Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Titanic 100 years later

Yes, the 100th anniversary isn't for another week, but the hype has already begun. National Geographic will be premiering two programs on the sinking this week, Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron tonight and Save the Titanic With Bob Ballard Monday. Of course, they've been promoting them for at least a week, including this slideshow in their website, Unseen Titanic.*
At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the "unsinkable" R.M.S. Titanic disappeared beneath the waves, taking with her 1,500 souls. One hundred years later, new technologies have revealed the most complete-and most intimate-images of the famous wreck.
National Geographic is also promoting it like mad on their YouTube Channel with at least six video clips. Here are the two most recent of the series, in which James Cameron and his team formulate a hypothesis (Cameron calls it a theory; it isn't) about how the Titanic sank and test it by modeling the sinking and comparing the results of the model to the evidence.

James Cameron discusses how breaking a banana in half is the perfect analogy to describe how the Titanic broke apart.

James Cameron and his team pull together a new CGI of how they believe the TItanic sank and reached the ocean floor.
Other than is (unfortunately common) misuse of theory for hypothesis, these two clips work very well as an example of how testing a hypothesis using a computer model works. I might just show it to my classes starting next month.

The sinking of the Titanic also serves as both an example of and a metaphor for the catastrophic failure of technology. The "unsinkable ship of dreams" encounters a known hazard, an iceberg, and sinks to the immediate horror of all involved and the lingering fascination of people for at least five generations afterward. Would a failure of our own society and its technological support look like this? That's worth contemplating.

Speaking of contemplating the sinking of The Titanic, one can do it here in metro Detroit, as The Henry Ford is hosting a traveling exhibit of artifacts from the ship until September 30th. WXYZ-TV on YouTube reports in Titanic Exhibit.*

For today's example of poetry through song lyrics, I'll take the easy way out and post the love theme from James Cameron's film, which is being re-released in 3D, "My Heart Will Go On."

*Both of these were originally posted as part of Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Earth Hour 2012 edition) on Daily Kos. As I'm fond of saying, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.

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