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?

 

 

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams

Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.

Videos
  • There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
  • Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
  • "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
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Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
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