Skytran Trumps High Speed Rail

Unlike Elon Musk’s Hyperloop technology which is years Hyperloopaway from being developed there is a High Speed people mover already in use that would accomplish what the current High Speed Rail, HSR, is seeking to perform yet instead of the present price tag of $68 billion this superior technology would only cost $7.2 billion.

Over the last few weeks there has been a great amount of interest in Elon Musk’s idea of a Hyperloop train transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco at a fraction of the cost of the HSR project.

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors is quoted as stating, “How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) — doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars — would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?”

Actually Mr. Musk is half right.  It is true that Highskytran 3 Speed Rail is significantly overrated however there is a company, Skytran, right here in silicon valley that has already created a bullet beater using Maglev technology.

This technology is not years away like Musk’s Hyperloop, at this very moment Skytran is building a system of Personal Rapid Transit in Israel where the company believes the future of all innovation will be developed drawing people from around the world to work and learn about Skytran.

Israel’s bureaucracy “is not as onerous as in some other Western countries. It’s a ‘two-telephone call’ country. Once the government knows about something and is interested in it, they find a way to clear the bureaucratic hurdles, and that is what is going on with us,”  Jerry Sanders, CEO of Skytran

Although geared to decreasing vehicle use in large urban skytran 4settings there is no reason why Skytran cannot be built at a fraction of the cost of HSR connecting L.A. to San Francisco transporting the same number of people that HSR would in the same period of time or less.

Unlike HSR, Skytran integrates into the urban landscape without disrupting traffic flow infrastructure or current land uses; including private properties.  This ability to unobtrusively blend into the existing environment will reduce the push-back that HSR is currently receiving from a number of communities.

High Speed Rail Cost:   

$68 billion for 800 miles of track equals $85 million per mile.

Skytran Cost:  

$7.2 billion for 800 miles of track at a cost of $9 million per mile.  (Approximately $5 billion for the 380 miles from S.F to L.A. track.)

It is 380 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  Some estimates place the High Speed Rail traveling up to 200 mph transporting passengers to S.F. from L.A. in 3 hours or less.

That is if it is an express train with no stops.

What happens if you want to go to someplace like San Mateo from L.A. and not S.F.?  You will fly by your destination to S.F. where it will take you another hour to back track to where you truly want to be.  This dilemma does not exist with Skytran as Skytran’s individualizedskytran 2 pods take passengers directly to where they want go.  At 150 mph Skytran does not equal the top end speed of HSR however overall travel time will be much shorter using Skytran than HSR as every ride is an express ride.

The question is, why won’t the politicians scrap the current model of High Speed Rail for one that will require less energy per mile traveled enabling more people to access the system while removing more cars from the roadways and thereby obtain more goals than the current HSR system at a fraction of the cost?

Some answers here:

$7.2 billion is less than the $9.95 billion in bonds the people approved of and only 18% of the $40 billion cost sold to the people in 2008.

What would be the people’s approval rating of Governor Jerry Brown and our state representatives if they were to terminate the current technology of High Speed Rail and replace it with Skytran?  Instead of building tracks out in the middle of nowhere our elected officials could circle the greater San Francisco Bay Area all they way to Sacramento with Skytran as well as through-out the Los Angeles Basin down to San Diego prior to building anything connecting northern and southern California.

This would cost $10 billion for 1,111 miles of track which would also be the quickest and most cost effective method of reducing traffic congestion as well as green house gas emissions.   During this first phase Brown and his colleagues in Sacramento could then allocate up to $1 billion dollars to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop technology to prove its viability.  Should Mr. Musk’s Hyperloop technology be validated then Brown and our officials at the Capital would allocate up to $9 billion dollars to construct the Hyperloop system connecting L.A. and S.F.

If the Hyperloop cannot produce what Mr. Musk claims it can then the $9 billion would go to connecting L.A. to S.F. with Skytran during phase two of California’s High Speed Rail project.

For $20 billion, less than half of the original cost of the very limited High Speed Rail project the people of California couldskytran 6 have Rapid Personal Transit in the major metropolitan areas and High Speed Rail connecting Southern and Northern California.

Is there any logical reason why Governor Brown and the State legislators do not want to save the California people $20 billion to $48 billion when it is within their ability and authority to do so?


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Hyperloop  Hyperloop 2 Hyperloop 3


Palo Alto unlocks online requests for public records

unlocking-public-recordsPalo Alto is making it easier for people to get their hands on government records.

The City of Palo Alto this week launched an online system to process requests in accordance with the California Public Records Act, which requires government agencies in the state to disclose records by request of the public.

