Illustration by Elon Musk/Tesla Motors.

Is Elon Musk’s Hyperloop like a 21st century version of the transcontinental railroad? Jon Christensen, the Editor of Boom: A Journal of California, draws some interesting parallels between the two in the New Yorker’s Elements blog. Both seemed impossibly fast for their day and age, and both have the power to shape and destroy people, cities, and economies.

Christensen recalls the uncannily relevant words John Muir wrote about the railroad in 1872: “Last year tourists were whizzed over plain and mountain from San Francisco to Yosemite in two days; and I learn that arrangements are being made for next season whereby the velocity of the shot will be increased to one day. Thus is modern travel spiritualized. Thus are time and space—and travellers—annihilated.” Is annihilation—metaphorical or literal—a real concern if the Hyperloop is built? Read the article to hear Christensen’s case.