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Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the that's-no-iceberg dept.

Transportation 166

Hugh Pickens writes "According to new research by British historian Tim Maltin, records by several ships in the area where the Titanic sank show atmospheric conditions were ripe for super refraction, a bending of light that caused a false horizon, concealing the iceberg that sank the Titanic in a mirage layer, which prevented the Titanic's lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time to avoid collision. According to the new theory, Titanic was sailing from Gulf Stream waters into the frigid Labrador Current, where the air column was cooling from the bottom up. This created a thermal inversion, with layers of cold air below layers of warmer air, creating a superior mirage. The theory also explains why the freighter Californian was unable to identify the Titanic on the moonless night, because even though the Titanic sailed into the Californian's view, it appeared too small to be the great ocean liner. The abnormally stratified air may also have disrupted signals sent by the Titanic by Morse Lamp to the Californian to no avail. This is not the first time atmospheric conditions have been postulated as a factor in the disaster that took 1,517 lives. An investigation in 1992 by the British government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch also suggested that super refraction may have played a role in the disaster (PDF, see page 13), but that possibility went unexplored until Maltin mined weather records, survivors' testimony and long-forgotten ships' logs."

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166 comments

so? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241649)

It sank either way FP

Ptheh. (4, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241653)

I think the fact that all the watertight doors of the "unsinkable ocean liner" were open sort of makes everything else irrelevant.

User error, in the extreme. Bad Captain!

Re:Ptheh. (5, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241697)

I'm not sure that that would've mattered either, as the "water-tight" compartments weren't sealed at the top. Interestingly, they're still not sealed at the top, which i suspect contributed to the sinking of the costa concordia recently.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241731)

If the compartments were sealed at the top the water within would not be able to distribute freely along the length of the vessel. There would be a mass of unstable liquid concentrated in one small section of the boat that would cause it to sink anyway.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241843)

If the compartments were sealed at the top the water within would not be able to distribute freely along the length of the vessel. There would be a mass of unstable liquid concentrated in one small section of the boat that would cause it to sink anyway.

In the same way that when you fill one compartment of an ice cube tray, it lists horribly then sinks?

Re:Ptheh. (4, Informative)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242057)

Warships seal the compartments all the way to the top. Even the cable penetrations are watertight.

It's expensive, so I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that's the reason they don't do it.

Re:Ptheh. (3, Interesting)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242171)

I don't think cost was the issue here. It is just very inconvenient for a passenger liner. Moving around the ship will become very difficult if you have to get through a watertight door every few meters.

Also there may have been structural issues. Even if the bulkheads would have been completely watertight, the flooding of all forward compartments would have caused the ship to pitch forward, which might have caused here to break in two like she did anyway. I am no expert on early twentieth century passenger liner design, but I am sure they had their reason to design her the way they did.

Re:Ptheh. (4, Interesting)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242853)

I am no expert on early twentieth century passenger liner design, but I am sure they had their reason to design her the way they did.

It was cost. Ships just a few years before were mostly either one big space (especially sailing ships) or just a very few compartments. Adding more compartments not only requires more material and construction time, it adds weight which reduces carrying capacity, and it makes travel between compartments slower and more complicated. Sometimes there is no direct path and you have to go up over and down, or sideways.

All that costs money. Besides, as crummy as it was, it was better then most designs beforehand, so they thought it good enough and figured any further expense would be entirely wasted. They were thinking of one or two big holes, not hundreds of small holes from popped rivets and burst seams.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39243137)

Good point, and one I missed, was MODERN warships. They probably learned the lesson from the Titanic.

Re:Ptheh. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241779)

They don't fully seal the tops, because you're only supposed to breach 1 or 2 in case of trouble. If you breach 4 or 5, the ship won't stay afloat on the remaining ones (for long). The top of the breached compartments would end up bursting due to the water pressure contained in those compartments if they were fully sealed at the top.

Both Titanic and Concordia stayed afloat long enough to evacuate safely. In Titanic's case, there were not enough lifeboats, and the ones that were launched were not filled to capacity. In Concordia's case, the captain waited so long to order the lifeboats deployed, that many were unusable due to the severe list (tilt) of the ship. In both cases, high speed impact tore open too many compartments to save either ship, but the design worked long enough to move people to lifeboats and deploy them.

