Cornstarch, water and bass video proves conclusive awesomeness of physics

If you ever doubted, even for a second, that non-Newtonian goo (e.g., cornstarch and water) is from a totally different (and infinitely preferable) universe, behold! Cornstarch paste + subwoofer == proof positive. Link (via Neatorama)


  1. Too cool! I remember discovering the strange properties of cornstarch and water by accident as a kid, and being absolutely fascinated by it. I probably wasted a good 3 boxes of the stuff playing with it.

  2. I’ve had all too intimate relations with cornstarch+water for many years now.
    I have always held the conviction that Andrei Tarkovsky should have used this effect for the surface of Solaris.

  3. Far out! It would be cooler yet to figure out how to make the cornstarch glow in the dark… mix it w/ glowstick juice rather than water?

  4. @5: Maybe use florescent dye instead of food coloring? Like the kind you’d use for dyeing silk or wool – you can get it in a well-stocked art supply shop.

    I might give that a try next week – my kiddo’s best friend will be away, and I’m scrambling for distractions beyond the TV.

  5. I did this experiment a lot as a kid, and I flipped on the TV a couple days ago and on Ellen there was a man who made a whole vat of cornstarch and water and let an audience member run across it. It’s an intriguing video.

  6. I’m always happy when non newtonian fluids make it into the news. Rheology is a underrated area of physics.

    Can be this turned into a lava-lamp -esque product?
    If it’s noisy it could be a problem.

  7. The actual term (other than the incorrect “non-newtonian”) for this type of mixture is dilatant. It’s viscosity is variable based on pressure.

    Another fun material that falls into this category is Silly Putty.

  8. Since blood is another non-newtonian fluid. I wonder what that would look like in this experiment

  9. #14 non-newtonian is correct. For these fluids the shear stress is not linearly dependent on the shear rate. In a newtonian fluid the shear stress is proportional to the shear rate and this constant of proportionality is the viscosity.

    We rheologists call these fluids shear thickening. I’m not sure what communities use the term dilatant, but it’s in some books for sure.

    Calling a non newtonian fluid shear thickening or shear thinning is clearer because it tells you if the “viscosity” increases or decreases as you increase the shear rate.

    Of course talking about “viscosity” is not the most complete way to describe how something flows, since the stresses and flow fields are better described by tensors.

  10. In the Book of the Subgenius, this experiment is used to demonstrate a principle of Slack.

    The Luck Plane is similar to a non-Newtonian fluid, in that the harder you push or use your “will”, the more it will harden against you, blocking you at every step.

    But ease into it, and you slip right through.

  11. I bet a few random drops of food coloring dripped onto the oobleck after it’s poured onto the cookie sheet could really make for a neat effect.

  12. Now I’m gonna need an oobleck visualization plugin for Rythmbox.

    Anyone have a good computational model for non-newtonian fluids? I just googled a few up — yikes, when did science start hiding behind pay-per-pdf walls? Guess I was napping.

  13. I disagree with the videographer’s decision to replace the actual sound being emitted by the subwoofer with some sort of South Beach CC-BY generic loop.

  14. ia! ia! cthulhu fhtagn!

    also: #17 – hmm. i had no idea the church of the subgenius was ripped off of taoism. cool.

  15. No fucking way! This is way too cool.

    Now let’s see this done on a much larger scale… and with some dubstep >:D

  16. @ #12

    I had to close the window on that one when the creepy wet hand appeared because I thought it woudl be awkward if someone walked up behind me at work and saw it.


  17. Lovecraft must have know about cornstarch+water+subwoofer, it would explain some things…

  18. Very cool, but would have been cooler if we could have heard the actuals woofer sounds used.

  19. [H]e described a sort of pool with a margin of mud that was marled with obscene offal; and in the pool a grayish, horrid mass that nearly choked it from rim to rim… Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes’ fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neighborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk.

    —Clark Ashton Smith, “The Seven Geases”

  20. #19, have you tried the arXiv? If you’re looking for computational physics you might also find something on CiteSeer.

    If that doesn’t work, I suggest befriending the librarian at your local university – they can provide access to the large databases, like ScienceDirect or IEEEExplore.

  21. From Wikipedia:

    This oobleck is created from cornstarch or potato flour and water in a ratio between 2:1 and 3:2

    Anyone know if this is ratio is measured in weight or volume?

  22. My wife and I tried this when we got home. We used a china plate, the cornstarch slurry and a Hitachi Magic Wand for the vibrations.

    What will the Hitachi Magic Wand not do?!?!


  23. OK, about 40 seconds in, it looks like an orgy or something. that is mind bogglingly weird stuff.

  24. Moat. I don’t think that someone in heavy body armor could run very fast, right?

    Could you pogo-stick across such a moat? Maybe with a boot-wearing pogo stick?

  25. its custard powder which is corn starch (we call it corn flour in the UK) colour and flavourings but its the same thing

  26. OK, Bex, let’s make sure we’re clear here. When we say “corn starch” in the US, we mean the starch component of maize, without any of the other stuff. Coarse ground whole maize is called “cornmeal.” Finely ground whole maize is called “corn flour.”

    Are we on the same page here? If so, what do you call what we call “corn flour”?

  27. And btw do people really make custard with that stuff? Flour or starch, that sounds truly vile.

  28. I don’t know why we call it corn flour in the UK but it is definitely the same as what you call corn starch in the US.

    Custard Powder is added to milk with sugar and if done properly and the decent stuff (birds) kinda nice

  29. its custard powder which is corn starch (we call it corn flour in the UK) colour and flavourings but its the same thing

  30. Oobleck is colored green according to the inventor of Oobleck, Theodor Geisel. See Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949).

  31. And oobleck is also sticky to a deadly degree, and falls from the sky. Cornstarch does not share these properties, in general.

  32. #13 posted by nanoquimico , July 11, 2008 12:07 PM

    Can be this turned into a lava-lamp -esque product? If it’s noisy it could be a problem.

    If it’s infra-sonic, noise wouldn’t be a problem.

  33. JSauter. I virtually fling myself on the ground and worship you. I’m unlimbering that Magic Wand RIGHT NOW and going for the major science win. My 22 year old son will be over today and I think it will be a perfect mother-son bonding experience, don’t you?

    I just love all the Cthulhu references. Green food coloring, here I come!

  34. Hey, it worked! I posted a video to Youtube showing that a Magic Wand, oobleck and a Corelle plate make for all kinds o’ tentacley fun. Best part was finding the bowchickawow soundtrack, because frankly it’s pretty disgusting when the tentacles start throwing themselves off the edge of the plate.

Comments are closed.