“Palo Alto’s online CPRA request form and back-end system is live,” said Mr. Jonathan Reichental, the chief information officer of the City of Palo Alto, in a statement Saturday to the Palo Alto Free Press. “You can find it under the Services menu on the City homepage. It is also accessible via the City Clerk microsite.”

Public officials did not immediately respond to queries from the Palo Alto Free Press in regard to further detail on the new system.

The City of Palo Alto says on its website that the new platform helps to “avoid confusion and delay” when officials respond to requests for public records, but adds that the California Public Records Act declares no limit on the methods in which the public can submit requests. The statement does not confirm whether the public can continue making requests on paper.

Still, the move marks a significant step toward transparency for the city’s government, which in 2012 unveiled an open data platform. The recent addition to the city’s website allows the public to easily access census data, pavement condition ratings, tree locations, bike paths and other government records previously available through less convenient means. The platform supports an application programming interface (API), which lets developers use the data in third-party applications.

Mr. Reichental said in an interview with Mashable in July 2012 that the city hopes its efforts build public trust in government. “We’re starting at a place where we can build our expertise and take the community with us. They’ll give us strong, important feedback and we’ll go on this journey together,” said Mr. Reichental.

“We’re not just reinforcing expectation that government should provide services, but that it helps facilitate citizenship,” added Mr. Reichental.

The redaction and confidentiality of some of the information exchanged between public officials, however, remain protected under state law.

Here is a link to the city’s online submission form for requests of public records.

Police chief backs use of cameras, ShotSpotter

Menlo Park Police Chief Robert Jonsen said last night that he wants to follow a consultant’s recommendation to dramatically increase police camera surveillance throughout the city and equip officers with Tasers.

Among other things, the report recommended that the city install cameras in high-crime areas as well as a “ShotSpotter” system like the one used by the city of East Palo Alto. Such systems are used to pinpoint where gunshots come from and alert police.

The proposal to acquire multiple kinds of new law-enforcement cameras and technology came in a report written by the consulting company Belcher, Ehle, Medina and Associates. The report, presented at last night’s City Council meeting, analyzed the police departments performance and areas for improvement.

License plate readers

The report presented by consultant Steve Bletcher, also recommended an automatic license plate recognition system, which would photograph and document the license plates of cars going in and out of the city.

The report also advocated buying multiple video cameras for police cars. According to Jonsen, body cameras that will be worn by officers have already been ordered. If further recommended installing cameras and audio recorders in the lobby and jail area of the police station.

Alternatives to guns

Bletcher said his group also concluded that Menlo Park should consider arming its officers with Tasers, which he called a useful alternative to guns.

The 2012-2013 budget for the police department is $14.7 million. There are 47 sworn officers and 22.75 civilian employees.

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Special-need park project lands $1 million donation

www.magicalbridge.comThe Magical Bridge, a proposed playground in Palo Alto for children with disabilities, took one step closer to reality yesterday when the Peery Foundation announced a $1 million matching grant to build the park.

The first-of-its kind playground will be designed specifically for children and adults with disabilities, including special equipment that will make it easier for people with physical, mental and visual impairments to play.

“The Magical Bridge Project has already received $1.1 million in individual donations towards its $3.1 million goal,” said Jill Asher, a spokeswoman for the project. “The grant, plus the $1 million in matching funds will allow the project to break ground by this fall.”

Olenka Villarreal, who founded the project, said the Silicon Valley is the perfect place for such park.

“It still astounds me that we are building the first place to address the many different play needs of the many different kinds of children who live in our community. “she said.

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Wanted: Astronauts for a one-way trip to Mars

A non-profit organization starts a global search to find candidates willing to settle on the Red Planet… indefinitely
By Samantha Rollins | January 9, 2013

The dream of colonizing Mars may no longer be relegated to the world of science fiction. If Netherlands non-profit Mars One succeeds in its elaborate mission, humans could be settling on the Red Planet in the not-so-distant-future of 2023. To kick-start the sweeping astronaut-selection process and begin what Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp calls “the biggest media event ever,” the organization recently released its application criteria, and announced that a team of Mars One experts and viewers of a “global, televised program” will ultimately choose the first of Earth’s ambassadors to Mars. Can this possibly be for real? Here’s what you need to know:

Who can apply?
Just about any physically and mentally healthy person over age 18. While applicants can be from any part of the world, at least rudimentary knowledge of English would be helpful. Applicants must also be willing to dedicate eight years to training for the 2023 mission, and be “resilient, adaptable, curious, creative, and resourceful.” And since this is a one-way trip, says Sam Gibbs at Gizmodo UK, “you’ll also need either a deep loathing of Earth, or have nothing to live for here.”

