Oobleck and Liquid Nitrogen: It’s Science!

Jennifer Ouellette raises the subject of “oobleck,” a non-Newtonian fluid made by mixing corn starch and water. It’s messy, it gets everywhere, and it’s downright fabulous!

Of course, the way you make a good thing better is to (a) eschew moderation and (b) mix it with other good things. For example, one can — purely in the interests of science — combine oobleck with the MIT student’s other favorite substance: liquid nitrogen, or LN2.

The thing about gases is that they take up much less room when they condense into a liquid state. Conversely, a small splash of LN2 can and will boil to produce a large volume of gas. Combining LN2 with water — a heat source — inside a two-liter soda bottle — a rigid but not infinitely strong container — inside a reservoir of oobleck yields a fascinating demonstration of thermodynamics, Newtonian mechanics and materials science:

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