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Discusses what creates individual colors and what makes objects appear to be a certain color.

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Blowing Bubbles

Credit: Steve Ford Elliot
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soapbubbles-SteveEF.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

No doubt you’ve done this many times. You dip a small plastic wand into soapy water and then blow gently through a ring on the end. Shimmery, undulating soap bubbles emerge from the other side. It’s fun to see how big you can make them and how long they will last.

Why It Matters

  • There’s much more to soap bubbles than you might think. Several basic scientific principles are involved in how soap bubbles form and reflect light.
  • Recently, scientists have even turned to bubbles as models of black holes, those mysterious areas of the universe that are too dense to emit light.
  • To really appreciate the beauty and wonder of bubbles, watch comic bubble artist Casey Carlisle in the following video. He takes bubble blowing to a whole new level. Closely observe the amazing colors and behaviors of the bubbles in his performance here: http://www.bubblemania.com/video/bubblevision-tv.html

Show What You Know

Learn more about bubbles at the links below. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is a bubble? What is the membrane, or skin, of a bubble made of?
  2. What is the shape of a bubble? Why does it take this shape?
  3. What always happens when two bubbles meet? Why?
  4. When many bubbles merge, they form a mass of hexagonal (six-sided) cells. A beehive has the same structure. Why?
  5. Soap is made of hydrocarbons. What are hydrocarbons?
  6. Describe the two ends of a soap molecule. How are soap molecules arranged in the membrane of a soap bubble?
  7. What determines the color of a soap bubble?
  8. How do black holes resemble soap bubbles?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Steve Ford Elliot; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soapbubbles-SteveEF.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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