The arctic chill that has gripped the nation in recent days is beginning to abate — gone as quickly as it came. If you were feeling a little adventurous, perhaps you froze some bubbles in time.
Or, in the northeastern United States, you could give it a whirl early Wednesday, when frigid temperatures are forecast.
Here’s how it works.
The walls of a soap bubble tend to be barely a micrometer thick. That’s one-thousandth of a millimeter — about one-fiftieth the diameter of a human hair! It goes without saying that as a result, soap bubbles are extremely fragile. Their lifetimes tend to be as short as their delicate walls are brittle. Freezing them can extend their lives almost exponentially.
I tried my hand at freezing soap bubbles earlier this year in Minneapolis. The temperature was minus-14 at the time, but watching a bubble freeze midair is a memory that will last much longer than the bubble.
While my attempts were with store-bought bubble mix, “frozen bubble experts” might advise adding some ingredients — like corn syrup and sugar — to help the bubbles stay true to form longer as they freeze. I certainly had less luck with the ready mix, but it did work after multiple tries.
These ephemeral orbs can become frozen icy ornaments, especially when temperatures drop below 10 degrees. Perfecting the technique necessary to achieve this feat is tricky. But with the right amount of patience, lack of wind and luck, you might just manage to freeze a bubble of your own.
Soap bubbles can freeze in 10 seconds or less when the temperatures drop below zero. They’re quite efficient at freezing. That’s because spheres have the lowest surface-area-to-volume ratio of any shape. That means there’s plentiful cold air at all angles to chill the bubble walls from both sides.
Next time you’re dealing with frigid conditions, try adding some bubbles to the mix.