Space Elevators -> US Transportation Infrastructure

  1. Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    Alright, I really wasn't sure where to post this question regarding space elevators. I'm on the debate team at my school, and I've found that I can't get motivated with the current topic of "transportation infrastructure." until I realized that a space elevator/launch loop/hyperloop could be considered transportation means. The difficult part is finding proof that it is topical and fits within the criteria set by:

    "The United States will substantially increase its investment in transportation Infrastructure within the United States"

    Now, this really gets my excited, it has everything that I like. Physics, space, and engineering, and I could really speak from the top of my head. Last year I won first place in state, but this year I've consistently been placing 9/10th place against the same people, and it's not really to my taste. I've found that just the idea of being able to find some way to relate space elevators/launch loops (hyperloops are actually topical, but alternatively, I'd rather argue the default highspeed rail argument because It'd save me research that I really don't want to do. I wouldn't mind doing research for space elevators/launch loops, though) is exciting.

    If you think those aren't topical, could you perhaps suggest to me projects that may be that relate to engineering/physics feats that are possible?

    See, if someone could just provide me with a set-in-stone definition of what exactly transportation infrastructure is, and a clear idea of why or why not space elevators would work, I'd love it.

    I've already found counters to every counter argument there is (federalism, spending, climate change, etc.) and as soon as I can find a way to make it topical, I think I can really make my come back.

    P.S - I really wasn't sure where I'd post this - I went ahead and posted it in engineering because I figured it be most relevant here. If a moderator sees this, could you perhaps move this? Thank you.

    And thanks to everyone that helps too.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators

    This isn't my field but I think you're too off topic. For one thing a space elevator would have to be built on the equator, secondly it's still a speculative engineering topic as there is no way to build one currently.

    Lastly it's unclear to me exactly what the topic means. Are you meant to argue whether or it the US will substantially invest in the future?
  4. Re: Space Elevators

    No, on the contrary, most people tend to argue that the United States shouldn't risk harming today's economy by investing too much into the future. I tend to choose which to argue based on what the opponents are arguing.

    If not a space elevator, do you have another physics based transportation system (really stressing the science factor.) that I could use? Preferably something well known so I could find articles supporting it.
  5. Re: Space Elevators

    Oh, and also, whether or not we can build it now isn't an issue. If it fits the criteria (even if it were to be decades from feasibility) I could still argue it. It IS debate, after all.
  6. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators

    Hmm given the economic focus it seems like your best bet would be to stick to something fairly established and known to be a good return on investment. Something like rail might be a good focus, if you try for a speculative mega project like a space elevator or maglev system you won't have any firm figures to support you because they've never been built so there's no data on what their long term effects are.
  7. Re: Space Elevators

    Even then, I guess I just have a way with words, and I'm sure I could do the proper convincing of mega projects if needed. The highspeed rail is typically shot down with the argument "look how much it cost china for just 30k of track! We need 250k, and we could not afford this with the current economy"
  8. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators

    Couldn't you argue against that point by examining the long term economic benefits? Ad perhaps looking at other HSR networks like those in Europe? Im skeptical of speculative megaprojects being easier to argue if HSR is so hard.

    Do you have anything more than just the motion of the debate? If so perhaps you could post it, it might help narrow down viable suggestions.
  9. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators

    @blu3boy -- Congrats on winning state last year :smile: A space elevator definitely does not fit the subject statement. It isn't transportation infrasctucture in the US; it would be used to lift supplies and folks to space for exploration and experiment purposes.

    Another subject you might consider that is getting a lot of press lately is the concept of "smart roads". When you put smart cars on smart roads, you can have them travel much faster and clower together in heavy traffic, easing the travel time burden. It may even be that cooperating smart cars may not need smart roads, but I'm not sure where the technology is at the moment. It would be easy for you to find plenty of articles with those search terms.

    And one subtle point about the whole smart car/road concept, is the question of how do motorcycles fit in? Motorcycles don't have the ability to drive themselves (like smart cars do), so will they be prevented from riding during smart car periods (like commute times)?
  10. Re: Space Elevators

    There is that general topic, but they're fairly lenient with what you can argue. I've downloaded all the representable files (the ones that don't completely suck)

    The topics I can debate are as follows.

    For the affirmative side there is

    Human Powered Transport (self explanatory)

    Air Traffic control (the control system. i.e we improve the GPS of planes so we can create more efficient pathways, etc.)

