Bubbles are great for studying chemistry and physics. In an early post in this blog I wrote about testing bubble solutions and doing experiments with household products that could be used to make bubbles. Recent events made us take a second look at bubble science.
Last weekend we went to a birthday party. The guest of honor had an electric bubble blower toy and a small bottle commercial bubble formula poured into a tray. The toy made a cloud of bubbles as it was passed from child to child, and soon the children had used up the bubble solution.
While one of the parents went inside to make more, one of the children added a bit of her soda to the container. There was enough bubble formula residue to blow bubbles, but something unusual happened. A few of the bubbles lingered long after the rest. They turned white and seemed stiffer than usual bubbles. We immediately wanted to know why. Do you have any ideas? I’ll give you a hint, the soda was regular, not diet.
Answer: Most bubbles pop when their walls get too thin because of evaporation the water or because gravity pulls the water down. In our dry Arizona air, bubbles burst particularly quickly. Commercial bubble formulas typically contain a bit of glycerin, which is thought to slow evaporation and make the bubbles last longer. Other substances, such as sugar, fruit pectin or corn syrup can have the same effect. Sweetened soda typically contains corn syrup, so by adding soda to the solution she made longer lasting bubbles.
We were also interested in how else the bubbles had changed. We all decided that the bubbles had a nice soda smell. We tried to see if the color had changed, because the soda was dark brown. We couldn’t see any differences. Have you ever looked at the colors in a bubble closely? Think of ways to study the color of bubbles and leave a comment. We’ll have the results in a later post.
Looking for more? Try:
(Note: title and image affiliate links go to Amazon)
Pop! A Book About Bubbles (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 1) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and illustrated by Margaret Miller
This book is for the younger set. The summary says ages 4-8, possibly younger.
Bubble-ology: Teacher's guide by Jacqueline Barber
This book says it is for grades 5 -9. I am usually thrilled with GEMS books, but this one seems a bit thin to me. It still has nice experiments, obviously well tested. Given all the information out there on bubbles, this one is useful because it pulls the experiments together in a logical way and does discuss the science behind them.
Experiments with Bubbles (Getting Started in Science) by Robert Gardner
Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun! (Williamson Kids Can!) by Anita Brandolini, Ph.D. and illustrated by Michael P. Kline
How to Make Monstrous, Huge, Unbelievably Big Bubbles (Klutz) by David Stein and The editors of Klutz