Can boats float in the air above water? Are ghost ships so often reported by various sailors real? Can a mountain flip upside down? Your logical side will say, of course not. However, all of this can be technically true. Science YouTube channel The ActionLab recently posted a video with a very old clip from 2010 which featured a boat floating above the water, like a hovercraft. The host then tries to verify (or alternately debunk) whether such a thing could actually happen or if the video was fake.
Turns out the video is not fake but the boat isn’t floating above water either. To check the validity of the video, the host went to a beach in Florida to see if he could spot ‘floating ships’ on the horizon. He shows a few clips where ships may appear beyond the horizon, but not floating as clearly as the one from the 2010 video.
However, he conducted a series of experiments at home by placing a metal ball in an acrylic transparent cube-shaped box. He noticed that even when he went a little below the eye level of the ball (looking through the glass walls), it appears to be above the glass for a while. It is actually an optical illusion. You must have heard of mirages and other such illusions are often encountered by people in deserts. Now, this is something like a mirage. This effect is known as Fata Morgana which a superior image formed due to refraction of light.
As you might know, light does not travel at the same speed in different mediums. Speed of light in air is vastly different from the speed of light in water or glass or any solid medium. Similarly, the speed of light in warm air differs from that in cold air. This difference in speed is what causes this Fata Morgana.
“In order for a ship to appear above the horizon, some bending of the light has to occur,” the host says. On cold days, when the water is cooling the air above it, whereas air further above remains warm, you can see things that are below the horizon. “It can actually lift the image up higher than the horizon itself.” He made a point to differentiate this image from a mirage.
Mirage is when there is hot air below, cold air above, and a mirror image is formed. Fata morgana is when there is cold below hot above; it bends light differently than a mirage.
This way, a superior image is formed above the actual level. It can be so strong that ships may appear upside down to some sailors.
Watch it here: