Bubbles – Science and Fun

July 28, 2014
Written by:
Guest Author

Bubbles aren’t just kid stuff anymore. Computer scientists at Bristol University in England are studying bubbles as a new kind of surface for displaying information. They’re devising different sized bubbles on which to project short-term images to use in teaching, office communications, retail, entertainment and much more!

The Science Behind Bubbles

Ever wonder just what it is that makes bubbles the way they are? There’s definitely a science behind it! A bubble is a thin film made of soapy water. Most bubbles contain air but you can fill them with gases like carbon dioxide instead. Bubbles also have layers: two layers of soap molecules surround a middle layer of water.

Interestingly, each layer faces the water in whatever way it’s feeling pulled. The soap molecules are oriented so their heads face the water and their tails extend away from the water layers. While you may see bubbles start out in various shapes, all bubbles strive to become a sphere. It will always attempt to take on the smallest possible shape. This is because the sphere shape minimizes the surface area and requires the least amount of energy.

What happens when bubbles bump into one another? Usually, the surface areas merge together. If they’re the same size, then the wall between them will be flat. If the two bubbles were different sizes, the smaller one usually morphs into the larger one. This is why you can stack bubbles of different sizes and have them all join together in a hexagon shape.

Before long, bubbles pop! Either something pokes the bubbles or they simply pop on their own. Why is this? When the water layer between the two soapy layers vanishes, the bubble can no longer hold its shape and it pops itself. Temperature also plays a role. A bubble blown in a cold atmosphere can actually freeze before wilting up and disappearing!

Sunny day or rainy day, outdoors or indoors, bubbles are perfect fun for summer learning in science, math, and art. They’re inexpensive, easy to create, colorful to watch, and fun to blow and pop! You can chase them around to get exercise (health science), marvel at how light makes rainbows on their surface (physics), and watch them float in the warm breeze (atmospheric science).

Visit the howtosmile.org blog to discover great bubble activities.