Defeating soul-deadening gridlock, monster potholes and dangerous road ice
By Adam M. BrightPosted 01.28.2010 at 1:16 pm 18 Comments
Chicago road crews are scrambling to fill 67,000 potholes a month. Communities in Pennsylvania rely on 100-year-old water pipes made of wood. Squirrels still cause widespread blackouts. The country's 600,000 bridges, four million miles of roads, and 30,000 wastewater plants desperately need attention. The solution isn't patches, it's an overhaul. Soon roads and power lines will fix themselves, and we'll mine energy from sewage. America's 21st-century tune-up won't happen overnight, but we could start reaping the benefits (faster broadband! cleaner water!) within the next few years.
In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama talked a lot about the need to upgrade our country's infrastructure, from power plants to railroads, both to create jobs and to improve efficiency. He wasn't kidding: We lose an average of seven billion gallons of water a day to leaks in the system. Power interruptions cost the economy about $79 billion annually. And we all remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but up to a quarter of all the bridges in the country are in need of attention.
How to build a commercially viable flying car: first, make it a motorcycle. The idea of creating a personal transportation craft that can both take to the skies and travel along the ground has been alive as long as science fiction. But meeting both the FAA's regulations for aircraft while simultaneously meeting the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's guidelines for automobiles means compromises on both sides.
Forget about carrying cargo by truck, and instead imagine shuttling goods around inside a series of underground tubes. That's the hope of Henry Liu, a 73-year-old retired civil engineer and a past winner of PopSci's Inventions Awards for his environmentally safe green bricks.
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.
Good news for the elderly, clowns, obese tourists, and the very, very lazy: Honda has released a new, motorized unicycle that functions the same way as a Segway. The super light U3-X personal mobility system is perfect for those who are too lazy for the standing that a Segway requires.
If a Segway and a foldable scooter got together, they might hope to conceive something like the YikeBike mini-farthing. The foldable electric bike resembles a sleek, futuristic upgrade of the old high-riding bicycles, and it can fold up for easy storage under a desk or in a cupboard.
As far as urban bike concepts go, the Pulse from Teague (the designers behind the original Xbox among other things) looks exciting both from a fashion standpoint and a practical one. Sleek, functional and with a frame that glows with an ethereal blue light -- what more could you want?
Future business travelers may literally ride a laser to work. The U.S. and Brazilian Air Forces are experimenting with Lightcraft technology that could become part of your daily commute, using plain old air to fuel 45-minute transcontinental jaunts.
The design uses a ground-based laser to beam the Lightcraft skyward on a series of blast waves. A parabolic mirror on the back of the craft would capture and focus the pulsing laser beam so that it heats air to 5 times the sun's temperature, creating mini-explosions that propel human passengers or cargo to any point on the planet in under an hour, or into orbit.