The study of archaeology has long been carried out using tools from the physics lab. Among these are carbon-14 dating, thermoluminescence dating, x-ray photography, x-ray fluorescence elemental analysis, CAT and MRI scanning, ground-penetrating sonar and radar, and many others. What is less well known is that archaeology has also made substantial contributions to physics. This is the story of old lead; why it is important to physics, and what ethical problems it presents to both sciences.
When was the last time you heard about a sea turtle getting stuck in a shipwreck? Never, that's when. Although that's partly because stuck turtles rarely make the news, it's also due to the fact that they're relatively small and highly maneuverable. With that in mind, the European Union-funded ARROWS project has created U-CAT – a prototype robotic sunken-ship-exploring sea turtle.
When ships sink, as well as the loss of property (and very possibly life), there’s the danger of environmental damage. An oil tanker breaking up is a disaster, but even a cargo ship going down can mean oil leaking from fuel bunkers. Double Inverted Funnel for Intervention on Shipwrecks (DIFIS) is an EU project coordinated by Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) that uses a passive system to catch oil as it leaks out of a wreck on the ocean floor.
On April 14, 1912, the luxury liner RMS Titanic
, just four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, struck an iceberg and sank with the loss of 1,514 lives. At the time, the massive, state-of-the-art ship was the largest vessel afloat and considered by many to be "virtually unsinkable." Built in Belfast, Northern Ireland by shipbuilding firm Harland and Wolff for the White Star Line at the then-astronomical cost of US$7.5 million (US$171 million in 2012 dollars), the ill-fated Titanic
has been a source of pathos and fascination for nearly a century. To bring the remarkable ship's story to countless more future generations (and presumably give the local economy a shot in the arm) the government of Northern Ireland, the Belfast City Council and numerous private groups have pooled resources and created Titanic Belfast, a futuristic, US$160 million, nine-gallery museum - the world's largest exclusively dedicated to the ship and its only voyage. The facility finally opened late last month – just in time for the centennial of the tragedy coming up in a few days.
Ocean exploration has always been salted with the allure of sunken treasure, and with precious metal prices hitting new records and new technologies allowing access to deeper sites, that Siren's call has never been greater. Recently, a team of Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME) technicians and archeologists announced finding not one, but two British shipwrecks off Ireland, the SS Gairsoppa
and the SS Mantola
. Only 100 miles and a World War apart, the two hulks rusting away in the deep Atlantic collectively contain what could prove to be millions of ounces of silver.