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What's your point? Because you're good at something doesn't mean you're good at everything.

That being said, I agree that the tone of the article is a bit too harsh for my taste, but then again Linux Torvalds is revered here for this kind of tone. It's always good to think outside of the box and bring new ideas to the table. Even if they're dead ends, they keep the brains working, if only to form counter proposals.

N.B.: american friends, pretty please, consider including metric values alongside imperial, I have no idea what 1030feet means. Fortunately we have google for unit conversion...




A foot is about a third of meter, and a mile is about a kilometer and a half. That's all you really need to remember. Heck, in a discussion like this you could pretend a mile equals a kilometer and be fine.

Oh, and a pound is about half a kilogram. I won't expect you to remember all the stupid volume units, but those three tiny conversions are worth knowing.


And a liter is about 1/4 of a gallon (useful when calculating gasoline prices.)


Or about 2 pints, useful for beer.


> Because you're good at something doesn't mean you're good at everything.

How is that statement relevant here? The criticism being responded to was that he doesn't know the basics of engineering. The response was there's significant evidence he knows a lot about engineering (and his employees who looked at this proposal probably know more). It doesn't matter whether he's good at everything.

edit: fixed typo and added emphasis


> How is that statement relevant here?

Because in real life (as opposed to, say, Star Trek), aerospace engineering and civil engineering ain't the same ballpark, ain't the same league, and ain't even the same flipping sport. [1]

[1] with apologies to Pulp Fiction.


Neither are online payments, electric cars and aerospace engineering similar sports. His core competence seems to be learning new sports very quickly.

He may strike out, he may not. If he fails it's not going to be because his first paper over-reached or because he's unable to gather smart-enough experts with better civeng software.


> If he fails

So far, its not clear that he is attempting anything with Hyperloop other than what he is demonstrated to be very good at: selling ideas.

Its particularly clear, though, that the one thing he isn't trying to sell Hyperloop as yet (and may not be at all) is an actual project/business, as opposed to just a reason to not support CA HSR.

Why the CEO of a company selling currently selling high-end electric cars and working to expand the reach of electric cars in the market might want to sell an alternative to a project designed primarily to reduce automobile road trips (which incidentally reduces the need for automobiles) in California by improving mass transit on both the major intrastate long-distance corridor and the connecting regional/commuter mass transit systems -- either as a real system that doesn't do as much to reduce automobile demand (and even relies on transporting autos to provide door-to-door connectivity) or as a phantom system to derail the existing proposal -- is pretty obvious.

Hyperloop doesn't need to be successful as mass transit -- or even ever have $1 spent toward building it -- to succeed for Musk.


> its not clear that he is attempting anything with Hyperloop other than what he is demonstrated to be very good at: selling ideas.

While selling ideas isn't a bad skill I think you're underselling his ability to execute, somewhat.

Personally, I feel that Musk's "list of biggest risks to Tesla" has many items before "CA HSR". By the time it's built Tesla will either be (at least) a countrywide success, or not.


> While selling ideas isn't a bad skill I think you're underselling his ability to execute, somewhat.

Not my intent; I think SpaceX and Tesla both show Musk can execute in engineering quite well when his energy is behind it (or, equivalently, that he is good at putting his energy in places where he can execute.)

Part of that is the ability to sell ideas to (among others) investors, without which he wouldn't have the ability to execute.

With regard to hyperloop, Musk has been very visibly not putting the kind of intent-to-execute behind it that he has with other endeavors, making his selling ideas skill the most relevant part of his ability to execute, but I certainly did not mean to fail to recognize his ability to execute.

> Personally, I feel that Musk's "list of biggest risks to Tesla" has many items before "CA HSR".

Probably. But tossing out a "I don't plan to build this, but it would be better" diversion is a pretty low-cost way of derailing the threat. It doesn't have to be the biggest or most immediate threat to be worthy of that, from a rational viewpoint.

> By the time it's built Tesla will either be (at least) a countrywide success, or not.

This presumes HSR (including the regional/commuter transit improvements that go with that project, and are some of the earlier investments) has no effect on the market for electric cars until its fully built out. I'd question that assumption.


No, but a lot of the same types of problems surface even in all these different fields, engineering does have some rather uniquely diversified fields, but at their core they still follow ...a lot of... the same laws of physics.


arethuza ninja-edited his comment after my reply, his initial reply was simply "So what about SpaceX and Tesla?", which didn't make a lot of sense to me.

But my point still holds, because you're good at making rockets and electric carcs doesn't automatically make you an expert in high speed train infrastructure, so I don't really think that's a valid argument.


It means you know a whole lot about thermal expansion.


It might mean you should know that, but to the extent it does, that makes it more, not less, notable that your work fails to demonstrate that.


Okay, but who is Dr. Drang? As nearly as I can tell from a web search, he is someone puts some code on Github and writes a blog. Has he sent rockets into space? Why does he feel like he gets to talk down to someone who has sent rockets into space, on the subject of engineering?


Now that's an appeal to authority. Regardless of whether this person is a doctor or a billionaire or a physicist, the key points (like the issues with thermal expansion) are legitimate criticisms. "Dr Drang" presented arguments that are within the reach of high school physics.

Now, Musk may have an answer to the issues, but he certainly didn't present them. The fact that there is no obvious resolution suggests that either Musk didn't think of them or he intentionally omitted the answer (both are damning)


> key points (like the issues with thermal expansion) are legitimate criticisms

No, thermal expansion criticism is not careful enough. See my comment:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6238022


Yeah, this was my initial confusion with the article and many of the comments. When I read the doc by Musk, I assumed, that the tube 'floated' over the pylons. The author seems to have assumed the opposite. The problem is that they are both assumptions.

When making an argument, sometimes it is good to make an assumption and then prove the assumption is false... sometimes it is just a straw man.


The tube does float (longitudinally) over the pylons, in the proposal.

The tube will be supported by pillars which constrain the tube in the vertical direction but allow longitudinal slip for thermal expansion as well as dampened lateral slip to reduce the risk posed by earthquakes. In addition, the pillar to tube connection nominal position will be adjustable vertically and laterally to ensure proper alignment despite possible ground settling. These minimally constrained pillars to tube joints will also allow a smoother ride.


> As nearly as I can tell from a web search, he is someone puts some code on Github and writes a blog.

A civil and mechanical consulting engineer [1] who also has put some code on Github and writes a blog.

> Why does he feel like he gets to talk down to someone who has sent rockets into space, on the subject of engineering?

Probably because, unlike Musk, he actually has professional qualifications in the kind of engineering at issue on the points on which he is criticizing Musk's proposal.

[1] See, e.g., http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/582981/A-Coder-Interview...


"Dr. Drang, a consulting engineer well known amongst nerds on the Internet" (from http://5by5.tv/systematic/57)


Seems super legit


1 foot ~= 1 nano-light-second




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