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Oh Die Menschlichkeit!
May 6, 2012 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the German zeppelin Hindenburg bursting into flames as it attempted to dock at a US Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, NJ. The Hindenburg was inflated with hydrogen, due to the United States' practical monopoly on helium, and its fabric skin was coated with a mixture of iron oxide and aluminium--both elements have been linked to the rapid fire, but the ratio of responsibility continues to be debated to this day. The explosion of the zeppelin was documented by a film crew, and more famously, by WLS radio reporter Herb Morrison. Such documentation has allowed for the Hindenburg disaster to be a well-known event that has been referenced in popular culture over the years, from such disparate means as the famous "Turkeys Away" episode of WKRP In Cincinnati...to MeFi's own Spatch having a fever dream approximately 15 years ago that led to, well, just watch it for yourself.
posted by stannate (64 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
oh the ...


i just can't do it
posted by ShawnString at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not without the img tag.
posted by kenko at 5:59 PM on May 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


15 years ago? My, god.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:08 PM on May 6, 2012


Ask That Hindenburg Announcer Guy
posted by XMLicious at 6:11 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


More people survived that crash than almost any jet airliner crash, but we still are terrified of demon hydrogen. I realize it's not likely economically practical even if a "safe" airship could be built to some hyper-paranoid FAA certification, but traveling at a calm rate at a reasonable altitude, with a large window (glass floor?) and a pleasant cup of tea, just, seems, civilized.
posted by sammyo at 6:12 PM on May 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


Let the world never forget the name of Allen Hagaman, one of the unluckiest bastards ever to live. He was the only Hindenburg casualty who was not aboard the craft. He worked in the ground crew. The damn thing landed on him.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:13 PM on May 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


You know, I've never actually heard that recording before. It was very painful to listen to. No wonder people try to trivialize it with humor.

Great post, thanks for taking the time to do it.
posted by Malor at 6:13 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Arthur, you don't mean to tell me you thought turkeys could fly."

"Well Mother, it seems that turkeys have wings, but for some reason they choose not to use them."
posted by orange swan at 6:14 PM on May 6, 2012


Well, somebody has to.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:15 PM on May 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


You know, I've never actually heard that recording before. It was very painful to listen to. No wonder people try to trivialize it with humor.

Agreed. It is absolutely heart wrenching.
posted by gjc at 6:15 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I survived the Hindenbug disaster
posted by robbyrobs at 6:26 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I saw the Titanic "reenactment" (that is, memorial ...replete with fun costumery and party favors!), my first thought after the moment of celebratory nausea had passed, "When's the Hindenburg memorial sail?"
posted by Mike Mongo at 6:27 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


sammyo: "More people survived that crash than almost any jet airliner crash, but we still are terrified of demon hydrogen. I realize it's not likely economically practical even if a "safe" airship could be built to some hyper-paranoid FAA certification, but traveling at a calm rate at a reasonable altitude, with a large window (glass floor?) and a pleasant cup of tea, just, seems, civilized."

Looking at the data, 35 out of 97 people died on the Hindenburg for a survival rate of 64%, whereas on modern airliners since 1971 the overall survival rate during fatal crashes has been between 49% and 69% depending on where you sit. However, for airliners that are crashing while attempting to land, as the Hindenburg was, the survival rate is well over 90%.

Zeppelin flights are such a fantastically small sample size compared to what we have for plane flights that I'm not sure we could even begin to generalize actual differences in safety. However, if you were to calculate the deaths per mile traveled I'm sure those on Zepplin flights would dwarf those on modern air transport.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:30 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I got to ride in a Zeppelin in San Francisco, back in February, the Airship Ventures tourist flight. It was absolutely fantastic, totally recommend it. Comfortable, great view, slow and graceful. It's very weird being in a vehicle that weighs nothing but has a lot of mass. We had to hot-swap passengers from the previous flight; two people got off, then two new folks got on.

There was an era where zeppelins really took people places, giant cruise ships sailing through the sky. Airships.net has a lot of good info, like these photos of the interiors of the Hindenberg (complete with a smoking room!) The Graf Zeppelin was even more elegant. BTW, the hydrogen in the Hindenburg is a bit of an accident; they wanted to use Helium but the US wouldn't sell it to them.

Bonus dirigible link: video of fighter planes docking with the USS Macon in flight.
posted by Nelson at 6:34 PM on May 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


stannate, about two hours ago I strongly contemplated composing a post on this topic, which probably would have taken me about two hours to put up. Lucky for both of us!
posted by wilful at 6:35 PM on May 6, 2012


It's very weird being in a vehicle that weighs nothing but has a lot of mass.

Yeah, the thing about lighter-than-air flight is that you don't actually rise, the ground moves away from you. I learned this in the few balloon flights I've taken. They're entirely NOT like going up in the air on any other conveyance.
posted by hippybear at 6:39 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the early 1980's my then-just-GF and I posed as journalists and, thanks to a very rare fatal accident which spooked a lot of the real journos, actually got journo slots aboard the Budweiser promotional balloon at the national hot air balloon race the first time it was held in southern Louisiana. It was a long, dramatic ride among a lot of other balloons with a couple of impromptu landings. It was really fun to see all the bedsheets painted with LAND HERE messages and people waving. It is very striking that there you do not feel wind when you are riding a balloon because, well, the wind pushes the balloon.

Compared to riding a balloon riding in an airplane feels like raping the sky and expecting it to forgive you when you're done with it and try to land.
posted by localroger at 6:54 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't paid attention to any other part of the FPP except for the episode of WKRP, which I'm currently watching. It has to be one of the strangest pieces of television I've ever seen (or maybe that's just what the 70s were like).
posted by coolxcool=rad at 7:04 PM on May 6, 2012


Wait, the damn thing was coated with thermite??
posted by infinitewindow at 7:07 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


More people survived that crash than almost any jet airliner crash, but we still are terrified of demon hydrogen. I realize it's not likely economically practical even if a "safe" airship could be built to some hyper-paranoid FAA certification, but traveling at a calm rate at a reasonable altitude, with a large window (glass floor?) and a pleasant cup of tea, just, seems, civilized.
There are lots of blimps flying around today. There's no reason to think the FAA wouldn't certify a hydrogen filled one. It's just that they're, you know slow. It would be like a cruise ship but with only a few dozen people.
posted by delmoi at 7:13 PM on May 6, 2012


delmoi: " It would be like a cruise ship but with only a few dozen people."

That would make for a great short Hercule Poirot story. Would love to ride on one ad see the world pass by at a gentle pace.
posted by arcticseal at 7:20 PM on May 6, 2012


The National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. currently has an exhibit on the Hindenburg and Titanic called Fire & Ice: Hindenburg and Titanic. The Hindenburg section of the web page for the exhibit has photos of a number of Hindenburg artifacts that survived the disaster.

My aunt and uncle, who had emigrated from Germany to the U.S., were living not too far from Lakehurst, NJ in 1937. They decided to go see the Hindenburg arrive that day. My aunt never would talk much about what happened, other than to shake her head and say "those poor people ...".
posted by gudrun at 7:27 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's no reason to think the FAA wouldn't certify a hydrogen filled one.

Not in a brazilion years.

Hydrogen is not really that dangerous compared to gases like methane or even carbon dioxide because of its tendency to float away. But it's treated like teh demon medusa in industrial safety. The limitations put on liquid hydrogen transport trucks are simply mind-blowing; unlike most other liquid gas transports they are allowed zero venting which, when you consider the vapor pressure of hydrogen and the capacity of portable refrigeration systems, gives them a pretty limited shelf life once they leave the producer. Hydrogen transport trucks are actually rated on this, e.g. 104 hours being typical.

A few years ago a hydrogen truck jackknifed and a passenger car burnt up under the trailer in Slidell, LA. Because of the fire they had no way of knowing the status of the hydrogen in the cylinders, and so they made the then unheard-of decision to offload the truck in the field. This resulted in closing I-10 in both directions for nearly an entire day and evacuating the surrounding neighborhoods for several blocks around.

You could make a good case that they were overreacting but the industrial safety folk really, really don't like hydrogen.
posted by localroger at 7:32 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's the difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenburg?

