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April 23, 2012 8:38 PM   Subscribe

It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.
posted by flabdablet (92 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pipe dream.
posted by Nomyte at 8:41 PM on April 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


Wasn't this in a James Bond movie?
posted by The Power Nap at 8:41 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want the tubes like in Futurama first.
posted by birdherder at 8:42 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Logan's Run, the original novel (in popular culture - not just for Wikipedia)
posted by stbalbach at 8:44 PM on April 23, 2012


Looks kind of like a scam, what with all the license shilling, doesn't it? And © 2010, so not exactly new.
posted by TonyRobots at 8:44 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not particularly claustrophobic, but the thought of being stuck in one of those is just terrifying.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:45 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Going to blow the minds of the kids here, but back in the oldendays, like the 80's, office buildings had these built in to shuttle papers around, packing lists from the sales office to the shipping desk for example. My local Home Depot still uses them to collect cash from the tills to the general office.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:46 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


In other news, the ring came off my pudding can.
posted by TonyRobots at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Five years ago folks were saying driverless cars were a pipe dream, too. Then Google came along.

It's a cool idea, but they need to do some serious development work (as in, years' worth) and then start talking to the folks with the big bucks.

The big catch for me is if they can't even manage to create a stunning website and an active blog, then how the hell are they going to devote the years of hardcore engineering R&D that a project like this requires?
posted by GnomeChompsky at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2012


I have to pee.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:50 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


New York to Beijing in 2 hours - so is that under the ocean or over a bridge across the Bering Straight?
posted by doublesix at 8:52 PM on April 23, 2012


In other news, the ring came off my pudding can.

Try my penknife, my good man!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:54 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


New York to Beijing in 2 hours - so is that under the ocean or over a bridge across the Bering Straight?

Through the planet.
posted by sourwookie at 8:54 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not just office buildings but ALL of Paris!
posted by sammyo at 8:54 PM on April 23, 2012


Let's kill two birds with one stone by pumping oil between the cars.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:55 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


GG if it gets a leak.
posted by ethansr at 8:55 PM on April 23, 2012


I have been thinking about something like this for years now for freight: Underground tunnels with autonomous electric vehicles for transporting containers and bulk commodities- basically controlled by routers using physical freight containers instead of TCP/IP packets. I know it would work, and have the potential of removing 95% of the long-distance truck traffic from the highways. But I'm just a dreamer, don't know how to actually get it done.
posted by pjern at 8:57 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Brazil only had the tip of the iceberg.

And I notice the vehicles have windows, but the tubes don't.
posted by meinvt at 8:58 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


So basically, it's Micronauts Rocket Tubes for real people?

The 10-year-old me wonders why we haven't built this already!
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on April 23, 2012


The tubes would need emergency hatches all along the tube in case of a breakdown, which would make their "permanent air removal" a joke because it would leak like crazy from the hatches. Nevermind that opening an emergency hatch would shut down the entire operation. Even rolling roads would seem safer and easier to maintain than this.
posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 9:01 PM on April 23, 2012


Evacuate my tubes.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 PM on April 23, 2012


office buildings had these built in to shuttle papers around

I think you missed the part where the tubes are full of vacuum, not air, to decrease friction (and because the idea wasn't nuts enough without that key component). They're vacuum tubes.
posted by RogerB at 9:09 PM on April 23, 2012


weapons-grade pandemonium: "Let's kill two birds with one stone by pumping oil between the cars."

Keystone XL Expressway. Now that's something we can all get behind. /sarcasm
posted by arcticseal at 9:12 PM on April 23, 2012


They're vacuum tubes.

So if we build this system, we'll use it for 50 years and then it will be replaced with a nationwide transistor transportation network?
posted by hippybear at 9:12 PM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I guess the consensus is that this sucks.
posted by Flashman at 9:13 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let met get this straight; they're selling personal "licenses" for a massive supranational infrastructure project based on highly questionable technology, without demonstrating that (a) the technology exists in a workable and/or scalable form (b) any sort of investment backing or (c) taking any steps to secure the literally oceans of property rights required to make even the most rudimentary steps towards realizing the project?

And I had to add a security exception in Firefox to see the license sale page? Noooooooope.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:14 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ok, on further reflection I'm all for this if they shoot you across the surface of a wading pool like a waterslide at the end.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Car sized passenger capsules travel in 1.5m (5') diameter tubes on frictionless maglev. Air is permanently removed from the two-way tubes that are built along a travel route.

Yea, this part sticks in my throat pretty hard. ... but then again I was apparently way off base with regards to renewable geothermal energy and corresponding recent advances in efficiency so it's not impossible that I'm out of the loop with regards to how this may now be 'o-so-simple'.

