Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool Technology of the Week

As I traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto to Hiroshima this week, I rode the Shinkansen using my Japan Rail Pass (only available to foreign visitors).   The quality, safety, and efficiency of the Shinkansen are inspiring - no loss of life in billions of rides and an average deviation from the published time table that is less than 6 seconds.   My experience with train travel in the US is that a 6 minute deviation would be considered superlative.

If only the Boston, New York, and Washington DC corridor could have a Shinkansen - I'd never fly again!

Japan Railways will implement a truly cool technology over the next 10 years, a maglev Shinkansen  between Tokyo and Osaka.

The trains will travel at 500 kilometers per hour (300 mph) and cover the distance between Tokyo and Kyoto in about an hour.  

An equivalent train on the Eastern Seaboard would make an end to end train ride between Boston and Washington shorter than the typical US Airways Shuttle flight.

The idea behind maglev is simple - use fixed magnets in the train and electromagnets in the track to lift the train 1-10cm of the track, creating an nearly frictionless sliding surface.  Electromagnets also are used to alter the field creating forward motion.   There no "engine" pulling the train, thus no fossil fuels are required.  

A 300 mph frictionless train that links distant cities without the hassle of airport security and congestion.  That's cool!

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