Perhaps the single largest development project to ever come from the Aquarius phase of TMP, the Circum-Equatorial Transit Network, if realized, would alter the face of the Earth as no human endeavor prior to it has. On the face of it, it is a very simple concept; to link the marine colonies of the Aquarian Equatorial Archipelago by an underwater high-speed railway and communications line which circles the equator and branches off to link the continents. But the effect of doing this, should it be accomplished, would be to transform the structure of civilization and the Earth’s environment in a dramatic, and hopefully very positive, way.
While we tend today to think of it as antiquated in an age of jet aircraft, rail transportation remains the single-most efficient and least environmentally impacting mechanized transit technology in existence and is likely to remain so for a very long time to come. Once rail transit determined the physical structure of our civilization, just as river and animal transit had before it. But the introduction of liquid fossil fuels with high potential energy and easy portability led to the introduction of the automobile and in turn a dispersal of the physical structure of the civilization in such a way that not only partly (if not totally in the Americas) obsolesced rail transit technology but has led to one of the most pathologically destructive phases of human development in history. But rail technology may soon see a renaissance as the imagined convenience of automobile and air transit continues to break-down in the face of increasing congestion, energy cost, security hassles, and environmental degradation while the costs of rail system implementation may see a radical drop with the advent of nanotechnology-assisted means of construction and excavation.
For Aquarius, the idea of linking marine colonies to each other and to the continents by rail makes much logistical sense simply because of the speed, efficiency, and weather immunity of this form of transit and the ability to provide social cohesion between colonies by virtue of convenient passenger travel and greater efficiency of resource management by on-demand exchange of material via Personal Packet Transit and, eventually, NanoSoup pipelines. The notion of rail lines crossing oceans is hardly new. Many such proposals have emerged in the past two centuries and the practical technology for accomplishing it has probably existed since the mid 20th century. But because the sea has never been inhabited in any comprehensive way, the up-front costs of an oceanic rail span has always been untenable regardless of the technology proposed for it. The systems could not grow incrementally with the revenue they would generate in transit. They had to completely span an ocean before they could begin paying for themselves.
With an Equatorial Archipelago well established, Aquarius would overcome this dilemma by having a great many mid-ocean destinations pre-established and, because they have no absolutely fixed position, they are easily repositioned to suit a proposed transit path. And these transit networks could freely evolve, formed initially in a free-form pattern by coalitions of colonies for their own benefit and then reconfigured to establish links to the continents or natural islands when there’s a collective length within the network to establish those links.
Also, by the time Aquarius is this well developed, the common construction technologies available may have reached a level of sophistication to where the human labor and material cost required would be reduced to nearly nil. Built by either massive industrial fabber systems or nanofoundries employing free-roaming assemblers (and perhaps eventually formed in-situ by NanoFoam), such transit systems could be built at no more cost than their energy, most of their structural material harvested directly from the carbon in the atmosphere and seawater. This will radically reduce the number of destinations necessary to justify a given span of the rail line, accelerating the pace of network development as these technologies emerge and improve. Such technology will have a similar effect on land. Today we worry about how to deal with the carbon load centuries of Industrial Age excess has dumped into the atmosphere. But in the future our own civilization’s built habitat may become the planet’s primary carbon repository by virtue of diamondoid and diamond composite structural materials. The creation of large structures, vast underground infrastructures, and long span transit systems would become the work of quite small teams of designers/engineers and achievable in weeks or months. Such projects may be encouraged not only for their benefits to communities but for their potential carbon sequester, leading to an era of great experimentation in architecture and transit technology that may realize the comprehensive development of arcologies. The Circum-Equatorial Transit Network could further encourage this, its coastal landfall points being the logical locations for the creation of ‘nodal’ arcologies and its cross-continental transit paths being appropriate locations for Linear City arcology development –the transit lines representing some of the highest bandwidth transit/communication/energy links hosted by the civilization and, through the Aquarian Space Elevator, a direct physical link to the orbital branch of the civilization, thus offering many advantaged to habitation along them.
As a consequence, the cross-continental Linear City links that may result with the Circum-Equatorial Transit Network have the potential to radically alter the physical structure of the land-based branch of civilization, creating a sort of communication core for the terrestrial civilization that favors a branching development of its arcology structure rather than the dispersed ad hoc development of the primitive past. This could result in a pulling-back of human civilization from the landscape into this structural network, returning space to nature as people come to realize the practical standard of living advantages of being so closely linked to this globe-spanning space-reaching communication core and the quality of life benefits of functional community and a restored surrounding wilderness. In this the course of development in Aquarius comes full-circle, having started as Seed settlements at the coast, realized the potential of arcology in political and economic independence at sea, and then bringing the benefits of that new culture and lifestyle back to the land with the practical gravitas of a globe-spanning pollution-free high-speed transit and communication infrastructure to encourage capitulation.
