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"Flip", the vertical ship, marks 50 years at sea (bbc.co.uk)
254 points by ColinWright on July 3, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments





More video how it flips (with some history)

http://youtu.be/bM6jFokRoZk?t=3m52s


My Dad was director of the Marine Physics Lab at Scripts for a while. In addition to Flip, their 'Golden Orb' was interesting: like a donut that was open to the ocean in the middle to provide a flat calm patch of ocean. A funny coincidence was that I consulted there for a short while as a weekend gig in the late 1970s (many years before my Dad was there).


Do you remember the official name of the "Golden Orb" or have links related to it? I'm very curious to find out more, but a bit of googling around hasn't turned anything up.


I will try to find some pictures. I owned a sailboat in San Diego Bay for 20 years, and I must have lots of pictures with the ORB. I'll ask my Dad what the official name was.


My Dad thought the name was just "Orb"


Awesome stuff. This 4 minute video gives a little more information than the BBC news one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQxQfQU_hsk


So many of the great innovations and experiments happened in the sixties. Feels like we have lost ambition


We haven't lost the ambition, it's just that the funding processes have become highly politicized, and once we beat the Godless Communists to the Moon, the politicians felt that we didn't need to do any more research.


That second one has a huge effect. We need to find a way to motivate scientific progress that doesn't involve war.


We've already found it, it's call capitalism.


Yes, but that assumes intelligent investors willing and capable of analyzing for long term profits. Research science often incurs short (or even long) term loss for an eventual extreme gain. There will be many failures and lots of money spent before that point. It's like a startup, but less clear of a plan for monetization and even longer time to product. Capitalism tends not to support this.


"Cancer Research" and "Energy Crisis" seem to be pretty good sources of funding these days. A lot of labs have small projects/applications in these two fields since it often greatly helps them get funding.


I disagree. Today is amazing in many of the same ways that the 50s and 60s were.

In your pocket you have a device that can connect to a wider network of interconnected devices. Some of those contain hundreds of Libraries of information that is freely available to anybody who wants to know. You can ask a question and experts from around the world can answer. These devices, which used to cost millions of dollars, are now affordable to nearly everybody. This magical web connects billions of people across the world instantaneously.

With all of this information available, we can learn to build cars that drive themselves, or personal fusion reactors, or a "simple" website that connects you to people over a wide geographic area, or get news as it happens from around the world.

The last part struck me after talking to my grandfather about how news spread in his era. He was in the printing business for magazines like Sunset and Time. He said that it was nearly unheard of to get iconic pictures from the source to print any faster than a week. A WEEK! Now we can see what is going on around the world AS IT HAPPENS!

Think about it. When was the last time you personally had to buy a compiler? The last one I bought was Visual C++ 6.0. You can get the tools and the knowledge for building a successful business and career for free. That alone boggles my mind! Fifty years ago you needed a college education and a fat stack of cash to work on the very things we do for pleasure now.

I mean right now I am making an argument with somebody I never met from a coffee shop in California. Doing a little homework (aka, clicking his username) shows me a company he founded that lets customers talk directly to businesses. HOW COOL IS THAT?

A whole generation is growing up that will never know the concept of information scarcity. That in and of itself is mindblowing.


In the 60s they solved problems with mechanical solutions. We use electronics nowadays, but not as showy.

And heck, if you showed those quad copter videos to someone from the 60's, they would flip out.


A ship that flips 90 degrees vs a multibillion dollar atom smasher.

I don't think we have lost that ambition.


Is there a specific reason why this ship is vertical? Or just because we can?


The farther down you go, the more calm the water is.

The boat basically becomes it's own anchor, anchoring itself in the calm water under the surface.


No... the reason it is stable is because a) the waterplane area is small compared to the overall mass of the vessel; and b) the natural frequency of the vessel is far removed from the forcing frequency (wave frequency).

Think of it this way: The vessel in perfectly calm water will sit at a particular level. Now a wave comes, and briefly the force acting on the ship is "proportional" to the buoyancy volume, ie height of the wave and the area of water that the hull intersects. Nothing can be done about the wave height, but the waterplane area can be reduced, minimising the force. The price you pay for that is a low payload.

Now if the vessel had a natural frequency of bobbing up and down close to the frequency of the waves, a resonance could occur which would amplify the motions. But the natural frequency of such a structure is by design very low, many times lower than the wave frequency, so resonance does not occur.

Other structures which operate on the same principle are semi-submersible drilling/production vessels (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-submersible) and "spar" type oil production platforms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spar_(platform)). The need to support a heavy payload on these structures makes the design quite challenging, as a good compromise must be found between hull cost, payload and low motions.

Interestingly, another type of oil platform, the tension-leg platform, takes the opposite approach of having a very stiff anchoring system and a high natural frequency to achieve the same effect of low vertical motion in heavy seas.

(I am an engineer in the oil and gas industry with many years of deepwater development experience).


FLIP is designed to study wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and for the collection of meteorological data. Because of the potential interference with the acoustic instruments, FLIP has no engines or other means of propulsion. It must be towed to open water, where it drifts freely or is anchored. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RP_FLIP


Vertical ship like that is quite stable due to immunity to surface waves. Make sure to read background info links provided by jeroen, interesting stuff.


Additionally it has a very low centre of gravity, further increasing stability.


It becomes a spar buoy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spar_buoy


I remember being a kid and seeing this ship on one of the quadrillion PBS shows I watched religiously. It struck me as both totally insane and completely awesome (regardless of its purpose, the idea of what it did was just cool to an 7-10 year old, on principle). Oddly, its still cool.


I would bet it was built to listen for passing Soviet subs more than any scientific research


There are much, much better ways of doing that than a surface ship that makes creaks, engine noises, crew sounds, waves hitting the hull, etc.


"FLIP has no engines or other means of propulsion. It must be towed to open water, where it drifts freely or is anchored. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RP_FLIP


It likely has a diesel generator for electrical power, though. Either way, it has nothing on the alternatives for detecting subs.


Marine Physics Lab was part of Scripts Institute of Oceanography - scientists there from around the world - doesn't seem like the kind of place where classified work would be done.


> doesn't seem like the kind of place where classified work would be done.

They get a lot of money from the Office of Naval Research, and some of the projects are certainly classified. I dont know for sure, but it's quite possible that FLIP was used at some point for studies of acoustics, which were paid for by people fundamentally interested in finding submarines.


We already have a way to do this with hydrophones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOSUS


Had to check the date (April 1st??) before believing in this. Cool stuff.





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