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Electricity Gives Bubbles Super Strength 66

sciencehabit writes "Left to its own devices, a bubble will weaken and pop as the fluid sandwiched between two thin layers of soap succumbs to gravity and drains toward the floor. But when researchers trapped a bubble between two platinum electrodes and cranked up the voltage, the fluid reversed direction and actually flowed up, against the force of gravity. The newly strong and stable bubbles could live for hours, and even visibly change colors as their walls grew fatter. Because soap film is naturally only nanometers thick, this whimsical experiment could help scientists create more efficient labs-on-chips, the mazes of nanotunnels that can diagnose disease based on the movements of a miniscule drop of blood."
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Electricity Gives Bubbles Super Strength

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 07, 2013 @05:13AM (#42818355)

    Some washing up liquid bottles, sticky back plastic and Sellotape, Blue Peter were way ahead of their time, they just omitted the platinum electrodes and high voltage!

    • I thought about antigravity as well, though your reference is lost on me. I'm currently imagining Back to the Future II cars...with bubbles on the bottom. The world will be bubbles. Of course that means there will be people who instead of walking will take the aerobus, so there will need to be bubble shelters where people can avoid the bubbles while waiting for it. After all, who wants to walk into work with sticky clothing, hair, etc.?
      • by Coisiche ( 2000870 ) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @06:04AM (#42818533)
        The reference is to a British children's TV program called Blue Peter []. Many decades ago, when I watched it, it would frequently feature construction projects where required materials were almost always an empty washing-up liquid bottle, sellotape and sticky-backed plastic. The last one being hard to come by in Aucherterarder; the target audience was clearly city kids.
        • []

          While you were washing up, we were getting dirty.

        • sellotape and sticky-backed plastic

          They are the same thing; Sellotape is a brand, and couldn't be named on the BBC. The third item you're missing is toilet / kitchen rolls :)

          • There's a debate about that further down the thread. But you're correct that the cardboard cores of paper rolls were also a regular feature on the required materials list.

          • Brands can be, and often are, mentioned on the BBC, as a result there were frequent references to Sellotape. Sticky-backed plastic is different from Sellotape, it's a wider plastic roll, typically about 50cm (20") wide.
            • Sticky-backed plastic is different from Sellotape, it's a wider plastic roll, typically about 50cm (20") wide.

              Not a chance. Blue Peter creations were all about things you'd have in the home. Nobody, not one person has as a regular item in their home a roll of 0.5m wide sticky plastic sheeting. In fact, the only time I've seen that stuff is used as carpet protection for removals companies. Sticky backed plastic was sellotape, or maybe packing tape, but definitely not that stuff.

    • Someone want to translate this cryptic passage to English?
    • Wait wait wait, Are you trying to tell me that sticky back plastic and Sellotape were 2 different things? They never ever mentioned Sellotape on Blue Peter, because it is a brand name. Hence sticky back plastic.

      • The sticky-backed plastic they used (well, in 1970's anyway) always seemed to come in sheets. The sticky tape was clearly Sellotape. I was too young at the time to appreciate that brand names couldn't be used on BBC programmes but I did realise that the sticky-back plastic the presenter would use was not available in the town shop whereas the tape was accessible in the side-board cupboard. The empty washing-up bottles could be acquired by pestering my mother. But when the presenter would say "...and a sheet

      • Sticky back plastic is what you used at school to cover the outside of your books.

        • by Canazza ( 1428553 ) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @07:23AM (#42818833)

          Posh bastard!

          We used brown wrapping paper and had to like it.

          Oh what I would have given for some sticky back plastic to cover our books with!

          • We used old offcuts of wallpaper. Also we'd get up every morning an hour before we'd gone to bed, and lick 'road clean wi't tongue.
            • I remember having to use the offcuts of wallpaper too. And parents were oblivious to the strife you would be subjected to if the only bits available at the time were from your sister's room having just been decorated.

            • Off cuts of wall paper! Oooh we'd have killed for off. cuts. of. wall. paper.

              We had to use sandpaper!

              And we didn't have rucksacks so we had to keep our jotters in our underpants!