There have been many passenger shipwrecks where loss of life was minimal, because another ship came alongside and took the passengers to safety without using lifeboats at all.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242305)

Concordia wasn't a huge problem because it drifted onto solid ground shallow enough to keep it mostly above water. If it had not been carried by onshore winds, it would have been a much different story. The captain waited far to long to declare it time to abandon.

Re:Ptheh. (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242363)

Concordia wasn't a huge problem because it drifted onto solid ground shallow enough to keep it mostly above water. If it had not been carried by onshore winds, it would have been a much different story. The captain waited far to long to declare it time to abandon.

Well, he made up for it by not waiting long afterward before getting himself off the ship ...

Re:Ptheh. (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241907)

I'm not sure that that would've mattered either, as the "water-tight" compartments weren't sealed at the top ...

That might have mattered to the Edmund Fizgerald, but I don't think the Titanic was experiencing high seas when it ran into that iceberg.

Interestingly, they're still not sealed at the top, which i suspect contributed to the sinking of the costa concordia recently.

What? That was a cruise ship that ran aground due to an arrogant captain ignoring the charts (and radar!) trying to impress his friends.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

filthpickle (1199927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242427)

The point they are making is that it mattered that the water tight compartments weren't sealed at the top because once one eventually filled up (from the leak towards the bottom) the water spilled into the one next to it.

Re:Ptheh. (5, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241715)

Incorrect. It was designed to remain afloat with "n" compartments flooded. The gash opened up "n+1" compartments. If it had hit head-on they wouldn't have sunk, the glancing shot (possibly or possibly not due to a last-second attempt at a turn) caused too many compartments to flood.

        Brett

Re:Ptheh. (4, Interesting)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241765)

Actually about 5 or so years ago someone did an experiment to see if they had hit nose on instead if it would have stayed up. Unfortunately it would have still sunk. They also did a test to see if they had let the water flow through the bottom of the ship rather than sealing up would it have sunk slower and more upright. That ended up sinking it faster by an estimated hour and the last of it would have been really fast.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242863)

I'd quite like to find more out about that. The Olympic had that sort of impact and she didn't sink. (For those who don't know, the Titanic was the second of the Olympic class liners.)

Re:Ptheh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243473)

Actually about 5 or so years ago someone did an experiment to see if they had hit nose on instead if it would have stayed up. Unfortunately it would have still sunk. They also did a test to see if they had let the water flow through the bottom of the ship rather than sealing up would it have sunk slower and more upright. That ended up sinking it faster by an estimated hour and the last of it would have been really fast.

I'd quite like to find more out about that. The Olympic had that sort of impact and she didn't sink. (For those who don't know, the Titanic was the second of the Olympic class liners.)

I too would like to find out more about that because the first ship to issue an SOS call hit an iceberg in that region and it survived.

Re:Ptheh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243087)

A friend of mine who worked in steel fabrication said that by modern standards, the steel for the Titanic's hull was below all acceptable specifications.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#39243157)

Even by the standards of the time most of the mid-ship hull bolts were well below acceptable specifications. Budget overruns led to the contractors making criminally negligent shortcuts. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last either.

Re:Ptheh. (0)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241801)

It was designed to remain afloat with "n" compartments flooded. The gash opened up "n+1" compartments.

Hmm. Well, if they'd had those doors closed, rescuers may have been able to show up in time to save all souls. It'd probably have sunk a lot slower. Still, bad captain, monumental user error, they should have known better, *it was a British ship* after all and the Brits believed the oceans were their "biatches."

Arrogance kills innocents (so what else is new?), film at eleven.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241793)

They are supposed to close when an emergency arises, not before it happens.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242003)

They are supposed to close when an emergency arises, not before it happens.

Why wait for an emergency to happen? Convenience? When lives are potentially at stake?

I'm not an, "Oh god, oh god save us DHS!" safety freak, but I do believe that automated systems should default to safest/most benign function. I take "Do no harm" much more seriously than any doctor I've known.

If you can't do good, do nothing. If you can't do nothing, at least get out of the way. Thx.

Re:Ptheh. (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242885)

No, you only need them closed before hand if there's a chance of imminent catastrophe. Warships generally steam with frequently used hatches and doors open. At general quarters, all are closed. There are intermediate stages where some are closed when steaming in war zones but without imminent battle expected.

My carrier could set battle stations in 4-5 minutes. A cruise ship could probably set them in ten minutes (wild assed guess) because they don't have as many doors and hatches, don't have as many crew to set them, and don't practice it all the time. That's fine for all except battle conditions where you want them set before battle.

Re:Ptheh. (3, Funny)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241875)

Frankly, so many plausible reasons for the Titanic's sinking have been proposed and proved to be plausible that I won't be surprised if there is a time traveling insurance agency right now back then looking into the possibility of insurance fraud.

Insurance Scam (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242047)

Actually you are not that far off. There is an alternate theory that the sinking of the Titanic was an elaborate insurance scam [wikipedia.org] .

One of the most controversial[6][7] and complex theories was put forward by Robin Gardiner in his book, Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank?[8] In it, Gardiner draws on several events and coincidences that occurred in the months, days, and hours leading up to the sinking of the Titanic, and concludes that the ship that sank was in fact Titanic's sister ship Olympic, disguised as Titanic, as an insurance scam.

Olympic was the older sister of Titanic, built alongside the more famous vessel but launched in October 1910. Her exterior profile was nearly identical to Titanic, save for small detailing such as the promenade deck windows. These were not glazed in Olympic. In Titanic, the front half of the promenade deck was fitted with smaller glazed windows to protect passengers from spray.

On September 20, 1911, the Olympic was involved in a collision with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke near Southampton. The cruiser smashed its ram into the side of the Olympic, seriously damaging both ships. The inquiry found Hawke free of all blame. This set in motion Gardiner's theory. White Star Line was allegedly not insured for the cost of fixing the damaged Olympic (which, according to Gardiner, had damaged the central turbine's mountings and the keel). The White Star's flagship would also be out of action during any repairs, and the Titanic's completion date would have to be delayed. All this would amount to a serious financial loss for the company. Gardiner proposes that, to make sure at least one vessel would be earning money. Olympic was then converted to become the Titanic. Gardiner states that few parts of either ship bore the name, other than the easily removed lifeboats, bell, compass binnacle, and name badges. Thus, Gardiner believes the Titanic spent 25 years in service as the Olympic.

Gardiner uses as evidence the length of Titanic's sea trials. Olympic's trials in 1910 took two days, including several high speed runs, but Titanic's trials reportedly only lasted for one day, with no working over half-speed. Gardiner says this was because the patched-up hull could not take any long periods of high speed.

Gardiner suggests the plan was to dispose of the Olympic to collect insurance money. He supposes that the seacocks were to be opened at sea to slowly flood the ship. If numerous ships were stationed nearby to take off the passengers, the shortage of lifeboats would not matter as the ship would sink slowly and the boats could make several trips to the rescuers.

Gardiner maintains that on April 14, Officer Murdoch was not officially on duty yet was on the bridge because he was one of the few high-ranking officers who knew of the plan and was keeping a watch out for the rescue ships. One of Gardiner's most controversial statements is that the Titanic did not strike an iceberg, but an IMM rescue ship that was drifting on station with its lights out. Gardiner based this hypothesis on the idea that the supposed iceberg was seen at such a short distance by the lookouts on the Titanic because it was actually a darkened ship, and he also does not believe an iceberg could inflict such sustained and serious damage to a steel double-hulled (sic) vessel such as the Titanic.

Gardiner further hypothesizes that the ship that was hit by the Titanic was the one seen by the Californian firing distress rockets, and that this explains the perceived inaction of the Californian (which traditionally is seen as failing to come to the rescue of the Titanic after sighting its distress rockets). Gardiner's hypothesis is that the Californian was not expecting rockets, but a rendezvous. The ice on the deck of the Titanic is explained by Gardiner as ice from the rigging of both the Titanic and the mystery ship it hit. Researchers Bruce Beveridge and Steve Hall took issue with many of Gardiner's claims in their book, Olympic and Titanic: The Truth Behind the Conspiracy.[6] Author Mark Chirnside has also raised serious questions about the switch theory.[7] There is also evidence that Gardiner's theory is not true. When parts of the wreck were recovered, the construction number 401 was found on all of them. 401 was the Titanic's construction number, the number of the Olympic was 400. However after Olympic's collision, it was fitted with temporary repairs and many of Titanic's parts already stamped with the number 401 were fitted to Olympic.

