Experiments

The Hindenburg Disaster

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Hindenburg Mystery"
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Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: After analyzing fragments of the Hindenburg's hull, retired NASA scientist Addison Bain concluded that the German zeppelin didn't burst into flames because of the hydrogen gas in its tank. Rather, Bain blamed the blimp's metal-based, waterproof paint - called "dope" - for the fiery aviation failure that killed 36 passengers on May 6, 1937.

To set the historical record straight, MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage built a pair of model Hindenburgs just to burn them right down to the ground. Each scale model was coated in the dope, which contains thermite, a combination of aluminum powder, iron oxide and a couple of explosive ingredients the MythBusters are keeping under wraps. They then filled one mini-Hindenburg with air and pumped the other full of flammable hydrogen.

Bain suspected that the paint's thermite sparked the flare-up, so if the hydrogen-filled blimp burned at the same rate as the air-filled one, he'd be right. But his theory was incinerated when the hydrogen-filled blimp blazed twice as quickly as the air-filled one.

Although the metallic paint may have contributed to the disaster, the busted myth revealed that the hydrogen did all the heavy lifting.

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