Do Try This at Home: Oobleck!

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It’s been a fun week.

My nieces are visiting.  It’s the first time I have had any young relatives alone without their parents and it’s great!  So much better than my sisters!  Having five kids instead of three, even though they are all behaving really well, makes me appreciate my mom, who stayed home with 5 of us, just a little bit more.  It is so busy!

One thing that we have been busy doing is making Oobleck.  Have you heard of it?  I didn’t until now (I know, you are wondering how I am qualified to homeschool my kids – – thank goodness for Google!) and it seriously blew my mind.  You don’t even need kids to enjoy this experiment.  It is that cool.

Stay with me and I promise, it will blow your mind too.  This stuff is wonderful!

We saw a segment on Non-Newtonion fluids on PMK and decided to make one at home.  If you don’t want the science behind it, just skip to “When do we get to Oobleck?  What the heck is it?”

To understand Non-Newtonion fluid, we need to understand Newtonion fluid. 

What is a Newtonion Fluid? 

Many people have heard of Sir Isaac Newton, the Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, and Physicist.  In addition to his snazzy laws of motion,  Newton also described how “normal” liquids or fluids behave.  He noticed that they have a constant viscosity or flow that really only changes with changes in temperature or pressure.  Think of water, the classic Newtonion liquid, boiling or freezing, or shooting out of a water gun (the smaller the hole, the slower the flow, the larger the hole, the faster the flow).  You can stir and stir and stir water and it will not change the viscosity of water.

What is a Non-Newtonion Fluid?

Very simply, non-Newtonian fluids change their viscosity or flow under stress.  For example, think of all those summer berries you may be eating right now.  Now think of that yummy whipped cream you are dolloping on top.  Cream flows a lot like water when you pour it out of the container into a bowl.  Yet, start mixing it with your whisk and it gets thicker.  Stir and stir and stir.  It gets thicker.  And thicker.  And thicker.  Add some sugar and vanilla and Yum!  That is a non-Newtonian fluid because it behaves differently under stress.

Another example of a non-Newtonion fluid is ketchup.  Sitting in the bottle it seems pretty thick and it is hard to get out.  Turn it over and start karate-chopping the 57 on the side of the bottle and blam-o, it gets runnier and flies out onto your fries in a big glop.  Also, yum.

When do we get to the Oobleck?  What the heck is it?

Oobleck, very simply, is a mixture of cornstarch and water.  Specifically, it’s about 1 part water mixed with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch.  Use your judgment.  Put the ingredients in a bowl and start stirring until they are mixed.  If, like my son and niece, you like it super-colored, add all the food coloring you can find.

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You won’t like this Oobleck when it is angry.

What happens?  If you move the spoon, fork or your hands through the mixture slowly, it acts like a liquid.  Very runny.  If you smack it or grab some and squish it into a ball (thus putting stress on it), it will turn to a solid.  Really.  Oobleck is both a liquid and a solid at the same time!  Far out!

Here comes a life lesson.  Oobleck has the same properties as quicksand.  So, if you ever find yourself sinking into quicksand, move slowly to get out.

The word Oobleck, which describes this wondrous material, comes from one of my all-time favorites, Dr. Seuss. In Bartholomew and the Oobleck: (Caldecott Honor Book) (Classic Seuss), he writes about a king who, bored with the things that fall from the sky (rain, snow, etc.), orders his magicians to make something new.  They come up with Oobleck, a green, gooey substance.  Of course, when it falls from the sky, it messes up everything.  The king’s page, Bartholomew, helps the king fix the problem by teaching him the power of the words, “I’m sorry.”  More life lessons!

Drop everything you are doing and make Oobleck.  You will not regret it.  If you do,  then “it is all my fault! And I am sorry!  Oh, Bartholomew, I’m awfully, awfully sorry!”

P.S.  I love this stuff so much I brought a container of corn starch to a dinner party with friends last night.  On the front I wrote “Oobleck Maker”.  On the back I wrote “Mix 1 part corn starch to about 1 1/2 parts H20 and mix.  Add food coloring if you want.  Then ask your Dad (who was a physics major, I think) about Non-Newtonian fluids”.  I thought I was pretty clever.  On the up-side, the kids all loved it.  On the down-side, we got it all over my friend’s house.  All over her table, floors, even in her flower arrangement!  Whoopsy!  When did I become that friend?  We did clean up, which was pretty easy but beware if you try something similar.

P.P.S.  If you are a scientist or know more about Oobleck than I do, how did I do?  If I missed something or got something wrong, please let me know.  I am learning too!

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3 thoughts on “Do Try This at Home: Oobleck!

  1. Nice article. I wrote something a while ago and was just googling around to see if I missed anything obvious. I think you covered it all ! My little one’s a bit small for this but I can’t wait until I can do some science experiments with him !

    • Thanks! I’d love to see what you wrote so feel free to leave a link. And if you come up with other experiments, share those as well! Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: 5 Awesome Things to do on Halloween (or any day) | gorgeous little thieves

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