What is needed

That's it!

What to Do

This is a very messy experiment - but it cleans up really easily. Go somewhere that you can make a bit of a mess, and do this:

The key is to add just enough water so that the cornstarch and water mix will flow very, very slowly. Now you have something which is a very strange goo indeed. If you walk fast enough, you can actually walk on it:

Here is Meara Cassidy walking on a big tub of goo, on the "Everyday Science" television program.

But if you pour it, it will flow like water! Here are some things to try:

What is Happening

The cornstarch is made up of long chains of atoms - a polymer. These chains can move past each other, but they take some time to do this. If you pour it slowly, it can flow like a liquid. If you try to force things and make the chains slide more quickly than they want to, they get entangled - and the mixture gets firmer. So if you push hard on it, it acts more like a solid.

The real explanation is actually a bit more complicated than this. But the exact workings of mixtures like this is something that is not all that well understood. Folks sometimes get upset when there is no really good answer for things in science, but really that's a good thing - if we already knew everything there was to know, there would be no reason to try new things - and what's the fun in that?

Other Things to Try

If you add different amounts of water, you can get mixtures that work very differently. You can also try different liquids. Corn syrup and cornstarch can make a mixture that will do weird things in the presence of static electricity, for instance.