MadSci Network: Other

Re: What exactly is a bubble?

Date: Sat Feb 28 15:25:48 1998
Posted By: David Winsemius, MadSci Admin
Area of science: Other
ID: 888277191.Ot

Bubbles are films of a solution stretched around some kind of fluid, usually 
air. The film that is easiest to make is a soap (or detergent) in water 
solution. The the film has thickness and an inside and an outside. Soap and 
detergent molecules are long thin molecules with many hydrogen atoms that 
attract each other. They have an electrically charged end that is attracted to 
water. The soap bubble surfaces have the soap or detergent molecules arranged so 
that they line up side by side. In the middle of the film is a water and soap 

Cell membranes have a lot in common with soap bubbles. Instead of soap, the 
membranes are built with fatty acids and di- and triglycerides. Cholesterol is 
important in keeping cell membranes flexible.

Try making a soap solution with liquid dishwashing detergent about 5%, water and 
glycerin. The more glycerin you use up to 50%, the longer the bubbles will last. 
If these bubbles are protected, they may last days or weeks.

Many important scientists have been fascinated by bubbles and there are many 
mathematical and physical properties that have been discovered. Dover still 
publishes a book called "The science of soap films and soap bubbles", by Cyril 
Isenberg. I paid US$9.95 for my copy. 

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