Blimp vs. Submarine

submarine, blimp, Eyewire, citizen science, Zach Herman, competition

Ah… the dirigible and the submersible. There’s no better way to feel like you’re in a Jules Verne novel than to take a trip on a vehicle either designed to float through the clouds with hot air or designed to cruise through some of the ocean’s darkest depths. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see more of both? But since it’s VS week on Eyewire, it’s time to pick your favorite of the two and play for its glory (and of course for some sweet bonuses). Which will you choose? The competition starts at 11 AM EDT on 9/26 and goes for 24 hours!

Your teams:


  • Technically, the blimp is just one kind of dirigible or airship: it relies entirely on the pressure of gas to keep its shape, unlike a rigid design such as the Zeppelin. The term blimp has actually been used since the First World War!
  • The first powered and steerable airship was a steam-powered design invented by Henri Giffard in 1852.
  • Contrary to popular myth, helium was an available and favored gas at the time of the notorious Hindenburg disaster; hydrogen was just cheaper and happened to be chosen for that vessel. The lesson here is: don’t cut corners!


  • Ever wonder why a German U-boat is called that? The German word for a submarine is Unterseeboot: under-sea boat!
  • The world’s first confirmed functional submersible vessel was the Turtle… built in 1775! The inventor, David Bushnell, created it for use during the American Revolutionary War.
  • Most contemporary submarines can stay submerged for months without running out of breathable air; they generate oxygen through water electrolysis, and remove CO2 with scrubbers. Both processes are similar to what humans use in outer space, such as on the International Space Station.

For science!

Artwork by Zach Herman