3.2.5 The Titanic and the Moon

The sinking of the Titanic. Engraving by Willy Stöwer, 1912.

The sinking of the British Titanic steamship in 1912 claimed the lives of over 1,500 passengers, and deeply shook the world’s confidence in the invincibility of human technology. Over a century later, scholars are still debating the details that led to the steamship’s tragic destruction.


In 2012, a debate emerged over whether a rare lunar phase may have contributed to the sinking of the “unsinkable” ship. Read both short articles and reflect on the following guided questions about this exchange, which highlights how scientific reasoning works in practice when applied to a historical event.


Read: Did the Moon Contribute to the Sinking of the Titanic? // NASA

Guided Questions:

  1. What hypothesis do the Texas State University researchers propose?
  2. Is this proposition falsifiable? What information would allow you to test their hypothesis?

Read: No, the Moon Did Not Sink the Titanic // The Atlantic

Guided Questions:

  1. Does Wallace believe the lunar cycle theory is correct?
  2. How does Wallace test whether the lunar cycle theory explains, by and large, the known facts about the Titanic’s sinking due to icebergs in the North Atlantic?
  3. Which theory is more convincing to you? Is other data needed to test the lunar cycle theory?


Photo: “Engraving by Willy Stöwer: Der Untergang der Titanic,” Titanic sinking (1912). Magazine Die Gartenlaube. Wikimedia user Canoe1967. Public domain.