Copyright ©2011 by Paul Niquette. All rights reserved.
he film An Inconvenient Truth had quite a lot to say about polar ice, drawing attention to the distinction between the frozen ocean afloat in the Arctic and the massive ice sheets covering 98% of the land area in Antarctica. Both are melting, but the latter has the greater potential for raising the sea level. A simple parlor puzzle can confirm that...
Fill a glass with ice cubes and enough water to bring the level to the brim and ask, "Will the table stay dry?" The floating ice will actually be seen above the brim.
Published by permission of the artist.
metaphor can be too perfect. Case in point: "Only the tip of the iceberg." It is difficult to invent a more succinct alternative to it which expresses the concept of the issue is more difficult than it appears. So that's what we say without thinking -- certainly without thinking about...
That moonless night of 14 April 1912 when the mighty RMS Titanic with 2,223 souls on board collided 37 seconds after the sighting of a particular iceberg and the fateful announcement by lookouts, "Iceberg right ahead!"There can be no doubt that what makes "Only the tip of the iceberg" work so well as a metaphor is the universal knowledge of a singular property of frozen water: It floats on water.
Everybody also knows that water is that most abundant substance on the planet, which covers nearly 71% of the surface and constitutes up to 78% of our bodies.No wonder that water has been appropriated as a scientific standard. For example, in characterizing density, scientists use the expression specific gravity (SG), which is the ratio of the mass of a given body's volume to the mass of a reference body having an equal volume. The reference body is -- well, water. Accordingly, it is kind of ironic to study the SG of water itself, as shown in this little graph...
...in which solvers are invited to make the following observations about the SG of water:
Our Tip of the Ice Cube puzzle is offered here in the form of a simple thought experiment that pertains to the theoretical ability of a lookout on board a vessel to see the tip of the iceberg far enough away to avoid collision with it
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