Writing Center
Fall 2004 Edition

Scientific Mud

Harmony Hesley
Expressive 2010 Runner-up

After registering for the 2010 English class, it became apparent to me that I did not know English as well as I thought. I would think that with thirteen years of English, I would be able to comprehend the title “Science and Values.” After the first day in class, I screamed to myself, “I’m doomed!” Science and I mix as well as oil and water. I have been studying construction management, and it seems science rarely comes up. If science does appear in class, it is easy enough that I can understand it. After putting more thought into it, I have found that science is and always has been in every part of my life. By no means is science as I use it complicated. The science applied in my daily life is simple. Unknowingly, I have been using scientific methodology to learn important lessons in my life. For example, I know water and dirt make mud when combined, or so I thought mud turned out to be quite complicated. What I thought was simple fun, turned out to be a complex experiment.

Over the years, I have conducted various experiments with mud without knowing I was using scientific methodology. As a teenager, I spent many summer months working in my Grandma’s garden. Grandma planted corn, squash, soybeans, and other vegetables in what was to become my own little experiment in agricultural engineering. I wanted to reduce the time it took to weed that garden. It seemed that every possible type of weed known and unknown to humanity grew in that garden. In the sweltering heat, I would go out into the garden, pick a row, and pull every weed. I noticed that sometimes the weeds would practically slide out of the ground. Others would break at the dirt. The ones that broke at the surface made the process twice as long, because I had to dig deeper into the ground to remove the root completely. After working a couple summers, I finally determined two reasons why some weeds came out easier than others did. Reason One: Weeds have one of two different kinds of roots, a single main root that grows straight, or roots that branch out and spread wild. Reason Two: The amount of water in the ground was the primary factor for the root coming out easily or not. After watering, it was much easier to pull the weeds. Taking advantage of this enormous discovery, I would always weed the garden right after watering. After a few more trials, I realized that water was not the only factor. Another factor was how much water was in the ground. In order to get the perfect mud consistency for pulling the weeds, I needed to either use as much was as possible, or barely enough. Too much water resulted in a puddle. If I did not use enough water, then the sun’s heat would quickly evaporate it.

Mud has to be just right in order to pull weeds. Not only does mud have to be the right consistency it also has to be just right for many other activities.

At one time or another, almost everybody has participated in a raucous “mud fight.” I have had a few mud fights myself, and from experimenting with mud, I know that too wet of mud is like throwing soup. If it is too dry, it breaks and falls apart in my hand. Mud of the proper wetness is ideal when I can press it into a shape of a ball. If it keeps the ball shape, long enough that I can throw it at my sister, it is a good consistency. And if it sticks onto the back of her shirt, it is a perfect consistency. Through my sister’s sacrifice, I discovered how much I use science in daily life.

A couple months ago, it rained quite hard, and I decided it was a perfect opportunity to go “mudding.” Mudding consists of taking a four-wheel drive vehicle and bulldozing through large mud puddles. Few activities are more exciting than looking out of a clear window for the purpose of watching Southern Utah red mud splashing all over the car. In my experiences, I have discovered mud needs to be the ideal consistency to be enjoyable.

For example, one day I was particularly daring and experimental so I took my 1987 Land Cruiser out after it had rained. Driving on a slick road for some time, I came upon a large pond-sized puddle. It should have been obvious that a puddle large enough to look as big as a lake should not be driven through, but I succumbed to peer pressure and soon found myself stuck in the wrong kind of mud. It was sticky enough that it enveloped my tires.

Rocking back and forth, I finally gave up. I sat for a moment in the seat clutching the steering wheel. I contemplated the consistency of the mud and realized that obviously there was too much water. It did not occur to me from my previous experiments I should have know this was going to happen. There was too much water and not enough dirt. I had just driven into mud soup! Realizing the mistake, I was quite upset with myself. I thought I knew mud well, but I obviously did not. Luckily, two girls, who were also experimenting with the mud in a dune buggy and an enormous diesel truck, witnessed it all. They noticed my big problem, analyzed the situation for a while, then pulled their vehicle over. She then got out, waded to my Land Cruiser and tied a rope to the front bumper. Then she went back to the truck started the engine. The truck gave its best effort but the rope did not. The only movement was the sudden snap of her rope. Not only did we have a broken rope, but now we had two short ropes, which meant she would have to move her car closer to mine, moving her even closer to the extremely wet, deep mud. Again, she tied the rope, doubling it, and pulled. We still did not move. We actually moved a step back in the process. The diesel’s wheels were now spinning and throwing too wet mud everywhere. “Too much water,” I thought again, sighing. “Something like mud is simple, why did it have so many complicating factors?”

Suddenly, I remembered my rope in the back of my car, pulled it out, rolled up my pant legs, and jumped into the depths of the mud. When finally hitting the bottom of the water, I realized what a fool I was. I was standing in a couple feet of water plus at least 6 inches of mud. You would think this was the end of my “experiment,” but it was not. This was not ideal for my mudding escapade. Luckily, my rope was much longer than hers, allowing her dune buggy to be in shallower mud. After a couple tugs and pulls, she finally was able to pull my Land Cruiser free. Wasting no time, I geared up the Cruiser and headed towards the road.

I started driving out only to find myself sliding down the side of the hill. From afar, the mud looked solid, but looks can be deceiving. Once again, I hit too mud that was too wet, but this time instead of my driving through it, it was doing the driving for me. The next few seconds were terrifying! Gravity also wanted to be part of the experiment. Fortunately, gravity released its hold just in time and my car came to a stop. I was able to drive safely out to the road, while silently vowing never to go in a puddle unless I walked through them first.

Now some might not think of my experiences with mud as science. I gathered empirical data through scientific experimentation, used trial and error, and found that mud should be the right consistency to bring happy results. I also learned that wide mud tires distribute the weight more efficiently. I never thought that mud would have had so many complicated factors. Too much and too little of water played a big part. My simple experiences with mud were fun, and sometimes frightening. However, they were all scientific.