Surface Tension

Feb 22, 2020

Bubbles are irresistible to almost any human being. Frankly, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t get a little charge out of them. Charlotte is a serious aficionado. I have a whole bunch of photos of her blowing, or trying to blow bubbles so there’s a chance there might be a whole series of paintings along these lines.

Bubbles seem to be some kind of a miracle. They appear magically, bidden by the gentlest breath, float expertly on the slightest breeze and end by a teensy but rather alarming explosion (or murderous assassination) which both delights and disappoints.

Not confident enough to rely on my memory of the oceanography, physics and geology I took in school, I turned to the internet which reports that a bubble consists of a soap and water molecule sandwich (the water being the filling). The surface tension of the water pulls together to form the smallest surface possible, a sphere, around a volume of air, in Charlotte’s case, her own life-sustaining breath.

Surface tension is what makes water so critical to life on earth. It’s what makes water collect into drops (and hence makes rain), boats to float, and nutrients able to rise from the soil up to the highest reaches of the rain forest canopy. It makes it possible to dissolve chocolate into milk for yummy cocoa, allows our blood to course through our veins and gives us glorious rainbows, among a gazillion other things.

And then there are bubbles. The irresistible, beautiful, delicate, improbable and utterly delightful bubble. May we all, young and old, save a little breath to give life to one, or more, for a few moments this summer. I know there will be many around these parts for years to come.

Thank you water. Thank you surface tension.

Photo: Surface Tension © Lissa Banks 2020