One is a giant, Nazi gasbag ... And the other is a dirigible.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:37 PM on May 6, 2012 [20 favorites]


It was a particularly strange dream, all right.
posted by Spatch at 7:38 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's hard to even fathom how primitive materials science was then and what an incredibly difficult thing an airship was to make compared to what it would be today. It's not just carbon fibre vs. metal structures; just for example, the intestinal linings of millions of sheep were needed to make the interior gas bags, so many that laws were passed in Britain requiring the entire national product be carefully harvested and reserved for military use.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2012


Just want to point out that Scott Adams referenced the Hindenburg in two comic strips.

The three-panel, I believe, is one of the best he's ever done. Each panel made me laugh, and the whole thing scored four out of six on his humor formula (bizarre, clever, recognizable and really cruel; nothing cute or naughty that I can see).

I'm also impressed that, hoping to find those strips, I googled "Scott Adams Hindenburg" and it took me to the above page. That guy doesn't miss a trick.
posted by Bill Peschel at 7:58 PM on May 6, 2012


The smoking room on the Hindenburg was locked from the inside in that one was allowed to enter freely but to exit, a steward would need to confirm that all of your smoking materials had been extinguished before you could exit.
posted by Morrigan at 8:00 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bill Peschel: "Just want to point out that Scott Adams referenced the Hindenburg in two comic strips.

The three-panel, I believe, is one of the best he's ever done. Each panel made me laugh, and the whole thing scored four out of six on his humor formula (bizarre, clever, recognizable and really cruel; nothing cute or naughty that I can see).

I'm also impressed that, hoping to find those strips, I googled "Scott Adams Hindenburg" and it took me to the above page. That guy doesn't miss a trick.
"

Wait... Scott? Is that you? I thought we masturdebated this already...
posted by Blasdelb at 8:17 PM on May 6, 2012


god, that whole scott adams fiasco just totally reminds me of when my dad commented on my xanga when I was 19.

I like those two strips tho Bill! Thanks for linking them!
posted by rebent at 8:32 PM on May 6, 2012


Shout-out to Steve Reich's fantastic opera "Hindenburg". I actually liked it a little better when it was a standalone piece, but it's still pretty great as part of the Three Tales trilogy.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:39 PM on May 6, 2012


Lol, a bit weird to see Scott Adams crop up so randomly, especially given the fact that he personally trolled us in a thread about himself.

I also don't get the "Refueling the Hindenburg" joke. Hydrogen doesn't have an odor.
The limitations put on liquid hydrogen transport trucks are simply mind-blowing; unlike most other liquid gas transports they are allowed zero venting which, when you consider the vapor pressure of hydrogen and the capacity of portable refrigeration systems, gives them a pretty limited shelf life once they leave the producer.
Yeah, well liquid hydrogen could be a lot more problematic then gaseous form. Obviously it needs to mix with enough oxygen to burn all the way, but there is a lot higher energy density in liquid form (Mix it with liquid oxygen, obviously, and you get rocket fuel)



Plus, the FAA allows for all kinds of experimental airplanes. You just have to do testing first. They aren't really that paranoid at all, as far as I know.
posted by delmoi at 8:46 PM on May 6, 2012


The Archer episode Skytanic features a airship filled with helium, though Archer himself is a little unclear on the core concept.

Thanks for the link to the Macon and Sparrowhawks. Years later, the Air Force later experimented with parasite jet fighters like the XF-85 Goblin but the performance was not what they wanted.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:47 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I realize it's not likely economically practical even if a "safe" airship could be built to some hyper-paranoid FAA certification, but traveling at a calm rate at a reasonable altitude, with a large window (glass floor?) and a pleasant cup of tea, just, seems, civilized.

Airships may be making a come back in Canada's north, though likely not for passenger use.
posted by asnider at 9:10 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


About three weeks before the Hindenburg blew up Guernica was bombed.

I wonder if J Cameron knows that?
posted by wrapper at 9:39 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!
posted by Occula at 9:48 PM on May 6, 2012


On September 5, 2010 at about a thousand feet, I watched two P-51 Mustangs rise on our tail and fly under the ship, the all-helium Zeppelin NT Eureka.

I have lots to say about LTA, but Hindenburg threads are pretty much not the right place. The following dot is for all the LTA casualties over the years, from de Rozier to Nerandzic, and of course includes the unfortunate folks at Lakehurst 75 years ago.

.
posted by mwhybark at 9:56 PM on May 6, 2012


Well, somebody has to.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:15 AM on May 7


Do you think this is some sort of game?
posted by Decani at 11:41 PM on May 6, 2012


Because the version of "Popcorn" at the end of Spatch's short wasn't nearly long enough.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:30 AM on May 7, 2012


I'd never heard the full audio either. You can hear Herb Morrison is just clearly overwhelmed. That was a hard listen and the accompanying video was hard to watch.

My parents and I were talking about 9/11 today. My daughter was interviewing them about historical events for a class. Although my parents and I live far away from NYC, we still had strong feelings about it and how it has changed the country and the politics. We also had personal feelings that we talked about for the first time. Like, Mom didn't want to leave the house and then needed to go where her friends were because she was doing nothing but pacing.

Mom talked to my daughter about JFK getting shot. Mom was in junior high at the time.

My grandparents would have had personal experience with the Hindenburg accident, I think. But, they were already so seasoned by the Depression and WW!! that they just figured life was hard all the time. I'm feeling sorry that I never asked them about some of their life experiences.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:21 AM on May 7, 2012


Zeppelin flights are such a fantastically small sample size compared to what we have for plane flights that I'm not sure we could even begin to generalize actual differences in safety. However, if you were to calculate the deaths per mile traveled I'm sure those on Zepplin flights would dwarf those on modern air transport.

Also, the Hindenburg was by no means the only spectacular airship crash. Before it came, among others, the R101, the USS Shenandoah and the Dixmude. Hydrogen wasn't even the main problem of Zeppelin-style rigid airships, as shown by the losses of the helium-filled USS Macon and Akron.

There are lots of blimps flying around today. There's no reason to think the FAA wouldn't certify a hydrogen filled one. It's just that they're, you know slow. It would be like a cruise ship but with only a few dozen people.

"Lots of airships"? The number of airships currently flying around the world must be in the single digits. And they keep going down. Making an airship is a surprisingly difficult undertaking, involving for instance huge quantities of goldbeater's skin. Operating it is also more than a handful, requiring large ground crews. Although this last point is addressed by the Zeppelin NT.

The trouble with airships, however, is that they are almost unmanageable under anything but the slightest breeze. They are slow indeed, but the wind often isn't. And wind shear is lethal, easily bending a rigid airship in two, to say nothing of a blimp. Putting hydrogen inside only compounds the problems.

Airships are one of those ideas which look great at first sight, but whose actual real-world implementation is so fraught with problems as to render them unusable.
posted by Skeptic at 1:56 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Oh die Menschlichkeit" is not German. You can't simply translate idiomatic expressions in one language to another by looking up individual words in your dictionary.
posted by faustdick at 2:25 AM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Making an airship is a surprisingly difficult undertaking, involving for instance huge quantities of goldbeater's skin.

No modern airship uses goldbeaters skin. We've got much more effective polymers for that.

And they keep going down.

Yes, an airship crashed. No, it doesn't signify the end of the type. There's actually significant work currently being done to build a new generation of airships. Airship technology has changed very little since the 20s (demonstrated by the fact there's only really one textbook on airships worth reading that was published in the last 50 years). There's a huge potential for further development in the field.

The big difference in latest developments is that they're mostly "hybrid" types, typically with 50 - 70% buoyancy. In forward flight, aerodynamic lift makes up the difference between the weight and buoyancy. There's a huge potential for large heavy lifting vehicles in remote cargo operations, like Discovery Air's planned operations in the North of Canada. Airships offer the VTOL capability of helicopters without the huge fuel consumption and short maintenance periods.
posted by leo_r at 4:20 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, an airship crashed. No, it doesn't signify the end of the type. There's actually significant work currently being done to build a new generation of airships.

Look, I have a lifelong fascination with airships. I'm an aerospace engineer by training, and I've actually witnessed the process of building an airship firsthand. I can remember such "new generation" airships being "around the corner" since I was a toddler, and I'm not a spring chicken anymore.

SkyHook foundered. Before it, so did CargoLifter, whose collapse led to a securities fraud investigation. Long before them it was the CycloCrane and Piasecki's Helistat. And I long lost count of the number of times the stratospheric airship concept has been reborn in both civilian and military guises and crashed again (last time, quite literally).

Hybrid airships are the latest fad, but I personally am less than impressed. In my view, they manage to combine the drawbacks of both airships (large volume) and airplanes (inability to hover), without the advantages of either.

Thing is, sooner or later, any airship concept collides with the laws of physics. The only moderately successful "reinvention" of the airship idea in the last 75 years has been the Zeppelin NT, and this only because they took a realistic approach without flights of fancy.
posted by Skeptic at 5:07 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


No modern airship uses goldbeaters skin.

That isn't what they told me when I visited WDL.
posted by Skeptic at 5:14 AM on May 7, 2012


A few years ago a hydrogen truck jackknifed and a passenger car burnt up under the trailer in Slidell, LA. Because of the fire they had no way of knowing the status of the hydrogen in the cylinders, and so they made the then unheard-of decision to offload the truck in the field. This resulted in closing I-10 in both directions for nearly an entire day and evacuating the surrounding neighborhoods for several blocks around.

The same thing happened near me with a truck full of hydrochloric acid.

I wonder if the concern with hydrogen is that if it is going to go bad, it is going to go bad FAST. The Hindenburg was 245 meters long, and it was basically GONE in 30 seconds.
posted by gjc at 5:55 AM on May 7, 2012


Blasdelb writes "However, if you were to calculate the deaths per mile traveled I'm sure those on Zepplin flights would dwarf those on modern air transport."

It's amazing the effect of 75 years and billions (trillions?) of dollars of engineering talent can have on a system.
posted by Mitheral at 5:55 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's amazing the effect of 75 years and billions (trillions?) of dollars of engineering talent can have on a system.

You could take the oxcart, invest 75 years and trillions of dollars in engineering talent, and you'd still be unable to win a Formula 1 race with it. Sadly, airships were an engineering dead end, period.
posted by Skeptic at 6:10 AM on May 7, 2012


Even without modification, an Oxcart would have God's own straight-line speed. Tough to corner, admittedly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 AM on May 7, 2012


Browsed on the Wikipedia link, and I think this story deserves some attention because it's kind of bad-ass:
When passenger Joseph Späh, a vaudeville comic acrobat, saw the first sign of trouble he smashed the window with his movie camera, with which he had been filming the landing (the film survived the disaster). As the ship neared the ground he lowered himself out the window and hung onto the window ledge, letting go when the ship was perhaps 20 feet above the ground. His acrobat's instincts kicked in, and Späh kept his feet under him and attempted to do a safety roll when he landed. He injured his ankle nonetheless, and was dazedly crawling away when a member of the ground crew came up, slung the diminutive Späh under one arm, and ran him clear of the fire.
Seriously, that's some Indiana-Jones scale stuff.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 AM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Skeptic, do you think that depletion of energy resources in the future could make a difference in airships' prospects? Would solar-powered Zepplins or blimps be more feasible than solar-powered planes?
posted by XMLicious at 8:20 AM on May 7, 2012


On my sightseeing flight on the Airship Ventures Zeppelin NT we were lucky enough to be joined by Brian Hall, the founder of the company. He is absolutely serious about it being a money-making startup. They've raised at least $10.5M and have the lease on the Eureka (N704LZ). And a great staff and operation. Totally awesome as a sightseeing activity.

So I got to chat with him, about why he built the company and why he thinks airships are the future. Some of it is simple joy and enthusiasm, it's a really magnificent way to fly. But behind that is a serious belief that it makes sense for certain types of cargo, passengers, science. I'm pretty skeptical myself: it's slow (50mph) and requires a lot of ground crew to operate. But in the moment talking to him, his enthusiasm and faith were persuasive. I'm glad that we have people trying out unlikely things; maybe it will work! And if not, well, I had a fun and unique aviation experience. (Bonus self link: photos from the airship flight).
posted by Nelson at 8:43 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Skeptic, do you think that depletion of energy resources in the future could make a difference in airships' prospects?

Yes...finishing them off altogether. Helium is a byproduct of natural gas production and, as it happens, we are running out of it even faster.
posted by Skeptic at 8:45 AM on May 7, 2012


Seriously, that's some Indiana-Jones scale stuff.

"No tickets!"
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:41 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes...finishing them off altogether.

But there are a variety of other things that could be used besides helium, aren't there? Or, speaking of the 75 years of technological development - if eventually we could make something like a submarine hull out of superlight carbon fiber or aerogel stuff couldn't you just fill airships with a vacuum? (That's pretty science-fictiony at this point of course, I'm just surprised that you're calling them a dead end given that laboratories are cranking out things like solid blocks of aerogel that float in the air, but I'm entirely willing to defer to an aerospace engineer's judgement.)
posted by XMLicious at 9:58 AM on May 7, 2012


I wonder if the concern with hydrogen is that if it is going to go bad, it is going to go bad FAST. The Hindenburg was 245 meters long, and it was basically GONE in 30 seconds.

gjc, it's far from clear that hydrogen was to blame, and I've seen pressurized tanks of hydrogen in timed tests against tanks filled with gasoline, both punctured by a rifle shot. The hydrogen tank was safe pretty much everywhere but in front of the bullet hole for about a minute; the gas tank was a fiery hell in a second or two.

Granted, blimps aren't filled with pressurized hydrogen, but hydrogen blimps don't explode - they implode. That is intrinsically safer to begin with.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:03 AM on May 7, 2012


But there are a variety of other things that could be used besides helium, aren't there?

A handy list of lifting gases, or possibly lies about them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2012


A handy list of lifting gases, or possibly lies about them.

Most of those gases are either flammable (like hydrogen), poisonous (like ammonia), both (like coal gas), or just too heavy (like nitrogen). The only option which isn't any of that (because it just isn't) is vacuum, but I once did the sums, and even with the lightest and strongest currently available materials, lighter-than-air vacuum spheres remain out of our reach.
posted by Skeptic at 10:42 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which reminds of Tarzan at the Earth's Core, my favorite of ERB's Pellucidar novels. The tale begins with an adventurer hiring the Lord of the Great Apes to accompany on a trip to the Earth's Core by airship. Said airship being an experimental model that uses vacuum cells as the lifting bodies. (I think that's about three impossible things in one chapter. A great start for any pulp novel!)
posted by SPrintF at 12:27 PM on May 7, 2012


Another Hindenburg jumper who survived: 14-year-old Werner Franz.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:29 PM on May 7, 2012


The hydrogen tank was safe pretty much everywhere but in front of the bullet hole for about a minute; the gas tank was a fiery hell in a second or two.

ROU_Xenophobe's link lead me to SEAgel, which is evidently the floating blocks of aerogel I've seen footage of. I was wondering earlier if maybe some day we could make a hydrogen-filled aerogel that isn't flammable, (and with some structural strength, obviously) in which case you could have airships suspended from a translucent solid sphere, which would look cool and futuristic.
posted by XMLicious at 2:59 PM on May 7, 2012


Nelson, I met Brian too.

I brought a pair of prints of a cutaway illo of the Macon in flight to get signed aloft by the Captain, one for me and one for the artist. He was suuuuuper excited about the prints.

I noticed after our flight that they had reached out to random LTA nerds all over the country and offerred comp flights on the tour. I guess Brian made his money with a mobile sync app for Mac and Win to Palm and beyond, the name escapes me. Gotta say, hats off.
posted by mwhybark at 6:37 PM on May 7, 2012


In Focus: 75 Years Since the Hindenburg Disaster. Great collection of photos edited by MeFi's own Kokogiak. First half are happy photos, second half are fire and terror.

It's really bizarre seeing the juxtaposition of dirigbles, New York, and Nazi iconography.
posted by Nelson at 11:25 AM on May 8, 2012


OH THE HUGE MANATEE!
posted by Mike Mongo at 10:01 PM on May 9, 2012


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