Question: What's 40-feet-long, 8-feet-wide and 3-feet high? Answer: Bucknell's newest geology tool — a re-circulating, tilting sediment flume.

It's so big it takes up an entire room in the O'Leary Psychology and Geology Center, a room called, appropriately, the Flume Room. And if you're thinking amusement park ride, think again.

This is a custom-designed scientific device built specifically for Bucknell. The sediment transport flume will help Department of Geology students and faculty "better understand sedimentary and geomorphological processes and allow the modeling and study of large natural river systems," said Craig Kochel, a professor of geology.

Two 25-horsepower drywell mounted engines can funnel up to 4,000 gallons of water a minute down the flume, which is filled with 3 to 15 tons of hand-shoveled sediment of various grain-sizes and consistency, for a variety of realistic sediment experiments. This versatile flume also permits modifications for modeling groundwater flow (sapping), has a massive rainfall system mounted on the ceiling, can be run on variable slopes up to 4 percent, and will soon have a carriage-mounted laser mapping system, making it one of the largest and most sophisticated flumes in Pennsylvania. A live webcam will allow researchers to view experiments remotely.