Down the Tubes

Back in the ’70s, my Holy Grail was no X-Wing fighter, though, like every young dude, I loved them Star Wars. The thing I wanted (and never got until 1996, incidentally) was this travesty of ’70s design and impractical technology:

That would be the Micronauts Rocket Tubes. Turns out I was probably lucky I never got them in the ’70s. Though for some people the things never seem to work, like, at all, I found them a barely workable, surprisingly dull series of leaky tubes through which a special micronaut figure or a single “Time Traveller” figure in a pod could jet. And now it seems that this future I was led (by prophetic toys, yes) to believe I’d now be living in may finally be arriving. I was not alone in envisioning a future of zipping around in tubes. Now there’s a serious proposal to use “evacuated tube” technology for transportation. It would involve tubes with the air removed through which personal pods would zip at 4,000 mph. Which is pretty fast. We’re talking around the world in a few hours.

Of course, that requires building some serious tubage. It’s in many ways a very cool idea, but I don’t even like to think about the possibilities for failure, not to mention terrorism. The designers go to great lengths to say how every mile or so there’ll be an escape hatch in case of disaster, lack of vacuum, etc. Though I’m sure crawling through a completely dark tube for a half mile isn’t high on most people’s “favorite things” list.

One of their proposals involves clamping people into, basically, a coffin just like the one your Micronaut could zip around in for solo transport through smaller tubes. I just can’t believe people are going to be signing up for that. The new tubes, I’m going to guess, will go the way of Micronauts Rocket Tubes–an interesting curiosity.

James Heflin

Author: James Heflin

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