Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shinkansen follow-up

Slashdot has some interesting discussion on the Japanese bullet train.

A couple of interesting posts:

Amtrak is the inter-state railway system in the USA and is supposed to be equivalent to the inter-prefecture system in Japan. Yet, why does Amtrak refuse to use bullet trains? Amtrak uses the regular trains that travel 100 kph, at best. Typically, the speed is closer to 80 kph. The result is that traveling between states usually takes several days. Imagine trying to spend several days locked in a train.

Given the fact that Amtrak is supposed to compete against airplanes and that Amtrak is covering great distances, it should be using bullet trains exclusively.

Amtrak has been a money-losing operation since day #1. For some reason, the American politicians just cannot determine why Amtrak remains unprofitable. How can anyone be so ignorant that he cannot see the reason? No one wants to ride a train for 2 or 3 days when you can take an airplane for equivalent cost to the same destination in less than a day.

Does any American politician even know the phrase, "Japanese bullet train"? The answer to Amtrak's problems is staring the American government in the face, and no one is adovating the right solution. I almost think that the lobbyists for the commercial aviation industry (i.e. Boeing & Airbus) want to ensure that Amtrak is not allowed to use bullet trains.
Here's another one:

First one ran in the late '60s for the Olympics. It's still online....

I was on a platform, on the bullet line, one time, outside Tokyo, about 1/4 mile from a tunnel entrance/exit. The tracks leading to the station platform were canted so the train could bank into the turn. You could feel the ion change in the air that preceded the train as it exploded out of the tunnel and blasted past the platform...the locals had one hand on the newspaper and the other wrapped around the nearest pole to counter the terrific buffering as the 1,000 seat wonder blew past. Inside, there are LCDs showing live telemetry - it's very hard to tell how fast you're really moving, since the ride is so smooth and quiet.

I saw a video on TV one time, showing how they run field tests of various segment showed a technician putting on an old leather flying helmet and goggles. He climbed a small ladder and slid open a hatch in the roof and stuck his head out...while the train was hurtling along at full speed in the dark of night.

The trains shut down automatically if a quake threatens...they have to keep the lines a significant distance from buildings and roads, so when one of them goes down, it takes a portable bridge crew to get to them. They clean ice off the boggies with high-pressure steam cleaners mounted on bridges when the weather turns cold. Color cameras are mounted everywhere, so that the crew and central control can do visual checks at will.

When the bullets pull into Tokyo Station, the stews inside are just like on a 747, with a replacement crew lined up along the platform, waiting for shift change. All neat as a pin. The 'pilots' are dressed just like commercial airline staff, and draw huge crowds, with autograph seekers and train groupies galore. I had my photo taken with one, and he even let me wear his hat :)

They have a mini-shinkansen that goes up into the mountains for weekend ski trips that is the best looking...all smoked glass and dark gun-metal gray, with green pinstripes. The mega-shinkansen is a double-decker design, that looks a bit ungainly, yet it still manages speeds high enough to match domestic airline travel times.

You have to ride on one of these beasts to appreciate them.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

New Japanese Bullet Train

Seems to be all over the news today, but Japan Railway is testing a new bullet train that will operate at a record-breaking 223 miles per hour -- faster than many propeller airplanes.

Currently, the world's fastest trains in commercial operation are the Sanyo Shinkansen run by West Japan Railway, the TGV in France and the Eurostar which links London, Brussels and Paris, all of which can travel at up to 300 km per hour.

Top speed of 405 km per hour

The fastest bullet train currently operated by JR East has a maximum speed of 275 km per hour but the Fastech 360S is designed with a top speed of 405 km per hour in mind.

It is equipped to stop quickly in the event of an earthquake or other emergency, with air spoilers similar to those on a plane being deployed. With the breaks deployed, this shinkansen looks like a cat. What a difference between Japan Railway trains and the still-being-repaired Amtrak Acela Express that never ran more than 150 mph and usually around 100mph. The closest thing to decent public urban transportation is NYC's subway system, but there's much to be desired. At this pace, with the American's love of cars, and perception of public transportation, the US will not be developing an effective train system anytime soon. I remeber travelling by train in Japan and across the Western USA as a kid, and am afraid to say that those fond memories will be gone in future generations.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

World Bank lends China $87 mln for renewable energy

Can you imagine the effects of the use of renewable energy in a country with 1.3 billion people? Even if 0.5% of the population in China (65,000,000 people) were to use small hydropower, wind, biomass, geothermal and/or solar energy, the effects on the environment, oil dependency, and economy would be significant enough to allow us a secure future.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

kids and technology

I know I'm getting older when I see news about how the Korean Office of Education is distributing leaflets on cellphone etiquette to elementary, junior high, and high schools. I didn't even have a cell phone in college and not until I was in grad school did I get a pager. Let's see, I started using cell phones around 1998, email around 1993, so a high school freshman now was born around the time mass email and cell phones were in use. I guess it's a similar cycle of events when I was born and TV was already in every home. I never knew a world without TV. Similarly, high schoolers never knew a world without cell phones, email, and the Internet.

I'm glad the Office of Education is trying to educate kids about etiquette. People (especially adults) need to be educated more about this, especially in public places like trains, buses, and streets. This must be a real challenge in a world where cellphones have multi-megapixel cameras, speech-to-text, mp3 players, digital satellite TV, GPS, etc. The guideline suggests ideas to prevent 'addiction' to cell phones, but if that's all they know, (just like TV was to my generation), is it considered an addiction, or is this a fact of life? This is current phenomena and not a future problem, but interesting to think about the future by looking back for a change.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

new fashion trend: Ruehl (Part 2)

When I wrote about Ruehl back in March, not many people had heard of it. I like this 'concept store' because they have the 'cool factor'. Now that have written up Ruehl, more investors will take notice. Its sales of $159 million were 43% higher compared with the same period a year ago, while GAP's sales decreased 3% compared with a year ago (includes GAP, Banana Republic, and Old Navy). What other retail stocks can say the same? Since 2001, it's even beaten Chico (CHS: NYSE), which has seen an unbelieveable run up in stock price. But Chico's target is for the older woman. In any case, the new breed of bringing a lifestyle store to the masses is getting to be more and more the norm. There will be a lot more stores that will try to model their brand experience of Abercrombie, Hollister, and Ruehl.

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More solar power roofing

These look like the Kyocera panels previously written about. It looks like there will be some more competition, which is great for the market. With NY, NJ, CA and other states giving subsidy on home solar panels, homeowners may start to consider installing these in the near future. Maybe the hybrid car publicity will spill over more and more into the home renewable resources ideas.

via gizmodo

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Renewable Energies

There must be a tipping point for solar power and renewable energies in the past few months. There was an article titled "Solar power heats up" in today's Wall Street Journal. I also read an article in the MIT's Technology Review of wind power.

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