This entry was posted by Tuesday, 13 August, 2013
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Does California have its head up its butte? Elon Musk, the founder of Pay Pal and of Tesla Motors says so.

Why, he asks, is California spending 70 BILLION dollars to build a high speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles when, he, a guy with a big ego, can build a completely theoretical, unproven, and untried one between the same two cities for a mere 10 billion dollar?

A good question, right?

Musk’s plan is to put tubes on stilts between the cities. He would pump most of the air out of the tubes so that there would be relatively little air resistance and, using magnetic motors, he would propel the passenger pods to over 700 mph. This would move people (and possibly other things) at an average speed that even a jet airplane couldn’t match (considering everything including takeoffs and landings).

Did I mention the solar energy panels on the roof of the tubes? Green as grass. Energy self sufficient.

The PR machine for the hyperloop is impressive. The press loves it.  The illustrations are fabulous and the elaborately described ideas are tough to resist. Maybe we’ll get one  here in Rhode Island. It could get us between Providence and Warwick.  Fast, cheap, and fun to ride? Why the hell not?


Here’s the thing.

Even the inventors of the Segway, that two wheeled scooter that was going to “revolutionize transportation”, had the decency to make a couple of prototypes before they dropped the PR bomb.

Musk is a little over-the-top. I’m not having a fight with his physics.  But the engineering problems are real. A bunch of people stuffed into capsules inside evacuated cylinders, traveling at crazy  speeds? The chances for things to go bad are really high. Power failures, tube failures, mechanical problems. There isn’t much room for error. Just maintaining a vacuum reliably over all that distance. It’s never been done, right? Should that worry anyone? Not unless it’s YOUR head on the chopping block. The probability of getting this done on time and on budget?  Plus or minus about a million percent?

Is MISTER ScienceAintSoBad miffed about this? Not in the least. There’s nothing wrong with a serious person being outrageous every once-in-awhile. It shakes up the system. Which is a good thing, right? And – you know what? – if he’s right, and I’m wrong? You get to commute between two great cities fast. And you get to thumb your nose at MISTER ScienceAintSoBad for being so  cynical.

I hope it works.

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Image credits to myself. 


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