surface tension paperclips on water

Surface tension | Day 209

Surface tension is a concept that crops up in conversation from time to time. Well, it does in my household, because my boyfriend keeps bringing it up when we talk about things such as… “water running down window, water bulging over edge of full glass, insects skidding over pond, beads on a cold beer glass.”1

Ever seen a leaf do this? Yup, surface tension. | By @lattefarsan - Attribution-ShareAlike License
Ever seen a leaf do this? Yup, surface tension. | By @lattefarsanAttribution-ShareAlike License

I thought that explaining this ever-present phenomenon would make for an excellent blog post, so I thought I would write up an explainer for it, but it turns out someone has done much, much better than that. It’s a video, and it’s funny. And it means I don’t need to write a few hundred words that will make you glaze over and switch tabs directly back to Facebook.

I present to you Physics Girl. Dianna is a physics enthusiast, MIT alumna, and currently University of California science outreach coordinator. A few years ago she started a project that would help her use her physics degree. This has resulted in a collection of excellent and easy-to-understand videos that explain various concepts within physics, and how they relate to everyday life.

For example, if we get back to today’s blog story topic, what is surface tension? And how does soap change it? To figure that out, all you need is a physics graduate, a glass of water, a spring from a clicky pen, and a drop of soap. Also included is a huge purple glove, but something tells me that was optional.

Watch the surface tension experiment below!


Also, did you vote in yesterday’s poll? Come on. I installed a plugin just for that purpose.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Direct quote. I asked him to name some phenomena that make him think about surface tension.

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