Scientists using Rice Krispies to study icequakes

Date:20 January 2020 Author: Leila Stein

Rice Krispies are a beloved breakfast cereal, but now scientists in Sydney are using its snap, crackle and pop to study Antarctic icequakes.

Since it’s difficult to replicate the conditions needed to study these quakes on a large scale, researchers Itai Einav and François Guillard from the University of Sydney have found they can use Rice Krispies as a smaller scale substitute.

According to Atlas Obsura, they had previously used dry Rice Krispies to model dry snow and rock crumbling under pressure but now have added milk to observe the same collapse events which involve water. These kinds of collapses happen slowly over time as a result of ice being exposed to liquid and high pressure.

In other research using Rice Krispies, it was found that when milk enters the puffed rice, it fills the porous krispie and “pops” it with pressure pushing from the inside.

To replicate this, the researchers pour the cereal into a vertical tube on top of a granular filter, they apply constant pressure from the top and add milk from the bottom of the cereal to collapse.

These “ricequakes” happen in a kind of chain reaction. The first Rice Krispies hit the milk and degrades, the liquid then can rise upwards and weakens the next cereal layer which causes another collapse and so the chain reaction happens.

As a result, the researchers have managed to form an equation to explain why this happens. This equation and model can be used for many practical uses but one of the interesting natural phenomena is the tidal icequakes which happen in Antarctica.

“There are about two daily, each with a magnitude of 7.0, but they’ve slowed down over the years,” said Einav. “People have explained this in many other ways, many of them likely correct, but they look a lot like the ricequake phenomenon.”

Image: Pixabay

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