High speed?!? It'll never work!

Mattattattatt

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#1
I've heard that, in days gone by, science deemed it impossible to travel above speeds of 30 mph because the passengers would suffocate, but was it actually ever stated scientifically, or is it just a dig at our slowcoach Victorian predessessors?

There are similar tales where air travel was smilarly debunked...
 

James_H

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#2
I do know that an eminent scientist publicly stated that heavier-than-air flight was impossible, jsut before it happened, but I can't trace that right now.
 

Quake42

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#3
I've heard that, in days gone by, science deemed it impossible to travel above speeds of 30 mph because the passengers would suffocate, but was it actually ever stated scientifically, or is it just a dig at our slowcoach Victorian predessessors?
I think some scientists/doctors did express concern that the speed of early rail travel could prove dangerous to passengers' health. I'm not sure 30mph was ever noted as the danger limit though.
 

feen5

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#4
If you have the discovery channels keep an eye out for the fantastic Mark Williams On the rails and Industrial Revelations programmes. He mentioned some thing about this and it was in relation to the new steam trains and the carrying of passengers. He even had the quote about it being detremental to the passengers health and also about it being frightening to horses. I'm sorry i cannot pinpoint the exact episode for you but the programmes are repeated regularly and are probably out on DVD as well.
 

rynner2

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#5
A whole page of similar stuff here:
http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/neverwrk.htm

I'll limit myself to just two quotes:
Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
- Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), ca. 1895, British mathematician and physicist
 

Rrose_Selavy

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#6
This must surely be the real reason all traffic in central London is still limited to around 4 miles per hour.

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RealPaZZa

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#8
The site above has missed one, and its sorta relevant to this thread.

I remember when British Telecom announced their non-digital phonelines couldnt handle modem traffic greater then 2400. Then came 9600, 14400, 2800, 56000, before we moved to cable etc.
 

Xanatico

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#9
I don´t know much about Kelvins claims, but the asphyxia one seems weird. How would driving in an open rail coach be any different from riding a galloping horse? And if a closed one, the air would be moving along with it.
 

Number 6

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#10
I've heard a variation on the theme, where the figure is 15 miles per hour and the terrible consequence of travelling at such a fantastic velocity is that the bones in the body would be shaken apart by the vibrations!
 

rynner2

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#12
Rrose_Selavy said:
This must surely be the real reason all traffic in central London is still limited to around 4 miles per hour.
I misread that as "air traffic in central London is still limited to around 4 miles per hour"! :oops:

Anyhow, on the It'll Never Work theme:


They said the London Underground would never work
After 150 years, the Victorian underground railway is going strong
By Sinclair McKay
7:30AM GMT 10 Jan 2013

Tales from the Underground tend towards the darker side. In 1861, two years before the very first subterranean railway system in the world opened, the Times commented that it was insane to imagine that horse-drawn omnibus passengers would instead choose “to be driven amid palpable darkness through the foul subsoil of London”, and the very notion of this railway would in the future be associated with other absurdities such as plans for “tunnels under the Channel”. To this day, there are millions of aggrieved commuters – not just in London but packed in carriages, with their faces squashed against the doors, from Tokyo to Moscow – who still feel that travelling underground is a daily form of madness. 8)

In 1863, there were a few apprehensive Victorians who imagined that those initial tunnels from Praed Street in west London to Farringdon in the City, filled with smoke and the shrieks of steam engines, were uncomfortably close to the infernal visions of Dante.
But just the other week, along those very same tunnels, a vintage steam locomotive drew through Baker Street station as a prelude to a year of celebrations, clouds billowing down the platform. In the coming year, we should be treated to many sights such as this, together with the sharp pang of nostalgic yearning that antique trains always evoke.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of that pioneering underground railway system, and it is an opportunity to reflect not merely on the ingenuity but also on the unexpected splendours of underground life. For all the complaints about claustrophobia and sub-surface overcrowding, from Liverpool to Glasgow, Prague to New York, these railways through the Stygian gloom also bid us – if we keep our eyes open – to briefly enter an altogether different world. And unlike other modes of travel, from the jet to the hybrid car, this is one that Victorians would still instantly recognise today. We take it so much for granted that we forget just what an extraordinary feat these old Underground tunnels represent.

