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Good Hyperloop News: G-forces Won't Crush You

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While many are debating the merits of the big announcement made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk yesterday, here's some good news. If it's successful, the G-forces won't kill you.

Many questions surround Elon Musk's proposal for a super-high-speed Hyperloop transportation system that would use air cushioning to send passengers through a tube between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just 30 minutes.

The biggest question is whether it will ever get built. There are lots of opinions on that one, but no definite answer yet.

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WHOOSH!

Musk Unveils Hyperloop

If you thought Tesla was cool and futuristic, wait 'til you see its founder Elon Musk's proposal for high-speed tube travel. Meet the Hyperloop.

It’s a question technology and transportation enthusiasts have been mulling over for months. What will Elon Musk—the genius behind Space X, Tesla, and Solar City—come up with next? Rumors have been swirling that he would propose a fifth mode of transportation for the U.S and on Monday, the wait ended with a futuristic proposal straight out of the Jetsons.

Hyperloop Travel

This image released by Tesla Motors shows a conceptual design sketch of the Hyperloop passenger transport capsule (Tesla Motors, via AP)

Musk’s high speed transport system is called the Hyperloop, and the inventor likens the design to the barrels of a shot gun. Think two metal tubes placed side by side enclosed with pods inside of them. Pods run one direction down one tube and the opposite direction down the other. High speed air thrusts the pods from one location to the final destination, continuously giving them little bursts along the way. Through a low-pressure system and highly developed materials that resist drag and wear and tear, Musk expects the pods to travel up to 800 miles per hour, just below the speed of sound. In one version of the design, Musk shows the Hyperloop carrying people to and fro in pods that look similar to the seats in an airplane. The inventor says cars could also easily be transferred via a larger system.

Deep Blue Sea

The Most Important Fish

The Alaska pollock is said to be the largest remaining source of palatable fish in the world, used in the Filet-O-Fish sandwich at McDonald’s and by many other fast food chains. Some 1.5 million tons of it are caught in U.S. fisheries every year. But that’s a harvest level as close to the bone as we can cut. Kevin M. Bailey, the author of the new book ‘Billion-Dollar Fish,’ says the stock could be in danger of collapsing—and it could take its ecosystem down with it.

What is your big idea?

If you talk with a fisheries scientist about harvest management, it usually ends with them drawing a curve and then a line. Where they intersect is an exact solution, the Maximum Sustainable Yield, the largest long-term average catch that can be taken without impairing the population’s reproducibility. By this engineering solution, the complexity of a whole ecosystem gets flattened onto a sheet of paper.

Engineering solutions to fisheries problems in the United States took hold in the 1880s. Rather than put restrictions on harvesting and destructive mining practices, the government advocated producing more fish from hatcheries to buttress declining stocks. Salmon hatcheries on the West Coast proliferated. The fish releases are one of the major causes of declines in native salmon runs. Often engineering is not the solution, it becomes the problem.

CAR TALK

Elio’s Tiny Tandem

Innovation in mobility is popping up all over the U.S. On Thursday, Daniel Gross almost biked into a three-wheeled, two-seater that promises to get 84 miles per gallon.

This is something of a golden age of innovation when it comes to cars and auto efficiency. The fleet of vehicles sold last month was the greenest on record. Tesla is making a profit selling electric cars, and sales of hybrids and clean diesel vehicles are growing. Meanwhile, engineers are busily working to boost the efficiency of regular-old coupes and sedans.

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Dan Gross

The innovation is evident in the data, and in the auto trade publications. And sometimes it is evident in the street. This morning, as I was testing out another recent innovation in carbon-free transportation (riding a Citibike from Grand Central Station to my office), I passed by an odd-looking vehicle parked on West 43rd Street.

GAS SIPPERS

America’s Fuel-Efficient Fleet

Thanks to product innovation and good old-fashioned engineering, America’s gas-guzzlers are slimming down.

July proved to the greenest month ever for the American car industry—again. Every month, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute tallies up the fuel efficiency of vehicles sold and then comes up with a measure for the average mileage of the new fleet that hit the road. In July, it was 24.8 miles per gallon. That level, the highest since UMTRI began tallying it several years ago, has been reached four times so far this year.

Hybrid Vehicles

Ford hybrid vehicles come off the assembly line at the Michigan plant in Wayne, Michigan on November 8, 2012. (Bill Pugliano/Getty)

There are some obvious reasons for the greening of the car fleet. Hybrid, plug-ins and clean diesel car sales have been on the rise as car owners hoping to avoid the pump search for more energy efficient, high mileage vehicles. According to the helpful monthly dashboard published by Hybridcars.com, the number of hybrids sold in July—45,494—was the highest sold since July 2009.

