Science is now clear: wearing a mask is the easiest and least intrusive way to slow the spread of the novel corona virus. Understand why it’s not rocket science, but it’s also not always intuitive. If you’re looking for a practical explanation – or someone you know, like a Facebook friend who spreads misinformation – try it this YouTube video from It’s okay to be smart.
Viruses can be difficult to understand because they are invisible to the naked eye and move in water droplets with invisible air currents. However, with a technique called Schlieren Imaging, we can see these air currents, and that̵
The science behind Schlieren imaging is somewhat complicated because a spherical mirror bends the light in subtly different ways to reveal differences in density that would otherwise be invisible. It is important to note that this does not allow us to see viruses – they are too small for that – but we can see how the air flows when exhaling.
Using a combination of slow motion and streak imaging, the video shows what a cough with and without a mask looks like. The differences are striking. The exposed cough creates a massive cloud of potentially virus-laden air that moves much further than expected – about 2 meters, which is why social distance means staying outside of this zone.
A mask does two things: First, it captures a large portion of the droplets that are expelled when you cough, sneeze, or breathe. Second, for those who are not captured, the momentum has dulled so that they cannot travel very far. This means less risk of infection for the people around you. The bottom line is that masks work – and that’s a good video demonstrate You exactly why.
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