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Scientists Are Close to Figuring Out How to Pour Ketchup From a Glass Bottle [VIDEO]

(Props: TED-Ed)

As NPR’s The Salt blog explains:

Ketchup…is a pretty unusual substance. It behaves both like a solid and a liquid, depending on how you shake that bottle.

That’s because there are two types of fluid: Newtonian and non-Newtonian. Newtonian fluids retain their viscosity — or resistance to flow — regardless of the amount of force you put on them. Non-Newtonian fluids are what Zaidan calls “rule breakers.” Their thickness and viscosity change based on how long, how hard and how fast you push.

Ketchup — made of particles from pulverized tomatoes, along with water, vinegar, corn syrup and spices — belongs to the latter group and gets thinner the harder you push. Zaidan explains that below a certain point of force, ketchup behaves like a solid, leaving you frustrated with anticipation…

Once you shake the bottle beyond that breaking point, the ketchup becomes 1,000 times thinner, giving you that shower of tomato paste that drowns your fries. How? Well, when you give that bottle a good, hard shake, all those spherical particles get squished into ellipses that easily flow past each other.

But what if you’re cautious and prefer to gently shake the ketchup out of its confinement? It will flow eventually, but scientists aren’t exactly sure how. It could be that the particles form small clusters, leaving more space in between to flow past one another. Or, perhaps the particles gather at the center of the bottle, away from the walls, leaving the watery soup as a lubricant.

Zaidan says the ketchup-pouring pros know exactly how to control that flow: Keep the lid on and give the bottle a few good hard shakes to “wake up” the particles. Then, uncap and pour to your heart’s content.

Short version? Just use easy-squeeze, bro.

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