Browsing Tag: educational

    A Bridge Between the USA and Russia
    Articles, Blog

    A Bridge Between the USA and Russia

    August 15, 2019

    The relationship between the USA and Russia is complicated. JFK: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile, launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States.” *Intense laughter* JFK: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Their rivalry defined the second half of the 20th century. Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.” Millions are spent each year trying to improve relations, and even more spent undermining them again. To many their opposites; chalk and cheese, vodka and apple pie, Oceania vs Eurasia, East vs West. It’s easy to forget that only 51 miles separates them. If we’re going to spend so much time, energy and money trying to build bridges between Russia and America, then why not just build an actual bridge? In 1986 Ronald Reagan gave engineer Tung Yun Lin a National Medal of Science, Lin handed back to him a 16-page plan for an intercontinental peace bridge. Whether for environmental, financial, or political reasons a bridge across the Bering Strait has been on someone’s agenda ever since. Most of this talk has come to nothing, but in 2015 Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping started to make some actual plans. *Theme music* The Bering Strait is a 51 mile sea passage separating Siberia and Alaska. In 1867 the US bought Alaska for 7.2 million dollars or 2 cents an acre. This created a new border right down the middle separating two small islands, Big Diomede (Russian), and Little Diomede (now American). The same boundary is followed today by the International Date Line, giving the Diomedes the adorable nicknames of “Tomorrow Island” and “Yesterday Isle”. Ever since the Cold War Big Diomede and most of Russia’s Eastern Shore has been a military zone. No travel is permitted. In fact, you can’t arrive or depart there even with a Russian visa. The closest you can get is the port of Provideniya, and even then you should probably get permission before rocking up. This hasn’t stopped people trying though, in 2006 Karl Bushby and Dimitri Kieffer navigated the strait’s ice floes on foot. However Lynne Cox swam between the Diomedes in 1987, The public support was so immense that Reagan and Gorbachev thanked her at the signing of the nuclear forces treaty. Gorbachev: “It took a daring American girl by the name of Lynne Cox a mere two hours to swim the distance separating our two countries, By her courage she showed how close to each other our two peoples live.” Trump: “We’re not gonna let them violate a nuclear agreement, and go out and do weapons. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out.” We could really do with another Lynne Cox right now. Something to bring the US and Russia together. The whole world a little closer. Even if it has to be marketed to us as a trade deal or a “Trans-Pacific Infrastructure Investment”. A bridge would be a common project, a physical link forcing superpowers to cooperate. But ignoring all political and financial hurdles for now. Is it even possible? Currently the world’s longest sea bridge is 34 miles across, Connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau in China. And although the Bering Strait is 51 miles, the longest bridge you’d actually have to build would only be 26. The Diomedes make two perfect stopping points. You could build a US bridge on one side and a Russian bridge on the other. In fact, make it a race the loser has to build the three-mile bridge connecting the two. Construction would be slow, for seven months of the year the temperature is well below freezing, and although the Strait rarely freezes large chunks of ice are funneled through the passage from the Arctic. These ice floes would exert enormous pressure on any structure we built. There may be engineering solution around this, but perhaps the simplest would be to scrap the bridge and dig a tunnel. Tunnels may not lend themselves to metaphors as well, but they’re warmer, often cheaper over long distances, you can lay gas, oil, and electricity alongside. They’re protected from harsh weather, and ships can still pass above them. With the Arctic ice caps melting, the Bering Strait could become a very busy shipping lane in the next 20 years. The Strait is relatively shallow, the maximum depth is only 55 metres. The Channel Tunnel is a hundred metres below sea level. That opened in 1994 connecting the UK to Europe, and that relationship is going swimmingly. A tunnel (unlike a bridge) doesn’t have to intersect the Diomedes, it can start and end at more convenient points. But therein lies the problem. There are no convenient points. Here’s a map of the Alaskan and Siberian road networks, the closest highways are 2,000 miles apart. In Russia anything east of Magadan is impossible to get to by car. And although there are plans for major Alaskan routes, anything west of Fairbanks is tricky. Tunnelling under the Bering Strait would be the easy part, you’d also have to build thousands of miles of roads, over rough terrain, in incredibly harsh conditions. And after all that you’ve still got to persuade people to drive it. The only sensible option would be a train. You’ll still face all the same obstacles during construction, but a warm high-speed railroad from Anchorage to Vladivostok is way more convenient than a 60 hour drive through the Arctic. The main use of such a railroad would be freight. If we extend the network through North America and into China, it could transport a significant amount of the world’s cargo. But now we’ve got one of the biggest engineering projects in the world, costing hundreds of billions of dollars. Is there a need for it? An Arctic railroad would have to compete with our existing freight network, boats and planes. The busiest shipping route in the world by cargo is China to North America. So let’s say we want to ship one metric ton between the two busiest ports, Shanghai to Vancouver. We’ve got four options; ship, air, rail ,and road. A boat can do it in 15 to 20 days, cost us $300, and produce 225kg of CO2. Plane: 1 day, $3,500, 4,400kg. A train: 2 to 4 days, $400, 630kg. And a truck: 7 to 10 days, $900, 1,050kg. If speed is the priority and money no object, a plane is the way to go. But if speed doesn’t matter and you want the best value for money then shipping is the clear winner. Ships and planes account for 90% of global trade, that is a lot of fuel being burned all day, every day. Diesel trains are not environmentally friendly, but both Alaska and Siberia have stores of untapped geothermal energy. We need to replace as many major transport routes as possible with renewable alternatives, and high-speed electric trains are one of them. There’d definitely be a market for an Arctic railroad, it would dramatically improve travel time without an enormous increase in price. Whether it would be profitable for whoever built it though is another matter. It would have to be a financier with very deep pockets, and probably an ulterior motive. That pretty much leaves three options; Russia, America, or China. China are building railways and shipping ports everywhere. They’re already building high-speed railways connecting Europe, Africa and Asia. All with China as the central hub. They don’t just want to be at the crossroads. They want to be the crossroads, for all future international trade and transport. That means North and South America are definitely on the agenda. In fact, they proposed a high-speed railway connecting china to the US in 2007. Putin has given China approval to build through Siberia. And then in 2015 China and Russia announced they were collaborating, to build the Siberia and Alaska passage together. This is mostly just talk, but it’s getting louder and more frequent. There’s a reasonable chance of it happening with or without US involvement. It would be a real shame if multiple countries didn’t cooperate on this project. Not to mention the dangerous power dynamic it could create. An Arctic railroad connecting China, Russia, and the US would be an amazing achievement. An opportunity for three superpowers, currently jostling for their place in the century, to collaborate on a common project. One that could genuinely improve the world, environmentally, financially, and politically.

