Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Means of Transportation

We have all manner of machines that help us get from Point A to Point B. Most of us have traveled in automobiles and jet airplanes. Some of us have traveled in less than conventional vehicles (hot air balloons, sleds, roller skates, etc).

What is the most unusual mode of transportation you have used/seen/heard of? Do you have any ideas for inventing a new mode of transportation? Weren’t Segways supposed to change the world? What’s up with that?  Fall is approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, should we plan a Skepchick hayride?

Bonus question:

Last weekend, Sam, Bug Girl, and Maria went surfing. Late in the day, the three friends settled on the beach for many many beers, and began a lengthy discussion about who was the smartest of the group. Maria chose Bug Girl. Bug Girl chose Sam. And Sam chose Maria, but secretly, they each thought they were the smartest. 

After two cases of beer, the surfing Skepchicks began to ramble, and then one by one, fell asleep.

While the friends slept, three sea gulls — one above each person — completed the digestive process, and dropped a gift on each of the sleeping surfer’s forehead. The gulls then flew off with a noisy squawk.

The noise stirred the Skepchicks. As soon as they looked at each other, they all simultaneously began to laugh. Then, Bug Girl abruptly stopped laughing. Why?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. I actually registered here to tell this story.

    My previous job involved a commute over the Golden Gate Bridge every day. I was unusually tired one morning when I spotted someone in the bike lane on the Bridge riding a unicycle. It was the oddest thing I’d seen in quite some time, and made me quite literally laugh out loud.

    About 100′ down the road, I came across another. Then another. Three more together after that. All told, I counted 17 total as I crossed the Bridge that morning, and I’ve never forgotten it.

  2. I actually sort of “collect” experiences of using different types of transportation, although the weirdest I’ve used are hot air balloon and camel, which really aren’t that odd. Hopefully I’ll find some interesting ideas for my next adventure, and I’ll use this topic if we have and AI about weird collections/hobbies.

    When I was in college I walked pretty far to campus, just like most other students. There was one guy who routinely used a unicycle, which was a little bit funny.

  3. What is the most unusual mode of transportation you have used/seen/heard of?

    Used: Electric skate board. Pretty nifty except to travel very far at all like the three miles to work was a rather bone-jarring experience. It also had a bug where the throttle would periodically lose contact with the board causing the board to slam on the brakes. I got pitched into traffic twice. The last time I walked home and sold the board to someone who promised to never take it on the street.

    Heard of: Monowheel. A wheel big enough that you actually sit inside the circumference. One problem is because the seat must be free to rotate as the wheel rotates if you accelerate or decelerate too quickly the seat will either move faster or slower than the wheel causing the rider to travel round and round inside the rim. This is called “gerbiling”.

    Do you have any ideas for inventing a new mode of transportation?

    I’d like to reintroduce the next generation to the concept of getting around under their own power. It will seem very new to them.

    Weren’t Segways supposed to change the world? What’s up with that?

    Run-away hype. As big a fan as I am of electric vehicles this one is too slow for roads, too fast for sidewalks, and has lousy range. It really has no purpose that I can see.

    Then, Bug Girl abruptly stopped laughing. Why?

    This is perilously close to a logic puzzle, but as stated I don’t think it is solvable this way. My guess is that an urgent need to pee made further laughing dangerous. The person with the largest bladder laughs last.

  4. I’m all for using high speed bullet trains for trans-contiental transportation. I’d also like to see a variation of vacuum tubes in the future. It would eliminate traffic because everyone is moving at the same speed until their exit.

    @bonus question: because bug girl realized the sea gulls were infested with a parasite that humans can contract.

  5. There’s a couple of penny-farthing bicycles that people have been peddling around here in coastal NJ this summer.

    Real pain in the **** since they essentially can’t stop.

  6. Made an account just to post here. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about, for a while, but especially in the last few weeks what with the Automotive X Prize results coming in.

