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A Solid or a Liquid - What is the Mantle Like?

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Is the Earth's mantle a solid or a liquid? Participants compare and describe the properties of silly putty and ooblek, comparing it to the layer of Earth that the crust flows on.

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04/29/2018

Fun with non-Newtonian fluids

The participants thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Oobleck and the Silly Putty. They were fascinated by the properties of the two substances and the questions elicited good discussion about solids vs. liquids. At the end of the activity, they better understood the concept that the Earth's mantle doesn't behave like any solid or liquid they are used. It opened their eyes to some of the ways matter can defy precise definitions and dichotomies.

Silly Putty of course is pretty tidy, but covering the work surfaces (and possibly floor) with newspaper makes Oobleck clean-up easier. In any case, avoid carpeted areas to minimize headaches.

Clean-up is pretty straightforward with basic preparation. Water dissolves the Oobleck mixture quite adequately, but cycling multiple kids to sinks for hand washing at the end may require some forethought. Participants that are particular about cleanliness may have difficulty handling Oobleck as it oozes across their hands, leaves its trails, and doesn't easily wipe off. Reassuring them and demonstrating that it will wash off quickly in water may help all but the most fastidious.

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A Solid or a Liquid - What is the Mantle Like?

A Solid or a Liquid - What is the Mantle Like?

Is the Earth's mantle a solid or a liquid? Participants compare and describe the properties of silly putty and ooblek, comparing it to the layer of Earth that the crust flows on.