COLOUR

 

A bubble is spherical soap film encasing a volume of air, (or another gas) and surrounded by air, (or another gas). The film is continually draining due to gravity, but also highly susceptible to minute changes in air pressure causing the draining liquid to move in different directions.

Light interference patterns become visible when white light is directed onto a film at a certain angle - the film refracts the light.

In 1665, Francesco Maria Grimaldi discovered white light from the sun could be split into two or three colours and termed the split 'refraction'.  

The following year, Isaac Newton began experimenting with light by directing a beam of sunlight through a prism. The angled glass of the prism refracted and deviated the beam into emanating bands of visible colours: red at the top followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet and called this the 'spectrum'.

At the time, there was a conflict of opinion as to how light travelled - waves or particles? Newton claimed his 'crucial experiment' showed light travelled in waves, but was unable to prove this scientifically, (a crucial experiment pits two contradictory theories against each other, when one theory is proven the second must therefore be disproven). We now know light can travel as waves and particles.

Thomas Young presented scientific proof light travelled in waves, to the Royal Society in 1802. Young used soap films to carry out the first spectroscopic analysis of white light and ascertained each colour refracted at a precise angle.   

Soap films are relatively stable compared to other fluids, light interference colours render draining channels visible and as Young proved, accurate calculations of film thickness can be made. These characteristics provide a valuable understanding into the dynamics of fluid flow, which can then be related and applied to other fluids.

A relationship between cloud structure, wind patterns and a soap film seems improbable, but there is a significant connection. Satellite images show swirling, von Karman vortices amongst the clouds, phenomena rarely seen from earth. The 'vortices' can be replicated into a flowing soap film in the lab.


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