Students experiment with Silly Putty®, a silicone-based polymer that is highly elastic, but snaps when pulled quickly. It slowly takes the shape of its container, yet resists sudden forces like the blow of a hammer, and bounces very well. It is non-toxic and non-irritating to the skin.
Silly Putty® was invented by James Wright, a researcher at General Electric who was working on synthetic rubber substitutes in World War II. Mixing silicone oil with boric acid made the first Silly Putty® substance, and although it didn't work as a synthetic rubber, it did make a great toy!
There are other uses of Silly Putty®. At home, it can be used to pick up dirt and lint. Silly Putty® in various strengths is used to help people build up hand muscles after injuries. Because Silly Putty® adheres well, it was also used by Apollo astronauts to hold tools in zero-gravity!