    12 Railroad Train Engines In a Row – Union Pacific Trains Videos for Kids
    Articles, Blog

    12 Railroad Train Engines In a Row – Union Pacific Trains Videos for Kids

    August 13, 2019

    this is a train video for kids like my nephew a lot of kids like to watch cargo trains train videos are very entertaining to children steam train passanger trains all types of trains the kids love trains they like toy trains also but there is nothing like the real thing as you can see here there are 10 union pacific engines lined up and ready to pull cargo if you or your child love trains than this train video is for you and its in 4k resolution so its so realistic its like your there !!!

    Knowing How to Tell a Good Story Is Like Having Mind Control | Alan Alda
    Articles, Blog

    Knowing How to Tell a Good Story Is Like Having Mind Control | Alan Alda

    August 13, 2019

    I met a nanoscientist at Cornell University
    who had a really interesting story. He had discovered, with his graduate student,
    how to make the world’s thinnest glass—it was only one atom thick. The top of it was the same atom as the bottom
    of it, and he called it “two-dimensional glass.” It was an amazing thing, nobody had ever found
    a way to make glass this thin before, and it was picked up by one scientific journal. And it seemed like a more interesting subject
    than one that would just get that much attention. And a couple of months later he was taking
    our workshop when we were up at Cornell, and in the course of talking about his discovery
    we realized that he had discovered how to make the world’s thinnest glass by accident. It wasn’t something he was trying to do, an
    accident happened. And I said, “You know, this is fascinating. People like us, on the outside, in the public,
    it’s an interesting story to us to know that something so groundbreaking, that helped you
    understand the structure of glass and might have new uses for glass, that you discovered
    such a thing by accident. What an interesting story that is.” And also in the meantime he had been cited
    in the Guinness Book of World Records as having discovered the world’s thinnest glass. So now he had two things that would interest
    the public. And the next time he gave an interview he
    started off with the story of how it had been an accident that he discovered this. This human story now led into the technical
    story about what was the world’s thinnest glass, how was it made, and that kind of thing. It became a story that was interesting to
    other people who don’t know the technical details with that familiarity. And now his story about discovering the glass
    was picked up by websites and newspapers all over America, all over Great Britain, and
    venture capitalists started calling him, asking him if they could commercialize this process—just
    starting with a human story that people on the outside of your work are interested in,
    because we’re all human and we all think in stories. And every experiment has a story. Every life and science has a story and it’s
    so common to hear people, when you say to them in a workshop, “Tell me your story.” They say, “Oh, I don’t have a story.” Yes, you do! What’s fascinating to you, when you really
    think about it, about how you got from here to there? And the most important thing about a story,
    it turns out—to me, anyway—is the obstacle that you found yourself facing as you were
    trying to get to your goal. The story is not, “I wanted to get to Toledo,
    and I went and I got there.” That’s okay. It’s not much of a story. The story is, “I was headed toward Toledo
    and the airplanes were shut down, the cars were shut down, the railroad—how was I going
    to get to Toledo?” That’s an interesting story and I want to
    listen to that. If in the course of that it turns out you
    discovered a new way to get to Toledo, I want to hear it. The glass of water exercise is something that
    I figured out on the way to giving a talk. I wanted to give a talk to writers about what’s
    the essential ingredient of a dramatic story. And I’m in the car with my wife and I said,
    “I don’t know how to start this thing.” She said, “Well, why don’t you start with
    some image.” I said, “An image, okay.” So an image of a story, a dramatic story,
    I decided in that moment was: carrying a glass of water across the stage, filled to the brim. So when I got there I said, “Is there somebody
    relatively brave in the audience? Come on up. Carry this empty glass across the stage.” And it’s a little awkward. The audience titters a little bit, but nothing
    much is happening. She puts the glass down on the table over
    there. Then I take a pitcher and I fill it all the
    way to the brim, there’s hardly a molecule of water left before it starts to spill, and
    she’s holding the glass and I say, “Okay, now carry the glass carefully across the stage
    and put it on the table over there, but don’t spill a drop or your entire village will die.” Now she’s got an obstacle she has to overcome,
    and she carries it so carefully, so carefully that the audience is riveted to the glass,
    and if a bead of water goes down the side of the glass you can hear them gasp. Now, everybody knows there’s no village, nobody
    is going to die, but just the imaginary situation that she has this important obstacle makes
    this an engaging sight, and that happens in every story that has a dramatic obstacle in
    it. The attempt to get past the obstacle, to get
    where you’re going, to achieve what you’re trying to achieve, makes it an interesting
    story. So my guess is instead of leaving out your
    mistakes, instead of leaving out the problems you have in achieving something, whether it’s
    science or whether it’s an interview where the prospective boss says, “Tell me about
    your greatest achievement,” don’t just tell them about your greatest achievement, tell
    them about the problems you had in solving the issue you were dealing with so you could
    get to something you could call an achievement. That makes it an interesting story. It makes it a more human story and it doesn’t
    make you a braggart, it shows you had something really tough to work on, here’s what you thought
    you might do to make it better. It’s engaging, and what you want to do is
    engage that new employer. You don’t want to just give them the facts. “Here are the facts, you ought to hire me.” He’s going to work with you. He’s going to work with a person. Give him the person, and if the scientist
    gives the audience the person and how they felt and what they went through as they were
    accomplishing this important discovery, we’re going to take it in better, we’re going to
    understand it better, and we’re going to remember it.

