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Sci-Fi Tech We Could Have Right Now (For a Price)

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the big-fan-of-zippy-trains dept.

Sci-Fi 526

PlainBlack writes "Possibility isn't limited by technology. And it's certainly not limited by human imagination. What makes something impossible is the lack of cold, hard, cash. Wired blog takes a look at 10 science fiction technologies we could build, if they weren't so expensive. 'New York-L.A. Maglev Express - Cost: $70bn (Based on established construction costs). At $70bn, it's tantalizingly affordable by the standards of this roundup: a train that could beat airliners from one side of the country to the other. Many agree that Maglev has enormous potential. Bite-sized examples are in operation all over the world. Birmingham, England, had the first in the 1980s, though the promise of airliner-like speeds on land is still unrealized. The British system sped along at a pathetic 26MPH and was designed to get air travelers to the planes, not to outrun them.'"

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I would pay good money (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327148)

for a sci-fi device which installed in Richard Stallman a sense of shame.

OMG my eyes, teh goggles do NOTHING!! [youtube.com]

I bet you would, Mr. Gates. (1, Flamebait)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327612)

but Stallman has done good things for people. Your sense of shame should cover your evil.

Second Pist (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327154)

I'm Canadian... Eh?

Well... (1)

sibsybcys (820086) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327158)

With a 9 trillion dollar national debt, anything is possible : - )

Re:Well... (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327480)

Consider, we could have built seven of those NY to LA maglev trains for what Bush has spent so far blowing stuff up in Iraq. Put another way, we could have built a national long-haul maglev infrastructure and had enough left over to roll out fibre to the curb nationwide.

Nahhh, let's just kill people!

Re:Well... (4, Insightful)

htnprm (176191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327568)

C'mon...In today's political climate, you know spending taxes on anything other than war makes you a Commie! That's what the free market is for.

MOD PARENT UP (2, Insightful)

jdjbuffalo (318589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327590)

We could have had the Maglev Train (several), National FTTH and poured money into researching real alternative energy policy (including paying for the American automakers to design and deploy all electric and hybrid cars by this year). Just shows how we've wasted our money...

Re:MOD PARENT UP (-1, Troll)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327834)

While you're absolutely right, have you tried doing anything about it?

Re:Well... (2, Interesting)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327814)

It actually really surprises me that we haven't seen more public anger about the financial cost of the Iraq war. The relative drawbacks of the previous regime in Iraq against the situation that exists now, and from that the moral justification for invading, are debatable issues and it's somewhat understandable that there are people all along the spectrum from for to against.

I would have thought, however, that if you asked most Americans whether they would've preferred to invade Iraq or to have free petrol for a year [doe.gov] with enough left over for a modestly sized fleet of building-crushing robots to placate any who still held fears about security I think I could guess what most people would choose.

More to it that speed (4, Funny)

taustin (171655) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327160)

a train that could beat airliners from one side of the country to the other

You'd still have to arrive at the train station three hours early and take your shoes off for the TSA goons.

Re:More to it that speed (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327194)

Security theatre at a railway station would be a much harder sell. Nobody is going to fly a train into a skyscraper. They're not going to have a lot of luck hijacking it either.

"Take me to Mexico!"
"We can't. The tracks only go as far as California"

Re:More to it that speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327274)

If someone's aim is to kill as many people as publicly as possible they're not normally bothered where it happens. Google for "Madrid train bombings", "Mumbai train bombings" or "London train bombings" if you don't believe me.

Re:More to it that speed (1, Troll)

taustin (171655) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327346)

Imagine a fully loaded train at 300 mph crashing in to Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

Re:More to it that speed (4, Insightful)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327426)

Still less likely - You know EXACTLY which route it's going to take, and can build in controls to your "Command Center." A plane in the air is all on its own while a train is bound by a number of things, least of all tracks. At the very least you could intercept it with another large object, not to mention any other mechanism built into the train/track for such an event.

It's not perfect, nor fool-proof, but it's far safer. At least you can't fall 30,000 feet.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

SuperQ (431) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327496)

Most high-speed trains are electric.. All you have to do is cut power to the line and have an automatic "power gone for too long? apply brakes" control into the train's automation. (yes, there is a bit of backup power on the train)

Re:More to it that speed (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327532)

not to mention any other mechanism built into the train/track for such an event

Ummm, that would be one of these...

http://www.robl.w1.com/pix-5/C970714.jpg [w1.com]

rj

Re:More to it that speed (2, Funny)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327580)

Well, unless you loop it into a circle (which would be a pretty bad-ass solution, IMO) it's still gotta end up somewhere.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327458)

How can it crash into it? Should be impossible unless the tracks end there and trains need to be turned around.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327506)

In which case you design the signalling system and train systems to only allow the train to approach the station at a safe speed. There was an accident on the London Underground many years ago where a train hit a dead-end tunnel (I don't think they ever found out why the driver didn't stop) but because of that there's a system that cuts the power and applies the brakes to stop it happening again. The European high speed trains 'know' the maximum safe speed for the line, and will override what the driver wants to do if necessary.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327676)

Oh heck, the NY subway has a very simple system.

Red light, small bar goes up on the track. If train goes over the bar, the train emergency breaks trip. Dead ends on the subway actually have a permanent metal bar in the trip position.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327890)

Yep, same system. The accident on the Underground was a /long/ time ago!

The high speed trains need a better system, since they take a lot longer to stop (and slamming on the brakes damages all the wheels and track, and the train slides -- so I think there's something like ABS in cars). But anyway, the system exists and is used.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

hador_nyc (903322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327672)

The good news is that you CAN'T crash into it. Although there are tracks that go to Grand Central, AMTrack does not currently use them; only the commuter railroad Metro-North; including the Connecticut line, does. AMTrack, including the Acela, only goes into Penn Station on the other side of town. More to the point, though, in the case of both stations, the trains go UNDER the station, and not into it. There are plenty of choke points to include the tunnels from Jersey to Manhattan that would be used to stop any high-speed train. Beyond that, the fact is that a whole new track would be needed to set this up. I honestly doubt they would use the beautiful old Grand Central Terminal, or rather ugly Pennsylvania station, because you'd have to modify the existing tracks quite a bit to support the Maglev tracks. The problem there that the tracks that support AmTrack, used in Penn and currently not used in GCT, are also used by the local commuter trains; the Long Island Rail Road goes into Penn, and soon(10+ years) thanks to a $20+ billion construction project, the LIRR will go to GCT. Those trains which bring many millions of people into and out of the city each day would have service limitations and interruptions. That's why I don't expect to see any MagLev trains going there any time soon. Of course, I sure would love to see it; especially if that meant that they would upgrade those commuter trains as well. Also, there are tunnels that enable all the trains, subways too, to turn around underground. The two stations have branches off of the main transit tracks that do have ends, but the main tracks don't end. I guess, you could probably have your train jump the track if you took the turn fast enough.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327644)

Imagine a fully loaded train at 300 mph crashing in to Grand Central Station in Manhattan.
Interesting, considering Grand Central Station is a post office.

Assuming you mean Grand Central Terminal, don't you think we could easily build a safety system, similar to the one in the nearly 100yr old subway running next door?

Re:More to it that speed (1)

zsau (266209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327650)

Most regular run-of-the-mill a-dime-a-dozen subway trains have systems in place so that if the driver metaphorically "puts his foot down" ignoring the signals, the train will stop anyway, with no way the driver could over-ride them. I think if we've got a train costing billions of dollars, they're not going to skimp on security. The most dangerous thing you can do on a train is blow it up.

Re:More to it that speed (2, Interesting)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327682)

Imagine the voltage going through the electromagnetic rails steadily dropping slowly until the train car was moving at a sedate speed.
It's pretty easy to turn off the gas on a maglev train.

Re:More to it that speed (1, Flamebait)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327364)

Very true. But... If Fox News sells the risk of train hijacking the public will cheerfully remove their shoes... and in all probability also allow rectally inserted rfid chips.

Never let facts and reason get in the way of a nice heartwarming Riechstags fire.

Re:More to it that speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327616)

(Reichstag [wikipedia.org] , but word.)

Re:More to it that speed (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327386)

Security theatre at a railway station would be a much harder sell. Nobody is going to fly a train into a skyscraper. They're not going to have a lot of luck hijacking it either.

