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The End of the "Age of Speed"

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the taking-it-easy dept.

Transportation 531

DesScorp writes "'The human race is slowing down,' begins an article in the Wall Street Journal that laments the state of man's quest of aerial speed: we're going backwards. With the end of the Space Shuttle program, man is losing its fastest carrier of human beings (only single use moonshot rockets were faster). 'The shuttles' retirement follows the grounding over recent years of other ultra-fast people carriers, including the supersonic Concorde and the speedier SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. With nothing ready to replace them, our species is decelerating—perhaps for the first time in history,' the article notes. Astronauts are interviewed, and their sadness and disappointment is apparent. In the '60s and '70s, it was assumed that Mach 2+ airline travel would one day be cheap and commonplace. And now it seems that we, and our children, will fly no faster than our grandparents did in 707s. The last major attempt at faster commerical air travel — Boeing's Sonic Cruiser — was abandoned and replaced with the Dreamliner, an airliner designed from the ground up for fuel efficiency."

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physical speed is irrelevant (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816314)

it's bandwidth that matters.

Actually very true (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 years ago | (#35816536)

it's bandwidth that matters.

A 200mph train link giving affordable travel between distant cities would be much more useful that a celebrity supersonic service.

Re:Actually very true (2)

durrr (1316311) | about 3 years ago | (#35816658)

You mean IS more useful. See rest of the world for highspeed railroad, china and japan if you fancy lots of it and more coming in the near future.

So what? (5, Insightful)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 3 years ago | (#35816326)

So we are choosing to be more efficient than fast?

I used to speed a lot as a teenager- guess what? Now, I like to take my time, enjoy the travel, and save money on gas.

Re:So what? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816334)

You are formaly declared as being halfway towards becoming a 'Grumpy old Fart'

Re:So what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816384)

You are formaly declared as being halfway towards becoming a 'Grumpy old Fart'

He didn't say anything about leaving his turn signal on all the way there.


Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816418)

That's why he said only halfway.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816412)

I resemble that remark

Re:So what? (2)

twisted_pare (1714106) | about 3 years ago | (#35816356)

So we are choosing to be more efficient than fast? What about the new Air Force mini shuttle, the Indian and Chinese space programs, oh.. and all of the newer, faster secret aircraft our own government has been developing over the last several decades? Does this author ever watch television?

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816446)

We don't use them. Nobody uses them.
This is about machines that are actually used. We don't fly to the moon anymore. We don't use shuttles anymore.
Concorde was, for decades, the fastest any 'ordinary' person could go, and it's no longer here. There's nobody developing any alternatives to that.

The world doesn't seem to need speed anymore. And that'd pretty believable; What's the use of shaving a few hours off your London-New York trip when you might as well just have a video conference with the people there? Transporting humans with speed doesn't seem to be important to the world. Instead, transporting data (And in a lesser amount; physical goods) faster and in more volume seems to be.

Yes, there'll always be somebody pushing the limit. Be that some top secret military project, be that some suicidal maniacs on a salt flat. They will always be there. But this is about machines and methods that actually make it to the real world; And in the real world, who cares about speed?

Re:So what? (1)

NoAkai (2036200) | about 3 years ago | (#35816528)

And in the real world, who cares about speed?

Now what I wonder, should we care about speed? As many others have pointed out, getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible seems to have become somewhat irrelevant. Nowadays when everybody and their dog is carrying a smartphone, capable of processing, sending and receiving large amounts of information, "on-the-go", the need to physically be in another location seems to decrease.

More people fly all the time (3, Informative)

mangu (126918) | about 3 years ago | (#35816572)

The world doesn't seem to need speed anymore. And that'd pretty believable; What's the use of shaving a few hours off your London-New York trip when you might as well just have a video conference with the people there?

Yet the number of air travelers increase year by year. Personal travel IS important. In the USA, domestic flights carry from 1 million to 2 million passengers each day. And speed IS important. What's the point in sitting in an airplane? We would like to reach our destination as soon as possible, otherwise we would take a cruise ship, not an airplane.

Unfortunately, physics is implacable, its laws are not subject to negotiation. Until we find ways to (1) move faster than sound without creating a sonic boom and (2) move faster than sound without spending much more fuel, we will be limited to subsonic travel.

