Running on a long, deep pool of ooblek

This 2006 gameshow clip shows contestants running back and forth atop a deep pool of non-Newtonian fluid -- ooblek -- without sinking in. They run, they skip, they hop, and maintain admirable aplomb atop the surface. It gets especially nice when the host stops in his tracks and sinks down into the mucky depths.

Non-Newtonian noodles


  1. We have a variety of non-newtonian fluids. Has anyone ever managed to hack together a Cartesian fluid(the sort of fluid that Newton was ripping a few new orifices for when he wrote about what would become ‘Newtonian fluids’)?

  2. I would love to do this!

    Does it goes bad after a while, or if it will maintain these qualities indefinitely?
    Any back-of the envelope figures on cost per gallon?

    1. Oobleck is made of cornstarch and water so it will dry out and rot as all organics do. A real quick and dirty calculation says a 9*5*3 pool of oobleck will cost you $1,307 for the cornstarch plus your local cost for 304 gallons of water. If you are willing to order a ton or more of cornstarch the price per pool goes down.

    2. Garden-variety ‘oobleck’ is 1.5-2 units cornstarch per unit water. I think that’s by volume, though I haven’t made any in some time.

      These guys allege that a liter of corn starch is ~1.2 lbs(Yes, I just mixed units like an imperialist, go cry).

      Here you can obtain 50 lb bags for 24 dollars a pop, so long as you buy at least 20. I didn’t shop around too hard; but that appears to be a pretty good price, at least by the standards of people who don’t quote minimum order quantities so large that you need a containerized receiving facility, I assume ADM would cut you a better deal if you wanted a thousand metric tons or something.

      So, if we assume that cleanish-but-needn’t-be-potable water is roughly free, $24 worth of cornstarch is about 41.5 liters of cornstarch, which combines with roughly 21 liters of water. So, we’ll call it 62ish liters, because I’m feeling lazy. 40 cents a liter. Call it 3.8 liters to the gallon, and you are talking around $1.50 a gallon, in roundish numbers, unless I’ve made a mistake somewhere, and I have been drinking.

      As for shelf life, corn starch isn’t particularly soluble(and to the degree it is, at 2-to-1 it’ll saturate pretty fast, and then remain as a suspension-in-a-solution from then on), and starches aren’t wildly biodegradable(much more so than cellulose, a whole lot less so than sugars); but microorganisms will eventually start their merry work. It wouldn’t go bad as fast as a vat of sugar water; but peculiar fungal patches and disconcerting odors are likely unless you dope the mixture with something fairly biocidal. You’d need something that doesn’t attack starch(or you); but some candidates probably exist….

  3. That’s an awfully complicated setup just to say ‘screw you, Newton.’

  4. My friend, Dr. Mindy Levine did this with girls at her URI Chemistry Camp this past April She said it went great, although they didn’t fill an entire swimming pool

      1. ” …and are now resting comfortably on the vibrating razor blades in the bottom.”

        Fixed that for ya.

  5. Well, damn. Someone finally did it properly, and they didn’t invite me to come play.


    Now I’m starting to suspect maybe Jesus did walk on something. ON OOBLEK!

    1. That sounds excruciatingly painful for them, when you consider that it solidifies under pressure…

      1. You do know that Klingon sex usually results in broken ribs, torn muscles and multiple lacerations?

        1. No, no I didn’t.  Hooray!  I win!

          And I’d probably happily suffer all those things before a split urethra.

  7. The way to be motivated for running across oobleck –
    when you’re being chased by the Green Pants With Nobody Inside Them.

  8. Kevin McCloud tried to make a waterbed out of that stuff on Kevin’s Man Mad Home (UK, C4). But there were (ahem) leakage problems…

  9. In Finland we have a milk-based snack called viili. It’s not thickened with cornstarch, but it does have a similar texture to ooblek. If you don’t stir it up in the container, you can scoop it up in neat spoonfuls. If you do stir it, it turns stringy and gloppy. Opinions are divided on the best way to eat it.

  10. An old friend wrote me that he was going to try running across a pool of non-Euclidean fluid.

    He hasn’t been seen since.

  11. I you sink in, panic, and start breathing fast…  or if your buddy is pounding away on it right next to you… does it start to resist your breathing?

    1. It probably would, but probably not enough to matter.

      The more interesting question is: If you sink in over your head, panic, and push off from the bottom… how hard is it to get your head out again? (Of course if you just relax, you’ll quickly float to the top; the stuff is heavier than water, after all.)

  12. When I learned to play with cornstarch and water as a kid, in 4th grade science class, they called it a “thixotropic colloid”, or “thixotropic gel”. I guess they don’t teach this in elementary school anymore, but this is not amazing or new — except perhaps in scale.

    Never heard of “ooblek”, but I’m guessing that’s the self-consciously witty, web-friendly substitute for “Thixotropic”?

    Or maybe I’m just a geezer. I’m going with the latter. ;)

  13. What would happen if Sir Isaac Newton ran across a pool of non-newtonian fluid? Would they annihilate each other?

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