Can't say I'd mind traveling around like an electronic space-sperm if it meant less time/energy used per mile traveled but I won't be holding my breath on this one.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:18 PM on April 23, 2012


Scoff all you like, but it's forward-thinking proposals like this that keep the Popular Science cover artist industry from collapsing.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:19 PM on April 23, 2012 [24 favorites]


Guys, guys, the company they've formed to implement the technology is called PANTERRA TRANSPORTATION.

You treat your stepmother with respect, Panterra!

(yes, yes, I know, Pan-Terra. But still!)
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:21 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Guys, guys! Get this! If we use the inductive propulsion mechanisms as generators when we slow them down, we can recapture some of the energy! Just like I read in a Heinlein book lo these many years ago. I think it was in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but I'm not sure.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:22 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's video.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:24 PM on April 23, 2012


I know it's a pipe dream (see what I did there) but I'm still going to dream about wooshing across the country in my bank tube thing rather than dealing with airports and flying.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:28 PM on April 23, 2012


A heads-up display gaming system on this is the next big break Sonic the Hedgehog's been waiting for all these years.

...also Sewer Shark.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:28 PM on April 23, 2012


So if we build this system, we'll use it for 50 years and then it will be replaced with a nationwide transistor transportation network?

Don't worry. I'm sure there's a market for no more than 5 or 6 tubes worldwide.

and yes of course when I said "friction" I meant "drag"
posted by RogerB at 9:29 PM on April 23, 2012


"640K miles is more tubing than anyone will ever need."
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:31 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This seems pretty silly and the idea isn't going to move forward with this poorly-implemented business model and website, but part of me doesn't care.

I want this. Somehow or another I want this. All big ideas seem ridiculous at first.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:33 PM on April 23, 2012


Tubes.
posted by birdherder at 9:35 PM on April 23, 2012


Screw you guys, it's a totally tubular idea.
posted by panaceanot at 9:38 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


We would need the TSA involved so you can get your tubes inspected while you're riding in your tube.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:38 PM on April 23, 2012


Is there a chance the track could bend?
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:38 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


All big ideas seem ridiculous at first.

Also, all crazy and totally unworkable ideas. They just seem ridiculous later, too.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:40 PM on April 23, 2012


re there's video

the University of British Columbia is planning to install this in their new sub!
posted by chapps at 9:40 PM on April 23, 2012


Life support is going to be interesting. They talk about how this has already been solved on the space station and in subs and so on, but it's one thing to do it for a multi-billion dollar space station and another to bang it into thousands of cheap capsules.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:42 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aren't the Halls of Montezuma essentially an underground version of this?
posted by ph00dz at 9:42 PM on April 23, 2012


Screw you Pipe down
posted by panaceanot at 9:43 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


My local Home Depot still uses them to collect cash from the tills to the general office.

Also, at least in 2009, my bank (Venshtorg) branch in Moscow.
posted by vidur at 9:43 PM on April 23, 2012


it's gonna really suck when a long line of suffocated dead people from california start arriving in new york for their holiday weekends that they can't enjoy because they're dead
posted by facetious at 9:50 PM on April 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


They forgot the most forward thinking aspect of it all. The high speeds result in instant and only slightly horrifying death in case of accident, preventing any unnecessary suffering.
posted by Algebra at 9:51 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of Project Tubeflight, which was a research project at RPI in the late 60's:
Technical reports from the project. Gee-whiz summary of the project.

I think they were looking at fluid cushioning for the pods instead of putting them in evacuated tubes, though.
posted by fussbudget at 9:51 PM on April 23, 2012


In a resonant episode, we are introduced to an officer in the US Navy named, or called, ‘Jack Daniels’. Daniels is a delightfully dogmatic anti-communist whose rhetoric includes: “The Russians are stupid people; they’re backwards. You know on their ships, they don’t even have electrical intercoms? They still speak through tubes?”

Gray tells us: “Suddenly, I had this enormous fondness for the Russian navy, for all of Mother Russia. The thought of these men, like innocent children, speaking through empty toilet paper rolls, empty paper towel rolls, where you can still hear doubt, confusion, brotherly love, ambivalence, all those human tones, coming through the tube.”*
posted by hippybear at 10:12 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fuck it. I'm ready for some future travel. We've been traveling the same way since the 20s, and I'm fucking sick of it. I WANT THE FUTURE GOD DAMN YOU PRESENT.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a chance the track could bend?

Not at all, my Apropos friend!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:18 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But seriously earthquakes are going to wreck this thing's shit.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:20 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe some of our greatest musical minds have addressed this issue.
posted by dhens at 10:27 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Previously on Metafilter.