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

robthebloke (1308483) | about 3 years ago | (#35816590)

Concorde was, for decades, the fastest any 'ordinary' person with 4 grand burning a hole in their wallets could go, and it's no longer here.

Fixed that for you. Easy jet is preferable for ordinary people, because it's affordable. Video conferencing is preferable for business, because it's cheaper than flights + hotel rooms. There is a common theme here - money! (and a desire to retain as much of it, as you can).

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816612)

Yep, not only is video conferencing "instant", it doesn't involve a full cavity search when you land at JFK.

Re:So what? (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 3 years ago | (#35816760)

The world needs speed plenty. It just never bought into the marginal cost of going slightly bit faster.

Being a discount "jet setter" is a big improvement over what it replaced, Concorde not so much.

You also have to acknowledge the fact that our grandparents simply were not "jet setters" of any sort. It didn't matter if it was a 707 or Concorde or even some prop driven job. Air travel was simply not within their means.

Now a smart shopper can go anywhere on the planet they want.

THAT is a significant improvement that is not altered by the fact that the mode of transport is no longer considered glamourous enough.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816378)

"take my time, enjoy the travel, and save money on gas"

That doesn't really apply to economy class, except the last bit.

Re:So what? (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#35816592)

I used to speed a lot as a teenager- guess what? Now, I like to take my time, enjoy the travel, and save money on gas.

It would be nice to see the world embrace efficiency but it is a load of horse shit. They ARE expecting the average person to slow down, but the 1% is not planning to take the mule train next time they travel cross-country. They'll be laughing down at us from the seats of airliners that no longer have a coach class because only those for whom money is no object will be able to fly at all.

When factories start including their own power production and do the most work when the sun is shining on their panels (for example) because that's when power exists so that we don't need to squander thousands of barrels of oil or tons of coal just keeping power plants on standby THEN I might believe that we give one tenth of one shit about efficiency, as a whole.

Not really (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 3 years ago | (#35816666)

So we are choosing to be more efficient than fast?

Nope. We've figured out by trial and error that traveling faster than sound isn't a good idea. It's expensive and makes people unhappy.

With the laws of physics setting an upper limit on speed it makes sense to concentrate on fuel economy within that limit.

Re:So what? (0)

idji (984038) | about 3 years ago | (#35816742)

we are realizing that the wasteful 20th century age-of-power, which burnt dino-juice as if it was endless, is coming to an end. No human should expend more power than falls from the sun on his own "world space", otherwise it is not sustainable. The sun gives us about 1.36 kW/m2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunlight#Total_.28TSI.29_and_spectral_solar_irradiance_.28SSI.29_upon_Earth), and each person should only use what sustainably can be obtained from his own available power.

the New World Order (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816338)

Money, money, money

For this is the day that MONEY has made, rejoice and be glad in it.

How about studying a meaningful figure? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816340)

Like, say, the evolution of the average velocity for all mankind? All those people shifting from foot to bicycle should bump up the figure a lot, and reflect the true evolution...

Re:How about studying a meaningful figure? (1)

somersault (912633) | about 3 years ago | (#35816360)

And all those people switching from car to bicycle or bus should bump the figure down a lot.

Re:How about studying a meaningful figure? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816482)

Possibly. Or not that much, considering how much time people actually spend in traffic jams.

Re:How about studying a meaningful figure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816608)

Ah yes, what is the average velocity of a swallow ?

Speed is NOT overrated (1)

mangu (126918) | about 3 years ago | (#35816344)

TFA says:

  Not everyone rues the slowdown. "I think speed's overrated," says Bob van der Linden, chairman of the aeronautics department at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, which displays many of the record-holding craft.

Ask him again next time he takes a flight from D.C. to Hong Kong. On tourist class...

Re:Speed is NOT overrated (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35816472)

Given the seriously cramped conditions imposed by the Concorde's airframe design(it was necessarily narrow-bodied to reduce drag), and the further crunching induced by trying to get enough paying passengers into the sardine tube to justify the expensive flight, the trade off isn't as straightforward as one might imagine.

From the perspective of comfort and productivity, if the same money can get you a cattle-class seat on a mach 2 bird or a cushy recliner, a power jack for your laptop, and an edible meal on a cost-optimized subsonic one, it isn't at all clear that you'd choose the former.

Given that running the big, cost-optimized subsonic allows the carrier to adjust the split(not quite per-flight; but reasonably quickly) between comfort seats and low cost seats as the market dictates, while the small, supersonic one only allows choosing between expensive discomfort and really expensive comfort, the economics behind running the subsonic craft seem pretty compelling.

While I expect that maximum achievable air speeds(and/or flight paths that incorporate very high speed excursions outside the atmosphere) will continue to advance for specialty applications, mostly military; such developments as "leg room", "laptops that aren't a pain to work on", and "sweet, sweet inflight internet" have likely sealed the commercial fate of very high speed air travel services.

Re:Speed is NOT overrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816656)

On any multi-hour flight I'd choose the fast one over the more comfy one if the difference is big enough. I believe Concorde went at least twice as fast as a 'modern' airliner. Saving four hours on an 8 hour flight would be worth it for me, unfortunately your scenario is fictitious. The fast tickets were much more expensive in reality.

Re:Speed is NOT overrated (1)

JamesP (688957) | about 3 years ago | (#35816544)

DC to Hong Kong - 8k Miles

Definitely one of the worse, but try:

London to Sydney 10k miles (done in 2 segments via Hong Kong or BKK)
Sao Paulo to Tokyo 11k miles (2 segments as well via LAX)

Or, for non stop flights:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-stop_flight [wikipedia.org]

Re:Speed is NOT overrated (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 3 years ago | (#35816614)

Most of those wouldn't be supersonic for large portions of their journey though. The Concorde only really ran trans-Atlantic flights for a reason, most countries won't allow anyone but their own military to break the speed of sound in their airspace. Over the ocean no one cares, but over land planes are loud enough, you don't need to allow sonic booms over populated areas.

Commercial flight is fast enough now (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816348)

With the pat-downs and all the hassle at both ends of a flight, why would we need a Mach 2+ vehicle in the middle?

Re:Commercial flight is fast enough now (0)

isorox (205688) | about 3 years ago | (#35816444)

With the pat-downs and all the hassle at both ends of a flight, why would we need a Mach 2+ vehicle in the middle?

Check in takes an hour from arriving at the airport. My last flight was 14 hours. Immigration and baggage reclaim was another 30 minutes

That's 15h30. Double the aircraft speed and it saves 7 hours.

Re:Commercial flight is fast enough now (1)

Cronock (1709244) | about 3 years ago | (#35816668)

But how much was your ticket? Doubling the speed should probably triple the fuel consumption. Would the same number of passengers be on that flight if tickets were 3x the cost?

Re:Commercial flight is fast enough now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816748)

Check in takes an hour from arriving at the airport. My last flight was 14 hours. Immigration and baggage reclaim was another 30 minutes

You forgot to factor-in general relativity... 1 hour stranded with a zealous TSA agent is far longer than flying in an airplane for 14 hours!

The End of the "Age of Speed" (2)

davidmurphy (1576557) | about 3 years ago | (#35816350)

This is similar to developments in computer systems - the emphasis switched from faster processors to multi-processor, multi-core, etc. Interesting parallel. rgds Dave

Re:The End of the "Age of Speed" (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 3 years ago | (#35816524)

In both cases the development ran into physical limitations. The speed of sound is no higher now than it was in 1970, so we've focused on being more efficient within the imposed limits than trying to break them.

Cost is certainly a factor, but the near instant communication of the Internet has dampened the need for rapid physical travel, as well as the reality that nearly every aspect of modern airports are massive timesinks (changeover, security, luggage, etc.)... who really cares if the plane arrives 30 minutes quicker?

virgin vouchers handed out like mansion mortgages (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816354)

once thought to be the currency of some obscure deity, this stuff is turning up in all aspects of the .royal.chosen.empire.gov..., taken in trade for all form of nefarious behaviors. always a catch, the issuers of the payper are saying that due to a perceived virgin shortage, bearers of vouchers are advised; if you find one, it's yours. is this counterfeiting? pegging our currency? hymenology run amok? it's all in the genuine native elders teepeeleaks etchings.

disarm. thank you

The Pentium 4 says Hi (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816364)

In other news, the Pentium 4 also proves that raw speed just isn't the answer. Build smarter.

