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The Science Behind: Quicksand

I'm almost positive that there was one moment in our lives where we wished the ground would swallow us up. Well, the grass or marble floor plan below your feet may not do that, but quicksand will! In adventure movies, there has to be at least one scene where there's the danger of quicksand (*cough cough* Indiana Jones *cough cough*). But how does quicksand have the ability to gobble us up?

What quicksand really is:

Everything is made up of molecules. Your phone is, your desk is, even you are! So now, let's think about quicksand. Its name is "quicksand" and not just "sand". So, it has to be very different from plain sand. The molecules that make it up HAVE to be different from normal sand, right? I mean, how else can it suck up a person? Well...this statement isn't wrong, but it isn't exactly right either. Allow me to explain.

The molecules making up quicksand are the same as molecules making up normal sand. It's just that quicksand has been into contact SO MUCH with water that the friction between the molecules of it is much less than the friction between the molecules of normal sand. No what does this mean? It means that quicksand can't hold as much weight as the sand we see in deserts. Honestly, quicksand resembles the result of a toddler squishing sand and water together aggressively. If there was an absolute excessive amount of water, sand on the beach could become quicksand.

Facts or False?:

Many people think that if you step in quicksand, it will immediately suck you down. But, in reality, stepping in quicksand won't drown you. However, moving in it will. If you ever find yourself stuck in it, don't thrash around. Slowly move up. If you move too fast, you'll travel deeper down. They don't say slow and steady for nothing!

But, how?: does quicksand manage to suck us down? Kevin Bonsor from science. mentions that "When the water trapped in the batch of sand can't escape, it creates liquefied soil that can no longer support the weight." It like stepping in water. You can't expect to stay afloat in it by merely standing straight. Because it defies gravity, flowing underground water can cause quicksand. Earthquakes can cause an increase in the pressure of groundwater which eventually agitates the sand above it.

Vibration from the earthquake plus the liquid from the water can incite a significant change in the spacing of the sand molecules. Instead of staying stuck together like the molecules of a solid, they become a bit more spaced out, acting like liquids. So remember the water example I mentioned previously. You can't expect to float in water by standing upright. Since the quicksand becomes more liquid-like, it's the same concept.

You that I think about much time in movies and TV shows could be cut out if the characters just knew how to escape from quicksand! Well, this just proves that Hollywood can be way too Hollywood! As long as you follow proper instructions for getting out of the quicksand and not going full-on YOLO with it, you'll be just fine!

I hope you enjoyed the article and are able to rethink quicksand a bit!




Cover: Aakash Thaker

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