How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 123

Does super cooled helium act in a viscous or non-viscous manner?
Below 2.17 K, liquid helium behaves very differently than normal fluids. It behaves as though it were made of two intermingled fluids: one that is normal in every way and the other that is completely without viscosity. Depending on what sort of experiment you do, you will see one or the other fluid. If you swirl the liquid helium with a stick, you will see the viscous fluid component swirling and splashing. If you pour the liquid helium through a filter made of tightly packed dust, you will see the non-viscous component rushing through. No normal fluid can travel through packed dust, because its viscosity slows its travel until it doesn't move at all. But the viscosity-free component of liquid helium can flow easily through any holes, no matter how small. It can flow through holes that even helium gas has trouble passing.

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