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Oobleck Revisited

Back at Minicon 27, a particularly clever microprogramming assistant obtained 100 pounds of cornstarch and went looking for a likely bathtub in which to mix oobleck. I was running the Minneapolis in '73 suite that year. Come Sunday night I gladly obliged. The microprogramming assistant had a clear grasp of the risks, and I knew he wouldn't break the hotel in the process of providing much fun and experimentation. Beside, I was curious to see if it was possible to dance on oobleck.

It is, if one has enough oobleck. And, as elisem revealed in "Ignorant Savages with a Certain Artistic Flair" (published in Idea #6), "100 lbs is dry weight; when water is added, considerably more oobleck results."

After several hours of fans walking on oobleck and other fun, it came time to dispose of the mess. Plan A -- careful and very thorough dilution -- instantly backfired on us. That much oobleck under the pressure of even a thin film of water resembles nothing so much as concrete. The microprogramming assistant started sweating a bit as he scrambled through Plans B, C, and on. Eventually a merry crew smuggled the oobleck out of the hotel in a brigade of pickle buckets. elisem raised the whole escapade to legend with her filk song, "Oobleck in the Bathtub," using markiv1111's tune "Crying in the Bathtub" to create a filksong I'll always be happy to hear.

Ever since, my own Adventures with Cornstarch have been limited to a smaller scale. At Smofcon 18 in Cocoa Beach, I shared the secrets of oobleck with miramon, eleyan, and others enjoying the Sunday night dead dog party in the consuite there. Another time, I discovered that food coloring is more trouble than it's worth. Regular oobleck doesn't leave your hands green....

We'd sometimes talk about wholesale sellers of cornstarch, and what might be done with sufficient quantities of the the stuff. Thanks to blackfyr, I now have a much better idea.

I gleefully clicked through on the link he posted to a YouTube film on non-Newtonian fluids. I knew what dancing in a bathtub the stuff was like; I was eager to see what could be done with a swimming pool full.

The footage shows oobleck fun on a grander if far more diluted scale than the Minicon experiment. In the Minneapolis in '73 bathtub, you only had to keep moving slowly to keep from sinking. When standing still, it took the same amount of time for us to sink to our ankles as it took these guys to sink to their chests. What we clearly need now is a series of pools with different mixes of oobleck, much like the series of tubs, each at a different temperature, at the Wyoming mineral baths I was at back in 1976. How much cornstarch/gallon do you need for oobleck you can sprint across, and how much more do you need to stroll?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
von_krag
Nov. 18th, 2006 09:16 am (UTC)
Any time you want 100Kg quantities or greater let me know, in fact I can prolly get it delivered to the place where the experiments are to be held.
gerisullivan
Nov. 18th, 2006 09:21 am (UTC)
Sounds good; thanks! I'll remember that.

dalesql might also be able to point experimenters in the right direction. He used restaurant supply connections to obtain some interesting things for the Boskone consuite last year.
buttonlass
Nov. 18th, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC)
That would have been my suggestion. I was recently in a restaurant supply store (members only) which sold the stuff in the huge bags like flour. It gave me all sorts of bad ideas.:)
holyoutlaw
Nov. 18th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)
That video was fun. I'd run across a pool filled with oobleck, and then salute while I sank. Yeah!
thirdworld
Nov. 18th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
Cool. Homemade Dead Sea on steroids.
thirdworld
Nov. 18th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yes, and cleanup on steroids too. Has to be a major factor of testing too.
kalimac
Nov. 18th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
I've handled this stuff. I didn't know that name for it. Seussical references rule, Yertle.
huladavid
Nov. 19th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
When you said swimming pool full of oobleck I had the worst images...
huladavid
Nov. 19th, 2006 01:58 am (UTC)
This reminds me of the year Sue Grandys and I went shoppig for Party supplies, and I found a five gallon bag of catsup. She nearly had to wrestle me to the ground 'cuz I wanted to buy a bag, toss it from the 22nd floor, race down to the parking lot so I could lie in it and look like a horrible accident.

However, when we found the purple snoballs...
kate_schaefer
Nov. 20th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
This is so utterly totally rididiculous! Thanks!
kate_schaefer
Nov. 20th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
Ridididididiculous.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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