We live in an age of unbelievable progress in the field of computing, with the internet having revolutionized the way information is exchanged on a global scale. It seems like every day the chips get smaller and the storage space gets larger. One would think such changes would have brought about a new age of utopian technology. Yet in many areas of life, things don’t seem to have changed all that much over the years, and transportation is a woeful example of this. The roads are still lined with cars, the skies speckled with airliners. The science fiction stories of decades past foresaw flying cars and teleporters, but the 21st century has had to settle for Segways.
Dreams never die, however, and the fantasy of futuristic transportation is very much alive right now as exemplified by a concept called the Hyperloop. While it’s not quite as mind-shattering as a teleporter or as fun as a personal jetpack, the Hyperloop seems like it could revolutionize mass transit, shortening travel times on land and reducing environmental damage in the process.
What is the Hyperloop?
The Hyperloop is a concept proposed by billionaire inventor Elon Musk, CEO the aerospace firm SpaceX. It is a reaction to the California High-speed Rail systemcurrently under development, a bullet train system that Musk feels is lackluster, as it will be one of the most expensive and slow-moving in the world.
Musk’s Hyperloop consists of two massive tubes extending from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Pods carrying passengers would travel through the tubes at speeds topping out over 700 mph (1126 km/hr). Imagine the pneumatic tubes people in The Jetsons use to move around buildings, but on a much bigger scale. For propulsion, magnetic accelerators will be planted along the length of the tube, propelling the pods forward. The tubes would house a low pressure environment, surrounding the pod with a cushion of air that permits the pod to move safely at such high speeds, like a puck gliding over an air hockey table.
Given the tight quarters in the tube, pressure buildup in front of the pod could be a problem. The tube needs a system to keep air from building up in this way. Musk’s design recommends an air compressor on the front of the pod that will move air from the front to the tail, keeping it aloft and preventing pressure building up due to air displacement. A one way trip on the Hyperloop is projected to take about 35 minutes (for comparison, traveling the same distance by car takes roughly six hours.)
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