The hopeless void one enters when stuck in L.A. traffic can make even the most resolute drivers want to claw their eyeballs out. So imagine the nightmare that is inching up the I-5 from Los Angeles to San Francisco in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 10 hours straight.
Hence: The dream of a high-speed rail system connecting SoCal and NorCal, which has been batted about since at least the 1980s. Unfortunately, aside from a few decades' worth of bureaucracy and paperwork, there still isn't very much to show for it, as the barren pastures surrounding either side of Bakersfield illustrate. (California finally selected a contractor just this June.)
Enter Elon Musk, the billionaire visionary-dude behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors, who tweeted this morning that his plans for a next-generation transit system will be formally revealed August 12. The Hyperloop, described as "a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table," would purportedly be able to shuttle travelers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes flat.
Will publish Hyperloop alpha design by Aug 12. Critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2013
For those keeping score, that's 380 miles in half an hour, which, at least on paper, leaves California's slow-burning plans for a bullet train eating its dust.
Musk, mind you, has publicly disparaged the state's plan for a high-speed bullet train as inefficient, reports The Verge. But having the two systems compete head-to-head could be the final nudge that gets some kind of next-gen transit project off the ground.
And while there is still little indication about what Hyperloop is or how the technology is supposed to work, the short description reminded me of the quantum levitation demo Tel Aviv University students gave back in 2011. (Though in that case the materials necessary, like liquid nitrogen, would likely prove unsustainable for any sort of future-y transit system.)
That said, we'll be keeping an eye on the Hyperloop and if its implementation is tenable. Here's to hoping Musk's vision tips more toward the plausible side of things than, well, this:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
Subscribe to the Week