When you drizzle honey, it becomes a thin stream that goes all "jiggly" as it hits your sandwich. I believe this is due to the way that the long molecules align as the liquid falls and becomes thinner.

I suspect there is a word for that property. It's not viscosity - that is what makes a liquid resist shear. This is a "temporary alignment that results in transient elastic behavior".

I would have thought there's a word for that, but my Google Fu is failing me. Any scientists here that are also awesome with words?

  • 2
    As you mentioned already, honey or any thick oil is a viscous liquid, and when you pour out, the liquid doesn't spread on the surface quickly. And if I can remember correctly it was liquid rope coiling, I guess. – haha Apr 4 '18 at 0:29
  • @haha ... so may i answer such. oops done. – lbf Apr 4 '18 at 0:40
  • @lbf Of course. However, the OP mentioned it wasn't viscosity. (which honestly, I think it doesn't matter if it is really the answer, you know.) – haha Apr 4 '18 at 1:02
  • 1
    also answered here: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/222004/… – lbf Apr 4 '18 at 1:11
  • 2
    I suspect the liquid is non-Newtonian as it hits the surface, so it behaves as a semi-solid. – Nigel J Apr 4 '18 at 2:23

viscosity TFD

The resistance of a substance to flow. A substance that can flow easily has a low viscosity. A substance that cannot flow easily has a high viscosity.

enter image description here

As in:

Honey has a high viscosity.

And fluid dynamics of honey: Journal of Fluid Dynamics

A thin ‘rope’ of viscous fluid falling from a sufficient height onto a surface forms a series of regular coils.

the physics of err ... a little above my pay grade. But herein may lie the secrets to a space 'warp drive' lol!

| improve this answer | |

I believe the term you're looking for is the liquid rope-coil effect.

While there is no definition entry in any in any form, it appears to be an accepted term among those who study physics.

This blurb from Scientific American writes:

[This] thin stream of falling honey does not approach the toast directly, but instead builds up a whirling helical structure. In the late 1950s the resemblance to a pile of coiled rope led the first investigators of this phenomenon, George Barnes and Richard Woodcock, to call it the liquid rope-coil effect.

Hope this is helpful!

| improve this answer | |

'Non-Newtonian' is the scientific description given to some fluids which have specific behaviour and properties like those described by the OP.

The behaviour of such fluids is not just a matter of viscosity :

Many salt solutions and molten polymers are non-Newtonian fluids, as are many commonly found substances such as ketchup, custard, toothpaste, starch suspensions, maizena, honey, paint, blood, and shampoo.

Although the concept of viscosity is commonly used in fluid mechanics to characterize the shear properties of a fluid, it can be inadequate to describe non-Newtonian fluids.


Further reference supplied by @JJJ :

what we really need physicists to focus on is the mystery of why strands of sweet, sticky honey can get so long and thin as they drip without actually breaking.

The Physics of Dripping Honey

| improve this answer | |
  • "In a non-Newtonian fluid, the viscosity changes in response to an applied strain or shearing force, thereby straddling the boundary between liquid and solid behavior." from Scientific American. Feel free to add a quote from that in your answer (I think it's interesting and relevant). – JJ for Transparency and Monica Apr 4 '18 at 19:23
  • ah ... take a look at the Fluid Dynamics link in my wonderful answer :) – lbf Apr 4 '18 at 19:33
  • Sorry @lbf TL;DR – Nigel J Apr 4 '18 at 19:34
  • 1
    @lbf that paper doesn't mention the (non-)Newtonian part, right? I think all 3 answer look at it from a different (but equally interesting / relevant) angle. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Apr 4 '18 at 19:42
  • 1
    @Floris The thixotropicity is what gives it the 'body' in order to form a shape. And thixotropicity is a feature of non-Newtonians. – Nigel J Apr 4 '18 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.