Wednesday, June 25, 2008
New technology won’t help all that much for a nationwide system, either. The French TGV train — I love French: train à grande vitesse just sounds so much inherently cooler than “really fast train” — really only travels about 200 miles an hour; even maglev trains are not a lot faster. That would cut the travel time in half, making the total travel time to New York only, hoo-hah, 45 hours.
It’s not a matter of the government not supporting Amtrak. It’s not a matter of the U.S. not having the “will” to have the best passenger trains in the world. It’s that passenger trains, using any current technology or any technology we see coming in the foreseeable future, simply can’t compete with airlines.
It’s just arithmetic.
I found these lectures on the web the other day and wanted to share them.
Hans Bethe was perhaps the most impressive person I've ever seen speak in person. He was the last survivor of the the major players who had developed the atomic bomb. He died at his home on March 6, 2005. He was 98.
Some of my favorites:
Christopher Columbus's efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth. In fact, sailors and navigators of the time knew that the Earth was spherical, but (correctly) disagreed with Columbus' estimates of the distance to the Indies (see Flat Earth). If the Americas did not exist, and Columbus had continued to the Indies (even putting aside the threat of mutiny he was under) he would have run out of supplies before reaching them at the rate he was travelling.
Entrapment law in the United States does not forbid police officers from going undercover, or from denying that they are police. It is a common misconception among persons engaged in low-level crime that if an undercover police officer is asked, "Are you a cop?" that they must reveal themselves to avoid entrapment.
The Coriolis effect doesn't determine the direction that water rotates in a bathtub drain or a flushing toilet. The Coriolis force is relatively small; it appears over large scales (like weather systems) or in systems such as the Foucault pendulum in which the small influence is allowed to accumulate over time. In a bathtub or toilet, the flow of the water over the basin itself produces forces that dwarf the Coriolis force. In addition, most toilets inject water into the bowl at an angle; the resulting spin is tens of thousands of times too fast to be overcome by the Coriolis effect.
Mount Everest is, indisputably, the highest point of land above sea level (8850 meters / 29035 feet) which, according to traditional measurements, means that it is the tallest mountain in the world. Given certain definitions, however, this can be challenged. One alternative method of measurement is the base-summit height. When this is applied, Mauna Kea (a dormant volcano in Hawaii) turns out to be much higher at 10,314 meters (33,480 feet). This takes into account Mauna Kea's base on the ocean floor, some 6000 meters below sea level. Its height above sea level is only 4,208 meters (13,796 feet). If the base-summit height is measured from land only, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, meaning it does not belong to a mountain range or chain, measured from its base (at ground level) to the summit at 5,896 meters (19,344 feet). Another alternative method is to work out the furthest point of land as measured from the centre of the earth. Chimborazo, a volcano in Ecuador, takes this honor, because the Earth "bulges" at the equator. This peak is 2,100 meters "taller" than Everest.
Lots more here.
The flickering hope that elections would force Robert Mugabe from power died this weekend in a campaign of state-organized terror that forced opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai out of this Friday's runoff. So an African dinosaur – the tyrant willing to destroy his country in the service of his vanity – will live on in Zimbabwe.
How much longer only God or, perhaps, Zimbabwe's neighbors know. Mr. Mugabe may be a dying breed, but he is all too able to kill and harass the democratic opposition. Outside intervention, preferably by the Africans themselves, now appears the one remaining way to end this nightmare.