Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hindenburg as Self

Or ‘Bad’ Hydrogen

[ This was written some time ago.]

History and myth: How do they come to be and how can they be investigated and possibly changed? Is not history fixed? Like 2+ 2? My purpose in these few words is not to answer these questions but simply to ask you to think about how all passage of time, when codified, is history. I ask you to consider that our personal history is subject to the same forces as the history of the Hindenburg and that rewriting  history, when we find it to be in error, is essentially the same process.

A persistent, and obviously great investigator, Addison Bain, came to have the doubt that hydrogen caused the Hindenburg disaster. If you remember form your school days the Hindenburg was a dirigible that had made several voyages across the Atlantic as a passenger ship. The Nazis ruled Germany but WWII was not yet underway.

We have all seen the footage where the Hindenburg is gently coming in to moor at its mast when suddenly it bursts into flames. Nearly all died. The investigation implicated hydrogen, a highly flammable gas. I certainly have always thought this to be the case but Addison Bain doubted this. He set out to find the truth. I will share some detail as I wish to build a feeling of investigation and of how the truth, once lost, is hard to find.

There where some 97 eyewitnesses to the tragedy, 95 on one side and only two on the other side of the craft, all on the ground. What the 95 saw correlated and was used to bolster the hydrogen theory while the two other accounts where totally discounted, yet they saw where the fire really stated. Many things where not right.

  1. Hydrogen cannot be seen in the daylight while burning as it burns straight up and has a fine blue hue to it. The accident occured in daylight

  2. Through the use of computers and colorization it became clear that the fire was bright orange and red, not the flame of hydrogen. But, your ask, were not the ship materials burning and do they not produce an orange flame?.

  3. Yes, but now another problem the ship burned in all of 84 seconds! Why!

  4. Even if the hydrogen was the problem why did it ignite?

  5. He first showed, with an elaborate model, that if the hydrogen did burn first it would have been seen at a different place. The spark would have come from electric static from thunderstorms that had just past through. The mooring ropes however should have grounded the ship.

    His theory turned to the covering of the ship. He reasoned that the substance they used to coat the Hindenburg might have been made with a good conductor of electricity. He noted also that the panels where laced to the frame with rope, a poor conductor.

    If the panels where good conductors he reasoned that a high amount of electricity built up on the panels. The charge would discharge where it could. The charge would jump the gap to the next panel and cause a spark. That spark would ignite the cloth. Why? Well it turned out the panels where a good conductor of electricity. The cloth was treated with aluminum and iron for very specific engineering reasons. Both materials are very good conductors of electricity. He reasoned that under such conditions such a spark would cause the fire. 

    Two things then happened to help prove his theory. He first came upon some samples of the Hindenburg. He took a very small piece and exposed it to a small static charge. The material burst into flame. Note this is a piece of material now 60 years old. Finally he found a report in German archives that was generated at the time of the accident that used the very same theory. For insurance reasons and the reputation of the Third Riech this theory was not considered.
    The result of all this was that blimps and dirigibles where not used and hydrogen became ‘bad’. Based on this erroneous idea a lifetime has passed and suffered for it. Society has been deprived of this very efficient mode of transport and hydrogen damned.

    What is my point? How is this possibly related to the human psychic? The point is that we are like the hydrogen when we are small. We can be given the idea, believe the idea, that we are bad and waste a life time in that prison. Our friend was the therapist for hydrogen and has liberated it from its past, at least partially as perceptions die hard. Our image of ourselves also die hard.

    Good history is agonizingly hard. What is the truth? However good history is not impossible and is even more possible now with the application of such science. Our lives are similarly available for scrutiny. It seems that a modicum of truth is known about how we operate so that we may more objectively be able to look back on our own lives and separate the true and the false. 

    We may often find that we have lived with a sense of  poor self worth and shame that are based on a lie, a lie perpetrated by many people in our lives including ourselves. Understanding how hurt is transformed into myth is the key to finding the true explanations of our lives so we can burn, anew, like hydrogen with a clean translucent flame.

    A discussion of these ideas can be found at Affect and Script Theory.

  6. Brian Lynch,M.D.

    Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness
     NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

    Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self
    by Donald L. Nathanson
    Paperback (March 1994)
    W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090


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