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The entrepreneur loves to take on tough technical challenges and turn them into business opportunities. He revolutionized online payment services with PayPal, built the first successful electric-car company with Tesla Motors and launched one of the first commercial space transportation companies with SpaceX.
But his proposed Hyperloop transportation system - which he unveiled Monday as a faster and lower-cost alternative to a high-speed train service between San Francisco and Los Angeles - may prove to be his toughest challenge yet.
While the science behind the idea seems sound, turning it into reality would require overcoming a host of engineering design obstacles, not to mention political and funding hurdles.
But he added, "I'm not sure whether the details work.
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The capsules, which would contain about 28 passengers each, would ride on pockets of air, propelled by a linear induction motor. They would travel through a low-pressure air system that would limit resistance and friction without requiring the amount of energy needed to maintain a complete vacuum.
At first blush, the concept seems practical write ap biology come from the realm of pulp sci-fi novels. It reminded me of a comic book I had as a kid in which a character traveled from Los Angeles to Tokyo on a high-speed train that traveled through a tunnel deep inside the Earth.
But as fantastic as the Hyperloop concept may appear, experts familiar with the page proposal Musk unveiled Monday say it's theoretically feasible. Linear induction motors already are used to propel maglev trains in Japan. Hovercraft have long demonstrated that one can travel on a pocket of air.
And the first subway in New York was operated inside a pneumatic tube, which was a larger variation on the systems still used by consumers at drive-up bank windows and pharmacies.
But while Musk has laid out the potential price of building the Hyperloop, he has ignored the development costs, which are likely to dwarf the cost of construction. Moore compared it to a pharmaceutical company exploring a new drug.
One concern would be how the fast-moving capsules would respond to even a slight misalignment in the tubes, said MIT's Hansman. Another would be the interplay between the low-pressure air in the tube and the air pads on which the capsule will ride, he said.
By laying out his proposal before actually prototyping it, Musk has skipped a crucial step, argued Richard Muller, a physics professor at the UC Berkeley. Even if the Hyperloop idea proves sound in prototyping, practical issues would need to be overcome.
A big one is how much energy the Hyperloop would require. The linear propulsion system and the air pressure pumps for the tubes would probably need much more energy than would be provided by the solar panels Musk proposes installing on the tubes and the energy recovery system he envisions having at the end of the route, said Roger Goodall, a maglev train expert and a professor of control systems engineering at the United Kingdom's Loughborough University.
Then there are safety concerns.
Muller argues that the system, because of its novelty and the vulnerability of its tubes, would make a tempting target for terrorists. But it also could potentially be disrupted by more mundane threats, such as dirt and grime, he said.
And what would happen, Hansman wondered, if the power went out while a capsule was rocketing through the tube or if a capsule got stranded miles from a city? Engineers would need to determine exactly how the Hyperloop would deal with such contingencies if the system is ever to get up and running.
While such challenges could be overcome, some experts are skeptical that they will be. Because Musk's proposal ignores the expense and risks of developing the Hyperloop, it is for now just "another science-fiction dream," Muller said.Thanks for the comment Jeanne.
I totally understand the feeling. If you have not already been there, the AP Biology Community website is the best place to connect with your fellow AP .
You've got to hand it to Elon Musk - he certainly dreams big. The entrepreneur loves to take on tough technical challenges and turn them into business opportunities. Biology Essay Sample; How to Write a Biology Essay; How Can We Help; AP Biology Essay; Biology Article; Download Free Sample of a Biology Essay.
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