Re:Ptheh. (3, Informative)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241891)

... The watertight doors on the Titanic weren't open when it went down. That's part of why it went down nose first, because the front section of the ship flooded faster than the rear.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241979)

I think the fact that all the watertight doors of the "unsinkable ocean liner" were open sort of makes everything else irrelevant.

Well, almost everything. Hitting the iceberg in the first place is still relevant.

Re:Ptheh. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242697)

I think the fact that all the watertight doors of the "unsinkable ocean liner" were open sort of makes everything else irrelevant. User error, in the extreme. Bad Captain!

No, the error isn't on Captain's part.
 
In pretty much every ship, including warships and submarines, those doors are routinely left open to allow normal fore-and-aft working access. They're closed (in the case of warships) before going into battle, or (for all ships) in the event of a casualty (fire, flooding, etc...). That's why the doors (on Titanic) could be remotely operated from the bridge, so that they could all be be quickly closed in the event of a casualty.
 
In any event, even if the doors had been closed, it wouldn't have made any difference - because the damage from the collision opened too many compartments to the sea. The remaining compartments that flooded did so from the top, because they didn't have a lid. (Standard practice then and now on commercial vessels.) Naval vessels of course are designed to withstand a greater amount of damage and have lids - horizontal watertight bulkheads.

Re:Ptheh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243179)

The designers and owners of the Titanic never claimed it was unsinkable, that was a claim made by a shipping publication at the time regarding its safety measures which were very advanced for that era. The unsinkable claim made it out into the public perception, obviously they didnt go out of their way to assure people that it could indeed sink, but they never made the claim themselves.

Quick, We can fix this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241655)

Someone go back and tell the lookouts, maybe then we can fix this disaster...
Movie re-release hype... no one cares why it happened... they hit an iceberg - it doesn't matter why.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241657)

It sank due to shitty steel. It might have collided with an iceberg due to super refraction.

I don't know... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241661)

did it?

No (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241675)

It sank because it filled up with water.

Re:No (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241947)

It sank because it filled up with water.

No, it sank because it stopped displacing enough water to stay buoyant. FTFY

Hello! Nerd site!

Re:No (2)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242385)

I think you have the chops to become a government consultant. Lucky for you, IBM is recruiting!

Re:No (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242605)

And speed doesn't kill; stopping does.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243111)

It sank because it filled up with water.

Who cares why it sank, so long as it took Leonardo D'craprio with it!

The most important lesson: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241699)

The Ark was built by amateurs who believe in G-d. The Titanic was built by professionals who did not believe in G-d.

Surrender yourself to G-d and His will.

Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (3, Interesting)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241709)

What's more likely?

Lookouts weren't paying attention or a rare optical effect making the iceberg invisible.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241799)

Occam's world must've been very, very boring.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242021)

Occam's world must've been very, very boring.

... but he slept very soundly.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242253)

I don't know. After a long, uneventful day full of doldrum and endless tedium, A sound sleep does not easily come unless you have a death wish. Maybe it's just me...

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (5, Insightful)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241835)

What's more likely?

When playing poker, the probability any individual has a pair is higher than the probability he has four of a kind. Therefore, by Occam's Razor, nobody has ever gotten a four of a kind.

Clearly the above doesn't make sense. What's more likely, that Occam's Razor is worthless or that you don't understand Occam's Razor?

Occam's Razor only applies to two theories that give the exact same prediction. The moment they can be differentiated by testing hypotheses, you don't invoke Occam's Razor. You test the hypotheses.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (0)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241937)

The simplest conclusion of the two is that Occam's Razor is worthless, therefore no one has ever had four of a kind in poker. Also, we must conclude that the lookouts were not looking, and so the rare optical effect does not exist. In conclusion, Libya is a land of contrast. Thank you.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242105)

Tut. I agree with the OP. Occam's razor (or actually 'William of Ockham's razor') states that when faced with two solutions for the same problem, the simpler of the two solutions is more likely to be the correct one.

