It's like a persistent, annoying itch. If I go two weeks without trashing a techno-optimist, the itch become unbearable. I've got scratch it. So here we go, one last time. Let's conclude with a splendid specimen.
Elon Musk is in the news. Actually, let me rephrase that. Elon Musk always needs to be in the news and so he is. When the human brain-wiring gods were putting little Elon together, they overdid it a bit. Actually, quite a bit.
Last week, the entrepreneur and engineer behind Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, sent the Twitter-sphere into a frenzy when he announced that he would release his plan for a revolutionary new transportation system on August 12th.
Musk calls this system the "Hyperloop."
He describes it as a cross between "a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table."
No one knows exactly what the Hyperloop is, but every since Musk first mentioned it, people have been speculating. Last week, a Twitter user with the handle @John_Gardi tweeted a diagram that Elon Musk pronounced "the closest I've seen anyone guess so far."
The diagram, which you can see [below], shows a looped tube in which vehicles like train cars appear to be being propelled along by air traveling at many hundreds of miles per hour. At the ends of the loop, the cars move out of the air column, decelerate, and then stop in "stations," where they pick up and discharge people. When more people have embarked, the cars are then accelerated to the speed of the air column with magnets, and then they whizz off toward the other end of the loop.
John Gardi's "best guess" about Elon Musk's Hyperloop. The Wonder Boy says "it will be able to whisk you between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and other similar city pairs, in 30 minutes." Click to enlarge.
We must wait until August 12th to fully grasp the depth and scope of this undefined bullshit, but I will be off the air then, so I thought I'd take a look now.
But before we look very briefly at the physics, may I make a few common sense observations?
- Elon Musk's Tesla makes electric cars only rich people can afford to buy.
- Elon Musk's Space X plans to colonize Mars. It will cost you $500,000 to ride the rocket. Elon was quoted as saying that this price is "affordable."
- What kind of people need to travel between San Franciso and Los Angeles in 30 minutes? People like Elon Musk do.
So what do you think riding the Hyperloop will cost you if the Boy Wonder's latest "pipe dream" (literally!) comes to fruition? Elon has a silent mantra he likes to chant in the shower, by the pool, in his car, in bed, at the office, during sex, and everywhere he goes—
SHOW ME THE PUBLICITY ... SHOW ME THE MONEY ... SHOW ME THE PULICITY ... SHOW ME THE MONEY ... SHOW ME THE PUBLICITY ...
Kind of hypnotic, isn't it?
OK, let's look at the physics. Russell Brandon of The Verge speculates about how Elon Musk's Hyperloop might actually work.
The problem [of friction, drag] could be solved by sucking all the air out of the tube and leaving the cars to travel through a vacuum. "If you have a vacuum in a tube, then you have zero drag," says George Maise, fluid dynamics expert at Maglev 2000. "There's no limit on the speed, really."
Musk is on record saying that the Hyperloop isn't a vacuum, but keeping a column of air traveling at nearly supersonic speeds would require a huge amount of energy to maintain — unlikely, for the kind of lightweight, solar-powered transport Musk has described.
It's a puzzle, and one we're unlikely to have any firm answers for before August.
It's a puzzle for sure — the puzzle is why this flaming narcissist hasn't been locked up to prevent him from bullshitting the gullible public ever again. On the other hand, Elon wouldn't be nearly so "successful" if humans didn't love this shit already.
Musk nicely illustrates so many of the things I've talked about lately and since the beginning. There is the Human Conceit, which Elon exemplifies so splendidly. There is the fact that Elon is delusional (e.g. colonizing Mars), which has been a recurring theme on DOTE. And there is the double helping of unconscious drives which Elon got at birth, including but not restricted to—
- the social instincts — Elon must be ecstatic. There's lots of buzz, and it's all about Elon!
- the technological instinct
- over-the-top optimism
So when I say that Elon Musk is living well in the unconscious, which I also call Flatland, I hope you now understand what I mean by that. It's Elon's World, and we're just walking around in it.
As I said at the top, a splendid specimen. Watch the video. Elon comes off as such a humble, self-effacing guy!