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23 January 2023
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Blog Time is Different

And Life, Such As She Is, Continues Apace

If you're me, and I'm fairly confident that you are not, you commit blogitems episodically, at the temporal confluence of inspiration and leisure. This is sad in a way, because some of the inspired ones spend a long time looking for leisure and rarely find any. That's been especially true in recent months, since I and we have Gone Places and Done Things. Writing about past activities is difficult when you're undertaking future activities. Between our return from Italy (after which we immediately caught genuine Covid)* and this very day, I've been busy enough and lazy too much to accomplish all these words. Hence the hiatus from November until now.

So, dear remaining millireaders, please thank and/or forgive me as is your wont, and I'll try to be more diligent. And, as you were warned yesterday, we will at least visit, if not end up, in Tombstone.

A CES Highlight

I attend the January Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas every year. While my purpose is "work" to the extent that I'm capable of such, I find myself drawn to the outré as well as the serious. Last year I believe I did a creditable job of reportage in four parts beginning on the 10th of January, 2022. This year my ambition doesn't extend so far, and I won't pretend that anything I write is reportage. Rather, I had a lot of impressions that I shall share.

But First, Here is the Mysterious Skytrack Future-of-Travel Disappearing Exhibit

I must share a link before it gets sued or arrested. It's to the web site of a company arrogating to its (possibly fictitious) self the epithet "The Future of Travel." They had a display in the North Hall, and I came upon it in the usual way, by walking up and down the ill-defined aisles. I was intrigued by an exhibit that appeared to show an airplane being towed by a train. The photograph below, which hasn't been retouched in any way and has been edited only for size is proof that I'm not making this up.

Yes, it's a tracked vehicle, attached by a tether to what appears to be an airplane, albeit one with no engines.

Feel free to read the poster by clicking here or on the photo.

Feel free to read the actual, genuine U.S. Patent number 11485491 entitled Tethered aircraft mass transportation. The inventor is Nam Kim, who has a number of other patents as well.

Know that this exhibit was made of genuine matter, with at least two women answering the questions of passers-by such as myself. When I appeared to be skeptical, one of them pointed me to the right rear corner of the stand, where stood Nam Kim himself, CES badge on lanyard, Skytrack Tech card and QR code in hand.

If it isn't clear what this is yet, I'll provide my own quick summary: It's an electric-powered train that runs on a track. It's attached by a tether to an airplane which carries a payload of passengers in remarkable (I'd call it fanciful) luxury at an altitude of about 3000 feet, below the clouds as they put it. They have (or, perhaps had) a professionally produced web site that beautifully demonstrates the concept in a one-minute video.

It's Beautiful! It's Patented! What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The first question I asked one of the booth attendants was very simple:

Q: "If you have a train going 500 miles per hour, why not put the passengers in the train instead of complicating things with the towed aircraft?"
A: "Due to the weight of the passengers if you put them in the train, it could only go at 200 miles per hour." (This is contradicted by their own poster.)

I looked skeptical. She looked skeptical, too, although I suppose I could have misinterpreted that through the lens of my own incredulity. I tried to get more information on this mysterious effect of gravity, which is when she pointed me to Mr. Kim.

The 200mph answer along with the concept itself was so preposterous that I just shook my head and moved along. Later that night, lying in my incredibly luxurious hotel room,** I couldn't get this out of my alleged mind. While I was at their stand, it was immediately clear that the concept was unworkable. But on further rumination, I considered that, beyond its silliness and its impossible economics would be the clear and present danger it would present both to its occupants and the airspace through which it traveled. It would, in effect, be a 3000-foot long, vertical, invisible knife traveling at Mach .7, potentially slicing the wings off low-flying aircraft and killing any number of birds on each trip.

I intended to ask about my flying knife theory as soon as I got back to the show the following day. But when I went looking for Skytrack Tech, unless I somehow misremembered their location, they had absquatulated. There was just an empty area where they had been.

Did I Imagine the Whole Thing?

Clearly I did not. I have photographs and they have a patent. (Their web site is less persuasive, but nonetheless extant, at least at the time of this writing.) I'm guessing (without any checking or other research) that the cost of their abandoned exhibit, personnel, shipping, etc., was at least $50k, and more likely $100k. I know what patent applications cost, and a professionally designed web site isn't cheap, either. Mr. Kim and his associates must have invested a quarter of a million dollars to get the "project" this far, even though their only hardware is a pair of pretty models.

Having been unable to find them or speak further to anyone, I'm left with nothing but speculation. The whole project is manifestly dangerous and unworkable at any price. Is it just an expensive prank? Mr. Kim has a large number of what appear to be legitimate patents and most likely could afford such a jape. But to what end? Does he have a grudge against CES? Against me personally***?

I'm Out of Order

No, I'm not defective so far as I know. And I do want to expatiate on several travel-related precursors to CES and more about CES itself. But I felt I should write about this bizarre exhibit and experience before Something Happens to me or to my computer, or

 

 


* Unlike the hypothetical case(s) I wrote about previously. At least I think they were hypothetical.
**Explanation forthcoming in a near-future blogitem.
*** Just practicing my paranoia here.

2023
Richard Factor

NP:

"Somewhere Friday Night"

The Turtles

(

ToTD

I don't know when and where I got the shirt, but I ever so remember being at that studio. Jefferson Starship had recently released what became my favorite album ever, Blows Against the Empire. They were recording a sequel, and the sessions were at Wally Heider.

I was in San Francisco for a convention, and I talked my way in (or may even have been invited) to attend a session. No, this wasn't the time I made a sandwich for Grace Slick, but a big WooHoo nonetheless.


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