Want to have fun with physics and even "walk on water"? Try making a mixture of cornstarch and water called oobleck. It makes a great science project or is just fun to play with.
Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid; it has properties of both liquids and solids. You can slowly dip your hand into it like a liquid, but if you squeeze the oobleck or punch it, it will feel solid. The name oobleck comes from the Dr. Seuss book, “Bartholomew and the Oobleck.” In the story, oobleck, a gooey green substance, fell from the sky and wreaked havoc in the kingdom.
Making oobleck is easy. Here's a recipe:
- 1 part water
- 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch
- Small amount of food coloring (optional)
- Start with the water in a bowl (or wading pool!) and add the cornstarch a bit at a time.
- Keep stirring until it has a gooey consistency. You may want to use your hands.
- When the oobleck is just right, slowly add food coloring, if you want. This can be a challenge to get it mixed properly.
- Play with it.
Things to do with oobleck
- Grab a handful and squeeze it. Let it ooze through your fingers.
- Make a puddle and quickly drag your fingers through it.
- Put it into a plastic container and shake it or quickly bump it against a table.
- Jab at the oobleck and then slowly let your finger sink in.
- Roll some oobleck into a ball. It becomes solid, but when you stop moving it, it will melt back into your hand.
Some science projects use oobleck. Experiments you can try include:
Put some oobleck on an old speaker and watch it dance:
Or, put it in a cookie sheet on top of a speaker:
Put a lot of it in a kiddie pool and walk across it:
- Store in an air-tight container. Mix occasionally.
- If you put in food coloring, you may notice a little bit of color left on your hands after washing. Don't worry. It should go away in a day or two.
- Anything put into the slime can be washed with soap and water.
- To dispose of the oobleck, mix it with a lot of hot water to make a very loose slurry. Pour a small amount into the drain while the hot water is running.
- Oobleck when dried can be easily vacuumed.
- Don't drop oobleck on a couch, deck, or sidewalk. It's hard to get off.
- Oobleck isn't poisonous, but it tastes awful. Wash your hands after playing. Make sure children are supervised.
- Wear old clothes, as oobleck tends to get messy.
- Don't worry too much if it gets on something; it will come out with a little water.
- Lay a couple newspapers on the floor so it doesn't get all over the floor or table.
- Oobleck may solidify if it's not kept wet. If it hardens, just throw it away.
- If oobleck is left out too long, it will dry out and turn back to cornstarch.
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Tim Sharp was Live Science’s reference editor from 2012 to 2018. Tim received a degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas. He worked for a number of other publications, including The New York Times, Des Moines Register and Tampa Bay Times, and as an editor for the Hazelden Foundation, among others.