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The jet lag game

(Per the dictionary on this here laptop)

Stupefy:

verb (stupefies, stupefying, stupefied) [ with obj. ]

* Make (someone) unable to think or feel properly
* astonish and shock

That first definition fits me like a glove right now. Here's why:

There are two types of jet lag.

The first (let's call it east-to-west, which is what it is if the journey doesn't cross the international date line) is fairly simple: as you travel east-to-west, each time zone you cross adds an hour to your day. So a flight from the UK to the east coast of the USA, four or five time zones behind the UK, means a 28-29 hour day. This is fairly survivable, as long as it doesn't also involve getting up at 4am to get to the airport (which alas, all too often it does). To survive it, your goal should be to stay awake until your normal bed-time in the destination time zone: caffeine, bright lights, and conversation help. If you accomplish this you will probably wake up on local time, and be fine thereafter (except for some evening tiredness for the next few days: apply caffeine to taste).

The second type of jet lag, west-to-east, is the real killer. (And it's what I've got right now, prompting this brain dump.) Traveling west-to-east, each time zone you traverse subtracts an hour from your day. Or night. And in the case of trans-Atlantic journeys, this is usually combined with a red-eye flight — for example, departing and 8pm and arriving 6-7 hours later, but 10-12 hours later according to the clock in your destination time zone.

The consequence of stacking a red-eye flight on top of a short day is that you either sleep on the flight, or you lose an entire night. As I can't sleep in economy seating and can't afford to routinely fly first or business[*], I generally lose the night. So what happens is something like this:

On Wednesday, I woke up in Boston at 8am, local time (East Coast). That evening, I boarded a flight to Paris: it departed at 7:45pm and landed at 8:15am, 6h30m and five time zones later. As I was traveling economy, I managed to doze for about an hour during the 3h30m stretch between lights-out after dinner and lights-on for breakfast. (Yes, full service airlines still serve meals on trans-Atlantic flights.) I then had a 6h30m transfer period between arrival and boarding for my connecting flight from Paris to Edinburgh (home): just too short to get into Paris and grab lunch then get out again (the train takes an hour each way, and subway time, ticketing, and restaurant-hunting eat into the safety margin). Boarding for the flight home was at 2:50pm; arrival at Edinburgh was 4:30pm (yes, it was an east-to-west flight, gaining a time zone), and I managed to nap for about 30 minutes. So I arrived home at 6pm, GMT, or around 2pm, EST, suffering from serious sleep deprivation: about 90 minutes of nap-time, but no REM sleep, in a 30 hour period. And to make matters worse, trying to stay up until a reasonable local bed-time would stack another 4-5 hours on top of that.

I've developed two techniques for dealing with west-to-east jet lag over the years.

The first method works if you can get home by about 4pm. Simply put: go to bed immediately but set an alarm to wake you after no more than 3 hours. Then get up, and stay up, until 11pm. That's around 3-5 hours. During this time, do nothing more intellectually challenging than running a hot bath. You haven't caught up with your sleep deficit, you've just pushed it back a bit: you are as cognitively impaired as if you are medium-drunk. Now is a good time — if you have the energy — to load your dirty clothes into the washing machine, have a bath, watch something mindless on TV, and catch up on web comics. Don't worry: you won't remember anything tomorrow. Just refrain from answering urgent business email, driving, assembling delicate instruments, or discussing important matters — if you do any of these things, odds are high that you'll get them horribly wrong due to the impairment caused by cumulative sleep deprivation.

Once you hit bedtime, you can go back to bed and sleep like a log. The next day, again, treat it as a sick day: don't try to do anything where the cost of failure is significant. Try to allow as much time after arrival as your total sleep-deprived travel time before you do anything challenging: in this case, around 36 hours.

(NB: I do not classify blogging while jet-lagged as "challenging". Dumb, perhaps, but not difficult.)

If you get home after about 4pm, the afternoon-nap trick probably won't work; you'll get up, wander around like a zombie for an hour or two, go back to bed, and wake up at 5am. So the alternative is to stay up as long as possible and then hit yourself on the head with a rubber mallet or some sort of sleeping potion. In my case, last night I made it just past 9pm: then I took some melatonin and slept for 13 hours. (Alas: Melatonin is available over the counter in the USA, but in many other countries, including the UK, it's either a prescription-only medicine or not legally sold at all.) Again, the next day should be written off as a sick day. Worse: I generally need one day per four time zones to recover — an eight or ten time zone west-to-east trip therefore takes an extra day on top of the regular post-arrival day.

All of which leads up to my biggest complaint about the 21st century so far:

Dude, where's my teleport booth?

Teleport booths wouldn't eliminate jet lag, but you'd never be more than 15 minutes from your own bed, or a bar with bright lights and loud voices to keep you awake. More importantly, you could schedule your long-distance travel for optimum utility. Go home at 4pm EST, arriving 8pm GMT: take a sleeping pill, knock yourself out, and wake up on local time. Or better still, just commute daily, without bothering to accommodate to the local time zone at your destination.

PS: This was going to be a blog entry describing a live action role-playing game to simulate international travel and jet lag for the uninitiated, but I ran out of energy while trying to come up with the rules. Other than this:

"During your in-flight period, tie yourself to your office chair. You are allowed one toilet trip per two hours, lasting no more than 5 minutes. Before each toilet trip, roll 1d6; a roll of 1 indicates Turbulence, roll 2d20 and remain seated for this many more minutes. You may untie your seatbelt if you're feeling brave, but must keep track of your un-tied time, including toilet trips. For every 60 minutes you spend not tied to your chair, roll 1d100. If you roll a 1, the aircraft has encountered Strong Calm-Air Turbulence. Get your best friend to beat you around the head and shoulders with a baseball bat then knock you to the floor and wait 60 minutes before calling an ambulance."

[*] There are some journeys I will only undertake if I can afford business class because otherwise they amount to torture by sleep deprivation and prolonged confinement in an uncomfortable position. Which generally means I don't undertake them at all, or only under extremely unusual circumstances.

184 Comments

1:

I always wake up early after an East to West flight, even after following the recommendations outlined above. I just put up with that (and don't plan to be too active in the evenings).

For the return journey, part of the fatigue comes simply from the fact that the whole trip (conference, tourism, whatever) has been tiring, so I'm not at my best to start with. What I find works best is to switch back to the home time zone a.s.a.p., mentally before even getting on the plane. I have my evening meal beforehand, even if it is mid-afternoon at the destination. On the plane, I put in the earplugs and put on the blindfold and wrap myself in the blanket as soon as we're in the air. It's gone midnight in home time; why would I be eating a meal in the wee hours?

Mind you, none of that would help with a 6 hours transfer at the hub airport.

Anyway, commiserations and I hope you're back to normal soon.

2:

Ah yes, I've just had four economy transatlantic flights in two weeks, and am just about recovered from the jet lag.

The last one was a killer - drove to Toronto airport in a blizzard, then waited for several hours watching other flights take off until 3am when Air Canada cancelled the flight, told us there were no hotels and we had to sort out rebooking ourselves.

Luckily Mary found a room in an airport hotel, and we were able to put a travel agent on rebooking duties, though they rang us up at 9am to let us know what the status of things was...

Then when we checked in early they told us they'd probably lose our bags, and that we couldn't sit next to each other. At least we were able to swap seats with some one else to be beside each other in the end. And of course YYZ-LHR is a short route at the best of times, but with the current strong west-east jet stream we were landing in LHR in less than 7 hours...

Ah, travel. Why do we do it?

3:

Whenever anyone mentions teleportation I always think of 'the jaunt'. Not the best or most original tele-frag story, but it stays with you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jaunt

4:

I've had four in four weeks. And in about six weeks, it's Australia time, which is much, much, worse.

Business class on long-haul makes a huge difference -- you get a recliner at worst, and a lay-flat bed if on the right aircraft/with the right airline. But costs around 5 times as much on trans-Atlantic, and 2.5-3 times as much on trans-Pacific/far east routes. And it still doesn't save you from the time zone torture ...

5:

Does whisky help, or not?

6:

Whiskey only helps if you enjoy hang-overs. It won't keep me awake when I need keeping awake, and if I drink enough to help me fall asleep I regret it the next day.

7:

I once turned down an opportunity to go to a week-long conference in Hawaii. My colleagues thought I was crazy, but to my mind it avoided two 24-hr flights and 5 days of 11-hour-time-zone-shift torture, all in order to endure 5 long days of talks and powerpoint presentations. It really wasn't a hard choice.

8:

There's another factor that I've found makes getting over jet lag a lot harder: north-south season changes. After months of winter daylight hours its the most confusing thing to suddenly find yourself in a place where the sun rises at 5 and sets after 9.

The first time this happened to me I was already jet lagged and confused but rather than sleeping solidly through the night I woke up at sunrise because my body was so used to waking up in the dark that the increase in light made it feel like I'd overslept.

Takes about 3 days to get used to that shift.

9:

Out of curiosity, why would crossing the international date line change the problems? Or do you mean that, if you travel three-quarters of the way around the world east to west, it doesn't actually make it any easier than the shorter equivalent west to east trip?

10:

I've not spent much time travelling by plane (I have only once travelled outside the UK and that was to Frankfurt) so I have never experienced jet-lag. A bonus to be sure, but it also means I have no instinct about travelling across timezones, so trying to work out all the technicalities/practicalities of it boggles my mind. I have heard though that R Buckminster Fuller used to wear three watches; one told the time where he was, one told the time where he was going (or had just been I guess), and the third always told the time in his home town. Apparently he did it so that he would have a better understanding for timezones. A little off-topic, but I've always found it interesting...

11:

I'm flying back to the States from Australia on Tuesday. Coming back five days early to be able to deal with the jet lag before going back to work.

The International Date Line just adds an extra layer of adventure. I leave Brisbane at 11:30am on Tuesday. I arrive at LAX at 6:30am. On Tuesday.

At least I can have fun showing people the exit and entry stamps in my passport, if nothing else.

12:

Ahhh, teleport booths - great in principle - it's the dematerialising/rematerialising bit that gets me. Can't quite get my head around the fact that the person arriving at the other end is a copy that thinks it's you...

13:

Incidentally, my name is Antony. I have no idea why logging in with my google account gives a weblink to that alphabet soup. I just hope the link doesn't give anything sensitive away...

14:

The google login API is a bit broken. If it pains you, register an account with Movable Type and use that instead? (It's not syndicated and will only work on this blog, but you can use a throwaway with a "don't care" password if you like.)

15:

Melatonin is available in the UK -- I've been taking it for years, ordered from biovea dot net...

16:

Interesting: I wonder what their legal loophole is?

(Melatonin is legal to possess in the UK, but you can't buy it without a prescription. However, if that web store is using a payment jurisdiction where melatonin is legal to buy over the counter, then it's probably legal for them to sell it to you and for you to import it for personal use. And there's probably somewhere in the EU where it's legal to sell OTC.)

17:

If you're not worried about dietary rules, there are restaurants just outside both Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est stations. But if you've only got an hour, that's a bit rushed anyway.

(We actually ate inside GdN late yesterday afternoon. We couldn't have met up since we didn't get into GdE until after your takeoff.)

When we did Oz in 2010, we paid for Business class all the way there and back. We managed to sleep much of the way to HK, and then most of the way down to Melbourne too. We were tired, but we did outlast you that same evening on the pub crawl and you'd been there a day longer, I believe.

18:

Thanks Charlie, I will next time. I did have a logon, but forgot it and I just thought I'd use google for swiftness... now spent three times longer commenting with my time-saving shortcut (about the same as just about any shortcut I've ever taken really)....

19:

Last time we tried going into Paris for lunch during a long stop-over it turned out that the vegan-friendly restaurant we were looking for that said it opened at 11am actually only opened at 1pm. With boarding due at 2:40pm, that error resulted in a hungry day ...

