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article imageGummy bears as underwater crush test dummies

By Lynn Curwin     Nov 7, 2011 in Science
Gummy bears were one of the items chosen to take part in underwater crush tests, but filming was halted when the "crush cam" ended up being crushed.
University of Washington researchers studying huge underwater waves in the South Pacific near Samoa planned to use gummy bears for a segment of “Will it crush?”
"The pressure at the bottom of the sea is over 500 times what it is at the surface," wrote Matthew Alford, the oceanographer who led the expedition, on an online blog. "Even getting the camera and lighting to survive these massive pressures takes planning."
He added that he felt filming things being crushed was an "intuitive and fun way to get people more involved with ocean research and some of its challenges - as well as to learn about the ocean."
The pressure of the water proved to be too much for the camera.
"There must have been a flaw in the glass housing around the video camera because it broke under pressure during one of its trips to the seafloor," states a message on the University of Washington website. "There won’t be more filming with that particular setup."
Alford said that one of the Crush Cam glass spheres imploded as it passed 3800 m.
"The incredibly pressurized water instantly pushed inwards to compress the air to more than 1/380 of its volume - and the air recoiled to create a violent shock wave. Immediately, the implosion triggered the other sphere to implode. Up on the surface, all that we knew is that all of the data streams went dead. We feared the worst," he wrote on his blog.
"We anxiously waited over an hour while we hauled the instrument back up. A scene of destruction awaited us when we got the instrument back on board. Quite literally, two bombs went off right in the middle of all of our instruments."
Although technicians were able to do some repairs and they were able to resume some of their work, they were not able to do all that they had hoped.
Alford added that he had not properly considered the damage that the spheres could do if they imploded, and should have known better.
"For now, I’m pushing on with my tail between my legs and thanking the seas for not taking more - which they could have and surely will again," he wrote.
The Wave Chasers website states that the waves which are thousands of metres down can be a large as 300 metres, and travel all the way across oceans before breaking just like surface waves. They can cause submarines to hit the bottom or breach the surface, and the heat they move around can affect the climate.
The University of Washington has also used gummy bears in an entirely different way. Scientists are the university developed a version of the treats with Xylitol, a sugar substitute which fights cavities, to help protect children's teeth.
More about gmmy bears, Underwater, Crush, University of Washington
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