If you haven’t seen the viral video of a man making a stick figure dance using just a dry erase marker and a few drops of water, stop what you’re doing and watch it below. Then keep reading to learn how to do it using the power of science.
Welcome back. Many commenters decried this video as either fake or simply a mess. But as YouTuber Steve Mould explained, it’s just a matter of simple science that makes this trick work. And honestly, a little dry erase marker and a few drops of water is hardly a mess, compared to what most kids get into.
Anyway, Mould explains that the reason the stick figure can “advance” is because of the way a dry erase marker is made. Most ink is meant to stick to the surface of whatever it’s on—whether it be paper, cardboard or your wall. A permanent marker, like a Sharpie, contains strong adhesives in the ink. That’s what makes it stick.
But dry erase markers are different. They don’t contain nearly as much of the adhesive found in permanent markers, which is why the ink can easily be wiped away on a whiteboard or elsewhere. Additionally, the ink can’t be dissolved in liquid (it’s insoluble—another science word!), and it is less dense than water. So when you write with a dry erase marker on a smooth surface, the ink floats up with the water.
As you can see in the video, you don’t even have to touch the stick figure for the trick to work. Simply blowing on the ink is enough to get it dancing.
So now that you know how the trick works, this is a good opportunity to:
a) have some artistic fun with your kids
b) remind them that drawing on the furniture is still not okay, even in the name of art, and
c) learn about science together.
It’s a triple-win situation!