Physics KS3/GCSE: Can I escape from quicksand?

Greg Foot investigates quicksand and discovers why it's so dangerous.

Practical experiments show that quicksand is a non-Newtonian fluid that can behave as both a solid and a liquid.

The reasons why quicksand can be so difficult to escape from are explored, looking at the forces involved in trying to escape.

The scientist then explains that it is impossible to drown in quicksand because when the person is submerged to waist level, they float.

The greatest danger lies in being drowned by the sea when the tide comes in. Finally a method that can be used to escape from quicksand is described and explained.

Teacher Notes

Students could use this short film when discussing solids and liquids and changes of state, which could lead them onto performing experiments on the changes of state of water from ice to liquid water to vapour.

When discussing forces students could use bathroom scales calibrated in Newtons to see how much force they can exert, and then compare that to the forces needed to escape from quicksand.

The clip is also useful when discussing density, floating, sinking and Archimedes. Students could measure volume, mass and changes in density when floating as well as investigate the use of the ‘Plimsoll line’ on ships.

This would also be useful when learning about famous scientists and their work, like Archimedes and Plimsoll, as well as learning about the relationships between energy, pressure, forces and power.

Curriculum Notes

These short films will be relevant for teaching physics and chemistry at both KS3 and KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4/5 in Scotland.

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