Soap Bubble Clusters

Rev. Mod. Phys. features a short (and quite mathematically inclined) Colloquium on Soap Bubble Clusters by Frank Morgan.

It discusses things like “Double Bubble Conjecture” and other fun geometrical work on soap bubbles.

William Bragg, of Bragg law fame, together with a graduate student John Nye (no relation to Bill Nye the science guy as far as I could tell) has used rafts of identical soap bubbles in what is known as “Bragg-Nye bubble raft” techniques as models for dislocations in metals. Using these methods Bragg and Nye have discovered (independently from William Shockley) how dislocations disassociate into the partials (known as Shockley partials) and generate stacking faults. [Bragg, W. L. & Nye, J. F. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 190, 474–481 (1947).]

These macroscopic techniques simulating atomic structure are amazingly enough still used today, for example by Suresh group at MIT in a study of effects of nanoindentation in generating defect nucleation.

In many ways these are not very different from using colloidal crystals as a model, for example in this Nature study of indentation resulting in dislocation nucleation by Harvard groups of Spaepen and Weitz, as a unique example of soft matter (bubbles, liquid surfaces, colloids) serving as scientific models for processes that have been traditionally very important for hard materials – such as metals and alloys.

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