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Thread: Road structure and representation...

  1. #31
      gilgamec is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juggernaut1981 View Post
    Gilgamec> I'd be guessing you've never visited a non-first world nation. I've been to a number of places where fridges and large goods are delivered short distances (less than 1 or 2km) by people-power. China is a really good case in point.
    I hadn't been thinking about developing nations, actually; your point is well taken. However, I would still ask: if, for example, the bicycle courier in the picture Ghostman posted had the opportunity, would he replace his bicycle with a cargo van? I suspect that much of the human- and animal-power we see in the developing world is not because automobiles would not be useful, but because they would be too expensive to be efficient. (Of course, the relative (in)efficiency also has to do with infrastructure, so it's not entirely possible to disentangle these.)

    I stand by my claim that the internal combustion engine is just too damn useful to not be used. It gives you a tremendous power/weight ratio, the energy density of the fuel is enormous (compared to coal or wood), and it's highly scalable, from the two-stroke engine in a lawnmower to the enormous diesels running cargo ships. The precursors of the internal combustion engine go back at least to the seventeenth century; the only thing they lacked then was a reasonable fuel source and the precision machining needed to make an efficient engine. Really, the only way I can see automobiles not being used is if the fuel were too expensive, which brings us to:
    The only thing that really facilitates modern personal transport is oil. If we hadn't really developed oil to run vehicles, we'd probably not be driving cars at all.
    And, presumably, the trains would be running on coal and not diesel. Smoke city!

    Even in this case, though, I'm not at all certain that you wouldn't have small-scale transport, maybe electric. Let's look at your proposed movement of a refrigerator:
    "Westinghouse makes a Fridge in (Insert Town A) and loads it into a cargo carriage sitting on rails outside their factory. Their factory is like almost every other and has a rail-line immediately behind it.

    The (Insert Rail Company Here) sends an engine to collect the various goods along the rail line behind the Westinghouse Factory that are to be delivered to (Metropolis B). Heavy rail transports the white goods, along with numerous other goods, to (Metropolis B).

    At (Metropolis B), a number of haulage companies have warehouses immediately next to the rail line and unload into their warehouses from the cargo train. The train leaves.
    No problems so far. These are all high-volume, regular movements that rail is good at.
    Hand-based pallette jacks and hydraulic forklifts move and store the goods until they are distributed to the next step in the chain. In particular, the Westinghouse Goods are stored for shipment tomorrow.
    Just a small nitpick here: while it's entirely possible to have steam-powered hydraulics, in our universe hydraulics only really took off (over direct-powered steam tools) because they could be powered by small (mobile) internal combustion engines, rather than large steam engines (compare steam shovel vs. backhoe). But we'll go with the hand-jacks at least, and maybe larger-scale steam cranes.
    The Westinghouse Goods are then moved from the warehouse out onto a hand-operated hydraulic cart, allowing the goods to be easily placed on with hand-operated vehicles. This if fine since the store selling this shipment is only a few blocks away.

    Another shipment of Westinghouse Goods needs to be transported roughly 4km away. These get placed on the back of a bicycle-powered cart, like an over glorified goods rickshaw. Also loaded is a hydraulic-hand-palette-jack. The cart will be lowered down and the goods removed from the back along a gangway into the store. As the Westinghouse delivery is coming in, some of the store's delivery staff are leaving on another bicycle-powered cart to deliver what appears to be a washing machine, an armchair and a study desk."
    Yes, this is certainly feasible. I wonder, though, if our bicycle washing-machine-armchair-desk driver would prefer a nice electric cart?

    Actually, this does raise a question: how much can you pull with a bicycle? The courier in Ghostman's picture may have a lot of boxes, but they can't be that heavy (or he'd tip over) ... and it must take a lot of torque to pull a washing machine, armchair, and desk (say, one ton in total). The bike in the picture doesn't look especially heavy-duty, either -- what's the weight limit on one of those? If you use a cart?
    Last edited by gilgamec; 12-09-2009 at 01:33 AM.

  2. #32
      RobA is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by gilgamec View Post
    I stand by my claim that the internal combustion engine is just too damn useful to not be used. It gives you a tremendous power/weight ratio, the energy density of the fuel is enormous (compared to coal or wood)
    The IC engine may be useful but incredibly inefficient, with (one the average) 15-20% energy efficiency and the remainder wasted, primarily as heat. You might as well call them "internal combustion space heaters" that have a waste by product of usable power. The fuel has to have a high density.

