2013-08-22 / Views

From the Braver Institute

Early last week my good friend Ezra Hammer sent me a note via Facebook that simply read “Eerily similar idea.” Following that sentence was a link to a news article announcing that Elon Musk, the guy who founded SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Paypal, was planning on creating a train of sorts that travels at extremely high speeds—faster than the speed of sound.

I suppose that calling it a train would be a bit of a stretch, it would be more of a capsule that travels inside of a tube and would provide direct competition to passenger rail.

The “eerily similar” part of all of this that Ezra mentioned is that we had the same idea—well not really the same, but—well … eerily similar—thirty years ago.

Way back in the days when we knew everything (a place in time known as high school) Ez approached me about an idea he had of sending a train through a tube across the Atlantic Ocean. Sure, the idea sounds crazy now, but maybe it wasn’t that crazy and what Mr. Musk is proposing supports that.

We immediately set to work on the project. We assembled a team of the greatest minds we knew and gathered the necessary resources and tools to get the project rolling. Our team of great minds consisted of Ez and me. The resources and tools we needed were pencils and paper and enough money to buy coffee at the local Big Boy restaurant (which was open 24 hours and a crucial element in being able to get work like this done).

The first and perhaps most important thing that we needed was a name for our company. Being huge fans of the music of the Doors we decided that we needed something related to that band. We borrowed part of a line from the song L.A. Woman and called our company City of Night Concepts.

Now that the important stuff was out of the way we could focus on the mechanics of the project.

Over countless days (like three) of discussion we settled on the idea that the train should travel in a vacuum since that eliminates wind resistance therefore increasing the potential for high rates of speed as well as increasing fuel economy. Speed had to be a feature because no one would want to spend three days under the ocean chugging along in a train.

To increase the speed of the train we also determined that it needed to float inside the tube. There couldn’t be rails. We had the idea that if the inside of the tube was lined with magnets that aligned with their negative ends facing inward, and the train was covered with magnets that had their negative ends facing outward, these forces would repel each other and suspend the train in the middle of the tube without touching the walls. Of course this meant that there would be magnetic forces applying equal pressure on all sides of the train. Ez pointed out that the possibility existed that the works would disappear à la the Philadelphia Experiment, in which similar forces were applied to the USS Eldridge in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during WWII causing the ship to disappear, which was great, save for the dubious side effects of sailors being fused to the deck of the ship. Of course the Navy denies that such a test ever took place and I am inclined to agree with them, but one can never be too cautious when dealing with the forces of magnetism. Anyway, that’s all another story.

A floating train in the absence of air would be able to travel unimpeded at unimaginable speeds and speed is what would be needed to compete with air travel.

After three days of hard work, we had the details worked out and drawings of the system complete. All we needed to do was unleash it on the world.

The trouble is that no one listens to know-it-all high school freshmen.

Mr. Musk’s plan calls for a capsule (not unlike a train car of sorts) that carries passengers in a tube, but not in a complete vacuum like we had proposed (although another company is working on that). It would also use magnetic acceleration, which is different from our magnetic suspension, but not entirely unrelated.

Looking at Musk’s plan I can now see where we went wrong. We didn’t create Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX first.

Stupid kids think they know everything.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com.

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