With the hundredth anniversary of the maiden voyage, and subsequent sinking, of the RMS Titanic (covering April 14th-April 15th, 2012) fast approaching, you probably expect someone in the world of 2012 to implicate global warming.

Donald Olson, a physics professor at Texas State University, has a more interesting idea. Along with fellow TSU member Russell Doescher and Roger Sinnott they lay out the hypothesis in Sky&Telescope that the Moon was involved. And the Sun too.

Olson previously solved the "strange huge meteor-procession" described in Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass , the puzzle behind Edvard Munch's "Starry Night"and said the star in Shakespeare's Hamlet was likely the supernova of 1572 so he clearly has the most fun job in physics - forensic astronomy, taking pop culture events and seeing if they were grounded in fact. 
Hamlet star
SCIENCE! Credit: Texas State University

They say April is only part of the story. On January 4th, 1912, the sun and the moon lined up and their combined gravity led to a cycle of higher and lower tides - a common occurrence known as the spring tides.  This was different, they contend, because they believe the Moon was also at its closest point in 1,400 years and the day before that the Earth made its annual closest approach to the Sun.

Get it???  It's a huge confluence of fun events that will make Doomsday "Supermoon caused the Fukushima reactor thing in Japan" jump for joy. 

Link: Texas State University. Graphic: Sky&Telescope

You need to suspend belief just a little but if you can accept that this slightly higher gravitational pull caused extra icebergs to break off from Greenland, you can accept that resulted in one hitting the Titanic.  But such an iceberg couldn't have swum against the prevailing current so Olson and company suggest that the iceberg may instead have been grounded and a higher tide due to extra gravity jolted it loose for its rendezvous with James Cameron destiny.

The Titanic after the Moon got all up in its business.  Image:CORBIS. Link: TIME

The problem is obviously that we have no way to know where a particular iceberg from 1912 was three months before it sank that boat.  It's still fun to speculate about. Forensic astronomy is a pretty cool job.

More reading:

The iceberg’s accomplice: Did the moon sink the Titanic? by Jayme Blaschke, Texas State University News Service

Did the Moon Help Sink the Titanic? A New Theory Says Yes By Michael D. Lemonick, TIME