02 February, 2018
This is What's Trending Today...
Elon Musk - head of electric carmaker Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX - is known for using creative methods to raise money for his businesses.
He has successfully gotten tens of thousands of interested buyers to place deposits of at least $1,000 for electric Tesla vehicles that were not yet manufactured. Last year, SpaceX announced that two private citizens had paid "a significant deposit" to ride on one of the company's rockets for a future trip around the moon.
So it is not surprising that Musk recently launched another money raiser – this time for his tunnel-digging business, The Boring Company. But what did surprise many people was the item he was selling - flamethrowers.
The Boring Company's website began offering the fire shooters for $500 each on January 27. Days later, Musk announced on Twitter that all 20,000 flamethrowers offered had been sold. This means the pre-sale process brought in $10 million dollars.
The company said the devices – which look similar to some air guns sold as toys – would ship sometime this spring.
The flamethrower campaign followed another Boring Company fundraiser that sold 50,000 hats that showed the company's name on the front.
Musk shared on Christmas Eve that since the hats had sold out, "flamethrowers" would next go up for sale. But many people wondered if the new campaign announcement could be a joke.
About a month later, the technology executive announced the official launch, but in a joking way. "The Boring Company flamethrower, guaranteed to liven up any party!" he tweeted.
Musk also joked that the device would be "great for roasting nuts." He also suggested: "When the zombie apocalypse happens, you'll be glad you bought a flamethrower. Works against hordes of the undead or your money back!"
At one point, he even tweeted that owning a flamethrower was a "terrible idea," urging people not to buy one. But he quickly followed up that comment with, "unless you like fun."
But the jokes, and fact that the item was highly unusual, did not stop people from buying up flamethrowers by the thousands. Some people – and at least one California lawmaker - raised concerns about the safety of the flamethrowers.
Musk responded by stating that federal rules allow the use of any flamethrower with a flame shorter than three meters. He said they were designed to provide the most fun with the least danger. "I'd be way more scared of a steak knife," he said.
As a safety feature, the company says all flamethrowers will also ship with a free fire extinguisher.
The Boring Company's goal is to create underground tunnels to be used as a new form of high-speed transportation. One of the proposed uses would be with Musk's planned transportation system Hyperloop.
Currently under development, this system would operate with electromagnetic technology and forced air. Musk has said Hyperloop would use electric vehicles to carry between 8-16 passengers between major U.S. cities at speeds up to 1,000 kilometers an hour.
The Boring Company is developing equipment intended to make the process of drilling tunnels faster and more cost effective.
And that's What's Trending Today...
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Reuters and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
deposit – n. money that you give someone when you agree to buy something (such as a house or car)
tunnel – n. a long passage that goes under the ground, through a hill, etc.
flamethrower – n. a weapon that shoots a stream of burning liquid
toy – n. something meant to be played with for fun
roast – v. to cook or dry with heat
zombie – n. a dead person who reportedly has the ability to move because of magical powers
apocalypse – n. a great disaster or event that causes much fear, loss, or destruction
hordes – n. large groups of people
fire extinguisher – n. a metal container filled with chemicals used to put out a fire
drill – v. make a hole in something using a drill