I'll beat 'em all, just watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816366)

Now I'm in my home in Europe. Now I'm making a modification to a database in the USA. Now I'm in my home in Europe. How long did that take?

There's not much point .... (5, Insightful)

yelvington (8169) | about 3 years ago | (#35816368)

There's not much point in plugging faster airplanes into a hub-and-spoke air transit system with chronic Air Traffic Control delays (assuming they're not asleep), 45-minute airport security lines and 20-minute waits for your baggage.

my kingdom for a modpoint... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816606)

I traveled a lot in the mid-90s when my co had AmEx Travel people on premise who could cut boarding passes (REAL ones, not the oxymoronically named "e-ticket" crap) & all you had to do was go through metal detector & walk on plane. I once got to Hartsfield (Atlanta) for a 6:30 am flight, realized I'd forgotten my wallet but knew I had cash in my planner for cab & was meeting my director later, called AmEx who took care of the hotel & proceeded to make a 2-day trip to Houston & back w/no ID whatsoever!

nowadays I avoid air travel like the plague! I'm going to have to go to San Diego in Sep but that will be my 1st flight in almost 2 yrs & I assure you it ain't b/c I can't afford it... when (/if) the security theatre stops (ha! I kill me!) & I don't have to worry about my 6 yr-old daughter getting molested and/or radiation exposure I MIGHT resume my previous air travel level but I don't see that happening any time soon & we're driving distance to Port Canaveral so I'll be giving my $ to the cruise lines for the foreseeable future...

got that Delta/TSA/Obama?

(quick edit: ironically my captcha word was "oppress")

uh? (5, Informative)

rbrausse (1319883) | about 3 years ago | (#35816370)

a couple of unrelated decisions are a sign of ending "the age of speed"?

at the moment China is constructing 17000 km of high-speed railways [wikimedia.org]; *surely* the beginning of an age of speed.

sigh, media...

Re:uh? (1)

vawwyakr (1992390) | about 3 years ago | (#35816432)

Well I think the article authors would argue that a high speed railway is not exactly speedy versus the space shuttle or concorde.

Re:uh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816516)

Some would argue that a space shuttle is not exactly useful for travel.

Re:uh? (2)

jonbryce (703250) | about 3 years ago | (#35816674)

From my house (large home counties town in England) to the centre of Paris:

By train: 1h to London St Pancras, 30m check in time, 2h 15m to Paris Gare du Nord, total time, 3h 45m
By air: 45m bus journey to Heathrow, 2h check in time, 30m taxi to runway, 1h flying time, 30m taxi off runway, 30m baggage reclaim, 25m on RER to Gare du Nord, total time 5h 40m

Re:uh? (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 years ago | (#35816470)


Another counter-point to their thesis: the development and imminent introduction of commercial space travel. Sure, it'll start off merely as suborbital flops for rich thrill seekers, but they will be (at least briefly) hypersonic thrill seekers.

There's still Soyuz... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816376)

...Which I'm sure still counts as a people carrier, no? Anyway, SR-71 became obsolete because of the advent of spy sattelites. The Shuttle became obsolete because it was a political Frankenstein monster that was too complex and too expensive to operate.

Anyway, soon we'll have regular Virgin Galactic flights which will bump a lot of ordinary people into actual space (although not orbital) at Mach 5...

Technology of Ancients. (1)

Tei (520358) | about 3 years ago | (#35816390)

My father use to play with engines as teenager, toying with engines, repairing, fixing then.

I have grown repairing computers, fixing computer problems. I have absolutelly no fucking idea how to use a car, but I can write assembler sleeping (too bad dreams are stored on volatile ram).

It make sense to me that if this how everyone roll, on the end, our whole thing ( I don't want to call it civilization ), become more computer "cool" and less engines "cool".
Also, fast is not always the better thing. Theres something faster than very fast: do nothing, not needing to go or do something.

I can mourn the lost of the Concorde, but objectivelly was too expensive, and maybe to risky. Maybe like nuclear centrals.

Re:Technology of Ancients. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 3 years ago | (#35816488)

I have grown repairing computers, fixing computer problems. I have absolutelly no fucking idea how to use a car, but I can write assembler sleeping (too bad dreams are stored on volatile ram).

