Elon Musk gets permit to build a hyperloop between New York and D.C. Next up, Chicagoland!

The construction, if and when it happens, could take five or more years.

Elon Musk gets permit to build a hyperloop between New York and D.C. Next up, Chicagoland!

The Boring Company, a venture by Elon Musk, has received the green light to build a hyperloop from Washington, D.C. to New York City that will cut transportation time to about an hour, with possible Baltimore and Philadelphia stops as well. The construction, if and when it happens, could take five or more years. 


So what is a hyperloop? It’s a patented magnetically levitated vehicle, similar to a train, that basically runs within a vacuum, almost free of air resistance and friction. 

It’s a bold idea to offer a much, much faster and more efficient system than the stodgy United States rail system that is currently in place. How fast? Theoretically, 4,000-5,000 mph (or 6,400-8,000 km/h).


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk(C) speaks during the SpaceX Hyperloop pod competition in Hawthorne, California on January 29, 2017. Students from 30 colleges and universities from the US and around the world are taking part in testing their pods on a 1.25 kilometer-long Hyperloop track at the SpaceX headquarters. (Photo: GENE BLEVINS/AFP/Getty Images)

The concept was first published in August, 2013, for a possible route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It never actually got off the ground, but in the meantime, some design concepts have come out and are being worked on by students, and some "pod" competitions have developed their own innovations. The entire idea of a hyperloop was created with the plan to keep it "open source" so that innovators could step up and come up with new ideas. 

In fact, on January 29, 2017, one prototype was demonstrated by MIT researchers. Here was that run, looking for all the world like a scene from THX-1138

Watch around 0:18, the wheel stops spinning; this means the prototype achieved magnetic levitation. Huzzah!

The permit filed will allow the Musk-owned Boring Company to start excavating a site at 53 New York Avenue NE. Another possible construction being debated right now is for a hyperloop craft to shuttle people from downtown Chicago to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, which would save hours of travel time in heavy traffic.

Also announced this week was a planned hyperloop between Pune and Mumbai in the Indian State of Maharashtra by the company known as Virgin Hyperloop One, owned by Richard Branson. Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis describes what it could do for the region:

“With Virgin Hyperloop One, we can create a sustainable infrastructure that will enhance the State of Maharashtra's competitiveness and attract new investment and businesses,” says Fadnavis. “The Pune-Mumbai hyperloop route will be an economic catalyst for the region and create tens of thousands of jobs for India’s world-class manufacturing, construction, service, and IT sectors and aligns with Make in India initiatives.”

Remarkably forward-looking, eh?

 

 

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

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Astronomers find more than 100,000 "stellar nurseries"

Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.

Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
Surprising Science

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."

Protecting space stations from deadly space debris

Tiny specks of space debris can move faster than bullets and cause way more damage. Cleaning it up is imperative.

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  • NASA estimates that more than 500,000 pieces of space trash larger than a marble are currently in orbit. Estimates exceed 128 million pieces when factoring in smaller pieces from collisions. At 17,500 MPH, even a paint chip can cause serious damage.
  • To prevent this untrackable space debris from taking out satellites and putting astronauts in danger, scientists have been working on ways to retrieve large objects before they collide and create more problems.
  • The team at Clearspace, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is on a mission to capture one such object using an autonomous spacecraft with claw-like arms. It's an expensive and very tricky mission, but one that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.

This is the first episode of Just Might Work, an original series by Freethink, focused on surprising solutions to our biggest problems.

Catch more Just Might Work episodes on their channel:
https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work

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