Er, just natural gas
August 8, 2010 5:41 AM   Subscribe

According to two research scientists the mystery of vanished ships and airplanes in the region dubbed "The Bermuda Triangle" has been solved.

The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and surface vessels allegedly disappeared mysteriously. Popular culture has attributed these disappearances to the paranormal or activity by extraterrestrial beings.

It may have been the greatest modern mystery of our supposedly well understood world.
posted by twoleftfeet (78 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
A huge methane bubble knocks airplanes out of the sky? Was this study financed by National Lampoon?
posted by reverend cuttle at 5:47 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I swear I watched a TV show a couple years back where they did scale model tests to see if that would happen. Mythbusters, maybe? Something.
posted by cthuljew at 5:49 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


At last, somebody has solved why there are more airplane and boat accidents in one of the most heavily used shipping lanes in the world. Now if somebody could answer why there are so many stars in the sky, as opposed to in my bathtub.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:54 AM on August 8, 2010 [40 favorites]


Those have got to be gargantuan exploding methane bubbles. Any evidence that anybody has ever witnessed this phenomenon? Alien abduction seems more likely.
posted by zardoz at 5:55 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aircraft falling victim to these methane bubbles will lose their engines-perhaps igniting the methane surrounding them-and immediately lose their lift as well, ending their flights by diving into the ocean and swiftly plummeting


Oh no! It got the article too!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:55 AM on August 8, 2010 [36 favorites]


The article has mysteriously vanished. I blame methane gas.
posted by No-sword at 5:56 AM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not everything can be explained so easily: the otherwordly forces at play in the triangle have been known to bend the laws of space and time. For example, the same people had already discovered this effect back in 2003.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:57 AM on August 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


I swear I watched a TV show a couple years back where they did scale model tests to see if that would happen.

I definitely remember an Horizon or Equinox program that did this but it would have been years ago
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2010


This has been speculated and tested for quite some time; I remember hearing about this theory in the 90's. Reminds me of the 'deadly lakes' sudden carbon dioxide releases. Nature can be one flatulent sonofabitch.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:03 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I dunno. It seems like if this happened, people would have observed it. I especially doubt that these things could knock planes out of the sky That just seems absurd.
posted by delmoi at 6:04 AM on August 8, 2010


It seems like if this happened, people would have observed it.

From where, a rapidly descending plane? You should let them know you have doubts so they stop going down this blind alley.
posted by yerfatma at 6:06 AM on August 8, 2010


Methane hydrates as an explanation are also discussed here. This hypothesis is at least ten years old.

Planes fly on a liquid bed (which we call "air") which sits on the ocean.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:07 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm certain I saw the same thing a few years ago cthuljew, I remember them doing demonstrations where they sank toy boats with gas bubbles. I think it might have just been a generic documentary.
I found this clip, but it looks a lot more recent than the film I remember.

On preview: I think fearfulsymmetry's right about it being Horizon or Equinox.
posted by lucidium at 6:10 AM on August 8, 2010


Damn, I wish it wasn't 11.12 pm on a Sunday night, Eastern Australian time. I'd give the Professor a call to further explore his 7 year old theory.

And do you have any idea how much methane is produced by cattle farts? Oh shit. I think I'm in the middle of the Australian Triangle (well known for swallowing tourists who think they can walk across the Nullabor or through the Blue Mountains map-less and water-less, and also less well known as being a "news" source of international newspapers who are having a REALLY slow day).

Is that a ghostly green glow outsi...
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:13 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"This has been speculated and tested for quite some time;"

Yes, but these are brilliant computer scientists.
posted by sneebler at 6:13 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice.
posted by Gator at 6:14 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


So that's why they were holding cows next to the polar bears. Months later, that crazy show is still giving us answers to questions we didn't even ask
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:15 AM on August 8, 2010


Hey, haters, did you even read the article? I quote: "Professor Joseph Monaghan researched the hypothesis with honor student David May at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia." That's right. HONOR STUDENT.

Dude researched his hypothesis with an HONOR STUDENT.

