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How hard is it to swim in syrup?Common sense would tell you that swimming in syrup would be harder (i.e., slower) than swimming in water. Common sense would also argue against actually trying to concoct a field test. Notwithstanding conventional wisdom, someone did and the results are surprising.What might sound like a trivial question is actually a fundamental question of physics. Back in the 17th century, Isaac Newton and his contemporary Christiaan Huygens argued whether an object’s speed through a fluid would depend on its viscosity. Since neither had access to competitive swimmers or a pool full of syrup this particular argument remained theoretical until the present day when an experiment was conducted at the University of Minnesota with a 25-meter pool filled with the sticky guar gum. 16 volunteers then swam in both the syrupy goo and water and the times were almost identical.The reason for the similarity of times is that while you experience more “viscous drag” (basically friction from your movement through the fluid) as the water gets thicker, you generate more forwards force from every stroke.The two effects cancel each other out.The study was published in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal and summarized in Nature.com.