How will the selection process work?
Mars One experts and viewers of a reality show documenting the process will together choose at least six groups of four people for the mission. Only one of those groups of four will originally settle the Red Planet; the other groups will gradually journey to join them over the ensuing years.

What’s the point of the reality show?
According to Mars One’s business plan, the reality-show spectacle will not only allow Earthlings to help decide who will represent our planet, but will also be the main source of financing for the mission. “As entrepreneurs, we believe that the only way this will be possible in the near term is by funding it commercially,” says the non-profit on its website. And by commercially, they mean “with a global media spectacle.” Not only will the television show cover the selection process and preparations for the mission, but it will also eventually document the day-to-day lives of the astronauts living on Mars. “Think reality TV where the prize could be a trip to a dry, dusty world,” says Nadia Drake at Wired, and just imagine that the cameras keep rolling once the winners embark on their interplanetary mission.

Can this possibly be for real?
Mars One certainly wants to assure you they’re serious, and seems eager to provide curious potential astronauts with a ton of information about its plan. But only time will tell: Mars One will get its first true test in 2016, when it plans to start sending rovers, equipment, and supplies to Mars ahead of its human inhabitants.

MIT micro-bots could make a lot of macro-jobs much easier

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing the world’s smallest chain robot, less than the size of a dime, designed to link up to others like them and shape-shift into a range of micro-tools.

Put together, four of these machines, with a specialized engine and covered with rings and fittings, look like a tiny, brass mechanical inchworm, but with more versatility and usefulness. “It’s a step toward the goal of programmable matter,” said Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms where the micro-bots were created. “The goal is not to just to produce a shape. This is something that can change shape.”

Programmable matter is something that can change form based on external commands. Because of this micro-robot’s size, a long string of them could be, in theory, programmed to turn into an infinite number of forms. For example, a chain of them could form a wrench. When that tool is no longer needed, the string of robots could be reprogrammed into a coffee cup.

The micro-bot’s basic working principle is that each device has a motor that can be programmed to pivot into any angle. Interconnected and individually programmed, a group of a thousand could form any 3-dimensional shape.

“I’m not talking just about just four of these, I’m thinking of a mile-long string of the devices,” Gershenfeld said.

Conceptually, a long string of these mini-robots could be programmed to become the building blocks of something larger and more specifically geared to a task. “Imagine a robotic arm and all the electronics and wiring and components you need to manufacture that,” Gershenfeld said. “A string of (our) devices would just need to be programmed to essentially into a robotic arm and do the same function.”

These micro-bots, if asked, could “become furniture that can walk,” Gershenfeld said.

To develop its movable prototype, the MIT team conquered three scientific challenges.

First, they had to develop programs that could turn codes into shapes, meaning transforming binary 1s and 0s into geometric folds.

Then they had to develop a small, efficient motor. To do this, the team opted for a gearless structure using magnets, Gershenfeld said. Changing the polarity on two sets of magnets arranged in a circle drives a steel ring around them. One key innovation is that a just a small amount of power is used when pivoting the ring to a certain angle. Once the unit gets to its position, it will stay in that position even without power, thus making it specifically efficient.

Finally, the team had to design a one-dimensional robot that could be made in a continuous strip and folded into arbitrary three-dimensional shapes,Gershenfeld said. This idea came from nature, as the team mimicked the action of simple proteins that can twist and turn and fold into complex three-dimensional structure that determines its activity.

The MIT device is dubbed “milli-motein” because of its small size, and because it is based on proteins in nature. It’s also designed to be inexpensive to mass produce. Spin-offs could be used in the medical device and in the aerospace and airline industries, because of the adaptability of the magnetic motor. Robots in colonies could be used in electrical systems of airplanes, for example, to keep instruments and other important parts of the aircraft in proper positions should power go out.

Kenn Oldham, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who works on microrobotics at the University of Michigan said the MIT team’s work “looks interesting.”

“One of the major challenges in miniature robotics is power handling, as power and energy availability is very limited.” Oldham said.

The chain robot research is similar to “smart sand” technology, where tiny small robotic blocks can be smartly configured into 3-D objects using complex algorithms. There are also robotic folding origami systems where small flat materials are folded into different shapes, then combined with others to create a robotic network.

But a string of units that could fold itself into any shape would be simpler to control, Gershenfeld’s team found, as opposed to something with separate pieces that would have to find each other and assemble in the right order.

