Each year my kids’ school holds a Science Fair. Participation is mandatory beginning in 4th grade. That means us.
The Fair happened last night. A large percentage of the projects on display were cookie related. There was the “what happens if you use too much baking powder” experiment. There was the “can you tell which one was made with sugar and which one with Splenda” experiment. There was also the “which brand of doughnut gets moldy fastest” experiment. All of which made attending the Science Fair past her bedtime tolerable to six-year-old Little Bit, because there were cookie taste tests everywhere you looked.
Tigger’s project was “testing the viscosity of a non-Newtonian fluid.”
What’s that you say? You don’t know what a non-Newtonian fluid is? All I can say about that is, my husband is geekier than your husband.
Let me explain. Isaac Newton said that the viscosity of substances could be changed only by temperature. Silly Newton! For some substances the viscosity can be changed by force too. Those substances are non-Newtonian. Kapiche?
Tigger used a mixture of cornstarch and water. This amazing glop is solid and liquid at the same time. If you apply a lot of force, say, by smacking the surface of it with your hand, it is hard and solid. But if you gently sink your hand in, it is liquid. Cool, huh?
The experiment Tigger did involved pouring the glop through a syringe (custom-built by TechnoGeekDad) and using various amounts of force (weight) to push it through the nozzle. It was splashy and messy and involved a stop-watch. What more does a science project need?
The practical effect for me was I had to buy a great deal of cornstarch. So much, in fact, that every time I had to go buy more because another 10 trials needed to be done, I went to a different store. I was afraid that the cashier who sold me 15 boxes of cornstarch would suspect that this astonishing quantity of a white powdered substance must be drug-related, so if I came back and bought more I would be hand-cuffed by store security and hauled away before Tigger finished her project. Luckily, I got away with it.
So if you want to play with non-Newtonian cornstarch glop, don’t buy it at the same store you go to for Sudafed. Who knows what could happen.