Bursting the Bubble: A Journey into the Surprising Science and Art of Bubbles


The spherical bubbles float slowly in the air, carrying rainbows as they play with light, then suddenly popping to end their life, leaving everyone in awe of their beauty. But what if I told you that bubbles extend far beyond this? There is a vast science that not only creates these beautiful bubbles but also harnesses their unique properties for more than just visual beauty. 

Bubbles we blow to Play have a simple recipe of just water and liquid soap. But did you know the ingredients for bubbles can vary significantly? The bubbles are not just child’s play; even nature loves to blow bubbles and use them not just for beauty. The chemicals play and create their own bubbles. Physics and mathematics define the unique anatomy of the bubbles.

Nature blows bubbles too!

Turbulent water, like waterfalls and springs, creates bubbles. These are just air trapped in water. These aren’t the only bubbles that we can find in nature. But nature’s fondness for bubbles doesn’t stop here. Did you know that various creatures produce bubbles for a myriad of fascinating biological reasons? Some ocean-dwelling snails are said to create bubble rafts and sail them over. 

Also did, you know the shape of bubbles blown by beluga whales can vary depending on their mood?

The other spectacular view of bubbles is at the active volcanoes created by volcanic gases getting trapped in lava. But the safety concerns keep us away from volcanic bubbles.

So nature also loves blowing bubbles, just like us.


Chemistry plays with bubbles!

The formation of bubbles is not always only by water and soap. Nature blows by its own method, while chemistry has its own reactions that love creating bubbles. For instance, the interaction between vinegar and baking soda is one such reaction that produces bubbles. 

But it’s not just about carbon dioxide; hydrogen and oxygen also form bubbles under different conditions. Isn’t it remarkable how a lab can be transformed into a sea of bubbles with just a few chemical reactions?

Anatomy and Dynamics of Bubbles

Physics and mathematics combine together, defining the anatomy of the bubbles. The surface tension of the liquid(force in liquid that pulls its molecules together) attempts to minimize the surface area. 

So, what shape has the smallest surface area for a given volume? You guessed it, [the humble sphere says the mathematics]; hence bubbles tend to be spherical. Hence the bubbles are spherical in shape.

While the angle at which two or more bubbles would combine is defined by mathematics through Plateau laws, the colorful rainbows of the bubbles are explained by physics through the concept of the interference of light.

This is just a gist of how physics and mathematics define bubbles.

Bubbles Finding Their Place in Art and Architecture

The bubbles have their own part not only in science but also in Art and architecture. The bubbles and the science behind them are a base for Art and architecture. 

Common Arts of Bubbles 

Painting by blowing bubbles creates beautiful patterns on the canvas. The photographers also love to create stunning imagery with bubbles. Have you ever tried to capture the transient beauty of a bubble in a photograph?

Photographer Jason Tozer, famous for his bubble photography, says adding glycerine, sugar, or corn syrup to the original mixture of water and soap would help to make the bubbles stronger and bigger and increase their lifespan by making them thicker. Blowing the bubbles with this recipe and diffusing the light from above has created beautiful, colorful bubbles.

Architecture Inspired by Bubbles

Frei Otto, an architect, and engineer, is famous for the design of the roof of the Munich Olympic Stadium. After world war 2, when there was a shortage of materials, he said he got inspired by the bubbles. He said the soap bubble showed him how to create the maximum enclosure with the minimum material.

Bubbles Can Be Your Career Too!

Louis Pearl, also known as SamSam Bubbleman, has been a bubble expert for around 30 years. He combines Art, science, magic, and the enchantment of bubbles to create truly spectacular performances. At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he entertains his audiences with various bubble tricks from square bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles to people inside bubbles. Imagine having over 12 Guinness records based on just bubble tricks!

Also, bubbles have been a concept of research for years. In the 1800s, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau gave the four fundamental laws of surface tension that defined the structure of these bubbles or soapy films. These laws defined the role of surface tension in defining the shape of the bubbles.

In 2016, French physicists worked out a theoretical model for the exact mechanism for how soap bubbles form when air jets hit a soapy film.

In 2018, mathematicians at New York University’s Applied Math Lab fine-tuned the method for blowing the perfect bubble further based on similar experiments with soapy thin films. They had defined the perimeter of the bubble wands and the speed of air to be blown etc. 

Justin Burton, a physicist at Emory University specializing in fluid dynamics, was surprised by the street artists who blew giant bubbles as huge as a car. He has been researching the science, the ingredients, and their role in creating giant bubbles that remain intact by experimenting in his backyard and labs.

Stepping out of the Bubble World

Bubbles are not just a fun game for kids but also a vast concept that intersects various fields, from science to architecture. Isn’t it incredible to think about how something as simple as a bubble can have such a wide-ranging impact? That’s the fascinating world of bubbles for you. There is so much more in the world of bubbles for us to explore.

Bubbling Thoughts

Just like Frie Otto built the architecture inspired by the bubble, what do you think could be inspired by bubbles?

Can transportation draw inspiration from the bubbles building vehicles with the minimum surface area? Is there any transportation already built inspired by this? Would vehicles inspired by this only reduce material costs as it has a minimum surface area? Since it is a low-energy structure, will the energy required from fuel also vary?

What other gadgets could this inspiration build and provide a better experience?

Comment and share your thoughts


  1. The beauty of chemistry by Philip Ball

  2. https://frogmom.com/bubbles-in-nature/

  3. https://www.playlearneveryday.com/2016/03/bubble-painting.html

  4. https://www.zmescience.com/feature-post/resources/science-experiments/soap-bubble-science/

  5. https://www.homesciencetools.com/article/how-to-make-super-bubbles-science-project/

  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/11/arts/design/frei-otto-architect-who-found-inspiration-in-a-post-war-shortage-dies-at-89.html

  7. http://www.amazingbubbleman.com/#:~:text=About%20Louis,science%20and%20fun%20of%20bubbles.

  8. https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/02/physicists-determine-the-optimal-soap-recipe-for-blowing-gigantic-bubbles/#:~:text=But%20to%20blow%20really%20big,paper%20in%20Physical%20Review%20Fluids.

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