However, they could detonate a bomb while it's moving at high speed, and the resulting accident would probably kill everyone on board. It's already been tried on the high speed AVE train in Spain but it was unsuccessful. Assuming Al Qaeda or a similar group does attempt to attack in the U.S. again, they will probably target mass transit, just as they have in Spain and Britain.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327460)

So you detonate a bomb in the security line at an airport the day before Thanksgiving. If you want to kill a bunch of people with a bomb, there are plenty of ways of doing that.

Re:More to it that speed (3, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327566)

Assuming Al Qaeda or a similar group does attempt to attack in the U.S. again, they will probably target mass transit, just as they have in Spain and Britain.
Smoke and mirrors. Sure they could. But if you block that route with heightened security measures then they can just take out a major road intersection or bridge, or many other possibilities -- essentially anywhere people gather is a security risk.

If you buy the paranoia that is...

If you believe that to be true, then the terrorists have won. Air travel is already a complete nightmare. After 6+ years of security threats you'd think that they would be able to come up with better ways of moving people through controlled spaces like airports, but no... they haven't. Lame really.

The "risks" not worth the security measures. That's not freedom. That's not a society worth defending. Try living in the UK for a while, it makes you look at China and envy its liberty.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327412)

They're not going to have a lot of luck hijacking it either.
Funny, "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" was just on TV. Of course, they didn't have much luck.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327442)

You have to protect the track though, or you might as not well build it, as you won't have any passengers.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327598)

Chain link fence (if that) is the norm in Europe (e.g. The entrance to the Channel Tunnel, UK side [wikipedia.org] -- just a couple of fences).

Are you really that scared? If so, you'd better protect all roads too.

Re:More to it that speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327510)

And yet, that hasn't [amtrak.com] stopped [findarticles.com] them.

When you're talking about the DHS, common sense is no barrier.

Re:More to it that speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327572)

You're assuming TSA and reality intersect at some point.

Re:More to it that speed (1)

xannash (861526) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327604)

"Take me to Mexico!" "We can't. The tracks only go as far as California"
It's the same thing...isn't it? Mexico and California

Calif/Mex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327852)

No. In Mexico, Mexicans pay taxes.

Check out Operation Torch (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327766)

Yes, DHS thinks you need combat squads on trains everyday. story [iht.com] story [google.com] . Keep pushing for regime change and democracy in the USA and we might see better spending of tax money.

Re:More to it that speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327220)

Yeah, because someone might hijiack the train and crash it into an office building... that some architect conveniently built over train tracks.

Re:More to it that speed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327368)

...that some architect conveniently built over train tracks.
Like no-one would ever be stupid enough to do that:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/4639671.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Obviously it was a Tesco "Value" tunnel.

70 billion dollars for an LA-NY maglev train... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327162)

And the war in Iraq has cost how much [nationalpriorities.org] so far?

Re:70 billion dollars for an LA-NY maglev train... (0, Redundant)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327468)

And we, the citizenry get no benefits compared to the space program of years past.
Sure, prosthetics, bionics, and portable power comes to mind but damn, Tang, Velcro, RO water benefits everyone.

Re:70 billion dollars for an LA-NY maglev train... (1)

sfbiker (1118091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327828)

I don't know where they got that cost estimate, but that's way low.

The 700 mile SF to LA high speed rail route (conventional rail, not maglev) is estimated at $37B. LA to NY is about 4 times the distance, so figure around $150B to do the whole thing.

Oh, but that doesn't take into account the inevitable cost overruns. I think SF's BART runs around 50% overrun on their big projects, so figure around $225B minimum. Cost overruns on Boston's Big Dig project run up to 500% depending on what numbers you look at, so the final price tag could be around $750B.

And I still don't see how maglev can compete with airlines for speed on a cross country trip, it would have to average 500mph including stops to beat a 5 hour flight. And the article even says that maglev systems current average around 260MPH, so that's over a 9 hour trip.

If they are counting on time savings since the train can go direct to city centers and not to outlying airports, then build high speed rail to link airports to city centers. Though you're not going to run at 500MPH above ground in any city...or even in suburbs -- no one will put up with the noise from a 500mph train 20 feet from their house (even if the propulsion is completely silent with maglev, displacing air at 500mph will make a huge amount of noise).

