Watch a Former NASA Engineer Turn Sand Into Liquid—Then Take a Dip

iStock
iStock

NASA engineer-turned-YouTube host Mark Rober is known for regularly conducting zany science experiments in his own backyard and filming the results. More than a year after he went swimming in a sea of Orbeez, Rober's latest stunt features him taking a dip in a hot tub filled with liquid sand.

But wait: Wouldn't bathing in liquid sand be akin to taking a really grainy mud bath (albeit with great exfoliation potential)? Rober isn't technically wetting down the granular material, as he explains in the video below—he's making the sand sift, blow, and bubble using nothing but a nitrogen tank and some PVC pipe.

“If you take a tub of sand ... and then add air in just the right way, it basically becomes a liquefied soup,” Rober explains of the seemingly magical process. “In science this is known as a fluidized bed," or a bed of small, solid particles that are suspended and galvanized by an upward flow of gas.

The upwards-blowing air is equal to the downward force of gravity. This causes the sand to hover in equilibrium, and allows the grains to slide around like water. The top surface of the mix "is nearly frictionless," Rober says. "It's like an air hockey table. And then when you cut off the air, it freezes everything exactly where it's at," prompting the tub's ingredients to transform back into ordinary, heavy sand.

[h/t Twisted Sifter]

The Museum of Illusions Boggles the Mind

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The new Museum of Illusions in New York City explores optical illusions with an interactive twist. Visitors can test their perception and even participate in the exhibits.

The Truth Behind Italy's Abandoned 'Ghost Mansion'

YouTube/Atlas Obscura
YouTube/Atlas Obscura

The forests east of Lake Como, Italy, are home to a foreboding ruin. Some call it the Casa Delle Streghe (House of Witches), or the Red House, after the patches of rust-colored paint that still coat parts of the exterior. Its most common nickname, however, is the Ghost Mansion.

Since its construction in the 1850s, the mansion—officially known as the Villa De Vecchi—has reportedly been the site of a string of tragedies, including the murder of the family of the Italian count who built it, as well as the count's suicide. It's also said that everyone's favorite occultist, Aleister Crowley, visited in the 1920s, leading to a succession of satanic rituals and orgies. By the 1960s, the mansion was abandoned, and since then both nature and vandals have helped the house fall into dangerous decay. The only permanent residents are said to be a small army of ghosts, who especially love to play the mansion's piano at night—even though it's long since been smashed to bits.

The intrepid explorers of Atlas Obscura recently visited the mansion and interviewed Giuseppe Negri, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were gardeners there. See what he thinks of the legends, and the reality behind the mansion, in the video below.

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