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.
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.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons / Michael Melgar