is a retired NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...
scientist and founding member of the National Hydrogen Association who is credited with postulating the Incendiary-Paint Theory
(IPT), which posits that the Hindenburg disaster
The Hindenburg disaster took place on Thursday, May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, which is located adjacent to the borough of Lakehurst, New Jersey...
was caused by the electrical ignition of lacquer- and metal-based paints used on the outer hull of the airship. Thus Bain believes that the hydrogen in the airship had no part to play in the initiation of the disaster. This theory, which was proposed in 1997 and recently updated in his 2004 book, The Freedom Element: Living with Hydrogen
, has been generally accepted by people interested in promoting hydrogen as a transportation fuel, and generally rejected by people involved with airships and their history.
Bain attended Flathead High School
Flathead High School is an American public secondary school located in Kalispell, Montana. The school has been international baccalaureate certified since 2004. It is one of two high schools in School District #5...
, received his Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...
in Space Technology from Florida Institute of Technology
Florida Institute of Technology, also known as Florida Tech, is an independent private technical research university located in Melbourne, Florida, United States. Founded in 1958 as Brevard Engineering College, the institute has been known by its present name since 1966. Florida Tech's curriculum...
(FIT), his Master of Science
A Master of Science is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is typically studied for in the sciences including the social sciences.-Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay:...
in Systems Management from FIT, and his Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...
in Engineering Management from CCU
CCU may refer to:* Camera control unit, for a video camera* Compañía de Cervecerías Unidas, a Chilean drinks and beer company* Confederation of Canadian Unions, a labour union central in Canada...
The primary refutation is based on the work of A. J. Dessler, D. E. Overs, and W. H. Appleby. Their work, both theoretical and experimental, has concluded that even if the airship were covered with solid rocket fuel, as the Incendiary-Paint Theory claims, it would still have taken 12 hours for the airship to burn had hydrogen not been present. It is worth noting that this refutation misses the point of the theory, which relates only to what started the fire, not how it continued.
The case for the Incendiary-Paint Theory is explained in Bain's televised demonstration of the extreme flammability of a piece of the actual skin of the Hindenburg
preserved from the disaster. Bain demonstrates the incendiary properties of the Hindenburg
skin and then asks why the bits of skin ejected from the inferno continued to burn brightly on their way down instead of self-extinguishing once removed from the zone of densest hydrogen. This question of "self-extinguishing" is important, since his critics point out that the components of the doping compound used on the skin should put themselves out if removed from any fuel for fire, and should not have burned so quickly if the fire actually started with the skin instead of the hydrogen.
Critics also counter that Bain did not actually ignite the skin with a quick electrical charge but instead uses a Jacob's Ladder with continuous
electrical charge, which required several strikes to ignite. Additionally, Bain was required to correctly position the fabric to allow it to ignite. Another part of the IPT hypothesizes that the mooring cables, which were designed to ground any static electricity on the surface of the airship, worked only partly in this instance; since some of the skin panels still carried an electric charge, at least one of them must have sparked, causing the initial outbreak of fire. Thus it has yet to be proven that an electrical charge could ignite the Hindenburg
skin. The design of the ship would likely exclude the skin being an ignition point due to the properties of the doping process, the insulation from the frame and skin of the grounding drop-lines, and the inability of any experiment to ignite the skin via electric spark
An electric spark is a type of electrostatic discharge that occurs when an electric field creates an ionized electrically conductive channel in air producing a brief emission of light and sound. A spark is formed when the electric field strength exceeds the dielectric field strength of air...
consistent with the conditions of the 1937 disaster.
The television show Mythbusters
MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program created and produced by Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is screened by numerous international broadcasters, including Discovery Channel Australia, Discovery Channel Latin America, Discovery Channel Canada, Quest...
also dedicated the opening episode for their 2007 season to Bain's theory. Scale models of the Hindenburg
were built and tested with skin reproductions. One model had no hydrogen while the other did. The only burn that replicated the Hindenburg
burn used hydrogen.