DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Droplets of water floating on the surface of olive oil, photographed in polarised light. Oils are hydrophobic and immiscible with water. Water has a high surface tension, and very small droplets tend to a spherical shape, since a sphere has the lowest surface area for a given volume, and hence is minimum potential energy state. The droplets in this picture are up to 5mm in diameter. At this size, the spherical shape is flattened by the force of gravity, and the circular outline is influenced by the presence of adjacent droplets. The oil is contained within a polystyrene plastic dish. It is this plastic that generates the colours in polarised light.
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