September 29, 2005

Eight parts sand to one part water = "Maximum angle of stability of a wet granular pile."

Scientists discover the right proportion for making a sandcastle.


vbspurs said...

Eight parts sand to one part water = "Maximum angle of stability of a wet granular pile."

Your tax dollars at work, ladies and germs.

This study and those that follow on this subject might have implications for those preparing for or recovering from a watery disaster like a hurricane

I loved how this physicist, Arshad Kudrolli, injected a little post-Katrina relevance to what is basically a lot of scientists playing with mud pies.

(What, the Tower of Pisa can't be helped by their findings?)

But then, I've already mentioned elsewhere in this blog that I am anti-sandcastle.


APF said...

It seems like there are actually practical/useful applications that can follow from this study. Still, it reminded me of this:

[To] mark the 100th anniversary of Orwell's birth, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has decided to look at his 11-point formula [for perfect tea making] - and rubbish a good many of his supposedly "golden" rules.

Dr Andrew Stapley, a chemical engineer at Loughborough University, has brought the weight of his scientific knowledge (and shameless personal preferences) to bear on the question of the perfect cuppa, and found that Orwell was wrong on a number of points [...]

Wade_Garrett said...

This is the kind of research I hope to do if I ever drop out of law school and become a scientist.

What might this physicist's next projext be? To engineer the world's most powerful water gun? I'm sure that there could be enormous advancements made to the silly-string industry if this guy applied himself to it.

Wade_Garrett said...
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Menlo Bob said...

This would be a case of scientists using design intelligence rather than merely allowing sand castles to evolve.

bearing said...


This is the kind of research I hope to do if I ever drop out of law school and become a scientist.

Believe me, this is not as fun as it sounds. This is alarmingly close to most of the work I did for my PhD thesis. My husband and I will both vouch for the fact that it was NO FUN AT ALL.

As to your point about it being sort of frivolous, the applications of liquid bridges causing spherical particles to adhere to one another are many. My research, for example, was in latex film formation. Understanding the fundamentals of this phenomenon is also important in many chemical engineering operations, including filtration, drying of particulates, transport of slurries and powders, food processing, and even enhanced oil recovery.

SippicanCottage said...
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bearing said...

All seriousness aside, this piece is the perfect example of the "Wacky Story," one of the three types of science articles that make it into the mainstream newspaper.

The other two are the "Scare Story" and the "Breakthrough Story."

This is according to Ben Goldacre, the writer of the Guardian's "Bad Science" column, in a piece here. It's a good piece.

I usually give the researchers the benefit of the doubt until I've read the actual journal article. Anything that comes off weird on CNN or in the NYT is most likely bad reporting.

bearing said...

Incidentally, I went looking for the original article, and discovered that the journal --- Nature Physics --- is brand new. So new, it's not even out yet. The debut issue is slated to be October 2005.

Wonder if they're trying to drum up some publicity.

Douglas said...

It's referred to as the angle of repose, and it's been around in construction since the first person piled mud on top of sand. Also, the title of the of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction.