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Extraordinary Bubbles

Extraordinary Bubbles

Whether you’re having a bubble bath, doing the washing up, or just having fun with friends, bubbles are an amazing natural phenomenon, that even adults can’t resist finding fun. They can also tell us a lot about physics and mathematics, and are a much more scientific topic than may be at first apparent. Bubbles are actually unique to Earth, and other planets with a similar atmosphere, since bubbles only form because the exterior air pressure on our planet matches the interior pressure of the bubble.  Different layers of soap film form the bubble, and each of these layers reflects different colours, giving it a shiny multi-coloured appearance. Bubbles are also possible to freeze, with the same freezing point as water, though this process must take place very quickly, or the bubble will burst. This happens very easily, since even the tiniest gust of wind or touch from an object can break the bubble wall, allowing the interior pressure to reduce and the bubble to explode.

To have some fun yourself, you can make your own bubble solution very easily at home. Begin by taking some water in a container. Distilled water makes the best bubbles, but tap water will work fine too if that’s all that’s available. Then add one sixth the amount of washing up liquid and stir the two together well, being careful not to let bubbles or foam appear on the surface of the liquid as this will make it harder to produce good bubbles later. Then add a small amount of corn syrup, glycerine and baking powder to the mixture and stir it in. The corn syrup and glycerine can be found at health food shops or pharmacies. This will make the bubble mixture thicker so that the bubbles do not burst so easily, however if it is hard to find, you should still be able to produce some weaker bubbles without it. If you leave this mixture to sit overnight, the bubbles should be even stronger the next day.  You can use a straw as a bubble blower, just dipping one end in the solution, removing it, and blowing through the other end. Once you’ve done all of this your bubbles should be quite strong and will be able to withstand a little more. If you find some clean gloves to wear as well, you may even be able to touch them or catch them in the flat palm of your hand. To begin with, your bubbles may pop quite easily, which is why they are left over night, but the more you play with them, the more the mixture will settle and the better your bubbles will be.

If you want to have even more fun, you could then try making bigger bubbles. To do this, you’ll need some apparatus a little bigger than the straw you used earlier, so now I’ll explain how to make a much larger bubble maker. I’d also recommend taking this outside as it could get a lot messier than the smaller bubbles. Begin with two drinking straws. Unlike earlier, you won’t be blowing through these directly. Then measure some wool out that is 6-8 times longer than the length of one straw, and cut this off. Now thread this wool through one straw at a time and tie it back round in a knot. This should create a big loop, where the straws can be used as handles. Pull the two straws apart so that each forms a handle with the wool stretched in a loop between them. This will be your bubble maker. Now dip the whole thing in your bubble mixture. You may need a wide container for this bit to work, and slowly pull it out of the mixture. A bubble will be formed in the loop, and the wind outside should blow your bubble for you, creating a massive bubble!


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