Oz in 2010: we traveled business class too. (Can't afford to do so very often.) Unfortunately I'd calculated our schedule with sleeping en route from Paris to Hong Kong in mind. Which would have worked brilliantly, if the plane on our first sector hadn't sat on the apron for three hours while a mechanic attacked the port engine with a wrench. This resulted in an 8-hour delay, which totally fucked my attempt at scheduling our sleep shifts to avoid jet lag, and ended up costing me a week of 3 hour afternoon naps :(

20:

Jet lag is why we try to stick events together in chains and stay in time zone for a month or so at a time. Luckily as a freelance tech journalist this works as I can work anywhere there is wifi.

21:

Booze once you arrive, and lots of it (aka the hard reset) used to work for me. Now I swear by melatonin and early nights, although if you have nothing to be awake for the next day, I still find six pints and three gins is the universal panacea...

22:

Yeah, failure like that screws you up, to a greater or lesser extent. I'd forgotten about your litany of woes on that trip.

We were meant to be in Paris for 35 minutes on Thursday last week, for the Gare du Nord to Gare de l'Est transfer between the inbound Eurostar and the outbound TGV to Strasbourg. 35 minutes is plenty of time to walk from one station to the other. It's enough time to wait for the platform announcement. It's not enough time to think about having a quick lunch as well.

If we'd known the TGV was going to be so sick they had to keep rebooting it and it would only finally depart over two hours late, we'd have had a nice meal. (But then, if we'd have known, they'd have known also, and it wouldn't have been late because they'd have fixed the problem earlier.)

So arrival in Strasbourg was at 21:00 instead of 17:45 (speed limited because of the weather), and we weren't looking for a restaurant till gone 10pm local. The result was expensive and we didn't leave the restaurant until gone midnight.

23:

West-East jetlag is a killer :-( but I have found a couple of tricks that helps a bit:

1. Take a melatonin tablet already on the flight (this will give you a couple of hours of sleep)

2. If possible have a really busy schedule when you arrive back from the trip (This forces you into the right sleep cycle)

3. Sleep when you can. Trying to force your sleep cycle only puts you into the zombie mode Charlie describes. Use melatonin to synchronize your circadian cycle. In other words go to sleep when you arrive even if it is at noon and sleep as long as needed and then use melatonin to go back to sleep at the correct time in whatever timezone you are in.

4. Light therapy can help but you need a lamp that have a strong blue light tone (high color temperature). Light with a warm color temperature will actually work in the wrong direction.

24:

Only flown overseas once and that was back in '95. All recent air travel has been basically thousand-mile trips, Texas or northern states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts. Usually I'm stuck making a connecting flight so the total travel time is doubled.

I'm ready to start punching holes in the fuselage from the time I belt in to the time I deplane. The flying experience is repulsive and demeaning. I'd get good and drunk to make the time more pleasant except they won't let me bring any of my own fluids onboard and who can afford to get drunk with what they charge you in airport bars?

Aircraft have been turned into flying cattle cars. And don't even get me started on the TSA: proof the terrorists have won. Land of the free, home of the brave? Hell, no. It's the cringing pit for the feeble-minded and cowardly who cast away all liberties with trembling hands the moment someone with a swarthy face says "boo."

You want to keep the TSA? Fine. All I ask is a separate set of planes for those who wish to travel unscreened. That's right. No xrays, no patdowns, carry onboard whatever you want. Easy target for hijackers and terrorists? Oh, think again, buddy. This is going to be a plane full of people so fed up and angry with the TSA that we're willing to fly unscreened. We've got the collective demeanor of Lewis Black on a bad day. You want to try hijacking us? Brother, there's not going to be enough of you left for a body bag. They'll be hosing you out of the plane.

I've got two work flights coming up in a month. I need to figure out a way to get dehydrated whisky on the plane, just add water.

25:

QHI sell melatonin via post - they're reliable, and the taste in my mouth the morning after argues they're not selling me sugar...

26:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/american-airlines-us-airways-merge-to-form-worlds,31302/

American Airlines, US Airways Merge To Form World's Largest Inconvenience

27:

Take a melatonin tablet already on the flight (this will give you a couple of hours of sleep)

This doesn't work for me unless I've got a higher-than-economy grade seat. Thing is, I'm middle-aged and a bit fat. So I can't sleep on my side in an economy-class seat. But if I sleep on my back/sitting up, my jaw drops open and I begin to snore. Leaving aside the fact that this is highly anti-social for my seat-neighbors, it means my oropharanygeal tract dries up in the arid air-conditioned air flow, which leads to an invariable throat/chest infection and a week of subsequent down-time.

Severe sleep deprivation is the lesser evil, here. Best solution is a business-class seat that turns into a lie-flat bed -- if you can afford it.

28:

Yes, that's all too true. A couple of things that I've found helpful:

British Airways/AA have at times offered morning flights from the east coast of the US to Europe. This is fantastic, if you need to be a functioning human being the first day after your flight. Although you have an oddly short day -- 18-20 hours -- I find I'm able to sleep reasonably well that first night in Europe. (I'm not sure if any of these daytime west-to-east transatlantic flights currently exist.)

There is also the fasting to avoid jetlag technique: http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-naturally-reset-your-sleep-cycle-overnight I haven't tested this enough yet to be able to confirm how well it works for me, but it does seem helpful.

29:

In about 5 weeks I am travelling from the UK to US east-coast for a two-week holiday. Nothing I haven't doen several times before, nothing I don't have a handle on how to cope with. But this time -- just to make it interesting you understand -- I have decided to bring a pregnant wife and two under-10 kids. Hilarity will no doubt ensue.

30:

Para 4 - I know several people who thought that Boeing's idea of cutting an hour off transit times with a faster airliner wasn't the way to go; they'd sooner cut an hour off the "security" theatre between checkin and boarding.

31:

That's why the Sonic Cruiser concept got no traction; that's largely what killed Concorde (that and Airbus and a Japanese partner trying to kill it off to make room for a successor SST -- then cancelling the project).

A supersonic bizjet would just clean right up. No TSA security theatre on general aviation, you just drive straight up to the aircraft and climb on board. But jet lag is still an inconvenience to the super-rich (into which category I consign anyone who can afford to fly on a bizjet; even renting a seat costs upwards of £1000/hour). A supersonic bizjet should halve the pain, so ...

32:

This entry hits the nail on the head on so many levels. As a Yank living in Germany, I've had to make a number of trips back to the States, and I've really come to dread the flight back. Most of those flights have been business funded by taxpayers, so flying coach (let's just be honest and start calling it steerage) was mandatory.

I'd personally recommend against too much booze on the flight, primarily due to the contribution it makes to dehydration, which is one of the many ways that flying messes with your body. For me, the zombie watch to unconsciousness is also the best approach. I also do my best to schedule recovery days on the end; my last trip I cut two days off my vacation just so I'd be relatively human when I came back to work.

I also agree we've totally missed the boat on flight security; another case of closing barn door after horse has departed. And heaven forbid if you have your nail clippers in your carryon - you're obviously going to use them to take over the plane by threatening a nasty pinch! All the security measures trail the threat by a significant margin. (First weapons, now carry-on liquids. Perhaps we should all board the plane naked. No, wait, that'd be a terror attack too.) If you really want a fun security experience, try flying out of Israel (much harder than flying in). Imagine TSA run by competents with no fear of negative press.

Short of teleportation, maybe we should mix teleconferencing with rail and sea travel, when we have the time for it. Both seem far less dehumanizing.

33:

And a p.s. - I loved the show "Alias", partly out of the sheer implausibility of it, but the one thing that put me off was them flying halfway round the world and stepping off the plane fresh as a daisy!

34:

Perhaps we should all board the plane naked

I'm wondering when they'll get round to insisting you change into disposable paper clothing before passing security, with everything else becoming hold baggage. Oh, and then being sedated to sleep.

35:

I also agree we've totally missed the boat on flight security; another case of closing barn door after horse has departed.

Oh yeah, I forgot to add this PPS:

I've succumbed to carrying a 3-1-1 baggie full of DANGEROUS EXPLOSIVE TOOTHPASTE and other Potions Of Mass Destruction, which has to go through the security X-ray machine in a tray for visual inspection.

I forgot to remove it from my bag at Logan (Boston) for the flight home. Nobody noticed.

(I suspect my opting out of the teraherz body scanner disrupted their workflow sufficiently that they weren't paying as much attention as normal. Otherwise I'm at a bit of a loss as to how the screener managed to miss several tubes of ointment -- some of them made of aluminium -- in my carry-on.)

Ahem. As you were, now.

36:

Cattle car. Steerage. Whatever.

Don't like it. Pay more. As Charlie implied it is a choice.

But 99% of the flyers (well maybe 98%) will always go cheaper before they consider things like leg room, free meals, free checked baggage, etc...

My wife has worked on the phones in reservations for a major airlines for nearly 20 years. Price is always the first concern. So the airlines make economy seating as cheap as possible.

37:

I once turned down an opportunity to go to a week-long conference in Hawaii. My colleagues thought I was crazy, but to my mind it avoided two 24-hr flights and 5 days of 11-hour-time-zone-shift torture, all in order to endure 5 long days of talks and powerpoint presentations. It really wasn't a hard choice.

I don't know. The one time I was in Hawaii for a week the natives were complaining about the heat. It was getting up to 85F during the day. 75F lows at night. It was worth the 12 hours of flying.

38:

I'd say that 5 days of death by PowerPoint in mid 20s heat is extraordinary punishment!

39:

Approximately speaking I'd want 2" more legroom long haul; tell me how that justifies range 2.5 .. 5 x more expenditure!

40:

Actually, many of the carriers working the North Atlantic route will happily sell you 4" extra leg room in economy class. Prices vary from around £48 (Air France, last time I looked) to $100 (Delta) each way. It's still an economy seat, but the extra leg room (and extra recline, too) make it a reasonable upgrade for what is otherwise a day or night of self-inflicted torment.

41:

The SFnal angle to this that's less out there than transporters is: Monkey packing: Why are we so bad at it,
and what could optimally be achieved in the absence of, say, government regulations?

In the larger tubes used on long-haul flights, the single thing that all the monkeys want most is somewhere to lie down. But we put 9 rows of seats down the middle of the tube, and the space above and below is mostly dead air and luggage.

Surely it would be possible to pack an equal number of monkeys in this space, all able to lie down, with access to defecation and feeding facilities, and in a way that did not cause them to be any more murderous than they are now toward their seatback-reclining neighbors.

Tube hotels and even Amtrak sleepers seem far ahead of the airlines here.

42:

Where are you going to put the fuel in a supersonic bizjet, assuming you want a range of more than a thousand miles? Maintaining supsersonic flight is a thirsty process; it's notable that all the aircraft that can fly supersonic for extended periods are big delta-wing designs with large-volume wingtanks since volume goes up as the square root of surface area which controls the drag figure. Concorde usually took off at 40%-plus of its on-wheels weight as fuel; a 20-tonne SSBizjet with twenty tonnes of fuel on board would have very limited range.

Since flying supersonic is restricted to oceanic flight and usually only useful over extended distances such as the Transatlantic routes then a SSBizjet would need a tanker to provide mid-air refuelling somewhere south of Iceland (it's what the Blue Riband SR-71 had to do to make it all the way across the Atlantic). Realistically it would be cheaper to build a Concorde MkII just to have the fuel capacity to make it all the way in one hop.

43:

The other problem with a supersonic transport is that you can only truly use the thing is out over the ocean, due to the sonic boom. While that's great crossing an ocean, it's not useful once you get over land, because there are very few places that you can boom over in the eastern US or western Europe. Then there are the fuel costs (much higher than covering the same distance subsonically), plus the wear-and-tear on the plane from all that booming. Combine limited routes with high costs and you've got a business problem. Crashing said plane (remember the wear-and-tear issue) is also not a good manuever. Dead rich clients are a bit of a problem, along with all the negative PR.

There are a couple of other options (and hopefully I've got the details right). It appears that the speed of sound varies directly with temperature, up to about 10 km in altitude (source so mach one is noticeably lower at the normal altitude for commercial flights. Going high might work to muffle the boom, but spyplanes like the SR-71 go supersonic at lower speeds than they would closer to the ground.

Oddly the better solution might be truly old-fashioned: zeppelins. If you don't mind a comfortable crossing that takes a couple of days in comfort, with great wi-fi connections so you don't miss your business, then a zeppelin might be the way to go.

44:

Even if I could afford it, not flying business class is a moral choice for me. Considering what I'm doing to the atmosphere, a little more suffering on my part for a few hours during, and a little more later, is not a big price to pay for effectively having my carbon footprint.

45:

In the larger tubes used on long-haul flights, the single thing that all the monkeys want most is somewhere to lie down. But we put 9 rows of seats down the middle of the tube, and the space above and below is mostly dead air and luggage.

There's a good reason for that; airliners are designed with rapid evacuation in mind. The ability to get everyone out of a plane through the emergency exists in less than 180 seconds is a huge life-saver -- more lives are lost in airliner accidents on the ground than in the air -- and the arrangement of seating on either side of the aisle is designed to maximize evacuation speed: nobody is ever more than about 8 rows and two seat-widths between them and an exit door.

Vertical lie-flat compartments might be possible if we had convertible seats, like railway couchettes. The trouble is, you then have cooperation issues (getting up/down from bunks, converting rows of seats into floor-to-ceiling bunks, that sort of thing). Not to mention weight issues as well -- you need an entire row of seats to be build as a unitary structure, able to take 17 gees of deceleration in event of a crash. Upshot: this was done in the 1940s and 1950s on long-haul piston engined airliners, but a combination of the weight penalty and the evacuation requirement and the cost-cutting tendency has made it more or less impossible for modern jet airliners.

46:

Various commentators on the "FT" have sung the praises of melantonin, provided one is careful - as with all drugs, there can be side-effects if misused.

@ 41
Monkey packing in "relative" comfort.
No problem, long since solved. I'm suprised no-one has thought of trying it, because it was very successful at transporting large numbers. and worked well for a long time.

47:

We already have transport systems that can span the Atlantic in even less time than Concorde did; they're called ICBMs.

Old-timey SF often had passenger-carrying rockets; assuming you don't mind puking your guts out in zero-G as you go over the "hump" they're actually feasible. Assume a horizontal-takeoff spaceplane design using airbreathing engines to get to 15km altitude at which point the LOX/RP-1 rocket at the back lights off to boost the plane to 80-100km altitude and 4 or 5 thousand km/hr. The rocket quits and the plane coasts the rest of the way in a parabolic trajectory until it descends into thicker air where the airbreathing engines can restart to complete the journey and land conventionally at an airport of your choice. Heathrow to JFK in ninety minutes to two hours tops, Heathrow to SFO in less than four. Nearly all of the supersonic action will be at very high altitudes and near-vacuum so almost no boom effect would be felt on the ground, probably.

A BOTE calculation plus some WAGs says that a 30-tonne bizjet-capacity airframe (three crew and a dozen passengers plus minimal luggage) would need about 70 tonnes of fuel and oxidiser for this trick, assuming a max acceleration of 2 gees or so for about 2 minutes during the boost. As a bonus the jet engines can burn RP-1 (it's just a purer form of JP-4 after all) so no need to carry a different fuel for the airbreathing portion of the flight.

48:

I live on the west coast of the US, and I seem to have the opposite experience. Going out to Europe is easy, plane leaves mid afternoon, have a dinner with some wine and sleep, and wake up and it is morning in my destination. However that does involve being able to actually sleep while in flight which is not always easy if the flight is loud etc. Whereas coming back, it just seems like an endless day where I can't sleep and need several days to get my internal clock to go back to normal.

49:

The other problem with a supersonic transport is that you can only truly use the thing is out over the ocean, due to the sonic boom.

That's actually a semi-solved problem. (The reason for the over-land sonic boom ban in the USA: in the early 1960s the USAF tested civilian tolerance for sonic booms by buzzing a town at low altitude with fighters, running supersonic on afterburner. Predictably, civilian tolerance was low, and the FAA banned the practice. A modern airframe designed with noise mitigation in mind and flying at high altitude would be a whole different kettle of fish ...)

Nojay's objection about fuel is more serious. However, I will note that most of our supersonic-capable aircraft are 1960s or 1970s military designs, built when fuel was cheap and sprint speed was an overriding goal: compare the range of a 747-100 and a 747-8 and you can get some idea of what modern engines do to that equation. Also, there's a local minimum in the curve of drag vs. velocity, between Mach 1.05 and Mach 1.5 -- Concorde, at Mach 2.0-2.2 put up with much higher drag than a Mach 1.5 airframe would experience, and thus incurred a higher fuel bill. I'd say that going from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1.5 would be valuable enough to a corporate executive or Russian oligarch on a $0.5M/day salary, to the point where if the tech was available it'd sell off-the-shelf. Even if it did require in-flight refueling to go trans-Atlantic.

50:

Not to mention that the demand for supersonic airliners is pretty low. Who actually needs to fly round the world that fast? Concorde was marketed to travelling business people but since its introduction we've had a huge rise in global telecommunications that has all but removed the need to send people regularly and quickly for face to face meetings.

I can't find a link but last year I read about a survey presented at a conference which showed that over the decades faster speeds have become less and less of a priority for consumers whereas comfort, hassle with check in/security and how green the aircraft is have risen sharply.

It seems that what the market wants is a carbon neutral aircraft with lots of personal space with a very rapid and smooth check in and board. I doubt a concord mark 2 would really take off if it did not tick most of these boxes.

51:

in mid 20s heat is extraordinary punishment!

For us it was a cool down. :)

52:

Some of us can remember all-nighters at SF conventions. Some of us have stopped kidding ourselves that we can handle it.

But there does seem to be evidence the sleep patterns used to be different. There are various terms fpr it, such as segmented sleep, and there is also the idea of the siesta. So maybe there are better ways to manage the transition.

How much might the jet-lag problem be ameliorated by such a medieval sleeping pattern? And can the blocks of sleep be long enough for REM sleep.

You sound close to that, Charlie, with getting about 3 hours sleep, but maybe you shouldn't be aiming to reset any clock quite so soon. I know you have mentioned elsenet some other constraints, things such as grocery delivery: such things would have to be planned differently.

Is segmented sleep a wacky idea? It doesn't happen every night, and it's rather a relief to be able to dismiss it as a natural alternative.

53:

Melatonin [in] the UK, it's either a prescription-only medicine or not legally sold at all

That boggles my mind.

(I take melatonin every night, and have for years.)

54:

I lived in the western US for years, and I think it does make a difference; coming back to the UK I could be home by lunchtime, nap in the afternoon and be more or less functional the next day, at least in summer, whereas on the westbound leg I'd arrive at local bedtime but with my body convinced it was already waking-up time, sleep poorly, and have up to a week of waking infeasibly early and falling asleep at dinnertime, which did not mesh well with my night-owl tendencies. I can't sleep on planes at all -- my one experience of business class was just a more comfortable way to pass a sleepless short night.

55:

"The last one was a killer - drove to Toronto airport in a blizzard, then waited for several hours watching other flights take off until 3am when Air Canada cancelled the flight, told us there were no hotels and we had to sort out rebooking ourselves."

The minute that you see the 'CANCELLED' notice propagate across the depature sign, reserve a hotel room immediately. don't wait for official notice.

56:

"Oddly the better solution might be truly old-fashioned: zeppelins. If you don't mind a comfortable crossing that takes a couple of days in comfort, with great wi-fi connections so you don't miss your business, then a zeppelin might be the way to go."

First, I'll bet that it'd cost far more than first class. Second, you'd be at the mercy of the weather far more than in a jet.

57:

I'd be fine with standardizing on Greenwich Mean time. Electric lighting is pretty well established in the 21st century; why should I care whether it's light or dark outside?

58:

Agreed. Telepresence is a lot faster for those truly critical business things.

While I like Charlie's comments about low-Mach cruising, we're in the land of the $800 coffee maker (on the B-2), where we'd need dedicated civilian in-flight refueling, special airplanes, etc. to move a very few hyper-wealthy people around fast. It's even more expensive than you think, because a few customers are paying both for the trips and the entire industrial ecosystem to support those trips.

Somehow I'm not quite buying that. My big issue is that most people who are that wealthy didn't get there by investing in risky money-losing procedures, and this seems like a classic example.

Also, private jets have a big problem that they tend to be more risky than commercial flights. The crash rate for private jets is much higher than that for public transports. Couple supersonic private transport with riskier pilots, and it seems like a recipe for disaster.

59:

Ryan @ 50
what the market wants is a carbon neutral aircraft
They are called: Luftschiff .....

60:

I get jetlag without having to leave home. I often wake up randomly in the middle of the night then can't sleep again for several hours. Long experience has taught me that the best thing is to have breakfast (minus the coffee) then play with blogs and twitter until tiredness suddenly overwhelms me a few hours later, then quickly back to bed for another hour or two of sleep.

I have a friend who can't sleep more than one hour a night. She naps, she says, and does lots of cleaning.

Also, melatonin? I tried that when I visited the USA. Didn't do a thing for me, so I'm gently resentful that the rest of you have access to a magical sleep drug and I don't.

Anyway. Sweet dreams.

61:

About the rockets - I'm reminded of something said by thechief designer of the747:
Designing an aircraft capable of carrying 300 peolpe across the Pacific wasn't hard. Meeting the cost target was the hard part.

62:

Telepresence helps, but doing it across eight time zones still messes with the circadian rhythm, and if you try to bring together people from the western US, the UK and Japan it's going to be at a weird time for everybody.

(One day last year I attended a conference forty miles from home in the daytime, came home, and plunged straight into a full "day" of tele-attending a workshop in California. I was very tired and cranky by the end of it.)

63:

I once worked, in London, for a Californian software company.

My department held its weekly conference calls at 9am on Friday. ... Yes, 9am on Friday in California. Those of us who worked and lived in London were not amused, especially by the amount of idle chat that filled the beginning of the meeting (when we were waiting to go home for the weekend).

To add to the fun, in 1993 they installed a shotgunned ISDN line for video conferencing. Video conferencing was the work of the devil: you couldn't pick your nose, gurn, make rude hand gestures, or doze off. You had to stay late and you couldn't vent your frustration.

Then there was the engineer whose work I was trying to document, who didn't answer voice mail, or the phone at a reasonable office hour on his land mass, or reply to email. In the end I had to convince $BOSS to pay my air fare so I could go camp on his doorstep before I could dig the truth out of him.

No, telepresence doesn't work as well as being there in person.

64:

Then there was the engineer whose work I was trying to document, who didn't answer voice mail, or the phone at a reasonable office hour on his land mass, or reply to email. In the end I had to convince $BOSS to pay my air fare so I could go camp on his doorstep before I could dig the truth out of him.

No, telepresence doesn't work as well as being there in person.

That's a failure mode of telecommunications, but that doesn't mean teleprecense doesn't work. It means you have to have adults on either end. Lots of ego and CYA attitudes don't work. Which means that engineer probably needed to be told to report to the office every day or find other employment.

I'm a permanent telecommuter. I'm on the left coast, corporate office is on the right coast. I fly out every couple of months, because some in-person contact is needed. But that doesn't mean it cannot work.

65:

If you don't mind a comfortable crossing that takes a couple of days in comfort, with great wi-fi connections so you don't miss your business, then a zeppelin might be the way to go.

I'd be amused to see a return of the passenger zeppelin.

For a slightly slower passage but even greater passenger luxury, ocean liners could return. There are plenty of people who'd take ship for a few days if the livers were still running. Yes, an airplane can get you there in one day. Or maybe you could skip the security theater (though not customs) and swap your seven hours in a cramped tube for five days in a decent hotel. There are plenty of people who'd take that trade.

