Tuesday, 13 August 2013

By on August 13th, 2013 in science kits

12:23 – Things are a bit hectic around here. We’re shipping lots of kits, and we just got an order yesterday from a state distance-learning program for 40 custom AP chemistry kits, which will ship the last week of August and the first week of September. So far this year, we haven’t had to back-order even a single kit for a single day, and I’m hoping to keep it that way. Our current finished-goods inventory is in pretty good shape for now, although we’re about to head into the crazy time–the last half of August and the first half of September. With a couple of exceptions, we have all the raw materials on hand that we need to make a bunch more kits, so it’s just a question of getting bottles filled, subassemblies built, and finished kits made up.

29 Comments and discussion on "Tuesday, 13 August 2013"

  1. OFD says:

    Cool. A state distance-learning program? Wow. I took one in anthropology from UC Berkeley while I was stationed in Marin County back in ’73.

    Nice that you’re busy; as you know, idle hands are the Devil’s workshop!

  2. jim` says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Elon Musk’s (sound like a perfume, doesn’t it?) idea of a “hyperloop” transit sytem is a loopy, whacky fantasy?
    It’s an engineering impossibility, right up there with Jules Verne sending a cannon ball full of people to the moon.

    IMX, these ideas always seem to surface at the peak of bubble markets…

  3. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Why is it impossible? I remember the vacuum tubes in department stores when I was young. Hyperloop operates on the same principle. Granted, there’d be significant engineering work needed, but I don’t see any reason why the technology couldn’t be developed. I suspect the harder part would be dealing with the financial and political issues.

    Assuming a tube 10 feet in diameter and, just to make it easy, 15 PSI atmospheric pressure on the origin end and a perfect vacuum on the destination end of the tube, that’s 60^2 * 3.14 = 11,000+ square inches * 15 PSI = about 170,000 pounds thrust = about 85 tons thrust. Granted, they’d have to have some big-ass air intakes and some monster vacuum pumps, but the raw numbers look reasonable.

  4. Ray Thompson says:

    One system proposal I saw there was a vacuum maintained along the entire tube. The carriage was moved by linear motors rather than air pressure.

    The biggest hurdle will be the environmental studies and lawsuits. Then you have to deal with taxing issues as every state, county, city, etc. that such a route would cross would want some revenue.

    You would have to have some means of rescue which would mean a port at least every couple of miles. Sustainability within the capsule until rescue could be achieved would be necessary.

    There are no technological hurdles to jump as from what I have read all the necessary technology is currently in use but on a much smaller scale.

  5. SteveF says:

    85 tons thrust, eh? That would accelerate Moochelle Obama at, what half a gee? Pretty impressive … except that there’s no way you could fit her ass into a 10-foot tube, let alone her gigantic swollen head.

  6. jim` says:

    In case of an accident, the delta G force alone would reduce passengers to pulp.
    That’s enough to mitigate even the possibility of such a “scheme”.

  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’m not sure what you mean. How are the forces involved any worse than being on an aircraft or a high-speed train?

  8. OFD says:

    So…this will reduce the Mooch to pulp? I’m all for it!

  9. SteveF says:

    jim`’s assertion was structurally and semantically identical to assertions from more than a century ago, that no one could survive a horseless carriage wreck and that they’re so flimsy and unreliable that wrecks were inevitable.

  10. OFD says:

    Wrecks *were* inevitable, and we still have them!

  11. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Well, I’m not going to argue. I’m not even enough of an engineer to know whether such a system should be designed using vacuum pumps to pull capsules or compressors to push them, or a combination of both. I can see structural issues for the tube itself if the under- or overpressure is too high, so perhaps a combination would be easiest. And that capsule sure wouldn’t need a net 15 PSI to get it moving right along. I could see running, say, 20 PSI behind it and 10 PSI in front.

  12. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    You know, unless I’m misremembering fiction as reality, I think an air-drive subway capsules has already been done, either in the London Underground or the New York Subway. IIRC, it was a short point-to-point run, something like a quarter mile, and was later abandoned, tube and all. I think the tube and end stations are still there.

  13. jim` says:

    On the Concorde one doesn’t suddenly lose forward momentum.

    The train comparison is a good, but invalid. One would never put the the same train on the same track headed in opposite directions — unless of, course, an accident occured. Computer malfunction a lá HAL or Stuxnet?

    Besides, the engineering would be impossible! Trying to maintain even a limited vacuum over that kind of distance is ridiculous. The whole thing reminds me of a “scheme”, the Mississippi Bubble, to be exact.

  14. Lynn McGuire says:

    You can get a vacuum drive elevator:

  15. jim` says:


    It’s like AGW, you don’t need to be an engineer to see the flaws in the arguments.
    Just like the Titanic was unsinkable so is AGW and so is “hyperloop”.
    Untenable to anyone with an iota of critical thinking skills.

    It’s hubris, I tell you! Imagine trying to build a 1100 mile vacuum tube — pure fantasy.

