Oobleck Walk: Non-Newtonian Fun You Can Stand On – A DIY Science Adventure

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Oobleck Walk: Stepping onto a surface that solidifies under pressure might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s a fascinating real-world phenomenon thanks to Oobleck. This intriguing mixture is not your ordinary liquid; it’s a non-Newtonian fluid that defies what we typically expect from liquids and solids. By creating Oobleck, you interact with a substance that acts like a solid when you apply force, such as walking or hitting it, yet flows like a liquid when untouched.

Oobleck Walk
Oobleck Walk: A child steps onto a pool of oobleck

The magic of Oobleck lies in its simplicity and the science behind its behaviour. Made from just cornstarch and water, Oobleck is an accessible way to experience and understand complex scientific principles. It transforms before your eyes, providing a hands-on demonstration of shear thickening, which makes it an excellent educational tool as well as a source of fun. Michelle Connolly, a founder and educational consultant with a love for making learning fun, says, “Oobleck is a perfect example of how simple kitchen ingredients can create a ‘eureka’ moment for young scientists.”

Key Takeaways

  • Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid that behaves like a solid under force and a liquid at rest.
  • Its captivating properties offer an engaging way to learn scientific concepts.
  • Easily made at home, Oobleck provides both educational experiences and entertainment.

Discovering Oobleck

Before we dive into the fascinating world of Oobleck, it’s important to know that it is a type of non-Newtonian fluid, which means its viscosity can change under pressure, allowing you to literally stand on it, challenging your perceptions of liquids and solids.

The Science Behind Oobleck

Oobleck’s peculiar consistency is what sets it apart—it behaves as both a solid and a liquid. When you apply pressure, the molecules of the cornstarch and water mixture in Oobleck align, making it act like a solid. Remove the pressure, and it flows like a liquid. This dual behaviour is unlike standard Newtonian fluids, such as water, whose viscosity remains the same regardless of the forces applied to them.

Historical Context: Isaac Newton and Non-Newtonian Fluids

Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and his studies on fluid mechanics laid the groundwork for categorising substances like water as “Newtonian.” However, substances that defy these laws, like Oobleck, are termed “non-Newtonian.” These fluids don’t follow Newton’s law of viscosity, and their unpredictable nature was first recorded in the modern sense in the 20th century, long after Newton’s time.

Michelle Connolly, founder of LearningMole and educational consultant with 16 years of classroom experience, often says, “The magic of Oobleck is not just in its strange behaviour, but in the curiosity it sparks in learners of all ages.” Oobleck serves as an excellent educational tool to introduce complex scientific concepts in a practical, hands-on manner.

Your understanding of the world of fluids is now richer with the knowledge of Oobleck, a fascinating substance that stretches our imagination and questions the conventional understanding of liquids and solids.

Creating Your Own Oobleck

Crafting Oobleck is an engaging activity that lets you experience a curious state of matter that is neither a standard liquid nor a solid. You’ll enjoy creating this mixture, which hardens under pressure yet flows like a liquid when at rest.

Ingredients Needed

To make Oobleck, you will need the following:

  • Cornflour: This is the main ingredient that gives Oobleck its unique properties.
  • Water: Required to mix with the cornflour to create the Oobleck.
  • Food Colouring (Optional): This is for adding a vibrant touch to your creation.

Gather:

  • 2 cups of cornflour
  • 1 cup of water
  • Food colouring of your choice

Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a simple guide to help you create your own Oobleck:

  1. Measure Your Ingredients: Use measuring cups to get the correct quantities of cornflour and water.
  2. Mix the Cornflour and Water: Gradually add water to the cornflour while stirring. The mixture should be hard to stir but still runny.
  3. Test the Consistency: Press the mixture with your fingers to see if it becomes solid, then let it run through your fingers.

Oobleck with Food Colouring

To make coloured Oobleck, follow these steps:

  • Add a few drops of your chosen food colouring to the water before mixing it with the cornflour.
  • Stir the mixture until the colour is evenly distributed.

Michelle Connolly, the founder of LearningMole, emphasises the fun element of this experiment: “Playing with Oobleck is a fantastic way to make learning about states of matter hands-on and exciting.”

Oobleck Experiments

Oobleck offers a perfect union of fun and learning through science experiments that you can try at home or in the classroom. These hands-on activities reveal the unique properties of non-Newtonian fluids and are suitable for all ages, from inquisitive kids to playful adults.

Making Oobleck: To start, you’ll only need cornflour and water. Combine these in a bowl, mixing until you’ve achieved a thick consistency. It should feel solid when you tap it quickly and liquid when you move your fingers through it slowly.

