The Hyperloop Attracting Money, Getting Students To Do The Engineering

Thunderfoot has another Hyperloop video. I’ve posted about the Hyperloop before. I have a great deal of skepticism about the Hyperloop and even more on how the engineering seems to be progressing.

The latest video doesn’t really add any new issues .  Nor does any of the stuff I’ve been able to find online.  As far as I can see, the issues I raised in the earlier videos are still there, and a lot of what I’m seeing seems to more fluff than substance.

Thunderfoot’s video touches on a lot, but I think that he didn’t catch something that happened in the Hyperloop videos that I heard when I was looking at them. Here’s Thunderfoot’s video.

While I agree with his conclusions I wish that he would include links to the source material so that people could see the full videos. because they are so interesting.

Here’s a video of the track under construction.

The holes look to be in the right places I would expect pump positions. there doesn’t seem to be any prep for the pumps though.  If I were ordering something like this, I would have had the flanges added to the pipe sections at the fabricators. For that matter I probably would have had almost all  the interior work done at the fabricators as well simply for ease of access. Here’s another video running along the tube.

To be honest, this test rack seems like a rather slipshod affair, especially for the establishing the engineering of a radical new technology.  Here’s a video of the testing itself.

A weekend carnival is great, but it doesn’t represent an actual testing regime, which can take years.  This is a great show, but it’s only a show. As far as advancing the engineering of the Hyperloop, this whole contest is pretty useless. None of the designs represent even the beginnings of a practical post, or for that matter even a good start.  In order to understand the issues you would be better off with tiny pods going the 700 kph than you are with large pods going 80 kph.  Things like hunting, which would be unnoticeable at 80 kph are going to be lethal at 700 kph.  What vehicle dynamics are going to be like in a high velocity vacuum tube are going to be critical and as far as I know, the data on the behavior of vehicles in high speed vacuum is going to be scant or nonexistent.

Hyperloop 1 is apparently building a test track in full scale.

So far the test track at Spacex has apparently only had the three winning pods run along it, two of which failed even to reach the end of the track due to friction losses.  It was a good show, but not very meaningful.

There seems to be a falling out among the hyperloop people.

Still the hype goes on.

All of this is a good show put Musk is hardly the first good showman to come along. He brings to mind another showman that had a lot to do with my alma mater, PT Barnum. As the Z man explores here.

Every time I see a story about Elon Musk, I think of Victor Lustig. The reason for that is Musk often turns up in the news attached to some bold new scheme to do something most people see as futuristic or massively complicated. He’s sort of a Phileas Fogg, that is always announcing some grand new adventure. The publicity stunts have no real bearing on his alleged project, but he puts a lot of effort into getting public notice for them. There is a P.T. Barnum quality to it that does not quite square with the official story.

The tunneling under Los Angeles story is a good example. There’s nothing new about this idea. The Crossrail is a giant rail tunnel under the city of London that was done using boring machines. It is a 26-mile tunnel that was threaded between the exiting tunnels under the city. There was a recent documentary on it, which is probably where Musk got the idea. The London tunnel is an amazing bit of engineering because there’s a ton of stuff under the city that the tunnelers had to dodge as they dug the thing.

That’s not to say doing such a thing under Los Angeles would be easy, but it is hardly a brilliant futuristic idea. In fact, people have suggested this in the past, but such a project would require tens of billions in tax money. More important, there’s no real reason to do it, other than the fact California is a failed state so building roads and bridges the old way is impossible. Musk is levering that reality to propose his futuristic “solution” for the transport problems of Los Angeles. What a guy!

That’s probably the point of the hype. Tesla, Musk’s one big “successful” scheme is entirely dependent on tax dollars. Take away the subsidies and it goes bust. The same is true of the battery schemes, the solar plant, the space program. According to the LA Times, Musk has netted close to $5 Billion in government money. Not all of it is tax money, of course. A lot of it comes in the form of grants for research and credits for doing government approved projects, like making solar panels. It’s not unreasonable to say the Musk is a tax sink.

There’s also a good chance that like Lustig, Musk works both sides of the street. He gets a bunch of attention for some new project, like digging a tunnel under Los Angeles. He then gets investors lined up, promising tax schemes that will multiply their investment, in addition to getting government support for the project. Since Musk appears to have skin in the game and is wildly confident his plan will work, investors line up. Once it all comes together, Musk is a minority share holder, but in full control of the project.

The formula is to use the media to promote the idea to the public. He then gets some other billionaires to back it on condition that Musk can get the government invested. That is used to pure the state into the scheme, which seals the deal with the private equity guys. From there it is just a churn as Musk and his buddies get their seed money out with interests as new investors demand to get in on the action. Since these projects take decades, the risk of it unraveling in the short term in minimal.

The best part of a scheme like this is he can get his seed money out early and still have equity in the new project. The investors and the government are on the hook and they will keep putting money into it no matter how many times a Space X rocket explodes or a Tesla bursts into flames. That’s not to say Musk is a con man like Lustig. The main difference is that Lustig was breaking the law, while Musk is well within the law. In fact, his innovation is to make the law his partner.

Musk is a modern incarnation of P.T. Barnum, pitching the attractions of the technocratic state via public-private partnerships. Barnum would find exotic acts to put inside his act, while Musk finds big technology projects. Instead of getting the public to buy a ticket to see the bearded lady or wolf boy, Musk gets the public to support the expenditure of public funds for his latest whiz bang idea. In the process, he and his associates get an exclusive investment opportunity and make millions from schemes that tend not to result in much of anything, other than hype.

Is Musk the new Barnum?  Well here’s an infographic about the Hyperloop.

When I see Elon Musk with most of the things he proposes, I see another wunderkind with the magic touch that I ran into due to family connections twenty years ago.



That project too was a big deal with  a big stamp on it and a smooth talking promotor.  Along with a bunch of very smart people who bought into the hype.

Elon Musk may totally sincere in theses schemes, but it looks to me as if the old patterns are reemerging. I don’t know if the Hyperloop represents a pump and dump. But the patterns seems clear.

I have come to the conclusion that if a promotor starts waving green virtue signaling around as selling point that there is another Barnum related saying to think about; “this way to the egress.” Getting to the exit with your wallet intact seems like the best policy.

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