Climbing a Watery Slope

By Ivars Peterson, 15:53 PM April 15, 2008

To a tiny insect, a pond's still surface can present a daunting waterscape. To move from water to land, a water-walking creature may have to scale a steep, slippery slope—the curved edge where water meets leaf, rock, or floating object.

The curvature of a liquid's surface at a boundary is a consequence of the liquid's surface tension. The sloped surface marking the border between wet and dry is called the meniscus.

To creatures about a millimeter in length, these slopes appear as frictionless ...

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