By Ron Recinto | The Lookout

Compost facility plan must be responsible to the Green in our budget as well as Planet Earth

Dear Editor:

The proposed Compost facility plan must be responsible to the Green in our budget as well as Planet Earth.

The project’s hypothesis is that the waste-to-energy plant on the 10 acres of Bixby Park will be less expensive than shipping waste elsewhere.

Let’s stand together and protect the integrity of this evaluation by making sure that the City’s enthusiasm for being Green doesn’t ignore the green of the budget.

The City staff is diligently working on the analysis, and we need to be certain a few simple principles are followed:

1. The City’s cost of preparing the ten-acre site must be fully accounted for.

2. State law requires that the use of City property and resources be compensated at fair market value. The feasibility study must include a lease payment for the ten acres based on the fair market value of a $100 million valuation at a commercial market interest rate.

3. While Bixby Park was used as a dump, the Refuse Enterprise Fund paid “rent” to the Parks fund. That ended, so now each day that the Compost project delays the conversion to Park Land must be accounted for as a start-up cost of the project. This is simple accountability.

4. The City costs, as described, will be matched with savings from not having to pay to have the waste to a regional facility.

Palo Alto needs to quickly quantify the above items and have them clearly stated in the request for proposal (RFP).

If the above reasonable expectations cause our Green inspirations to be in the red, then we need to move on and get our waterfront ready for the recreational destiny that has been held in check for 50 years.

Timothy Gray (Candidate for Palo Alto City Council)

RFID – You are tracked and hunted!

RFID Chips are tiny, nearly microscopic semiconductor chips that emit a radio signal containing digital information when energized by a nearby scanner reader or recorder.

They do no need a battery or internal energy source.  They can operate indefinitely, even through animal or human flesh.

RFID Chips were first used to help simplify inventory, accounting, industrial parts and even cat and dog identification.  However, the chips can now be used to reveal your identity and location anywhere on earth within seconds.

Every time you buy something with a credit or debit card, your account information, number and personal information from the card is linked and encoded in the item purchased if a tiny RFID chip is embedded in the item.

This information is valuable to Corporations as it provides valuable marketing and inventory information about who is buying the product, when and where the transactions occur.  Government Security forces can also use the same tiny RFID chips to determine the identity of the owner or user of a tagged item.

For example, as you enter a public concert venue, you may be scanned by Police equipment placed at the gate.   Police are then able to identify every person entering the concert by the RFID tags in their clothes, credit cards and/or Drivers licenses.  The same holds true for entering any public place, train station, subway, or airport.

RFID chips may be a great help in Prisons, Police and Probation departments but dictatorships, tyrannies and other misguided forces around the world and at home, may already be interested.

Thanks to IBM, Motorola, Zebra Technologies, Smartrac, OMNI-ID, Invengo, MetalCraft, Intermec, Impinj, Confidex, Alien Technologies and other tech companies, microscopic Radio Frequency Identity Chips (RFID) are finding their way into clothing, credit cards, drivers licenses, passports, airline tickets, shoes, windshields, virtually any consumer item.

Next time someone tells you to get lost, ask them, how ?

Military to test hypersonic jet that could zip across the U.S. in less than 1 hour

A superfast jet that could fly from L.A. to New York City in less than an hour may be one step closer to reality after a key test this week.

The  X-51A WaveRider, an unmanned aircraft that could reach speeds up to Mach 6 will be launched from the wing of a B-52 bomber high above the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The WaveRider is expected to zip up into the atmosphere and fly at hypersonic speeds—3,600 mph—for 300 seconds, before breaking up into the ocean.

If successful, if would be the longest jaunt for the test aircraft. The newspaper noted that the development of WaveRider could lead to progress on a passenger jet that could theoretically travel across the U.S. in 46 minutes.

“Attaining sustained hypersonic flight is like going from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft,” Robert A. Mercier, deputy for technology in the high speed systems division at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio told the L.A. Times.

But beyond passenger flights, achieving hypersonic speeds could also lead to the development of the next generation of missiles, space vehicles and military aircraft, the Times points out.

The WaveRider program had an issue in June of 2011 when the test vehicle in a similar test to the one planned for Tuesday failed to reach full power.

The Pentagon said it spent about $2 billion on technology and engineering around hypersonic flight over the last decade, the Times reports. This program is estimated to cost $140 million, according to, a military policy research website.

If you’re keeping score, the Concorde, a supersonic airliner, crossed the Atlantic at 1,350 mph.

It would take about 3.5 hours, about twice as fast as current commercial airlines. The Concorde was retired in 2003.

By Ron Recinto | The Lookout