To Levitate Water, Turn on the Strobe Lights

By Nina Bai | December 5, 2008 1:12 pm

water dropThe 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

  • Nan R.

    If you want to see more stuff like water in strobe lights and similar optical illusions, check out the show, “Time Warp”. They use ultra high speed film and then play it back. Check out the water drops episode for a taste.

  • justin

    hi…this is very intresting thgs…
    u know any company hv sell this machine?
    can send to my mail the website???thx…

    • Mat

      did you get a website?

  • Pingback: WoW Gold kaufen()

  • Pingback: responsiva b2b data()

  • Pingback: business()


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar