Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blowing bubbles

Forgive me if you saw the television programme . . . forgive me if you already know all there is to know about bubbles . . . but, if you didn't and you don't, may I have the pleasure of sharing some fascinating facts?

Shakespeare, it seems, got it seriously wrong.  There's no way in which bubbles could possibly be termed 'toil and  trouble'.
On the contrary, for all their transitory nature, bubbles infuse vitality into their surroundings.  What's more, they actively help to put troubles right.

Let me explain.
This riveting programme on an unlikely topic was presented by Dr. Helen Czerski, a bubble scientist.  Such was my ignorance that I'd never given bubbles serious thought, far less considered them to be a subject worthy of scientific research.
How wrong I proved to be!

The first fascinating fact relates to energy. Whereas I've been woefully ignorant of bubble power, penguins, it seems, have not.  Instead, they've long been accomplished at harnessing it for their own benefit.
Look carefully at these photos . . .
Do you see the way the penguins are projected out of the water on a buoyant boost of bubbles?

How do they do this?
Apparently, it's quite simple . . . before entering the water the penguin packs pockets of air under its wings and holds them close against its body.  Then, when it wishes to surface, it releases this trapped air in the form of active bubbles which effectively launch the penguin skywards and transport it safely back to land.
'Toil and trouble' . . . ?  I'd call it 'fun and flight'.

What's more, it seems that the penguin's ingenuity has given rise to a current scientific project.  Research is under way to produce commercial ships that are capable of propelling a steady flow of powerful bubbles in their wake.
The aim of this research? To increase the speed of the vehicle and, in addition, effectively reduce fuel consumption.
'Toil and trouble' . . . ?  Hardly, what about 'speed and sustainability'?

I wonder, are you planning any celebrations in the near future?  If so, there's another fascinating fact that you might find helpful.
The flavour of champagne, so we were told, varies according to the shape of the glass you use.
The reason?  You've guessed it . . . the bubbles!
It seems that the bubbles rising in a tall, thin glass have further to travel and accumulate a stronger and richer flavour en route.  For a lighter, subtler flavour, choose a glass of the rounder variety.

And, if that weren't enough, it would appear that there's far more to bubble research than imitating penguins or invigorating champagne.  For me, the most exciting revelation of this programme was in the field of medicine.  Bubbles, it seems, can be used by doctors in the administration of powerful drugs.

Let me try to explain this mind-blowing concept.
In the not too distant future it's planned that a bubble will be capable of holding a drug in suspension before being injected into a patient.  The bubble will be given a light dusting of iron filings which, believe it or not, will mean that a doctor will be able to gently guide it through the patient's blood system with the aid of a simple magnet.

Once the bubble has reached its chosen destination it can then be burst by oscillation . . . whereupon the drug will administer its benefit a the precise point where it's needed.
Isn't that incredible?

Bubbles to speed shipping, and help the environment . . . bubbles to alter the flavour of champagne . . . bubbles to bring precision to medicine.
And, before I forget, had you realised how the sound of bursting bubbles constantly enriches our lives?
What causes the wonderful roar of waves breaking on the shore . . .  the thunder of a waterfall . . . or the chuckling gurgle of a stream?   All these familiar sounds are brought to our ears not through the water itself, but through the mellifluous popping of a myriad bursting bubbles.

In the course of this programme, thanks to the knowledge and enthusiasm of Dr. Czerski, the under-rated bubble was transformed into what it truly is . . . a beautiful, magical and powerful aspect of creation.

Something has occurred to me as I've been writing this . . . I wonder whether it's occurred to you?

Albeit unconsciously, do we, too, use the bubble technique on a daily basis?
As of this moment, aren't I carefully sending you a message in a bubble?  To help it reach its destination I'm dusting it in language that I hope you'll enjoy, adding the lustre of pictures to give it sheen, and then guiding it on its way with the gentle magnet of humour.
I'm sending a message contained in a bubble because I want you to read it and share my thoughts.

Will it circumnavigate all the other bubbles currently circulating in your realm of communication?
Will it reach its destination safely, pop on arrival and deliver its message . . .?
Let me know if it does!