The paper stands.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:15 AM on August 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ahah, this Equinox episode is definitely the one I remember. There's a little bit more about the Dr Richard McIver in that film here. I can picture the bit about landslides releasing the gas being shown in their test tanks.
posted by lucidium at 6:17 AM on August 8, 2010


The wikipedia page on the Bermuda Triangle suggests that there is actually nothing unusual about the number of ships and aircraft going missing in the area. I certainly don't believe, like the first link suggests, that every single ship that goes missing is because of methane bubbles.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 6:17 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just assumed Jacob was bringing them to the Island.
posted by hegemone at 6:17 AM on August 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, sorry -- was that me?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:25 AM on August 8, 2010


This item works better as a comment about science reporting than as a report on the Bermuda Triangle.
posted by fredludd at 6:26 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the article:

When these bubbles reach the surface of the water they soar into the air, still expanding upwards and outwards. Any ships caught within the methane mega-bubble immediately lose all buoyancy and sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Here's where I knew this was rubbish. A methane bubble rises up under the ship causing it to "lose buoyancy" and sink. Yeah right. Do they even understand the concept of buoyancy? The upward force of buoyancy is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced. If the object (a ship) is lighter than that buoyant force, it floats. So sitting on a rising bubble of methane, the ship displaces a very small mass of methane, it sinks.. back down to the surface of the water.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:27 AM on August 8, 2010


This is why they won't let me SCUBA dive.
posted by JeffK at 6:30 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This BBC News article from 2000 about the wreck of an unknown fishing boat in the North Sea suggests methane release as the cause of the sinking, and refers to an episode of the show 'Savage Planet' about the subject.
posted by Lebannen at 6:40 AM on August 8, 2010


I just want to point out that this is crap science (no methane pun intended). Even if you were able to prove that this was due to huge methane bubbles you still haven't eliminated the paranormal (no shit pun intended). Until you can irrefutably show how this gas is being produced it's just as likely to be a Seatopia plot as anything else! I mean, if you're dumb enough to buy the methane theory in the first place, which no sane person would, because it's plain bonkers!
posted by cjorgensen at 6:47 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


charlie, while the article misstates the mechanism a large bubble like that would definitely sink a ship (if, and I repeaat if, such bubbles exist). The problem is that when the bubble breaks beneath the ship, the ship is now not supported. It falls into the rising bubble until it hits the surface, say a hundred feet or more down.

Ships are designed to bear carefully considered types of forces, and that type of abuse ain't one of them. A lot of ships will flat break in half if you do that. Then, assuming it doesn't break in half or capsize plunging into the water, it's now at the bottom of a bubble. Which is going to close over the ship since the ship is at the bottom of the bubble.

(Cue Gordon Lightfoot: "They might have split up or they might have capsized; they may have broke deep and took water...)

I personally favor the "the rate of disappearance isn't especially high" explanation, but yeah, should monster bubbles exist they would be a real hazard to shipping.
posted by localroger at 6:48 AM on August 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


(Kind of like monster waves, which definitely do exist and are dangerous for the same reason.)
posted by localroger at 6:49 AM on August 8, 2010


charlie don't surf, maybe look at it from a different angle: sitting on a rising bubble of methane, the ship displaces a large volume of methane, it sinks ... down to the bottom of the bubble ... which may well be far enough that the deck is just below the surface of the water ... which means that there is water all over the deck and pouring into all the doors and so on that aren't supposed to be underwater ... and suddenly the ship is full of water and less buoyant and in fact sinking, and everybody drowns before they have time to say much more than 'uh, wtf was that?'.
posted by Lebannen at 6:50 AM on August 8, 2010


AFAIK, expressed as a percentage of ships going through that area, its no more dangerous than any other random stretch of ocean, so yeah, pretty much have to vote "bollocks" on this one.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:51 AM on August 8, 2010


The article seems to have.....mysteriously disappeared! Can methane be the cause?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:53 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article seems to have.....mysteriously disappeared! Can methane be the cause?

