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Fastest Train Ride Ever!

April 23rd, 2015

A maglev train. Photo credit: Alex Needham/public domain

The world’s fastest train ride took place on Tuesday setting a new world record!

Japan’s maglev train was clocked zooming by at 603 kilometers per hour (374 miles per hour)! Wow.

Maglev is short for magnetic levitation . Levitation is basically when something is in the air but without support.


So, wait. How does it work?

The train doesn’t actually touch the tracks when it travels. It hovers or floats above the track. You know how when you put two magnets together and they pull together and stick … but when you flip one of the magnets the other way you can’t really get them to touch? They “repel” each other. That’s the basic idea behind maglev train technology.

Magnetic repulsion. Photo credit: Pieter Kuiper via Wikimedia Commons

The maglev train’s magnets are also electrically charged which helps it both levitate … and move forward.

It can go faster than regular trains because there is no friction (two things rubbing together, like the wheels against the track).

The video below helps you better understand the basic idea. And there are videos at the end of this post for fun projects you can do related to this.

For now, the train is being tested (no regular passengers) and it’s actually going so well it broke its own speed record from last week.

But imagine how much less time it will take to get between cities than it does now by car. In many cases it can cut travel times in half!

And it’s even approaching the convenience of airplane travel. A passenger jet usually travels around 500-600 miles per hour (800 – 950 km/hr). But then’s there all the extra time it takes to get to the airport, check in, and go through security.

Though the train itself is a huge success, building the special tracks for it is super expensive (in the billions of dollars just to connect one city to another).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his family visiting President Obama at the White House last year (2014). Photo credit: The White House via Wikimedia Commons

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe (pronounced: Ah-bay), will be visiting the U.S. this weekend, and among other important topics, he might try to talk President Obama into getting one for the U.S., maybe for travel between New York and Washington D.C.

President Obama speaks a lot about improving the U.S.’s infrastructure (the physical and organizational structures like bridges, roads, and train tracks that helps keep our country moving) … will this be the ticket?

Here’s CNN’s story about the maglev’s new record breaking travels.  And here’s a more in depth article about how maglev trains work from How Stuff Works .

Or you can make the train yourself (or in your science class):

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