    Help Shawn teach the car about traffic signs! (SPANISH) – Señales de tráfico
    Articles, Blog

    Help Shawn teach the car about traffic signs! (SPANISH) – Señales de tráfico

    August 12, 2019

    Look what I found! It’s the car that ran away from us when we were learning how to count. Wait car! I didn’t mean you go. Let’s learn the traffic signs and teach this car how to drive. You look nice and shiny! Frank the fire truck did a good job washing you. Ok, car, don’t drive fast and listen to what we tell you. The first sign is the stop sign. Make sure you stop in front of each stop sign. Ah, ah, ah! Never try to beat the train! Always stop in front of the railroad crossing signs when the light turns red. You see why… Hi, Donald! Do you hear that, car? It’s a fire truck! Pull over and let emergency vehicles pass you. Look red light! Always stop at the red light. Good job! Don’t speed. It says: “School zone, 15 miles per hour”. Always stop if a school bus is loading or unloading. This is a construction zone. Be very careful! No, car, don’t go there! Not again! Great! And I just washed you not long ago. Ok, car, let’s find the fire truck so we can wash you again. Now you see how important it is to know traffic signs.
    Thank you for learning signs with us!

    How Overnight Shipping Works
    Articles, Blog

    How Overnight Shipping Works

    August 11, 2019

    This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your website for 10% off at Overnight shipping is an absolute masterpiece
    of logistics that happens every single night. It may not be cheap, but you can get a package
    shipped from Miami, Florida on a Monday night to Anchorage, Alaska, by 8:30 AM on
    Tuesday. In fact, you can even ship a package, for
    example, from Edinburgh, Scotland on a Tuesday and have the package arrive in Anchorage,
    Alaska by 9am on Wednesday. The speed and efficiency of these worldwide
    delivery networks is mind-blowing and it all happens while we sleep. The three major consumer courier companies
    are FedEx, DHL, and UPS and each is as impressive as the last. FedEx has more planes than Emirates, Etihad,
    and Qatar Airways combined; DHL delivers to every country in
    the world including North Korea; and UPS flies to
    more than double as many destinations as the largest passenger airline. Each has a global
    network that allows for lightning fast shipping at relatively low prices. Behind all this speed are
    enormous air networks that connect the entire world daily. Each of these three operates hundreds
    of flights nightly, but FedEx is the best example since their operations make them the
    largest cargo airline in the world. They have 650 planes flying to 400 destinations
    carrying 6 million packages every single day and the vast majority
    of these flights operate to or from one of their
    hub airports. FedEx’s hub airports are spread out all
    across the world and serve as sorting points where
    packages are transferred from one plane to another. They has hubs in Singapore, Guangzhou,
    Shanghai, Seoul, Osaka, Anchorage, Oakland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Greensboro, Miami, Newark,
    Toronto, Paris, Cologne, Milan, and Dubai, but the most important hub of all is the one
    in Memphis, Tennessee because that’s their
    SuperHub. Memphis is not a huge city—only about 650,000
    people live there—but the reason FedEx centers their worldwide operations in this
    city is because of it’s location. Memphis is not actually
    in the geographic center of the US as might make sense, but it is central. You see, only about 200
    miles away in Wright County, Missouri is the mean population center of the US. This is the
    average location of every resident in the US meaning that the FedEx SuperHub in Memphis
    is the best location to reach the most people
    in the shortest amount of time. For similar reasons,
    UPS has their equivalent global hub, Worldport, nearby in Louisville, Kentucky. The scale of
    FedEx and UPS’ operations in these relatively small cities is staggering. This is the size of the
    commercial terminal at Memphis Airport while this is the size of FedEx’s Superhub. The
    difference at Louisville airport is even more pronounced where this is the commercial terminal
    and this is UPS’ worldport. You can’t even fly to the west coast non-stop
    on a commercial airline from Louisville and yet UPS flies from this
    small city to five different continents. FedEx’s
    operations in Memphis, meanwhile, make this airport the second busiest cargo airport in
    the world above those of enormous cities like
    Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, and falling short only
    to Hong Kong. How the FedEx superhub really works is that
    every night, about 150 planes fly in from all
    around the world between the hours of 10pm and 1am. Immediately upon arrival, the planes are
    unloaded and their packages are put into the hub’s automated sorting system. Within only 15
    minutes, each package arrives at a staging area for its next flight where it’s loaded
    into containers. Planes therefore can start taking off again
    at 2am and continue to until 4am which means that everywhere in the US can have a
    FedEx plane arriving by 6am, but there are some
    destinations that don’t ship enough packages to need a non-stop flight to Memphis. To get to
    small towns fast, FedEx runs flights in small propeller aircraft from the destinations of
    their larger jets. Presque Isle, Maine, for example, is far too
    small of a town at about 10,000 residents to fill a full-size plane so, every morning,
    once the larger planes from Memphis arrive in
    Manchester, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine, packages bound for Presque Isle are sorted
    into smaller prop planes that continue north. With this system, even small towns like Presque
    Isle get their packages by 9am as every spoke in
    the system essentially functions as a mini-hub. Packages are transferred from planes, to smaller
    planes, to trucks to reach their destination as fast
    as possible. Now, it’s important to note that not every
    FedEx package runs through Memphis. That
    would be incredibly inefficient if a customer wanted to, for example, ship a package from
    Phoenix, Arizona to Seattle, Washington. While only 1,100 miles separate Seattle from
    Phoenix, a routing through Memphis would total over
    3,000 miles and six hours in flight. The package
    would still make it overnight, but FedEx would be wasting fuel carrying that package an extra
    1,900 miles, so that’s why they have secondary hubs. In this case, FedEx’s Oakland hub has
    flights to both Phoenix and Seattle so the package would take a relatively efficient
    1,300 mile routing. Memphis essentially serves as the backup hub
    in case there’s not a more efficient routing. The secondary hubs, such as Oakland, in general
    have flights to destinations that are already served by flights to Memphis, but
    the destinations from Oakland are high demand destinations that will ship enough packages
    solely to the west coast to fill entire planes to
    Oakland. Some destinations, such as Albuquerque, New
    Mexico, ship enough packages to fill entire planes to Memphis, but not enough to
    fill flights to Oakland with west coast bound packages so a package shipped from here to
    the west coast would likely take a rather inefficient
    routing backtracking to Memphis. But FedEx’s most ingenious hub is here in
    Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage, with fewer
    than 300,000 residents, is home to the forth busiest cargo airport in the world. This is, once
    again, thanks to geography. If you draw a straight line from FedEx’s
    Memphis hub to the one in Osaka, taking into account earth’s curvature,
    it goes directly over Anchorage, Alaska. This
    airport is just the perfect stop-over point for flights from the US to Asia. Now, dozens of cargo
    airlines operate in Anchorage but most of them just use the airport as a refueling and
    crew swap spot. Modern airplanes can fly non-stop from the
    contiguous United States to Asia, but doing so
    requires taking more fuel which requires taking less cargo. It’s just cheaper to stop in Anchorage,
    but FedEx and UPS use the stop for something else—sorting. If FedEx wanted to maintain
    current shipping times without the Anchorage hub, they would likely have to run non-stop
    flights from each of their Asian hubs to each of their
    American hubs, but they just don’t have the
    demand to fill this many planes. Instead, they run flights from their Asian
    hubs to Anchorage then flights from Anchorage many of their
    American hubs. While stopped in Anchorage,
    packages from Asia are processed through customs and sorted to be put on the plane bound
    closest to their destination. This helps cuts down on shipping time and
    cost. Shipping is an incredibly price-sensitive
    business. These courier companies rely on
    enormous contracts with retailers and, when some of these retailers are shipping millions
    of packages per day, every cent matters. In a lot of ways, however, the express shipping
    model is inherently expensive largely because of how
    couriers use their most expensive assets—planes. So much is centered around those few sorting
    hours at the big hubs so FedEx’s planes all have to
    wait around to arrive at the exact right moment. Some FedEx hubs, such as Memphis, do sort
    packages during the day, but the overwhelming majority of their business happens overnight. FedEx’s flight from Memphis to Oklahoma
    City, for example, leaves at 4am and arrives at
    5:20am, but then the plane waits around until 10:10pm to fly back to Memphis. That’s over 17
    hours sitting in Oklahoma City and, on that route, the plane is only flying for about
    two hours per day. Meanwhile, commercial airlines regularly fly
    their planes for more than 12 hours per day meaning they have six times higher aircraft
    utilization. FedEx would never be profitable if they
    bought all new multi-hundred million dollar aircraft to use for mere hours per day, so
    they don’t. Overwhelmingly, FedEx and other cargo airlines
    use old aircraft at the end of their lives. You’ll
    almost never see Airbus a300’s flying for passenger airlines anymore, yet FedEx, UPS,
    and DHL collectively own hundreds of them because
    they’re cheap. They didn’t spend much purchasing
    these aircraft, so they don’t have to worry about using them enough to offset their cost. UPS does
    have some brand new 747-800 aircraft, which are highly efficient, but they specifically
    schedule these planes on their longest routes so that
    they can recuperate their high purchase price through
    lower fuel costs. With older aircraft, fuel costs might be higher
    since the planes are less efficient, but overall it’s worth it since it allows
    FedEx to profitably leave their planes sitting for all but a
    few hours each day. Some passenger airlines, such as Allegiant
    Airlines in the US, uses the same strategy purchasing cheaper planes to allow
    them to fly fewer hours per day profitably and its
    now a tested and proven business strategy. Express shipping is one of those businesses
    that requires enormous networks to make work which is why you don’t see small shipping
    companies. It’s almost impossible to get started
    in this business unless, of course, you can make your own demand. Amazon, which ships more
    than a million packages per day, is getting into the delivery business. They’ve established a fleet
    of 32 aircraft and are building out their logistics network. When shipping so many packages,
    Amazon is operating at a scale where they can profit by taking the shipping companies
    out of the equation. FedEx, UPS, and DHL, meanwhile, are continuously
    focusing on further increasing the efficiency of their networks since in this
    business more than any, time is money. As you may have noticed, Wendover Productions
    has a new logo and with that I’ve redesigned the website with Squarespace. To be honest, I hadn’t used the website
    builder in a while but this process reminded me of why
    I’m such a fan of Squarespace. It was super simple to
    completely overhaul the site and, in my opinion, it looks great. I didn’t have any issues, but if
    you ever do they have award winning 24/7 customer support that I have used in the past and can
    vouch for. If you run a business, a youtube channel,
    a podcast, or anything else, you want to have a professional web presence like I do with
    my site since that’s how people find you, and you can
    get started building your website with Squarespace for 10% off at Squarespace is a great supporter of the show
    so make sure to show them your appreciation by at
    least checking them out at And just one more thing, if you’re like
    me and the first reaction you had to seeing this new logo is wanting a t-shirt of it,
    you’re in luck because they’re now available for pre-order
    at DFTBA. The link is in the description.

