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Catapult to Work

Avoid traffic jams. Fly to work.
  (+24, -4)(+24, -4)(+24, -4)
(+24, -4)
  [vote for,

I was recently confronted with a questionnaire about home to work transport. Foolishly, one of the questions (which listed out a number of transport methods and asked which one I used) contained the subsidiary question "What other transport methods are there and why don't you use them?". Now, to an experienced halfbaker like myself, this was like a red rag to a bull.

After discussing the merits of teleportation, space-time wormholes and giant tunnelling machines I finally settled on this idea.

Every house should have a giant programmable catapult on the roof with which you can fire yourself to work each day. And every office building should have a huge baseball glove on the roof in order to catch you. You sit in the bucket of the catapult and send a coded signal to the baseball glove, which rotates to the correct facing. When the green light comes on, just press the button and fly.
DrBob, Feb 16 2001

AirBagz(tm) for Clothing http://www.halfbake...m)_20for_20Clothing
A winning idea if ever there was one. [DrBob, Feb 16 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Trebuchet.com http://trebuchet.com/
Trebuchets in all shapes and sizes [hippo, Feb 16 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

The "People thrower" http://trebuchet.co.../ron/trebuchet.html
[hippo, Feb 16 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

(?) landing site at the ball park http://sanfrancisco...ark_attractions.jsp
they already installed a landing pad-caution commericial site, lots of junk [oxen crossing, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Artist's Impression http://www.fortheloveof.com.au/
[Courtesy UnaBubba.] [DrCurry, Feb 19 2006]

Piss artists impression http://www.ifilm.com/video/2731592
[Dub, May 04 2007]

How to Build a Catapult http://www.trebuchet.com/plans.html
Includes link to "Trebuchet and Catapult Plans and Simulators on CD-ROM" [Dub, May 04 2007]

Cardapult http://www.instruct...ness-Card-Catapult/
[Dub, Apr 04 2009]

Commutapult http://www.commutapult.org/
[Dub, Jul 31 2010]

www.cummutapult.org @ archive.org https://web.archive...ww.commutapult.org/
Link to latest archive of above link [scad mientist, Jun 30 2022]

Economical https://babylonbee....-medieval-trebuchet
[whatrock, Sep 22 2022]


       The only problem I can think of is that if your target was too far away, the acceleration forces would turn you into jelly.
salmon, Feb 16 2001

       I'm in the process of breaking several 2 year old horses for racing.... I can tell you all about being catapulted AT work.... I hope that baseball glove is a lot softer than my indoor arena....
Susen, Feb 16 2001

       Screw you guys. This idea rules.
iuvare, Feb 16 2001

       Donut shoppes will surely connect to this idea.
reensure, Feb 16 2001

       I've thought about some other ways to get to work....   

       One idea was that every block or so, an elevator shaft about 100 stories high could be placed. When you want to go anywhere, just get into the nearest elevator shaft and go up, up, up. Get out on a particular floor. You find yourself on a small catwalk outside the elevator shaft. Attached to the elevator shaft at varying heights are zip cords going in various directions (all downwards, of course!), connected to the other shafts. You just zip downwards in whatever direction you please, stopping at other elevator shafts along the way. Initial height required is determined by how far you want to go.   

       Not too pratical, but using extreme sports to get to work every morning might eliminate the need for an early a.m. caffeine jolt.
Wes, Feb 16 2001

       Go for it!!!
amjenni, Feb 18 2001

       there is a kind of personal miniture helicopter that you can buy if you happen to have £544449 burning a hole in your pocket.   

       incidentally waugsqueke it is obvious that a central computer would calculate your trajectory to avoid buildings and co-workers
chud, Feb 18 2001

       What about getting home? And unpredictable winds? I think the safest thing would be to wait until after the upcoming apocolypse and then rebuild everything from the ground up out of moonwalk-type air pockets.
nick_n_uit, Feb 18 2001

       Of course, waugsqueke, it's equally obvious that it would also track, predict and correct for all wind currents, birds, kites, weight and bagginess of clothing, body position, personal weight gain or loss, air temperature and humidity, and one or two other things. And those working in low buildings neighbouring tall ones would, equally obviously, just be launched by the computer into slightly higher trajectories. In this case, the computer would also deal with upper-atmospheric conditions and radiation levels in the Van Allen belts. And the baseball glove would be larger, in order to catch you in your vapor-and-ashes state, and would include another powerful computer to reconstitute you afterwards.
Monkfish, Feb 18 2001

       And of course, to maintain the integrity of these calculations, there would need to be copious warnings posted advising against burping, farting, or spitting while in midflight. Don't want to throw off your trajectory.
PotatoStew, Feb 18 2001

       Or control the descent the old-fashoned way, with a hanglider wing that is folded up like a parachute in a backpack and automatically opens at maximum height so you can land where you want. One would have to find a creative way of compressing the control bar though. (is that what it's called?)
badoingdoing, Feb 18 2001

       Naturally, PotatoStew, the computer would profile you to gauge the probability that you will belch or breathe or wave or scream or haemorrhage or micturate or flatulate or defecate or reject a hand transplant or have your hair spring loose or throw or catch a ball while en route and correct accordingly.   

       Folding people up inside solid, padded spherical shells is a possibility for those with less computing power. It would be much less fun, but you could call commuters "human BB's" and fire them from cannon or roll them down hills as alternatives.
Monkfish, Feb 18 2001

       As I see it, when you send the signal to the baseball glove, it will lock on to your catapult and lock out all the others, so that nobody else can arrive at the same time as you.
The problem with mid-air collisions can be solved by using my patented AirBagz for Clothing (see link) which can also double as an accelaration suit for particularly challenging trajectories. I don't have much faith in the air-traffic control idea (they can't cope with a couple of hundred aircraft a day. They'd have no chance tracking millions of happy workers as they arced across the early morning sky).
Of course, having accepted that mid-air collisions are going to happen, there arises the problem of protecting people and property from premature descenders.
The property aspect is easy to solve. Everything will have to be constructed from Bouncy Castle material. People are a bit more difficult, as even air-bagged hats may not prevent them from being pile-driven into the ground. I suggest that either safety nets are suspended above all open areas or you take a sturdy umbrella with you whenever you go out.
Getting home again? Tricky. There'd probably have to be public catapult stations and landing areas. This would also help the premature descenders to resume their interrupted journey.
DrBob, Feb 19 2001

       I was thinking that we could each have our own, fully-enclosed, motorized vehicle that we could drive to work in each day.
bristolz, Feb 19 2001

       Now you're getting ridiculous Bristolz ....   

       Although personally, i'd prefer a boomerang to work ....
tigerbaby, Feb 19 2001

       Well, I AM a dreamer . . .
bristolz, Feb 19 2001

       You're welcome to your tin box bristolz, but a giant catapult would get you to work more quickly and is much more friendly to the environment (as long as you don't classify flying people as air pollution).
DrBob, Feb 20 2001

       The idea got me thinking.   

       Why not have in major centers in the city you have a very, very tall, radio tower style poles with elevators in it.   

       At the top of the tower are lines draping down to other areas of the city, where there are also these towers.   

       You have a wheel with a bar through it that is ratcheted to a brake when need be. You ride down the cable, braking when you near the bottom.   

       Fun and fast! Besides high winds I dont see a big problem with this idea.
Giblet, May 13 2001

       Ever tried to hold on to one of those things for more than the 30 feet or so they usually run?
StarChaser, May 13 2001

       Ever seen the 'kidapult' in the movie richie rich? You could just have that only on a really large scale.
kaz, Aug 30 2001

       You could also have large companies providing mass catapults for its employee's, arrive at a certain time and be flung into the air with 19 or so other co-workers. The 'flights' could be every half hour or so. You could even talk to your friends mid-flight ( or take one of those hand held T.V's for inflight movies )
kaz, Aug 30 2001

       "You could also have large companies providing communal buses for their employees, arrive at a certain time and be driven along roads with 19 or so other co-workers. The 'rides' could be every half hour or so. You could even talk to your friends mid-ride (or take one of those pocket sized stereos for music or radio)"
Sorry to be uncharitable, but you did just basically describe a bus. I'm just correcting a few nouns (and apostrophes). The halfbakery catapult to work has to be individualistic - as well as being as unfeasible as possible, and most of all it has to be fun, from that frisson of excitement one gets from projectiling at high speed past other people in suits.
lewisgirl, Aug 30 2001

       One of these days UB, you'll get your just desserts.

Incidentally, I'm glad that this idea has suddenly sprung to life again because I thought it could be adapted for the 'mystery suicide' idea. Just load yourself into the catapult and get fired through a giant egg-slice and voila! Instant red rain. I suspect that it's not entirely painless though. Probably stings a bit at the moment of impact. But then, if you don't suffer, it isn't art.
DrBob, Aug 30 2001

       UB!!!!! Get that errant apostrophe out of the the possessive its!!!!! And then I might remove my exclamation ellipses!!!!!
lewisgirl, Aug 30 2001

       I think a trebuchet would be a more elegant solution than a simple catapault. Trebuchets are very accurate too which would make for less ghastly accidents and lower insurance premiums.
<search ninja>Trebuchets are available from trebuchet.com (see links).</search ninja>
Rather disturbingly, this idea is part-baked as there's a picture on the web page of someone being flung from what is referred to as a "people thrower" and an accompanying story.
[I'll restrain from commenting on UB's "Oop's"]
hippo, Aug 30 2001

       oh hippo! Don't you mean refrain?
DrBob, Aug 30 2001

       Ooh... Agh... No!... Gnnnh!... Agh... <collapses, frothing at mouth>
hippo, Aug 30 2001

       UB, they're superellipses. you must be getting dehydrated. Let me shut your gob for you. </drool>

(irrelevant observation: the halfbakery font is Trebuchet MS, or at least it is in my browser.)
lewisgirl, Aug 30 2001

       [lewisgirl] Oh yes - I'd forgotten that. Well spotted.
And thanks for closing UB's tag - he has a habit of leaving them dangling. <lies down on floor again>
hippo, Aug 30 2001

       In Fatal Auto Collision Song lewisgirl wrote "Just because I'm wearing cowboy boots today" - very easy to misread as "Because I'm just wearing cowboy boots today."
hippo, Aug 30 2001

       animal print t-shirt. (sorry hippo)
lewisgirl, Aug 30 2001

       [lewisgirl] I'm dreadfully sorry I described a bus ride, but just think it could be funny. You'd have to keep all the heavier people at the back so that you wouldn't hit them when they were sailing gracefully through the air whilst you are speeding onwards with your face rippling due to wind resistance.
kaz, Aug 31 2001

       In a shameless attempt to keep my idea on the most recent list, I'd just like to say that I've just recently seen the Simpsons episode where they reveal that the ancient laws of Springfield decree that capital punishment in the town is Death by Catapult. So I'd just like to declare my idea half-baked.
DrBob, Sep 01 2001

       I thought my link had shown it to be more than half-baked...
hippo, Sep 03 2001

       Is there an HB acronym for the process of Trawling Through Already Suggested Ideas To See Whether An Idea You Thought Was Yours Has Already Been Suggested?   

       Anyways, I was TTASITSWAIYTWYHABS when I came across this.   

       I had always envisaged them being capsules with the commuters suspended inside in a webbing cradle. I thought it would be a static installation with only one destination (two if you count oblivion I suppose), for a 5km cross-city journey that is otherwise inconvenient due to congestion. Imagine a 300m high launching tower containing a big pneumatic cylinder, with a capsule start point on the ground 300m away. Capsule is accelerated by wire rope towards the tower apex, where the rope detatches automatically. Capture is with an elastic net, GPS continually monitoring trajectory so that an emegency parachute can be deployed if the capsule is deflected.   

       Some basic calcs: for a 5km throw in vacuum (lets start easy and assume a post-environmental disaster scenario shall we?) you need an inital velocity of 320 m/s at an angle of 45 degree. Total transit time 22 seconds. Tea and coffee will be served in the novelty of zero g.   

       Given that a human can withstand 20G for short periods, acceleration phase takes 1.6 seconds over a distance of 256 metres. Assume capsule plus occupant masses 300kg, this is 15.5MJ of energy, or about 30 pence worth at domestic electricity rates.   

       Now add air resistance: assuming the capsule shape is a wing section revolved around its axis you might get to a Cd of 0.04. Capsule is 600mm in diameter but 8 metres long. Drag force on the capsule at take off is 4kN. Drag decceleration is 1.3g, so you might need upwards of 400m/s (supersonic) at takeoff. This limits the range to under 5km to avoid sonic boom.   

       At best the cycle time of the launcher would be 1 minute, so the low passenger rate and high captial cost means this really is a premium-rate service for loaded people with an exaggerated opinion of the value of their own time (champagne cocktails and 22 seconds of Vivaldi while in transit)   

       Overall, an expensive, short-ranged and violent way to travel on Earth. This idea makes more sense on the Moon due to its lower gravity and lack of atmosphere. Pity.
shameless_self_reference, Sep 06 2002

       //This idea makes more sense on the Moon//

Not really, Mr reference. We haven't got an office there. But I'm impressed with your calculations. They come out at about the same answer that I got. Really. Honest!
DrBob, Sep 06 2002

       A nice variation on this idea: your capsule is not simply a projectile but has some thrust to sustain the flight and make up the aerodynamic drag. Aero drag goes with the square of speed so it's better to cruise at 200m/s than reach a peak of 400m/s. One way to do this is by storing compressed air in the capsule, and using it to blow water (=reaction mass) out the back. 450 bar in the air tank would blow the water out at 300m/s, you would need 13l/s of water to counteract the aero drag. Doubling the mass of your capsule might get you 200kg of water, giving you 15 seconds of boost. Cost you another 9 MJ to charge it up though, and an extra 30MJ for the extra launch mass. Would probably be quite an efficient rainbow maker.   

       But then again, if your catching device regenerates the kinetic energy from the capsule, it's in your interests add ballast mass. This will reduce the decceleration due to aerodynamic drag and extend the maximum range (limited you remember by the launch speed having to be subsonic). If you recapture the impact kinetic energy you can probably reduce the overall energy cost per journey by half. Of course energy is not the dominant cost- the economics depend more on journeys-per-lawsuit.   

       Something tells me I'm taking this all too seriously. Well I'm sorry, I can't stop calculating, I watched too much Open University aged 4 and am scarred for life.
shameless_self_reference, Sep 06 2002

       If one was willing to make the air traffic control difficulties even more challenging, one could solve the problem of overly distant targets by setting up a network of catapaults/gloves. Instead of being launched directly to one's destination, one could first stop it a large building along the way, then continue on from a catapult on the same building, much as one might travel along a subway.   

       When the baseball gloves on buildings were not being used for catching people, this would also make an excellent delivery system. I would certainly pay for the promptness of a pizza delivered by catapult.
Ebb, Sep 06 2002

       Sir would be advised to choose from the "calzone" section of the menu.
shameless_self_reference, Sep 09 2002

       I see a whole network of interstate catapults, like small airport terminals. Hop all the way from Maine to California. Hawaii could be difficult. "Damn, another one lost in the lava pits..."   

