Lensing in a Straw

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While doing the sort of experiment only a kid or a scientist would pursue – namely, staring down a straw – Dianna noticed that water in a straw creates a lens-like magnification effect as the straw moves or down. This happens thanks to the curvature of the air-water-straw interface. Because water has strong surface tension, it curves dramatically as it meets the wall of the straw, and moving the straw up or down will drag some of the fluid with it, enhancing the curvature. When light refracts across that interface, it gets bent the same way it would through a lens, thereby shrinking or magnifying the objects beneath. (Video credit: D. Cowern/Physics Girl)

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