November 23rd, 2023
Hi, it’s Rose! I write for Datawrapper’s blog, and this week I learned about the greatest — though not latest — in data transfer methods.
Have you been frustrated with the speed of your home internet? Are you tired of waiting for big files to upload? Does the connection just keep dropping?
Why not consider a pigeon?
It's a solution from another century, but data transfer by pigeon is actually faster than the internet in many cases, even in the world's most developed economies. After reading a U.S.-focused article about the pigeonnet in the Washington Post last week, I was so charmed by the idea that I knew I had to run the numbers for Europe as well. (But seriously, don't miss the original piece and its beautiful data visualizations — pigeon GIF included.)
A pigeon flies just as fast with one gigabyte of data as with 100 — provided the storage device is small enough, of course. They can cover about 65 kilometers per hour with any quantity of data you can physically attach to them. Your internet connection, meanwhile, has a throughput that's measured in megabits per second. More data means a slower upload — but a friend on the other side of the world can receive your message just as easily as one on the other side of town. All this means that pigeons are at the greatest advantage when transferring large quantities of data over short physical distances.
This isn't purely a thought experiment. Besides their more traditional message-carrying history, pigeons have raced the internet and won in South Africa, Australia, the U.K., and most recently the U.S. with as much as three terabytes (3000 gigabytes) of data.
It's hard to see this taking off at scale, but if you work with a lot of data and don't need it to travel too far, pigeons would be far from the worst solution. Especially if you live in Greece or Germany. Write in if you ever try it — you know how to reach me.
That's all for today! See you next Thursday for a Weekly Chart from our developer Jack.