Walking on Oobleck: For a true test of viscosity, make a large batch of Oobleck in a paddling pool and attempt to walk across it. The key is in your speed; run fast enough, and you won’t sink.

Educational Aspects of Oobleck Play

Michelle Connolly, founder of LearningMole, highlights the value of such experiments: “Oobleck is not only engaging but teaches kids about non-Newtonian fluids in a way that’s easy to grasp and remember.” Oobleck play introduces scientific concepts like states of matter in an enjoyable format. Science experiments like these can change the learning experience for kids, making abstract concepts tangible.

Oobleck and Vibrations

Discovering the impact of sound: Place Oobleck over a speaker and watch how it responds to different music and vibrations. You can conduct an experiment to see how Oobleck reacts to various frequencies and volumes, turning a science experiment into an unexpected dance party.

Oobleck Properties and Phenomena

Oobleck, a quirky mixture you can easily create, transforms from liquid to solid under pressure. Uncover the secret behind its bizarre behaviour and why it’s more than just a party trick.

Viscosity and Temperature Effects

Viscosity, the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow, is at the heart of oobleck’s unique characteristics. Typically, viscosity changes with temperature; most liquids flow more freely as they warm. Oobleck, however, doesn’t follow this rule. Its viscosity isn’t dictated by temperature but rather by the force applied to it, making it an anomaly in the world of fluids.

Non-Newtonian Fluid under Stress

Unlike water or oil, which have a consistent flow regardless of force, oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid. This means it behaves as a liquid when left undisturbed but acts like a solid under sudden stress or impact. The phenomenon allows for activities like the Oobleck Walk, where the fluid solidifies under the pressure of your footsteps, enabling you to literally stand on it.

Quicksand and Oobleck Comparison

Quicksand, like oobleck, is often misunderstood. Both can trap objects, but their mechanics differ. Quicksand, a mixture of sand and water, becomes more fluid under stress, which can cause sinking. Oobleck’s ability to harden when pressure is applied actually makes it the opposite of quicksand in behaviour. This contrast sheds light on the diverse ways different mixtures can respond to stress.

Literary References

When you explore the origins of oobleck, you’re immediately taken to the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. His book introduces the gooey substance and provides a delightful touchstone for the science behind non-Newtonian fluids.

Dr. Seuss’s ‘Bartholomew and the Oobleck’

The classic tale of Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss stands at the heart of any discussion on oobleck. This children’s book, penned by the acclaimed author, sketches the story of a young boy, Bartholomew Cubbins, and his encounter with a peculiar substance named ‘oobleck.’ The story unfolds in the Kingdom of Didd, where King Derwin grows tired of the same old rain, snow, fog, and sunshine. Yearning for something novel, he consults his royal magicians, who concoct a sticky, green glop that descends from the sky—oobleck. The chaos that ensues provides not just amusement but a subtle caution against tampering with nature.

Dr. Seuss’s literature is not just for entertainment. Michelle Connolly, founder of LearningMole and an educational consultant, points out, “Dr. Seuss’s storytelling has layers of educational value. ‘Bartholomew and the Oobleck’ encourages children to engage with science in a playful yet meaningful way.” Indeed, the book subtly encourages young readers to think about the consequences of actions and the importance of being open to learning from unexpected outcomes.

Safety and Precautions

Oobleck Walk LearningMole
Oobleck Walk: A person standing on a pool of oobleck

When engaging with Oobleck, it’s crucial to consider safety and cleanliness. Take care to manage potential allergies and ensure a smooth clean-up process to maintain a safe and enjoyable experience.

Oobleck and Allergies

Oobleck, typically made from cornstarch and water, is generally safe for most individuals. However, if you have a corn allergy, it’s essential to avoid contact with Oobleck. As an alternative, flour can sometimes be used, but this too can be allergenic. Always check for allergies before starting and have a suitable substitute if needed.

Managing Mess and Clean Up

Playing with Oobleck can get messy. To avoid stubborn clean-up, lay down plastic sheets or newspapers where the activity will take place. After the fun is over, let the Oobleck dry and then sweep or vacuum the residue. If Oobleck gets wet, it can clog drains, so avoid washing it down the sink. Instead, scoop it into the bin, or dispose of it in a plastic bag.

Michelle Connolly, a founder with abundant experience, shares her insight: “Having quick clean-up strategies in place makes science explorations with children more about learning and less about worrying over the mess.” Keep her advice in mind, embrace the chaos, but stay prepared for an efficient tidy-up.

