Daily Archives: 07/09/2006

Asian Rail – High And Low Tech

China opened a 1140 km rail line through Tibet this week, one of the world’s most technically advanced trains. The train operates at altitudes of over 5,000 meters, as high as some jetliners fly. The cars offer UV protection and oxygen supplements for the thin air. The rail bed is also a marvel of high technology. Most of the route is over permafrost, a notoriously unstable foundation for construction. So the Chinese elevated long swaths of the track on bridges above the ground in the most troublesome areas, and installed cooling equipment in others to insure the ground stays frozen in the years ahead.

Of course this new train will bind the Tibetan plateau to the Chinese heartland, opening the region to development and possible assimilation. Tibetans around the world are concerned about the changes the railway will bring to their subjugated homeland, protesting and calling it a second invasion.

And before I forget, let me toss in a link about kayaking down the Yangtze, which sounds like a great adventure. They paddled in Yunnan, well upstream of the area that will be flooded by the recently completed Three Gorges Dam.

Meanwhile, sporadic rail service in the impoverished hinterlands of Cambodia has sparked a decidely low-tech solution; bamboo trains, little more than carts with small engines, are providing much needed transportation between towns in Cambodia’s second city of Battambang.

A Couple Lunar Links

  • Astronomers Capture Meteorite Strike On Moon – This is a cool little story. Scientists are monitoring the moon for meteorite strikes as part of NASA’s plans to return to the moon for a long term exploration. Since the moon lacks a protective atmosphere, even small bits of rock impact the surface. NASA wants to know how often these impacts occur, so the agency is funding a project to monitor the moon with telescopes. Almost from the start, researchers caught this impact on May 2, 2006 in the Sea of Clouds (Mare Nubium). They estimate it was a 25 cm meteoroid travelling at 38 km/s and that it carved out a 14 meter wide, 3 meter deep crater. FYI, 38 km/s is 85,000 mph.
  • Upper Limit For Moons Explained – It’s an interesting conundrum; Jupiter, Saturn and Uranas all have dozens of moons, yet in each case the combined mass of the moons equals 0.01% of the parent planet. Well a new model seeks to explain how these gas giants garnered such an array of moons. Basically any moon larger than this 0.01% limit was drawn too close to the gas giant and absorbed into the planet. The only exception to this rule was Neptune’s moon Triton, which astronomers think is a captured object that did not form with Neptune.