NOTE: My following commentary is Copyright protonius.wordpress.com 2014. In it, in stating my opinion of the matter in question, I have attempted to be as factually accurate as possible; if I have mis-stated any fact, please be assured that the mis-statement was purely unintentional. And now, to my commentary:
DATELINE 09/16/2014: Want to take a little HYPERVELOCITY ride — through Planet Earth’s oceans — from, say, Los Angeles to Taiwan, in under two hours, or from, say, New York City, to London, in just under one hour?
If so, then grab your flippers and scuba-gear — actually, probably all you’ll need is a thin magazine to skim through, and a sense of adventure, and maybe a strong stomach to handle the hypervelocity acceleration/deceleration (and any potentially life-threatening dangers that might be encountered in the waters along the way), and maybe a solid life-insurance policy — and hop aboard! The new, sleek, rocket-propelled, three-thousand-six-hundred-miles-per-hour CHINESE behemoth of the world’s underseas, now reportedly being developed, may soon be available to zoom you — or other selected passengers, equipment, devices, cargo, even perhaps weapons — at tremendously fast speeds, to almost any coastal destination on the planet.
That is, if and when the kinks in the technologies involved are worked out, and the vessel is actually constructed, tested, and declared ready for action. But, reportedly, the fact is that these aspects of research, toward designing and putting into operation a hypervelocity, thousands-of-miles-per-hour capable, maneuverable undersea craft, are well-in-the-works.
According to a 08/26/2014 online report by the Washington Post (http://tinyurl.com/olteltw) and a 09/15/2014 online report at WallStreetDaily (http://tinyurl.com/nvxuj8b), both citing information coming from a report in the South China Morning Post (apparently http://tinyurl.com/nmuq47a), research into actualizing this type of hypervelocity submarine technology is now deeply underway at laboratories in China, and potentially holds tremendous promise — but toward what ends?
I would assume that certain aspects of these particular technologies, if successfully applied and actualized, hold great potential — both positive and negative — depending upon how, and for what purposes, and toward generating what kinds of effects, those technologies are applied.
Civilian luxury-travel? Industrial cargo transport? Transportation of military commandos? Emergency delivery of food and medical supplies? Rapid delivery and launch of nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMS, i.e., submarine-launched ballistic missiles, on almost “a moment’s notice”?
Or all of these possibilities, and more?
Even if, in this research, China is “leading the pack” — but that’s not quite clear to me as being the case, at least based on the above articles — it would seem to me that these are vitally important questions to consider — and, that one way or another, whether with these particular technologies or other ones along these lines, hypervelocity-capable methods of transport will not only come about but will also then continue to progress to even greater capabilities thereafter — and that those means ot travel will include methods of hyperspeed travel not only through Earth’s oceans but also through … well, you name it.
Consider, for example, Elon Musk’s proposal for a hypervelocity, above-ground vacuum-tunnel-based, potentially world-encompassing, four-thousand-mph, civilian transportation system which he calls the “Hyperloop” (http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop and http://tinyurl.com/hyperloop-1).
And don’t forget at least the idea of a system of wormhole-technology-derived “star-gates“: fiction at the present (?) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate), but in the future, who knows?
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get back to the issue currently at hand:
Aspects of these current hypervelocity-submarine-based technologies have reportedly already been successfully applied to developing high-speed, “air-bubble cavitation-based” torpedos, for example; and although the fastest of those torpedos — at least as per the publicized reports — has been able to race (?) at only up to a measly 96 kmh (i.e., that’s a bit less than 60 mph), how close is that speed to the projected submarine’s hypervelocity of 3,600 mph?
But if the scientists working on this technology consider the projected 3,600 mph as their (current) goal, might there at least be a likelihood that, sometime in the relatively near-term, they will find a way to achieve even a modicum of that goal?
For that matter, I would find it hard to imagine that a whole range of possible answers to these, and more, questions are not already being intensively pursued by governments, industry, and other entities, that have an interest in where these efforts may lead — and in how those developments — or potential countermeasures — might best be applied.
Even as the South China Morning Post piece explains, it is not only China but also several countries that are pursuing one or another version of these technologies, for application toward creating superhigh-velocity efficiently-maneuverable undersea vessels.
But, even as that paper itself notes, even the experts, working in those labs in China, are cautioning that there are yet huge technological hurdles to overcome before a workable technological plan can come to fruition.
So how soon will you be able to book a seat on China’s — or Russia’s, or the US’s, or, maybe, “SPECTRE’s” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPECTRE) — hypervelocity undersea potentially game-changing speed-demon? And are you ready to physically and psychologically handle accelerating to 3,600 mph?
Or will those proposed “air-bubble cavitation” and “maneuverability” technologies, as currently envisioned, succeed in developing a vessel of such proposed capabilities? Or will the design — at least in the early stages — be forced to be cut-back to only a piddly hundred-or-so mph capability?
Or will the idea behind these technologies lead to other, more advanced, technologies — technologies that, perhaps, will succeed at meeting and even exceeding these goals?
Anyone want to offer a guesstimate?
Now, as to a more detailed analysis of the currently proposed (as per the above news-accounts) hypervelocity submarine technologies, I offer the following personal observations below. But, as they are somewhat extensive, I would say this:
But if you feel that you’ve “had enough”, you have my permission (not that you need it!) to resume your surfing to wherever else you may want to go, and I promise — at least as far as I’m able — that the Chinese submarine people probably won’t come after you. Yet. 😉
NOW FOR THOSE ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS:
IMO, and although I am not privy to the scientific details of the research, it seems to me that there are multiple problems with this propositional technology:
1. Steerability, as proposed, might, in my view, be a major problem. The proposed idea of the vessel exuding a “shell” (= my word) of a “lubricating liquid substance” assumes that, somehow, and perhaps at some infrequent points in time, or even much of the time, portions of the vessel — even if “encased” in a “protective” lubricating-substance, would be essentially in kinetic contact with, and powerfully resisted by — and capable of being torn apart by — the water.
Yet the overall hypervelocity concept is, purportedly, based on the idea that no components of the vessel would ever — while traveling at a given hypervelocity speed — be in direct contact with (i.e., never be subjected to any appreciable resistance from) the water. So even if the vessel, or a component of the vessel, is temporarily encased in a thin veneer of some “lubricating liquid”, how does that configuration magically negate the fact that that portion of the vessel, when exposed (even if “protected” by “lubrication”) to the surrounding water, will be physically resisted by, and even slammed by — and will potentially be torn apart by — the water’s intense and potentially component-shredding resistance?
Thus, at least based on the above articles’ information, this aspect of the proposed technology make no sense — in my opinion. Rather, as I see it, it’s like saying “Here’s a great idea: Let’s design a new kind of military tank, one even better than the Abrams, even better than top-rated German Leopard 2A6 Kampipanzer! We’re going to triple the armor, quadruple the firepower, and exponentially quazillionate the speed! Plus, so that the guys inside can also have the ability to poke their heads up through the hatch to peek outside once in awhile as the tank is rocketing at hypervelocity-speeds, we’re going to shield their helmets with cellophane — certainly that will protect them, as the zillion-mile-an-hour speed of the wind whipping by them will simply — and oh-so-gently — slide off the cellophane and leave our guys untouched!”
Okay, so somebody prove my hypothesis wrong.
2. But suppose that the proposed hypervelocity submarine vessel is, somehow, safely and effectively steerable. How safe from damage or destruction — or from causing damage or destruction — would that vessel be, at hypervelocities, from encountering — i.e., ramming into — any solid item of any appreciable, even perhaps minutely small, size — that gets in its way? Would that “obstruction” be essentially disintegrated and the submarine remain unscathed? Or would the submarine, as well, be ripped-into by the impact?
Do the answers to those questions depend, perhaps, on the nature of the collisional body, such as solidity, shape, size?
For example, whales — unlike commercial airlines or shipping-lines — are not quite known (at least in the “human” world) for submitting and then following “underwater flight-plans” that might otherwise help a human navigator avoid a collision.
Would this hypervelocity submarine, zipping through the ocean’s waters at 3,600 mph, actually be able to safely and seemingly eye-blink-rapidly be able to maneuver out of the way of a free-swimming whale?
Or, what if this new sub is designed to plow through any such obstacle, unscathed, regardless of the consequences to that obstacle — an obstacle which, more likely than not, was (until the encounter) one or more living creatures, creatures such as a school of fish, or a flock of hard-shell tortoises, or a bevy of walruses — or even, perhaps whales?
In that scenario, with this proposed hypervelocity submarine technology, are we to “just forget about” caring for whales anyway, and remodel our thinking to simply and blithely accept the idea that if any whale is “just too stupid” to stay out of the sub’s way, that the stupid whale just “deserves” to be liquidated anyway?
