Remember pneumatic tubes, those compressed-air pipelines that whisked plastic canisters from basement mailrooms to penthouse boardrooms? Imagine being in one, traveling at more than 700 mph. You could make the round-trip from San Francisco to LA in a little over an hour. That may sound like science fiction, but it could one day be a reality thanks to the efforts of engineering students at UC Berkeley and elsewhere.
Editors’ Note: The Summer 2014 issue of California magazine is called “This is the End.” Every day this week: a different catastrophic scenario.
It started with a flash.
At a few minutes past 9:00, one crystalline morning last February, a burst of light brighter than 30 suns illuminated Chelyabinsk, Russia, a southern industrial city known mostly for making tractors. Thanks to smartphones, surveillance cameras, and Russian auto-dash cams, we have a voluminous record of what happened next.