    Overall Aviation Industry (faster, quieter jets.)

    Bicycles (Self explanatory. The debate league decided to seperate this from the human powered transport for some reason)

    Buses (we invest in the bus system)

    Climate (instead of investing directly in infrastructure development we invest in stopping the affects on climate on current infrastructure.)

    Electric Vehicle investment

    GPS investment

    Investment in Highways

    Investment in Hydrogen power infrastructure

    Infrastructure bank (we create a bank primarily meant for loaning out to infrastructure development plans)

    Inland waterway infrastructure

    Mass Transit (essentially buses with a focus on buses in cities)

    Port Security (arguably the most popular this year. We invest in the infrastructure of port security to prevent terrorist attacks.)

    and then you have the default Highspeed Rail
  11. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    Ok cool. Another idea you might want to look into if you want something more techy is personalised rapid transport. There's many examples of experimental use around the world and the new Masdar city in the UAE is built around the concept.
  12. Re: Space Elevators

    Thank you! That smart road idea is definitely interesting. Something I couldn't find from a quick search (mind you it was literally a 2 minute search session) was the cost. People are quick to argue that the current economy can't handle the burden of such roads. Do you have an estimate of how much it's cost? Like the cost of implementation in one particular area? I could do the math and find rough estimates of how much nationwide implementation would cost.

    While I hate to admit it because I am essentially criticizing my peers - I would go so far as to say that not one of the people I've ever debate against could conceive of the motorcycle argument. So as far as I'm concerned - They don't ask about it, I don't tell them about it.
  13. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    Remember its not just cost you want to look at but ROI (return on investment). An opponent might well say "but to do that would cost $X billion!" but if you can turn around and show projections that the infrastructure will generate >>$X then you're on solid ground to win the argument.
  14. Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    I looked up costs for that, and while it is a very interesting idea, it is estimated that it would cost $800,000 per mile, and at that price point it would cost 240 billion for about 300,000 miles of lines.

    Assuming the best possible conditions - the price point is actually 800,000 to 22 million per mile
  15. Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    I'm sorry, I posted without reading that. Do you have projections for the ROI?
  16. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    I'm afraid I don't but I'd suggest doing some thorough research, there are many types of PRT after all. Also where does the 300,000 miles figure come from? If its the entire transport network of the US do you really have to focus on replacing all of it? Lastly its probably looking up where desperately needs or will need infrastructure development and compareing the costs. For instance, are there any examples of prominent infrastructure like city metros that need replacing soon for which it might be worth paying a bit more to get a better system?
  17. Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    The 300,000 is the number people typically bring up when discussing how much rail would need to be placed down if we were going to invest in the highspeed rail infrastructure plan. What I did with the port security last Saturday was say that investment would be made over the period of 10-20ish years and because of that, the costs would only be 500 million a year. But I find that with a figure as large as 240 to 1+trillion, it's hard to argue the same way. Maybe I could use the argument that we invest in URBAN infrastructure as opposed to nationwide infrastructure? I found this really great article just 20 minutes ago that says the United States would lose out on trillions of dollars if we don't invest now.
  18. Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    Update following some research - I think the intelligent highway argument is near perfect. Over the course of 8 years, spending 157 billion will save 3.1 trillion in GDP, 1 trillion in trade, and 3.5 million jobs.
  19. Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    You could also argue the reduction of the countrys reliance on oil for fuel (as rechargable electric cars can be charged from renewable sources) and the reduction in the cost of lives due to traffic accidents cannot be valued in dollars.... Sustainability is paramount :)
  20. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    Not to mention that electric cars are more efficient than their oil using counterparts.

    Regarding putting a value on saved lives I agree its incalculable in human terms but if you have to reduce it to economics there probably is a great deal of statistics out there for how much non-fatal car accidents cost in terms of time off work and medical expenses. Not to mention that in the States 3000 people die every month in road traffic accidents. That's a 9/11 worth of people every 30 days. I don't necessarily condone putting it in such comparative terms but it could be useful for debate.
  21. Re: Space Elevators --> US Transportation Infrastructure

    Yea, I actually implemented the argument of a smart road that charges electric cars while they drive; (Found a Stanford study on it so its reliable) this means there is a much greater incentive to buy electric cars. On top of that, said roads would be SOLAR POWERED! I just thought it was amazing
Know someone interested in this topic? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook