Non-Newtonian fluids are an aspect of science that is simple, interesting, and a lot of fun. Non-Newtonian fluid experiments are also inexpensive; there are only two ingredients and both are probably already in your pantry.
School’s out, but that doesn’t mean learning is on hiatus. There are so many cool experiments to keep kids busy and their imaginations soaring, and most of them don’t cost much, if anything at all. Non-Newtonian fluids are one of these.
But what IS a non-Newtonian fluid?
It’s a fluid that is both liquid and solid, depending on what you’re doing with it. Non-Newtonian fluids defy the laws of viscosity, or ease of flow. Water is highly viscous and flows smoothly, but syrup, ketchup, mustard, and honey don’t pour – they gradually flow.
Get a large bowl and put a box of cornstarch in it. Gradually add water until you’ve got a gooey concoction; you can start by using a large spoon to mix but you’ll end up using your fingers.
When your cornstarch/water ratio is such that it doesn’t splash when you tap it with your finger, it’s ready to play with.
Scoop some into your hand and work it into a ball. It will stay solid and round until you stop rubbing it. Once you stop rubbing it, it will turn into a puddle in your hand and drip right through your fingers.
Remember Silly Putty? That’s a non-Newtonian fluid, too.
But what is really fun is quicksand. Oh, not real quicksand, although it’s easier to escape from than old cowboy movies would lead you to believe. What’s really fun is creating some “quicksand” in a big container and dancing on it.
In a large container, start dumping boxes of cornstarch and adding water, mixing with your hands until it “taps” just right.
The above pictures are from the Shazaam Science program at Ivy Tech Community College’s summer College for Kids program, but even the celebrities love to walk on water, Spangler Science style!
So do these experiments at home with your kids, or at school with your students. . . .
Then appear on Ellen DeGeneres’ show and demonstrate how a person can run across or dance on top of a good non-Newtonian batch of fake quicksand and only sink when you stop moving.
Everybody loves science, even famous celebrities. That’s because with science, there’s just so much to love.