Today in grandiose space ambitions that would make even Newt Gingrich balk: a $60 billion, 1,000-mile long, 12-mile high, 20,000-miles-per-hour maglev train that starts on the ground and arrives in low Earth orbit. The minds behind the Startram project think it could reduce the cost per kilo (that’s like 2.2 pounds American) for cargo from roughly $10,000 to just $50.
Just three years after breaking ground, China will open the crown jewel of its high-speed rail network to the public this week. The 186 mile per hour (and that's regular operating speed) Beijing-Shanghai link takes just four hours and 48 minutes to traverse 820 miles of Chinese countryside.
Nothing makes you wish for a high-speed rail, a flying car, or a teleportation device like having to travel over Thanksgiving. Apparently, the future of chaos-free commuting is in Europe, Japan and China, where passengers enjoy the luxury of trains that glide along at 200 miles per hour. Meanwhile, those of us living in America get to choose between radioactive scanners, enhanced pat-downs, and the joy of holiday highway congestion. Injustice! Suffice to say, our maglev train envy is making the spirit of Thanksgiving a little harder to grasp this year.
China, already outpacing the U.S., Japan and many European countries in the expansion of their railway system, has begun testing an even faster high-speed train, clocking in at 258.86 miles per hour during a trial run on Tuesday.
The new train will operate between Shanghai and Hangzhou, the capital of East China’s Zhejiang province, and is expected to start regular service next month October.
Chinese workers built this country’s railroad system 150 years ago, laying track for less than $30 a month in a grand effort to connect the coasts for the first time. Future railroad systems might also be built by the Chinese — or Chinese-owned firms, at least. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hoping to spur Chinese interest in helping his beleaguered state build a new high-speed rail network.
It may have been an unglamorous 15 hours from JFK to Shanghai in coach, but once on the ground, my transportation prospects improved significantly: I floated into the city levitating on a magnetic field at 160 mph.
Amtrak has unveiled the nation's first biodiesel train, with a surprise twist -- the fuel is derived from beef byproducts. The Heartland Flyer train will conduct its biofuel trial run for a year between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, The Guardian reports.
The US has looked to China for help building railroads ever since Chinese laborers laid down the tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s. Now, California hopes a partnership with the Middle Kingdom can do for 21st Century high-speed rail what that far less pleasant 19th Century "partnership" did for the Transcontinental Railroad.
Slot machine junkies and poker sharks could soon ride one of three futuristic high speed trains from Los Angeles to casino mecca Las Vegas. But that's assuming developers get on board with a tubular rail, a maglev transporter for cars, or an air-cushioned train.
Norfolk Southern is the latest company to push a piece of heavy industrial machinery into green territory with their 100% electric NS 999 locomotive. The zero-emissions train makes use of 1,080 12-volt batteries that allows it to run for 24 hours on a single charge--all while carrying the same load as a conventional locomotive.
Large, slimy discoveries are not surprising finds in a cow field. Researchers found the largest known colony of clonal amoebas in a pasture near Houston, and the billions of single-celled organisms could help scientists better understand how these social amoebas cooperate over such a large spatial distance. (FYI, for other people with hopeful imaginations, the colony looks nothing like The Blob, or Slimer from Ghostbusters.)
Also in today's links: super-high-speed trains, the homeless can hear you now, and more.
Jack Handy once mused that if you drop your keys into molten lava, you should probably just let them go. Apparently, the same is true for cellphones dropped into toilets on trains. As first reported on the BBC, a 26-year old Frenchman got stuck up to the shoulder in a high speed TGV train toilet after dropping his cellphone into the bowl.
The BBC article claims the victim “fell afoul of the suction system,” but some think that claim is either incorrect or raises more questions than answers.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.