Tag Archives: Mythbusters

Recent Titanic News

[Editors Note-Still catching up on news. Been busy as of late so I have not been able to post much]

1. Rare Titanic photo going under the hammer (Daily Echo, 10 Feb 2017)
A rare photograph of the ill-fated Titanic,which was bought for “a song” at a country auction, is now set to fetch hundreds of pounds when it is auctioned again next week. The black and white photograph, in a glazed oak frame, was taken shortly before the Titanic sank – with the loss of more than 1,500 lives – on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in April 1912.

2. Experts are disputing a documentary which says a fire was partly to blame for the Titanic sinking (thejournal.ie, 11 Feb 2017)
The programme argued that long-hidden photographs from the time showed that the Titanic’s hull had supposedly been damaged by a fire before it set off on its only journey, leaving it weak and susceptible when it hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. In the documentary, Moloney noted that researchers had known about the fire before but had tended to dismiss it as an ‘irrelevancy’, arguing that it should have been taken more seriously as a cause of the sinking. The documentary also claimed there were other issues which contributed to the ship sinking, such as substandard materials and shoddy workmanship, primarily due to cost-cutting. However a team of seven maritime historians has published an article completely refuting the programme’s claim that the coal fire was one of the main reasons why the ship sank. “However intriguing the claims set forth in Titanic: The New Evidence may be, they run counter to a wealth of well-researched facts about the ship and its sinking,” said J Kent Layton, a Titanic historian.

3. James Cameron really has a thin skin it seems when it comes to certain aspect of his famous Titanic movie. Fans debate the many points of this and that in the movie. One such example is whether or not Jack could have fit on the door Rose was on. Now I have not spent any real time dwelling on this point since we know this is just a movie. Apparently it got the attention of Mythbusters and they proved it was possible for Jack to have survived on the floating door with extra buoyancy. Okay that ought to have more or less settled it and we could move on. Not Cameron. So he recently commented on it by saying Jack would never have survived and that Mythbusters was full of poop (he used a barnyard word that is far more graphic for this family friendly blog). Of course he was on that episode of Mythbusters and never said is was all poop. He does say it was in the script he was to die. Okay. Moving on.
James Cameron Debunks ‘Titanic’ Theory That Jack Could Fit On The Door (Huffington Post Canada, 1 Feb 2017)


Science Friday: Can a Cell Phone Cause A Gas Station Fire?

You have likely seen or heard warnings about using cell phones while filling up at the gas station. The warning is not mandatory but many gas stations have them because many are convinced it can happen. Except it cannot. What does cause fires at gas stations is either static electricity that is not discharged prior to handling the gas pump or an ignition source like match being struck to light a cigarette (or possibly a discarded burning cigarette). What makes these fires worse is when a fire does break out right at where you are fueling the car. Many pull the fuel pump out and end up making it worse by dripping the burning fuel right on the ground. That always spreads the fire and then a major fire breaks out. At any rate those clever fellows over at Mythbusters looked into this and here is the result of their examination of this myth.


Cameron’s Titanic: Could Jack & Rose Both Survive?

Okay for those who did not see the movie, Jack and Rose both initially survive the sinking and cling to a piece of wood. But Jack decides to allow Rose to live by dying since both clinging to the wood might result in both dying. Was this right or wrong? It appears many out there believe that both could have lived. Time to call the dynamic duo! No, not the one with the bat as an emblem, but those clever guys at Mythbusters.

What did they find out when the put it to test (with James Cameron looking on)? Here are two clips from the show from YouTube on what they find out.

Update on Hartley Violin

 

The BBC has an interesting update on the Hartley Violin claim. To recap: Henry Aldridge Wallace Hartley's Violin& Son claims a violin has been authenticated as belonging to Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley and was on his body when recovered. It was given to his fiancee where it remained until she died. It was then donated to the Salvation Army with its Titanic connection mentioned. Then it was given to the mother of the current owner (unidentified at this point) who contacted the auctioneer to have it authenticated (which took seven years).

Skepticism was quick in coming. Karen Kamuda of Titanic Historical Society has questioned the authenticity pointing out no such violin is listed in the official inventory of items found.  Tracey Beare of Belfast Titanic Society thinks the violin is Hartley’s but not the one used on Titanic. Titanic author Daniel Butler went further and accuses the auctioneer of fraud and got violin experts to render an opinion. You can read the blog entry about that here.

Aldridge refutes all of those claims and says there are explanations for each of them.

1. Inventory Issue: Violin Not Listed In Official Papers of Items Found On Body
Aldridge: “Larger items of luggage were frequently not recorded but small effects like watches were.” (BBC, 5 April 2013)

I have no idea whether this is correct or not, but one would have to go back through the documents to determine how they did handle luggage. What Aldridge is referring to are those things found on the body, i.e watches, notes, rings and other personal effects. Such things,when found,would be returned to relatives or loved ones.

The problem is Aldridge claims the violin was inside a leather bag strapped to Hartley’s body which floated upright on a cork and linen lifejacket for ten days. If that is true, then they could not have missed the bag and its contents. It would have been opened and inspected, and noted somewhere. Finding a bag strapped to a dead man’s body and not opening to inspect and inventory? That is rather hard to believe. One possibility is that the bag was found floating but not to a body but possibly on something else (a deck chair perhaps) or just by itself. Then it might be brought back and left for the authorities to examine. If this is true, it might explain why no official record of it exists with his body. It was not found on him but perhaps is buried in paperwork. So when Maria Robinson identified it in Nova Scotia, they gave it to her and hence why no official record exists.

Of course the other possibility is that no violin was found at all and thus the one at issue, while owned by Hartley, was not on Titanic.

2. Salt Water Issue
The claim: A violin immersed in salt water gets heavily damaged and comes apart.
Aldridge: The violin was inside a nearly waterproof leather bag strapped to Hartley’s body which floated upright for ten days. (BBC, 5 April 2013)

Assuming it was in a leather bag that floated upright on Hartley’s lifejacket, there are some things to be considered. Even in a bag, it would not entirely protect it from the cold temperatures nor moisture. We have to assume during that time waves passed over the body and presumably the leather case strapped to the body. At some point, the body would be submerged temporarily. The water stain on the violin could have come from this.

There is a way to test this though is Mythbusters style. You set up a tank to simulate the wave action of the North Atlantic and have the same salinity (salt) level in it. Also make sure the water matches the colder temperatures for that time of year. They you set up floating dummy with a leather sack and a violin inside (preferably one donated for the cause) along with detection gear to monitor for temperature and moisture level inside the sack. And run for ten days to and see what happens. And then also run another challenge of a violin afloat with a leather container for the same amount of time.  My guess is the one inside the leather bag might be less damaged than the one without.

The BBC article does have violin dealer Andrew Hooker (formerly of Sotheby’s) saying that violins have survived seawater immersions in the past. He says that an 18 century Stradivari violin was swept out to sea one day in 1952 and was swept back in the next with no problems being able to be played. Note what is left out. He does not say where that happened (for fact checking) because it may not have been swept out to the deep sea but was lodged nearby on a rock and then swept back in on the next tide. To say it was not damaged is probably not accurate. Hooker does say something interesting to the BBC:

“Mr Hooker examined the Hartley violin in person and says it has been restored since surviving the Titanic disaster.”

Note that key word restored in that sentence.  According to The Telegraph article on 14 Mar 2013, the violin has two long cracks on its body opened up by moisture damage. And later we have a letter to the current owner’s mother as to why the Salvation Army music teacher decided to give it away. “….I found it virtually unplayable, doubtless due to its eventful life.” So it begs the question as to what Mr. Hooker means it was restored.

Perhaps though, even if made playable again, it never sounded good. That would bolster the assertion by one of Butler’s experts that the metal plaque effects the tone and quality of the violin. If so that would support the theory this violin was not one used for public performances.

3. Second Violin Issue
Claim: The violin, while owned by Hartley, was of a lower grade than most performers were used. Likely a gift since the metal inscription would inhibit its tone and overall quality when played.
Aldridge:” Mr Aldridge says that Hartley was a “cafe violinist” not a concert-grade musician, and did not have spare money for extra violins. (BBC, 5 April 2013)

Aldridge does have a point here. Concert grade violins are not cheap but most performers save up to buy the high quality equipment. It sounds better and if treated right, will last a very long time.  But if he was smart, and I bet he was, he had a backup. One that in a pinch he could pull out and use. It would be old, perhaps not as good, but would get the job done until he got back his primary (which would be in the shop being repaired). He may have brought it aboard Titanic that voyage and that is what we found. We may never know for sure whether he had two violins or not aboard Titanic. I wonder though if any violins were found in the debris field and recovered. They did find some musical instruments. Perhaps if he did have a second it is there and he kept the one most dear nearest to his heart.

