Learn how a small amount of oil can have a calming impact on a large body of water, in this episode of What the Physics?! from NOVA. When a tablespoon of olive oil is poured into a lake, the oil spreads out to cover about half an acre and calms the waves. As the oil molecules are attracted to the water molecules, a single-molecule-thick layer of oil is created. This thin layer of oil acts like a tangled carpet that the wind drags across the water. Because the wind cannot act directly on the water to create waves, the surface of the lake stays relatively calm. This resource is part of the NOVA: What the Physics?! Collection.
NOTE: Do not try this experiment in a public body of water.
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