Advanced Oobleck Activities

Engage with Oobleck in more sophisticated ways, turning simple play with consistency into a deeper exploration of science. These advanced activities are perfect for those who’ve mastered the basic Oobleck recipe and are ready for more complex fun.

Playing with Oobleck’s Texture

Experimenting with the texture of Oobleck can transform this simple mixture into a versatile science project that you can tweak and test. By adjusting the ratio of water to cornstarch, you can observe how the consistency of Oobleck changes. For a firmer Oobleck that acts more like a solid under pressure, increase the amount of cornstarch. Conversely, add more water for an Oobleck that stays in its liquid state longer. Documenting your findings in a table can help track the changes:

Cornstarch (cups)Water (cups)Consistency
10.5Firmer
10.75Softer
Oobleck Walk

Oobleck Dance Party

Turn on the music and watch your Oobleck dance! Place a tray of Oobleck over a speaker and play some tunes with a strong bass. The vibrations from the music will cause the Oobleck to jump and move in fascinating ways because of its non-Newtonian nature. It’s a playful introduction to the science of sound waves and a practical demonstration of how vibrations affect different materials.

Michelle Connolly, founder of LearningMole, who brings 16 years of in-class experience to the table, advises, “Always keep safety in mind with these experiments – loud music can damage hearing, so ensure the volume is at a safe level and consider using ear protection.”

Oobleck in Education

Experimenting with Oobleck is a compelling way to bring to life the principles that Sir Isaac Newton introduced to the world. By incorporating this non-Newtonian fluid into educational settings, both kids and adults can turn the abstract into the tangible, experiencing firsthand the principles that govern the behaviour of matter.

Teaching Newtonian Principles

Oobleck offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate Newtonian physics in a way that is both enjoyable and educational. Children find Oobleck particularly fascinating because it behaves differently under various conditions – it flows like a liquid when left undisturbed but becomes solid under pressure. This peculiar behaviour piques their curiosity and provides a perfect example of a non-Newtonian fluid, different from typical solids, liquids, and gases that they learn about.

Engaging with Oobleck allows students to question and hypothesise about the nature of materials, which is a key scientific skill. It also connects directly to Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion, giving children a tactile way to explore inertia, acceleration, and the idea that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

“Playing with Oobleck is not just fun; it’s a doorway to understanding complex physical laws in an intuitive way. Our hands-on experiments encourage children to visualize and remember the concepts more effectively,” says Michelle Connolly, a founder and educational consultant with over 16 years of classroom experience.

Whether in a school lab or at home, creating and experimenting with Oobleck can be a simple and powerful science experiment. This substance is an excellent medium for educators and parents to facilitate a deeper understanding of the foundational principles of physics and encourage a lifelong love of science.

Remember, while Oobleck is fun and educational, it’s essential you supervise young scientists during experiments to ensure safety and maximise learning.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

When experimenting with Oobleck on your surfaces, there are a couple of typical problems you might run into. Let’s address these one by one to ensure your Oobleck fun isn’t cut short by any mishaps.

Oobleck Consistency Problems

If your Oobleck mixture isn’t behaving as expected, first consider its consistency. The ideal Oobleck should be hard when you apply pressure and liquid when you let it rest. If it’s too runny, gradually add more cornstarch. Conversely, if it’s too thick, slowly mix in small amounts of water until the desired consistency is achieved.

Michelle Connolly, with her extensive classroom experience, reminds us, “It’s all about finding the perfect balance; a little change can make a big difference in getting the consistency just right for your experiment.”

Oobleck Removal from Surfaces

In the event of an Oobleck spill, don’t reach for the drain. Oobleck can clog your pipes. Instead, scrape off as much as you can with a paper towel or a spatula. For any residue, use a hose or a bucket of hot water to rinse the surface, followed by a thorough wipe-down. As for clean up, do ensure to let the Oobleck dry out before you dispose of it in the bin to prevent any plumbing issues.

Oobleck Beyond Play

A pool of green oobleck sits on the ground, with footprints leading through it. It appears solid, but ripples when touched
Oobleck Walk: A pool of green oobleck sits on the ground

While many know oobleck as a fascinating science experiment, it has real-world applications that extend beyond mere play. Discover how this non-Newtonian fluid makes waves beyond the confines of playtime and dazzles in popular media.

Practical Uses of Non-Newtonian Fluids

Non-Newtonian fluids like oobleck demonstrate unique properties that make them useful in a variety of settings. For instance, they’re valuable in improving safety gear, such as body armour or helmets. The shear-thickening quality of these fluids, which harden upon impact, translates to enhanced protection against sudden forces. Vehicle safety also benefits; for example, car dashboards might integrate non-Newtonian materials to mitigate injuries during collisions.