    Why China Is so Good at Building Railways
    Articles, Blog

    Why China Is so Good at Building Railways

    August 11, 2019

    This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your beautiful website for 10% off at Imagine a train that took you from Washington,
    DC to Dallas, Texas in nine hours… or Paris, France to Athens, Greece in nine hours…
    or Adelaide, South Australia to Perth, Western Australia in nine hours. These train trips actually take 44 hours,
    44 hours, and 41 hours respectively so the idea of making any of these trips by train
    in nine hours seems almost absurd. In China, though, that’s reality. In September, 2018 the country opened up a
    brand new high speed rail route with d irect trains from Hong Kong to Beijing. This is about the same distance as DC to Dallas,
    Paris to Athens, or Adelaide to Perth and yet these trains make the trip in only 8 hours
    and 56 minutes. What makes this even more impressive is that
    ten years ago, in 2008, at the time of the Beijing Olympics, China’s high-speed rail
    network consisted of this. We’ll have to zoom in because the extent
    of the network was one 19 mile-long Maglev train from Shanghai Airport to the outskirts
    of Shanghai and a traditional high-speed rail line from Beijing to the coastal city of Tianjin. Today, ten years later, that network has expanded
    into this. China has eight times as much high speed track
    as France, ten times as much as Japan, twenty times as much as the UK, and five-hundred
    times as much as the US. In fact, China has as much high-speed rail
    track as the rest of the world combined. It is staggering the amount of progress they
    have made in such a short amount of time. Traditionally high speed rail exists in small
    countries with rich populations by the likes of Germany, France, and Japan. China is neither of these things. The country is enormous, about the same size
    as the US, and is also not rich. While no longer poor, China is definitively
    a middle income country. It’s about as rich as Mexico, Thailand,
    or Brazil. In fact, despite being the country with the
    most high speed rail in the world, China is also the poorest country in the world to have
    any high speed rail. Despite the country’s vast size, China’s
    huge population makes it very dense especially in the east half. This means that China does have large cities
    close enough together where it makes sense to take the train rather than the plane. Trips like Guangzhou to Changsha, a distance
    of 350 miles, take an hour by plane or 2 hours and 20 minutes by train. When factoring in the time it takes to check
    in, go through security, and board it absolutely makes sense to go by train when traveling
    between these two cities even without considering that the high-speed train is cheaper than
    flying. High speed rail even makes sense in China
    on longer routes where it wouldn’t in other countries. Beijing and Shanghai, for example, are about
    650 miles apart. Normally that would be too far for high speed
    rail to make sense. Paris and Barcelona, for example, are 500
    miles apart—closer than Beijing and Shanghai—but only two high speed trains a day run between
    the two cities compared to about 20 flights. Between Beijing and Shanghai, on the other
    hand, about 50 flights run per day run compared to 41 trains. Considering the trains carry far more people
    each, up to 1,200, trains are therefore the dominant means of transport between these
    two cities. There are a few differences between these
    two routes. For one, while Beijing-Shanghai by train takes
    4 hours and 28 minutes, Paris-Barcelona, despite being a shorter distance, takes a longer 6
    hours and 25 minutes. The other factor, though, is about the competition. Europe has an efficient air transport network
    dominated by budget airlines that are often far cheaper than trains. You can find tickets for flights between Paris
    and Barcelona for as little as $12 while the cheapest Beijing-Shanghai flights go for $74. Air travel within China is also far from efficient. China Southern, China Eastern, and Air China,
    the three largest Chinese airlines, arrive on time an average of 67%, 66%, and 63% of
    the time respectively. A big reason for this is that there’s just
    not enough room in the skies. A majority of China’s airspace is military
    controlled meaning that there are just these narrow flight corridors that account for 30%
    of airspace where civilian planes can fly. With tons of planes and not much room to fly
    planes are frequently delayed by air traffic control to wait for the airspace to clear
    up which leads to the abysmal on-time ratings of the country’s airlines. While the Beijing-Shanghai flight takes only
    two hours the potential of delays, along with all the other factors that make air travel
    slower, help make the train the popular means of transport on this longer route. Other train routes in China, though, make
    less sense. For example, in 2014, the new high speed train
    line opened between Lanzhou and Urumqi. These two cities are relatively small by China
    standards. They both have a population of 3.5 million
    and between them are only small towns. They’re also not close—about 1,000 miles
    separate them. This project could therefore be compared to
    building a high speed train from Denver to Seattle—they’re modestly sized cities
    a long way’s apart with nothing big in between. Some people would use it but it wouldn’t
    make any financial sense. In China, Lanzhou and Urumqi are not small
    cities but there’s really nothing big in between and, at that distance, there’s no
    sense not flying. The Lanzhou-Urumqi high speed train takes
    11 hours compared to the 2.5 hour flight and the construction cost of that line was $20
    billion meaning that, if every seat on every train was filled tickets would still have
    to cost $400 each way just to make back the construction cost in 30 years. In reality tickets cost about $80 and trains
    are far from full meaning that this rail line is just insanely far from profitable. The ticket revenues from these trains reportedly
    don’t even cover the cost of electricity for the line let alone construction and other
    operating costs. So why would the Chinese government sink so
    much money into something that has no prospects of really ever making money? Well, politics. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang province. While 92% of China’s population is Han Chinese,
    the Xinjiang province is primarily Uyghur—one of the minority ethnic groups of China—and
    there has been an ongoing fairly strong separatist movement by the Uyghurs from China that has
    often turned violent. The central government in Beijing, however,
    wants the Xinjiang province to be just as integrated as the rest of the country and
    has tried a variety of methods to force this including moving Han Chinese into the region
    and the imprisonment of Uyghurs in so-called “reeducation camps.” The high-speed train is just the most recent
