You take a pristine-looking Oreo from a package of seemingly identical sandwich cookies, and you decide to open it up to eat the creme filling first. You gently twist the cookie apart without breaking the chocolate wafers, but the creme sticks to one side only. Why? Happily, the physics of fluids helped two MIT students solve this delicious mystery. Read on to find out what they learned, and how you can test their results at home.
Why do so many fluids behave counterintuitively? Many substances in our lives – like oobleck, slime, or Silly Putty – don’t quite behave the way we expect a fluid to, despite some fluid-like properties. These substances fall into a special category: non-Newtonian fluids. Scientifically, this term is a bit of a catch-all for any substances that have a complicated relationship between their apparent viscosity and the force applied to them.