News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Creature from Cornstarch Lagoon


When you stir cornstarch it begins to thicken, unlike most liquids, due to the property of shear thickening. Physicist Robert Deegan of the University of Texas in Austin and other team members vibrated a tray of cornstarch and then blew holes in the surface with a straw. The holes remained intact at high enough accelerations. At even higher accelerations, a single hole transformed into a bizarre-looking series of cornstarch tentacles that multiplied across the surface like some alien creature from a horror film.

Reading about such research is one thing; seeing it is another. The researchers took video of the strange activity. While the video is supposed to work in QuickTime right from the browser, I was only able to get it to work by copying the following link and pasting it in the File>Open dialog box in RealPlayer:

More pictures and a reprint of the research paper are available at the researchers’ website. [defunct link – information here]

Source: New Scientist, 15 May 2004 Issue

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