Subwoofer Makes Cornstarch Dance

People tend not to think about the non-Newtonian properties of foodstuffs, but we’re glad at least one person did. When it comes to cornstarch, it’s indeterminate viscosity when mixed with water made it the perfect solution for a pretty neat trick: making a liquid move in reaction to a subwoofer. The unique motion can be attributed to the physical properties of the solution: when enough force is applied quickly, it acts as a solid. Otherwise, it flows like a liquid. The erratic bouncing of the sound waves combined with a little tactile manipulation create varying degrees and speeds of applied pressure, which in turn create a mass of flowing shapes that almost appear to be alive.

We’ve covered weird fluids before, but this is perhaps most similar to SnOil, a game that uses ferrofluids to achieve a similar result. SnOil, however, does not depend of vibrations to create shapes in the fluid, it uses small electromagnets and magnetically charges liquid instead. We love the ordered appearance of the SnOil unit, but the chaotic motion of the cornstarch and it’s non-Newtonian properties make it appear almost otherworldly. We wonder how ferrofluids would react in a situation similar to the cornstarch above, since it would respond to both the vibration and the voice coil’s magnetic field.

[via Neatorama]

11 thoughts on “Subwoofer Makes Cornstarch Dance

  1. that just looks soooooo creepy and wrong. at the same time it looks sooooooo cooool.
    i love it.
    it’s weird off the wall surprises like this that keep me hitting this site every hour or so throughout the day.

  2. A ferrofluid is a sort of liquid with (usually) micro or nano particles of ferrimagnetic material, such as magnetite – but it’s still a newtonian liquid. I have experimented with ferrofluid before (making a “liquid clock”) and I gotta say I believe it’d be pretty boring to use one with a subwoofer. To make the particles cluster together, a kinda big magnetic field has to be applied. I believe the woofer field wouldn’t be enough to really “shake” things. Still, ferromagnetic has a LOT of potential to be discovered, and is a lot of fun to play with.

  3. This is really cool. My family tried it after seeing this video but we couldn’t really get it to work as well as shown. I don’t know if we didn’t have enough rumble, but the most we could get was small ripples.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Ever since science classes in elementary school, I’ve loved the effect of cornstarch and water together. Neat to see someone use it for something so odd-looking.

  5. #1 is right, cool and creepy at the same time, I think it’s worth investigating some more :)

    Earlier this year I bought 4 tactile transducers (Aura AST-1B-4 bass shakers) of which I stuck 2 to the back of the chair I’m sitting on so I get a nice additional bass rumble when watching films, but still have 2 spare… I think a trip the shops for some cornflour is in order

  6. That is pretty cool. I did a demonstration in high school physics class that used just water suspended above a sub-woofer enclosure to show the effects of reversing polarity on one of the woofers. It earned me an a, as the waves completely disappeared from the water when the polarity was reversed, which demonstrated the physics behind noise cancellation. I thought I was pretty cool having thought of that but if only I had used cornstarch water instead!!!

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