Grant and the Oobleck

What do quicksand, liquid body armor and silly putty have in common? They are all a particular type of non-Newtonian fluid know as dilatants, also called shear thickening fluids. With common Newtonian fluids, temperature is the only factor affecting viscosity. This is a flow property you’re likely familiar with if you’ve ever warmed up thick maple syrup to drizzle over pancakes. The viscosities of non-Newtonian fluids, on the other hand, are dependent also on shear stress or time, resulting in the categories of shear thickening, shear thinning, time thickening and time thinning, along with a couple more variations.

Grant Crilly in the kitchen mixed up a batch of oobleck (cornstarch and water) the other day. Being a shear thickening fluid, the material was runny, and you could easily run your hand through a vat of the stuff as long as you moved slowly. However, a quick jolt will turn the oobleck into a near solid, bringing the mixing hand to a stop. Stress or agitation increases the viscosity. If this stress is applied in a uniform manner, under certain frequencies, otherworldly behavior results. For our demonstration, a subwoofer hooked up to a frequency generator did the trick.

music by niteffect

YouTube goodness:
Running on a pool of oobleck
Creeping oobleck
More dancing oobleck

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2 Comments

  1. Drew Myklegard
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I know that the Modernist Cuisine has taken a ton of time and effort. But if you guys are taking requests for another book project, my vote is to write a group of science textbooks. I enjoy your website as much as anything out there. Please keep posting.

  2. Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Good answers in return of this matter with real arguments and describing all regarding that.

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