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  • I'm in Basel, in Switzerland.

  • The river Rhine runs through here,

  • and if you want to get across it, then there are four ferries.

  • I mean, there are bridges as well, but the ferries keep going

  • as a tourist attraction, as tradition,

  • and for some folks, an actual way to get where you want to go.

  • Also occasionally a fondue restaurant, because Switzerland.

  • But these ferries have no paddles, no oars, no engines,

  • nothing on board to power them.

  • Put them in the open ocean or a lake and they'd just drift.

  • And yet here, they move.

  • So here's how they work:

  • there is a wire strung across the river and the ferry is connected to it.

  • There's a little thing called a traveler that goes back and forth smoothly.

  • The ferry does have a rudder for steering, so when it's time to cross,

  • the captain angles the boat against the current,

  • and uses the force of the river itself to push the boat across.

  • Without that cable, it'd drift downstream, fast.

  • But since it can't, it just crosses the river instead.

  • No gasoline, no human effort, just the force of the river.

  • Boats like this are called reaction ferries,

  • and there are examples all over the world.

  • Sometimes the design's a little different, but the principle is always the same.

  • I only learned about them a few weeks ago,

  • and in hindsight, they seem incredibly obvious.

  • You have an object that needs energy

  • sitting on top of a massive, constant energy source

  • just waiting to be harnessed.

  • But if you'd asked me how to connect those two things before I knew the answer,

  • then my first thought would probably have been some overcomplicated, overengineered plan

  • like putting a waterwheel on the side of the river

  • and then using that cable to send power to an electric motor on the boat.

  • I mean, there is a hydroelectric dam not far away.

  • I'd like to think that I'd have worked it out eventually,

  • but I'd have probably missed the easy option to start with.

  • To anyone who grew up in a place with these ferries, it's a really obvious idea.

  • But to everyone else, it's an invention we've never thought of.

  • To be fair, this is only a good solution in a few places.

  • You need a strong, fast, steady river, like the Rhine, at a place where it isn't tidal,

  • and where it isn't particularly seasonal either.

  • But if I've missed that, then the obvious follow-up question is, well:

  • what else have I missed?

  • And is there anything out there that every single human has missed?

  • Maybe there is still some big, obvious-in-hindsight stuff out there that'll change the world...

  • just as soon as someone thinks of it.

I'm in Basel, in Switzerland.


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B1 中級

バーゼルのリアクションフェリー。私たちは何を見逃したのか? (The Reaction Ferries of Basel: What Have We Missed?)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日