          • I was the kid that paid some girl in candy and stickers to cover my book. I didn't have a clue how to do it. XD
        • Ah, that makes sense. I don't know what we called it in the states. We didn't use it on books, but used it to line cupboards and drawers. Brown paper bags for covering books, or sometimes other larger pieces of paper (no sticky stuff on school books as those were government property and had to be returned at the end of school year).

          Sellotape over here is just cellophane tape, or Scotch Brand(tm) tape.

      • No, Sticky-back plastic was something entirely different from Sticky-tape (which is what they called Sellotape)

        Sticky-back plastic was like a large sheet of plastic (normally A4 size) with one side sticky.

        • From the "Uses" section of Wikipedia's "Contact paper" entry []:

          - Commonly used to line or cover kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers, counter tops, bookshelves, closet shelving, and pantry areas
          - Covering up or protecting areas which have become (or could become) stained or ruined because of a project. Examples include art projects, foods and liquids, destructive substances
          - The clear variety can be used for laminating books, art projects, posters, pictures, or other objects
          - As part of a collage

          It's quite probable that while the term is "contact paper" of the clear variety, it was actually the sticky-backed plastic you're all talking about. I'm not saying paper can't be transparent, but I'm suggesting the possibility that it was not, in this case, paper as the name "contact paper" suggests.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Having items in an electric field does not reduce gravity, it only adds an additional force which pulls them in the opposite direction.


    • by jonadab ( 583620 )
      I don't think soap bubbles would provide enough lift for meaningful anti-gravity applications. They float because they are not significantly more dense than air. Weigh them down with any kind of payload, and they're going to land on the floor.
  • Pity they didn't tell him this while Jacko was still his owner. Would have helped him with those late night "visits"....

  • Ha! I parsed it in my about-to-go-to-sleep mind as super powers that would be gained by Bubbles [] from The Wire [] on HBO. I was wondering if there was going to be a respin of the show with the informant now being given superpowers! Need more sleep...
  • by game kid ( 805301 ) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @06:55AM (#42818713) Homepage

    Electrically-enhanced bubbles have been used as weapons [] for decades.

    • I always thought the bubbles were from his butt -- I mean, if I was bubble man that'd be the simplest way I could think of to weaponize them. Makes sense, no? SBDs do about 5 bars of health damage...

      The electrified bubble should also act sort of like a Faraday cage, allowing current to flow around the outside of the bubble while what's inside has much less measurable charge (restructures the charge of the exterior material to equalize the field in the interior).

  • Scientists! (Score:3, Funny)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Thursday February 07, 2013 @07:17AM (#42818801)

    "Because soap film is naturally only nanometers thick, this whimsical experiment could help scientists create more efficient labs-on-chips, ..."

    Wot? No new gadget to blow bubbles?

    Think of the children!

  • by metallurge ( 693631 ) <metallurge@gmail.NETBSDcom minus bsd> on Thursday February 07, 2013 @07:41AM (#42818913)
    I wonder if this could be used to fabricate aerogels using something akin to a hot piezoelectric print head.
  • Squirtle - BubbleBeam!
    Pikachu - Lightningrod!

    There you go. Unbeatable bubbles!

  • Thin bubbles (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @09:41AM (#42819439)

    Normal soap bubbles are about 500 to 1000 nanometers thick - that's why you can see colors (iridescence) on the surface - it's from interference (diffraction) of light reflecting on the inside and outside of the bubble wall. These bubbles are, according to TOA, nanometers thick, which is very thin, at least compared to the soap bubbles we see.

  • I was wondering how the $party [See below to get the value of $party] is able to defy the public opinion and try to impose its autocratic will on the population, despite electoral defeats. Looks like the bubbles they are living in is strengthened by the electricity!

    if ( $myparty == "republican") then

  • Immediately, I thought of the science-fiction novel Attack from Atlantis [], as the technology sounds very much like that used to create the super-strong bubbles described in the story.
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @10:32AM (#42819819)

    Yes, there are no more real innovations in Science anymore. Bah. Wicked hard bubbles is the future baby!

  • Electrically reinforcing molecular bonds?

    Unfortunately, no. But it does look at least a bit more interesting than "electrostatic attraction draws the film upward", which was what i guessed before reading the linked articles.

  • Skip this version and wait for them to start producing bobbles []

  • Perhaps electrified zero-g super bubbles could be the first navigational shields? :)
  • You should see her on meth!!!

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer