What do you call a teenage bubble?

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer


What do you call a teenage bubble? I know, you’re waiting for some kind of lame punchline to a joke. But honestly, some physicists – scientists who study how things move – have figured out the life cycle of a bubble. Now you’re thinking, well don’t these scientists have anything better to do than blow bubbles and take pictures? What’s the point of studying a bubble? As silly as it seems, understanding bubble behavior can help scientists understand materials like metal and plastic better, and that can eventually lead to things like helping disabled people have better prosthetic limbs (plastic legs and arms) that are almost as good as the real thing. Not so silly now is it?

Using models of the climate that look for patterns in weather, researchers have figured out that bubbles have three different “life” stages. The first stage, when they’re big, is called “rearrangement”, because the bubbles slip all over each other trying to balance and arrange themselves. Then, in the middle phase (let’s say, the few seconds they get to be a teenager), they are described as being in “drainage”, because gravity drains the bubbles and sucks them down. I’m pretty sure some parents might think that’s a pretty accurate description of what teenagers do to their energy. Lastly, moments before they disappear in a splash of rainbow water, is the “rupture” stage, where the surface gets so thin and wobbly it eventually pops.

So, those soap bubbles in your bathtub? They might soon be inspiring new ways of making everything from plastic cups to metal chairs! If anyone ever knocks on the door wondering why you’re taking so long in the shower, just tell them you’re practicing to be a physicist.