A bullet passes through a soap bubble in the schlieren photo above. The schlieren optical technique is sensitive to changes in the refractive index and, since a fluid’s refractive index changes with density, permits the visualization of shock waves. A strong curved bow shock is visible in front of the bullet as well as weaker lines marking additional shocks waves around the bullet. Impressively, the bullet’s passage is so fast (and the photo’s timing so perfect) that there are no imperfections or signs of bursting in the soap bubble. The photo’s caption suggests that the bubble may be filled with multiple gases. If they are unmixed and of differing densities, this may be the source of the speckling and plume-like structures inside the bubble. Incidentally, if anyone out there has high-speed schlieren video of a bullet passing through a soap bubble, I would love to see it. (Photo credit: H. Edgerton and K. Vandiver)
Originally posted: 24 Aug 2011 That soap bubbles burst in the blink of an eye is a pity considering how fascinating their disappearing act is. This photo set from photographer Richard Heeks captures the bubbles mid-burst. Once the bubble’s film is breached, surface tension rips the smooth film back like a broken balloon, causing the liquid that used to be part of the bubble to erupt into droplets. (Photo credit: Richard Heeks)
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Some soap films are capable of self-healing after a solid object passes through them, as shown in the video above. The behavior is primarily dependent on Weber number—a nondimensional ratio of the film’s inertia to its surface tension. Although demonstrated for positive curvature in the video, the same behavior is observed in negatively curved soap films as well. For a look at how the behavior varies with projectile velocity and size, check out this video. (Video credit: J. Bryson, BYU Splash Lab)
Accidental releases of combustible gases in unconfined spaces can be difficult to recreate in a laboratory environment. Here researchers simulate the conditions using detonation inside a soap film bubble. Combustible gases are pumped inside the soap film and then a spark creates ignition. The resulting flame propagation is visualized using high-speed schlieren photography, making the density gradients in the flame visible. When the mixture of hydrogen fuel to air is balanced, the flame is spherically symmetric with a high flame speed. In contrast, weaker mixtures of fuel/air produce slow flame speeds and mushroom-like flames that leave behind unreacted fuel. This is due to buoyant effects; the time scale associated with buoyancy is smaller than that of the flame speed and chemical reactions when the fuel/air mixture is lean. (Video credit: L. Leblanc et al.)
This high-speed video shows a soap bubble being blown via didgeridoo, a wind instrument developed by the Indigenous Australians. The oscillations of the capillary waves on the surface of the bubble vary with the frequency of note being played. High frequency notes excite small wavelengths, whereas lower notes create large wavelength oscillations. For more fun, check out what you can do with didgeridoos in space. (submitted by Christopher B)
To the human eye, the burst of a soap bubble appears complete and instantaneous, but high-speed video reveals the directionality of the process. Surface tension is responsible for the spherical shape of the bubble, and, when the bubble is pierced, surface tension is broken, causing the soap film that was the bubble to contract like elastic that’s been stretched and released. Droplets of liquid fly out from the edges of the sheet until it atomizes completely.
Sometimes bursting one bubble just leads to more bubbles. This high-speed video shows how popping a bubble sitting on a fluid surface can lead to a ring of daughter bubbles. When the surface of the bubble is ruptured, filaments of the liquid that made up the surface are drawn back toward the pool by surface tension, trapping small pockets of the air that had been inside the bubble. A dimple forms on the surface and rebounds as a jet that lacks the kinetic energy to eject droplets. Watch as the jet returns to the interface, and you will notice the tiny bubbles around it. At 56 ms, one of the daughter bubbles on the left bursts. See Nature for more. (Video credit: J. Bird et al)
In this video, a miniature tornado-like vortex is created inside a soap bubble. Here’s how it works: after the first bubble is formed and the smoke-filled bubble is attached to the outside, he blows into the main bubble, creating a weak angular velocity, before breaking the interface between the two bubbles. As the smoke mixes in the main bubble, note how it is already spinning slowly due to the free vortex he created. Then, when the top of the bubble is popped, surface tension pulls the bubble’s surface inward. Because the bubble radius is decreasing, conservation of angular momentum causes the angular velocity of the fluid inside to increase, pulling the smoke into a tight vortex, much like a spinning ice skater who pulls her arms inward.