Bubbles: a lighthearted pastime, designed to keep our little ones busy. But according to a new study, the child-favorite toy has also become quite popular in the lab. Researchers in France have recently deployed a way to keep the liquid substance from popping for over an entire year. But there was actually good reason behind the madness: here's how the bizarre discovery can lend a crucial hand in other scientific areas...
It all started when French physicists at the University of Lille set off to study 3 different types of bubbles: traditional soap bubbles, water-based gas marbles, and water-glycerol-based gas marbles. With the help of glycerol, water, and plastic particles, the researchers blended their formulas together and set them aside for further inspection. As expected, the soap bubbles lasted about 1 minute before ultimately popping. The water-based gas bubbles, on the other hand, took a bit longer - anywhere from 6 to 60 minutes. But when it came to analyzing the water-glycerol-based gas marbles, all odds were off. "When we discovered that the bubble didn't rupture after days, we were really astonished," physicist Michael Baudoin of the University of Lille recalled.
Sure enough, the team waited... and waited, and waited - until finally, their 3rd concoction showed the slightest signs of change. After 465 astonishing days, their final bubble turned slightly green in color before ultimately popping - making it the longest known one to have ever lived. As the researchers suspect, microbes were likely the cause behind the bubble's eventual surmise. But while the study is nothing short of fascinating, the everlasting bubble can also serve as a key to solving other scientific questions. As NYU math professor Leif Ristroph noted, the prevention or delay of a fluid's evaporation - the leading cause behind a popped bubble - could help better craft medicinal products.
How? "A good example is literally right before our eyes: The film of tear fluid covering the eye surface is microscopically thin and would vanish if no time if it weren't for big molecules called lipids," Leif noted. "I'm daydreaming here, but I could imagine it might be useful to 'armor' little droplets in aerosols and sprays to make them last longer in the air. For example, some sort of medicine that's administered by spraying and breathing in the aerosol." Until then, stay tuned.