May 14 - The evolution and disappearance of foamy bubbles are governed by linked mathematical equations that two Berkeley researchers say could be utilized in the manufacture of foams such as those used in bicycle helmets. The two mathematicians have illustrated their findings in mesmerizing style, with a computer-generated video depicting bubble mathematics in motion. Rob Muir reports.
When bubbles in a cluster burst, they appear to be subject to random, unmeasurable forces. But according to UC Berkeley mathematicians James Sethian and Robert Saye, that's not the case. This computer-generated sequence they say, illustrates mathematics at work. The pair have devised a method to mathematically describe the evolution and disappearance of bubbles in a cluster, by building equation-based computer models of the various forces at work inside and in between the bubbles. They say the development of mathematical formulae to describe bubble clusters, could be used to improve the industrial processes employed for making foam products like insulation or the cushioning material inside a bicycle helmet. According to James Sethian, the technique applies different equations to different sets of behaviours within the structure, from the influence of gravity on liquid in the bubble walls, to the flow of liquid inside the junctions between the bubble membranes. Together, those equations paint a measurable picture of scence in action.