This is like the mechanical version of vapourware. A good idea in principle, but probably beyond the reach of our current technology. No way it's going to be spontaneously built by enthusiasts on the Internet.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:42 PM on April 23, 2012


MetaFilter: No way it's going to be spontaneously built by enthusiasts on the Internet.
posted by hippybear at 10:46 PM on April 23, 2012


>

What about us brain-dead slobs?
posted by Earthtopus at 10:48 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and is electric! I've heard of this "electric" and how it can be applied to all manner of uses. But travel in a tube which eliminates virtually all chances of collision? Sign me up.
posted by mattoxic at 10:52 PM on April 23, 2012


Is there a chance the track could bend?

Mono .. tube! Monotube! Monotube!
posted by ninjew at 10:54 PM on April 23, 2012


We, Jack Panter, David Panter (Las Vegas) and Daryl Oster have organized an LLC in the state of Nevada named PANTERRA TRANSPORTATION, LLC., for the purpose of implementing the technology of ET3. It is available to any licensee who wants to use it for that purpose. If some body wants to give us a billion dollars, we can use this organization if needed.[blog]

Oh man, I really want one of the billionaires of the world to be like "you know what, fuck it, I have 1 too many billions so here you go."
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:00 PM on April 23, 2012


On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure time for artists everywhere)

Just machines to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when that work is done
We'll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free
 
posted by Herodios at 11:11 PM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


they have these at Costco. they take all the cash out of the register, and put it in a tube, and whoosh it's pneumatically transported to the cash room. if it's good enough for money, it's good enough for me.
posted by TMezz at 11:16 PM on April 23, 2012


How high is the vacuum? Maintaining high vacuum in hundreds of miles of tubes... That might be a bit of an issue.
posted by cman at 11:35 PM on April 23, 2012


Do I get any credit for this?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:38 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This just fucks up too many songs, though. Imagine, for example...

"we're on a tube to nowhere" - Talking Heads
"ain't goin' down that maglev by myself" - Tommy Johnson
"i'm leavin' in a tube, babe" - Peter Paul and Mary
"take the last tube to Clarksville" - the Monkees
"goin' down the tube, feelin' bad" - Grateful Dead
"mystery tuuuuuube, floating down the line" - Elvis Presley
"he's leavin', on that midnight tube to Georgia" - Gladys Knight & the Pips
"i'm a thousand miles away from home, waitin' for a tube" - Jimmie Rodgers

Just doesn't work.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:48 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I really want one of the billionaires of the world to be like "you know what, fuck it, I have 1 too many billions so here you go."

It was either this, or ten thousand terracotta statues of Ron Palillo.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:56 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what? Putting aside all the vacuum problems, the problem this shares with every other one of these 'personal pod' transport system is how you are going to keep people from peeing and pooping in them.

Because they will.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Earthtopus: "What about us brain-dead slobs?"

You'll be given cushy jobs!
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:17 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


[A] lady, whose courage or rashness – we know not which to call it – astonished all spectators, was actually shot the whole length of the tube, crinoline and all, without injury to person or petticoat
posted by doiheartwentyone at 12:31 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


flapjax at midnite: This just fucks up too many songs, though. Imagine, for example...

I see, a bad tube a-rrivin' - CCR
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:02 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't Get No, Maglev Traction - Rolling Stones

okay, that one was kind of a reach
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what? Putting aside all the vacuum problems, the problem this shares with every other one of these 'personal pod' transport system is how you are going to keep people from peeing and pooping in them.

Why would you want to prevent that? The NYC subway system has adequately proven the many advantages of a urine based transportation technology.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:06 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's old is new again huh. They tried this in the 1840's. The more economic approach though was a vacuum tube under the train, with a piston attached to the train. Low pressure (near vaccum) in front, ordinary or higher pressure behind. It attracted quite a lot of interest, including from Brunel, who actually build a section running real trains near Exeter. It didn't work for long though - among other problems:

"The harsh environment of the line, which runs next to the sea and is soaked with salt spray in even moderate winds, presented difficulties in maintaining the leather flaps provided to seal the vacuum pipes, which had to be kept supple by being greased with tallow; even so, air leaked in, destroying the vacuum. Unfortunately, the tallow made the greased leather attractive to rats, whose depradations further reduced the efficiency of the seal."

This was my favourite application though.

"Here, then, we have the means of pulling or pushing the travelling carriages along their subterranean road, and as we speak we see it in operation: for a mail-guard opens a door, throws in two or three mail-bags just snatched out of the guard's van as it rolls into the [mainline] station, the iron carriages are shoved into the tube, the air-tight door at its mouth is closed... and we hear them rumbling off on their subterranean journey at a rate, we are informed, of twenty miles an hour... a bell connected with an electric telegraph warns him that the attendant at the other end of the tube is about to thrust the carriage into the tube on its return journey. It has been pushed along... by the pressure of air thrown out by the wheel, but it has to be pulled back by suction; the valve of the suction-pipe, in the connection with the centre of the disc, is accordingly opened, and speedily we hear a hollow rumbling, and out shoots the carriage, ready once more for fresh bags."

