Sunday, September 30, 2012

What is quicksand and how do we escape it?

Quicksand is not a particular type of sand per se; rather, quicksand is ordinary sand mixed with water. When enough water gets trapped in sand (i.e. suspended and unable to flow), it reduces the friction between sand particles such that the sand can no longer support weight. In the right conditions, this mixture of sand and water forms what we know to be quicksand. Quicksand usually forms when a certain underground source of water rises into a bed of sand.

Escaping quicksand is counterintuitive. The typical reaction of a person who has stepped (or fallen) into quicksand is to panic and struggle to get out. Such thrashing only causes the person to sink faster because, as mentioned before, water is preventing the usual friction between sand particles. There are a few key things a person should do to escape quicksand. First, they must remain calm so as to avoid hastening their sinking. Second, they should increase their surface area by spreading their arms and legs out. Next, they should lay on their back and stay still, allowing them to float to the surface. Since humans are less dense than quicksand (the mixture of sand and water), they should float to the surface. If the floating strategy fails, then the the next step is to make slow movements and attempt to climb to the surface.

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