Questions to Ask
Why do scientists use magnification? Where have you seen things magnified?

Tips for Less Mess: Cover the work surface and keep paper towels within reach.

Science Connection
The speed at which light travels through water is different from its speed in air, which makes the light bend, or refract, where the water and air meet. The curvature of the water drop also acts as a lens because light passing through the center has farther to go through water than light passing through the edge. These two effects together make the droplet act as a magnifier.

When the straw is dipped into the water, some water enters it-- reaching the same level as in the cup. Air pressure is pushing down equally on the water in the cup and in the straw. When you close the straw with your finger and lift it, a tiny bit of water flows out, and the air remaining in the straw expands to take its place. This reduces the pressure of the air in the straw. So the air pressure pushing down on the water in the straw is less than the full pressure of the air in the room pushing up on it. Thus the water stays in the straw until you release your finger.

To explore some of the characteristics of water

What You Need

  • A small container (bottle cap) of water
  • Drinking straw cut in half
  • Clear plastic bag
  • Newspaper page with small letters

    What to Do
    Place the bag on top of the newspaper. Put the straw in the cap of water, and then “plug” the top of the straw with your finger. Keeping your finger securely on the top of the straw, take it out of the water. You now have water in the straw. Why do you think the water stays in the straw?

    Touch the straw onto the plastic, creating little droplets of water. Can you make larger ones? What shapes are the drops?

    Look closely at the drops. What do you see? How does the newspaper print look?

    Drop: The small quantity of liquid heavy enough to fall in a spherical mass.

    Droplet: A tiny drop

    Magnify: To make something look greater in size

    Refract: The bending of a beam of light when it passes from one material to another if the speed of light is different in the two materials.

    Sphere: A round object. All points on its surface are the same distance from the center.

    Spherical: Having the shape of a sphere

    Try This
    You might want to place drops of water on wax paper, aluminum foil, or tissue. What happens? How do they compare to the drops of water on the clear plastic?

    Can you read through any of these drops?

    Look at the same part of the newspaper through a magnifying glass and then through the drop of water. How are they alike? How are they different?

    Try using both to look at the colored comics.
    Drag a toothpick through drops of water. What happens? Now, place a little dishwashing detergent on the toothpick, and drag it through the drops. What happens? Why?

    What other liquids would you like to try?

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