Ken Kamrin seeks fundamental behaviors in sand

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 23:30 in Physics & Chemistry

A rather imposing hourglass is one of the first things people notice in Ken Kamrin’s office. The beautiful timepiece, a gift from Kamrin’s wife, has decorated the space since his first day as a faculty member in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Kamrin will occasionally use the hourglass for its intended purpose — “I have my usual joke: It tells us when our meeting is over,” Kamrin cracks. But more often than not, it’s the perfect prop to demonstrate the peculiarities of his favorite subject, granular material. “If you look at sand in an hourglass, the top looks like a solid bed, whereas the middle is flowing like a liquid,” Kamrin says. “You also have this stream that’s essentially a gas before it hits the floor and goes back to being a solid. All of this makes grains extremely messy and hard to predict.” Nevertheless, Kamrin, who recently was granted tenure, has dedicated...

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