Incidentally, a google turns up that there's a project to build a replica of the RMS Titanic and re-open the trans-Atlantic route, scheduled to start construction this year and due to launch in 2016. Hm.

66:

Lots of ego and CYA attitudes don't work. Which means that engineer probably needed to be told to report to the office every day or find other employment.

Oh, he did ... at a not-unreasonable time on his land mass, which was an unreasonable time after I went home. (Hint: an 8-9 hour time difference really doesn't help when folks work 8 hours a day with flexitime. Engineers typically work late-ish hours, and this guy typically worked 11am-7pm; I used to work early-hours, in at 7:30am and aiming to be away at 4-4:30pm.)

67:

I'm surprised nobody mentioned this yet: if you screw up your sleep schedule before the flight, the time that you're not functional due to sleep deprivation and the time you're locked up in an aluminum tube can overlap. So the prospect of jet lag is often a great opportunity to do things you ordinarily avoid because of what they do to your sleep schedule. The trick is to make yourself just tired enough that you go to sleep after getting off the plane, and sleep until an hour or two before you'd normally get up.

68:

Or maybe you could skip the security theater (though not customs) and swap your seven hours in a cramped tube for five days in a decent hotel. There are plenty of people who'd take that trade.

What? All those .01% folks. Trust fund babies with no jobs? I think you're over estimating the number of people who have the funds and time for such travel times.

69:

Electric lighting is pretty well established in the 21st century; why should I care whether it's light or dark outside?

Says the typical SINC or DINC.[1] Those of us with kids have or had a 20 to 30 year commitment to the day/night cycle. Even if we find a job where it doesn't matter. And those are somewhat thin but likely over represented by the readership of this blog. Most jobs involve interacting with others which, as Charlie noted in his comments, means being available AND functioning when they are.

[1]Single/Dual Income No Children. I don't know if you are one or not but having children turns you down very different paths in life than not having children.

70:

I'm boggled by the thought of a manager setting up regular engineering meetings at 9AM. Even if only one day a week.

71:

There's a good reason for that; airliners are designed with rapid evacuation in mind. The ability to get everyone out of a plane through the emergency exists in less than 180 seconds is a huge life-saver
but a combination of the weight penalty and the evacuation requirement and the cost-cutting tendency has made it more or less impossible for modern jet airliners.

Tack onto that an anathema for anything that makes boarding or deplaning or the "get into your seats NOW" take longer or add much to the cost and the airlines aren't interested.

Piano bars in early 747s were nice for first class but most people didn't really mind when they went away and were replaced with seats that generated 10x$5000=$50,000 MINIMUM per ocean crossing flight.

Besides that space isn't all that wasted. Where do you think all the cables, oxygen generators, and such are hidden?

72:

I'm boggled by the thought of a manager setting up regular engineering meetings at 9AM.

It was a way of allowing flex time but local managers not allowing too much of it. :)

73:

Not the First time that The Teleportation Problem has Loomed Oer the Horizen of Events..See Hereafter ... long before Star Treks Way of Speeding Up the Plot- in an Episode that is Ridden with Advertising - appeared with a Matter Transportation Special Effectish Sound ....


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_Station_%28novel%29


The " WAY STATION " had an ever so BIG tank that was filled with ..Guess Wot?


As these things go " Way Station " is a novel that is Packed with both the Traditional, ' Golden Age ', Sci-Fi sense of Wonder and the Character, Manners and social interaction of,say...

" Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman living near the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, near London."

Dunno if the parallel has ever been drawn before and frankly ..since I have no pretensions toward Lit/Crit ..I don't much care but ..there it is for what little its worth... and that Tank is just seething with inter Galactic Pollution from the Developed World of the Civilized Galaxy that, for all its pretensions of Superiority, doesn't actually give much of a damn about the Natives until its Ever So Civilized Interests are Involved.So, there we have a leap from the Age of Manners to the Age of The Cold War and the political struggle for equality of the sexes. It's a Funny OLD World eh, wot?

I'm sorely tempted to insert a Treky Transporter Spec Effect.. but Mods would POUNCE on me in a Savagely Pouncy Manner.


74:

Didn't I read somewhere of other- in a way that frees me from the ever so deadly demands that I should " Cite " my " Source " - that there were drugs in the ever so omnipresent ..Real Soon Now /10 years at most ..Ah Yes !! There it is ..and THERE is a Photo of Our Host inset in the article ...These people have NO Respect! ....


http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/02/drugs-airlines-jet-lag

75:

Last time I was at Gare du Nord I turned right and right again and found a Thai restaurant with good veggie food. My carnivore colleague was pretty happy, too.

As to the "drunk on planes" thing - it seems fine if you do it with beer/lager, because at least you're pouring in fluids. Flying is one of the two places left where "beer at 6am" is totally acceptable, I find - the other being festies...

76:

One problem with Thai restaurants is that they frequently use fish stock in sauces -- my pet vegan is therefore very wary of Thai food that isn't explicitly fish-sauce free. (Hint: if it has a notochord it's unkosher in her books.)

77:

Back in the day of ' When I Had To Work For A Living ' my, carefully, politically maneuvered for in a world of Cubes that were called - I kid you not - " PODS "and which equipment packed 'Office ' was down a corridor betwixt classrooms and my office/control room had no outside windows and was in a ghastly modern glass and concrete building. Anyway, I had a semi permanent early morning Queue outside the "Not An Office Really for only Principle Lecturers and Above have a Dog Kennel Masquerading as An Office " I had a queue of polite people of the "I knew that you turned up at *am ish before your -contacted - time of 8.£0 am so I thought that I'd turn up even Earlier cos I HAVE THIS PROBLEM " kind. Which in its turn led to less than polite people who would remark " Why do I have to stand in a sodding queue to see you at this ridiculous hour of the morning? I don't mind if you represent HER in this disciplinary hearing as long as you represent me too " type problems.

That last problem was shortly before I went MAD and ran around on all fours foaming at the mouth and biting people on the leg ..all right ..not quite that, but I did take early retirement after a second bout of Clinical Depression and after winning that Disciplinary Hearing by not fighting but by making it politically inadvisable for the Executive to fight the case.

78:

Certainly passenger liners might return. It wasn't that long ago that they left, after all. There are so many potential factors to favor slower passage (anything from increasing fuel costs to true efforts at carbon neutrality to a globally homogenized workforce that doesn't need experts from another continent) that it may well happen. It's worth remembering that the great Age of Empire was powered by sails, fer cryin' out loud. You don't need just-in-time transit to rule to world, or even to homogenize the globe. It's a modern convenience, nothing more, and there's plenty of history that can be quickly drawn on if it becomes too expensive to ship people around fast.

One of the cuter ideas in airships is a zeppelin (rigid hull) that came with compressors that would move the helium out of the lift bags to decrease lift. Since it's rigid, it can get away with this trick. It's being touted as an emergency response vehicle especially for islands, because it's pretty close to VTOL, and it can carry more cargo than anything but a large jet. If time isn't critical, a big, slow, safe airship isn't a bad option, especially if you have trouble guaranteeing the quality of your airport.

Another advantage big airships have is that we're looking at a time when global sea level rise is going to play havoc with ports. While big ships can certainly moor offshore and lighter people and cargo in and out, you've still got to build and repair such monsters. That might get hard to do if shipyards get flooded and/or wrecked by storms. The nice thing about airships is that they don't necessarily need huge runways to land, and a zeppelin port can be rather small.

I've watched blimps practice touch-and-gos, and it's rather amusing, if less dangerous than watching planes do the same thing. Still, in LA they do it on a lawn half the size of a golf course, between two major freeways, without concern about accidents. That's a lot different than a jet airport. If you're in LA sometime, on the 405 northbound by the Harbor freeway, look right to see if the Goodyear blimp crews are practicing.

79:

Intercontinental passenger liners still exist. On a per-day basis, they're fairly low priced compared to other cruises -- they exist mainly because the cruise lines have to get the ships from one place to the other anyway, so they may as well take passengers and make money.

Perhaps y'all mean more of them? Because that is certainly doable -- they are relatively uncommon these days.

80:

Certainly passenger liners might return. It wasn't that long ago that they left, after all. There are so many potential factors to favor slower passage (anything from increasing fuel costs to true efforts at carbon neutrality to a globally homogenized workforce that doesn't need experts from another continent) that it may well happen. It's worth remembering that the great Age of Empire was powered by sails, fer cryin' out loud. You don't need just-in-time transit to rule to world, or even to homogenize the globe. It's a modern convenience, nothing more, and there's plenty of history that can be quickly drawn on if it becomes too expensive to ship people around fast.

But weather was a real PITA back then. The last big US east coast storm a week or so ago didn't exist 5 days before it hit NC. (I really need 7 days without rain to fix my yard and the 7 to 10 day forecasts are something I watch a lot these days.)

Zeppelins, blimps, ships, etc... all have to deal with weather much more than airplanes. It's one thing for a cargo container ship to go through 30 foot seas. Quite another to have a few 100 or 1000 people puking all at the same time.

And to be honest how do you put a brake on the economy so people can take two weeks in transit on a business trip from NYC to Rome and back?

81:

and some cargo ships will also take paying passengers which some more adventurous tourists use.

http://www.cruisepeople.co.uk/freighters.htm
http://www.freighter-travel.com/travel-itineraries.html

seems to be about 85/90 per day - could be a good way to get way from it all and write :-)

82:

Lovely though it would be to see airships flying the skies again, the economics just don't work out, according to "The Simple Science of Flight" by Henk Tennekes.

Air travel economics are dominated by the number of primates moved in kilometres. Our current passenger jets fly around 800 km/hour; airships would be around 160 km/hour, five times slower. That low speed rules them out.

There's a fixed cost in building a jet or airship, and a modern airship is going to have comparable cost to build, not an order of magnitude less. It's going to have high tech alloys and plastics and engines and avionics, not to mention all the necessary stuff like seats, toilets, luggage racks, ... Over its working lifetime, the jet carries five times more passenger/kilometres on a similar investment.

(And this is assuming we could build airships that carry 400 passengers and still fit it in a reasonable sized airport.)

Maintenance costs are going to be similar, the jet perhaps suffering more stress from higher speed flight, but again checking the airframe for impact damage and cleaning the aisles won't be any cheaper.

Even on fuel the airship doesn't do that well. It doesn't need to burn fuel for lift, but neither does the jet really, where the wings provide lift. Both need to burn fuel to push themselves through the air. The jet flies faster and more speed usually requires more than a linear increase in fuel, although subsonic jets hit the sweet spot for cruising efficiency pretty well.

The airship burns less fuel in any given time, but it takes five times longer to fly the same distance and has much worse aerodynamics. So again, it will not burn an order of magnitude less fuel than the jet.

Unaesthetic it may be, but the 747 is a really efficient people mover.


83:

You don't put a brake on the economy by slow transit. It's a matter of relative values. For example, an engineer I know is part of a work group with offices in Europe and China. When he gets to work in the morning, he teleconferences with his partners in Europe as they end the day, to get up to speed on what they've accomplished. Similarly, when he gets done with his day's work, he teleconferences with the guys in China to pass the load on. It's the equivalent of three different shifts at one facility, separated by eight or nine hours, except they are scattered around the world. The only problem is when he has to go in at a bizarre time because some manageroid has to have a conference on his time (e.g. 2 a.m.), not at the end of a shift.

We've gotten used to the notion that, because we can ship people around fast, therefore that's the way to make the economy work, never mind the cost of moving those people. This notion is no more than 40 years old at most). There's no particular reason to think that it's the optimal solution in all over even most cases. It's just a habit we picked up in the go-go nineties and haven't found a problem with. Yet.

It may well turn out that a few people need to move very fast (mostly fixers and hot shots in the military and first responder sense), a lot of people can move more slowly (via ship or blimp, the way they have for centuries), and most people don't need to move much at all. That's the way the British Empire worked, after all, and much as I dislike the mess it left behind, it was fairly successful as empires go.

