Issue 12 - January 2005
Computational mathematics student David May and supervisor, Professor Joseph Monaghan of Monash University in Melbourne, have come up with a theory which might explain mysteriously sinking ships -methane bubbles from the sea floor.
After previous experiments proved that plumes of bubbles can sink ships, May and Monaghan took these ideas further by simulating the event with a numerical computer model that was able to predict whether a toy ship would sink under different conditions.
The researchers say a recent survey has revealed the presence of a sunken vessel within the centre of one particularly large eruption site, now known as the Witches Hole, suspected to be the victim of a bubble.
No one has seen such an eruption in real life, and no one knows how large the bubbles coming off a methane deposit would be or what configuration they would be in. However as soon as bubbles are characterised, measurements can be collected and plugged into the computer model to assess the potential risk to ships passing by.
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