Yeah, it's a local paper and it's going viral.

There's a backup here
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:05 AM on August 8, 2010


Perhaps the article's disappearance can be explained by hot air. ;)

The "Bermuda Triangle" was solved decades ago if I recall correctly. According to people who've actually bothered to look up the figures, the Bermuda Triangle is no more dangerous, for it's level of traffic, than any other part of the ocean. There is simply no sign in any records of shipping and aircraft losses of this area suffering more than its fair share of accidents.

In other words, the "mystery" is solved by the finding that there is nothing mysterious!

Famous anecdotes of flights and ships vanishing in the area seldom amount to much when subjected to any kind of scrutiny. They invariably either turn out to be much less mysterious than the paranormal books make them out to be (i.e. that WW2 training flight seems to have been a simple case of trainee aviators with primitive WW2 navigational aids getting lost over the open ocean and flying until they ran out of fuel) or totally made up with no basis in reality at all.
posted by Mokusatsu at 7:13 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK, you guys critiquing my buoyancy argument are visualizing something that can't happen. A methane bubble isn't going to lift the ship into the air and then plop it down into the water from a great height. Alternately, it's not going to cause a big bubble to burst and then the ship is suddenly at the bottom of a big watery crater with a sudden tsunami hitting it from all sides.

Remember the methane bubble is also ruled by the laws of buoyancy. At worst, the ship will be atop a sudden swell of water, then the methane breaks the surface and dissipates around the ship.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:25 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'd think if it was all that common, there would have been a near-miss or two that we'd have heard about and/or had film of.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on August 8, 2010


Is it the Bermuda or the Triangle part that causes the fear?
posted by Fizz at 7:34 AM on August 8, 2010


This is the tome of interest to read. I read it during high school.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:36 AM on August 8, 2010


What happens in the Bermuda Triangle stays in the Bermuda Triangle.

I don't even know what that means but this thread demands it.
posted by jeremias at 7:43 AM on August 8, 2010


A methane bubble isn't going to lift the ship into the air and then plop it down into the water from a great height.

All realism of the theory aside, if the giant methane bubble is feasible (which is what you seem to be arguing) then this is not what would happen.

There would be a large, mostly roundish bubble rising up from the depths. If a ship is located at the point the bubble hits the surface, it will displace the water underneath the boat until it is thin enough that the bubble is directly under the boat. There is then nothing under the boat except methane until the lower radius of the bubble. Hence, the ship has no water to support it and it falls.

You seem to be envisaging a smaller bubble than the theory relies on. Imagine one bigger in diameter than the ship's length. It is relatively easy (assuming the bubble theory is possible) to remove all the support under a ship, hence, sudden depth gain and odd forces promoting hull collapse.

Now, I am much more in the 'just a busy part of the ocean and design/safety/crash testing/ship loss science was in it's infancy' reason for all this. But if methane bubbles exist, it's quite possible that a big enough one could cause a ship to sink. It wouldn't just fart around the ship like you suggest unless it was comparatively small.
posted by Brockles at 7:56 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


So it's flatulent aliens then?
posted by mazola at 8:05 AM on August 8, 2010


The article seems to suggest enormous single bubbles, which is obviously really unrealistic. From what I remember of the documentary I saw, I think the actual theory is nothing to do with there being one huge hole in the water, but rather that an outburst of gas causes a multitude of bubbles that dramatically lower the density of the water the boat is sitting in. So because the boat isn't displacing enough weight any more, it sinks into the frothing mass of water.

That said, I agree it's more likely there's no mystery at all, and that at most it's just a busy area.
posted by lucidium at 8:09 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Dude researched his hypothesis with an HONOR STUDENT.
I think there's an 's' missing, Arse old chum. Makes a difference (tho' not to the theory).
posted by scruss at 8:15 AM on August 8, 2010


Doesn't this come up in cstross' Jennifer Morgue?
(As a minor point, a "don't fuck with the deep ones" warning.)
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2010


There would be a large, mostly roundish bubble rising up from the depths.

