Planet Earth

To Levitate Water, Turn on the Strobe Lights

DiscoblogBy Nina BaiDec 5, 2008 6:12 PM

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The same technology that makes ravers at a club look like they're gyrating in slow motion can be used to levitate water. Watch it here! It's a nifty illusion created by strobe lights, or a stroboscope, a device that emits quick pulses of light. In the setup shown in the video, all the water drops are actually falling and most of the time they are invisible. The drops are only visible during the millisecond pulses of the strobe light. By adjusting these pulses to the rate of the falling drops, the drops can be made to look like they are traveling at certain speeds, hovering in midair, or even levitating. Your mind automatically connects the images illuminated by the pulses, likes frames of an animated cartoon, creating the illusion of gravity-defying motion. What you perceive as a rising drop of water is actually frames of many different falling drops. The same concept is behind the wagon-wheel effect often seen in movies. The artist Olafur Eliason, most recently known for his New York City Waterfalls, has also made a frozen curtain of water droplets using strobe lights. Stroboscopes were pioneered by Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton, a professor at MIT, who used them along with high-speed photography to capture stunning images of milk splashes and bullets cutting through playing cards. Related Content: DISCOVER: NeuroQuest: Why the Brain Gets Tricked by Optical Illusions

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Michael Melgar

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