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A modest proposal to end the Flat Earth Society and put Silicon Valley on the map.

Flat Wrong the end piece in Scientific American, in the latest issue (May 2020) got me to thinking about how we could just end this idiocy that leads to many, many people being driven into believing obviously fallacious conspiracy theories.

  • Did we actually go to the moon? (hint: we did.) 
  • Was Obama born in Hawaii? (hint: yes.) 
  • Is he Muslim? (hint: no.) 
  • Is QAnon saying anything that's true? (hint: no.) 
  • Are the Jews trying to take over the world (hint: no.)
  • Are aliens here? (hint: no.)
  • Do humans cause Global Warming? (hint: yes.)
  • Have the Clintons murdered tens of people? (hint: no.)
  • Did the Russians help the Trump campaign? (hint: yes.)
  • Yada, yada, yada.
We can't actually have much proof against most of these fallacies, but the Flat Earth one, we can if we actually get high enough in the atmosphere to see the curvature of the Earth. You will convince some Flat Earthers they are wrong. Most will just come up with some other excuse and continue to try and justify the fun fact that they have been lied to for many years and they finally figured it out. That's why believing in a conspiracy theory is so fun! You've actually figured something out that has been confusing others. You know something they don't. You're smarter than everyone else because you have secret knowledge. It's all baloney, but it's still fun. At some level you know it's all baloney, but it's so fun to think about the puzzle, and if you have some underlying motive (hate those hoity-toity experts, hate that black president, hate those egg-head scientists, hate those liberals, or actually, it usually comes from jealousy in my opinion. It lets you excuse yourself that you haven't done as well as everyone else...) you can be impossible to convince.

Okay. So we want something else, too. Silicon Valley is famous worldwide for technology. It's been happening for decades. Back at the turn of the century one of the Robber Barons, who corrupted government officials, got a land grant, rights of way, built a railroad and then became fabulously wealthy, built a university to honor his son, who died of the flu at a young age. That's where Stanford came from. The university was supported with enough money to attract talent and expertise to rival any university on the planet. That was the founding point. Then it revved up with World War II: building critical equipment to help the war effort. All of a sudden Lockheed is there building planes. Hewlett-Packard & Varian & Watkins-Johnson are there building electronic equipment. Then technologists are driven out of their non-compete states to California where they build such things as the silicon chip (Fairchild, Intel, etc.), the personal computer (Apple), the laser printer (Adobe), lots of medical and radio equipment, networking (Cisco, Juno), the web (Google, Facebook, etc.) The technology coming out of the valley seems to be never ending. The GDP per person is one of the top three in the entire world and has been for many decades. So the place that used to be covered with orchards now produces the most complicated technology in the world. 

So it's rightly famous all over the world. However, when people come here what do they see? Not much. There are basically no buildings over six stories (they cost too much.) There's a couple of freeways. Lots of warehouses, no orchards anymore. Okay, we do have Apple Headquarters (pretty cool, but...) and ... that's about it and you can't really visit it. There's a 9" x 12" plaque that says "the silicon chip was invented here" outside of a strip mall. The original building has been torn down decades ago. Architecturally there's only San Jose City Hall (a very late edition.) 

San Jose City Hall exterior - San Jose, CA - DSC03903.JPG

A couple of buildings almost ten stories high in downtown San Jose (there's an airport nearby, so all the buildings are short.) So we need something that will really put Silicon valley on the map. What could that be?

A Modest Proposal for a Flat Earth Conspiracy Ending Ride in Silicon Valley. 

The basic idea is to build the most incredible combination of a Ferris Wheel, a balloon ride and a roller coaster, all world class and one continuous ride. Of course, it would also include a world class restaurant and history of technology museum. 

Here's the basic idea. Buy a large plot of land going up into the top of the Santa Cruz mountains, probably somewhere on highway 9. We need lots of parking and easy access as we'll need lots of people to support it.  How many? We'll figure that out later. 

So at the bottom of the hill the public comes in and parks. They are shuttled to a funicular train that takes them slowly up 2500 feet to the top of the mountain. While going up they can see all of Silicon Valley: Moffett field, San Jose, San Francisco Bay. A pretty amazing view!  

Gregor's Travel - In Flight

And what do they see at the top? They see the largest Ferris Wheel in the world.

The original Ferris Wheel (264 feet):

The largest Ferris Wheel today (550 feet):

Silicon valley's Ferris Wheel, three times as tall (over 1400 feet tall):
The ride takes about three hours. The cars hold around 50 people, there are bars & restaurants in some of the cars. And at the top, you can see all the way to San Francisco!

Silicon Valley, From 'Heart's Delight' to Toxic Wasteland (Opinion)

Which is an awesome view, a spectacular view! But... you can't see the curvature of the Earth at 4500 feet. You can see from San Francisco to Monterey, which is cool, but this won't convince any Flat Earther of any thing. That horizon looks pretty flat. How high do you need to get to see the curvature of the Earth?

It turns out you need to be about 80,000 feet high to see the curvature of the Earth. How do you get that high? The cars have to be airtight. We build a SkyBridge to take them up to 80,000 feet. We hook them up to balloons at the top of the wheel and spend three more hours going up and down a set of ropes held up by balloons. You get to see all the way from San Diego to Crater Lake in Oregon. You can see Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. You can see the curvature of the Earth. How much would you pay to TRAVEL TO SPACE?

But wait. We aren't done yet. When you get back down you can take the lazy, sedate funicular train back down to the parking lot... or you can take the most amazing roller coaster in the entire world. The longest, fastest, most spectacular, roller coaster in the world. How do we do this?
Well, first we are starting at 2500 feet, so we go into a 700 foot drop right away, and it's inexpensive as we are going down the mountain side. We do a triple 360 degree loop and then the track ends halfway down, but the cars keep going because they are actually quadcopters and they do free open air loops! Wow! Then they put you back on the track and you do another record 1000 foot drop with three loops and a final 500 foot drop that is, by itself, the largest roller coaster in the world.

Anybody who likes roller coasters will LOVE this one. Three of the largest drops in the world. Extremely fast, smooth and the free flight will be amazing! (and make it safer.)

Now you may have some questions, like can you suspend a set of guide wires that can pull up the cars from 80,000 feet? Well, it turns out you can. you can buy the rope you need today (Kevlar rope of 7.5 cm thickness can individually hold itself up and the cars.) So if you make 10-20 ropes held up by balloons and each car has a pair of balloons helping to hold it up: it's safe, it's simple and it's doable.

And how much do we need to charge for a ride? Let's estimate how much it costs to build. The existing largest Ferris Wheel cost around $300 million. Ours is about 5x as big or $1.5 B. The SkyBridge is relatively cheap. The kevlar rope is cheap, the balloons are cheap, add another $500 million. The Mountain Roller Coaster can't be more than $500 million. Then a parking lot, a funicular and a museum, plus ancillary out buildings and a control tower, another $500 million. So that's about $3 billion dollars (less than the bay bridge.) It's about a six hour ride. So you can run it 18 hours a day and with 50 cars and 50 people per car you can run 5000 people through this system every day. So let's say you get money at 5% and pay off the loans over 30 years and your finance costs are 30-50% of your operating income (maybe a bit high.) To generate this income you need to charge around $300-$500 per ride. Free drinks for everyone! Blackjack and other gambling... are you outside of American jurisdiction or do you have to get an Indian tribe to go in with you? Gourmet food. And junk food. What more could you want? I'd take that ride, for sure!

Thanks for reading.


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