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First Private High-Speed Train in America Could Take 3 Million Cars off the Road [Watch]

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Soon, commuters in Florida will have the opportunity to travel from West Palm Beach to Miami in 60 minutes, rather than five hours. Such will be possible thanks to the country’s first private high-speed rail service, which was funded by All Aboard Florida.

The Brightline express cost $3 billion to construct and can travel at speeds of 120 mph. During its debut this month, it will run slower – at about 80 mph. NPR reports the high-speed trains will run along the state’s densest population corridor, which is accessible to more than $6 million people. As a result of this development, approximately 3 million cars will be taken off South Florida’s congested highways.

According to John Renne, the director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University, the project represents the first test of the long-awaited U.S. move into high-speed rail.

“It’s the first time that it’s happening, being built by a private company,” Renne told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “And that’s kind of a game changer for this type of model.”

All Aboard Florida was intent on keeping the train privately-funded. To do this, it secured state approval to sell bonds to fund the project in October of this year.

Credit: Brightline

The service will start this month, just in time for the holidays. Trains will run from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale. By early next year, commuters will be able to travel to downtown Miami. There are also plans to expand to Orlando in the future. To ensure travel is as convenient as possible, All Aboard Florida planned for retail, restaurants, and condominiums to be placed near the stations.

There are many benefits to the country’s first high-speed rail. To begin with, it will drastically cut down travel times for passengers. Second, it is beneficial to the environment, as it reduces the number of cars on the road. And thirdly the construction of private mixed-used real estate developments at each station will guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. This could lead to a dramatic improvement of public transportation in America.

Said Renne, explaining that potential revenue was lost when the government “shifted control of transportation to the public sector” approximately a century ago: “When that happened, we lost the connection between the development around the stations and the rail service itself, and we started building a lot of parking lots around the stations,” Renne said. More people stopped using public transportation because “once they’re in their car, they might as well just drive the whole way.”

John Guitar, of All Aboard Florida, echoed a similar sentiment in 2014 when he said:

“The federal highway system expanded … and everyone got off trains and into cars. And we’ve done a full circle now that the traffic and congestion and gas prices are so bad, people are looking for alternatives to get out of their cars and find other ways to get around the state.”

Unsurprisingly, the ambitious project is not without controversy. Reportedly, two counties along the Treasure Coast sued to stop the project; opponents argued that it poses “significant safety concerns and would likely delay commuters in cars.” The majority of the lawsuits have been dropped or thrown out, however.

Those in the boating industry are also concerned. South Florida’s waterways are heavily-traveled by fishing boats and luxury yachts. When the trains are traveling through the area, the bridges must remain down. There is concern that this will slow productivity and “cause congestion on the water.” Said Jim Naugle of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida:

“The economic impact of the marine industry here is bigger than the economic impact of All Aboard Florida and its’ service to Orlando. They need to find a way to preserve that commerce.”

Despite these concerns, the project has continued on track (pun intended).

Credit: Brightline

The company has yet to confirm the price of tickets. However, a 2015 study commissioned by All Aboard Florida suggests it will cost at least $16 to travel from West Palm to Miami. As NPR points out, that’s about $10 more than the price to travel a similar route on the government-run passenger train. The latter option is much slower, of course.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

Learn more: Brightline


h/t NPR

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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