Well, that big round thing on the drivers side is the steering wheel. Turn that left to go left, and right to go right. The long skinny pedal on the right is the accelerator. Press it down with your foot to go faster. The wide fat pedal on the left is the brake. You press it down to stop.

The big thing that sticks out of the steering column (or it may be on the floor) is the shifter. Put it in R to back up or D to go forward.

Beyond that, I suggest taking a driving class.


Re:Technology of Ancients. (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | about 3 years ago | (#35816694)

it's more complicated than that. if you put him in a stick shifter, there's an extra pedal to the left called clutch that you need to use before using the shift stick, or you risk destroying the so-called gear box. in this kind of car speed is determined by a combination of pressure on the accelerator and the shift stick.

but i doubt a guy who can write assembly code would have any problem with this kind of finer grainned controls. he might actually like it better.

Re:Technology of Ancients. (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | about 3 years ago | (#35816496)

I have absolutelly no fucking idea how to use a car

No driving license, then? "Using a car" is worlds away from toying with engines and the other stuff your dad did. Using a car is easy, in some countries they practically throw driving licenses at 16 year olds.

Now, if you say that you wouldn't be able to service a car, then your comparison would hold.

In computing we are also at the same level: we have few people knowing how to service computers (programming, hardware troubleshooting, system administration, etc...), but plenty of people can "use" a computer (Where I use the verb "use" very loosely)

Re:Technology of Ancients. (5, Interesting)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 3 years ago | (#35816508)

How old are you? The older I'm getting the more I want to play with engines and build things with wood and metal.

Re:Technology of Ancients. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 3 years ago | (#35816690)

Exactly the path I travelled too - used to walk around thinking I am the DATA GUY - look how I handle abstract concepts, untainted by the physical. Now I rather tinker with machinery and build stuff. Ah, hell, fuck that, I just go fishing. And get off my lawn, kids!

Re:Technology of Ancients. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816754)

I enjoy tinkering with tube radios and soldering irons far more than ripping a computer apart.

And? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816392)

Is it a necessarily a bad thing that efficiency has replaced speed as the new target to strive for? Easter Island's natural inhabitants sought to build the biggest and best stone heads; they devoured their natural resources and were the cause of their own extinction. I'd prefer NOT to go the way of the dodo thanks.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816478)

Are you suggesting that the dodo bird used to live on Easter Island and had a civilization in which they built giant stone heads?

Internet (1)

georgesdev (1987622) | about 3 years ago | (#35816396)

Sure, cars and planes don't go faster in 2011 than in 1980. So what?
But now we have the Internet. With it you can communicate around the world in real time. This is much faster than the fastest rocket you can imagine!

Re:Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816548)

No it isn't my ping time to Auckland is 350ms.
The fastest rocket i can imagine goes at something close to c.
Sicne i live about 20.000km from Auckland that would be about 60ms.
And then of course that is only valid for the outside observer for the things in the rocket the distance to Auckland also seems to shrink, so they get there faster.

Re:Internet (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#35816628)

Sure, cars and planes don't go faster in 2011 than in 1980. So what?

Yes, yes they do. I have a 1982 Luxury car that tops out at 100 mph and it's a mercedes. The modern equivalent [edmunds.com] (The BlueTEC S 350 being the current equivalent of my 300SD) is electronically limited to 155 mph and makes 0-60 in just over 7 seconds, it takes me more like 15. I murdered my '78 Celica by making it do 100 mph for a sustained period (though it was surprisingly stable at speed as a platform) but a 2010 celica will make a buck twenty or better. Planes might not be faster, but cars most CERTAINLY are.

Physical vs Information Speed (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 3 years ago | (#35816458)

Even while our physical speed is slowing down, the speed at which our information travels is still growing constantly at rates physical speed could never match. Perhaps rather than us slowing down, we just shifted from seeing how fast we can move things to how fast we can move ideas.