84:

I experience two different forms of jet lag. In one, my body knows what time it is, but that is different from what everyone else thinks. This is only a problem if my social obligations make it one.
In the second kind of jet lag, my body doesn't know whether it is coming or going. Apparently this happens because different circadian rhythms in the body get out of sync with each other. This form of jet lag can be extremely unpleasant.

85:

For long distance flying to Australia you need to take the Melatonin (l'd also add high dose aspirin to relieve random aches and pains and to stop yourself having a stroke). It's also helps to break up the flight into about 5 hour chunks especially if there are rest facilities at the airport (for example Singapore). I've discovered that 5 hours is about my limit before physical and psychological breakdown starts to strike... Bring on Mr Branson's 2 hour suborbital hops to Australia :)

86:

These days, if you want supersonic flight, the go-to choice for seating seems to be Messrs Martin-Baker, one of those British family businesses that does very well. But I doubt they have passenger comfort as a primary target.

87:

While we are 'forgetting the physics' teleport booth land, maybe we should go for the solution of the risible Total Recall reworking - a drop through the core of the Earth called "The Fall".

IIRC that was 17mins from Blighty to Oz

Admittedly you still have the 'which way is up' time difference problem - but 17mins crammed in a tube would be more survivable.

BTW Charlie, what are you visiting downunder for? By my reckoning it will be just as the UK starts getting better weather, and Australia tips into Autumn mode, so I assume it's not for a winter break.

88:

Passenger liners are very fuel-inefficient: by this reference, QE2 (one of the fastest out there) when not traveling flat-out does 18 passenger miles per gallon per passenger (or 27.5mpg if you include the crew). Per Cunard, QE2 achieves 16.7 passenger-miles per gallon. This is very poor compared to the Airbus A380 super-jumbo, which gets 78 passenger-miles per gallon (reference).In fact, even Concorde or your typical executive jet get on the order of 17-18 passenger-miles per gallon.

So Ocean liners are actually a step backwards in fuel efficiency for transportation.

(I'm ignoring the frankly silly idea of going back to sails for passenger transport. Atlantic crossings in the early 19th century typically took 10 weeks; the fastest on record was around 11 days, but in poor weather it could take up to six months. The hull loss rate was also, shall we say, lamentable. We can do better with modern weather satellites, but we can't re-write the rules of meteorology: the model of long-range travel that sail supported was principally one in which people traveled only to emigrate or to adopt semi-permanent overseas work assignments.)

Airships: possibly useful for some specialized niches. But there's no reason to build airports within flooding range of the coastline, and I'm skeptical that climate change will flood ports overnight, with no time to build flood defenses or retrench inland.

89:

an engineer I know is part of a work group with offices in Europe and China. When he gets to work in the morning, he teleconferences with his partners in Europe as they end the day,

I contend the number of travelers who can be productive on a cruise via telewhatever is small relative to the number of people who want to travel.

90:

I currently work in Edinburgh for a Silicon Valley firm; our team of fifteen or so is spread between California, Colorado, Scotland, and India. Our team meetings tend to be at 8am Pacific time, and finish at 5pm Scottish time; not so bad. The downside is that the team lead in India is calling in from home at 10pm... Fortunately, we have a rather mature and enlightened attitude to working hours, so it's not as if we have a fixation in being at our desks by 9am.

I spent my 20s and 30s inducing artificial jet lag at the weekends and learning to cope with it, by spending them in the TA; lots of infantry skills need practised at night, so Sunday evening was occasionally a complete write-off, and Monday morning a total joy. The front seat of a Series III Landrover is worse than any airliner seat... The true benefit came when my wife and I started breeding; the ability to catnap on demand in whatever uncomfortable position was a truly life-enhancing skill.

My sympathies on the coming Australia flight; my last-but-one return journey got extended by a few hours after someone died on the Sydney-Bangkok leg, and we had to divert to Darwin at 2am. On the next leg of the flight, someone else needed medical assistance, but selfishly (for us) it wasn't serious enough to require a diversion to Delhi... Go Emirates out of Glasgow if you can, they were great.

Three(ish) words - memoryfoam neck pillow. They're brilliant, and beat the inflatable / polystyrene bead ones hands down.

91:

In the newest jumbo jets, the ones destined for long-haul flights, the "empty" space above the cabin is already occupied by crew rest areas when it isn't full of electronics of all kinds.

http://www.ausbt.com.au/the-best-seats-on-a-cathay-pacific-boeing-777-300er-try-the-upstairs-bunk-beds

This example is a "large" one on a 777 but they come in all sizes in a variety of planes. Each airline decides on size and configuration.

You can also see videos giving tours of those places. Use "crew rest area" as a search term.

As an alternative to crew rest areas some airlines have outfitted under-cabin cargo containers as rest areas. This is a more flexible approach and makes it easier to make a general overhaul of the crew rest area. Of course, the airline needs to order planes that have a retractable staircase going into the container somewhere in the middle of the cabin.

Use "airline mobile crew rest" as a search term to see images of those cozy containers. The term for them varies greatly from one airline to another. "airline crew rest container" will also get you different hits.

If I were in the bizjet-rich class I wouldn't buy a bizjet, I'd buy controlling shares in an airline and get them to carry my personal (ex-crew rest) container whenever I wanted to go from one continent to another. It would be the equivalent of the private rail cars/wagons of the pre-jet era. Back then the ultra-rich would hitch those cars at the end of a regular train, in order to travel long distances in comfort.

92:

The solution I think is passenger containers where the container is not integral to the airframe. Like International Rescue 3? Anything goes wrong the whole container jettisons and floats gently to earth or sea on its own parachutes. I think I could do a good drawing of this. More safety, comfort and more rapid throughput of passengers. It's a cracker, eh?

93:

Aside from conference calls aren't there other aspects of telecommunications that help? I wasn't really around pre Internet but I imagine that being able to share documents no matter where you are in the world allows a business to be far more connected.

94:

Yes, but we had shared online document repositories in the early 90s. Earlier, even. And before the pre-web internet, and before the modem, there was this thing called "air mail".

Of course, the start of the big revolution in paper management was in middle managers (and executives) learning to type for themselves. And acquiring photocopiers and word processors. Go back to the early 1970s and it was a whole different world -- executives had pens and/or dictaphones, the women in the typing pool had IBM Selectrics, letters were dictated, then copy-typed by the typing pool and checked by the sender before being mailed ...

Admin still worked. It just employed more bodies doing tasks which today we've automated.

95:

Cattle-class seating, well, it plays merry hell with blood circulation for me, so everytime I fall asleep it's only to wake in full-on adrenalin-pumping emergency mode 5-10 minutes later because some body part's not working. I'd love a law mandating first/business class for >4h flights, but alas, even public servants no longer get that, not even for 20h+ flights like .eu to .au.

96:

'That's the way the British Empire worked''

There was a price for slow communications. An Imperial tour of duty could separate parents from their children for years. See Kipling's ' Baa, baa, black sheep' for a horrific childhood experience.

97:

Airships, shmerships. What we really need are vactrains, with constant acceleration through the route. :-)

98:

I'm pretty much short haul these days. Doesn't stop me from, um, jetlagging myself. Which means I've missed much of a very fine day here on the coast of the Adriatic.

What I've noticed, the smaller airports I've flown in and out of recently - Tirana, Naples, Bari, Istanbul - are a piece of piss. The London airports, oh Christ.

99:

Forgot Varna airport, Black sea coast. Did I fly to Varna the second time or via Sophia? Sorry not at my best today.

100:

What we really need are vactrains, with constant acceleration through the route. :-)

The failure modes are, alas, so horrendous that they'll end up with airline-style security.

See also the Lathen collision that effectively killed off TransRapid's maglev system in Germany (and two thirds of the train passengers). And that's a couple of orders of magnitude slower than a vactrain ...

101:

Well, yes, terrible failure if the vactrain module goes from mach 11 to zero speed in a fraction of a second, with a full load of passengers in it.

But on the other hand the passengers in an airplane are just as dead if it drops out of the sky under the speed of sound.

Then, consider that the vactrain operates in a sealed environment in predefined trajectory. You can't take it over and aim it at a skyscraper. You can't shoot it out of the sky with small missiles either.

102:

Out of curiosity ... any good moments to pass along when globe trotting?

How often are you recognized when traveling? And, how do you feel when that happens?

Have you ever had a 'it's a small world encounter' -- meeting someone you haven't seen in years/decades? Or during an idle chat discovering that you and your new acquaintance know someone in common, are related?

103:

I delivered newspapers for many years when I was a kid, which involved getting up very early in the morning, making instant coffee, running a mile to the string of apartment buildings, hauling bales of papers up and down the stairs for several hours and accurately throwing 5 to 10 pound newspapers (this was the Dallas Times Herald in the 1970s) up several flights of stairs or way down a hallway, then running home in time for breakfast before school.

To this day, I wake up at 2 AM, regardless of where I am, or when I went to bed. Whenever I deployed to another country, it took about one sunrise and one sunset and I would be back again. Waking up at 2 AM on the new schedule. I love that dark empty world, where no-one is about but me. Rushing that caffeine overdose, no distractions, spinning. Loving being up early, and the things you can do then, is really something to get up for.

These days it could be the bars just down the street pushing patrons out at closing time, though. The police pull people over right next to my house to have them walk the line. Will they never learn? And what do they do for a living?

You'd think, though, that there would be a pill for resetting your clock. I mean, it's just neurotransmitters, Serotonin I think, but I could be mistaken. For that matter, you'd think there would be a pill for not having to sleep at all. What's it do anyway? Probably a cocktail of effects seeing as how it's so complex, what with all the stages and what not. But then it would always be like, what, afternoon? Or would it be always that delightful 3 AM?

104:

ndgmtlcd @ 101
Err .. fixed target(s) @ the terminii, fixed target(s) in the whole length of the "train" system itself.
All you have do do is drill one small shaft, & drop a solid object [ Doesn't even have to be a bomb ] down it, just as a "train" is approaching
You CANNOT protect all of it - which is another reason the security theatre on the CTRL is a total sham, incidentally.
E.G. If you really want a terrorist strike on any high-speed train anywhere, all you need is a metal wedge, about half a metre long, about 0.1m tall at the blunt end, & clip it *Securely* to the outer rail, thin end facing towards the oncoming train.
And we have security checks for bombs on the trains? Bah, humbug!

105:

Vactrain is confined to a tube, going in one direction only. It should be a lot safer than an airplane, and much faster. And requiring much less energy (maglev in a vacuum, you can recover most of it with regenerative breaking).

106:

>>>All you have do do is drill one small shaft, & drop a solid object [ Doesn't even have to be a bomb ] down it, just as a "train" is approaching
>>>You CANNOT protect all of it - which is another reason the security theatre on the CTRL is a total sham, incidentally.

Actually, for a vactrain, you need vacuum detectors for the entire route, so you can't just make a hole in the tube without alerting the system.

>>>E.G. If you really want a terrorist strike on any high-speed train anywhere, all you need is a metal wedge, about half a metre long, about 0.1m tall at the blunt end, & clip it *Securely* to the outer rail, thin end facing towards the oncoming train.

Yeah, a lot of clever sabotage can be done but isn't for some reason...

107:

My only grumble is that most of the data is on the QE2, and that we're talking about fuel use for everything over a long term, versus fuel for transportation in the short term. To be fair, you can't properly separate the two.

As for airports, the problem with moving them is politics, not engineering. Airports are intensely political institutions, and they're not easy to move, both because you've got to condemn a lot of expensive property to move the damn things, and all their neighbors' property values tank because of the noise from jets. Airship ports have the advantage of being much smaller, if nothing else.

108:

The technique Greg describes was SOP for the French Resistance during the 1940-44 period. Worked great against steam trains; utterly deadly against high speed rail.