    The things they have going for them are cheap to make, cheap to fuel, and easy to build.

    It would make more sense to not carry around fuel on the vehicles.....

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  3. #33
      gilgamec is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobA View Post
    The IC engine may be useful but incredibly inefficient, with (one the average) 15-20% energy efficiency and the remainder wasted, primarily as heat. You might as well call them "internal combustion space heaters" that have a waste by product of usable power. The fuel has to have a high density.
    Even steam engines (small ones, at least) don't have more than about 30% efficiency.
    The things they have going for them are cheap to make, cheap to fuel, and easy to build.
    This is also true.
    It would make more sense to not carry around fuel on the vehicles.....
    Short of Tesla-style broadcast power, I can't see how....

  4. #34
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    I'm thinking 'screw roads', what we need is liquid that allows things to slide along with relative ease...oh wait, that's rivers and oceans. There is a reason most places started out on the shipping lanes I guess.

    In a fantasy world, why wouldn't you just have the wizards or whatever create a surface like the back of a greased pig so you could push things along..heh, think Venice. Some dude just moves stuff around like on a gondola.

    I'm trying to take it from the point of what would make it easier for a human to move something using human or animal power? Instead of what power do we need to move something? If we operated from that point we might look for a 'better bicycle' or a hover board to put stuff on and push or pull along. Something to leverage the output a human is capable of.

    Even in our world there have been a lot of ideas that never went anywhere because they were never going to be able to displace the automobile. As long as you have it in your back pocket of ideas it's hard to get beyond it.

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  5. #35
    Guild Artisan Juggernaut1981's Avatar
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    Jaxilon> Slippery surfaces.
    Problem, big problem. Slippery surfaces by design are hard to control a moving object along. Humans spend lots of time practicing it, it's called ice skating, and most people have a terrible time when they start. Compound it with an additional 400kg of inertia-generating objects and your idea comes unstuck quickly without having magic rocket-packs added to the vehicles... which gets us to the idea of "Magic makes Petrol".

    Gilgamec> You can actually get some very good efficiency from modified versions of the steam engine. If it wasn't so rediculously difficult to do in the first place, we could potentially create nuclear-powered rail, but again... difficulty = high, danger = high, waste = pain in the ass.

    We don't need a "tesla" system, although it could be possible to broadcast ****eloads of energy using radiowaves... the electric car, compressed air car (developed in the 19th century or earlier if i remember) and a number of other concept vehicles were developed before we got to the combustion engine.

    As RobA mentioned, the IC engine is closer to a heater that happens to move things.

    Many devices used in retail areas and small warehouses are actually HAND operated hydraulic equipment. Like the good old mechanic's jack. Ironically the medieval period had some wonderfully effective cranes that required no engine, no hydraulics and minimal steel. Human-powered cranes were used throughout Europe for centuries and they did a fantastic job. Advancing that technology to utilise hydraulics, newer materials, etc, etc, etc should make it fairly easy to get cranes that will be able to move things vertically a number of storeys with significant weight.

    It would force the decentralisation of manufacturing, which isn't neccessarily a bad thing.
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  6. #36
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    Also, there's that glorified forklift that got mentioned early and then forgotten. A few little electric carts that get plugged in when not in use. You don't need a hundred-mile range to get a piano from the minitrain siding a few blocks to the house.

    This set-up would have a different set of trade-offs than the private-cars-everywhere world we live in and would take getting used to, but it wouldn't be infeasible or arduous.

    Commuting for an hour on a train is probably intrinsically safer and more productive. You can't read a book(or an office memo)while driving(I hope you don't try), and talking on the phone while riding a train isn't hazardous. I'm not sure that the efficiency benefits of train transport scale well to the more local lines, but it should still be economical.

    For longer ranges, well... long-haul trucking only competes with shipping by train because most of its infrastructural overhead is paid for by the big bad socialist government. Eisenhower.

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      waldronate is offline
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    I think that a cluster of nanomachines that can assume a form suitable for transport over rough terrain (some sort of system of levers made from harvested minerals could work for propulsion) might be the ticket. A design that could collect available materials for fuel and that could self-replicate would be a good addition. Speed and maybe toxicity of waste products would probably be an issue for this kind of system, though.

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