The structure of this marine rail system would take the form of a network of underwater conduits in large prefabricated modular segments perhaps up to a kilometer long fabricated from SeaFoam composite concrete or more advanced materials. The conduit would be designed to function without any rigid connection, engineered to be neutrally buoyant at a depth of 30-50 meters with semi-rigid joints that allow a modest amount of auto-correcting flexture between segments using joints made of bellowed alloys or thick tough elastomerics. Electric station-keeping thrusters would help maintain position of the transit conduit and could be used to self-propel and position the modules during construction. A self-engaging joint structure would allow segments to join together with little human intervention and segments could be replaced whole in as little as a day. A keel composed of weighted blocks would provide the basic ballast to maintain neutral buoyancy. Attached with explosive bolts, they would be jettisoned in series should a conduit segment become flooded so that, even if completely flooded, it never has negative buoyancy. Arrays of airbags in the channels of the segment would also be used to provide emergency sealing while pneumatic bulkhead modules would be used as temporary seals curing construction. Snorkel modules spaced at about a kilometer would provide ventilation and emergency surface access, using pylon-buoy style towers with signal lighting.
Terminals and switching stations would employ a very similar form of construction, being large monolithic modules with formed-in equipment spaces and the same type of joint ports at different sides and sometimes on different levels. Terminals would generally be located beneath colonies, mounted under their centermost regions where PSP cells function only in a static float mode.
The conduits would feature an array of 4-8 primary transit conduits some 6 meters high and wide and an equal number of secondary conduits about half that size. The primary conduits would be divided between a high-speed rail line serving long distance transit and Aquarian PRT lines intended to provide low speed links between individual colonies. By this time both these transportation systems would be mag-lev based, the PRT supporting conduit speeds of up to 100kph, the high-speed rail system, using full-perimeter field confinement and possibly a low pressure atmosphere, supporting speeds up to 300-400kph or higher. The PRT channels, of course, would use the same PRT vehicles employed by the colonies. The high-speed channels would employ streamlined vehicles in the form of individual cabs that function like a super-PRT. Both systems would be used for both passenger and cargo transit. Secondary channels would be used to host telecommunications lines, power lines, and pipelines which may convey renewable energy long distances in the form of redox solution or liquid catalytic hydrides (hydrides which only release hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst, like liquid boro-hydrides), possibly fresh water, and eventually a NanoSoup line for bulk materials conveyance. Secondary channels would also be used for emergency and maintenance walkways and to host the various support equipment used by each conduit segment.
Travel via the conduit would be more comfortable than travel by air while offering comparable speeds and no concern for weather. The only down-side would be the lack of window views and a ride so smooth that, even at 400kph, passengers might find it difficult to tell if the vehicles were moving. To overcome possible claustrophobia over long trips, vehicles may be designed to offer virtual window views using a video canopy rather like the street video canopies now seen in many tourist cities that double as an information and entertainment displays. Commuter vehicles serving local routes would be designed much like PRT cabs at a larger scale, while for long distance travelers a cab featuring a cluster of capsule hotel style cabins and lounges at either end would serve small groups of passengers or a family. This may even be reduced to the scale of an RV-like unit for individuals and couples featuring all the amenities of a compact hotel room. A PPT port on the car would allow for stocking of these vehicles with food and other items during menu-driven check-in. Owing to the use of a derivative of the same on-demand transit model employed with the low-speed PRT, using this system for long trips would be akin to checking-in to a hotel or cruise liner, the passengers having complete control over when they check-in to their vehicle, when it departs, and when they check-out as well as total control of in-transit changes in destination. One has all the comfort of a hotel, all the freedom of an automobile, none of the hassles or hazards of driving yourself, and you get aircraft speeds to top it all off! This sort of freedom would be a reflection of the Aquarian culture in general, seeking to use technology as a means to increase control of one’s personal life and time rather than systematically whittling away at that as has been traditional throughout the Industrial Age. Cargo vehicles, of course, would be much simpler affairs using air freight style container modules that lock into a carrier frame –potentially creating a container standard that obsolesces the old ISO marine container should this transit system come to replace most container ship traffic. All these vehicle types would, of course, be fully automated and controlled in much the same way as the Aquarian PRT.
As colony construction –if not the built habitat in general– adopts the use of self-assembling NanoFoam or similar materials this too would overtake the composition of the marine transit conduits. Instead of employing the use of modular segments, the spans of conduits between colonies would become continuous semi-flexible and self-maintaining structures able to shrink or grow in length and spawn new channels formed-in-place as needed. Every point on the conduit could potentially spawn a new branch a new colony above it, or any number of large devices such as OTECs and tree-like sea water or airborne molecular extractors, rather like the vines of an enormous plant. And NanoSoup communication would, by that time, become the primary means of moving materials around the globe, relegating the submarine transit system to a primarily passenger transit role.
- Solar Ferry
- Solar Wingsail Cruiser
- Relay Archipelago
- Aquarian Airship
- Aquarian Personal Rapid Transit System
- Aquarian Personal Packet Transit and SuperStore
- Aquarian SE Downstation