“I wonder how much it would take to buy a soap-bubble if there was only one in the world.”
– Mark Twain
I found a fascinating article by Angelica Frey, “The Soap Bubble Trope,” in, of all places, JSTOR, “a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources.” The article leads with these words:
What do the roof of the Munich Olympic Stadium, Glinda the Good Witch, Disney’s Cinderella, the art series “Unweave a Rainbow” by neo-surrealist painter Ariana Papademetropoulos, Sir Isaac Newton, the first “viral” ad campaign of the late Victorian era, and morose Dutch still-life paintings have in common? They all reflect a preoccupation with soap bubbles, with shiny, shimmery, and iridescent spheres that we tend to associate with children and play.
Yes, those same soap bubbles we played with as kids and now market to our 21st-century children and grandchildren have been the subject of poetry, novels, science, and art for centuries. And we thought they were just toys.
Here is a beautiful quote from the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson:
“I saw a bubble float past my window, fat and wobbly and ripening towards that dragonfly blue they turn just before they burst. So I looked down at the yard and there you were, you and your mother, blowing bubbles at the cat, such a barrage of them that the poor beast was beside herself at the glut of opportunity. She was actually leaping in the air, our insouciant Soapy! Some of the bubbles drifted up through the branches, even above the trees. You were too intent on the cat to see the celestial consequences of your worldly endeavoursMarilynne Robinson, Gilead
And some words about the importance of bubbles in science:
The unassuming soap bubble is one of the most important objects in physics.The beautiful geometry of arrested soap bubbles, Kevin Hartnettdddddddddddddd
But toys they are, and they have been honored as such. Bubble Soap was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2014, and made Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Toys” list.
The coronavirus epidemic is subsiding and life is getting back to a new normal. It’s time to blow bubbles.