Monday, January 28, 2013

Listening to a nagging gut feeling

We all know the feeling where you hear/see someone convey something, and you know that deep down what you're being informed of doesn't sit well with you.  This feeling happened the other week when CityNews was putting out hyperbole about the Costa Concordia accident being like a "Modern Day Titanic". 

The communication in question is this:

Now, I'm not going to talk about why crashing into land in the Med and having a 0.75% fatality rate is (in my mind) nowhere close to the Titanic disaster, as I've already covered that.  

What I am going to say though is the statement "It's only due to modern tech that so many survived" is what didn't sit well with me.  

I'm no naval architect, granted, but has anyone taken a look at a modern cruise liner?  

First up, everyone should understand the principles of "centre of gravity".  If you understand that, can you explain where below the waterline (and how big) the centre of gravity is in this?

Assuming this is 15-20 stories high, ask anyone to estimate how deep the foundations would be on a building with that many floors to stop it blowing over in the wind.  Now look again at that photo.

Secondly, given how top heavy this looks, try to estimate how stable that would be if it hit land like the Costa Concordia did? Blowing over an upright pencil comes to my mind.

The third and final problem that comes to mind is this:  Modern cruise ships are electronically monitored and operated.  Where's the electrical generators in a ship like this?  They're in the hull below what waterline there is, so likely this is the first thing to fail when a ship runs aground.

EDIT:  I just discovered that this third point is precisely what happened to the Costa Concordia when water flooded it's generators, meaning it lost all ability to manoeuvre itself.   

To me, the original statement above would appear counter-intuitive.  Someone needs to prove to me that we're building ships that are hotels, instead of designing a hotel and what looks like "wrapping a ship around it", because to me, the "modern tech" appears less safe than old tech.