Luckily our current crop of violent militants are almost all bloodthirsty fools. (The intelligent ones have sufficient scope to engage with the political process that for the most part they don't resort to violence.) Bombs are so much more spectacular than caltrops, even if they're vastly less efficient ...

109:

Airship fields tend to be very big, actually since airships of any appreciable utility tend to be large. They don't arrive over the field and descend vertically, they follow a long glideslope and might come in to the mooring mast at any angle, not flying aligned to a given set of runways as with aircraft. There's also the problem of manoeuvering several airships at the same time in a crowded area, especially if a sudden windstorm hits. In that case a lot of separation and land is required compared to gates, taxiways and runways which can cope with, in the case of major airports, hundreds of takeoffs and landings each day.

110:

The technique Greg describes was SOP for the French Resistance during the 1940-44 period. Worked great against steam trains; utterly deadly against high speed rail. Luckily our current crop of violent militants are almost all bloodthirsty fools.

A friend has (on videotape, I don't know if it's been put on the web) an old US Army training video on "How to Derail a Train." It's not as easy as it seems, luckily, and there are ideas which sound as if they'd work which don't. With any luck, our bloodthirsty fools will try some of the useless ones first, letting them be collected by law enforcement agencies before they manage anything more than petty vandalism.

The vulnerable points of rail most definitely do exist - but are not necessarily where the layman will look first.

111:

especially if a sudden windstorm hits

You mean something like this could happen?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Los_Angeles_(ZR-3)_NH_84569.jpg

On 25 August 1927, while the Los Angeles was tethered at the Lakehurst high mast, a gust of wind caught her tail and lifted it into colder, denser air that was just above the airship. This caused the tail to lift higher. The crew on board tried to compensate by climbing up the keel toward the rising tail, but could not stop the ship from reaching an angle of 85 degrees, before it finally descended. Amazingly, the ship suffered only slight damage and was able to fly the next day.

112:

The vulnerable points of rail most definitely do exist - but are not necessarily where the layman will look first.

I would think pulling most of the outside spikes on a curve would be a big start. And if rails are not welded loosening the bolts to almost off.

Seems that would be a bad day for most any train.

113:

IIRC high speed rail tracks are continuous-welded and don't use wooden sleepers/spikes -- they're bolted to continuous concrete rail beds. Furthermore, the permanent ways are totally grade-separated and fenced off; there may be some sort of intruder sensors as well (because the effect of even an inadvertent track intrusion is potentially deadly).

114:

Furthermore, the permanent ways are totally grade-separated and fenced off; there may be some sort of intruder sensors as well...

Without leaving any specific suggestions where they could be googled later, I'll mention that spoofing track-obstruction sensors has been thought of, yes.

115:

A simple train derailment, even at high speed, won't necessarily yield mass casualties. I think the French Resistance had a different aim, disruption of the transport network. I understand French railway workers played a major part in this. Terrorists aim for one-off mass casualty events.

116:

Charlie @ 113
However, on old track, one could simply knock out the wooden blocks used to hold the rail into its chairs, lossening the rail in side-to side motion ....
Today the cw-rail is *clipped* onto the permanent way sleepers or concrete base, but those "pandrol" clips can be easily removed, either with a big hammer, or a simple long lever, & if one knows how, it is a very easy process.
SO, you don't even need a wedge to derail a train travelling at up to 350+ kph - but you need to remove, probably, 20 or 30 metres of clips, preferebly on the outside of a curve. So, a "wedge" might actually be easier ...
Again, all this goes to show is that the "security" checks on the train *passengers* is a total waste of time & effort.
A bomb carried on to a train might kill most of the people in one coach, & derail part of the train, whereas a derail at the (ahem) *right* place could kill most of the passengers (up to 750) one at least one train, & possiblky two trains ....

As usual, our wonderful security services/Grenzpolizei, like the criminally-insane US "homeland security", are looking in the wrong places, the idiots.

117:

The only ever time I flew from the US (JFK) back to the UK (LHR) and did not experience jet lag was when I took an early morning flight from JFK at 8am. That gets you into LHR at around 8pm. I was home an hour later and into bed an hour after that. I woke up fresh as a daisy the next day.

This was also the only BA flight on a 747 that was under 25% occupied in cattle class. Everyone redistributed themselves around the plane when we got off the ground. Several people took the middle section of 4 seats and pushed the arms up to use them as beds. The cabin crew were pretty relaxed about it all. However, That was 1999 and I have never been on a long haul BA that was hat empty ever since.

Still, it is a good way to avoid the transatlantic jet lag from west to east.

118:

Almost all of the checks on Eurostar are for immigration reasons, not security. That's certainly what leads to the 30 minute check in requirement - they have similar metal detector gates and bag scanning on high-speed trains in Spain, and they don't seem to slow the process down noticeably. They also try to steer lost, confused or depressed people away from the tracks of course.

119:

There are a few significant problems with vactrains which make aircraft more attractive:

-The infrastructure would be very expensive to build and maintain.

- A vactrain can only service points along the tube line whereas an airport can potentially link to anywhere in the world.

- Vactrains and maglevs for that matter are not compatible with current rail infrastructure and vice versa. When it comes to rail upgrades things like high speed rail become more attractive even if they would be slower.

120:

A simple train derailment, even at high speed, won't necessarily yield mass casualties.

The terror scenario to be scared of is: an engineered derailment of an LGV unit traveling at full speed on one of the newer LGV routes, diverting towards the adjacent track, less than 90 seconds before another LGV is due to pass in the opposite direction. Preferably with jamming/spoofing of the in-cab signaling system -- which presumably is designed to be fail-safe -- to convince the oncoming driver that the line ahead is clear.

LGV multiple units max out at 200 mph in service, although a TGV test train set the record for the fastest wheeled train, reaching 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) on 3 April 2007. They weigh around 400 tonnes, carry up to 500 passengers each, and take double-digit miles to do an emergency stop from maximum speed. So we're basically talking the equivalent mess to crashing a pair of 747s at take-off speed -- see the Tenerife disaster for a yardstick.

Luckily this particular terror scenario is rather difficult to organize (requiring intimate knowledge of the TGV/LGV network, the train timetable, in-cab signaling system, and so on).

121:

High speed rail is just as incompatible with current rail infrastructure because, to make it work, it needs its own track with no other traffic clogging it up.

122:

@82:
Unaesthetic it may be, but the 747 is a really efficient people mover.
---
The main problems being it travels from a place I don't want to go to (an airport) to a different place I don't want to go to (another airport.)

An airship wouldn't necessarily be bound by airport locations. You're not going to dock a 747 at the top of a hotel, bus station, taxi stand, or subway terminal, for example.

123:

@88:
So Ocean liners are actually a step backwards in fuel efficiency for transportation.
---
A liner isn't necessarily dependent on fossil fuels, though. Though regulatory costs are insane, the engineering for nuclear propulsion is more than half a century old.

Nuclear-powered aircraft just feel like a bad idea, somehow...

124:

We all need to buy more of Charlie's books so that he will never have to fly economy class again.

125:

feorag @ 121
However, HS-rail CAN use "normal" tracks for the last little bit into the city-centres on other tracks, whereas e completely new system can't do that.
This is one of the great (unsung) advantages of HS-rail.

Charlie
Make that 700+ passengers per train
Other horror scenario - derail just before big bridge (think Medway viaduct on HS-1) - train plunges down 40+ metres @ 300kph - no survivors at all, possibly.

126:

While HS rail can use regular tracks, it has to slow down to regular train speeds to do so. This adds a big time penalty on the average speed if you do it at every station approach/departure -- just taking 5 extra minutes per stop adds up if your train does it half a dozen times on a 4 hour journey.

Back in 2007 I rode the Shinkansen Nozomi express from Tokyo to Kyoto. It accelerated so fast that it was probably doing 40mph by the time the last car passed the end of the platform, and was up to 120mph within a couple of miles -- only staying that slow for noise abatement while passing through suburbia (it hit 186 mph on the long inter-city stretches). It also braked hard, right at the last minute before pulling in.

(Greg: I looked up the passenger capacity. TGV/LGV train sets are designed to carry 450-550 passengers; they're short and run frequently. 700 passengers would be sardine-tin standing-room-only, and as they run on a 100% advance seat reservation system ...)

127:

You could run the ocean liners on compressed natural gas. There's lots of it and it's clean burning, relatively.

And while you're at it the ocean liner could be a surface effect ship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_effect_ship

Basically, it's a hovercraft with side walls.

128:

I'm a big believer in infrastructure. But I think you touch upon an important drawback here that applies more generally, namely that complex bits of machinery interacting with other equally complex machinery in - you guessed it - complex ways are fragile. It doesn't take much to disrupt the regular smooth operation of a transportation system if someone or some group of people is committed enough to do so. This might well place an effective upper bound on how dependent a given polity can be on technology . . . and it might be that this upper bound is lower than is usually implicitly assumed. A lot lower. So in 2525 CE, the technology for vac trains is well in hand, the money is available, and it's also doable politically. But nevertheless, except for specialty lines, the vac train system is never built up to any great extent precisely because it is so vulnerable.

Ironically, while terrorists could easily walk away from sabotage to a desalinization plant, or a nuclear reactor, or a vac train, the same is not true for engineering accidents in space. There the do-badders have to accept the fact that they're as likely to die as anyone else should things go pear-shaped.

129:

Charlie @ 126
Standard Eurostar take 700 passengers, all seated.

130:

Well, okay, clearly I'm out of my technical depth and I'll leave it there. But in the article you linked to there's a section on TGV Accidents. It lists three high speed derailments. The one at the greatest speed, 190 mph resulted in:

Of the 200 passengers, one was slightly injured.

at 170 mph

No one on the train was injured, but 25 passengers waiting on the platform for another TGV were slightly injured by ballast that was thrown up from the trackbed

at 160 mph

Out of 501 passengers, seven were bruised and others treated for shock.

As I said, it doesn't look to me that simply derailing a high speed train will automatically yield mass casualties.

No offence. And, as I say, beyond me technically.

131:

West-to-east _is_ worse---an London afternoon's riding the buses and looking at bookshops near the British Museum still carries with it a slightly nightmarish tinge---but east-to-west is not a picnic for me, even with staying awake until local bed-time.

I repeatedly seem to be good enough for large, important, software firms to fly out for interviews from the East Coast to the West, but never good enough to hire. This is probably due to my not being good enough at what they want, with age discrimination a second possibility (which I try to discount because it is a potentially metastasising excuse, but can't completely), but my bad reaction to the clock change (a spacy, dislocated, feeling) has not helped one bit.

If I do this again, I'll offer to fly out early and pay my own way for a few days before the interview, though 'looking for work' and 'able to pay my own hotel bills' don't go together well.

132:

As I said, it doesn't look to me that simply derailing a high speed train will automatically yield mass casualties.

Yes. Modern high speed trains are designed to survive a simple derailment -- even with a fall down an embankment. (See also.)

That's why I specified derailing an LGV into the path of another oncoming train, at full speed.

133:

So, can I officially claim a successful THREAD derailment? With like 95% casualty rate? :-)

134:

Yep, understood, I'll get my crack strike team right on it :-)

135:

Moving toward the speculative ....

I still like Asimov's idea of moving walkways (Caves of Steel) that feature sidewalk strips of varying speeds. This idea can be adapted for sea travel with a series of tubes linking continents by following the path laid down for communications cables. For air flight, a combination of Clarke's sky elevators and more tubes -- this time in Buckminister Fuller's open geodesic style - circling the planet. (The sky elevator goes to the closest hub then spins/spits you out into the appropriate radial tube to get you to your destination.)

For all of these travel options the key is continuous operation: no cold starts or stops.

136:

AAARGH! You, sir, win the the thread.

137:

Indeed? Well you should cherish your bookshops whilst you may. A little while ago today I was flipping through the E Pages of the Sunday Papers when I came upon a piece on the Death of the Independent Bookshop ...

