Phenomena

Surface Tension in Action

Surface tension creates a glassy, smooth layer of water over U.S. swimmer Tyler Clary the instant before he surfaces as he competes in the backstroke. Surface tension arises from intermolecular forces between water molecules. In the bulk of the liquid, any given water molecule is being pulled on in every direction by the surrounding molecules, which results in zero net force. At the surface, however, molecules only experience forces from those to the side and below them. As a result, these molecules are pulled inwards, forcing the liquid to take on a form with minimal area. (Photo credit: Getty Images; submitted by drhawkins)

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