Building with Sand

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Sand and water make a remarkable team when it comes to building. But the substrate – the surface you build on – makes a big difference as well. Take a syringe of wet sand and drip it onto a waterproof surface (bottom right), and you’ll get a wet heap that flows like a viscous liquid. Drop the same wet sand onto a surface covered in dry sand (bottom left), and the drops pile up into a tower. Watch the sand drop tower closely, and you’ll see how new drops first glisten with moisture and then lose their shine. The excess water in each drop is being drawn downward and into the surrounding sand through capillary action. This lets the sand grains settle against one another instead of sliding past, giving the sand pile the strength to hold its weight upright. (Video and image credit: amàco et al.)

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