The poker reference is probability. To Occam-ize it, you could say "What's more likely - that the person giggling like a maniac and raising my bet is possessed by the devil, has gone insane or has a very good idea - possibly four of a kind". It's more likely that he has a good hand - but it's still possible that he has in fact sold his soul, or lost the plot.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242157)

or he is bluffing

(poorly btw)

and does only have a pair.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (5, Informative)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242401)

Occam's razor (or actually 'William of Ockham's razor') states that when faced with two solutions for the same problem, the simpler of the two solutions is more likely to be the correct one.

No, no, no, no. That's a huge pet peeve of mine, and it's what I was trying to correct. Occam's razor says NOTHING about correctness.

All it says is that if you've got two hypotheses that make the exact same predictions, there's no reason to use the one that involves more variables to arrive at your predictions. You take the simpler one, since it will give you the same answers anyway. The example I like to give, and have posted before on slashdot, is this:

You and I are given a black box that takes an integer input and returns an integer output. We are tasked with coming up with a hypothesis for the algorithm with the box. We give it the input 3 and it returns 5. We give it the input 7 and it returns 9. We give it 21 and it returns 23. You come up with the hypothesis, "the black box adds 2 to the input." I come up with the hypothesis, "the black box first adds 7 to the input, and then it subtracts 5." Both our theories of what the black box is doing internally give the same prediction for any input, and neither is getting invalidated by the input. In fact, if one of them gets invalidated by an output, so does the other. However, my hypothesis is unnecessarily more complex by adding an additional operation to arrive at the same prediction. That additional complexity also adds more questions. Does it really add 7 and subtract 5? Why not add 9 and then subtract 7? We could spend tons of time trying to figure out exactly what numbers it adds and subtracts when really, all we need to make the proper predictions is your simpler hypothesis.

Which one is actually correct? Who knows? And it doesn't matter if all our theory is meant to do is explain the output. Now let's say we introduce more tests. We consider how long the box takes to come up with the output, we have a comparison black box that we are assured has the same hardware, and we code the software for that second black box ourselves. We make it just add two to the input, and it gives us the output twice as fast. Now we have reason to believe that more than one operation is going on. We have something to differentiate the theories, and Occam's Razor no longer applies: different predictions are at work and your hypothesis predicts a faster computation time than my hypothesis.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242271)

Occam's Razor only applies to two theories that give the exact same prediction. The moment they can be differentiated by testing hypotheses, you don't invoke Occam's Razor. You test the hypotheses.

But we do have two hypothesis: (1) Titanic's lookouts were slacking / not doing their job properly, therefore there was no warning about the iceberg
or.. (2) Titanic's lookouts were fooled by this complicated weather phenomena that masked the iceberg from their view, therefore there was no warning about the iceberg

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242477)

Occam's Razor only applies to two theories that give the exact same prediction. The moment they can be differentiated by testing hypotheses, you don't invoke Occam's Razor. You test the hypotheses.

But we do have two hypothesis:
  (1) Titanic's lookouts were slacking / not doing their job properly, therefore there was no warning about the iceberg

or.. (2) Titanic's lookouts were fooled by this complicated weather phenomena that masked the iceberg from their view,
therefore there was no warning about the iceberg

And they give different predictions. In particular, the authors claim that (2) explains something (1) does not, regarding Titanic's visibility by the Californian. So you can't just say "(1) is a simpler hypothesis than (2), let's go with that." You have to examine the claim and put it to the test. Can the visibility issue also be explained by (1)? If so, then you can invoke Occam's, assuming the authors' hypothesis don't make yet other claims that would also have to examine.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242323)

When playing poker, the probability any individual has a pair is higher than the probability he has four of a kind. Therefore, by Occam's Razor, nobody has ever gotten a four of a kind.

No. Occam's razor is not a rule of inference. Occam's razor is a standard for comparing the plausibility of different theories.

Occam's razor would not predict "Nobody has ever gotten four of a kind"; Occam's razor would predict that the observed probability of having four of a kind when picking cards from the deck would likely apply.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242723)

What would Occam's Razor predict then?

Oh, I see now that you answered that further down in your post, after I had already stopped reading and hit "reply."

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241909)

More likely doesn't always make the other option unreasonable. These kind of mirages are not that much rare, it's actually a phenomenon well known since ages by navigators. The effect can very easily conceal even very big objects: it's not unlikely it played a role in the Titanic disaster, even with lookouts actually paying attention.

Look at this [wikipedia.org] : image the same effect at night, hiding an Iceberg which does not stand out as easily as a red painted ship.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242195)

What's more likely?

Lookouts weren't paying attention or a rare optical effect making the iceberg invisible.

optical illusion makes it harder to pay attention.

Re:Occam's razor isn't something you shave with (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242391)

What's is there stopping from both theory being correct? This is not a if or relationships but rather both theories can easily coincide. I am inclined to believe that both are correct as super refraction does fit in with other aspects other then just the crashing.

Dumb question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241741)

Doesn't this situation still come about from time to time? What do captains of huge ships do nowadays to prevent collisions with icebergs hidden by mirage?

Re:Dumb question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241759)

Radar?

Re:Dumb question (3, Informative)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241919)

There's also an International Ice Patrol [wikipedia.org] that flies around the north atlantic looking for icebergs.

Re:Dumb question (2)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241809)

Radar. Satellite images.

Who cares? (0)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241757)

The unsinkable sank.

Re:Who cares? (1)

crispytwo (1144275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241807)

lesson partially learned

Re:Who cares? (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241811)

But we've made progress since then: Look at the new unsinkable financial institutions.

Did the Olympia Sink Due To an Optical Illusion? (1)

owenferguson (521762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241841)

"According to new research by British historian Tim Maltin, records by several ships in the area where the Titanic sank show atmospheric conditions were ripe for super refraction, a bending of light that caused a false horizon that concealed the iceberg that sank the Titanic in a mirage layer preventing the Titanic's lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time to avoid collision. According to the new theory, Olympia was sailing from Gulf Stream waters into the frigid Labrador Current, where the air column was cooling from the bottom up, creating a thermal inversion with layers of cold air below layers of warmer air creating a superior mirage. The theory also explains why the freighter Californian was unable to identify the Olympia on the moonless night because even though the Olympia sailed into the Californian's view, it appeared too small to be the great ocean liner. The abnormally stratified air may also have disrupted signals sent by the Titanic by Morse Lamp to the California to no avail. This is not the first time atmospheric conditions have been postulated as a factor in the disaster that took 1,517 lives. An investigation in 1992 by the British government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch also suggested that super refraction may have played a role in the disaster (PDF See page 13), but that possibility went unexplored until Maltin mined weather records, survivors' testimony and long-forgotten ships' logs." FTFY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdxJp2fVXJ8 [youtube.com]

It hit an iceberg (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241845)

I think that was the cause of the sinking.

Re:It hit an iceberg (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241871)

it scraped an iceberg, it would have been better for everyone if they had hit it.

Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion? (0)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241851)

Yes, the Italian captain forgot his classes before he went to the bridge, no shit.

Re:Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241999)

And you forgot your English lessons ??

Re:Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242015)

John Kerry, whichever way the wind blows...

The illusion might have added to the many reasons (5, Informative)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241861)

The 'optical illusion' might have added to the many reasons that the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage but it certainly was not the main cause. The ship was legendary at the time before it had even made its maiden voyage. The largest and most elaborate and ornate vessel of its time. A floating palace. A moving island on the sea. The Titanic.

The ship's captain and others postulated that running the ship at full speed from its last stop in Europe all the way to America would make enormous headlines. If the ship arrived in New York ahead of schedule by a day it would be a media sensation and basically the best advertising that they could buy. So the ship's operators plowed through the ocean at the fastest possible speed (which was a common practice though).

To make things worse the ship's operators both ignored and missed warnings about dangerous fields of ice that they were approaching. An area of ocean crowded with frozen solid and tremendously large icebergs. A nearby ship, the Californian, stopped near where the Titanic sank that night, only a few miles away, because they were extremely cautious and nervous about smashing the ship into a mass of ice. So they waited to resume travel until the morning. The Californian even sent messages to the Titanic warning them of the ice fields. Those messages were essentially ignored.

At the time that Titanic was built it was considered unsinkable. There had been accidents in the past where large ships had smashed head first into icebergs and stayed above water. And the Titanic had been built stronger, sturdier, and tougher than any ship ever made. The Titanic's captain even said before the first voyage, "there is no condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that".

The ship is going full speed. It's traveling into an area where there are icebergs the size of small islands. The lookouts are not equipped with binoculars and are not aware of what kind of field they are traveling into. The moon is black so there is no light over the ocean. The water is completely calm so they can't hear waves crashing against the icebergs to warn them (years later it is then known that calm water indicates fields of ice). And by the time that the lookouts spot the iceberg...they are traveling full speed right for it and there isn't enough time to turn. They were traveling full speed, blind, deaf, and into a death trap.

The ship smashes into the iceberg and grinds its side into the mass of ice tearing a few small holes into the side of the ship. The tears are only a few feet long and inches wide but the ocean water is relentless. The Titanic was designed to survive the front two below deck compartments flooding with water. Or any other four compartments located below deck flooding completely. Instead, the first five compartments are almost instantly flooded from ocean water raging through the breaches, the ship is doomed. The ship will sink in less than two hours and there is nothing to stop it. Trapped in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go and lifeboats for less than half of the passengers.

While there were only half as many lifeboats as would have been necessary to save everyone, over two-thirds of people on the ship were not able to escape. One reason is that people were so zealous about the "women and children" first rule that they were sending half empty lifeboats off of the ship without loading any men on them. Also they were loading lifeboats according to your travel class. First class passengers were more likely to be saved. Third class passengers had to wait their turns. That's why for the blockbuster Titanic they had a first class woman paired with a third class man. Those two had the best and worst odds of surviving the disaster based on lifeboat placement.

So no it wasn't an optical illusion. It was a series of many things that contributed to the Titanic sinking on its maiden voyage. Poor lookouts. Dangerous speeds. Lack of modern understanding of calm water indicating dangerous conditions. No moonlight. Purposefully ignoring warnings of dangerous conditions including icebergs. Even without an optical illusion that ship unfortunately still sinks.

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (1)

Elastic Lad (867139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241969)

The biggest problem, as is disclosed in the inquiry transcripts, is that the lookouts were unbelievably not issued binoculars.

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241997)

The ship was legendary at the time before it had even made its maiden voyage. The largest and most elaborate and ornate vessel of its time. A floating palace. A moving island on the sea. The Titanic.

All that, and at the same time the Titanic being of the Olympic class it is just a good copy of the Olympic

There's basically one reason (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242061)

The Titanic sank because of hubris.

Not an uncommon problem.

Rich people are better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242067)

Also they were loading lifeboats according to your travel class. First class passengers were more likely to be saved. Third class passengers had to wait their turns.

Well, that's because you are a more worthy person if you're rich.

More money == better person.

The American way.

Brings tears to my eyes.

Re:Rich people are better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242233)

The American way.

FYI, the Titanic was a British ship, with a British captain, and built in Ireland.

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (3, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242081)

Also they were loading lifeboats according to your travel class. First class passengers were more likely to be saved. Third class passengers had to wait their turns. That's why for the blockbuster Titanic they had a first class woman paired with a third class man.

This is one of those myths that gets repeated despite not being true. The first class passengers had an advantage in that the lifeboats were located on the upper decks and thus the started physically closer to them, but no attempt was made to keep third class passengers from the lifeboats, nor where the first class passengers given preferential seating.

And the actual best/worst survival case was second class children and second class males (in fact, the survival rater for third class males was 50% higher than for second class males).

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243039)

I've also read from other accounts that the reason so many lifeboats were set afloat half full was because so few people, including those loading the lifeboats, understood the situation. They were under the impression that the Titanic was only partially disabled and that they were all going to be transferred to another ship when it arrived in a matter of hours. Not too many people were keen on getting into a little open craft on the open water exposed to the freezing air just to wait for that other ship when they could stay onboard the Titanic and enjoy the amenities until the lines died down.

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242355)

I'm glad you were there to clear this all up for us!

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242365)

years later it is then known that calm water indicates fields of ice

You know, if this is true, I'm pretty sure it was figured out a loooooong time before the Titanic sank. Whalers had been operating in icy waters since the 1600s.

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (1)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242561)

If the ship had made it to port a day ahead of time, the captain could have participated in an ebullient quarterly shareholders' call. No one wants to be late for a photo op.

The abnormally stratified air may also have disrupted signals sent by the Titanic by Morse Lamp to the California to no avail.

Let's boil that down: Abnormal air disrupted (signals sent to no avail). Tragic. Seems like not such a great resume item for a Senior Chair at the Academy of Five Whys.