Personal Rapid Prototypers (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327228)

But maybe that'd be a bit too much of a disruptive technology.

Re:Personal Rapid Prototypers (1)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327376)

What's such a big deal about that? First, who'd want it? And second, what's to stop someone rich enough who wants it from having it right now? Stereolithography costs as little as five figures USD. People buy more expensive cars.

$5000 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327536)

It's not really that disruptive. Rapid prototype parts take a long time to make and don't have the mechnical properties of parts made by other means. They're almost always made of plastics, and relatively weak ones at that...no fiber glass reinforced nylon or anything cool like that. They're awesome for fit or basic function checking in a hurry and for cheap, but if you want performance or durability, and especially if you want high volume production, you need to look at another avenue.

Also, you need to be able to do CAD, unless making models you find for free online is enough for you.

Anyway, here's one that costs $5000...a little more than a good laser printer.

http://www.desktopfactory.com/our_product/ [desktopfactory.com]

Where's the Death Star? (5, Funny)

angryfirelord (1082111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327236)

Only $1.2 billion for a space hotel? Heck, Microsoft should take that $44.6 billion and invest it into a Death Star! I'm sure Ballmer would like his new Vader costume. :)

Re:Where's the Death Star? (4, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327358)

It might not fund the Iraq war for all that long, but when you focus it on a single project $1,200,000,000 is realy an awfully big number...

Re:Where's the Death Star? (1)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327654)

Would that make Bill Gates Emperor Palpatine? Is Linus Luke and RMS Obi-wan?

Re:Where's the Death Star? (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327670)

... Ballmer would like his new Vader costume

Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL orbital chair launcher!

Re:Where's the Death Star? (1)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327788)

i personally don't want to see the kind of damage he could cause by throwing chairs from that height

No flying car yada yada (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327300)

Honestly.. why would you want a million distracted soccer moms and stressed out sales reps take to the skies?

We like to imagine the flying car scenario like in the fifth element, but in reality it would look more like a WW2 bombing campaign.

"If we could afford it" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327314)

We've spent half a trillion dollars in Iraq for no good reason. How about "if we wanted to spend the money"

Gundum (3, Funny)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327318)

I'm totally on board for the mech, it's time to make these military conflicts entertaining enough for pay per view to help off set the costs of war.

Re:Gundum (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327354)

I would suggest make them remote controlled and fight battles bloodlessly mech-on-mech, but whomever lost would not not honor the agreement.

Re:Gundum (1)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327500)

True that, plus as Humvees have shown us relatively simple explosives would probably be used against them with effective results.

Re:Gundum (2, Interesting)

Quattro Vezina (714892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327388)

Screw the Mobile Suits, I want the space colonies. Though I am happy that "Gundam" was the first word Wired used to describe mecha :)

We could probably build an O'Neill cylinder [wikipedia.org] (the type of colony used in Gundam) with today's techology. It would cost a fuckton of money just due to the size of the thing (the ISS is tiny in comparison), but we have the tech. All we need to do is put it together.

Wish List (4, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327344)

* Flying car
* Cheap Nuclear Power
* Safe, Effective Diet Pill
* Cheap TV Phone (nevermind, I don't look so hot in the morning)
* Space Travel for the Mass
* Cure for Cancer
* Cure for the Common Cold
* Artificial Intelligence approaching at least Dog Level
* Appliances that Accept Voice Commands
* Independence from Oil
* 3D User Interface
* Cybernetic Implants
* Energy-beam Weapons
* Easy-to-Maintain Personal Computers
* Car Key Alternative - I hate looking for lost keys.
* Non-Lethal Weaponry for Cops
* Reliable Tires (or that fail gradually) - Tires are still based on air-filled balloon technology, making them problematic.
* Reliable Car Battery
* Scan & Download Brain to Cheat Death

(Yes, I stole some from a wiki, but then again I added most of them to begin with)

Re:Wish List (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327524)

Check the video's of this user:

http://www.youtube.com/user/theduderinok [youtube.com]

And especially those by Mr. Lear.