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE

Welcome to the ‘Zero House’

In Utah, a builder and a home-technology firm have teamed up to build a European-style passive house that uses very little energy.

To most Americans, living in an ecofriendly smart house seems like a far-fetched, expensive idea. Building homes that use less energy tends to add significant costs. Ironically, many of the homes that offer the advantages of low operating costs are affordable only for the 1 percent.

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That’s changing, slowly. And this week, two Utah-based companies, Garbett Homes and Vivint, introduced what they say is an affordable, scalable, completely sustainable living space. With the Zero House, which starts at about $350,000, they are introducing an energy-independent smart house that, while far from cheap, may be affordable.

Beemageddon

Study: Fungicides May Kill Bees

Study: Fungicides May Kill Bees

May help explain mystery disease.

Mystery solved? Not quite, but we may be getting closer: a study published Friday reveals crucial new evidence for a possible explanation of “colony collapse disorder,” a phenomenon that has been wiping out bees on the West Coast of the U.S. and raising alarm that declining populations may negatively impact agriculture. The study found that bees who ingested pollen contaminated by certain fungicides, long believed to be harmless to insects, were three times more likely to become infected by the parasite Nosema ceranae, which is implicated in the mass bee colony deaths. Regulators in the U.S. and Europe have been trying to halt pesticide use that could be causing the problem, but the new study shows that interactions between pesticides and fungicides make the situation for bees even more complex.

Read it at Quartz

Freedom of Information

Big Data Is Watching

As the NSA scandal shows, data is being collected on every aspect of our lives. This can be used to improve our experience, particularly in cities, or it can be a way to strip us of our privacy. Leo Hollis, the author of ‘Cities Are Good for You,’ warns us of the good and the bad.

This month, Microsoft made the headlines for two very different reasons. It was revealed that the company had allowed the National Security Agency access to the entire cache of users’ Outlook, Hotmail, and skydive data. Earlier, the software giant announced that it was getting into the “Smart City” business, launching a new project, CityNext, that promises to deliver the latest software and technology to grapple with the challenges of urban life. These two news stories are a reminder of how the major software companies are entering into every corner of our lives, and why we might need to be forewarned about the possible consequences.

NSA Phone Records Big Data Photo Gallery

A Google employee diagnoses an overheated computer processor at Google’s data center in Oregon. (Connie Zhou/AP)

For many urban thinkers the city has become a computer; the dense collection of bodies, buildings, wires, cables, and waste has been transformed into an “Internet of things.” Buildings form the hardware, while all the life between buildings constitutes the ever-changing software flow. In this view the metropolis is the most powerful information network ever created, a big data set that contains the sum of urban life. Where once the city was powered by steam or electricity, things now run on data. The same thinkers announce with certainty that this notion of the smart city will influence the way the metropolis is transformed over the next decades, just as the railway influenced the 19th century and the car the postwar era.

Das EV

BMW’s Electric Car

Electric vehicles remain very much a niche market. But as BMW, one of the world’s largest automakers, formally enters the fray, that may begin to change.

The concept of electric vehicles is hardly new. But electric-vehicle technology is only now beginning to hit the mass market. Only a few companies have made serious efforts at producing EVs on a large scale; Tesla Motors is one of them. The company’s Model S is now a benchmark by which other EV’s are measured—a high-end, premium product that sells out quickly. Nissan’s Leaf, Ford’s C-Max, and Chevy’s Volt are all selling modestly at lower price points.

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The BMW i3 plug-in hybrid makes its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

But Tesla is now getting some serious competition. BMW is poised to introduce its new i3 all-electric coupe in 2014. The new car, which will be offered at almost half the price of the Model S, is seen as the first serious foray into the luxury EV market by a large automaker.

EXTRA!

Read It and Act

By merging activism with breaking news, RYOT aims to spur its readers to take action on some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Few things incur a deeper feeling of discontent than sitting in front of a glaring computer screen, reading about the latest massacre/human rights abuse/failed congressional bill, feeling outraged yet helpless, then clicking off and onto the next thing.

Ryot News

Enter RYOT. Late last October, Bryn Mooser and David Darg launched a hybrid outlet for news-minded and socially concerned citizens: a site covering breaking news that offers tailored ways to get involved with each article, or, as they put it, “Become the news!” On the side of each story is gray a “Make a Difference” box, which features an appropriate organization and link that allows you to read about them and then donate, volunteer, or sign a petition. It’s a fresh idea, but natural, when you think of it, that activism and news consumption should go together.

Shame on You, Walmart!

With an Ohio Walmart hosting a holiday food drive for its own workers, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticizes the notoriously stingy company for not paying them more.

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