Magazine article Oceanus

Workers Reveal Historical Formulas Sealed Behind a Wall

Magazine article Oceanus

Workers Reveal Historical Formulas Sealed Behind a Wall

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Twenty-two years ago, workers renovating a WHOI conference room decided that two chalkboards covered in mathematical formulas looked too interesting to throw away. In a corner of one board, they added a few notes, then sealed the boards behind a new wall.

The formulas provide the theoretical underpinnings of a significant advance in the performance of a type of sonar that has become a staple of oceanographic research: the broadband acoustic Doppler current profiler, or ADCR The instrument, which measures water velocity and direction over a range of depths, is widely used by scientists worldwide to measure currents and surface waves and is routinely deployed on ships, moorings, and seafloor installations.

On May 6--exactly 22 years to the day after they were covered up--the long-forgotten boards were found by construction workers renovating the same conference room. The ADCP's success made the rediscovery of the long-hidden formulas akin to finding an original recipe or music recording. They propped the chalkboards in the lobby of the Smith Building, where they caught Gene Terray's attention.

"I took a look and said, 'Gee, that looks familiar,' " said Terray, a researcher in the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering. …

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