Re:Wish List (2, Interesting)

esampson (223745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327584)

...* Scan & Download Brain to Cheat Death

I can never quite understand how people think that making a copy of themselves means they personally will live forever. The copy is a separate individual from you and when you die, you are dead. Granted there's now a copy of you running around but that's all it is, a copy. It isn't you.

Think of it in the converse; if someone made a copy of you and the copy died would you be dead?

Re:Wish List (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327722)

I can never quite understand how people think that making a copy of themselves means they personally will live forever. The copy is a separate individual from you and when you die, you are dead. Granted there's now a copy of you running around but that's all it is, a copy. It isn't you.

If someone makes a copy of me and I'm either me or the copy, then I'm still me. If I take my install disk for Starcraft, copy it, then destroy the original, it will still install and run just as well on any computer. It's the same functionally. It has no knowledge that it isn't the original. For all functional purposes, it is the original, in a different container.

Think of it in the converse; if someone made a copy of you and the copy died would you be dead?

Well, watch The Prestige and let us know. How many of who are dead by the end of that thing? I personally didn't like the movie; anything that glorifies and makes a mystery of the work of Tesla gets two thumbs down. But as to the question, if I was the copy or I was the original, it doesn't matter what happens to anything but me, I'm still alive. If I'm the original or the copy, it doesn't matter what happens to anyone else, if I'm dead, I'm dead. You are thinking linearly for a non-linear problem. "You" can't be dead if you are alive. But then, is the copy you? If you are the copy, are you you? The answer is simple, you are whoever you believe yourself to be, and you can only die if you are the one that is dead. If you copy yourself and at least one copy (or the original) lives, then "you" are alive. So yes, that also means that you can die multiple times and still be alive. If you can't handle that idea, then stay away from copying your memories into the perpetual life machine. So yes, if someone made a copy of me and killed the copy, I'd be dead. But I'd also still be alive. That isn't contradictory of me, as there are two of me, the one that's living and the one that's dead.

Re:Wish List (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327762)

I personally didn't like the movie; anything that glorifies and makes a mystery of the work of Tesla gets two thumbs down.

You must not be a very big fan of Nikola "I've got a death ray, lolz" Tesla himself, then.

Re:Wish List (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327740)

[Scan & Download Brain to Cheat Death] I can never quite understand how people think that making a copy of themselves means they personally will live forever. The copy is a separate individual from you and when you die, you are dead.

That's a sticky philosophical question. I don't think anybody could answer about how it would "feel" or what the transfer really is as far as consciencness (I'll spell better in the next life, I promise).
     

Re:Wish List (2, Funny)

Reemi (142518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327632)


* A wife?

Re:Wish List (1)

olman (127310) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327638)

* Cheap Nuclear Power

At the very least you can reuse nuclear fuel..

* Safe, Effective Diet Pill

One way or another this is going to involve making pretty harsh changes to either your metabolism or instincts. Latter we can hack already if you don't mind the schizophrenia from amphetamines.

* Cheap TV Phone (nevermind, I don't look so hot in the morning)

Uh already here? I already got one. Never used video calls thought.

* Appliances that Accept Voice Commands

See above. Also another feature I've never used.

* Cybernetic Implants

See above. Depends on what you mean by cybernetic exactly, thought. Sure you can't have minigun but instead you can have crappy eyesight or acceptable hearing with implants.

* Non-Lethal Weaponry for Cops

Are you for real, bro?

* Reliable Tires (or that fail gradually) - Tires are still based on air-filled balloon technology, making them problematic.

Run flat tires?

Re:Wish List (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327810)

[Safe, Effective Diet Pill] One way or another this is going to involve making pretty harsh changes to either your metabolism or instincts.

Naturally skinny people are the way they are under perfectly natural circumstances. The key is to figure out what is different between them and the rest of us. I agree it may take a lot of work because evolution put in a lot of food-sure back-up systems that have to be defeated.

[Cheap TV Phone] I already got one.

Only if both sides share the same plan and you do it on weekends.

Run flat tires?

Close, but not quite.

Re:Wish List (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327868)

* Cybernetic Implants

See above. Depends on what you mean by cybernetic exactly, thought. Sure you can't have minigun but instead you can have crappy eyesight or acceptable hearing with implants.


