Mar
09
2011

Could oobleck have saved the Top Kill?

Oobleck: It's pretty awesome when you put oobleck on a speaker and play music, but you might want to use a speaker from a yard sale rather than one you ever intend to use ever again for actual music enjoyment.
Oobleck: It's pretty awesome when you put oobleck on a speaker and play music, but you might want to use a speaker from a yard sale rather than one you ever intend to use ever again for actual music enjoyment.Courtesy Daniel Christensen

I know you've probably moved on from the BP oil spill to bigger and better things, like Charlie Sheen. But it's worth resurrecting old news for this: oobleck could have succeeded where drilling mud had an epic fail. A researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, came up with the idea to use oobleck because it doesn't behave like a normal liquid--that is, it flows like a liquid if you pour slowly, but behaves like a solid if you apply force to it or try to move it quickly.

This quirky, non-newtonian fluid would have been a big asset to BP's top kill strategy, because the oil's own force would have caused the oobleck to behave like a solid and plug the well, whereas the oil broke up the drilling mud they used and dispersed it. The challenge lies in getting the oobleck quickly into the well without triggering its solid-like behavior too soon.

Have you ever played with oobleck here at Science Museum of Minnesota or elsewhere? It's pretty great stuff, and you can make your own! Who'da thunk it could actually be useful?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

OOooh, here at Science Buzz, we LOVE oobleck.

posted on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 2:08pm
Shana's picture
Shana says:

That's interesting--I didn't realize that drilling mud was also non-newtonian! I wonder how oobleck compares to drilling mud--I get the impression they may just be different types of non-newtonian fluids.

posted on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 3:16pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options