After 500 years, Leonardo Da Vinci’s bubble mystery has finally been solved: The answer baffles scientists

(ORDO NEWS) — Air bubbles often do not travel in a straight line when rising from water, and physicists have only just figured out why.

The genius puzzled over this riddle, but he simply did not have computer simulations.

If you’ve ever watched air bubbles rise through water, you may have wondered the same thing that Leonardo Da Vinci did: Why don’t they all rise in a straight line?

If so, you are over 500 years too late and probably not famous enough for people to pay attention to your question, but the good news is that you live at a time when scientists have found the answer to it.

Water Bubbles Mystery

The most curious thing about Leonardo’s observation is that only large bubbles zigzag or spiral up to the surface, and not small ones, although the same physical forces act on each of them.

In a new study, Professor Miguel Herrada from the University of Seville and Professor Jens Eggers from the University of Bristol provide an answer to this puzzle that they hope will lead to new advances in understanding liquid/gas interfaces.

Herrada and Eggers noted that not only was the movement of the bubbles never explained, but it was also never described mathematically.

The authors observe a number of aspects of bubble motion that make it difficult to model them, despite the fact that the phenomenon is widespread.

Most importantly, they write: “The bubble deforms in response to the forces acting on the fluid, and in turn, the shape of the bubble changes the nature of the flow.”

Experiments have their own problems, as even minor contamination with surfactants such as soap can affect bubble behavior.

They found that the rising bubbles undergo a periodic tilt that changes their shape. The upward side has more curvature, which makes the surface more slippery, so the water moves over it faster.

This relieves pressure on that side, returning the bubble to its original shape before the cycle starts again.

Modeling predicts that this process should cause bubbles with a radius greater than 0.926 mm to oscillate and deviate from a straight path.

The critical size is within 2 percent of the value obtained in ultrapure water.


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