That's a start, but it's not really "sci-fi tech" until we have implants which significantly exceed human capabilities: better than human eyesight and hearing, strength, etc. Think of the Six Million Dollar Man.

In A Gary Larson World (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327680)

...a dog reads YOUR list and says, He could have written 'Artificial intelligence approaching at most Dog Level. Hmph!'

Re:Wish List (1)

Wildclaw (15718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327862)

My wish list:

* Wireless extremly high bandwidth long range communication unit.
* Replicator, with lots of item blueprints (including all other items on my wishlist) downloadable via the communication unit
* Energy device to power the replicator.

Those are the three main ones. Add this one as a bonus:

* Automatic doctor unit that can fix any injuries. Bonus if it can extend life.

Re:Wish List (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327896)

... cholesterol/plaque dissolving food additive.

Considering the biggest killer is soon most likely going to be heart/brain attacks, I'd be putting this one way up the list.

Re:Wish List (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327900)

* Safe, Effective Diet Pill
* Cheap TV Phone (nevermind, I don't look so hot in the morning)

Maybe you should just wish for a pill that makes other people less obsessed with image.

* Car Key Alternative - I hate looking for lost keys.

Lots of cars come with code panels and start buttons now, some aren't obscenely expensive.

* Non-Lethal Weaponry for Cops

Rubber bullets and tazers have very low fatality rates. It's a very hard problem to eliminate all fatalities, people die choking on spoons after all.

* Reliable Tires (or that fail gradually) - Tires are still based on air-filled balloon technology, making them problematic.

Buy run-flat tires?

And that is why I think that Gates and Buffet are (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327370)

wrong. They have this kind of wealth. If they build things that few others CAN do and create companies that can do high-speed maglev across the country, it would lower the transportation costs, energy usage, and build monster jobs. In fact, I would rather see a maglev be built from D.C. to NYC to Milwaukee. That would make that a true money maker. It would create a large number of jobs in there. From that point, they can shoot for Seattle and then down to LA, flowing all the way into Mexico. In addition, another branch from seattle up to alaska to the bering strait. This is doable for somebody with the kind of money that only a few have. Oh well.

Re:And that is why I think that Gates and Buffet a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327558)

Yep. It's a shame that Gates pisses his money away in Africa (not to mention funding the Discovery Institute).

There's a lot he could do for humanity as a whole if he wanted to.

Re:And that is why I think that Gates and Buffet a (1)

Skim123 (3322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327882)

Sure, BillG and Warren have this kind of money, but how are they going to procure the land to build this train track? The government can come in and take land via eminent domain, but BillG and Warren Buffet cannot. So if I am the property owner of a parcel of land and I know that they need to buy my plot to complete the track, and without my land it will cost $200 million to work around it, then I'm going to make them pay me $199 million for a piece of ground that might otherwise be worth only several thousand dollars per acre.

Now, a maglev train that stretches across the West might be more feasible b/c there are large stretches of land that are still gov't owned that the gov't might sell or lease to such an enterprise.

Clarke's data cube! (1)

syphaxplh (896757) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327384)

No mention of Arthur C. Clarke's data cube, as posited in 3001! Imagine the entirety of a person's biological makeup, memories, and experiences over a lifetime, all captured in a portable storage device. If I remember correctly, this was sort of Clarke's concept of potential immortality. But perhaps the technology required is not quite within reach, at any cost.

Re:Clarke's data cube! (5, Funny)

kevintron (1024817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327554)

No mention of Arthur C. Clarke's data cube, as posited in 3001! Imagine the entirety of a person's biological makeup, memories, and experiences over a lifetime, all captured in a portable storage device.


Perhaps with little pink hearts printed on each face of the cube?

Re:Clarke's data cube! (1)

Kuukai (865890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327610)

Wasn't that thing's capacity measured in petabytes? That's not too far off...

One Simple Request (1)

Caped Cod (633799) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327398)

You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!

gundam (1)

deathtopaulw (1032050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327464)

seeing it recognized as a "Gundam" just made this nerd's day
I thought of it right away before I clicked the link, and it came true!