I would also question the ability of this hypervelocity sub to safely navigate around other, more solid and potentially dangerous, subsea obstacles at those hypervelocity speeds — but I leave that issue to others to figure out.
3. I don’t claim to be an expert in these areas, and perhaps the scientists involved have solved the basics of empowering the proposed vessel — as with some torpedoes utilizing a similar technology — to stay afloat (or on a chosen path) even when, by design, the vessel is enclosed in an “air-bubble cavitation”.
However, what puzzles me — in my ignorance — about that reported technological capability, are a number of reports — accessible on the net (and some of which were also viewable on the BBC and other media) — that offer an explanation of how ships have “mysteriously disappeared” in the “Bermuda Triangle“.
Say the reports, the ships were sunk by the massive upwelling, beneath the ships, of methane-gas bubbles emerging from the sea-floor. This upwelling of gas-bubbles, underneath the ships, meant that the ships, as a consequence, were suddenly sitting not on a consistently dense body of water but, in essence, on a turbulent sea of gas — gas that obviously could not support a ship; and, as a result, the ships sank. (Details: http://tinyurl.com/bubbles-sink-ships-1 and http://tinyurl.com/bubbles-sink-ships-2 and http://tinyurl.com/bubbles-sink-ships-3).
So here’s my question: Although I assume that the proposed hypervelocity submarine vessel would be equipped, via ballast and compressed air and other relevant methods, to maintain whatever keel, i.e., undersea “altitude”, would be necessary, is it at all possible that the vessel’s being “enveloped” within its own-generated “air-bubble cavitation” would create a situation analogous to that faced by those ships in the “Bermuda Triangle”, in which they “tried” — against the pull of gravity, and with catastrophic results — to ride atop a pocket of gas?
4. Now, to the other issue, mentioned almost as a footnote, in the above articles: the proposed propulsion system:
What, exactly, kind of rocket are they talking about? A solid-or-liquid-fueled chemical-propulsion-based rocket , that will spew out highly pollutive and possibly life-and-environment-endangering toxic chemicals (and other energetic effluents) into the water? Or would the rocket’s propulsion-system be based on some new form of nuclear-and/or-plasma-based propulsion, which would most likely also pump life-and-environment-endangering substances, both chemical and energetic, into the water?
And if either of those mechanisms — or similar — is to be employed, are we then, again, supposed to just ignore those destructive consequences, because, “after all”, it’s “so much more important” to be able to speed through the oceans, whether for civilian, industrial, or military purposes, than to waste our precious time worrying about the fate of the world’s oceans (and the creatures that, until this technology’s onslaught, the oceans offer life — life which, in great measure, supports our lives)?
5. But here’s an additional puzzle: What ever happened to the idea — which, as I understand, was actually put into practice awhile back — of propelling specially-designed submarines via MHD, i.e., MagnetoHydroDynamics? Those types of submarines have no external propellors, no external propulsion mechanisms; rather, those vessels are propelled — from the inside — by the controlled imposition, transmitted through the hull, of energy on the surrounding water.
Could this technology offer a more feasible potential for developing not only a hypervelocity-speed undersea capability but also for generating a “frictionless envelope” around the vessel and also for developing a controllable “shaped energy-field” — perhaps the energy-equivalent of “fins” or a spaceship’s “thrusters” — to enable a measure of relatively frictionless controlled navigation?
Well, that idea is just my own thought — but, who knows? Maybe some agency is already hard at work on the concept, and is maybe already far beyond it.
But, either way, the observations that I mentioned above, as to the potential dangers to the vessel and to the environment and to life-forms in that environment, would, in my view, still pertain.
But since when have any environmental, even life-endangering, concerns, held back any thrust of technology, when the interests — particularly if sufficiently influential and/or powerful — behind pursuing that particular technological development were single-mindedly set on achieving their goals, and the “collateral damage be damned”?
Perhaps that too is a consideration that deserves the world’s close attention — because, and even though we may welcome whatever technological advances that, in our view — or in our dreams — may make our lives better or at least may make some things more convenient — maybe it’s important for us all to keep in mind that some dreams take the form of nightmares — and that this is our planet, too, and it needs to be protected from harm.
After all, to borrow the words of Confucius, “If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand“.
Or, conversely, in the worlds of Melvin Cowznofski, or was it maybe Alfred E. Neuman: “What, me worry?”. 😉
Have a nice hypervelocity subsea day.
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