  16. bgrigg says:

    No fiction, just reality.

    The first NYC subway was an atmospheric railway. There’s a few of them that were started and abandoned in the mid 1800s. The biggest issue was the technological difficulties with 19th century materials.

    A quarry in Ireland (Dalkey Quarry) ran an atmospheric railway capable of an uphill gradient of 1 in 110 and ran for 9200 feet at a top speed of 40 mph. It was closed only due to being merged with a larger railway, which used a different standard for the track, so it was torn up.

  17. jim` says:

    21 miles of CHunnel should have shown that a tube 50 times its length is an impossibility, if not from physical, engineering, let alone political and geographic basis.

    Like Bob, and like AGW, I won’t argue the point. If you can’t see the flaws in the premise that’s your problem, not mine.

  18. Lynn McGuire says:

    The Hyperloop is suppose to be just two meters in diameter. Each capsule will be smaller than a 737 in both diameter and length, just seating 2 x 14 = 28 passengers. The initial proposal is from San Fran to LA, 350 miles. I could build you a tube for that distance with zero faults. The problem is going to be the partial vacuum. There is a nice graphic at:

    I wonder if each passenger will be issued an emergency air pack?

  19. Lynn McGuire says:

    What is wrong with the Chunnel? It is an awesome piece of engineering work with 50,000 people and many freight trains traversing it daily? It is actually three tunnels:

  20. Miles_Teg says:

    “…we’re about to head into the crazy time–the last half of August and the first half of September. With a couple of exceptions, we have all the raw materials on hand that we need to make a bunch more kits…”

    What about storage space for all the components?

  21. Stu Nicol says:

    6 feet in diameter? That means one person per row and one door per person?

    Vacuum in front and high pressure in the rear. Yellow face masks dropping down at each curve.

    What is the most essential factor? Big labor buy in! One engineer and one conductor for each car of 12 people!

  22. Chuck W says:

    Great news. The “lifetime” email forwarding I got from my university alma mater, is to be discontinued on 31 Dec. That was less than 10 years. Life is so short. Oh well. It served me well when we first moved to Germany. We gave out the forwarding email address, and it mattered not what the actual underlying email destination was. And that changed many times until Gmail came along.

    Meanwhile, I have no idea who all has the forwarding address that will have to be changed.

  23. SteveF says:

    My undergrad alma mater, RPI, offered all current and former students lifetime email for free back around 1994. That lasted a year or two before they abruptly changed the “permanent” email address and then dropped it.

    Possibly coincidentally, in exchange for a large* donation toward building the new gym, I was promised free lifetime access to the gym. That promise lasted about until they cashed the check. No, I’m not feeling a lot of alum love.

    * By the standards of an engineer in his 20s who was making decent money but not dotcom millions.

  24. brad says:

    The technology sounds cool, and I say this from a Swiss perspective where we love tunnels. However, the problem with the Hyperloop project is simple: it will be at least as difficult to build as a railway line, and California has amply demonstrated that building a railway is impossible.

    It seems like all recent large construction projects in California have gone massively over budget – often costing multiples of the original estimates – due to the political battles, due to bureaucratic incompetence and empire building and due to simple corruption. The Hyperloop would add a technical challenge to the already insurmountable political challenges. No way…

    @ChuckW/SteveF: I wonder what the fine print on those “lifetime” offers was. Did they really leave themselves an out, or are they screwing you over? Also: I really don’t see what the big deal is about maintaining a permanent email forwarder – it’s not like it requires a lot of administration. Having successful alumni using an address tied to your institution ought to count as good advertising.

  25. Roy Harvey says:

    I remember the vacuum tubes in department stores when I was young. Hyperloop operates on the same principle.

    Not really, as propulsion has nothing to do with air pressure front vs rear. There is a tube with reduced air pressure – not a vacuum. There are capsules, but they are smaller than the tube to let what air there is go past. The capsules also have their own turbofan sucking in air at the front (further reducing air drag) and pumping some if it out the bottom (air cushion bearing) and out the back. Propulsion is from linear motors set here and there along the way, with the same thing in reverse to slow them down for stations.

    The first problem that came to my mind was no restroom. I don’t even think you can get out of your seat while moving.

    The Onion covered the story too.

  26. Lynn McGuire says:

    The first problem that came to my mind was no restroom. I don’t even think you can get out of your seat while moving.

    Can you imagine going to the bathroom with a variable half gee of acceleration and deceleration? The bathroom would be covered in …

    BTW, the seating capacity is 2 x 14 for a total of 28 people. Somebody in that group is going to need to go to the bathroom in a 30 minute trip (probably me!). I wonder if they will be selling leg strap pee bottles?

  27. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Depends 😉

  28. Roy Harvey says:

    Has anyone actually read the hyperloop proposal? As opposed to just news reports about it?

  29. Chuck W says:

    What? You don’t trust the mainstream media? And after all those years I put in working for them.

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