US Could Use a Big Engineering Project (2, Interesting)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327466)

All the big engineering projects of the last 20-30 years have been in either Europe or Asia (such as the Chunnel, Millau Viaduct, Kansai International Airport, etc.). All the US gets is the Shuttle and the ISS, which have both become a big turkey. Bugger the cost, I want to see a maglev from NY to LA with stops in Chicago and Denver.

Not too much research (4, Informative)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327504)

Whoever wrote this obviously didn't do too much research for the article. They managed to get through an entire section on the feasibility and cost of a space hotel without stumbling across Bigelow Aerospace [wikipedia.org] , who actually has a test bed in orbit right now.

Arcology (1)

Experiment 626 (698257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327518)

While the floating city mentioned in the article is nice, it's interesting to contemplate the more general class of which it is an example of: Arcologies [wikipedia.org] . Huge megastructures that are cities unto themselves. Arcologies are a common thing in sci-fi, but how cool of one could we build if we were limited only by technology and engineering, and money was not the limiting factor?

No way you could do it for 70billion (3, Informative)

MrSteve007 (1000823) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327528)

The city of Seattle couldn't even do a monorail from downtown Seattle to the airport for 11 billion dollars . . . and the airport is only 14 miles away. The tax payers are still paying off that debacle.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nicolebrodeur/2004131851_brodeur18m.html/ [nwsource.com]

There is no way in hell any public project could get across a state, let alone the entire country, for 70 billion. Sad hunh?

To hell with Sci-FI.... I want old tech (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327552)

How about silly things like real working public transportation?
Passenger trains between cities, silly crap like that.

For some reason here in the USA public transportation is considered evil.

Great example? Detroit, why there are no elevated trains for transportation is insane. and Most cities in the USA has far to little public transportation.

Also why a maglev from ny to LA? There are supertrains that haul ass pretty damn good. 24-36 hours from NY to LA is something that people would certianly pay for, and that's only a average of 90mph.

Go the other way... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327704)

... Why a maglev from NY to LA? We can do BETTER THAN THAT.

Build a vacuum tube from NY to LA. Then maximum speed is limited by, well... not much, actually. Accelerate to orbital velocity, go weightless for a few minutes while still on the ground, arrive. The technology exists; the cost is even more ludicrous, but while we're dreaming, eh?

In fact, hell, it's a vacuum tube. Damn thing's buoyant. Build it from London to LA.

Re:To hell with Sci-FI.... I want old tech (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327734)

No elevated trains in Detroit? You mean except for the people mover, which at least covers downtown, right?

Granted, it's about the least useful form of public transportation imaginable (it doesn't connect to the actual train station or bus stations), but it does come in handy on game day.

Re:To hell with Sci-FI.... I want old tech (3, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327838)

From Wiki: since the opening of the LGV Est [a new rail link in France], a TGV covers the 104¾ miles (167.6 km) from Lorraine TGV station to Champagne-Ardenne TGV station in 36 minutes, at an average speed of 174.5 mph (279.3 km/h)[4]. This service calls at both stations and so is representative of a high-speed service with 100 mile stopping frequency. Moreover, the TGV that achieves these timings is only capable of 198 mph (320 km/h) ("only" because Spain just opened a line using trains capable of 350km/h).

NY to LA is about 4000km, an average speed of 280km/h gives 14 hours if you stop every 100 miles (25 stops -- are there 25 places important enough to stop at en-route?). Using the faster Spanish train takes that down by 8.5%, 13 hours. Overnight+a little bit, that's pretty good! Obviously you can get a bed, full meals etc.

But no :-( your government wants everyone to drive or fly. (Mine -- the UK -- currently isn't that much better outside of London. The current big transport issue is the expansion of Heathrow Airport, it's already the largest in the world but the government wants to make it 50% larger, to take 700000 flights (a year?). I'd rather see faster rail connections to mainland Europe from the rest of the UK, the reduced demand for short flights would free up space. It's still quicker to fly if you're going further than about Paris/Belgium, especially if you don't live very close to London since all the international trains can't go further north than London.)

Re:To hell with Sci-FI.... I want old tech (1)

jddj (1085169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327924)

Wish I had mod points for you today...

You're absolutely right. Chicago's El and Subway are a couple of great ways to get around the city and exurbs.

And I'm still not sure why people are so enamored of using a bunch of extra energy to suspend the whole train in midair.

Are wheels just too 1990s or what?

Carbon footprints? (2, Interesting)

Tired and Emotional (750842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327570)

$70bn really is not that much money - less than the Iraq war is costing us every year.

But I wonder what the carbon footprint looks like? A plane at 35000 feet is in much thinner air and would not be able to fly LA to NY at a much lower altitude. The train will have to work in that thick air but will be a lot longer with presumably many more passengers and is not using aerodynamic lift. The propulsion system is also more energy efficient.

So I have no idea which works out better. Anybody have numbers? One can of course argue that the maglev can use renewable energy, but that's a crock unless you have surplusses of renewable energy, which we don't.

Re:Carbon footprints? (3, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327674)

I have no idea about maglev, but conventional high speed rail (current best is about 350kph or 220mph) claims to be about 10 times less carbon producing than the flights it replaces -- i.e. relatively short distance flights. Long haul flights are more efficient, but the train still wins. Also, the plane puts crap into the upper atmosphere (bad!) but the train can put it anywhere, since you get to choose where to site the power plant. The maglev is flexible in it's energy. The wheeled train has the advantage that if prices get really bad they can just slow down to save fuel.

If $ wasn't spend in war for oil ... (0, Flamebait)

denisbergeron (197036) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327618)

we can have all of this !

Where are giant mirrors in space? (2, Interesting)

Randym (25779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327622)

Really. Giant mirrors in space beaming solar energy down via microwaves to the Sahara [Africa], Gobi [Mongolia], Empty Quarter {Saudi Arabia] or Sonoran [Arizona, USA] deserts (chosen for their lack of people and access to nearby large populations) instantly solves the energy crisis. And they [google.com] wouldn't be *that* expensive.

Maglev price is a joke (3, Insightful)

Rufus211 (221883) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327664)

The current projected price for an LA to SF conventional high-speed train is on the order of $30billion. That's for 500 miles and only going through the fairly small mountains around San Francisco.

NY-LA is 5x as long, and has the freaking Rocky Mountains in the way. How exactly do they figure the $70bil price, even if it was a conventional high speed and not an exotic maglev?

70 Bn too low (0, Offtopic)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327708)

Article says that 70Bn for maglev is based on construction costs. Surely it excludes the real estate along the way. Actually for 70Bn profitability does not seem out of the question.

Sudden impact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327782)

The one thing to keep in mind with a cross country maglev is that their's more things to hit. e.g. hailstones.

Missing option: domed cities (1)

kevintron (1024817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327844)

Weren't we supposed to be able to build giant domes by now, large enough to enclose entire cities?

But wait! you might say. What practical purpose could this possibly serve? Do we have any cities that really need to be protected under huge domes? To which I would reply, yes. Yes, we do.

For example, New Orleans.

You might think I joke here, and maybe it is funny on one level. But think about it for a few moments more. If we make such an investment in the future of New Orleans, we could not build a flimsy dome that only keeps out mild rain showers. We must master the construction technology to withstand the biggest hurricanes the Gulf of Mexico can whip up. Beyond that, we would have to remember New Orleans is gradually sinking. Over the long term, that dome has to survive the pressure of being completely submerged under seawater.

And once we develop that set of technologies, entirely new cities can be built on the ocean floor.

Why not the private sector? (1)

peregrinerobot (1218970) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327864)

GE could basically build a thing like this itself. Run it 4 tracks wide from LA to Denver to Chicago to NYC, have the operating costs basically covered by package and other commercial shipping companies. There are a lot of profitable applications to a system like this I'd imagine. What would stop private industry from doing it?

Trains need land - you want it in your back yard? (2, Insightful)

GraniteGeekdotOrg (1166955) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327922)

That cross-country maglev "cost" doesn't include obtaining the land to run it across - the killer in new rail projects. That's why trains don't go all the way through Boston, for example; it would cost fifty gazillion-billion-fagillion* dollars to get the rights to connect South Station and North Station. *rounded to nearest -illion
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