Phenomena

Life at the Interface

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Water striders are masters of life at the interface of water and air. Their spindly legs are skinnier than the capillary length of water, meaning that, at their size, surface tension is strong enough to overcome gravitational effects. Thus, their feet leave dimples on the interface, but the water itself holds them up. To keep from getting accidentally drenched (and thus weighed down), the striders are covered in tiny hairs that trap a layer of air that makes them hydrophobic or water-repellent. To get around, these masters of the interface use their middle legs in a manner similar to oars. They push against the dimple around their legs, which generates vortices under the surface and helps propel them. Even more impressive, the water strider can jump off the surface, a feat that requires remarkable adaptation in order to maximize the jump without breaking surface tension. (Video credit: Deep Look)

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