    tactic to bring Xinjiang closer to Beijing and this is no secret. The central government is fully upfront in
    saying that the line was built to promote, as they call it, “ethnic unity.” This isn’t even the first time they’ve
    used this tactic of railroad politics. Tibet, a region even better known than Xinjiang
    for its independence movement, was the last region in China not to have a railway due
    to its small population and intense terrain. The central government still wanted to build
    one, though, to bring it closer to the rest of the country and so they did. Trains now run directly from Beijing to Lhasa,
    Tibet in 47 hours on the highest elevation rail line in the world. These trains reach an elevation of 16,640
    feet—so high that passengers have to use a direct oxygen supply. Even the train to Hong Kong serves the central
    government’s goal of further integrating Hong Kong, which is an autonomous special
    administrative region, into mainland China. While high-speed trains to Hong Kong certainly
    do make a lot more sense than trains to the Xinjiang province, many Hong Kongers have
    not greeted the new service kindly as they view it as an encroachment on the autonomy
    guaranteed to them by Hong Kong Basic Law. The most controversial part has not been the
    fact that there’s a train but rather that the station in Hong Kong includes an area
    that is effectively now part of Mainland China since people pass through border controls
    before boarding the train in Hong Kong. Just like any country, what having a high-speed,
    efficient rail network in China is doing is bringing the country together and making it
    stronger even if it’s bringing together people that want to stay apart. No matter their motives, it’s clear that
    China is building their high speed rail network more efficiently than any other country. To compare, this is the plan for California’s
    high speed rail line from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area. It’s currently in very early phases of construction
    and is expected to open by 2029. Of course that means that the time it will
    take for the California’s high speed rail network to go from this to this is the same
    as the time it took China’s high speed rail network to go from this to this but, the main
    thing to look at is cost. This Californian network is expected to cost
    $77 billion and is 520 miles long meaning that it will cost $148 million per mile to
    build. China, on the other hand, is building their
    network at a cost of only $30 million per mile. Of course labor costs are lower in China and
    their network crosses more rural areas where land acquisition costs are lower but, what’s
    more meaningful is that they’ve turned building high speed rail into almost an assembly line
    process where they can mass produce even the most expensive elements like viaducts and
    tunnels. In true Chinese fashion, with scale they’re
    making high-speed cheaper. The big difference between China and a lot
    of the western world, particularly countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
    and the UK, is that high speed rail is at the top of the government’s priorities. Unsurprisingly given their government structure,
    in many ways, China has placed social benefit, at least by the definition of the central
    government, ahead of profitability when developing their high speed rail network. High-speed rail lines just aren’t as profitable
    as other means of transport like planes but they are undoubtably better for countries
    so you have to consider the social benefit when looking at their overall profitability. For the San Francisco to LA high speed rail
    route, for example, one study found that the social benefit derived from lower carbon emissions,
    higher worker productivity, and reduced casualties from fewer people on the road would be equivalent
    to about $440 million per year. As it turns out, this is almost the exact
    amount that the state will have to subsidize the line for it to break even. The China Railway Corporation, a state owned
    enterprise, is actually slightly profitable, although it does have huge amounts of debts
    and is helped by government subsidies. The benefit to the Chinese people, though,
    is huge. The high-speed rail allows those who can’t
    afford to live in the most expensive cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to easily
    commute from cheaper suburbs by high-speed rail. Thanks to the high-speed rail, there are now
    75 million people who can commute to Shanghai in under an hour. It is growing what are already some of the
    largest cities and, when it comes to cities, size is strength. These lines connecting the east’s largest
    cities are some of the most profitable rail lines in the world and they’re making living
    and working in China easier but the question is, when we look back decades from now, whether
    the high-speed trains to smaller cities will have made sense. Out of a desire to keep the lines going straight
    between the big cities, the stops for smaller cities are often out in the countryside dozens
    of miles away from the city core. The high speed station for Hengyang, for example,
    a smaller city of only a million, is about a 45 minute drive east of the city center. The hope is that new development will spring
    up around the stations but this network structure, even if it saves time on the train, wastes
    time before and after which degrades the benefit of high-speed rail. In all, China is really the first country
    to have experimented with long-distance, high speed rail through less-dense areas in its
    west. In the east, though, these trains are enlarging
    the country’s economic power. It’s just one of the many factors speeding
    up China’s catch-up with world’s richest countries. Even though China is building these trains
    for less and innovating on the construction of high-speed rail, the real reason why China
    is so good at building railways is because they have the one thing that almost every
    other country lacks—the political will for high-speed trains. Whenever I’m looking to to launch something
    new one of the first things I think about is how to present it online. I think about domain names, emails, websites,
    and where I always go to do all that is Squarespace. As you probably know by now, Squarespace is
    the all-in-one solution to building a web presence for whatever you do. Being in the internet age it’s incredibly
    important to present yourself well online and Squarespace’s beautiful designer templates,
    customizable website builder, and 24/7 award-winning customer support help you do that all for
    a reasonable monthly cost. It’s a much better solution that learning
    how to code a website or paying someone thousands to do it. It is also, of course, made easier by the
    fact that you can get 10% off by going to and you’ll be supporting
    the show by using that link.