" The speed with which bookshops are vanishing from our high streets suggests a process that is not so much Darwinian as apocalyptic. Given what happened to the record shops, few would put money on the idea of a mass-market bookshop still competing with the online giants in a decade’s time: the way we read books is changing too fast, as is the way we buy them. But it would be a tragedy if they vanished – and with them, the age-old joy of being able to lose yourself in a good bookshop."


Nothing new there then? Save that I couldn't find the specific reference to the article when I looked for it just now after reading your remark that ...


" West-to-east _is_ worse---an London afternoon's riding the buses and looking at bookshops near the British Museum still carries with it a slightly nightmarish tinge---but east-to-west is not a picnic for me, even with staying awake until local bed-time."

No matter ...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/robertcolvile/100195658/browse-in-a-bookshop-before-its-too-late/

Hereabouts in the, not so Touristy Town, of Newcastle Upon Tyne the Independent Book Shop has just about disappeared save for the Charity Shops of course, and whilst it was once possible to spend part of a day Book Browsing in Newcastle just about all of the old Tourist/Book-browsing sites have passed into history ..this even including an antiquarian bookshop - Steedmans - that was older than I am and which enjoyed a National level of fame.


http://oldnovocastrian.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/newcastle-bookshops-steedmans.html


Now this is relevant to the Travel, er, Travail of Travel thread in as much as the very reasons for casual travel to most ordinary non tourist ..Richard the Third Was Once Buried beneath this Car Park!!! admire the Tarmac beneath where once HE was .. type destinations.


I rather fancy that not too long from now most REAL Book/Record ..frankly Antique Shop type Shopping Experience Venues will be part of Tourist Town and will have vanished from ordinary towns and cities to their natural homes in ..York /Londinium /Edinburgh /Brighton and so forth.

Apart from visiting Bronte Country or whatever, and that aside from the occasional need to press the Business Person Flesh in a political sort of way there will be little reason to travel via jet propelled giant toothpaste tube conveniences that are shielded by Ultra body-scanning Stuff that actually delays the process of travel to the time that our Upper Class Ancestors took to undertake a Grand Tour ... pardon me sir/or Madam but is your your own original left femur? Your own or .... has it been replaced with nano tech impregnated STUFF of a bio-explosive kind ?

I've just Made That Techno Babble Up ...Our Host Will be SO Proud of the Imaginative POWER of His Readership as it is represented by Me.

It just seems to me that if you set aside the dreams of floating ones disesed spine ..insert the disability of your choice .. in a modern lighter than air craft Steam Punk Mobile Dream real soon now many of the people who can afford foreign intercontinental travel will do the cold equation of ..is it really worth the pain?


I do this for SF Cons in the UK along the lines of 'is it really worth traveling the length of the UK via public/rail transport on a /Bank Holiday /Easter Holiday ..when the powers that be are accustomed to do 'routine maintenance' ... in order that I might spend a long weekend in an Airport Hotel outside of London?'

We have become used to an era of relatively cheap and comfortable long distant travel.

That era is relatively recent, fairly brief, and its about to come to an end in a burst of reduced salaries for the middle classes as well as increased costs of living. Public services salaries have been frozen in the UK for the past couple of years - and we in the UK seem to be falling into a working pattern long accepted in the USA of several jobs just to survive. So, add it all to greatly increased travel costs for even the most modern of pack em in and sell it cheap flying toothpaste tubes and I find it all too easy to believe that the era of mass travel for pleasure is about to be severely curtailed if not entirely brought to a grinding halt. Very few people will be able to afford these Spiffy Ultra High Speed Trains and Sub Orbital type Flying Machines. Here in the UK people are screaming about the costs of commuting by sub standard mass transport train. As for leisure and those ever so rare Holiday/Vacations..its back to Butlins Holiday Camps folks.

138:

I still like Asimov's idea of moving walkways (Caves of Steel) that feature sidewalk strips of varying speeds

I've always had a soft spot for this idea but the problem of wind resistance seems pretty serious. How uncomfortable/dangerous is it to be propelled uncovered into air at 30mph?

139:

More to the point, all it takes is one griefer with a couple of sidewalk-side fixed posts and a length of steel cable to ruin everyone's day ...

140:

Indeed. In fact all it would take is for a bunch of people to start throwing objects from the edges. Hitting a stone unprotected at speed could do some serious damage.

Not to mention the horrendous costs in maintaining that much mileage of travelators.

141:

Why not pick one airline to use whenever possible. Get a credit card that gives you frequent flyer miles when you use it. Enroll in all the airline's partner programs. Fly enough to get elite flyer status, including making mileage runs when and as necessary. You should easily rack up enough miles that can then be used to buy upgrades to business or first. I never use my frequent flyer miles to get free tickets. I always use them to get upgrades.

142:

Ahem: already done that.

Air France/KLM is the best major carrier from my perspective -- frequent flights from my local airport to their two main hubs, and easiest method for making Elite Plus status: you can qualify on sectors flown, not just miles. 30 sectors flown/year gets you to Gold, and a trip to just about anywhere from here (except London, Paris, or Amsterdam) requires four sectors, minimum. (Home-Hub, Hub-Destination, and back again.) At Gold, problems encountered en route stop being your problem and start to be the airline's problem. So ...

143:

Well, from childhood experience of sitting in the back of a series 2 landrover in a normal suburb street, after helping take the roof off, it's uncomfortable, cold and ruins any hairstyle you might have had.

Or in other words, travelators faster than say 10mph aren't going to be popular.

144:

The Eurostar is an extended TGV. The Duplex Stuttgart - Paris TGV we were on last Thursday was 8 coaches, with two decks, with about 500 passengers total. The Eurostar we transferred to was twice the number of coaches (though single deck), done by sticking two TGVs head to tail.

(Double deckers lose space due to stairs and the like, so don't get anything like twice the number of passengers per coach. On the other hand, flying across the snow-covered Alsatian landscape at 3 metres altitude is a fine experience, improved if you get a front-facing seat.)

145:

After travelling across Canada by long distance train in 2009, I wrote a post titled 'Life support is heavy'. In it I was pointing out that the Canadian train drinks fuel on a passenger-mile basis and that the good old 737 we flew back to Montreal from Vancouver was actually more efficient.

The basic argument was that the 737 provides one lightweight seat per passenger, and the lightest structure and propulsion units it can get away with. On the other hand, the train has seats, and beds, and showers. And toilets, and big tanks to store both fresh and grey water, and dining cars, and so on. It also accelerates up to speed and then slows down to stopped frequently (due to the 'passengers give way to freight' rules).

Its only advantage is that it doesn't have to lift itself to anything like the same altitude (only over the Rockies), and it doesn't have as much air resistance.

A commenter got very unhappy that the horrible wasteful airliner could be more efficient than the train and did his best to disprove my rather casual figures. However, he got nowhere.

146:

In actuality, 42.2 minutes. Wikipedia mentions this at its Gravity Train article.

Essentially, it's half the orbital period at zero altitude. (Take a projection of such an orbit from the plane it occurs in, and it looks like a body moving on a straight line from one side of the earth to the other and back again.)

147:

'Life support is heavy'

It certainly is. There's a lot of differences between a small mobile hotel and a very fast bus.

One side note on efficiency, as pointed out by rail fans, is that an electric train leaves the actual generators elsewhere and so can use other sources of power (hydroelectric, nuclear, tidal, whatever). This isn't practical on every route but can be quite useful in the right places.

Of course, even the train would be doing better if it was also allowed to get up to speed once and not stop until it reached the end of the route. An airplane which also had to make those intermediate stops would use more fuel.

148:

In Britain & Europe, the trains DON'T stop very often & DON'T slow down for frieght, & are therefore much more efficient.
EG: 2 hours London - Leeds, 200 miles, usually one stop (Wakefield) sometimes two (Peterboro' or Doncaster), 8-coach train 470 seats .....
And that isn't an true HS service, max normal operating speed is only 130mph!

149:

There are definite possibilities for improvement over at least part of that route. It was reported to us that they were looking at the possibility of electrification of the section over the Rockies. That section is also double track, so you don't need to keep stopping to let oncoming trains through.

An awful lot of the entire length of that route is single track though - and that really screws with your fuel efficiency because someone has to keep stopping.

Given the right infrastructure and were there high speed trains running the route, I would expect that you could do it in two one-day stages, stopping off at a hotel in Winnipeg overnight.

150:

ndgmtlcd wrote:

And while you're at it the ocean liner could be a surface effect ship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_effect_ship

Basically, it's a hovercraft with side walls.

No thankyou. One cross-channel trip in a Force 8 wind, with the hovercraft making its way down the coast so it could make a dash across in the shortest possible time, was enough for me. Plus, those beggars are loud.

151:

Exciting, though! And there's nothing quite like sitting in the front row of seats on a stretched SRN.4 as the turbines crank up, the entire theatre-sized room levitates five metres, and then falls onto the sea like an air hockey puck the size of a 747.

Alas, they're gone, dammit.

152:

Charlie @ 151
And ... you can use them to go places ships can't go, like sandbanks which are extremely dangerous when the tide is in (quicksand/close to the world's busiest shipping lanes), land on it, disturbing the local seals, & play cricket!
Yes, the Goodwins ....

153:

Both Asimov and Heinlein "solved" these problems (they shared the same basic design) by having enclosed sections on the travelator surfaces. They were really big, wide, things, not the narrow thingies you have in some airports.

154:

@138:
How uncomfortable/dangerous is it to be propelled uncovered into air at 30mph?
---
Lots of places, a 30mph wind is a "mild breeze."

155:

Sooner or later the bullet will have to be bitten and trains will be underground affairs. That's about the only way I can see around the property rights issue.

Note that 'sooner' is still the better part of a century away. Even now, when it's pretty much accepted wisdom that buried cables are cheaper in the long run, above-ground wiring is still the rule rather than the exception (for us Usians at least). No one wants to commit to the initial outlays.

'ray for the Free Market and all that it implies - including the lack of a national industrial policy.

156:

Making trains go underground is a hideously expensive enterprise. Outside an actual city with dense property and high per-hectare buy-up costs, you're much better advised to pay a nice premium (say perhaps ten times its normal price) and just bribe your way.

(Assuming compulsory purchase is politically untenable.)

157:

It has appeared to this person from the US that the continental western Europe was able to do more with trains due to WWII. When you HAVE to start over and property rights and such are in a really messed up state and most everyone wanting to move on it's easier for a central government to step in and impose some things.

Here in the US property rights for widening lines isn't near the issue as much as straightening out curves and such. Or dealing with access stations where none were ever considered.

There's a commuter rail run in NC between Charlotte and Raleigh a couple of times a day each way. Takes about 3 or 3.5 hours. General sentiment is "it should be faster" as you can drive the distance in the same time. But a study was done. It will cost a $1 million or so for every few minutes of time you shave off the time. Rework this road crossing into an underpass. Straighten out this curve. Add track to remove a switch point. Etc... People keep looking for magic bullets and getting upset that all they find are nerf bullets.

Another project that started out as a light rail around the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area for an estimated $100 million or so was finally canned after the estimate got to $750 million and was still climbing. One example. A planned stop at one of the local universities was supposed to be easy. But since they were following existing rail lines they had to deal with a platform 30 feet below the grade where the buildings existed. So for ADA reasons that mean elevators. But this was also where a lot of things like power, steam lines, access tunnels, etc... for the university went under the tracks and it would all to be relocated without turning any of it off. By the time it was done the station was cheap. The site work was going to cost something like 10 times the cost of the platform.

158:

Exactly. You see my point then :-(

There's usually a good (for various values of 'good') reason for why we can't have nice stuff, and all too often it's not a physics, or even an engineering reason. It's not something that can be forced, either. All you can do is wait for the tide of history to get on the right side.