Throughout the mid-19th century, as London suddenly pulsated outwards and its squalid streets and courts and alleys seethed with an unprecedented population explosion, and coaches and carriages on the muddy roads moved slower than pedestrians, the question of how to move everyone around became more urgent. The dawn of the railway age combined with the relentless Victorian appetite for innovation. The answer lay below.

Roads were sliced open; tenements were flattened; the River Fleet was held in check. One commentator noted that it was like operating on a human body, for below London lay “the veins and arteries” of pipes. The driving visionary was Charles Pearson, solicitor to the City of London and sometime radical MP for Lambeth. In the 1850s, seeing how London’s streets were also being jammed with railway passengers arriving from all over the country, he campaigned for a line between Paddington and the City. In 1854, the idea finally got parliamentary assent. Pearson died in 1862, one year before his dream was realised on January 9 1863, then thrown open to the pubilc the next day. By the end of the first year of operation, there were nine million passengers.
It took a while, but other British cities followed...

[...]

On the other hand, London’s Tube – formerly decaying, peeling, raucous and filthy – seems to have found new, more beautiful, sometimes exquisite life in recent years. There is the restored Victorian splendour of the Circle Line – fantasias of pale yellow brickwork and green-painted wrought iron. There is the dripping gothic thrill of Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s twin tunnels under the river at Wapping. Gants Hill, in the east, is a sly Forties austerity satire on Moscow’s absurd grandeur. Uxbridge is a fascinating Thirties experiment in brutalist concrete – as well as being immortalised in Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’s Uxbridge English Dictionary. Clue fans might also want to visit the show’s ultimate shrine: Mornington Crescent, south of Camden Town, once the hangout of scary drunks and addicts, but now a charmingly restored example of the finest Edwardiana.

Meanwhile, modern Canary Wharf has the breathtaking operatic scale of a Bond villain’s lair. Perhaps thus inspired, the most recent 007 adventure Skyfall featured the villain using the Tube system as a means to try to kill Bond. It could have been worse. In the 1967 Hammer film Quatermass and the Pit, a new Tube extension to “Hobb’s Lane” uncovers a long-buried spaceship and ancient visions of the Devil himself. :shock:

And naturally there are plenty of ghost stories even today: the baleful presence felt by drivers in the darkness on the Kennington loop; the spectre on the stairs at Russell Square. There is even said to be a glowing-eyed vampire lurking in a disused tunnel near Whitechapel – this notion thanks to the poet/novelist Iain Sinclair.

In real life, that faintly pleasurable unease will never quite go away. When you stand at the end of the platform and stare into the fathomless darkness of the Tube tunnel, waiting to feel the stale air of an oncoming train, there is always a slight sense of the macabre. Of all the ways to travel, there is something counter-intuitive about plunging into the depths. But the fascination and the allure is enduring, too. Why else should crowds of children spend hours in the London Transport Museum, poring over those first ever Harry Beck-designed Tube maps from the Thirties, or gawping at the original Victorian windowless Tube carriages, dubbed “padded cells”? And what visitor to the capital has not laughingly intoned, in fruity received pronunciation, the instruction: “Mind the Gap”? The underground has a way of getting under everyone’s skin.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... -work.html
 

Yithian

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#13
Mattattattatt said:
I've heard that, in days gone by, science deemed it impossible to travel above speeds of 30 mph because the passengers would suffocate, but was it actually ever stated scientifically, or is it just a dig at our slowcoach Victorian predessessors?

There are similar tales where air travel was smilarly debunked...
This claim was discussed by Adam Hart-Davis in Episode 1 of What the Victorians Did For Us:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_V ... Did_for_Us

Video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlOW14kvhT8

It's an interesting episode throughout, but the high-speed train section appears somewhere around ten or eleven minutes in. He attributes the claim to Dr Dionysius Lardner:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysius_ ... ith_Brunel
 
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