    The Baboon That Controlled a Railway for 9 Years
    Articles, Blog

    The Baboon That Controlled a Railway for 9 Years

    August 10, 2019

    This video was made possible by Ecosia. Start using the search engine that plants
    trees with every search you make at Monkey see, monkey do. Baboon see, baboon control a railway used
    by multi-ton trains and thousands of passengers. That’s how it worked in the late 1800’s
    in South Africa. Back in ye olde days radios didn’t exist
    and since trains were loud, you couldn’t just shout at the driver to tell them what
    to do. Therefore, in the 1800s, signals were developed
    as a way to tell incoming trains to stations what to do. At first, lanterns and hand signals were used
    by signalmen to convey the information needed but as technology advanced signals that could
    be controlled by switches and levers were installed to ease the process. These signals were similar to weathervanes
    in that they consisted of fixed posts with movable discs or signage that could be controlled
    via a switch. Various colors meant to stop or go or proceed
    with caution, and there were other vanes on different axes to indicate which tracks to
    pull into once arriving at the stations and various other signs meaning to take it to
    the left, right, to criss-cross, to cha cha now, to cha cha again, and for everybody to
    clap their hands. With the world going loco for locomotives
    at the time tons and tons of signalmen were needed to ensure that the trains stuck to
    schedules, were in working condition, and stuck to the proper tracks. Signalmen, as their names imply, were also
    responsible for operating the levers that would set off the signals for the trains out
    of the signal house. In the 1870s, one of the signalman for the
    Cape Town to Port Elizabeth Mainline Railroad in South Africa was a man named James Wilde. Wilde went by the nickname “Jumper” because
    he had a habit of jumping between the cars that would pass on the tracks and in a totally
    unforeseen and completely unpreventable twist of fate, Jumper once jumped a moving railcar
    and fell under it losing both of his legs in the process. After this, Jumper continued working hobbling
    around on a pair of peg legs although he found himself limited in his ability to signal trains
    proficiently. Not having legs does that. One day at the market, though, Jumper came
    upon a chacma baboon who’d been trained to lead an ox-drawn wagon. Though impressive, its intelligence isn’t
    particularly surprising by today’s standards. We now know that baboons aren’t so different
    from humans in their brain capacity. Baboons can keep schedules, communicate with
    their own language, differentiate between scribbles and the written word, and the University
    of Rochester recently concluded that baboons are actually capable of counting to an extent
    although I’m not sure what all the fuss is about since I’ve been able to do that
    at least since I was double-one or twelve-teen. Jumper begged and begged and finally convinced
    the owner to let him take the baboon and thus the prodigious primate pair was born. The original owner warned Jumper, however,
    that the baboon would refuse to work unless he had been given plenty of brandy to drink. They’re really just like us. The baboon, named Jack, was first taught to
    observe and then respond to certain commands. When Jumper would hold up a certain number
    of fingers, Jack was to pull the corresponding lever. From there, Jack learned that the trains were
    giving similar orders by the number of blats from their whistle. Over time, Jack realized on his known which
    tracks needed which signals and would double-check his own work as he was doing it. He also realized that conductors needed access
    to the coal sheds and would retrieve the key from Jumper unbidden to give to the incoming
    engineers. Now, if your job is replaceable by a monkey
    you really shouldn’t be expecting much job security so surprise surprise both Jack and
    Jumper’s jobs eventually came under threat. Jack was a beloved fixture of the railroad
    until some snobby high-society aristocrat noticed that he was, in fact, a monkey and
    narc’d on the pair. The bosses at the railway were aware that
    Jumper had found an assistant but were totally in the dark about his baboon-ness. After the Cape Town executives launched an
    investigation, they found out the truth about the monkey business. So, naturally, they tried to fire both Jumper
    and Jack. Jumper begged to demonstrate Jack’s cleverness
    and so the rail managers agreed to put him to the test. Jack perfectly performed his signaling abilities,
    even checking both directions to make sure the incoming trains were heading to separate
    tracks at the station. They were so impressed that they made Jack
    an official employee paying him 20 cents a day and half a bottle of beer every week. It’s been said that in the nine years Jack
    worked as a signalman he never made a single mistake, despite being constantly drunk and
    a monkey. Jack became known as “Jack the Signalman”
    and worked and lived with Jumper in a small cottage not far from the signal house. He stayed there and worked for the railroad
    up until his death from tuberculosis in 1890 and his skull is now displayed at a museum
    in Grahamstown, South Africa not far from where he worked. Monkeys can do a lot like play the violin,
    ride bicycles, roller-skate, but what they can’t do is stop the systematic and widespread
    deforestation of their natural habitat. Luckily, you can and you don’t even have
    to spend any money or effort to do it. Ecosia is a nonprofit search engine that uses
    the money generated from advertising to reforest areas including places like Tanzania, Ethiopia,
    and Burkina Faso where there are native baboons. It only takes about 50 searches to plant one
    tree so you can really easily make a difference. Head to to add it to your browser
    so you can start planting trees one search at a time.

