Scientific American: The Physics of the Great Molasses Flood

On January 15, 1919—an unusually warm winter day in Boston—patrolman Frank McManus picked up a call box on Commercial Street, contacted his precinct station and began his daily report. Moments later he heard a sound like machine guns and an awful grating. He turned to see a five-story-high metal tank split open, releasing a massive wall of dark amber fluid. Temporarily stunned, McManus turned back to the call box. “Send all available rescue vehicles and personnel immediately,” he yelled, “there’s a wave of molasses coming down Commercial Street!”

Scientific American examines the physics of the 1919 Great Molasses Flood in the North End. The scientists explain why the non-Newtonian fluid wave can be more devastating than a tsunami (and why swimming in it is impossible). In total, twenty-one people were killed with over 150 injured.  Read the full Scientific American article.

Via the Boston Globe

See our collection of newspaper articles and photos from the Boston Public Library collection.