159:

In the case of trains, why would you want to put them underground, excluding cases such as city centres, undersea crossings and transmontane routes? Train tunnels make maintenance harder (the London Underground doesn't run 24/7 because of this). They make maintenance more dangerous (surface workers can step back from lines while trains come through, much harder in tunnels). They make rescue more difficult. They make fires horribly more dangerous (thank goodness the Channel Tunnel train fire was a mostly unpassengered lorry carrier).

I'm not sure any of that is 'nice stuff'.

I'm prepared to accept the Channel Tunnel, or the Gothard, or the Tube, but those are a minority. And I do know people who can't use them because of claustrophobia.

160:

It has appeared to this person from the US that the continental western Europe was able to do more with trains due to WWII. When you HAVE to start over and property rights and such are in a really messed up state

Rubbish.

Existing permanent ways had been bombed and damaged but were still very much in place -- and the population density of western Europe is much higher overall than that of the USA, much lest the western USA. Railway networks in Europe were built to facilitate mass mobilization in time of war and were as much strategic infrastructure as the US interstate system.

The reason for the spread of high speed rail 40-60 years later is more to do with France having very draconian compulsory purchase laws, a predilection for centralized prestige state projects (look at their nuclear and aerospace industries: France punches way above its weight in those categories), and a large, relatively sparsely populated interior that took too damn long for trains to crawl across but which was just short enough to bridge profitably at high speed: IIRC Paris to Lyons, the first TGV route, took 6-7 hours by train before the TGV and 3-4 hours after it. (The US "flyover" country is much larger -- it takes days tocross by conventional rail and it would still take 12-24 hours to cross by TGV.)

161:

>>(The US "flyover" country is much larger -- it takes days tocross by conventional rail and it would still take 12-24 hours to cross by TGV.)

China is comparable to USA in area and it doesn't stop them from building a high-speed rail network...

162:

I think you'll find the core of the Chinese LGV network links up specific super-cities that are not much more than 1000km apart.

Another point to note is that high speed passenger rail sucks passenger traffic off regular/slow rail routes, which means they can run freight trains without constant interruption. A major net win for China; less applicable in the USA (where passenger rail gives way to freigh (the mind, she boggles!)).

163:

Another difference between the US and China:
China didn't have a land rush, dividing up the interior into privately owned farms and such. In the US, you either pay for access to the land or claim Eminent Domain, and likely lose your next election (true of trains and pipelines). In China, the government wants to build something, they build it.

164:

As an old friend of mine said, freight pays the rent on US tracks. Passenger service is subsidized by the government, so I'm actually not surprised.

This is a pattern in the US. There's a certain passive-aggressive element in degrading service to try to get rid of some law or government service industry doesn't like.

Examples include: Amtrak (as per above), the US Post Office (note the way Congress treats it, even though UPS uses the Post Office to move some of their stuff), and now the National Environmental Quality Act.

On the last one, yesterday I heard a story about how a biologist had to wait months to collect lichens in a national forest (so they could follow some idiotic NEPA process about archeological remains, not that he was anywhere near them). Interestingly, that same forest just came out with another NEPA document that reportedly allows them to bulldoze vast swaths of their holdings in the name of making fire breaks, never mind the damage it causes (and never mind that the research shows it won't decrease damage from fires).

Note how environmental laws are under assault because they are suddenly "ineffective?" Gotta admire their chutzpah, at least once people get over the irrational urge to tattoo "follow the law!" on certain forest managers' frontal lobes with an icepick (not that I advocate violence as a solution to prevent such clumsy attempts to circumvent a law Nixon ratified).

165:

belinghman @ 159
There have now been TWO fires in the chunnel - both on freight trains ....
It takes about 22-25 mins to traverse the chunnel, but it takes 59 minutes to get from Morden to Golders Green (all in tunnel) on the UndergrounD ...
The Severn Tunnel ,between England & Wales, takes about 8 minutes to traverse, but that tunnel will flood, to the point where trains cannot run, if the pumps stop for more than 25 minutes [ BIG freshwater spring, encountered when the tunnel was built, 1873-1886 - it caused serious construction problems ]

Oh, & *most* rail tunnels (NOT the "tube") have recesses/mini-caves in the walls, for trackworkers to shelter in.

166:

A former colleague of mine was on the train behind the one that famously caught fire. This meant their train had to back out of the tunnel, which meant the train behind them ... and so on.

That fire left one bore of the tunnel inoperative for months. Which is another downside to tunnels - they're much harder to repair.

As for the Tube, I take your word that it may take an hour from Morden to Golder's Green, but that isn't an unbroken period: the trains are stopping all the time at stations. (And without the stops, I wonder how quickly they could do it.) Even so, tunnel fires can hit there too, as the horror of the Kings Cross fire attests. (Not a train fire in that instance, but the dozens who died are still dead.)

167:

There's considerable mention of marshalling yards, tunnels and viaducts in volumes of WW2 war history. the Allies' strategy was to attack the choke points in the rail net, rather than try and destroy the whole thing.

168:

the US Post Office (note the way Congress treats it, even though UPS uses the Post Office to move some of their stuff)

But that a part of the problem. The Post Office has rules that make some of their services such a money loser for them that their competitors use them as it's cheaper than anything else.

Package service in the Post Office has the same rates no matter where you are located in the US. Which means in Alaska construction firms ship concrete block by parcel post as it's way cheaper than anything else. And all of us the lower 48 get to pay a premium which makes parcel post for us more expensive many times than the competition.

And in another bizarre twist the PO gets to save a lot of money by not having to meet federal laws about pollution or safety in their delivery vehicles. But the rest of us get to pay in terms of dirty air and accident payouts.

169:

Allies' strategy was to attack the choke points in the rail net, rather than try and destroy the whole thing.

Of course that made them more easy to protect. My wife's grandfather ran the train station for a town in southern Germany. The roofed over the yard and station and painted it to look like any other city blocks from the air. Then they built a big fake painted roof/ground cover to look like yards and a station few miles away. With some tracks leading to it. The fake was bombed several times and quickly repaired after each bombing. The real station and yard never got hit.

Of course this would be a bit harder today with better photo from sats, Google maps, and such.

170:

I think I should mention that this was something that was forced on them later in the war, when true strategic bombing began. Before that, the discredited, murderous area bombing ruled supreme. (although to be somewhat fair, they just didn't have the technology for accurate bombing until later in the war)

And David L #169 indicates how air power alone is not enough.

171:

(although to be somewhat fair, they just didn't have the technology for accurate bombing until later in the war)

With the British bombing at NIGHT I don't think they every had the tech to do anything but area bomb.

172:

Indeed, but daylight bombing was more dangerous.

173:

With the British bombing at NIGHT I don't think they every had the tech to do anything but area bomb.

The Russian Night Witches did precision bombing, and they eyeballed it from converted crop-duster biplanes. High tech is often handy, but isn't always necessary.

174:

Area bombing.

The British were using Lancaster and similar planes flying long distances dropping bombs over mainland Europe in WWII. Doing doing it at night.

Given the above I don't think there was any tech available that would in any way shape or form allow what could be called precision bombing.

175:

You might want to read Paul Brickhill's "The Dambusters", with particular reference to comments like about how they dropped 15 Tallboys in the same hole without damaging the housing around the marshalling yard before risking embarrassing yourself any further.

176:

You missed the fact that the RAF bombing campaign ran for around 5 years.

In 1940-41, estimates (based on photorecon) indicated that the CEP of a night bomber was on the order of 5km -- that is, only 50% of bombs dropped fell within the CEP of the target.

They made a big push to improve night navigation accuracy. Then in 1942, the H2S radar set came along, allowing precision ground navigation even on moonless nights. (Of course, shortly thereafter the Luftwaffe night fighters began looking for H2S emitters ...) Then the RAF began rotating their most experienced/accurate crews through training and into pathfinder squadrons, flying Mosquitos with incendiaries to light up the target for the heavies.

The result was a drop in CEP from 5000 metres to 500 metres -- even for the high altitude strategic bomber groups flying at night -- and much higher accuracy for elite specialists, e.g. 617 Squadron; by 1944-45 they were aiming bombs through the ground-floor windows of Gestapo offices, where the bad guys were, in order to release the hostages kept on higher floors. (It didn't always work, and it took experts to do it, but that level of accuracy wasn't routinely reached again until the advent of laser-guided munitions in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It basically took selection from the very best people who could be trained up by five years of intensive campaigning by hundreds of thousands of aircrew.)

177:

I guess what I'm saying is that you're describing a special ops setup. Not an air force bombing campaign.

179:

Your statement was: I don't think there was any tech available that would in any way shape or form allow what could be called precision bombing.

I think the rest of us would consider the ability to deliver a bomb through a predetermined window to be a definite counter-example.

That so much WWII bombing was area bombing, designed to destroy whole towns and cities, is not proof that precision bombing was not feasible, rather a sign that better results were anticipated from area bombing. And sod the consequences as far as the Rules of War were concerned.

180:

I guess the difference would be more like strategic vs. tactical bombing.

BTW, AFAIK the precision attacks were carried out by Mosquitos, which were two-man multi-purpose planes with a maximum bomb load of about 2500 kg.

While the Avro-Lancaster could take about 10000 kg.

Range for the former, 1500 km, range for the latter, somewhat below 4100 km. With refueling, that might have changed, but the technology was AFAIK not operational in WWII. Well, I don't know how this translates to targets in Europe. And incidentally, quite some of the bigger air raids were in the later stages of the war, where airstrips closer to the targets were available.

As for the Nightwitches, the Polikarpov Po-2 used by them had a maximum range of only about 630 km, and a bol load of less than 500 kg.
For other Russian planes, the Il-2 had a range of 720 km and a bomb load of about 600 kg.

So while I agree there was quite some room for improvement of precision, comparing the precision stunts to the bigger air raids might be somewhat problematic. A plane suitable for precision bombing might not have the range and the bomb load to be effective in strategic bombing, while bombers with suitable range and bomb load tended to be so big that precision bombing was difficult or impossible.

Just some musings.

181:

Just played around a little bit with a distance calculator...

It seems like most of the Rhein-Ruhr is quite comfortably in the range for the Mosquito (distance London to Dortmund or Cologne about 500 km), while Berlin or Munich are stretching it too far (about 900 km, e.g. 1800 km for the whole trip).

Though with actual missions, e.g. dodging fighter attacks, returning with damage etc. there might be some modifiers.

182:

OK. Fine.

And riffing off Charlie's comment about experts and training, these precision things were not so much done technically as with experts and training. Likely lots of prep per mission.

Today we could put some oxygen breathing people on the moon and get them back if we wanted to really do do. In a year or two. Maybe less if we really really wanted to do it.

But to run there and back monthly with a base.... Yes sort of. In theory we do have the tech. But no one on the planet has the budget (or is willing to spend it) to getting that going in the next year or so.

Call it a tech limit, a money limit, whatever.

The US and UK and others had jets flying before WWII was over. But aside from Germany and some very limited used by the UK just before the war ended they just weren't "there yet". Did the allies have jets? Yes. Did they impact strategy in any significant way. Not really. (And shooting down V1 over England in 45 didn't really change the results.)

Sorry for upsetting everyone.

183:

The (possibly made-up) story is that a Mosquito crew who wanted to show off could drop as many blockbuster bombs on a target as a Lancaster - while they could only carry one they could drop it, return to base, re-arm, and be back over the target before the Lancaster even arrived.

Range-wise, we have thorough evidence of two Mosquito raids on Berlin in January 1943 - a special occasion, yes, but still demonstrates the possibility. I think perhaps your figures may neglect the wing tanks some versions could carry...

But we're orbiting a Strange Attractor again, aren't we? Shutting up now.

184:
I think perhaps your figures may neglect the wing tanks some versions could carry...

I am quite certain they do. ;)

My main idea was that comparing feats of one weapon system to those of another one is tricky business, as is judging risks from said features.

As the saying goes, no plan survives enemy contact. that's why he's called the enemy.

But we're orbiting a Strange Attractor again, aren't we?

Seconded.

Specials

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 22, 2013 12:03 PM.

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