Fun with Tubes (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 8-29-13)
“Ah, what a life!”
I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s saying to me right now. After all, just look at him, sitting there nibbling on one kernel of corn after another.
“Don’t look at me like you’re not in trouble,” I say in response to his innocent stare. “How many times do I have to tell you the wheel is off limits between 11pm and 4am?”
Of course, I’m talking to the newest member of our family, a yet-to-be-named, brown fluff ball of a hamster. I have to admit he’s a cute little fluff ball, but the past week he’s taken to midnight runs on the wheel. The first night he woke the girls up, last night it was my wife, and tonight it’s my turn.
“So little guy, now that I’m up, why don’t you tell me what cute little rodentia like yourself do in the middle of the night?”
I reach over and that did it. He’s gone straight for the tube.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the tube is this little guy’s happy place. He’s spent most of his time with us curled up and hidden away. At first we thought he was shy, but I’m beginning to believe he just likes the tube. And it only takes a moderately contrived thought process to see why. The tube limits the scope of your universe and gives you a sense of protection. Yet the tube provides an opportunity for exploration – who doesn’t get excited thinking about what’s around the next corner? The tubes at McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are some of our kids’ favorite places. And you’ll never admit it, but we all know you secretly got excited when they couldn’t find a way out, and you had to go on a tube rescue.
Hence it’s with no great surprise that the Hyperloop is receiving positive reviews. The Hyperloop is a theoretical form of high-speed transportation proposed by Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX. The proposal involves placing a capsule inside a reduced-pressure tube, suspending the capsule on air bearings and propelling the capsule with linear electric magnets. Musk theorizes that the capsule could travel over 600 miles per hour, transforming the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles into a 30-minute commute. In addition, Musk believes you can build a Hyperloop for a small fraction of the cost of a conventional high-speed rail project.
So as I sit here watching a hamster wedge himself into his tube and contemplating near-supersonic travel through a 350-mile long cylinder, it occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned anything about carbon nanotubes or their potential use in constructing a space elevator. Unfortunately, this faux rat has kept me up far to long to get started on a new topic. I’ll just reference the Georgia Tech Epic Welcome Speech and include a link. Enjoy!
Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker