As hydrogen is in the news these days as a potential ‘alternative’ fuel, heavily promoted by climate obsessives and others, this look back in history is vaguely topical and offers a fresh technical analysis based on experiments.
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On the evening of May 6, 1937, the largest aircraft ever built by mankind, a towering example of technological prowess, slipped through the stormy skies of New Jersey and prepared to land, says TechXplore.
The airship Hindenburg was nearing the end of a three-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from Frankfurt, Germany. It was a spectacle and a news event.
Onlookers and news crews gathered to watch the 800-foot-long behemoth touch down.
And then, in one horrifying half minute, it was all over. Flames erupted from the airship’s skin, fed by the flammable hydrogen gas that kept it aloft, and consumed the entire structure, ending 36 lives.
The ship, already famous before its demise, was seared into the world’s memory. The disaster, despite happening nearly a hundred years ago, has remained one of the iconic tragedies of the 20th century, alongside other accidents that captured the public imagination, like the sinking of the Titanic, the Challenger explosion, and the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.
Perhaps one reason why the Hindenburg’s final, fiery moments have remained such a source of fascination is the enduring mystery surrounding them. For the past eight decades, people have speculated about how the airship could have been completely devoured by flames in less than a minute.
Now, NOVA, the popular PBS science television show, is taking a new look at the disaster. Its producers tapped Caltech’s Konstantinos Giapis, professor of chemical engineering, to help them recreate the ship’s last moments and unravel its secrets.
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