Old Columbia Test Sheds Light on Ketchup

Recovered shuttle experiment reveals nature of viscosity
By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User
Posted May 4, 2008 6:27 PM CDT
tems lay at a memorial in Nacogdoches, Texas, on Sunday, February 2, 2003, in remembrance of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia.    (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – A hard drive recovered from the Columbia shuttle disaster confirms an old theory about why people shake ketchup before pouring it, LiveScience reports. Astronauts on the craft were conducting a zero-gravity experiment with xenon, a gas, to study viscosity, but scientists feared the results were lost after Columbia burned up 5 years ago.

The experiment itself was found intact amid debris scattered across Louisiana and Texas. It showed that when stirred, xenon's viscosity decreased—it became less sticky—which proves an old theory about how agitation affects molecules or atoms. No big deal? It is in the industrial world, where a liquid like motor oil can turn runny when engine parts smack it around.