Cornstarch & Water – Explained by Physicists – Heinrich Jaeger and Scott Waitukaitis

The process of impact-activated solidification that occurs when compressive forces are applied to fluid-grain suspensions. The two researchers conduct experiments with a mixture of cornstarch and water that is classified as a non-Newtonian liquid. This video examines the strange behavior of the cornstarch-water liquid, which instantly changes into a solid within the area of impact. The behavior of non-Newtonian liquids has puzzled scientists for decades, and Waitukaitis and Jaeger’s report sheds new light on this longstanding problem in suspension science.

Heinrich Jaeger, William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Professor in Physics, and Scott Waitukaitis, a graduate student in the Physics department, have published a report in the July 12, 2012 issue of Nature.

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  1. H2O has surface tension. It is literally a hard phase of H2O. As its name suggests, surface tension occurs on the surface of liquid water. So, think about that, a solid exists on the surface of water.

    Now consider this: if you can maximize the surface of liquid water in 3 dimensions you can create a 3 dimensional form of H2O surface tension. When force is applied to the mixture the grains of corn starch are forced between water molecules creating an internal, 3 dimensional surface.

    This is the correct explanation of this phenomena. Corn starch is not providing the structural strength at all. With pressure applied, corn starch is providing the surface. The tensional forces that make the substance hard are provided by the water molecules. And it is based on the same (unknown) principle that causes surface tension of water.

    BTW, this understanding provides us an alternative hypothesis for ice which is currently thought to be a result of a lattice. This new understanding suggests that the lattice hypothesis is mistaken and the reason ice is hard has nothing to do with it turning into a lattice but, instead, has to do with factors that create an internal surface in the body of water.

    I am a scientist who will soon be revealing my solution to the anomalies of H2O. Here is a link to a meetup in the SF bay area that will begin to resolve all of the long standing mysteries of H2O's anomalies:
    Resolving the Anomalies of H2O / James McGinn

  2. Could bags of oobleck be used to address the problems of potholes?
    The main problem I have thought of, is would a bag of oobleck stay solid if a car would be parked over it. Could you guys help me out with that?

  3. If scientists can replicate this principle for other surfaces (like clothes or plastic) and it is strong enough to stop bullets or projectiles……warfare will change (back to melee)…. Or if they can give a liquid the properties to stop bullets or even rockets, we could maybe construct 'force shields' out of it…. Like creating a stable bubble of the liquid and surrounding a large object with it, could work even easier in outer space without the gravity (yes, surrounding spaceships with corn starch bubbles to have epic space battles)

  4. I have a question. I have found that Swedish Fish (the gummy candy) can shatter when thrown or, in some cases, even just dropped on the ground. When it shatters or chips, it will break with a clean edge as if it was made of glass (or a hard candy, I guess). The candy doesn't need to be frozen or hard (from being stale), it can be soft and bendy but will still shatter when it hits a hard surface like concrete. There is a video on Youtube called "Shattering Swedish Fish" which shows this but besides this video and my experience of it (probably 8 or more years ago) I have not been able to find anything else on the subject. It seems like it may not work with every Swedish Fish, I've only ever see it happen to non-original flavor ones but I have no idea. Years ago when I first experienced it I was just eating some red and green Christmas edition Swedish fish which were left over from a holiday party and I dropped one. Its tail broke off cleanly with a sharp edge as if it had been a hard candy yet it was just a regular, gummy Swedish Fish. I was fascinated and experimented with all the rest I had and got similar results.

    I have to wonder if it this is acting on a similar principle as cornstarch and water but have been disappointed in the utter lack of information on it. Interestingly, corn starch is listed as an ingredient in Swedish Fish but I'm aware this may just be a coincidence.

    I was wondering if anyone knows anything about this or has experienced this before. Anything would be very much appreciated.

    1. Hello! I’ve been scouring the web, searching for the exact same thing. I do believe Swedish Fish are a Non-Newtonian substance and I’ve been trying to test this myself.

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