Actually, MANKIND'S average speed has soared (5, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | about 3 years ago | (#35816474)

Well perhaps for the upper class Americans for whom air travel was a given back in the seventies travel hasn't sped up. But for the 10s or 100s of millions who are being introduced to commercial air travel for the first time, let me tell you their average speed has really taken off. Air travel has become affordable for the first time to a significant fraction of the world's population. Rising living standards and cheaper flights due to de-regulation has done the trick. Living here in Vietnam I personally have taken many airplane "virgins" for a ride. ;)

(Due to an extremely fortunate set of circumstances, I must confess I was lucky enough to break the sound barrier in a Concorde flight way back when. It was interesting watching the digital airspeed gauge go higher and higher!)

Re:Actually, MANKIND'S average speed has soared (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 3 years ago | (#35816586)

True, plus add to that the new "tourists-in-space" endeavors and the mean speed gets even higher.

Granted, those trips now are the exception and are pretty expensive, but there are some interesting side-effects on those 100km high zero-G dives: with some more planning, one can travel/send goods between continents at almost ballistic missile speeds- something that business travelers will certainly find very appealing. Okay, now expensive and a curiosity, but it helps those new "tourist-in-space" aviation industries to acquire a foothold in the market and, given time, it may become a trivial way for people to move about the planet.

I don't think that humanity is 'slowing down', neither literally nor metaphorically.

We are gaining speed in another way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816480)

The internet is much faster than our other means of travel. But it is limited to where it goes. And we can't transport real objects yet, just data.

Another thing comes to mind, how fast do we want to go depends on how far we want to go.

Speed of computers has risen, but I find I can multitask myself less because the jobs I start (on mainframe, midrange, and pc) complete before I can get much done.

Speed of *aircraft*, yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816486)

The speed of air/spacecraft might be slowing down, but that's not necessarily a terrible thing. Perhaps it just means that we are coming to face the reality that these modes of transport, particularly at high speed are inefficient and that there are better ways of doing things. With telecoms and computers I can communicate with people anywhere in (effectively) real-time. Travelling 4000 miles to speak to someone or just see their face is, for the most part, quaint and pointless.

Re:Speed of *aircraft*, yes... (1)

muckracer (1204794) | about 3 years ago | (#35816712)

> Travelling 4000 miles to speak to someone or just see their face is,
> for the most part, quaint and pointless.

And this is why nerds can't, for the life of them, design programs with actual people (users) in mind...they just don't get it what could possibly be so important about people...sigh.

Is this really just a symptom of societal decline? (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 3 years ago | (#35816506)

While it may be the first time in history that there is know know group of humans on earth traveling at or near our speed records or at least won't be when the shuttle stops, its not the first case of regression.

As past societies declined people who commonly rode horses went back to walking, there is historical record of that. I think it could be argued that this might be more a symptom of the Pax Americana's end than anything else. Now that the great empire no longer has the capacity to project stability and order through the entire world, the worlds people are simply putting their resources into their more basic needs and into fighting over other resources; rather than into flying faster.

Re:Is this really just a symptom of societal decli (1)

germ!nation (764234) | about 3 years ago | (#35816582)

You could argue that it is a case of wealth being held away from the pockets of the people who would be willing and able to spend it on researching and inventing. Most of the major brilliant moments of discovery and invention in the past were works of single humans funding (at least in part) and carrying out their own endeavours. Now wealth is held by large corporations who restrict the kinds of people who in the past might have been the inventors to specific paths, and overall this leads to little genuine new thinking in the industrial fields.

Re:Is this really just a symptom of societal decli (1)

imadork (226897) | about 3 years ago | (#35816600)

Would you really call it Pax Americana, given the lack of "pax" around the globe over the past 200+ years (and especially the last 100)?

Re:Is this really just a symptom of societal decli (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#35816756)

Would you really call it Pax Americana, given the lack of "pax" around the globe over the past 200+ years (and especially the last 100)?

The Romans only had "peace" through slavery and oppression and there was continual fighting anyway. There has never been anything called a "pax" which deserved the name.

OMG Fuel efficiency may be better economically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816522)

Than raw speed. Call the fucking press and the economists and logisticians.

OMG writing half your post in the subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816688)

and then finishing it in the body of the comment is fucking annoying. Call the fucking press and the linguists and the communications experts!

Scramjets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816534)

Scramjets [wikipedia.org] anyone? Not to mention, on average, I'm sure the human race is moving along faster than in the past. Commuter trains, vehicles, etc...

