Can Liquids Flow Uphill?

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License: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike Can Liquids Flow Uphill? The Latchkids
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15 Jan, 2008


The weird properties of polyethylene oxide.

Director's Notes:

The film demonstrates the unusual properties of a solution of a very long chain polymer, polyethylene oxide. As shown here, it can self-syphon.

We found this experiment here, on

SciCast Notes:

Nominee: Best Chemistry Film, 2008

OK, I’m going to be really picky with this film. Not because it isn’t good — I enjoyed watching it — but because there are a few things that bug me about it, that keep cropping up in other films too. So I might as well pick on this film specifically, like the meany I am.

First up: it’s good to see a nice wide shot to establish the film and show its setting, but pretty quickly I find myself wanting more detail and less, well, table.

Next: it’s always hard working out who should be on camera. Sometimes you wind up with everybody shirking the limelight, which can give you all sorts of problems. At other times you have someone on camera but doing very little — or, as here, being asked to do things that the main presenter could have done themselves. In those circumstances the second person can be distracting for the viewer. We’re constantly watching them, wondering if they’re about to do anything.

Now, this film is actually OK in this regard, which is why I mention it here — the makers have thought about why there are two people, and made a deliberate choice. I think I’d personally disagree with them, but that’s creative differences for you.

Final thought — whenever you’ve filmed a close-up, always ask if you could get even closer to see yet more detail. There are times when you can jump in so close the audience have no idea which detail they’re suddenly looking at. So ‘closer’ can end up being ‘too close.’ In this case, however, I think we might have coped with just a little more of the upward-syphoning gel, which would have helped the film’s clarity.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a good film. I wouldn’t be picky if I didn’t like it, and it gets lots right. But hey, I’m a perfectionist, and I want to turn good films into mind-blowingly great ones.

Whatever happens with this year’s competition, keep your eye on the Latchkids team. I’ve a feeling they might turn in something genuinely spectacular next time around.

— Jonathan.