Why did the Titanic sink?

Now, I’m aware this post could quite easily be four words long. I will however, give you the longer version of what is the most credible theory behind the sinking of the Titanic. I have even furnished you with a wonderful picture created by my own artistically talentless hand.

Without further ado, let’s get into the analysis. There were lookouts on the Titanic, and on most days they would be able to see a dangerously large iceberg from either its silhouette against the stars or waves breaking against its base. On that fateful night however, there were two problems. Firstly, the sea was as calm as could be. It was described as being like a millpond that night, which meant no waves breaking against any iceberg. But the second, more important problem was refracting light creating a thermal inversion illusion. Allow me to explain….

I’m no physicist, but as I understand it the process goes a little something like this: Whenever a beam of light passes through different levels of density in air (or anything transparent) it bends. If you mix sugar into water and dont stir it in, but instead leave a denser sugary water near the bottom of the glass – try shining a laser pen through it at an angle. The laser’s path should bend as it hits denser water.

This density change acting upon something travelling at speed and causing it to change direction can cause problems. I remember one criminal case in the U.S where a man was shot through the windscreen of his car by a woman stood on the driveway in front of his car, but the woman in an upstairs bedroom was wrongly convicted of the crime. The reason being that the bullet struck the man at a downward trajectory so it was assumed it could only have been fired from the upstairs window. If you fire from the driveway the natural thought is to think the angle of the windscreen would deflect the bullet’s flight path on an upward trajectory, so ruling out the driveway suspect, right? Wrong. As the bullet passes through the windscreen, there is more resistance on the top half of the projectile because the angle of the glass means the solid resistance comes from above the bullet as it passes through, defelcting it downwards. I’ll draw you more abysmal science pictures on another day to demonstrate, but for now I shall get back on topic.

So anyway, back to our fated ship. The Titanic was just passing from slightly warmer water into a stream of freezing cold water coming from the north (and carrying icebergs with it) called the Labrador current. The problem with this was not only that the Titanic sailed into an area carrying many icebergs, but that now the light passing between the eyes of the lookout and the horizon was passing through freezing cold air (which is denser) above the cold current. This caused the light to bend further around the curve of the earth instead of bouncing back from the normal horizon point, creating an optical illusion which meant the lookout was staring at a false horizon much further away.

This meant that when the fateful iceberg came toward the Titanic, it emerged from the gloom below a false horizon, rather than silhouetting the stars above a normal horizon. This made it almost impossible to spot.

As an interesting footnote, the Titanic was built with several compartments below the waterline so that it could take a few large holes in its side and not sink. One or two compartments would flood, but it would stay afloat. Tragically, when the lookouts finally saw the iceberg far too late, the ship took evasive action, dooming everyone on board. If they had hit it head on, one compartment would have been flooded, but they turned and struck a glancing blow, dragging the iceberg along the hull. This created a long gouge which tore open four compartments. This was one too any for the Titanic to withstand.

Next week, I shall be talking about more cheerful things such as the concept of time, and time travel.


Valentines Poem


Her beating wing and fluttering heart

Are the delicate twist of godly art

Our blood and beauty’s rhythmic fusion

Left me transfused with lost illusion

Eclipse the grey my solace brings

Question light on opened wings

Bless me with your two replies

Kaleidoscopic heaven of the eyes

Licit orchestrator of my sweetest felt compulsion

Heaven’s music played upon twin palette fuelled propulsion

You dance among my dream filled days and spur my sleepless nights

Your vibrant dark twists amidst the singing rainbow lights

Elations elevation borne alight with coloured kites

Punctuate the tapestry of gathered blues and whites

Sweet nectar still collected, little trinity still shown

and pollen dust about your feet to show how far you’ve flown

Nomad of the sunlight, steady streams into my church

Holds my faith within and brings an ending to my search

Forever strewn the shadowed dust, and thoughts of any other

By wings of stained glass windows and cascades of loving colour

Nostalgia and Forgiveness: Weekly Thoughts

After two recent posts which fall into the category of official work, it’s back to my thoughts for the week.

My previous weekly thoughts post included a picture of a man with a bow and arrow, and so I apologise if we’re getting heavy on the archery pictures. If it helps, you can simply view this week’s picture as a man walking down the street who is struck with that sudden fear we’ve all had before…”did I leave the cooker on?” Or, as one of those times when your mate ‘Chainmail Dave’ is trying to build a fire and confidently declares that the fire needs more wood, sending you off to fetch some. You only get as far as picking up the first stick before you are informed by the wall of heat hitting your back that Dave has in fact reconsidered, and decided petrol would be better. (We’ve all been there).

But anyway, I’m digressing already.

The real point of using this photo is that this film was a great favourite of mine when I was around 8 years old, and in some small way, changed how I view the world. The Bryan Adams song which accompanied the film was also the first song I ever bought, back when cassette tapes were around.

The film gave me a major moment of realisation when it came to people and life. One quote from Azeem in the film goes as follows: “There are no perfect men in the world; only perfect intentions.” It’s been apparent to me ever since that people never seem to judge the actions of others based on their intentions, but only on outcomes. If you genuinely believe a person to have a good heart and good intentions, but they make a mistake that disappoints you; how can you ever stay angry with them? Surely we must accept that flaws and weakness can be found within all of us, and must try to forgive those who make mistakes that hurt us, provided we feel that their heart was in the right place.

So much resentment and negative emotion in the world arises from people who can’t find it within themselves to be patient and forgiving. Often when we don’t forgive human error, we upset the person who tried their best but made a mistake. The knock-on effect can be that they can then have less faith in themselves, and they either stop trying to do their best, or make more mistakes because they feel pressured. Obviously there is a limit to patience if someone keeps endlessly making the same mistake, but in general, we really need to give people chances to redeem themselves.

This brings another quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson to mind: “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” The second part of that quote is important. When you see true goodness within a person, you must keep faith in that even when they make mistakes, and nurture their strengths. In doing so, you will help bring out the best in that person. When the first green shoots of a plant have not yet broken through the surface of the soil, you gain nothing by reaching into the soil and trying to pull the plant into the light; You have to gently encourage it with more sunlight and the right amount of nourishment.

At the end of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, the witch charges at Robin Hood with a spear in an attempt to kill him, and Azeem throws his sword at her, with deadly accuracy, saving Robin’s life. (As the film is from 1991 I’m not feeling it’s necessary to put a spoiler alert in here.) If Azeem had actually been a horrible shot and hit Robin with the sword by accident, his response should really be: “Hey Azeem, it’s ok. I know you probably don’t throw a sword in most battle situations so it’s probably a skill you’re not very familiar with. You just saw the witch running at me, realised it was the only option you had and made the best of it. We’re still mates, don’t worry. I mean, with the happy ending to this film now turned into a strange plot twist in which I get my legs chopped off by a piss-poor attempt to throw a sword at someone; the film may not do so well at the box-office. But then, money isn’t everything.”

In reality, we rarely respond that way when things go wrong. But, the world would be a far better place if we all took a moment to step outside our own shoes and started judging people’s actions on their intentions, rather than getting bogged down in the number of limbs we have intact after their mistake.



The Problem With Maths

There are many real world applications for which the mathematical system devised by human beings fits perfectly. We use our system to measure all sorts of things but, in some cases, our mathematical system fails to reflect reality.

Let me explain. Imagine someone drawing back a bow to fire an arrow at a target 10 metres away. Our mathematical system states that there is a 5 metre point halfway between the arrow and the target which the arrow must reach before it can ever hit the target. When it gets there, there is another halfway point at 2.5 metres that it must reach before it can ever hit the target. If we then continue this logical process of applying our mathematical system, we find ourselves with a problem.

You can divide a number in half an infinite number of times, and according to our system, you will never reach zero. Consider this fact in the context of our archer, and what it means is, every time the arrow reaches a halfway point it will ALWAYS have another halfway point it then must reach before hitting the target. This is infinite. According to our mathematical system, the arrow will exist in a never-ending flight, through which it will spend eternity passing through ever tinier halfway points without ever reaching that 0 point which is reflective of it striking the target.

Of course, we know that if someone were to be furious about this anomaly and decided to shoot an arrow at a mathematician in protest – (please don’t) it would strike the target.

With this in mind, we can only conclude that mathematics is flawed, no longer fit for purpose and must be replaced with a new system immediately.