In order to find out how close workers could safely stand by the tracks while the new high-speed trains were going by, British Rail announced it would conduct an unusual experiment. It would tether employees to wooden posts located around six feet from the tracks and then measure the force of the slipstream on them as the trains went by at 140 mph.
Although members of the public weren't invited to participate in the experiment, about 50 of them volunteered to be guinea pigs anyway.
Sunday London Telegraph - Jan 31, 1993
It was difficult to find out the results of the experiment, but after some digging I located a postscript printed in the Magazine of the Pennine Railway Society
. The test never took place. Faced with widespread criticism, British Rail's Health and Safety Executive cancelled it.
Barmy BR proposed to tether workers to trackside posts as high-speed trains thundered past at 140mph. Bosses wanted human guinea pigs to stand as close as 6ft 6in to the expresses to test the effect of their slipstream. Rail
union chief Jimmy Knapp branded the idea barmy and suggested BR use Transport Secretary John MacGregor instead.
The workers would have been attached to posts by special harnesses that would allow them to move to the side but not forward. They would have been asked for their reaction after the trains had roared past. The tests would have helped to determine the distances from trains at which staff could work in safety. They would have taken place between York and Darlington.
However the Health and Safety Executive banned the scheme. The tests have been postponed pending further discussions to see how BR could get the information another way.
One disgruntled railwayman described the scheme as harebrained and said he joined BR to drive a flipping engine, not to play flipping bondage games. However a number of civilians have volunteered to take part in the scheme, preferably dressed in leather and chained from head to toe.
The effect when someone stands in the slipstream of a high-speed train is likely to be they'd get sucked under it. If tied to a post perhaps it would suck their boots off, or maybe they'd go blue in the face.
The idea is on a par to that of abolishing the timetable to stop the trains running late.
The Japanese company PowerX is building a tanker that will ship energy — not as oil, but rather as electricity stored in giant batteries. It will be shipping this electricity to islands off the coast of Japan.
Why not transmit the electricity the traditional way, with wires? Because undersea cables in this region would be vulnerable to earthquakes. So the company sees a market for delivering the electricity via ships.
More info: New Atlas
It's the 21st century and we don't have flying cars. Nor do we have atomic-powered submarine freighters towing underwater barges.
However, this did remind me of the Russian scheme to use nuclear submarines as oil tankers
Fortune - Feb 1959
Potentially mad scheme:
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian navy was casting about for ways to raise revenue and came up with the idea of using Typhoon-class submarines as oil tankers. The Soviets had built six Typhoon-class nuclear subs which were, and still are, the largest submarines ever made. The main selling point of this idea was that the subs could travel under Arctic ice, eliminating the need for expensive ice-breakers. From wikipedia:
In the early 1990s, there were also proposals to rebuild some of the Typhoon-class submarines to submarine cargo vessels for shipping oil, gas and cargo under polar ice to Russia's far flung northern territories. The submarines could take up to 10,000 tonnes of cargo on-board and ship it under the polar ice to tankers waiting in the Barents Sea. These ships – after the considerable engineering required to develop technologies to transfer oil from drilling platforms to the submarines, and later, to the waiting tankers – would then deliver their cargo world-wide.
The idea was abandoned when someone over there decided that a nuclear sub filled with 10,000 tons of oil might pose some safety concerns.
More info: bellona.org
In the early days of rail travel, people who had the financial means to travel first class often went third-class, to save some money. To discourage this practice some British railway companies adopted the "soot-bag system". They would hire a chimney sweep to travel in the third-class carriage and shake out the contents of his bag, getting everyone dirty. At other times, pigs and sheep were transported in the third-class carriages. The idea was to make third-class travel as unpleasant as possible.
I figure that the modern-day equivalent in the airline industry is the "no-legroom system" and the "only-a-bag-of-peanuts-on-a-five-hour-flight system".
Source: The Railways of England by W.M. Acworth (1889)
But another and apparently unforeseen consequence [of the introduction of third-class railway carriages] followed, that "certain persons in superior positions" were base enough to travel in third-class carriages. If universal indignation could have crushed these miserable creatures, they would soon have succumbed; but they persevered, even in spite of the "artificial inconveniences" specially invented to deter them. Not but what these inconveniences were serious enough.
The management of the Manchester and Leeds Railway adopted what was known as the "soot-bag system." Sweeps were hired to enter a third-class carriage which had been specially kept for the benefit of "persons in superior position," and then shake out the contents of their bags. At other times, if a correspondent of the Railway Times
can be trusted, "sheep and sometimes pigs were made the substitutes for sweeps."
Even then some persons—if report said true some bailies of the City of Glasgow—persevered in their evil courses. But their conduct was strongly reprehended by all respectable persons.
"The nightmare of traffic jams. On a street in New York City, the postal clerk George A. Compton, immobilized with his car in a traffic jam, after an exasperating wait went berserk. He got out of the car and took off his shoes and started to climb the river of cars, leaping easily from car to car."
"Will cities be like this? Here's how the problem of traffic in cities could be lightened, if not completely solved: tiny single-seater cars that occupy a small area."
Source: La Domenica del Corriere
- December 16, 1962 (via ebay
A case of satirical prophecy in the news.
Back on April 1, 1978, prankster Dick Smith towed a foam-covered barge into Sydney harbor, claiming it was an iceberg he had towed from Antarctica
. Of course, it was an April Fool's Day joke.
But now a Dubai-based engineering firm claims they really want to tow a 100-million-ton iceberg from Antarctica to Dubai. They figure that even if 30% of it melts by the time it gets to the Persian Gulf, that'll still be a whole lot of fresh, frozen water.
But what are they going to do with it once it gets there? How would they stop it from melting into the ocean before they could get it onto land and use it?
More info: stuff.co.nz
Instead of using refrigerated trucks to deliver medical supplies to people who live in the deserts of Africa, inventors have built solar-powered refrigerators that can be carried by camels, and so the medicines are delivered via refrigerated camel.
Apparently it wasn't that easy to build a camel-carried refrigerator. It had to be lightweight, but also sturdy enough to survive the motion of being on the camel as well as the extreme desert conditions.
More info: ABC News