Hyperloop – It Starts With Hype

Grumpy engineer not ready to jump on any hyped-up super project, even if it is Elon Musk's idea.

Hyperloop – It Starts With Hype

[Any similarities between characters portrayed here on ENGINEERING.com are purely coincidental.]

If Walter Matthau was an engineer. From The Front Page.

If Walter Matthau was an engineer. From The Front Page movie.

The Grumpy Engineer is not in a good mood. A fall a few days ago hurt his ribs, which has, for no reason he can think of, left him constipated. The morning on the toilet has been unsuccessful.

Digestive system’s wires crossed, what a shitty design. A smile half forms at the pun but disappears when he sees the way to his desk blocked by some excited writers.

yperloop cars look fast. PIcture from Hyperloop site.

Hyperloop cars look fast. Picture from Hyperloop site.

“It just went 192 mph!” exclaims an intern, loudly pitching a story. Great. Not another breathless story about space elevators, fusion in a cup or how great it would be that cars would drive themselves and how smart robots are.

This morning, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop has achieved another “success.” It’s not even his project, but since it is another brilliant idea, it is now being worked on by everybody and their bastard uncle – and getting a ton of attention. God help the driver — if there even is one. But unless he can get rid of the gaggle by his desk, he’s not going to be able to get his articles done, one about real engineering. Maybe if he talks them down…

“You can get to LA from San Francisco in half an hour,” says the intern.

“Why would anyone even want to go to LA,” interrupts Grumpy.

“Well, lots of people do,” answers the intern. “The Hyperloop is ideal for trips between cities that are too close for air travel and too far for cars, like 200 to 500 miles. LA to SF. LA to Vegas…

“Las Vegas, another godforsaken place.” Grumpy has been forced to go to far too many Las Vegas conferences.

The intern is not dissuaded. “Think of all the jobs it will create.”

“Want to create even more jobs? We can have the construction workers dig the tunnels with spoons.” He gets one or two giggles. He’s got their attention, now he sets up.

“About these tunnels, they could be safer than surface travel since they won’t be running into cars. Also, they won’t be killing those poor eagles like those wind energy farms.” Grumpy can’t resist tapping into pet projects and do-good causes. “But long tunnels in California…?” He pauses, thoughtfully. “What about those earthquakes? At high speeds, a minor alteration in the path of a high speed train would be a disaster.”

The intern rocks.

“Oh, those Hyperloop cars look good but if there is no air in the tunnels, why do the cars need to be so streamlined?”

The air is being sucked out of this conversation, too. The cars looked like they should for being so fast. Why does everything have to have a reason with this guy?

“I’m going to look that up,” says one writer, eager to escape. A couple still linger.

“Make sure you include the capacity of the proposed systems. Can they handle the traffic a major airport handles?”

The intern thought his job was just to write about technology, not boring shit like system capacity.

Grumpy sizes him up for the knockout. “Still, it would be a nice way to travel. You could chat with your friends, update your Instagram… But wait, how can you get WiFi underground? You might have no connection.”

The intern gives up… This week’s Elon Musk article is not going to write itself. And this talk is bringing him down. Aren’t engineers supposed to be creative, solving problems, improving society – not delighting in saying why things won’t work!