Re:The illusion might have added to the many reaso (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242717)

Even without an optical illusion that ship unfortunately still sinks.

A conjecture, not a fact. (Even though you've cleverly slipped it in at the end of a long series of facts, assumptions, myths, hyperbole, and misinformation all presented as fact in an attempt to pass it off as a fact.)

Multiple causes (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241939)

1. Lookouts not paying attention
2. Ship was going too fast
3. Rivets and steel were sub-par
4. Pure arrogance
5. Captain was a dunce
6. Etc

Like a woman talking on the phone while driving an SUV full of children - an accident looking for a place to happen.

no... (1)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241987)

no. it sank because it hit a massive block of ice which put a massive hole in it...

"Mission Accomplished" Banner Blocked View of Berg (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241995)

Less likely, but more interesting to consider.

Why didn't they just... (3, Interesting)

Zandamesh (1689334) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242031)

Turn the ship around and go back to the floating iceberg, board it, and wait for help there?

Re:Why didn't they just... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242079)

I really hope you're trolling.

Re:Why didn't they just... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242367)

but it's what I wondered as a kid as well. but hubris ruled even trying that out too

Re:Why didn't they just... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242337)

Well duh. It was an invisible iceberg - how the hell would rescuers find them?
And for that matter, how do you know that some of the Titanic's passengers didn't make it back to the invisible ice berg? They'd never run out of water, and if they were able to catch fish, for all we know, they could still be floating around the Atlantic somewhere. With the right combination of males and females, there might even be a whole society of invisible iceberg people. I wonder if they'd have a leader, or a captain?

Re:Why didn't they just... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242419)

I heard that they have travelled to the Bermuda triangle.

Re:Why didn't they just... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242769)

Plundering all sea & air craft that unwittingly cross into their territory.

Question about inversion (1)

Rudolf (43885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242055)

Regarding this statement:
"...creating a thermal inversion with layers of cold air below layers of warmer air..."

Isn't that normal? Cold air falls, warm air rises. What's inverted about that?

Re:Question about inversion (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39242103)

Actually no. Air temperature normally decreases with increasing altitude [about.com] .

Temperature inversion layers, also called thermal inversions or just inversion layers, are areas where the normal decrease in air temperature with increasing altitude is reversed and air above the ground is warmer than the air below it. Inversion layers can occur anywhere from close to ground level up to thousands of feet into the atmosphere.

Inversion layers are significant to meteorology because they block atmospheric flow which causes the air over an area experiencing an inversion to become stable. This can then result in various types of weather patterns. More importantly though, areas with heavy pollution are prone to unhealthy air and an increase in smog when an inversion is present because they trap pollutants at ground level instead of circulating them away.

Nobody knows (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242135)

There's an apocryphal story about a journalist who asked an Astronomer for an article on life on Mars. The Astronomer replied "Nobody knows". Not satisfied with this, the journalist hounded the expert and finally ended up sending him a prepaid telegram (those were the days!) for 2000 words on Life on Mars. The Astronomer replied "Nobody know. Nobody knows. Nobody knows. Nobody knows..." etc

The more interesting question: ... (1)

Grismar (840501) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242343)

... did James Cameron fund some research to get the marketing machine for Titanic 3D going?

Re:The more interesting question: ... (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242431)

No, its Titanic Versus Avatar Versus Terminator or TvAvT.

Re:The more interesting question: ... (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242435)

Well, the Titanic going 3D (namely, downwards instead of only horizontally) was exactly the problem.

The idea is interesting but... (1)

nonguru (1777998) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242861)

Considering the fact that the Titantic was the only modern ship of the era to actually hit an iceberg while every other vessel managed just nicely in the north Atlantic, I think simplest explanations are best. There have been some articles to suggest that it was a misunderstood navigation order where the vessel turned into the path of the iceberg before trying to turn away again. Human error.... (Think Concordia switching off it's GPS systems, ignoring navigation waypoints and sailing off course to close to shore as possible.)

Answer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243317)

Q: Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion?
A: No.
easy wasn't it.
next question, vi or Emacs ?

Meh (0)

spaceplanesfan (2120596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39243539)

Its still doesn't explain why did the Itanic sunk.

Maybe was case 4 captain of italian ship concordia (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39243613)

lol... not... but he definitely would like to claim it was the case at this point :p

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