Hello French Fries!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Last Jedi came out last night, and I’m super excited to go see it this evening! If you went to the opening night premiers, please don’t spoil it for the rest of us, but feel free to comment on your thoughts on the movie in the comments section. One of the things I really enjoy about Star Wars is the futuristic sci-fi feel and how it predicts and often inspires our technology innovations.
As such, my rant today is about the futuristic innovations besetting our infrastructure. While humans have had the technological capability of reaching space for 60 years, it has been a very expensive endeavor. It’s so expensive that, until recently, it has been in the exclusive domain of governments. For years, NASA’s space shuttle program has been the envy of scientific achievement. However, now that NASA has retreated from the space shuttle program, privatized space flights have begun courtesy of the tech sector. One of the leading figures behind privatized space travel has been Elon Musk.
Elon Musk has made no qualms about his vision of a private network of space rockets whizzing us around from place to place like we were on the Planet Express in Futurama. However, a lot of transportation based innovations he has proposed are a lot closer to home and the reality of today. His Tesla car company has become the standard of the electric car industry. There are several benefits to electric cars: they are clean for the environment because they do not rely on fossil fuels (except for the fuels used to power the electric grid), they are easier to maintain, and they are smooth and quiet. The drawback to electric cars is they are limited by the battery technology that powers them. Battery technology has traditionally lagged in development compared to the rest of the industry, and thus has been a huge expense that has upped the ticket price of these cars. Thus, the genius of Elon Musk has been his attention and innovations in battery technology, with more diverse applications than just the automobile industry.
Elon Musk’s ideas on transport infrastructure have expanded beyond automobiles and space rockets. He’s also politicked for a hyperloop. For those who are unfamiliar, a hyperloop is a minimal friction and minimal traction pneumatic tube that pumps pods through a vacuum. Again, not to push one of my favorite shows on to you, but it’s a common mode of transport in the world of Futurama. If you haven’t seen Futurama, you would probably best recognize a hyperloop as the system used at your bank’s drive through. The use of hyperloops as a transport system are still in the theoretical stage, and there are many questions that need to be addressed before it becomes practical.
One of the reasons Elon Musk is pushing for the hyperloop is to compete with high-speed rail. While high-speed rail is well established in Europe, and Japan with it’s bullet trains, it is still in it’s infancy in the United States. While energy efficient and safely effective as a long haul mass-transportation system, high speed rail has been prevented from really taking off in America. Part of the reason for the slow rollout in the United States is it’s sheer size and distance between cities compared to Europe and Asia has meant the initial price tags would be exponentially higher, which has made conservative governments wary of investing taxpayer money into such a system. Furthermore, the long distance transportation system in the United States is dominated by airlines who view high speed rail as a direct threat and competition. They have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders to protect their bottom line. Consequently, the airline industry, along with their biggest benefactors in the oil industry, has lobbied the government to kill high speed rail investments.
Despite these roadblocks, there are finally some high speed rail systems being constructed in the United States with rollout schedules set. Amtrak already runs a high speed train in the Northeast that connects Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, New York, Providence and Boston. California is currently constructing a high speed rail system connecting San Diego, San Bernardino, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento, with a spur to Las Vegas. Other proposals in Texas and Florida for high speed rail networks look promising as well, despite setbacks. In defiance of all this activity, there is still a chill due to the American political climate and the fact that these projects take a long time to build, longer than the cycle of changing political powers in Washington. Setbacks to high speed rail (at least in the United States) not withstanding, electric cars, hyperloops and space rockets prove that there is a large quantity of quality futuristic transport infrastructure projects in development that will reshape the image of our world.
Now for my tech tip of the day: This one is not as in depth as my past few, but it’s important! USB drives (also known as thumb drives) are commonplace nowadays. They are small and easy to transport data from one machine to another. However, I have seen time and again people lose the information they need on these drives because they do not properly eject the drives when they remove them from a machine. Please, when you are done using your thumb drive, go to your ‘this pc’, ‘my computer’, ‘computer’, or ‘finder’ (depending on OS), right click the thumb drive folder, and select ‘eject’ before you remove your thumb drive from your machine. The additional 30 seconds it takes to do this step is worth not having the headache of accidentally corrupting or losing the information on your thumb drive.
Well, French fries, that is all I have to say for today. So, I will encourage you all to have a great weekend. Until next time,
The ketchup is in the sauce.