       Different cities could post their accuracy rating-- "At Fort Lauterdale's express catapult service 99.2% of them come back alive!"
RayfordSteele, Jun 25 2003

       Bad Ray...Steele Bad. I was just about to say that myself. So, I'll do the next best thing. Elaborate. You hit the it on the head ... a series of (a whole network of). But what's this interstate stuff. Totally misses the vaporizing point.   

       Have "catchers mitts" on every building and a meet and greet area. Then be catapulted x distance (not to far (ouch), not to close (too many trips) -- several times until you get to your ultimate destination. Like a stopover, only with better food and company.
thecat, Jun 25 2003

       Forgetting my A-level physics for a moment, but wouldn't it be possible to have different parabolic paths between the same two points - the only difference being the force of the boing? That way you could avoid mid-air collisions a bit easier.   

       "This morning, sir, I'm afraid we have to elevate you to 850 feet. Your usual 630 feet altitude is booked for a coach load of sight-seeing pensioners."
PeterSilly, Jun 26 2003

       Sure. The only difficulty is that you arrive at the same speed you're fired from.
RayfordSteele, Jun 26 2003

       Air resistance?
PeterSilly, Jun 26 2003

       okay, nearly the same speed.   

       And be sure to bring chewing gum.
RayfordSteele, Jun 26 2003

       See link [ballpark...] Pac Bell Park here in San Francisco is the best transit-connected ballpark in the USA with light rail, ferry, train and bus connections all within a block or 2 of the park. I had no idea that they were so forward thinking they anticipated the future of mass transit.
oxen crossing, Jun 26 2003

       [DrCurry] That link is priceless.   

       Nice link, Dub. The cardapult is clearly a design classic!
DrBob, Apr 06 2009

xandram, Jun 29 2022

       So, does anyone know if comutapult.org was based on this idea, or just convergent engineering? I was surprised that there wasn't discussion of this when [Dub] added the link in 2010? Anyone know Mark Selander who apparently created commutapult.org? Seems like he might fit in here.
scad mientist, Jun 30 2022

       The commutapult looks like more of a cannon than a catapult so, although conceptually similar, I don't think that there is a link between his idea & mine. Also, his illustrations are a lot better.
DrBob, Jul 03 2022

       People always seem to forget about the speeds required, & more importantly the acceleration required to get up to those speeds.
In the linked "commutapult" example, there are no wings, so it's a purely ballistic trajectory. Assuming (conservatively) a 50m long barrel & a 5km commute, you need an acceleration of 50g to launch. Not quite the "human mush" I was expecting, but still pretty extreme, even if only for 0.45 seconds.
Then you need to survive whatever the landing system is.
neutrinos_shadow, Jul 03 2022

       I suppose a launch chamber lined with custard might suitably cushion the launchee with minimal rearrangement of bodily organs, and of course a similar blob at the receiving end. So much for your business suit, but you'd survive.   

       Or not.
whatrock, Jul 03 2022

       Warm custard would do the job nicely, I agree. However, there is the issue of keeping it warm. Which takes us into a debate about sustainability & energy bills.
DrBob, Jul 08 2022

       I suppose the heat issue might be handled by having riders dump half their tea in the custard warming funnel at the start of the trip, and the rest of it at the end. Of course the first few trips would be fraught with peril, cold custard and all, but perhaps the wispy-weighted commuters could head the line.   

       [DrBob], I see that you've been [DrBob] for a good 21 years. Very fine. Who were you before you became [DrBob], and have any patients ever tried your patience?
whatrock, Jul 08 2022

       Yes, I do seem to have frittered away a disturbingly large portion of my life on the 'bakery. To answer your questions, I have always been DrBob & I have no patience to try. Irritants get swatted or ignored (depending on my mood at the time). ;)
DrBob, Jul 11 2022

       I once tried to build a catapult for a physics class project. It tended to fling rocks straight up into the air. In retrospect, the pvc pipe was not an ideal rigid line segment, and reinvented wheels are often square.
sninctown, Sep 22 2022

       To be fair, rocks are heavier than cats.
pocmloc, Sep 23 2022


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