-use permit so it can build a roughly 47,000-square-foot mosque along 91st Street near Route 83. But in a separate action, they refused to give the group permission to exceed the height restriction of 36 feet so it could have a 69-foot dome and 79-foot minaret.

Mark Daniel, an Elmhurst-based attorney representing MECCA, said the group has reapplied for a shorter 50-foot dome and 60-foot minaret. A public hearing on the new height variance request is scheduled for November…

Board members who opposed the height variance said MECCA representatives failed to show the denial would result in a legal hardship.

While the lawyer for MECCA suggests that there are plenty of religious buildings nearby over 36 feet, the County says the new rules went into effect in 2005 and have been followed since.

I would guess that the 2005 regulations were put into place because of NIMBY concerns: residents didn’t want large structures dominating the sky near them. Since the steeple seems to be on the way out, perhaps having a tall building now indicates that the structure will be quite large, leading to the typical concerns of traffic and late night crowds. Looking at the Google Map satellite view of the intersection of 91st Street and Route 83, it appears there are a number of nearby residential neighborhoods.

If the County has applied these rules to all religious groups, perhaps MECCA could suggest that the entire regulation be examined. Thirty-six feet tall is roughly 3+ stories, somewhat sizable but not that tall. MECCA’s proposal is for about double that height. Indeed, another Chicago-area organization has suggested the height regulations are unfair:

In the meantime, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago this week issued a statement claiming that legal experts have questioned the method DuPage used to adopt its existing height limit. The council said the “potentially illegally adopted” restriction violates state law and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

It would be interesting to then hear from these legal experts.

How large is too large for football?

The NFL has some large players, particularly on the offensive line where it seems like all the linemen are at least 6’3″ and 300 pounds.The game has evolved from one with fairly normal people to one where players have to be behemoths or physical specimens at each position.

Mississippi walk-on lineman Terrell Brown is even bigger: 6’11” and 390 pounds. This is huge, massive. A couple thoughts:

1. Can one even be a good football player at this size? I imagine if he locked up with a defensive player, Brown could win on size alone. But how difficult is it to move all that weight? I could imagine some smaller defense players could make it difficult as they run around him.

2. Can one remain healthy while playing at this size? Linemen take a beating and it seems like tall athletes, like Yao Ming, have special issues.

3. What will his future life be like if football doesn’t work out? Offensive linemen bulk up quite a bit to play football but this is not the weight one would want to stay at for a lifetime.

Brown has a long way to go before these questions are answered – he is just a walk-on who apparently played at a community college and is not listed on recruiting sites. I’d be curious to see how his football future plays out.