Phenomena

Underwater Explosions

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As dangerous as explosions are in air, they are even more destructive in water. Because air is a compressible fluid, some part of an explosion’s energy is directed into air compression. Water, on the other hand, is incompressible, which makes it an excellent conductor of shock waves. In the video above we see some simple underwater explosions using water bottles filled with dry ice or liquid nitrogen. The explosions pulsate after detonation due to the interplay between the expanding gases and the surrounding water. When the gases expand too quickly, the water pressure is able to compress the gases back down. When the water pushes too far, the gases re-expand and the cycle repeats until the explosion’s energy is expended. This pulsating change in pressure is part of what makes underwater explosions so dangerous, especially to humans. Note in the video how the balloons ripple and distort due to the changing pressure. Those same changes in pressure can cause major internal damage to people. (Video credit: The Backyard Scientist; submitted by logicalamaze)

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