Stephen Mihm: New York Had a Hyperloop First, Elon Musktags: Bloomberg News, New York, Stephen Mihm, Elon Musk
Stephen Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, is a contributor to the Ticker. Follow him on Twitter
Ah, the “hyperloop.” Elon Musk, whose track record as a technological visionary is unimpeachable, has released details of his plan for a futuristic system of transport. The basic idea is to use air pressure to shoot people-carrying pods through tubes at speeds of up to 760 miles per hour.
With all due respect to Mr. Musk, the idea isn’t new. This has been pointed out by some commentators, who have noted that in 1972 Rand Corporation researcher R. M. Salter released a proposal to ferry passengers from New York to Los Angles in a mere 21 minutes, or 14 minutes less than the hyperloop would take to send them from Los Angeles to San Francisco. But at its heart, Musk’s project is even more old school: It owes most of its inspiration to ideas that have been around for two hundred years.
In 1812, a British inventor named George Medhurst proposed “a plan for the rapid conveyance of goods and passengers … by the power and velocity of air.” The heart of Medhurst’s system was a pneumatic tube, and while the far-out plan went nowhere, subsequent generations of inventors and visionaries eagerly embraced it, experimenting with so-called pneumatic railways -- or “atmospheric railways” -- that promised to carry passengers in carriages shot through airtight tubes....
comments powered by Disqus
- ‘Bite-sized’ history textbooks used in the UK accused of ‘dumbing down’ the subject: should we be worried?
- Tut’s beard glued back on like a bad craft project
- Smithsonian working to finalize deal for new site in London
- The voices of Auschwitz
- What countries teach children about the Holocaust varies hugely
- From his perch in Saudi Arabia, Princeton’s Mark Cohen says Jews and Muslims should remember they used to get along
- Duke honors historian John Hope Franklin with year-long series of events
- What New Left History Gave Us
- Marcus Borg, Liberal Christian Scholar, Dies at 72
- Richard Hofstadter’s insights into the "paranoid style in American politics” lauded in the NYT