Pour wine or liquor into a glass, give it swirl, and you can watch as droplets form and dance on the walls. This well-known phenomena, often called “tears” or “legs” in wine, results from an interplay of surface tension and evaporation. Despite its common occurrence, researchers are still discovering interesting subtleties in the physics, as seen in new research on the subject.
Dianna walks you through the phenomenon step-by-step in this video. The key piece of physics is the Marangoni effect, the tendency of regions with high surface tension to pull flow from areas with lower surface tension. In the wine glass, evaporation creates this surface tension gradient by removing alcohol more quickly from the meniscus than the bulk. That sets up the gradient that lets the wine climb the glass. By preventing or delaying that evaporation, we can see other neat effects, too, like shock fronts that travel through the film. (Video credit: Physics Girl; research credit: Y. Dukler et al.)