I am imagining a world where liquid water can exist outside our solar system and share a similar chemistry with our ocean, say there is traces of sodium chloride in water (not the heavy water kind).

I'm thinking of using sonic vibration to force the water to behave like honey in terms of viscosity but I doubt it would be that easy even for very brief moment, any idea what kind of conditions no matter how extreme it gets just to make an ocean of saline solution to behave like honey?

In short the chemistry of ocean water must be the same as the Pacific ocean to be accepted as an answer, I can also accept mathematical model but please explain the parameters and principals used. It is for my exotic lifeform whereby streamline is a rarity.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interestingly, dropping internet cables at the bottom of the ocean involves the same kind of physics and maths as dropping honey on a slice of bread. $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Nov 23, 2021 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ It's worth asking, are you intending on the ocean life being able to swim in this honey-like water? $\endgroup$
    – Glen O
    Nov 24, 2021 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Glen O: it will be teeming with life $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 24, 2021 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ Diapers contain super absorbing polymers (SAPs) which can absorb and retain large quantity of liquid. However, they are made of synthetic materials which are non-biodegradable.short ans :take out the thing inside the diaper and soak it in water but clean it up later ,before you buy many mabye try one $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2021 at 3:37
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if a low gravity well can at least make you experience something akin to this when in a body of water. I'll let someone with concrete knowledge figure that out because I don't know how to confirm this. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Nov 24, 2021 at 11:11

4 Answers 4


Partially freeze it

With temperatures very close to zero, the upper layer of water freezes and ice crystals form. If the temperature fluctuates around zero though, and with waves churning things up, you can end up with a layer of ice slush floating to the surface. As anyone who's eaten/drunk a slushy knows, this is thick and viscous.

Of course the lower layers of the sea will not be like this, but the surface could be.

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. Was worried I wouldn't see this hour here. If you can't change the chemistry, then the only options left are temperature/pressure. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Nov 23, 2021 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ What I was going to say. +1 $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2021 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Yes., This is called "grease ice" and there is a fair amount of scholarly work characterizing it. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Nov 23, 2021 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Honey is far more viscous and thixotropic. The viscosity of slush increases as the water/snow ratio drops, and even at a mere 5% water ratio the viscosity of slush, even at low shear rates, is around 0.08cp. Honey is around 10000cp, or about a hundred thousand times more viscous. There is nothing you can do to water without changing its chemistry to make it anywhere near as viscous as honey. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Nov 24, 2021 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @J True enough. Ice does float to the surface though, and snow lands in the top, so you end up with a gradient between powder snow on the top, grainy slush below, soft slush below that, and water under everything else. And whilst the thixotropic nature isn't exactly equivalent, when you start mixing layers then (as you say) it doesn't take much water to greatly change the viscosity. I guess the OP is looking for something vaguely similar, not exactly identical. :) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Nov 24, 2021 at 21:11

The only option I can think of that has a remote chance of working borrows a page out of Riven. Have the ocean be chemically salt water but be thickened by high concentrations of microbial life. In Riven they make the water thermophobic in your case they increase surface tension and viscosity instead. I would suggest a microbe with a surface covering of long hairlike structures that exploit Van der Waals force in the same way that a Gecko's Feet do such that the microbes can bind strongly with their neighbours but also separate easily at will.

  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't the water in Riven thermophilic? I recall there being structures full of vertical metal tubes, with the bottoms of the tubes just under water. Applying heat to the tubes would cause the water to flow up the tubes and blob up atop the columns. The microbes were my headcanon explanation for the water's behavior as well; I wonder if there was text in the game that suggested it to both of us. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2021 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnWalthour Rivenese Water $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Nov 24, 2021 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnWalthour There were notes in Gehn's lab on the "book assembly" island where he made his paper to the effect that he thought something lived in the water that gave it it's particular properties. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Nov 25, 2021 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ " ... their combined dramatic aversion to heat source ... " Thanks for the link J! Ash you were right, it was thermophobic not thermophillic! $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2021 at 19:54

If you want water to be as viscous as honey, it had to be some sort of gel. The easiest way to achieve it is probably by dissolving a conspicuous amount of proteins or polysaccharides in it, not much different than what you do when you prepare some stock or broth.

How do you get proteins dissolved in water? Well, for example there is a thing called "sea snot"

enter image description here

which is a mucilage

Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants and some microorganisms.

  • $\begingroup$ Another example from biology is the hagfish which is capable of releasing large amounts of slime into the ocean water as a defense mechanism: youtube.com/watch?v=t5PGZRxhAyU $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Nov 23, 2021 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ But that's changing the chemistry. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 23, 2021 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Arguably not. Its misleading to use the word dissolve in this context. A far better word would be suspension. In a suspension water and another substance would co-exist without changing the chemical nature of each. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2021 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Secretsquirrel Honey is about 16% water. I think if you change the oceans from something that used to be 97% water into something that's now only maybe 20% or even 50% water, that we can comfortably call that changing its chemistry. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Nov 24, 2021 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Honey and similar syrups are solutions (both chemically speaking and for a lot of baking problems) not suspensions ... $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2021 at 19:15

Your organisms are much smaller than human.

Isaac Asimov wrote the novelization for the movie Fantastic Voyage but missed a few things (or wasn't allowed to consider them because it would've made the movie impossible); but he wrote about them later. One of them is surface tension.

Water sticks to water; the molecules actually attract each other. At human (or even child) scale, this is pretty negligible compared to the force the human can produce. But at smaller scales, like bacterium, 'water' is more like what we'd call "molasses in January". Or "swimming pool full of ping-pong balls except heavy." Pick your scale, and you can have it be 'as thick as you like'.


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