2750       Registered: 15-Feb-01      Last updated: 15-Feb-01      Posted to email: 15-Feb-01

Factoid Update

"The right side of a boat was called the starboard side due to the fact that the astronavigators used to stand out on the plank (which was on the right side) to get an unobstructed view of the stars. The left side was called the port side because that was the side you put in on at the port. This was so that they didn't knock off the starboard!"

Actually the right side was the side that had a plank stuck into the water to steer by. The plank was called the steer-board, pronounced in those days before vowel-shifts "starboard". the other side had a fixed plank shoved in to stop you going sideways. Going sideways downwind is known as making leeway and such a board is called a "leeboard" to this day. In those days it was a "larboard" and the two sides were called "starboard" and "larboard".

Later they found they made better ships by putting the rudder at the back and the keel or centreplate in the middle. Old pictures (e.g. viking ships) clearly show steering by using a plank down the side.

These names were too similar and caused confusion, so they thought up a new name for the left side and came up with "port" - a bit like the military saying "niner" instead of "nine" and the germans saying "swo" instead of "swei". I don't know why they chose "port" over any other word that doesn't sound like "starboard".

I believe the story about the stars is complete hokum. The best place to look at the stars from is the middle of the ship, which goes up and down less than the extremities.

"Jupiter's core is in fact made of a non-metal, but due to the immense pressure inside Jupiter the core has become a metal. This metal is hydrogen."

This is correct. Metallic hydrogen has been made in the lab using a diamond anvil cell to create the enormous pressure needed. Incidentally, liquid carbon has also been made in such a cell, in this case by accident. It's what you get when you heat diamond too much at enormous pressure. Considering how expensive diamonds are (and for an anvil cell they have to be gem quality) you can take it that this is not what the experimenter was trying to do!