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ecuscino | Created: 30 Oct 2023 | Updated: 30 Oct 2023
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soil mechanics

[LECTURE NOW RECORDING – Virtual Learning Technician transcript notes italicized]

Presentation introduced by Professor Skully

Listen up you ne’er-do-wells and misfits! I’m keeping track of who’s paying attention to our guest lecture tonight, and my perception of your attention will impact your grade! To those of you who are daydreaming about the discounted Beetle Juice at the Boneyard Bar later – ghoulish things come to those who wait, so please be patient. Many of us have endured centuries hoping a speaker this scary might tarnish our classroom with his monstrous presence, and it is now our unearthly duty to show respect!

Please, let’s all give a big hand – or paw, claw, or any other appendage – for our guest of supreme dishonor, Dr. Edward the Eerily Enlarged Earthworm!

Guest Presenter Dr. Edward wriggles up to the podium

Good evening and happy almost-Halloween to all of you rapscallions, rogues, werewolves, and toads! It’s my absolute pleasure to be here with you on this night of frights as I present my award-winning traveling lecture, Spooky Soil Mechanics: A More Ghoul-omb Approach. The data you will see tonight has been gathered over many years of my adventures consuming and digesting soils from graveyards, haunted house foundations, and underneath various Departments of Motor Vehicles.

I developed this lecture in response to the questions that seemed to plague me wherever I went as a geotechnical engineer who is also a hideously large earthworm:  do the soils at spooky locations have significantly different properties? Can I taste the difference? And what’s more – can I quantify such unique properties into a novel material model that will account for spooky soil behavior? The answers to these questions, in short, are: “Yes”; “Absolutely”; and “If I couldn’t, I suppose I wouldn’t be an underworld-renowned geotechnical engineer with a doctoral thesis on the Fear Strength of Soils!”

So let’s start with the freaky foundation of Spooky Soil Mechanics. As you all certainly know, I was the first engineer to publish a peer-reviewed journal article on those soil particles that are even smaller than clay and now frequently find themselves stirred into a witch’s brew for their potency. I am referring, of course, to the Ghost Grains I discovered underneath Macabre Mountain during the excavation for Wolfman’s Man Cave.

You will recall the following unique qualities of Ghost Grains:

  • They are extremely negatively charged. They don’t just repel each other; they are thoroughly repulsive. And frankly, they taste awful.
  • Unless you are a spectral entity, you cannot see Ghost Grains with the naked eye. They must therefore be identified through sense of smell (you will note a whiff of fire, a hint of brimstone) or the sound heard when they are struck by the SPT hammer (wailing, howling, and the vocal stylings of Tom Waits).
  • To be properly sampled, Ghost Grains must be vacuumed from an open borehole or test pit into an ectoplasmic chamber rated at least 4.7 on the S.C.R.E.A.M. Scale (an acronym for the key reminder, “Soils Can Really Enclose A Monster”).

Now for this next portion of the lecture, I’d like to do a hands-on presentation with one of you wretched beasts from the crowd! So I’ll need a volunteer who actually has hands! How about the bridge troll from the second row whose hand is flailing wildly – yes you! Come on up as we attempt to determine the index properties of a lump of Ghost Grains I sampled from Stonehenge.

The troll student joins Dr. Edward up at the demonstration table, where Dr. Edward directs the troll to open the sample chamber. The troll is immediately possessed by Ghost Grains.

Now that our sample has found a host, we can ask the soil directly about its properties. If you’d be so kind to tell us your unit weight, moisture content, and Atterberg Limits.

The ghostly soil, using the troll as its mouthpiece, informs the classroom:

“This monstrosity weighs about 190 pcf – he’s a big eater! His moisture content is ‘very full’ because he’s been drinking Diet Graveyard Mists all class, and we could tell you his plastic limit, but I don’t think he’d be returning to in situ conditions afterwards…”

Dr. Edward hurries to engage the suction switch on the ectoplasmic chamber, pressing the button with his prostomium and returning the Ghost Grains to their inert state.

And that concludes this demonstration! I always seem to forget what a corporeal Atterberg Limit test would entail… Anyway, as you all observed, Ghost Grains have no truly innate properties of their own. They typically latch onto silts, sands, and clays as they wait to be released upwards through excavation or construction activities. The current theory of their origin posits that Ghost Grains are generated in the bowels of the underworld, possibly expelled in the steam from malevolent magma bubbles. The jury is, however, still out on this.

But let’s proceed to our next topic of discussion: Fear Strength testing! Just how measurably terrifying can these Ghost Grains be? The range is often given as 1,500 to 4,500 p.s.f. (paranormally scary factors) for un-brained fear strength, but we can really push the limits with my custom triaxial test.

Dr. Edward gestures his setae over to three rusted axes and a jar of sand arranged on the demonstration table.

I will require three of you monsters to wield these enchanted axes for me so we can start the test! As long as I pour out the jar of seriously sullen sand at precisely the right time while releasing the Ghost Grains, they will possess the sand and you can start whacking at it with your weapons! Here… we… go!

Dr. Edward struggles to press the switch on the sample chamber while simultaneously handling the jar of sand at the other end of his body. He squirms and nudges until it cracks and falls open, but his timing is off by a fraction of a second and the Ghost Grains fly wildly through the classroom upon their release. Goblins, skeletons, and werewolves begin a frantic game of tug-of-war with the axes while gnomes, imps, and fairies wreak miniature havoc on the classroom’s geologic displays. Shards of shale and lumps of conglomerate are tossed around the room. Professor Skully is unable to restore order among his students.

Well, I would be lying if I said this wasn’t entirely predictable and hasn’t happened on several prior occasions, but ‘tis the hazard of engaging with supernatural soils! Unfortunately it seems like we won’t have time to cover linear-elastic-interdimensional behavior models this year, but there’s always next October! I will leave behind a haunted vacuum for your use, Professor Skully, and I suggest you may want to work quickly! These Ghost Grains have a keen sense of fright or flight!