Winning Science December 19, 2014

For the last Winning Science of 2014, we decided to start off by going back to one of our favorite tech geeks, Elon Musk. Sixteen months ago Musk announced a radical plan for a Hyperloop, a high speed transportation system that could run from LA to San Fransisco in just over 30 minutes. Musk’s paper was mostly theoritical, discussing likely means of accomplishing the idea without delving into the specifics. Since then, a company, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, has brought in 100 engineers to start working out those details. While they are still in the early design stages, the teams have already evaluated Musk’s plan and determined that it is likely feasible in the time frame and for the amount of money that Musk projected. Additionally, they have been working on improving Musk’s original designs. The team has also made up a potential service map that they feel would provide the best possible service.


I’d like to point out that the closest stop is three hours from my house. I’m going to assume this was a regrettable oversight by the team and that it will be corrected soon.

Lithium ion batteries are all over the place now and, while popular and highly useful, they do come with their own set of issues. In 2013, the entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet was grounded after fires in the plane’s lithium ion batteries were discovered.  The problem was determined to be a flaw in manufacturing, but the issue highlights the learning curve that is required when using new technologies such as these batteries. Several Tesla cars have also suffered similar fires, which in general can be traced back to the fact that lithium ion batteries have a much higher energy density than previous battery styles. When changes like this are not fully accounted for, the technology ends up with serious issues at the end user.  While it often seems like new technology has more problems than older tech, it is often that we have learned to accept the flaws of existing technology and therefore we no longer see them as problems.

787 Landing at Sydney Australia K65674

What also interested me was some of the other ideas that aircraft engineers had in order to decrease fuel consumption.

The trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the most analyzed and picked apart trailers in recent memory. We have officially reached the point of scientific analysis now that Slate is trying to determine how fast the TIE fighters are moving and seeing how it compares with the speed of “older” models as seen in the original trilogy. Turns out that the results are pretty consistant and even line up fairly closely with the Wookiepedia entry. While the blaster bolts also fall within the existing blaster bolt speeds, that is a much broader range of values. Interestingly enough however, the blaster bolts travel at about the same speed as a tank round.


Of course we will continue to squeeze blood from this stone until JJ gives us more. Please, please, please give us more, I’m begging you!

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