By The Numbers

A look at the ‘Hyperloop,’ and other off-beat inventions in history

Molly Wood Jul 16, 2013
By The Numbers

A look at the ‘Hyperloop,’ and other off-beat inventions in history

Molly Wood Jul 16, 2013

What do you have when you combine “a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table?”

According to SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, that gets you the Hyperloop, the next system of transportation: 

“This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train … it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do.

You would go from downtown L.A. to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes.

It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport. I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system.

There’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries.”

Details behind the technology are scarce now, but according to his Twitter account, Musk plans to publish his Hyperloop design on August 12. The plans will likely be without patents and under an open-source license, so that it could be improved upon by the public.

While Elon Musk attempts to revolutionize transportation, again, here’s a look at some other ideas from other famous inventors that seemed a bit crazy at the time:

Howard Hughes: Spruce Goose

Perhaps the predecessor to Musk’s Hyperloop, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, known as the Spruce Goose, was magnate Howard Hughes’ attempt to build the largest flying boat. 


Six times larger than any other aircraft at the time, the Spruce Goose was created with hopes of transporting materials and troops to Europe during World War II, but never carried out its intended duty.

The Spruce Goose wasn’t a complete failure, the boat was able to survive one flight of about a mile at a height of 70 feet over water before retiring, and still remains in good condition at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon. 

Nikola Tesla: Wireless Electricity 

Nikola Tesla’s experiments and inventions with electricity are still heralded today, which might be why Musk named his car company after the inventor.

But one thing that could have been useful for inventions like the Spruce Goose and Hyperloop would be the ability to power them wirelessly. 


At the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, Tesla demonstrated he could transmit electricity wirelessly to phosphorescent lighting around the fair. Tesla was unable to successfully transmit power across longer distances, though some companies are now making headway.  

Thomas Edison: Concrete Houses 

Thomas Edison’s history of inventions is far-ranging, with contributions to communication and electricty; the man of 1,093 patents even designed a sandwich grill.

Edison believed strongly in the uses of concrete, and opened the Edison Portland Cement Company. Edison hoped he could quickly manufacture mass-produced concrete houses through pre-made molds, but materials became too expensive.

His attempts at concrete contstruction weren’t a complete waste, Edison’s concrete company was comissioned to help build Yankee Stadium, and a few concrete houses are still standing today

Leonardo da Vinci: Water Shoes 

Leonardo da Vinci designed the predecessors to many different products that exist today, including the tank and parachute, but his floatation footwear probably won’t be for sale anytime soon.

Something between a pool floatie and water ski’s, da Vinci’s water shoes combined two air-filled floats with attached poles for balance.

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