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Big Picture Science

With­out sand, engi­neer­ing would be stuck in the Mid­dle Ages. Wood­en hous­es would line mud-packed streets, and Sil­i­con Val­ley would be, well, just a val­ley. Sand is the build­ing mate­r­i­al of mod­ern cities, and we use more of this resource than any oth­er except water and air. Now we’re run­ning out of it. 

Hear why the Roman recipe for mak­ing con­crete was lost until the 19th cen­tu­ry, and about the super-secret mine in North Car­oli­na that makes your smart­phone possible. 

Plus, engi­neered sand turns stormwa­ter into drink­ing water, and why you might think twice about run­ning bare­foot on some trop­i­cal beach­es once you learn about their bio­log­i­cal source.

And, a spe­cial report from the coast of Louisiana where liveli­hoods and ecosys­tems depend on the suc­cess­ful release of Mis­sis­sip­pi sand from lev­ees into sed­i­ment-starved wetlands.

You can check out the Louisiana Cen­ter for Riv­er Stud­ies here, the Coastal Pro­tec­tion and Restora­tion Author­i­ty here, and an excel­lent map of the Mis­sis­sip­pi here.