Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Train: Outgoing

Now that I addressed Team Loyality I can start filling you all in on the trip out.

Amtrak trains are crazy. In case you have never seen one of the cross-country trains, they are fricken big. Usually two engines, two sleepers, two coach, a lounge and a dinning car, plus the baggage cars. The most impressive this is how tall they are, about two stories. That is a lot of train. And the book too. When you get up to the straight, flat areas they get up towards 90 mph. Doesn't exactly stop on a dime.

I took two trains with a lay over in Chicago for three hours. The first train was out of Union Station in DC and was called the Capitol Limited. That trip was pretty unremarkable other than I was able to eat dinner in my room. The car attendant brought the menu to me and then my meal. I had a strip sirloin and half-bottle of Cabernet. Good food.

During the lay over in Chicago I wondered around and purchased two magainzes. Wired, with the Virgin billionaire on it talking about the slowly starting space tourism industry. The other was Scientific America. Lot's of useless knowledge in that one. For example, I now know that there have basically been three flu strains in humans since the evil 1918 flu. They are designated as H1N1 for the 1918 flu, H2N2 for a new strain in 1957, and H3N2 for the one in 1968. There has not been a new strain since 1968 in humans, just recycles those three. Luckily, the evil H1N1 strain has lost a lot of its evilness. The wild thing is that researchers are trying to figure out what made the original 1918 flu so nasty, so they have been able to dig up some corpses from back then and find some of the flu's genetic material. With it they have been reanimating that strain to determine what made it so lethal. Wild.

Ben, what the hell is a superfluid?

Ok, so after I geeked out I jumped on the train for Seattle from Chicago. This was to be my home for three days, two night. The car attendant was this older guy named Sam with a really dry since of humor. They also totally booked the car so the luggage had to be squeezed in pretty tight. I basically locked myself in my room and read, watched movies, and played Mercenaries for three days.

The most memoriable part of the trip was going across North Dakota and Montana where the weather was -40 degrees. It was so cold that a fine mist was leaking in through one of the doors in the car and creating this little winter wonderland in the car. :)

The morning of my arrival I was up at 5:30 am and went to the dining car to get breakfast. One of the guys in that car was asking a waiter about some noises he heard in the early morning hours. Basically, he heard a bunch of screaching and such as was afraid the train was heading for a crash. He asked the guy what was going on and if he should be worried. The waitor replies with 'Yes, we were going to crash. You should be worried'. Good stuff. :)

So then, like...I arrived in Seattle...


Ben said...

I forget the details, but a superfluid is essentially a super-dense (read: super-cold) fluid that has very bizarre properties. One of them is it's insanely high surface tension. If you put a superfluid in contact with a vertical surface, it's surface tension will actually start pulling the material up the surface. Very neat stuff.

Next week: liquid metallic hydrogen....

Ryan said...

I brought it up because they were talking about some wild stuff they did with a very pure version liquid helium 4 that they put under 26 atmospheres of pressure and cooled it down. That caused the helium to solidify. However, they did this in an aluminum-shelled container and rotated it. What you ended up with is a solid moving through a solid since 99 percent of the helium rotated while 1 percent stayed fixed. So you end up with a solid acting like a superfluid and whose superfluidity doesn't vary with pressure. You get the same effect between 26 and 66 atomspheres of pressure.

Funky funky.

JMc said...

You didn't mind being on a train that long? What's your beef with flying? I'm not a big fan of flying either...mostly because of the hassles involved...but one day of travel vs. five or so and I'd certainly suck it up and fly!

Ryan said...

Ahhh...flying. Long story. In a nutshell for now (I'll post about it sooner or later), its more like a matter of being stubborn than anything else. I had good reasons in the begining though.

As far as enjoying the train, I really do. It's a chance for me to really get away and just relax. Have some time to myself. I also always meet some interesting people during dinner. I met Tony Saragoosa's (sp?) uncle on the train the year before they won the Superbowl. That guy was wild. Definite mob connections there. :)