In the construction realm, non-Newtonian fluids are explored for vibration dampening—in structures or machinery where fluctuating stresses can cause damage, embedding these fluids within materials helps absorb and dissipate energy.

The allure of oobleck transcends science labs—it’s made cameos in various forms of media. Described in a children’s book by Dr. Seuss, it brings a tangible connection for young readers to grasp complex scientific concepts. In turn, educators and parents can leverage this element of pop culture to spark children’s interest in science.

Videos of oobleck in action—whether it’s walking on a pool of it or watching it dance on a speaker—spread the excitement of science experiments to a broader online audience. “Oobleck presents a fascinating avenue to connect with your kids over something that’s both educational and enormously fun,” says Michelle Connolly, founder of LearningMole and educational consultant with extensive experience. “Incorporating elements like non-Newtonian fluids in play can leave a lasting impression and foster a love for science.”

Oobleck further dabbles in the arts—performers and artists use it to add a dynamic element to their work, whether it’s part of an interactive installation or in dynamic performance art, where the viscosity of non-Newtonian fluids like oobleck allows for an exploration of movement and texture that traditional paint just cannot provide.

Oobleck Recipes

Creating Oobleck is a fascinating way to engage with science, and it’s simple enough that you can make it at home with common kitchen ingredients. Follow these recipes to create your own non-Newtonian fluid for a hands-on scientific experiment.

Alternative Ingredients

  • Cornstarch or Cornflour: The base ingredient for Oobleck is cornstarch (UK: cornflour), a fine powder derived from the endosperm of corn. For every cup of cornflour, you will need approximately 1/2 cup of water to start. Gradually add more water until you achieve the desired consistency.
  • Flour and Baking Soda: If you don’t have cornflour, a combination of plain flour and baking soda can work as a substitute. Mix 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of baking soda, then slowly add water and mix until the mixture acts like Oobleck.
  • Tea: For a fragrant twist, you can brew a strong cup of tea and use it in place of water. This will add a pleasant aroma to your Oobleck and natural colouring.

Package and Storage

  • Storing: After making your Oobleck, if you want to store it, place it in an airtight container. It can last for a couple of days. However, over time, the mixture may separate, and you’ll need to stir it again.
  • Packaging: For transport or as a gift, package your Oobleck in ziplock bags or sealed jars. Make sure they are sealed tightly to prevent leakage.

Remember, making Oobleck is an easy and fun way to introduce yourself to the world of non-Newtonian fluids. Have your measuring cups ready, and enjoy the process of mixing and experimentation! Michelle Connolly, the founder of LearningMole, attests that “Engaging children with hands-on experiments like Oobleck can spark a lifelong interest in science.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Exploring the whimsical world of non-Newtonian fluids like Oobleck can be both educational and entertaining. Here’s what you need to know about creating and experimenting with this curious substance.

How do you make Oobleck for a large-scale experiment?

For a large-scale Oobleck experiment, you’ll need to scale up your ingredients. Mix approximately 2 parts cornflour to 1 part water. If you’re covering a large area, such as a paddling pool, start with 10 kilograms of cornflour and adjust with water as necessary.

What happens if you attempt to run across a pool filled with Oobleck?

If you attempt to run across a pool of Oobleck, its shear thickening properties come into play. The force you exert by running causes the mixture to behave more like a solid, allowing you to briefly run on the surface before sinking if you stop moving.

Is it safe to handle Oobleck with bare hands, and are there any precautions one should take?

Handling Oobleck with bare hands is generally safe as it’s typically made from cornflour and water. Michelle Connolly notes, “Always ensure there are no allergies to the components, and avoid ingestion. It’s messy fun but totally safe for most hands-on experiments.”

Can you demonstrate the properties of non-Newtonian fluids using Oobleck?

Yes, you can demonstrate non-Newtonian fluid properties using Oobleck. Apply pressure, and it behaves like a solid; release it, and it flows like a liquid. This makes Oobleck a fantastic tool for practical science learning.

What did the MythBusters show about the possibilities of walking on Oobleck?

The MythBusters demonstrated that it is possible to walk on a large pool of Oobleck, although movement must be rapid and continuous. The episode highlighted the fluid’s ability to transition from liquid to solid under stress.

What’s the science behind standing still on Oobleck without sinking?

Standing still on Oobleck can be tricky because without movement, the mixture acts like a liquid due to its weight-dependent viscosity, causing you to sink. Michelle Connolly explains, “It’s all about pressure. Without continuous movement, Oobleck won’t provide the necessary resistance to stay afloat.”

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