Bubble Mania

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Bubble Mania
Total Time 1 hour Ages school-age

Time and again, science has shown us that first impressions can't be trusted. Consider the bubble: At first glance, it looks like the most fragile thing in the world. Yet under the right circumstances, it can be surprisingly difficult, if not impossible, to burst -- as the two tricks here illustrate.

What you'll need

  • 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheet of card stock
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Bowl and spoon
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
  • 2 tablespoons glycerin (sold at craft and drug stores)
  • Plastic drinking straw

How to make it

  1. Bubble Mania - Step 1

    Make a bubble blower by rolling the card stock into a cone and securing it with tape, as shown. Evenly trim the narrow end so it measures 1/2 inch in diameter. Trim the wide opening to even it too.

  2. In the bowl, gently stir together the water, dishwashing liquid, and glycerin, and you're ready to perform the following tricks.

  3. Trick 1 -- The Unpoppable Bubble: Dip the wide end of the cone into the bubble solution and hold it there for a few seconds to absorb the mixture. Tap off the excess liquid and then quickly dip the cone again. With the cone pointed toward the ground, gently blow a large bubble. Leave it attached to the end of the cone, using your finger to cover the cone's tip.

  4. Step 4 - Unpoppable Bubble

    Now stick the point of the scissors into the bubble. It should pop instantly. Try it again, but this time first dip the scissor points into the bubble solution. They should pass right through the bubble's "delicate" skin without breaking it.

    What's Happening:

    There are two main ways a bubble pops. The first is when its watery wall evaporates (adding some glycerin to the bubble solution slows down this process). The second is when something dry tears a hole in the wall, as when you poke it with the bare points of a pair of scissors. Dipping the blades into the bubble solution beforehand, however, gives them liquid edges, and the bubble wall simply flows around them.

  5. Bubble Mania - Step 5

    Trick 2 -- Inside-Out Bubbles: Blow a large bubble as you did in the first trick.

  6. Step 6 - Inside-Out Bubbles

    Dip the plastic drinking straw into the liquid (be sure to wet at least 2 inches of it). Insert the end of the straw into the bubble and gently blow to create one or more smaller bubbles inside it.

  7. Step 7 - Inside-Out Bubbles

    Then watch. The interior bubbles will pass through the skin at the bottom of the large bubble and cling to the outside.

    What's Happening: As with the scissors, coating the straw with solution allows you to insert it in the big bubble and blow smaller bubbles inside. But why don't those small bubbles stay in there? Because their proportion of air to liquid is smaller than the bigger bubble's, they are denser. Consequently, they sink and fall through the bottom of the bigger bubble. Still, they don't weigh quite enough to break free completely, so they simply hang in place.

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