Though possible technology has advanced enough to give it another go...
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:23 AM on April 24, 2012


Previously on Metafilter - “Hungry? Why, I’m famished! I could suck a waste tube from here to the edge!"
posted by asok at 2:26 AM on April 24, 2012


I can't come up with a better punchline than the notion of "clean electricity on this kind of scale."

So I'll leave it at that.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:03 AM on April 24, 2012


This transcontinental tube technology has been working for decades in the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel, so I don't see why it couldn't be extended to other self-contained food products.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel

...but enough about Horatio Sanz.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:31 AM on April 24, 2012


Going to blow the minds of the kids here, but back in the oldendays, like the 80's, office buildings had these built in to shuttle papers around, packing lists from the sales office to the shipping desk for example.

I assume you mean the 1880s. If you want to play with a working vintage pneumatic tube system, visit Boston's Museum of Science. You'll need a small child to enter the Discovery Zone part of the museum. To play with a more modern version, visit the drive-up window of a lot of banks.

As to the proposal at hand - yes, maintaining a near-complete vacuum over long distances of 5-foot-diameter tube would be a big challenge. Making it earthquake-proof would be a much bigger challenge. If you have a vacuum failure, whatever capsules are in transit would stop wherever they are, and since the system only has motive power at stations, the capsules would stay put until somebody went into the tube and pushed them to the next station. That would have to be done manually - you couldn't just restore vacuum and shoot another capsule through.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 AM on April 24, 2012


While 45 minutes between the coasts probably sounds fantastic to younger-bodied folks, when I look at the lounge position and realize there's no way to so much as stand and stretch, all I can think of is how fucking painful my back is going to be by the time I reach St. Louis.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


License a centuries old idea from some random website? Sucker born every minute I guess... If anyone with serious money was seriously thinking about this, I really doubt that the first order of business would be to send these guys $100.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:29 AM on April 24, 2012


My radical new idea for low impact and eco-friendly transport - horse and buggy! See the "license" page for our tiered pricing structure. ©2012 Stardragon Industries, c/o mom's basement.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:33 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly, if we just had a passenger rail system that ran at the speeds they were capable of in the 1890s, with stops connecting more just the cores of a few "important" cities, we'd be a lot better off. If I want to take a train to Chicago, I get one chance each day, it's bogged down between freights half the time, and the sleepers are booked up and/or insanely expensive. In all this gee-whiz teenybopper futurist bullshit like vacuum tunnels and self-driving/flying cars, we miss the fact that a decent train with solid wi-fi, power outlets for every seat, and reasonable accommodations could be a really great thing again, and the technology's already here.

Mind you, we can't even build a small scale inner-city monorail system without getting the scorn of both the anti-everything right and the supposedly liberal end of the media, so I would venture a guess that there will never, ever, in a billion years, be funding or legislative support for something like this.
posted by sonascope at 6:28 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're also used in hospitals, to transport both "original" signed documentation, as well as a number of specimens collected from patients to send to the lab.

Fortunately, with the advent of EMRs, the tubes can be safely restored to their original, singular, urine based, transport means.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:43 AM on April 24, 2012


...Mono!
posted by spamguy at 7:58 AM on April 24, 2012


I didn't realize Metafilter had become a place to post scams.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on April 24, 2012


Has anyone consulted Fee Waybill about this?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:23 AM on April 24, 2012


The website may be absurd, but the idea is interesting. Obviously the problem with any kind of high speed train is air resistance. Get rid of the air, get rid of the resistance! But it's much more likely that China would do this before us (or perhaps Japan)
posted by delmoi at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2012


Has anyone consulted Fee Waybill about this?

He said he'd talk to them later.
posted by Zippity Goombah at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is like the mechanical version of vapourware.
Whenever anyone tries to build a rail line, there's a chorus of people who pop up and argue that it shouldn't be built because a newer, better technology is just around the corner. Starry-eyed engineers put together web sites for things like pneumatic tubes, maglevs, personal rapid transit cars, and monorails, and then politicians use them to obstruct building basic transit.

Seattle spent hundreds of millions of dollars working on a totally impossible monorail plan just a few years ago. I've seen editorials in Minneapolis calling for PRT systems and maglevs to neighboring cities, even when we barely even have functional old-fashioned trains.

This is only one reason transit sucks in the US, but it's a particularly annoying one.
posted by miyabo at 9:33 AM on April 24, 2012


This is merely a ruse for Gary Numan to build his Army.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I won't be holding my breath on this one

I see what you did there.
posted by flabdablet at 7:13 PM on April 24, 2012


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