Monday, May 16, 2016

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY - California's Hyperloop Train System

"L.A. to San Francisco by train in 30 minutes? A pipe dream indeed" PBS NewsHour 5/11/2016


SUMMARY:  What if you could make a train trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour?  It may sound farfetched, but a group of MIT students are developing a new form of transportation to bring that dream to life; the supersonic hyperloop, a pneumatic train powered by magnetism that would put the fastest high speed rail lines to shame.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  But, first, we are kicking off a weekly series tonight that will expand our coverage of science and technology on our broadcast and online.

Our science correspondent Miles O'Brien will frequently be our guide on Wednesdays, as he reports on a wide variety of subjects, including the environment, space and technology, and takes us to the leading edge of research and thinking in these fields.

Tonight, we start with an ambitious dream to create a tube-based high-speed transportation system of the future, one that would cost billions.  You may have heard of it, the Hyperloop.

Here's Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  No rest for the weary on Saturday mornings at MIT.

Sandwiched cheek to jowl between grad students building a high-performance electric race car and a solar-powered endurance vehicle, you will find the Hyperloop team hard at work.

On this morning, they were attaching the outer shell, or fairing, for the first time.

JOHN MAYO, MIT Hyperloop Team:  I trusted it would fit.  I trust our team.  Our team is really good.  So, it's great to actually see if there on the pod.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Measure twice, cut once, right?


MILES O'BRIEN:  John Mayo is on the cusp of getting his master's in mechanical engineering.  He is project manager of a 30-member team that he hopes is on the cusp of helping devise a fifth mode of transportation, to take its place beside planes, trains, automobiles and boats.

Hyperloop is a cross between the pneumatic tube you use at the drive-up teller, an air hockey table and a bullet train.  Oh, and throw in Concorde too.

JOHN MAYO:  One of the big differentiators here is that tube, because you have less aerodynamic drag, so you can go faster with less resistance.

MILES O'BRIEN:  They are building this scale model to compete with about 30 other college teams in a Totally Tubular Challenge this summer to demonstrate the best prototype.

MAN:  The winning team, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the MIT Hyperloop team.

MILES O'BRIEN:  They are the team to beat after winning the design phase earlier this year at Texas A&M.  The basic concept is not new.  A short pneumatic train line was built beneath Manhattan in 1870, but the idea was just a novelty then, and has remained in the realm of George Jetson's Dream-O-Vision ever since.

But, in 2013, this white paper changed the equation.  It's a technical description of a supersonic Hyperloop that would carry people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes, a proposal like this would normally be dismissed, but the author was the real-life Iron Man, Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, electric car manufacturer Tesla, and SpaceX, the private company that launches rockets into low-Earth orbit and, lately, lands the spent first stages onto small barges in one piece.

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