A string of bubbles

Have you ever noticed champagne bubbles that form as a string right in the middle of the glass and hardly anywhere else? This leads to the very cool pattern you see here:

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Astrid and I recently happened to notice how differently bubbles in champagne and in mineral water behaved. In the mineral water, bubbles formed in random spots along the sides of the glass. In the champagne, they mainly formed in the middle; and formed a string of rapidly forming bubbles.

So now I was hoping for a really interesting explanation of why the bubbles behave so differently. They form at different rates, but that makes sense if the partial pressure of CO2 in both drinks is different. After a bit of research on the web it turns out that fancy champagne glasses have tiny scratches right in the center of the glass to serve as condensation nuclei — in other words: to cause exactly what we observed: A nice string of pearls instead of bubbles forming randomly along the sides of the glass. So theoretically, if we had had our mineral water from the same glasses, we would have observed the same thing in mineral water. What a disappointing explanation!

[vimeo 146250051]

Reading the water

Just because it’s fun! :-)

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to stare at water when nobody else seems to find anything interesting to look at. So just because I’m weird, let’s look at some more water.

For example here. What could have caused waves like those below?

What could have caused this pattern?

Yes. These guys went past and what we see are both the circular waves caused by the oars and the stern wave of the boat.

Rowing boat. Seriously, why would anyone want to go backward all the time???

Ok. So on to the next riddle: What could cause what we see below?

Bubbles on water. What could have caused them?

Right, that was him:


And this?

More waves.

Yes! Him again!


Does anyone see where we are going with this?

Correct. Here.

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Hamburg town hall.

And a last glimpse on the way back:

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Isn’t this the most beautiful city in the whole wide world? :-)

Bubble size depending on pressure

More playing with a vacuum pump.

In this post, we talked about how decreasing the pressure on water can make dissolved gases come out of solution. But what happens if you suddenly increase the pressure again?

This is the same movie as in the previous post, just to remind you of what we did: We decreased the pressure and then let it increase again quickly (you hear the ssssssssssss when the air is streaming back into the bottle).

So to show it in one picture, what happens is basically this:

Bubbles under low pressure (top) and high pressure (bottom). Screen shots from the movie above.

The lower the pressure, the larger the bubbles. When you let the air back into the bottle, the bubbles collapse (or shrink, if you want to be less dramatic).

That reminds me that I really need to film a movie similar to the one below where one can clearly see how bubble size increases the closer the bubbles come to the surface.

Isn’t it awesome to realize that the more you film and write and think about adventures in oceanography and teaching, the more ideas you have of what you want to do next? :-)

Gases dissolved in water

A simple experiment to show that there are really gases dissolved in water.

Luckily, my parents like to play at least as much as I do. So when I got back from doing “real science” in Bergen the other day, they picked me up at the airport and showed me their latest toys: Vacuum pumps! [edit: Not really vacuum vacuum, but at least much lower than atmospheric pressure. And apparently those pumps are sold with the original purpose of re-sealing wine bottles]

Vacuum pumps are great to show that there are actually gases dissolved in water, because oftentimes that isn’t all that obvious. But when the pressure of the head space of a bottle is decreased, gases that were happily dissolved under atmospheric pressure start coming out of solution.

Gas being bubbled out of water by decreasing the pressure of the head space of the bottle.

Here is a comparison of normal tap water and sparkling water (sparkling water obviously containing much more dissolved CO2 than tap water, hence more bubbling).