First Advisor

Ralf Widenhorn

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Physics and University Honors




Geometrical optics, Shades and shadows, Physics -- Study and teaching, Physics -- Experiments, Water striders, Surface tension




When a water-walking insect sits atop the surface of a fluid, its legs create shadows that are disproportionately large and are surrounded by bright rings of light. While these shadows are prominent, their cause is not easily perceptible to an observer’s eye. The phenomenon is the result of the formation of fluidic lenses caused by the insect legs deforming the surface of the fluid. In this work, an experimental setup is created to emulate the conditions under which these shadows are formed and explore the properties of the shadows and the deformed fluid's surface. The setup is inexpensive, consisting of an LED lamp and a 3D printed apparatus attached to a ring stand. The methods used in this work can be used to create lab activities for physics students to help them to better understand geometrical optics as well as the interactions between solids, fluids, and air.


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