X-Message-Number: 18089
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 15:00:33 EST
Subject: Re: CryoNet #18081 Wrong-headed futurology about "progress'

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From: "Mark Plus" <>

After re-reading Clarke's technological forecasts for the new century, I'm 
reminded of how wrong-headed so much popular futurology seems to me.

Hypersonic air travel, full-immersion virtualities, robotic pets and other 
such science-fictional cliches won't do us any good in the long run if we 
continue to age, deteriorate and die. 

I think Clarke's list is not very serious. Real forcasting needs a lot of 
work and knowledge. I' ll take a single example: Assume I want to guess what 
railways will become in that century. 

If I look at US, I would say: that is a backward technology without interest. 
If I look at Europe, I see the  french High Speed Train (TGV) the germain one 
(ICE) and the italian pandolino, a not-so-fast train adapted to old railways 
( ICE and TGV need a special track to run at full speed). Today commercial 
service for TGV is done at 300 km/h (near 180 mph).. The South-East line from 
Paris to Marseille is built to work at 350 km/h.

Beyond that, there are problems, mostly with traction and electric current 
uptake from an over head feed line. The solutions are known: Put a motor on 
each wheel and you get a 500 km/h service. The TGV track is in a protected 
site, no road cut it, the electric current could then come from a third rail 
at ground level without security problem. The top speed could then be in the 
700 - 800 km/h. Given that you go with it from center city to center city, it 
beats any aircraft service inside the continent.

All of that is a present day technological possibility, only economical 
problems put these extensions in the future.  The first priority now is the 
network extension ( from Lisboa to Vladivostok or at least Moscow). This will 
be done and may take the main part of the century. Railways are not dead, 
they may continue to evolve for one century.

On the Japan side, there is a new shinkansen  using magnetic levitation. My 
guess is that that technology will expand after the end of TGV era, somewhere 
in the 2100 time frame.

I would call this educated guess about mass transportation systems, we are 
far here from "space drive" and other sci-fi pipe dreams.

Yvan Bozzonetti.


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