When Fluids Behave Like Solids

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Many common fluids–like air and water–are Newtonian fluids, meaning that stress in the fluid is linearly proportional to the rate at which the fluid is deformed. Viscosity is the constant that relates the stress and rate of strain, or deformation. The term non-Newtonian is used to describe any fluid whose properties do not follow this relationship; instead their viscosity is dependent on the rate of strain, viscoelasticity, or even changes with time. A neat common example of a non-Newtonian fluid is oobleck, a mixture of cornstarch and water that is shear-thickening, meaning that it is resistant to fast deformations. Like the cornstarch-based custard in the video above, these fluids react similarly to a solid when struck, resisting changing their shape, but if deformed slowly, they will flow in the manner of any liquid.

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