    8. Retaining Walls
    Articles, Blog

    8. Retaining Walls

    August 9, 2019

    Retaining walls serve the important role of holding back soil and rock, just as dams hold back water. The first video in this series showed that granular materials, such as soil and rock, generate horizontal pressures that increase linearly with depth. Retaining walls must resist these pressures, and many strategies exist for doing so. In this video, we focus on a popular, L-shaped, cantilever design. If you were going to use an L-shaped wall to hold back soil and rock, as represented by these marbles, would you point the bottom leg toward the marbles or away from them? Many people would say that the base of the “L” should face away from the marbles. They probably realize that it is hard to tip the wall over toward the left if the bottom leg points in that direction. In engineering, we call tipping like this “overturning”. If the bottom leg points the other way around, it is easy to make the wall overturn – so easy, in fact, that I can do it with just a puff of air. It looks like the case is closed. Or is it? Before we declare a final verdict, let’s use the model to find out what happens when the bottom leg points to the left, away from the marbles. As we add marbles, we discover that the horizontal forces they produce create yet another mode of failure, namely sliding of the wall. And this occurs when the marbles reach a depth of 3 centimeters. In the model, we can increase the friction between the retaining wall and the base by placing a rubber mat between them. You will have to do some extra reading if you want to find out how they achieve this end in the real world. As you can see, increasing the friction allows our model wall to support a noticeably greater depth of marbles. But it still eventually fails by overturning, in this case, when the depth reaches 8 centimeters. Now, let’s turn the wall around so its bottom leg points toward the right, the side where the marbles will be placed. We again use a rubber sheet to prevent sliding, and we add some marbles. As before, the marbles generate a horizontal force that depends on the marble depth. You might be surprised that this wall can hold back 11 centimeters of marbles before it overturns. Can you explain why the wall can resist a greater height of marbles when the bottom leg points toward them? Is there an additional force that comes into play? Recall that granular materials generate both horizontal and vertical pressures. When the bottom leg is oriented away from the marbles, overturning is resisted only by the weight of the wall itself, and so it overturns easily. When the bottom leg points toward the marbles, the vertical pressure from the marbles helps to keep the wall upright. The downward pressure also increases the friction between the bottom of the wall and the ground, thereby reducing the likelihood of sliding. When engineers design L-shaped retaining walls, they imagine them overturning about the point labelled Q. They first calculate how strongly the soil pressure will tend to make the wall rotate about Q. We call this tendency to tip an overturning moment, and we label it MO. Next, they figure out the stabilizing moment, MS, produced by the soil pushing downward on the horizontal leg of the wall. Lastly, they make sure that the horizontal leg is long enough that the stabilizing moment is at least as large as the overturning moment. Then the retaining wall will be stable. You might be surprised to learn that L-shaped walls are seldom used as dams. The reason is that pressurized water at the bottom of the dam can seep under the base of the dam. And if it does, the resulting upward water pressure on the bottom of the dam can generate an additional moment and make the dam overturn. Lots of other clever approaches can be used to design retaining walls, but we do not have time to discuss them here. To learn more about how soil, water
    and other materials interact with structures, we hope you will view our videos on “Dams”,
    “Silos and Tanks”, and “Tunnels and Culverts”.

    How To Make a 3 Penny Battery
    Articles, Blog

    How To Make a 3 Penny Battery

    August 9, 2019

    Is there free energy hiding in your spare
    change? In this video you’ll learn how to turn a handful of pennies into batteries that
    can power some of your small electronic devices. For this project, I’ll need pennies. My neighbor
    Trevor gave me these and I’ll begin sorting them by date. I want pennies newer than 1982
    because they’re nearly 98% Zinc. Ok I’ve picked out 10 pennies that I think will work, so
    I’ll use this 100 grit sandpaper and start sanding one side of the penny. Actually, this
    may be too much work, so I’ll try some double sided sticky tape and an orbital sander. This
    is working much better to expose the zinc, but the adhesive has melted from the friction,
    and left these pennies in a sticky mess. No problem, I’ll just use some adhesive remover
    to clean them up, and now they’re looking great! It’s time to build a battery. I’ll
    cut some thin cardboard into pieces just bigger than the penny, and throw them in some vinegar.
    While those are soaking, I’ll start my battery cell by placing one of the pennies with the
    copper side down on a piece of aluminum foil. As you can see, nothing is happening yet,
    so I’ll blot dry one of my cardboard pieces, and place it on top. This time when I measure
    the voltage, I’m excited to see over half a volt from this one cell! I’ll add another
    penny and cardboard, and repeat the process until I’ve stacked up all my pennies. Now
    the cells are connected in series, and the electric potential has jumped to nearly 6
    volts! Wow. This should be more than enough voltage to drive an LED, so I’ll test it out
    with this one. It works perfectly, and I can’t believe how brilliantly this lights up. Just
    for fun I’m testing the currant draw and it’s pulling about 170 microamps. I can even light
    up two at once. Ok, so it works, and it’s actually really impressive that I’m getting
    electricity from pennies, but now I’m curious to know how long this can last? I’ll use some
    electrical tape to hold everything in place, and try to fix these cardboard edges because
    they shouldn’t be touching. I’ll do my best to make it air tight to prevent the wet cardboard
    from drying out too quickly, and then carry it with me for the next couple of hours to
    watch when for it dies out. Ok so now it’s more than 2 days later and I really can’t
    believe what I’m seeing. The green light is still on, which means these little pennies
    are still pumping out juice! This is awesome, so I wanna try another idea. I’ve picked up
    a calculator from the dollar store and I’ll remove the screws on the back so I can get
    to the battery. Once that’s removed I’ll pull the negative and positive leads out of the
    casing. And now I’ll need to make another penny battery. This time I don’t feel like
    sanding the pennies, so I’m adding these zinc washers I got from the hardware store for
    about 3 cents each. I need around 1.5 volts, so I’ll use 3 pennies, 3 washers, and 3 pieces
    of cardboard soaked in vinegar. This time I’ve rounded the cardboard edges so they won’t
    be a problem. And I’ll stack them with the washer on the bottom, the cardboard in the
    middle, and the penny on top. This is one cell, and I need 3 so I’ll stack up 2 more.
    The penny on top is the positive side and the zinc washer on bottom is the negative.
    I’m getting just over 2 volts and 700 microamps, so I’ll add wires to the terminals and use
    some more electrical tape to hold it together. Time to test it on the calculator. I’ll press
    the “on” button, and it’s incredible, the calculator fires right up! I’m testing out
    a few functions and everything calculates correctly, so now I just need to clean these
    wires up a bit. I’ll chip holes in the casing, and hardwire my pennies into the battery leads,
    then tape the penny stack to the back. A penny powered calculator?! I really am impressed
    at how well this worked out… …and still patiently waiting for this little green light
    to die out. Well there’s an idea that’s worth a few cents. If you like this project perhaps
    you’ll like some of my others. Check them out at