It's all economics (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | about 3 years ago | (#35816568)

There are a lot of reasons we haven't gone supersonic with air travel. Sonic booms do things like shatter windows, set off car alarms, drive animals nuts, etc. The concord flights had to wait until they were 100 miles off shore before they would go supersonic, and they were also extremely inefficient, which means extremely expensive. It really is not cost effective for any airline to do supersonic flights right now, although Virgin has designs on a sub-orbital plane that will fly from New York to Paris in something like 2 hours. There are also new airframe bodies that do not produce a sonic boom when they break the speed of sound, but I'm not sure how efficient those are for air travel.

Meh... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35816570)

As much as I think space travel is cool, and the SR-71 was one of the more aesthetically pleasing aircraft ever, and similar sentiments, I can't really muster much pity for the disappointed astronauts and test-pilot types.

There's a saying from the murky world of the intersection between market actors and regulatory agents: "Nobody screams louder than the guy whose subsidy is being cut."

Astronauts, and their ilk, while they did the jobs we offered, fair and square, were (in terms of human speed) some of the most subsidized travellers in history. For a mixture of reasons, some more or less universal(scientific curiosity), some bound up in particular historical moments(Cold war dickwaving and spy games), we made comparatively massive investments in the velocity of a small number of pilots carrying out specific missions. I have nothing against the pilots, who largely executed their missions with skill and nerve; but that doesn't change the fact that those were some of the most expensive tickets in human history, made possible only by certain historical conditions. Those guys were playing with once-in-a-lifetime white elephants, not prerelease prototypes of consumer goods.

(Now, unfortunately, our extraordinary subsidies projects seem to be focused on our parasitic layer of financial services con-men, an entirely crasser class of people, with far fewer virtues and far greater dangers...)

individually we're slow, collectively we speed up? (1)

xeroedouttwice (1873324) | about 3 years ago | (#35816576)

How it is that in a physical sense, our ability to get from point A to point B is slowing down; yet in a cultural sense, we are moving at a rapid pace? "In a hurry to get to a stop sign" - unknown (BTW The prior post beat me to this idea, so I must give kudos)

Re:individually we're slow, collectively we speed (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 3 years ago | (#35816698)

Good, someone noticed this divergence!

Meanwhile we meet cool people around the world, have a blast, ... then slam into the physical speed barrier when it comes time to meet up IRL. Weren't we all disparaging the "virtual girlfriend" a few stories ago?

Well, duh. (2)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 3 years ago | (#35816610)

Well, duh.

It's almost as if our average speed was linked to the availability of cheap energy and the days of cheap energy were coming to an end.

branson; i AM major league transport world wide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816618)

do it on the cheap too, if need be. for all the many things that the royal.pain....military.govs are just unwilling, or never plan to do anyway, there's us, which is likely why there are still some of us civilians left to rescue each other, or just ferry each other about, in better times. chins up, help's on the way.

I'd wager we're not... (1)

shic (309152) | about 3 years ago | (#35816620)

While I accept that the fastest modes of transport are disappearing, I think the mean speed at which people travel during a year is almost certainly higher now than it has been in the past. The change is that a lot more people are travelling pretty fast far more frequently... and, arguably, this is far more useful than a handful of people travelling very fast very occasionally.

Not so (2)

obarthelemy (160321) | about 3 years ago | (#35816622)

The human race as a whole != the handful of people who go top speed. Ever heard of averages ? I'm sure the millions of people in China and India and other countries who are getting their first taste of cars, air travel, underground... more thank make up for the disappearance of a few outliers.

Same as with money/health/culture/...: what counts in the end is not what the toppest top have/achieve, but what the masses do.

Fuel (1)

WebSurfinMurf (700397) | about 3 years ago | (#35816626)

Its pretty basic...what has changed with how to FUEL planes since the 60's and 70's? Nothing significant...same fuel source, jetfuel/oil. Find a new, cheap, fuel source that can drive faster planes....and bingo! there will be plenty of faster planes. Its not the flying technology, is the daily operation costs that hold us back.

This /. posting's premise is wrong. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816652)

Surely the overall speed and efficiency of the human race is increasing. Witness the speed and efficiency with which DesScorp's writeup commits grammar and spelling errors, as well as the speed and efficiency with which /. moderators approve postings with no basic editorial corrections.

