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Bubble Blowing

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Bubble blowing can be a fun, relaxing hobby that can be done almost anywhere. You don't need fancy equipment or any technology to create beautiful colorful, glimmering bubbles that float and float until they POP.

Bubbles pop when they touch a dry object or the air leaks out. If you want your bubbles to last longer, keep everything wet, even the sides of the straw or whatever objects you are blowing bubbles from.

Bubbles are particularly fragile when a dry object touches them. That's because soap film tends to stick to the object, which puts a strain on the bubble. Try catching a bubble with a wet hand, then a dry hand. Which bubble pops first?

If you can protect a bubble from air currents, it can last a long time. In the end it won't pop -- the bubble shrinks as air slowly leaks out.

If the weather is cold enough, bubbles will freeze outside. They turn white and feel like the thin skin of an onion.

Bubbles are bits of air or gas trapped inside a liquid ball. The surface of a bubble is very thin. You can try some advanced bubble-making techniques. Do you think you can make a square bubble or a triangle bubble?

The San Francisco Exploratorium's Web site explains why bubbles are always round. "A bubble, like a balloon, is a very thin skin surrounding a volume of air. The rubber skin of the balloon is elastic and stretches when inflated," it reads.

The site says that if you let the mouthpiece of the balloon go free, the rubber skin squeezes the air out of the balloon. It deflates as it flies around the room. The same thing happens if you start blowing a bubble and then stop. The liquid skin of the bubble is stretchy, and like a balloon it pushes the air out of the bubble, leaving a flat circle of soap in the bubble wand.

A bubble always has its "stretch," no matter how small the surface becomes. The tension in the bubble skin tries to shrink the bubble into a shape with the smallest possible surface area for the volume of air it contains. That shape happens to be a sphere.

Some "bubble-ologists" get very fancy with bubbles. Can you believe some children have been put inside of a giant bubble?

Getting Started

Bubbles are easy to make no matter where you are, since bubble solution can be made with items found in almost any household. Bubbles travel easily, so you can make them at home, in the yard, at school, on a playground, or at a friend's house.

All you need to start is a container of bubble solution that you can buy at the store for around $2. It comes with a wand to blow bubbles through. You can make your own bubble solution at home, too, and use items around your home for some bubble-making devices.

Look for tin cans, plastic containers, coat hangers, drinking straws, rolled-up pieces of paper or coffee cans to use as objects for bubble-blowing tools. Just make sure there is an opening where a soap film can form.

Bubble solution is easy to make at home. Here is a simple recipe: two-thirds of a cup of liquid dishwashing detergent. Add enough water to make one gallon. For tougher, longer-lasting bubbles, add one tablespoon of glycerin (available in any drugstore).

Bubble solution improves with age. Some bubble experts suggest allowing the mixture to sit in an open container for at least one day before use.

The Bubblesphere Web site says bubbles have always been around, but the sport of playing with bubbles didn't really exist before soap. The Pear Soap Co. in England made soap and bubble blowing very popular. Bubble toys were largely limited to bubble pipes until the middle of the 20th century. Now, bubble toys are found in every toy store.

Eiffel Plasterer was the founder of bubbles as an art form. He was a showman rather than a scientist. Plasterer lived all his life on a farm in Indiana, and spent much of his time as an adult inventing bubble tricks to be performed for Midwestern audiences. Plasterer, born in 1899, grew famous with his repertoire of bubble tricks.

Casey Carle is a self-titled professional comic bubble-ologist. "Bubble use is growing in the 21st century. Bubbles have been extremely popular for the last couple decades. Bubbles are the number one selling toy right now," he says. He claims that is because there is nothing not to like about bubbles.

"In the 1960s, bubbles became part of the everyday consciousness. They were a sign of peace and love. Since then, we see more bubble paraphernalia and toys in the stores," says Carle.

Anybody can blow bubbles. You can blow bubbles sitting down or standing up. "The biggest danger in blowing bubbles is the potential for slipping on the soap bubbles," says Carle. He also notes that blowing bubbles is much healthier than blowing smoke.

To find work in the world of bubbles, don't look in the classified ads. Some bubble experts are live entertainers in the circus, or own a business, like Carle.

"The trickiest thing about live audiences is developing a bubble solution that is consistent. You need to have bubbles that stay around if you want to entertain in front of a live audience," says Carle. It took him two years to get to that point -- and he won't share his secret solution.

Carle supplements his income by inventing bubble toys, such as Casey Carle's Futuristic 3D Bubble Glasses. He also produced a video to express the artistic side of his bubble creations.

When you want to get started making bubbles, you can experiment! Your local library will offer books on making bubbles. The books are geared towards different ages, from very young kids to adults (the books for adults have complicated text and focus on the scientific side of bubbles). The Internet also has many resources to get started and learn about bubbles.


Fin Yang
Calls himself the "master of the soap bubble"

Casey Carle's site

Includes a Q and A page

Who is the Bubble Man?
Read about Doug Rougeux

Soap Bubbles
From the San Francisco Exploratorium

Photo Gallery
Check out all the different bubbles

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