Monday, February 25, 2019

The latest piece on the Hyperloop from the New York Times doesn't just take false balance to the next level; it takes it to the level after that.

This article by Eric Taub is the kind of multilayered awful that requires multiple passes to address.

Just to catch up those who are coming in late, there has never been any question as to whether or not it is possible to build a high-speed maglev vactrain. There are still some nontrivial points to be worked out about reliability and stability, but those pale next to the central challenge of cheaply and quickly constructing then maintaining hundreds of miles of tubes consistently sustaining a near vacuum.

Each segment has to be airtight, absolutely uniform (a small irregularity can make a big difference at 600 miles an hour), and each joined with perfect seals. Add to that the cost of the magnetic levitation track and linear induction system and you have a fantastically expensive and time-consuming project.

It has become the norm for hyperloop puff pieces to ignore these main challenges in order to breathlessly announce major advances in what invariably amount to trivial side issues, but this piece manages to break new ground.

Anyone who has seriously followed the climate change debate over the past 15 or so years will be familiar with the first level of false balance where a minority, even fringe position is given equal standing with the scientific consensus. If you followed the coverage of Mars One, you've seen this taken to the next level where the majority of time is spent credulously recounting the fringe position with the mainstream skeptical view addressed briefly somewhere past the halfway point of the articles.

Now, the New York Times takes things even further. No one represents the mainstream consensus. The experts who are presented as "skeptics" are actually true believers brought in to introduce that incredibly tired Silicon Valley line about regulations being the only things holding us back from a technological utopia.

We've been through this before and I'm certain we will cover it again, but almost invariably if you hear someone going on about evil regulators holding back the development of a new technology (with the partial exception of medical fields), you can be fairly certain it's an attempt to distract from nonviable tech.

Reality is losing ground.

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