But our grandparents didn't consider... (1)

northernfrights (1653323) | about 3 years ago | (#35816664)

the expanding population of humans and finite supply of oil, along with the exponential increase in our ability to transport information without transporting ourselves. Given these factors, it seems obvious in hindsight that commonplace Mach 2 commercial travel was way too optimistic.

Yes, we now travel close to the speed of light (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816676)

Perhaps a relevant comment here is that in fact there is less need for humans to travel fast physically.
We just send an email, a Text Message or - call on the phone. Perhaps OSS is the best example of this way of working: instant tele-presence at the speed of light without the jet lag, the silly 'security theatre' airport lines or taking 2 days of life just for a meeting.

The most surprising thing to me is: this is all cheap enough for 1/2 the planet to do and our society has adapted to this socially. It is now possible (- again cf. the days 'Navy Wives' left at home for years alone as recently as the 1960/70s) to continue relationships even across oceans. Which reminds me - I should call my girlfriend in Canada this evening [I'm in the UK].

it's going to get worse in terms of access to (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 3 years ago | (#35816682)

petroleum is getting more expensive to dig up and process, as a function of more marginal types of deposits (oil shale, tar sands, etc), and just plain deeper to get to

at the same time, india, brazil, china: approaching western standards of lifestyle and energy consumption

this is a simple economic equation: decreasing supply, increasing demand, which means the age of cheap easy petroleum is over. and while we might be able to switch to electric cars relatively painlessly, i don't see electric powered aircraft in our future (battery weight/ energy density being the obvious issue)

which means air travel, a mainstay of middle class lifestyle, might move back into the realm of the upper middle class and the rich as it was in the 1940s. simply as a function of fuel prices

this doesn't have to do with speed, but it does have a lot to do with the related perception from the middle of the last century of air travel/ space travel becoming more and more ubiquitous and common place. think flying cars. but air travel is actually going to get less common, more rare

We can't afford the speed anymore (1)

scotts13 (1371443) | about 3 years ago | (#35816696)

Traveling at high speed is inherently an expensive pursuit, in terms of energy, materials cost, and engineering. We've burned through millions of years worth of petroleum in the last century, like a kid burning through the cash in a found wallet. Other natural resources are becoming scarcer as well, with a greater population every year to support. If we're honest, eventually another resource - cheap labor - will be exhausted, too, as standards of living rise. The Chinese aren't going to build stuff cheaply forever.

If our CURRENT population all rose to a 1950 standard of living, we'd only be able to afford 1900 technology. But the population won't stabilize without starvation; it's a biological imperative. So the balance will slip further.

I can be in Europe instantaneously via Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816706)

With videoconferencing and cheap international calling the need to go somewhere fast - just isn't there most of the time. Instead of getting to a meeting in 6 hours across an ocean I can do it via videoconferencing both cheaper faster and more or less hassle free. I can even get documents across the oceans in a snap. The reasons I need to travel - maybe to tour a factory or spend some time somewhere- can be planned with less back and forth a longer flight is only slightly inconvenient.

Economy is the issue (1)

Xenious (24845) | about 3 years ago | (#35816714)

When people have less money the focus is not on innovation but penny pinching. The big business which have the money to fund research and projects lock down tight and nothing happens. Stagnation. It won't go anywhere fast and may never again in our lifetime as the boomers retire and miser more.

The silver lining may be that the optimization that will happen will set a foundation for a huge burst of innovation once people spend again.

How fast WAS I going officer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816722)

There is a limit to the amount of energy that we can extract from the atomic electromagnetic force (i.e. from chemical reactions) This is why we don't have those flying cars that everyone dreamed about back when. We are operating on the same energy sources that existed and were used in BC times (namely fossil fuels). Any advances that we have made in energy have been minimal.

In order for the human race to advance in speed, we are going to have to truly harness some other atomic force, like the strong force (i.e. nuclear power) on a small enough scale to put into a plane or a flying car.....

Matter of perspective (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 years ago | (#35816724)

Look at the bright side: Future generations will envy our use of high-power combustion engines that they will see only in museums. It turns out that fuel is expensive.

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