I think we have to at least consider the possibility he had a primary and a backup. And if the metal inscription did effect tonal quality, he may not have used for public performances even if he was a “café violinist.”

Wrapping Things Up
One proof submitted is a diary entry by Maria Robinson dated 19 Jul 1912. It apparently is the transcript of a telegram sent to the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia in which she states: “I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiance’s violin.” The actual telegram has not been found so, at this point, it cannot be ascertained it was sent. It would seem to confirm a violin was returned to her. If that is true, it certainly supports the theory the violin was found but not why it was not recorded. If it was in luggage (the leather bag) found floating, that might explain it. However the silence on the Nova Scotia end is odd. If it was found on his body, it would be noted. If it was found in a leather bag brought ashore, and then identified by Maria Robinson, there would be an entry somewhere. A further check of records might have to be done and perhaps looking into ancillary records that might contain that nugget.

I think it is wise to have a second pair of eyes, independent of Aldridge, go over all the findings and double-check everything. And it also is wise not to underestimate fakery. There have been great fakes in the past that have gotten by experts on the first examination. Aldridge, despite what some might want to believe, would never be part of this. The damage to his reputation and his business would not be worth it. However there are others out there who have no problems creating historical fakes using clever means. Getting an old violin from that period and using all the right things might very well create a fake Hartley violin that would pass muster. After all, if one can make seemingly historical inscriptions on ancient tombs to make them look real, then mocking up an old violin is not so difficult.

Source: ‘Titanic Violin’ Sparks Heated Debate(5 April 2013, BBC)

This and That

Roku For All
About two years ago I reduced my cable service to local broadcast channels (called Limited on San Bruno Cable). While I have missed a few shows and seeing Giants games, I have no regrets. The price had climbed too high and has been for several years. Right now it costs $63.86 to get 99 channels that all has all the major cable news, sports, family, and the major cable stations. I looked into Dish or Direct TV and while they had things I liked I opted not to go for either one. The cost was certainly good but required a year or longer contract (and canceling meant paying fees). Plus I live in on the ground floor of a two floor apartment. Getting that signal would be a challenge (though not impossible).

Hulu became a good alternative to view shows on my computer but alas does have commercials. Finally upgrading to DSL offered me some options I did not have before. Since I was already a Netflix subscriber, I added streaming. With an Internet capable television to watch streaming movies, I looked at the options. Since I have an iMac, I was drawn to Apple TV. It has much to offer but I wanted more from the Internet. And that led me to Roku.

Roku is a deceptively small box that packs a lot into it. I wish my dvr’s were as small. Roku has many options to view things online providing you have a broadband connection. With Netflix being one of them, I could easily watch movies on my television. And a lot of other stuff has well. The major cable news services have channels to view their content (mostly news stories and sometimes live feeds as well). Hulu, Vudu are also available (Hulu requires paying for Hulu Plus and Vudu is a pay as you go movie service). There are tons of free movie channels but some have commercials like Hulu. Sports fans will like access to the major pay services (like MLB network). There a lot of family oriented channels and quite surprisingly a lot of religious ones as well (Christian and Jewish mostly, there probably is a Muslim one there somewhere and if not coming soon). You can also purchase games as well. Mine came with Angry Birds but I added You Do Not Know Jack. This was a computer trivia game I used to play long ago. Except it seems tougher now.

There are also rumors that Roku and Dish are working together to make popular channels available for a fee (sports channels excluded). Right now that is all just rumors but shows that the move towards Internet streaming has become a market to be mined. The one advantage cable has is reliability. While I do use an indoor antenna to get local HD programming, all kinds of things can make it go wrong (weather and other interference. Cable can go out if the signal transmitted to them goes wonky (and it seems more so today with digital than old analog). For me keeping basic cable also gets me free music channels. Pandora is available on Roku and is very good but also has commercials. The many music channels cable provides gives me enough to choose from and no commercials.

So if you are thinking about getting an Internet streaming device, the Roku is good one to choose. Different models have different prices. The one limitation on nearly all of them is how you connect, which is wireless. I choose the hardwire approach due to my apartment and other interference so I had to buy the top model which has an ethernet port. If you plan to watch a lot of HD movies, then up your service to at least 6 Mbps. At 3 Mbps you can view nearly everything but HD will take more time to load and reload while running.

Now about Netflix. Like many I was very displeased with what they tried to to. They needlessly alienated a lot of customers by splitting off the streaming from the dvd service. And then retreating and going back to what they are now offering dvd only or dvd with streaming options. I have the 2 DVD out at a time plan with streaming. Mostly I am pleased but like many wish there was more available to stream. That is out of Netflix hands and up to whoever owns the content. It will be a long while before streaming offers a full library compared to what is available on DVD. Still Netflix offers a service at a good price. Vudu does offer a lot of movies quicker but you pay as you go. Netflix has one membership fee for the month that covers everything you get by mail or via streaming. Sometimes it is worth it, if the movie is something you really have to see, but going to Vudu. I see that as a companion rather than a Netflix replacement. If you view only a few movies a year, Vudu is cheaper. If you like to catch up on television shows, Netflix is cheaper for doing that.

MasterChef and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares
MasterChef ended with a bang. Christine ended up beating Joshua and it was a tough competition. What put the judges over the edge for Christine was her ability to take simple dishes and make them much stronger and a well thought out menu. Josh had good items but did not quite flow together. He also flubbed his starter by not fully cooking the lobster, using an odd concoction of vegetables on his entrée, and his bacon crust pecan pie lacked bacon flavor. Overall his dishes were good but Christine just had that extra touch to make her dishes really taste good. She showed that simple can mean very flavorful and delicious (I still want to try those fried chicken legs she cooked!).

I recently watched Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares which is very different from its U.S. counterpart Kitchen Nightmares. Both shows do have their share of challenging personalities. The U.K. version is narrated by Ramsay and tends to avoid the melodrama often in the U.S. version. The focus is squarely on two things: food and how the front of the house is run. Ramsay tries to get the head chef (if there is one) back on track to cook food rather than slop or ring-a-ding-food. Menus are revised to become more local and fresh. Staff are encouraged to be welcoming and the owners to really understand how a restaurant is supposed to operate. A follow-up at the end usually shows how the place is faring. Some manage to do well and some end up closing (for a variety of reasons). Ramsay, of course, use the F word quite liberally on the show.

Generally the reasons the Ramsay assisted restaurants seem to fail are (1)Despite new menu and uptick in business, their debts are too high or creditor decides to force them out; (2)landlord raises rent or a local problem (permits etc) causes them to close; (3)bad economic conditions; (4)restaurant fails to make changes, customers drop off and owners close up; (5)owners decide to sell and get out of business for personal reasons.

Mythbusters Takes On Cameron’s Titanic
Now I have never really given it much thought but others have. Would Jack have survived had he stayed with Rose? Mythbusters tackled it in their usual style. It turns out that Jack would have died if stayed in the water but with his wet clothes out of the water had a better chance. However he would still loose warmth and possibly die before Rose was rescued. You can read the full article here.

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Not Quite Tacky-Large Ice Cubes For Drinks

A trend of putting a very large ice cube in drinks sparked an article in Globe and Mail . According to the article, bartenders in upscale places are putting large ice cubes in old fashioned glasses to keep drinks from being watery. The ice cubes measure about 5 centimeters long which makes them big than the traditional small ice cubes. Big enough, the author notes, to sink the Titanic!

Well not really of course but it does raise some questions. Do large ice cubes melt slower than the smaller? Of course one ought to be skeptical of the claim that using collosal size cubes means drinks are less watery. In recent years most bars have gotten pretty good at cutting costs. Unless you order scotch neat, chances are most mixed drinks have ice in them to cut down on the amount of alcohol they put in each drink. Now crafty bartenders and owners know people have caught on, so they are bringing out the colossal cube. They say it makes your drink less watery. And because of its size, you do not notice it melting much.

The writer of the piece did have someone do an experiment on it. And it looks like the larger cubes shed less water than the smaller ones which seems to mean you get a stiffer drink. However the Mythbusters rule needs to be used here. I am not convinced (and neither is the one who did the tests) this is proven yet. There are many factors that need to be explored. And those clever guys on Mythbusters are just the guys to find out the truth. They have already tried out a few alcohol myths so this one ought to be pretty easy to do. My hunch is this: In some cases, you get less water melting from the larger cubes owing to a number of factors but only in a limited way. In most drinks it probably is the same as the smaller ones.

But at least no one is calling these colossal cubes Titanic. 🙂