Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Helios Ruehls, Inc Science Report No. 5:




 Ever heard of  "non Newtonian liquid". Personally being a fish I like my liquids simple and predictable like salt water, which I live in and breath, Sea water behaves pretty much in accordance with the known laws of physics. It's molecules behave pretty much as predicted and as a liquid it behaves pretty much as Issac Newton  would expect a self respecting liquid to behave. Really I'm a bit unnerved to even learn that there are "non Newtonian liquids". But now I'm working for Helios Ruehls, Inc a network of eggheads and sailors whose minds are constantly wandering around in Complexity Theory, some where beyond what they call "The Eculidian / Newtonian Line". You wander around in strange territory long enough and eventually you'll step in a puddle of something. 

 That something recently was "non Newtonian liquids" (NNLs) generally and a specific application of  a unique NNL that is proving out to be a potentially highly useful anti ballistic "gravy". I'm calling it "gravy" because it was literally whipped up in a typical kitchen mixer and is about the consistency and of gravy. But this is a gravy that "can stop a speeding bullet", a kind of super gravy. What's more amazing is that it didn't come out of DARPA, or the off beat skunk works of Helios Ruehls, or from any of the usual "beltway bandits" but was "discovered" by an undergraduate young woman, a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Hayley Weir , who we understand is not a physics major. 

 Cadet Weir will graduate this month (May 2017) from the Air Force Academy with a commission as an officer in the U,S, Air Force, a bachelor's degree, and a pending patent from the U.S. patent office for her magic sauce  based "wafers". She invented her ballistic gravy or magic sauce as part of her senior year science project inspired by a child's play substance called "Oobleak",( which first appeared as a fictional green substance in the Dr, Seuss book BARTHOLOMEW AND THE OOBLECK and later the name was applied to a non-Newtonian fluid made of corn starch and water.) , Here is what is unique about a non-Newtonian liquid like Oobleak when it comes to ballistics. Handled gently, it flows like a liquid. Impact it hard and suddenly and the molecules instantly gather together and provide dense resistance to impact. Kneed it gently in your hand and it will flow over your hand like muddy water, but squeeze it hard and you can form a ball with it. What Cadet weir wondered was what would happen if you shot some Oobleak with a bullet. Would it harden at the point of impact and then go back to smooth flowing liquid when the bullet was spent? You raise a young girl on Dr. Seuss and then send her to a college that involves periodic trips to a rifle range and you get these sorts of questions. This is probably a good thing since lots of students at Harvard and Yale were raised on Dr. Seuss, but they'll never see a firing range. 

 So how did Cadet Weir go about proving her theory that a non-Newtonian liquid could form an anti ballistic gravy? I'm over simplifying a bit here, but basically, she mixed some up with a standard kitchen appliance put it in a "baggie" and shot the unrepentant, non Newtonian, miscreant goo right in the bag, POW! The bullet punctured the outer side of the bag but did not penetrate to the other side, All those smart pesky ballistic protesting molecules bunched up instantly on impact and butted heads ( really , really tiny heads) with the bullet. Then of course the Oobleak or whatever it was reverted to its liquid state and escaped the baggie through the hole. 

 So, since Air Force Cadets come with radically different mind sets from the Ivy League types our intrepid Cadet Weir started looking for a better "baggie" and started shooting the unrepentant liquid with larger caliber weapons. Now in the Ivy League what happens in the physics lab usually stays in the physics lab. Military cadet under grads think differently. Cadet Weir sought out some insight, not from the head of the physics department, but from Professor Ryan Burke of the Military and Strategic Studies Department. Was Professor Ryan a closet complexity theoretician ?  No, he was a Marine ( honorably discharged, but we know better than to refer to any Marine veteran as an "Ex Marine", there are non such, the character of U.S. Marines is indelibly marked for eternity , some what like baptism) . The Marine mind is uniquely focused. A Marine's attention is always drawn to better ways of making things that belong to "bad people" go boom, and to ways of avoiding going boom while the bad people owners of the things you want to break resist your sincere efforts to rid the planet of the troublesome. 

 It didn't take too long or too many rounds of ammunition to arrive at the perfect package. First, Cadet Weir's magic gravy is poured into a vacuum sealed plastic bag.  Then the bag of anti ballistic gravy is  flattened into a quarter inch square shape and placed in a Kevlar fabric pouch forming a layered   "wafer". We make it all just sound so easy, but in fact this is not the corn starch Oobleck of your Dr. Seuss child hood. No, Cadet Weir's "magic sauce" has been described as a "viscous black goo", There had to be more to it than corn starch for a patent. 

 Where is all this going in terms of applications? Well the immediate application looks like more flexible infantry body armor able to protect more than the chest and waist area. Besides the always popular idea of protecting certain soft parts in the southern region of the human anatomy , knee and shin pads built into your battle dress uniforms may soon be possible and a variance on the bandanna might soon protect parts of a soldier's face and neck. On the naval and aviation side the thinner lighter layered wafers might be used much like ballistic tiles are now used in protecting certain parts of small patrol boats and air craft.   Could inexpensive ballistic protected orange hunter vests be on the horizon for America's hunters?  One thing is for sure the non Newtonian liquid filled Kevlar wafer will be an important addition to light weight flexible body and vital system armor in the near future. 

 What other wonders will come from non Newtonian liquids, the potential super gravy?  One aspect that this unique case illustrates is that at least non Newtonian liquids are one example of something from the far side of the Eculidian / Newtonian line at the gate of complexity theory that doesn't always require super mathematical tools to enter . The non Newtonian liquid realm was entered by an Air Force Cadet and a Marine Adviser without being armed with advanced complexity theory mathematics, They came, they saw, they mixed stuff, they shot stuff, they thought about what they shot, and then shot it some more, and lo and behold, new seemingly miraculous technology was captured. Now I understand why Helios Ruehls, Inc is composed of a mix of Doctors of Physics, Mathematics, and old sailors and one Army Major. Only such a mix of minds is suited to organize raids beyond the known borders of physics. 

Until the next startling development,

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