This device creates the illusion that a simple stream of water droplets can defy the known laws of physics. By controlling a set of flickering LEDs, the dripping water can appear to slow down, freeze in mid-air, and even reverse in direction.
This illusion exists because the brain attempts to fill in the gaps between flashes with its anticipated motion. It is the same reason that your brain interprets the 24 frames/second of a movie to be in-motion, rather than recognizing the individual still frames .
It all started when my friend Jesse told me that if you get a strobe light fast enough, you can make it look like dripping water is going in slow motion or even backwards. This phenomenon happens because strobe lights can ‘capture’ an instant in time and allow your eyes to see it as lasting longer than an instant.
So if the strobe light captures consecutive instants of time just out of sync with a periodic occurrence such as dripping water from a faucet, it can appear that the drops are moving slowly or even backwards.
Of course, since we had no strobe light of sufficient speed, Jesse and I never really pursued the concept.