Machine Design

Backtalk - 05/05/2008

Metal detectives investigate Titanic sinking

In "What Really Sank the Titanic," metallurgist Timothy Foecke and materials scientist Jennifer Hooper McCarty recount their investigation into what brought about the loss of the world's most advanced ocean liner, as well as 1,500 passengers and crew - the deck-plate rivet.

Foecke, a metallurgist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cast a new and intriguing light on the sinking of the RMS Titanic when he published a preliminary low-key "interagency report."

While it was obvious that several factors played a part in the disaster, Foecke stated in his report that the critical failure may have been the use of brittle, substandard wrought iron rivets to hold the giant ship's hull plates together. (See "Failure of Tiny Rivets May Have Sunk 'Unsinkable' Liner,"; NIST Update, Feb. 17, 1998; The shock of the collision with the iceberg would have popped off the heads of a large numbers of rivets, letting the hull plates open up like a zipper to let in seawater.

The authors looked at forensics, history, and vignettes on the working conditions of Irish shipyard workers in 1912 and the business pressures on the White Star Line, the ship's owners. They also employed the science and techniques of a modern metallurgy lab, to determine just what caused the ill-fated ship's demise. Go to for more information. MD



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Happy 90th
To commemorate its 90th anniversary in the U.S., as well as its 30th in the U.K., and 5th in Mexico, Lee Spring is sponsoring a "Better Springs Build a Better World" contest. Customers are invited to submit products that have improved our world in some way.

Submitted products must contain at least one Lee Spring part. The contest runs through June 30th. Five prizes will be awarded: Grand Prize is a weekend for two in New York City plus $900 in spending money; Second Prize is $900; and three Third Prizes of $90 will be awarded. For entry information and complete contest rules, go to or contact Helene Herman, [email protected]

Founded in 1918 in Brooklyn, N.Y, Lee Spring manufactures stock and custom wire springs. The company expanded this year when it opened the Lee Spring China Shanghai Sales.

Blog bytes
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Leslie Gordon - From Shop Floor to Software

* An end to blogging burnout: Perhaps some of you dedicated readers have noticed that I took a long break. Chalk it up to a rather bad case of blogging burnout. Don't get me wrong - usually, I love blogging. You can write less formally, outside of normal strict editorial guidelines. And blogging gives you a way to discuss cool stuff that can't fit into print publications. A few new things though, now make me want to start again:

First, it's likely I am soon to visit China. So look for future items that will be live from the floor of the China International Medical Equipment Fair, Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Centre, April 18 21, 2008.

And second: Machine Design now has a presence in Second Life. Those of you who read this blog know that I am fascinated with virtual realities such as this. We envision our little plot as an educational area, one in which you can come and meet the editors, watch a video on some aspect of technology, or even mingle with like-minded folk. So also look for more items on virtual reality. My name in Second Life is Pez Balut. Here is the address for those already members of the site: 179.7.145.

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