Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

By D. M. Souza

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    He hath made every thing beautiful (Eccl. 3:11).

    Can you imagine blowing tiny soap bubbles that spin inside other bubbles, or a bubble large enough to hold a friend? Well, some people have blown such bubbles. They have experimented for years and made many exciting discoveries about them. You can too.

    What makes a bubble happen? Like a balloon, it has a thin skin that separates what is inside from what is outside. In the case of soap bubbles, this skin is made of soapy water.

    Because water molecules are attracted to each other, they tend to stick together, especially at the surface, making plain water act as if it has a skin. Rub a small amount of grease on a needle, drop it into a glass of water, and watch the needle float on this “skin.”

    Even though plain water has this stretchy surface, it won’t let you make bubbles that last. It evaporates too quickly. Soap, however, is greasy, and grease does not evaporate. When it gets into water, it changes the surface in such a way that bubbles won’t immediately pop.

    If you add a drop of glycerol, or glycerin, to soapy water, your bubbles will last even longer. Glycerin thickens the skin of bubbles so that it can stretch.

    Unlike a balloon, a bubble will not pop if you stick a wet pin in it. Even your hand, if it is wet, can be thrust through a bubble, and nothing will happen. Bubbles are not bothered by sharp or pointed things, just by dry things. Your clothes or tiny bits of dust in the air will make them pop.

    All kinds of things can be used as bubble-blowing tools. Straws, tin cans, plastic containers, and coat hangers will work. All you need is a surface where a soap film can form.

    You can even make a bubble without blowing through anything. Place two plastic straws in a parallel position about 8″ (20 cm) apart. Take a length of string, thread it through both straws, then tie the string so that you have a frame that looks like this: [see illustration]

    Next, dip the frame into a pan of bubble mix (see recipe), and when a film forms across the surface, carefully lift the frame out by holding onto the straws. Be sure that your hands also get wet and soapy. Quickly but carefully wave the frame through the air until a bubble forms. Then bring the two straws, together to close of the open end of the bubble, which should float away.

    Soon you should be able to make big beautiful bubbles. Remember to keep an eye out for dust. Your bubble may vanish with a quiet pop at any moment. Now you see it, now you don’t. That’s the way bubbles are.

    Bubble Mix Recipe

    Fill a rectangular pan about half full with water. Add about 1/3 cup of liquid dishwashing detergent. Stir in one teaspoonful of glycerin or light corn syrup. If the mix is too thin or too thick to form bubbles, add more detergent or water, as needed.

    Illustrated by Mick Reasor