While not exactly what David asked for but on the topic  of animating multiple 
objects with acceptable speed:


The original poster asked for "sand" particles that should have some sort of 
collision detection and should react to a mouseDown to either attract the 
objects or pushes them away.

It uses _one_ polygon graphic and sets individual points of that graphic 
(separated by an empty line). The points are just x,y coordinates and markers 
make the visual objects of the moving parts.

It manages to animate quite some number of objects depending on the size of the 
markers and some other features that are optional (dropshadow, ounteglow, 
markers filled and antialiasing)

The stack is completely useless but perfect for a rainy day at home. 
Depending on the complexity of the marker graphic it manages to animate 
smoothly (frame rate 18 and up)  from 150 to 1500 (small) objects (you can 
change appearance while the objects are moving.

Kind regards
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