Never mind the Vegas Eye, I want to see the Sludge Tunnels

The only reason to visit Las Vegas is for the exotic spectacles (don’t gamble, it’s a scam) and Elon Musk may have added another one.

Despite a decade of dreaming, Elon Musk has only built one tiny Hyperloop tunnel in Las Vegas — and the people who built it say it’s filled with dangerous chemical sludge.

As Bloomberg reports, the Boring Company’s scarce output — which thus far amounts only to driving Teslas around a few miles of neon-lit tunnel underneath Sin City as they ferry convention attendees at no more than 40 miles per hour — has also come with a massive buildup of waste, the consistency of a milkshake, that’s said to burn the skin of anyone who comes in contact with it.

In interviews with the news source, Boring Company workers who declined to give their names on the record for fear of retribution said that in some parts of Musk’s Vegas tunnel system, the sludge would sometimes be up to two feet high. If it got over their work boots or onto their faces, they said, it would burn their skin.

The article doesn’t say where the toxic sludge is coming from, which makes me wonder what is leaking. The Daily Mail — not a reliable source at all — is reporting that the sludge is made of chemical accelerants, and that the worker’s complaints were made while the tunnel was under construction.

It was a crap project anyway, and a poor solution to transit problems, so shut it down already. Hyperloop One, Virgin’s project, has already been declared dead. I hope somebody in Minnesota is paying attention to the news, and is ready to kill the Minnesota hyperloop project.

Once the Boring Tunnel nonsense is shut down, we can get back to the serious business of mocking Elon Musk’s Flaming Vehicles of Fiery Death.

Two men were left in serious condition after the Tesla they were traveling in went off an overpass and burst into flames on the 134 Freeway in the Griffith Park neighborhood of Los Angeles Sunday night.

See, it’s like a metaphor for Musk’s career and an entertaining fireworks display in one! (the occupants of the car survived, fortunately. Let’s not have the spectacle of drivers on fire or tunnel workers melting.)


  1. birgerjohansson says

    A properly designed fuel tank will never explode like they do in films. Also, you can fill any leftover volume with an inert gas (was done in some aircraft in WWII) as the fuel is consumed.

    Assuming a steady progress in catalysis, energy production etc you could add hydrogen to carbon monoxide derived from CO2 and get the hydrocarbon of your choice. Or just choose biofuel (viable in places with lower population density).

  2. dstatton says

    The idea that anyone would let that clown put a chip in their brain just haven’t thought things through.

  3. says

    PZ knows it isn’t las vegas, is actual ‘lost wages nevada’

    The original ‘boring tunnel’ (aptly named for its excitement) was in Hawthorne, Calif. it was ~1 city block long and never really was used for anything other than playing around. The elongated muskrat bought the old Northrop property and turned it into a wasteland. When it was an actual working company, Northrop had ~23,000 employees there and the facility occupied a stretch of road ~1 mile long.
    Sadly, the elongated muskrat also bought an innovative company called tesla and turned it into a laughing stock among the technically knowledgeable crowd. And, no he didn’t create the company and he is too technically ignorant to have invented the car. He is hyper-loopy.

  4. Athaic says

    Multibillionaire’s work oozing toxic sludge… Now I am thinking of the green sunscreen sold by OCP in the Robocop universe.

  5. bcw bcw says

    Clearly, Elon should patent this brand new idea of using tubes or tunnels to move sludge from one place to another. Cities could really use something like that. Since Elon likes to bring lawsuits against people for dumping on his ideas, he could call them sue-ers.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    birgerjohansson @ # 3: … add hydrogen to carbon monoxide derived from CO2 and get the hydrocarbon of your choice.

    Call me when the catalystists have made it so we can get the carbohydrates of our choice – say, French pastry.

  7. joel says

    “Flaming Vehicles of Fiery Death”.

    I hate it when people act like electric vehicles are dangerous because they might catch fire. ICE vehicles catch fire all the time, but tend not to make the news precisely because it is so common.

  8. billseymour says

    I immediately thought of the Doctor Who story, The Green Death  Maybe we could link it with the AI post since the it involves a supercomputer becoming conscious and going insane. 8-).

  9. microraptor says

    joel @16: Same, though in the case of Tesla, the lack of safety standards or quality control means that they probably are abnormally prone to catching on fire.

  10. John Morales says

    shermanj @8, you clearly don’t know the history of Tesla (the company):

  11. says

    I’m getting so tired of petty ad hominem attacks (on me and others) by someone who seems to think that trying to belittle people here with one internet snippet bolsters their self-esteem. One video is not the whole story! I have been involved with electric vehicle development since Cafe Electric in Oregon in the mid-1990s. Otmar and I have actually talked with some of the best EV engineers, some that tesla had (past tense since they bailed when things began to deteriorate). I’m wiping off the troll slime and going back to work. It’s apparently not worth my time to try to contribute here.

  12. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    The article doesn’t say where the toxic sludge is coming from

    That’s in the long Bloomberg version that Futurism summarized.

    The tunnels were dug at the level of the water table, not unusual in the tunneling industry, which meant that water was constantly seeping into the tunnel, mixing with the dirt and accelerants. Workers had installed pumps, but they couldn’t pull the water out quickly enough, particularly when summer rains exacerbated the situation. So they regularly had to wade through the polluted water. The accelerants came in with the grout via long hoses, which in the Encore tunnel often resulted in employees getting sprayed as they maneuvered the hoses from spot to spot. Over the course of a month, 10 to 15 workers suffered chemical burns that way


    Musk once described this technology as a system of futuristic pods capable of ferrying people between major cities at the speed of sound. […] the company’s only commercial project amounts to a drastically scaled-down shuttle bus system for the Vegas convention center. Mostly, it takes passengers from one side of the convention center to the other. […] only during conventions, and attendees ride in Tesla sedans limited to 40 miles per hour.

  13. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    One side to the other. XD
    And left unused even for that.

    An attendant explained that although the conference floor itself was reasonably busy, few were taking advantage of the Loop. Boring had started that day with 20 drivers, but had sent six of them home—they didn’t have anything to do.

  14. chrislawson says

    A quick nod to the sf comedy series Future Man, in which the villain of S2 is a megalomaniac brain-in-a-vat tech guru who has convinced people that all their earthly problems will be solved by moving to Mars with him as Supreme Leader.

  15. Silentbob says

    @ 20 shermanj

    Morales is the inexplicably tolerated resident troll. Whether you comment or not is up to you, but it’s sad to see trolling work. It’s like terrorism. Submit and you’ve let them win and signaled to every other terrorist/troll that they should keep on keeping on.

  16. John Morales says

    [due retort to my obsessive hatefan]

    Morales is the inexplicably tolerated resident troll. Whether you comment or not is up to you, but it’s sad to see trolling work. It’s like terrorism.

    I reckon you are the inexplicably tolerated resident troll, if anyone is.
    Your trolling ain’t working. Face it.
    And, may I say, shermanj sure got all indignant and excited and made it all personal.

    Again: Musk did not come in and buy the company and wreck it.

    See, with such obsessive people such as you, it’s all about me.
    With such neurotic people such as shermanj, it’s all about them.

    Submit and you’ve let them win and signaled to every other terrorist/troll that they should keep on keeping on.


    Submit to what? My claim that it is evident that the contrafactual claim evinces ignorance of the actual history? My adduction of an interview with Tesla’s founders that backs my claim?

    It’s not a matter of submitting to me, is it? I disputed a claim and adduced evidence supporting that.

    That is not personal — though to be fair, the obviously sensitive shermanj wrote (on me and others), which apparently did not indicate that I am not picking on him, but rather treating his comment as I would anyone else’s.

    (Not the first time he’s spit the dummy, right?)


    Your most stupid claim — and everyone who is a regular knows it by now, God knows you’ve obsessed about that for years — is that I’m a troll. I’m not, though some people do think I am an ‘asshole’ and others think I am obnoxious. Not banworthy things, unless complicated by boring repetitiveness such as yours.

    Just like with the recent climate denialists were befuddled by how Michael Mann was not a pariah in the scientific community, so are you supposedly befuddled Lo! these multiple years onwards from your first putative wonderment at my supposedly privileged status.

    (You know that “bowels of Christ” quote, no? ;)

    Anyway, have a look at the video I outlined. Pretty obvious they — the actual founders — are being coy but seem most satisfied with the outcome of their endeavours. At that time, of course… wouldn’t want to presume!

  17. Silentbob says

    Basically, what I’m saying is almost everyone here feels exactly as you do and would rather have one comment from you than a hundred from that clown.

  18. John Morales says

    Silentbob, LOL.

    No worries, I agree.

    Better just one comment from me than a hundred from that clown.


  19. StevoR says

    @20. shermanj : “It’s apparently not worth my time to try to contribute here.”

    Please don’t let your annoyance at one or two commentators here stop you from particpating and commenting here. I for oen enjoy your comments.

  20. Paul K says

    I agree with StevoR: shermanj, I, too, find your comments valuable and hope you just learn to ignore JM, if that will work for you.

    For myself — and just for myself; I won’t make judgments about ‘almost everyone here’ — I also find John Morales’ comments really valuable. I’ve been coming here for a very long time, and, though I seldom comment, I read almost all posts at least once a day. John has been here far longer, and writes clearly and very sharply. Too sharply for some, if he aims critical comments their way. Sometimes, too sharply for pretty much everyone, (maybe even himself?). He has yet to aim at me, so I’m not sure how I’d react, but I hope it would be to read what he writes without taking the biting criticism personally. He does not mean any personal harm (at first, anyway). He criticizes comments, whether based on what he sees as weakness in the argument itself, or on presented facts. He does this, I think, very well, though also not at all politely sometimes. I feel weird writing about him in this tense, since he’ll almost certainly read this, so ‘Hi, John! Long time reader; first time commenting at you.’

    And the thing is, John has been very open and clear about all of this all along. He’s explained again and again that he just calls them as he sees them and doesn’t plan to soften his critiques to spare people’s feelings. This place is not like it was years ago, when people really got nasty in arguing with each other; often very fine people on both sides. John is one of the last of these. He’s not going to accept complaints about his tone as valid arguments for changing his way of doing things. In fact, that only raises his ire if done repeatedly, and will bring its own criticism. I’m glad for his presence, even though, yeah, he can be an asshole. But he’s our asshole, to ignore or embrace.

  21. says

    Statistically, evs don’t burn more often than combustion cars, but whenever you hear about a flaming disaster involving an EV, it’s a Tesla…

  22. Kagehi says

    Well… On the positive side, NASA, who, when a bunch of competing groups are not trying to make them build a space ship that “does everything poorly”, instead of several that do specific things very well, are working on a fix for the battery issue. Problem is the liquid electrolyte, which tends, when the battery starts failing in various ways, to break down into hydrogen, and if then punctured and lit one fire…. The NASA concept is to use a full solid state battery, however, so far, while this has halved the weight, for the same power, it has also reduced the number of charge cycles (since the materials do not reset to the charged state as efficiently and the battery fails faster). But, there are also other options, like new salt battery technology, which my be viable for EVs, at least city only vehicles, assuming we get more charging stations – since such batteries do not have the charge capacity of Lithium based ones, even if they are likely to be far better than existing NIMH batteries, or lead acid. Also, looks like some groups are making major discoveries in “actual” room temperature super conductors, so while we still don’t have a solution for the transition points, where the current moves from the super conductor to other components, this still has the potential to, if they can make it consistently, create yet one more source of power reduction, in that lengths of “wire” might have huge decreases in their resistance, especially over long runs. How much effect it has on, say, you motherboard in your computer.. might be negligible, but… the wiring in your car, where you might have miles of the stuff connecting various bits to each other? Maybe…

    Thing is, the whole EV cars catching fire things is kind of like trains – dozens of trains, on dozens of tracks, all pulling maybe 30 sections, even if they contain fuel, isn’t much of an issue, 5 miles of train, where there is enough fuel that, if it all went up at once, after a derailment, would wipe a small city off the map as though you had nuked it (but we have been supper lucky hasn’t happened), IS. Same with difference between a regular car catching fire, and maybe the fuel tank leaking, but its easy to put it, vs. one care catching fire on a cargo ship, and having the rest all light off, the fire being impossible to put out, the smoke 100 times more toxic, and you just hope the ship doesn’t go down because of it… yeah, that IS a bigger problem.

    In a sane world, Tesla would have been the people working on better, solid state, batteries, but then, in that world you would either be able to turn in the batteries for a recovery discount, like you do with lead acid batteries, or they people that sold you the car would “own” the battery, and you could pay, either as part of insurance, or as a sort of limited rental fee, which would still be less than, in a sane world, than paying for gas, which guaranteed a replacement. But.. in direct spite of the failure of sanity, there are at least some people out there working on solutions (because, if nothing else, having your battery puff up and explode in space is actually even more inconvenient than having it happen to your car…)

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