If you mix 1 part water to 1.5-2 part corn starch, you create a strange mixture called “oobleck“, named after a Dr. Seuss story. It is so simple to make, yet it exhibits some very strange properties that makes it a popular science experiment.
Oobleck is what is known as a non-Newtonian fluid, where the viscosity (or “thickness”) changes with how much stress it is under. If you press your finger gently into it, it will feel like water, but if you strike it with a hammer, it will behave as a solid. It will stiffen when you stir it, but run when you swirl it.
You can even run over a tub of oobleck as long as you change steps quickly enough to apply enough pressure to keep the fluid under your feet solid. This is because oobleck becomes very viscous under high stress, making it behave more solidly (shear thickening).
We can learn from oobleck not only some interesting physics principles, but also how to interact with people.
Much like a non-Newtonian fluid, people will tend to react stiffly and with more resistance if you apply stress or force. But if you apply gentle pressure and be assertive, you will find people generally react more softly and fluidly.
This simple change in your approach will lead to much better conflict resolution and constructive outcomes when dealing with other people.
A water bear, also called a tardigrade, is actually an insect and not a bear. The nickname is due to its slow, bear-like gait. It ranges in size from 0.1 to 1.5mm and resembles a short caterpillar with eight legs.
The reason for the water bear’s fame is its amazing survivability. In short, a water bear can live anywhere.
Water bears are capable of cryptobiosis. This can be seen as an extension of hibernation and it is an organism’s ability to lower its metabolism to near-death rates in order to survive a harsh environment. In this state, a water bear can survive for indefinite amounts of time.
Why is cryptobiosis useful? The answer can be found from the water bear’s natural habitats. The water bear is found on the highest point of the Himalayas, the deepest oceans, hot springs and virtually any location from the North Pole to the South Pole. It can survive temperatures from 151°C to minus 273°C, the intense pressures in deep seas and even vacuum states.
Furthermore, water bears can survive in space. A recent experiment by NASA on the International Space Station found that not only can they live in space, but they also mated and laid eggs that later hatched. They can even survive heavy doses of radiation and toxic chemicals.
Ergo, if a cockroach can survive a nuclear war, water bears can survive even if the Earth was split in two. If we took a leaf out of the water bear’s book and lead a slower life, could we live a longer and happier life?