Choppy waters on a lake can ruin an otherwise perfect day of sunshine, tranquility and reading French poetry in a row boat. Luckily, there's a way to tame the waters, and all you need is a tablespoon of olive oil. Yes, olive oil.
The video above explains how, but the too-long/didn't-watch version goes something like this: Oil molecules have two sides, and one side is attracted to the water molecules while the other side is repelled by it. The part that is repelled flips up toward the lake surface and forms "a tangled shaggy carpet," in the words of Greg Kestin, the host of the video and a physics lecturer at Harvard.
Normally, wind builds up traction on water, creating ripples and waves, but with the "shaggy carpet" of molecules in place, the wind just drags the molecules across the water. This creates a wave-free zone in the lake. Presto: a zone of calm waters.
This trick for soothing troubled waters has been around for a while. Sailors used their cooking oil make it easier to sail through stormy oceans, while Benjamin Franklin would keep some oil in his walking stick to prank people by claiming he had the ability to bring water to a standstill. Now you can do the same to your friends. Or just to make sure you have smooth rowing while enjoying Baudelaire.