The year is 2099…

“A magnetically levitated train could theoretically take you from New York to London in 54 minutes,” the Discovery Channel informs us. “But you’d have to go 5,000 mph through a 3,100-mile-long tunnel that was itself floating in the Atlantic Ocean. How might that work?”
Well, let’s find out.

Of course, if this interests you, don’t miss parts two and three.

21 thoughts on “The year is 2099…”

  1. I do appreciate everything you are doing here for such a long time, but you do know that this was showed back in 2003 on Discovery Channel!? almost 5 years ago! Its not really a breaking news.. but keep up and good luck with the book.. cant wait it!

  2. Brrr …scary stuff (even if the video did show up on TV in 2003)! I love the combination of extreme length (3100 miles) and extreme speed (~5000 miles per hour): seems to me that speaks volumes about the human imagination’s ability to feel claustrophobia and picture being buried alive! If such a tunnel ever were built, you can bet your average person would want to get in and then out again as quickly as possible!

    On another note: I live in Victoria, BC, on Vancouver Island. We’re only about 24 nautical miles from Vancouver (less if you took a straight shot at latitude over to Bellingham, Washington State), but the dream of getting a bridge (or a tunnel) remains just a dream. Like that Norway example in parts 2 & 3, the bridge option isn’t good because it’ll look ugly and destroy habitat. As for the tunnel — it would have to cross a notorious stretch of very rough water with strong currents (the Georgia Strait), plus, seismically, we have a little “trans-Atlantic ridge” situation here, too. Like Norway, we’d need that offshore oil platform technology (reverse pendulum idea) described in part 3. It would be very cool to be able to skip over to the Mainland in a flash, but I bet we’ll never find the money for it!

    I wonder how many years it would take for a trans-Atlantic tunnel to pay for itself? What sorts of business opportunities would 1 hour commutes between continents open up? I just read a review on We make money not art of Fernando Romero’s new book, Hyper-Border; The Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Border and Its Future. The reason I bring that up is because a tunnel could/ would create border issues, and you have to wonder how those’ll be treated in this, our Age of Paranoia. Regine’s review picks out this nugget concerning the U.S.-Mexico border from Romero’s book: “(p.76) At present there are more American border patrol agents than soldiers in Afghanistan.” Holy cow, I wonder how we’d fit all the security personnel deemed necessary by “war on terror” apostles into that tunnel! 😉

  3. My interview with Kim Stanley Robinson is, for the most part, about novels that were written more than a decade ago – surely you should have left a comment there, too, anonymous?

    Yule, that’s a great book, actually. In fact, I was Googling around about undersea tunnels this morning – which is how I ended up watching these videos – and there are some interesting border control issues associated with the Channel Tunnel. England is not a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, for instance, so this sets up all sorts of legal and territorial issues between England and France. The problems are quite easily resolved, obviously, but they are problems.

    And from now on I’ll try only to be interested in things that have happened in the last thirty seconds.

  4. In response to Ed:
    If we look at the costs of such a project in terms of resources, capital and environmental damage, as well as the fact that we are presently faced with the widescale worldwide repercussions (both social and environmental) of our obsession with a faulty economic system that disadvantages most of the world and does not account for the long-term repercussions of non-renewable resource use (what you call “progress”)…and contrast it to the amount of progress achievable in terms of human development (for, as a human being, I prefer to put ourselves before our machines) – e.g. the institution of universal healthcare systems, universal [subsidized] education, the elimination of extreme poverty (which will, in turn, effectively alleviate some of the weight on judicial systems), fostering the development of sustainable industries and the ensurance of lower levels of unemployment, I question whether what socialist governments (more-or-less in the European sense) are achieving are really a “retardation on progress”, or whether it’s about time we change our description of the term to one that doesn’t involve resource depletion and the wholesale destruction of culture and planet.

  5. The idea of a tunnel between America and UK is interesting but not so original.
    The novel “Der Tunnel” , written by Bernhard Kellermann in 1913, deals with this tunnel and with its failure (when the tunnel was available, planes could cross the Atlantic in only few hours), anticipating important social events as the Great Depression and critical observations about technology.

  6. I have seen this show… interesting idea. I just completed my thesis at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee that also includes a MagLev train… Please check out the website below… love bldg blog!! could not have done the thesis without the interesting perspectives and ideas on these posts…

  7. A 3000 mile tunnel? A century to build it? How much would a ticket cost? We couldn’t even build a commercially viable supersonic airplane. Who’s going to fund this? Why do we waste valuable time thinking about this stuff?

  8. In response to ed, I’d point out the relative merits of train travel in France and the UK. Those socialists can’t be doing things _too_ badly.

  9. It’s so dangerous… In my opinion this project is quite impossible to be built. Too many risks. The undersea atlantic surface is very insidious. I think flight is the safest way for transatlantic travels yet.


  10. 1. You left out parts 4 and 5 in your links – they’re good too!
    2. Why not start with a train of a similar speed from west coast to east? Surely the economic benefits would be huge and the risks would be at least a little smaller?

  11. I have a feeling that fossil-fueled flight will soon be obselete. So other methods of travel might be explored. but maybe none will be feasible. maybe we will simply have to hunker down and live where we are…..

  12. To the above anonymous;
    Are you kidding me? Hunker down and live where we are? zOmg, can you say non-fabulous? I want to see the world dahling! *_*
    On another note, Geoff really makes a good point with that chocolate cookie idea…like he said, *think about it*. There’s no way you can go wrong with that. ^_^

  13. Gods! If this needs anywhere near the time the German ‘Maglev-Train’ implementation called ‘Transrapid’ needed to be built (and test) then it is more likely that the final date would be around 4099 somewhere…

  14. Wait a minute, did I read 5000 mph !!? On a train, in a tunnel…!? OMG! Imagine the g-forces involved here! A normal person can withstand around 5-6 g ( 9 g’s for fighter pilots) before he experiences what is called g-LOC ( gravity induced Loss of Consciousness). After that you would probably enter the tunnel-with-bright-light-at-the-end. I can’t even calculate how much g-forces anyone riding on such a train would have to endure. Well, I guess this could finally be the tunnel that leads to the white-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. 🙂

  15. this tunnel will not be completely straight ever, even if it is tied down against the average gulf stream current, their will still be undulations along the track.

    if the track can sway, and the track is not straight… when the train or object moving at 5000mph moves through a wonky section of the track, the momentum when turning the corner produces, in effect, a thrust perpendicular to the general direction of travel… accentuating the wonkyness of the track and making the curve even more accute.

    as the train moves further along the track, the track would react in compensation for this with a wonky bend in the opposite direction (imagine a sine wave sort of thing as the length of the track)

    eventually, due the the frequency of the trains running through (which would have to be high for the tunnel to be economically viable) the track would vibrate itself apart.

    also, these vibrations would be accentuated by the sea currents themselves (a similar sort of thing happens with wind loadings on bridges when they oscillate at the bridges natural frequency, see tacoma narrows bridge you tube videos as an example).

    sorry to throw a spanner in the works, im sure there is a way over the problems though (dampners perhaps, however sea currents are terrifically strong)

    i still wonder wether we will be able to teleport by the time this would be realised 🙂

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