Friday, December 4, 2020

Hyperloop stories really demand Gawker-level snark

 Fortunately, Albert Burneko (late of Deadspin) is on the case.

CNN’s article about this event paraphrases a Virgin Hyperloop executive claiming that the hyperloop pods “can travel at the speed of aircraft.” Which is true, in the sense that commercial aircraft with dozens if not hundreds of people aboard do sometimes travel at 100 miles per hour, on the ground, for seconds at a time, during takeoff or landing, when they are going only a fraction as fast as they’re capable of going. It is also true in the sense that, strictly speaking, a paper airplane is a form of “aircraft,” and you can really whip some of those suckers across a room. A more accurate but perhaps less flattering claim would be that my Honda Odyssey can travel at the fastest speed Virgin Hyperloop has yet attained, and with four times as many people riding in it.

Hell, for that matter, as a Twitter user helpfully pointed out, a freaking steam locomotive hit 126 miles per hour in England, 82 years ago, in 1938.

Yeah, but, when it’s done, it’ll go 600 miles per hour, you’re whining, and it’ll have 25 to 30 people in a pod! When exactly will that be? France opened the TGV in 1981. Japan’s oldest high-speed line debuted in 1964—1964!—and was better and faster then than Amtrak’s Acela trains go now. Shanghai’s maglev train has been operable since John Kerry was campaigning to unseat George W. Bush as president. Measure speed by the number of riders the respective services will have moved by, say, 2050. Measure it in carbon emissions. By the year 2020, the best-funded and most sophisticated high-speed rail developer in the United States moved two (2) people 500 meters.

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