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4 Ways of Looking at a Bubble

These stunning photos will change the way you think about a simple bubble.

As Potentially Very Messy

Chad Fell of Haleyville, Alabama, holds the top spot for “largest unassisted bubble,” as recorded by Guinness World Records. A reporter for the Northwest Alabamian newspaper, Fell, 40, smacked, puckered, and puffed his way to a 20-inch-diameter bubble, which remained aloft for a full five seconds without assistance. Preparing for his competition took years of practice, says Fell, who goes through two bags of Dubble Bubble a week. His pointers: Per contest regulations, use just three pieces of gum, and measure your results horizontally with calipers. Furthermore, Fell recommends chomping 15 minutes to cut down the sugar before adding air. “Sugar decreases elasticity and hinders the size,” he says. “It’s the worst enemy for a bubble gum blower.”

As Entertainment

For years, bubble artist Fan Yang peddled his viscous variety show on the streets of Europe. His hopes for acclaim were burst at every turn. “Almost no one took my work seriously,” he recalls. His break came in 1987 when a Danish producer invited him on television. Other TV offers followed, and Yang made the leap to a New York theater in 2006 with the Gazillion Bubble Show, set to dance music and laser lights. While he’s fit everything from 100 people to an Asian elephant into a bubble, Yang says his success is due more to his elixirs than his way with the wand: “I have spent more time experimenting with bubble solutions than exercising bubble tricks.”

As Sea Smarts

Three bubble-blowing beluga whales are a big draw at the Aquas Aquarium in Hamada City, Japan. A trainer noticed them casually blowing rings on their own, then taught them to perform on command. At first, Kelia, Alia, and Nastia took in air from the trainer’s oxygen tank. After they bit into one too many regulator tubes, the trio were taught instead to take in the air that their trainer blows directly at their mouths. It’s said that if you’re fortunate enough to witness the spectacle, you’ll have good luck in marriage and conception. Over at Kamogawa Sea World, however, a researcher from Japan’s Tokai University recently taught a beluga to “talk” in recognizable sounds when it sees objects like goggles or a bucket. Kind of puts those blowhards at Aquas in their place.

As Fizz-ics

Cheers to French researcher Gérard Liger-Belair, whose seminal study of bubbles probes the science at work in your champagne glass. The fun starts when the bubbly is uncorked and the change in pressure sends CO2 rushing to the surface, creating effervescence. Other bubbles adhere to microscopic particles in your stemware and streak upward. Liger-Belair says he was most delighted to capture the moment (shown above) when the bubbles implode and take their neighbors down with them. His findings give insight into volcanic magma—and the best flute for your fizz.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest