Science News

Getting To The Bottom of The Quick Sand Question

Sun, 2nd Oct 2005

Part of the show Science of Lasers, Light, Kung Fu and Archimedes

What is quick sand, how does it work, and are you likely to sink into it without trace ? Moreover,
what's the best way to escape if you do find yourself stuck? Writing in this week's edition of the journal Nature, these were the questions bothering Dutch researcher Daniel Bonn when he recently wandered around some Iranian quicksand pits which, local legend has it, have been known to swallow camels from time to time, and for that matter anyone who cared to disagree with the local regime. To solve the riddle he recreated some Iranian quicksand in his lab and used the resulting model to figure out how
quicksand works, and that it's actually impossible to drown in it (as long as you don't do something stupid), indeed you should only sink to waist depth. But don't try to pull a stuck person out - because the force needed to extricate just a stuck foot is similar to that needed to move a medium sized car, so you might inadvertently pull the person apart ! Instead, the best way to escape is to turn the stuck body part in small circles to resuspend the sand particles in water, withdrawing gently as you do so.


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