    I think the X Prize contestants are onto something and it’s a great thing, but I think things like Velocars are way cooler. I love cycling, and will hopefully soon (maybe next week) begin riding to work… That said, I think recumbents are ridiculous contraptions, but they’re amazing if only for their ability to reach higher speeds with ease, compared to an upright bicycle.

    That’s basically what a Velocar is: a recumbent with an outer shell to half-ass protect you from the elements. Usually composite to save on weight, but you’re typically left with a fairly large opening for the wheels, which would let in rain water, dirt, etc. And with the right gearing you can reach 40-ish mph fairly easily.

    I think it would have to involve some serious infrastructure changes for self-powered transportation to ever take hold. There’s no way your average person is going to feel comfortable in a velocar next to a giant FedEx truck (or worse, an 18-wheeler). And for a lot of people, it’s just not feasible — I work with people who travel 60+mi each way to and from work…

    But then, there’s always mass transit combined with self powered vehicles. I’m mostly against hybrid vehicles and it almost saddens me to see that they’re taking hold, as I don’t believe it’s any type of long term answer to the problem.

  7. The weirdest form of transportation I’ve ever used was one of those railroad carts that you have to pump up and down. It’s not as easy as it might look, probably because you only see those in cartoons.

    I don’t have an idea for a new form or transportation but I was just wondering if there was a way to use linear induction motors on the inside of a vehicle’s wheel hub to provide both acceleration and braking. Just popped into my head earlier today, no idea why.

  8. Bug Girl is clearly the smartest of the three. Here is what happened.

    First, all three woke up, saw bird crap on both their friends heads and started laughing.

    A second later, all three noticed that everyone else is laughing too, but this seems a reasonable reaction since each person assumes that the other two are laughing at each other’s bird crap.

    But then Bug Girl realizes something. Neither of her friends are stupid. If her initial assumption were correct that she was the only one without bird crap on her head, then both of her friends would assume that the one soiled Skepchick they could see was the only unfortunate one and would find it odd that the other Skepchick, who presumably could see no bird crap, was laughing too.

    Since neither of them reacted like something strange was happening, they must be laughing at her too. Thus Bug Girl can deduce that she has bird crap on her head just like her friends.

    Bug Girl, as the first to realize that she too has bird crap on her head just like her friends, then stops laughing.

  9. As for the laughter stopping, I think they all realised that they had all been pooped on, but Bug Girl was the first to realise that this meant that there were three seagulls flying overhead and remembered the adage that “Three seagulls flying together overhead are a sign of death.”

    …possibly from being infected by seagull poop…

  10. Props to Buzz and bcglo for the Young Frankenstein (It’s Franken STEEEEEN!”) lines.

    @Gabriel Brawley: Hay is pretty itchy…A naked hayride would be … uncomfortable…

    @spurge: I’ve been partway up Mt. Washington on the cog railway. Definitely cool, but not a smooth ride! We couldn’t go up the whole was because it was snowing and blowing heavily at the top…in early September!

  11. The most unusual mode of transport I’ve ever used has got to be those courtesy car things you get (or used to get) in airports. I haven’t seen those things for a long time though, I wonder what happened to them… In any case, those things were the most gratuitous and awesome things ever.

    Most unusual I’ve ever heard of would be those couch car things, where people pretty much stick a motor on their couch and drive around with a smug look on their face. Again, gratuitous and awesome.

    What I would like to see, although I don’t see it happening for a long long time, is basically a network where you register your car, input a destination and then have the vehicle drive you there. I imagine it would take some kind of software masterpiece though, maybe incorporating swarm theories or something.

  12. I guess it’s not that strange, but I saw a program about a resort in Sri Lanka (probably not there anymore because of the tsunami) where the only practical way to get to and from the island was to ride on the back of an elephant at low tide.

    Most ridiculous mode of transportation were those bullpen cars shaped like baseball helmets that they used to use to bring pitchers in from the bullpen.

  13. Used: A forklift. It’s not that unusual, I guess. They’re fun, though. I wish I’d get to use one at my present job but there’s little use for forklifts in the library where I work.

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