The thing is, real bubbles are either large or round, but not both. Bubbles tend to evolve into a sort of mushroom cap shape or something, and end up breaking into tons of tiny bubbles.

By the time the bubbles reached the surface, it would just seem like a slightly effervescent sea.
posted by delmoi at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2010


Astro Zombie wrote: Now if somebody could answer why there are so many stars in the sky, as opposed to in my bathtub.

It must have something to do with methane bubbles exploding in your bathtub.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:24 AM on August 8, 2010


Perhaps the methane bubbles were being ignited by people smoking cigarettes on the decks of the ships, consuming them in balls of fire. As smoking has fallen out of fashion less and less of the methane bubbles are bursting into flame and the disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle have fallen off.

This is my hypothesis. (Though it should be noted: I was not an honor student.)
posted by The Hamms Bear at 8:30 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If such bubbles do exist, they would probably be worth examining. Quite an interesting natural phenomenon of our planet. If any UFOs were visiting, they might even want to fly over and check out the bubbles. And if there are any ships or planes in the area, the UFOs would probably grab them because hey, souvenir.
posted by cribcage at 8:42 AM on August 8, 2010 [15 favorites]


The evidence for this astounding new insight into a mystery that's bedeviled the world is laid out in a research paper published in the American Journal of Physics.

Professor Joseph Monaghan researched the hypothesis with honor student David May at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The two hypothesized that large methane bubbles rising from the ocean floor might account for many, if not all, of the mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft at specific locales around the world.

Researcher Ivan T. Sanderson identified these mystery areas during the 1960s. Sanderson described the actual shape of these regions as more like a lozenge rather than a triangle. Some of the more famous spots include an area in the Sea of Japan, the North Sea, and of course the infamous "Bermuda (or Devil's) Triangle."
No, wait!!!! This is real. The paper is widely reported in the Australian press and will appear in the American Journal of Physics September issue 2003.

Here's the abstract:
"Our motivation is the possible hazards arising from naturally occurring methane gas hydrates in the North Sea. For floating bodies that possess a hull length of similar scale to the bubble's radius of curvature, we identify the conditions for the floating body to sink. "
It's on the good professor's publications web page for 2003

The paper itself doesn't appear to mention the Bermuda Triangle, but the news reports do. WTF?

Here's a news story from 2003. It's got some pictures showing what the bubble and boat might look like. The presence of methane hydrates in the Caribbean is noted, but the ship sinking that was discovered and noted in the paper occurred at The Witches Hole, a spot in the North Sea that has been compared to the Bermuda Triangle. It appears the triangle reference got fed back to May, the grad student, who then gave the quote saying it might be an explanation for the Bermuda Triangle.

It got argued on Snopes discussion in 2005, but not settled.

You want video?

The video has nothing to do with the good professor's work because he's quite clear that the boundary condition he looked at was a methane bubble with a radius close to the waterline length of the boat. The paper makes no mention of Alka-Seltzer or bottle caps.

Mystery solved: here's the recent original story (complete with mention of anomalist Ivan T. Sanderson) from some weird make-it-up content farm or something called Before It's News. Too bad, seven years too late....

Well that gave me something to do over my Sunday morning coffee.

*hums*
posted by warbaby at 8:46 AM on August 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


I just figured that the Bermuda Triangle was where the Deep Ones fled after the torpedoing of Y'ha-nthlei.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:50 AM on August 8, 2010


The article seems to suggest enormous single bubbles, which is obviously really unrealistic.

Why is that unrealistic? It has been shown in studies after the 1986 catastrophic CO2 release at Lake Nyos that small bubbles forming under great water pressure at depth expand exponentially as they rise and water pressure decreases. These rapidly expanding bubbles created more lift in the water column that actually decreased water pressure in the water column below it, triggering a cascade effect that continued the degassing process until all dissolved gasses were released.

I can't think of a single physical reason that would cause these rapidly expanding single bubbles to suddenly break into smaller bubbles. Breaking up would only increase their surface area and increase the surface tension of the surrounding water on the bubble. In other words it would take more energy to break into smaller bubbles than to stay in one big bubble.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:00 AM on August 8, 2010


Pardon me.
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 10:14 AM on August 8, 2010


First, as several people have pointed out, the "Bermuda Triangle" isn't at all a dangerous place for transportation.

Second, this is definitely NOT a new idea. I seem to remember reading this explanation in some Bermuda Triangle book before the internet. Two seconds found another article about this from 2003.

Third, this doesn't even jibe with the classic Bermuda Triangle story, Flight 19.

A non-starter!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2010


This is entirely plausible - my own father's gaseous emissions have been known to fell medium-sized predators at great distance.
posted by twsf at 10:30 AM on August 8, 2010


FWIW

The Bermuda Triangle, other than seeing the bad documentary about it when I was a kid, is something I always wondered about vaguely, the same way I wonder who really killed JFK, and who drew those weird lines in the desert in Peru. Not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but the cynic in me is always waiting for the unexplained in this world to become otherwise.

I thought I saw a UFO once, a great white streak blazing across the sky at incredible speed.. I jumped up completely freaking, going back and forth in my head trying to figure out if this was real, and do I tell anyone. Then whatever it was streaked back in the opposite direction just as fast. A few repetitions of this later, I realized that it was a set of searchlights at a car dealership 15 miles away, and the lights were bouncing off the bottom of some low hanging clouds. But for that maybe 15 seconds, it was real as all get out to me.

I flew a lot of missions in the triangle on a military spyplane, and there was one sortie that got really fucking weird.

First, our compasses/radios etc went FUBAR for a few minutes, then we got caught in this blob of St Elmo's Fire, that made the whole plane just fucking glow, and everything you touched was like you had been scuffing your feet on a carpet, or rubbing a balloon as far as little static zaps. Unlike the UFO thing, instead of kicking back in a farmyard, this time I was in a plane, in the triangle, and it sort of made my asshole pucker. In the end, everything returned to normal, and we went back to looking for drug smugglers and Russian AGIs.

In retrospect, I chalk the St Elmo's Fire up to shit happens, and the nav systems going tits up to the fact that, right before we left on this incredibly important drug interdiction mission, all three sensors operators, one of the pilots, and our navigator, went behind the hangar and smoked a chunk of hash the size of your head. Your tax dollars at work.

Regardless, that dark night in bad weather with systems down and the plane glowing, the triangle got very real.
posted by timsteil at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


For a real-world, everyday example of bubbles and buoyancy, I give you Olympic training centers for freestyle skiing.

What, you say?

Freestyle skiers train by jumping into pools, so they can safely practice flips without fear of breaking their necks on a jump gone wrong. The pools are aerated with hojillions of air bubbles to further cushion the landing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:56 AM on August 8, 2010


Really? Methane beats water displacement like rock beats scissors? Really?

Methane beats Bernoulli's principle? Really.

Doesn't sound possible. I'd say, from my armchair, that maybe giant methane bubbles suffocate ship crews and MAYBE tropical weather downs ships and planes, but it's just an area of high activity for centuries and planes and boats are going to go down...
posted by CarlRossi at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't 'beating Bernoulli's principle' at all. That's a weird interpretation.

Whether or not it is true (methane caused the ships to sink) the concept doesn't break any fundamental physical laws at all. It says that (however it happens) the methane bubble is created. As it rises, it will (obviously) decrease the density of the volume of water that contains it. If the bubble is big enough (or volume of methane in smaller bubbles, if that is the case) in a large enough area of water (ie of comparable size to the ship) the density of the water is low enough that it can't support the ship any more.

The result of a large bubble of gas in a large enough area of water causing the ship to sink is basic physics. Whether or not it is realistic or common enough a phenomenon is (to me) the issue, not whether the prescribed situation would cause the boast to sink or not.
posted by Brockles at 11:18 AM on August 8, 2010


CarlRossi: "Really? Methane beats water displacement like rock beats scissors? Really?"

Ever notice that ships don't sail in the sky? Same thing, but mixed with some water, but not enough.
posted by pwnguin at 11:35 AM on August 8, 2010




the bernudatriangle tag needs some clothes.
posted by warbaby at 11:56 AM on August 8, 2010


Giant Earth Farts Everywhere! All is explained! Titanic, Flight 19, Amelia Earhart, Deepwater Horizon, Apollo 13, Andrea Doria, Professors, Honour Students, George W. Bush! Earth is farting in our general direction! What a relief!
posted by drogien at 12:53 PM on August 8, 2010


We can't prove that God didn't put the fossils there to test our faith, likewise with space aliens and methane bubbles.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:13 PM on August 8, 2010


If a ship is located at the point the bubble hits the surface, it will displace the water underneath the boat until it is thin enough that the bubble is directly under the boat. There is then nothing under the boat except methane until the lower radius of the bubble. Hence, the ship has no water to support it and it falls.

Which is how modern torpedos work. Instead of blasting at the hull of the target, blast all the water out from under it. Much more effective.

I'm not sure how the bubble is supposed to take out a plane, though. The aerodynamics that make a plane fly (which is mostly NOT the bernoulli effect, by the way, but that's not important here) would still work whether the plane was flying through air, methane, nitrogen, or freon. Wouldn't it? The density difference shouldn't be that big a deal in the amount of time it takes a plane to fly through, even if it were miles across. I guess that taking in methane to a high-compression turbojet compressor might not work out so well, but historically, this effect is supposed to have happened to piston-engined aircraft as well.

Now, if you could take out a plane with a gas bubble, I have an idea for an anti-aircraft torpedo to get those pesky dipped-sonar helos.
posted by ctmf at 1:42 PM on August 8, 2010


Drawerings to support ctmf's claim. From the Federation of American Scientists.

I dunno, though, I'm still having trouble crediting it. I'm with CarlRossi and charlie don't surf, this just doesn't seem right in my head. The torpedoes there are creating a rapidly expanding steam bubble, and that makes some sense because of the kinetic energy involved, but a static volume methane bubble moving to the surface just wouldn't behave this way.

Hm. But, maybe, because of the pressure involved, that static-volume methane bubble wouldn't be staying the same volume, anyway. PV = nRT, so if a large amount of methane *were* rising to the surface, it likely *would* expand under the boat in a way similar to the schematic of the torpedo's steam bubble.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 2:04 PM on August 8, 2010


Whether or not the ship will sink depends on its position relative to the bubble. If it is far enough from the bubble, it is safe, they say. If it is exactly above the bubble, it also is safe - the danger position is between the bubble's middle point and the edge of the mound where the trough formed.

"When we started playing around with the model, we saw lots of interesting features at the surface that hadn't been discussed in the literature," May told ABC Science Online.

"I thought the bubble would rise up, burst and create a cavity that the ship would fall into and it wouldn't sink. But instead, you got an elevation of water - a sphere of water that the boat would slide off. But when the bubble burst, you got this high velocity jet of fluid spurting down into the water, pushing the boat under with it."
from a news story from 2003 previously linked.

The only mention of airplanes is a quote from the honors student that looks like a reporter speculating and getting the student to go along. Airplanes don't seem to be part of the research at all. And the speculation is so vague that the danger to the airplane might be from the water thrown up into the air as opposed to a non-existent buoyancy effect. Unless were talking about Zeppelins, but they said airplanes so bringing up Zeppelins is just some sort of red herring.
posted by warbaby at 3:43 PM on August 8, 2010


The only thing this demonstrates is that the editors of the American journal of physics are really hard up for some drama in their rag. I guess they're kinda like the tmz of science.

It seems kinda ludicrous to say that a natural phenomenon exists but hasn't been witnessed even if thousands of people all around the world have felt its effects.

Oh, i didn't see the methane explosion because i was too busy staring at the gps/compass going crazy.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:05 PM on August 8, 2010


A large enough methane release could essentially suffocate an airplane's engines if it reduced the available oxygen sufficiently. All the plane's engine's fail at once, plane loses altitude quickly, splash.

A large bubble could also snuff out not only a ship's engines, but the ship's crew as well.

But I agree - if this were the predominant mechanism in the Bermuda Triangle (assuming there is a mysteriously high rate of loss), then there would be some near-misses.

Would such a bubble be odorless, or would there be hydrogen sulfide or other natural odorants in it?
posted by etherist at 4:09 PM on August 8, 2010


To verify this theory I'm going to need one container ship, 500 million liters of diet coke, 1000 tons of mentos, and a rain coat.
posted by ryanrs at 4:27 PM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


So they're saying the Bermuda Triangle ought to be renamed the Bermuda Butthole?
posted by bwg at 5:11 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The wikipedia page on the Bermuda Triangle suggests that there is actually nothing unusual about the number of ships and aircraft going missing in the area.

I don't know ... on one side, we have an honor student. On the other we have Wikipedia.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:20 PM on August 8, 2010


The paper stands.

I trust Arsenio Hall because he had a talk show, and getting into an honors program takes some work. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is edited by groups of obsessive control freaks whom I do not know.

I have to go with the students and Arsenio Hall.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:26 PM on August 8, 2010


"I swear I watched a TV show a couple years back where they did scale model tests to see if that would happen. Mythbusters, maybe? Something."

I know I saw a television show on this very thing a few years ago. Although I cannot recall all of the things they tried, I do clearly recall that the truth-seeking documentarians set up a radial aircraft engine with a valve that allowed them to precisely blend methane into the intake air system. The engine promptly failed when the percentage of methane was in the suprisingly low single digits.
posted by bz at 6:16 PM on August 8, 2010


All the plane's engine's fail at once, plane loses altitude quickly, splash.

Except that, as mentioned, the methane wouldn't affect the plane glide ratio at all. There should be plenty of time to restart at least some of the engines unless the plane was either already in trouble, or too near the ground to recover anyway. It doesn't make sense that it causes an issue for a plane at a sensible altitude.
posted by Brockles at 6:29 PM on August 8, 2010


As scruss alludes to, it's likely that they actually meant an honours student. In this bit of the world, an honours year is an additional year added to a traditional three-year undergraduate degree which is usually (in my experience) based around a small research project and minor thesis. The article in the OP's link seems to be missing now, but a bit of straight-forward research on a topic of interest to the student and professor is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect a student to do for their honours year. Honours programs tend to be selective, but not that hard to get into, and I'm not sure that whatever implications are applied to an "honour" student should be applied here (I say this without having any idea of what those implications are, having no clue as to what constitutes an "honour" student).

It's more accurate to read it as being a final-year undergraduate project supervised by a professor that they managed to clean up and get accepted to a journal.
posted by damonism at 8:14 PM on August 8, 2010


Here is the paper about explosive bubble formation that I was referring to earlier, but didn't have the time to find: Dynamics of CO2-driven lake eruptions. Nature 379, 57 - 59 . It appears that an ascending bubble accelerates and expands as water pressure decreases, and the low pressure beneath the bubble triggers a positive feedback that allows for the release of more gas bubbles.

Although this paper was written about gas bubbles released from a 600m deep lake, one can only imagine the size and force at the surface of multiple gas bubbles released from the sea floor near Bermuda, which is something like 3000m. Even if the bubble wasn't large enough to break a ship, it's plausible that it could cause it to list or rock until it sank.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:20 PM on August 8, 2010


Wow. "It was just gas." Seriously, that's the explanation. Same thing as explaining a baby smile? What a cheat!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:04 PM on August 9, 2010


Also referred to as a Gas Lift, nothing new, I too have seen video demonstrations of the effect on ships.

As already mentioned upthread, I've also heard about the statistical insignificance of the losses in the area in question.

So, thumbs-up to the reasoning, thumbs-down for the necessity of such.
posted by Sportbilly at 7:51 PM on August 10, 2010


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