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Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home-on-your-hoverboard dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has a huge research budget and an apparent willingness to take on huge projects. They've gotten themselves into autonomous cars, fiber optic internet, robotics, and Wi-Fi balloons. But that raises a question: if they're willing to commit to projects as difficult and risk as those, what projects have they explored but rejected? Several of the scientists working at Google's 'innovation lab' have spilled the beans: '[Mag-lev] systems have a stabilizing structure that keeps trains in place as they hover and move forward in only one direction. That couldn't quite translate into an open floor plan of magnets that keep a hoverboard steadily aloft and free to move in any direction. One problem, as Piponi explains, is that magnets tend to keep shifting polarities, so your hoverboard would constantly flip over as you floated around moving from a state of repulsion to attraction with the magnets. Any skateboarder could tell you what that means: Your hoverboard would suck. ... If scaling problems are what brought hoverboards down to earth, material-science issues crashed the space elevator. The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong-- "at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have," by Piponi's calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators "were put in a deep freeze," as Heinrich says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.'"
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Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation

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  • by feedayeen (1322473) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @06:26AM (#46765417)

    After reading the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, I think when talking about the space elevator, we should always consider what happens if (when?) it fails. Space fountains seem much more appealing.

    * The center of mass is in orbit, the structure won't fling itself far off into space.

    * The segment of the string above the break will be under less tension which means it'll spring back a bit, but it's not in orbit down there so it'll be pulled back down to the earth so we could repair it.

    * The segment below the cut will plummet down. Regardless of the material, we can safely assume at least several hundred tons of material will be falling from the sky which will completely destroy the ground based installation.

    * Weird part is that it's not going to fall straight down. Even though the thing is stationary over the surface of the earth, the angular momentum at the top is going to be higher than below. As the top falls, it'll speed relative to the Eastward rotation of the Earth causing it to fall on the stuff to the East.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @06:51AM (#46765513)

    And there are only so many times you can hear "The Girl from Ipanema" before you go homicidal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:15AM (#46766477)

    * The segment below the cut will plummet down. Regardless of the material, we can safely assume at least several hundred tons of material will be falling from the sky which will completely destroy the ground based installation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator_safety#In_the_event_of_failure
    " However, in most cable designs, the upper portion of any cable that falls to Earth would burn up in the atmosphere. Additionally, because proposed initial cables have very low mass (roughly 1 kg per kilometer) and are flat, the bottom portion would likely settle to Earth with less force than a sheet of paper due to air resistance on the way down."

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