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quidity (1296)

quidity
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http://the.earth.li/~alex/
Jabber: quidity@jabber.earth.li

A relapsing reformed physicist.

Journal of quidity (1296)

Thursday August 07, 2003
05:38 PM

Equations on the Horizon

[ #13980 ]

There was a fairly interesting Horizon programme on this evening, about freak ocean waves. The old theories about the sea held that massive waves should be incredibly rare events (the height distribution had an exponential tail) but it seems that they're not, as ships keep sinking for no good reason, and gnarly sea dogs keep seeing them here and there as well. Anyway, turns out the science wasn't quite right and they ought to have been using a different model for waves, which had a bigger tail and allowed these monsters to rove the oceans and wreak havoc.

I'm annoyed with Horizon, though, as every time they talked about the equations governing what was happening, they'd illustrate this by panning a camera over a page of equations really quickly, and at a high zoom. Now, for most people, I'm fairly sure this wouldn't have been much of a problem... there just aren't that many physicists in England. But for me, and the few that might have half a hope of understanding, and so getting more out of the programme, this was highly frustrating.

Oh, and these big waves sink ships because they're about five times more powerful than the ships were designed to cope with. So now we know, that's all ok. Just make sure you have your lifejacket on next time you get hit by one.

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