Sandy Splashes

A ball falls into sand, creating a splash and tall rebounding jet

Sand and other granular materials can be strikingly fluid-like. Here the impact of a solid sphere on sand generates a splash remarkably similar to what’s seen with water. When the ball hits, it creates a crater in the surface and sends up a bowl-like spray of sand. As the ball continues falling through the sand, the grains try to fill the empty space left behind. The walls of sand collapsing around the void meet somewhere between the surface and the depth of the ball. This generates the tall jet we observe, as well as a second one under the surface that we can’t see. We know that collapse traps an air bubble under the surface because of the eruption that occurs as the jet falls. That’s the air bubble reaching the surface. (Image credit: T. Nguyen et al., source; see also R. Mikkelsen et al.)

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