Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was recently looking at a Wurlitzer juke box, and noticed something strange. It's decorated with liquid-filled tubes. Gas bubbles are injected at the bottoms of the tubes, and the bubbles naturally rise.

What was strange was that, as the bubbles rise, they shrink! Not just a little bit, but very noticeably. At first I assumed it was some kind of optical illusion, but actually many bubbles shrink down to nothing and disappear. How can this be? Where does the gas go? Surely it can't be dissolving into the liquid. It can't happen that fast, and the liquid would be saturated by now.

Wurlitzer bubbles disappearing

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Here is an explanation by Bo Danforth:

Shown in the picture above is a segment of a Wurlitzer jukebox bubble tube. In the tube, the bubbles rise as expected, but as they approach the top, odd things begin to occur. Instead of remaining the same size as one might think, or increasing slightly from a minute reduction in pressure, they instead decrease in size, in some cases disappearing entirely. The reason for this bewildering sight is that the bubbles do not actually contain air, but are pockets of heated vapor. The bubble tube is a sealed system where the air has been completely removed by a pump, creating a partial vacuum, which causes the liquid to fill the remaining space with vapor. The system is at a pressure where it will change states near room temperature. When this sealed tube is placed next to a heat source at the bottom (the light bulb) the liquid near it reaches a boiling point, according to the equation of PV=NRT. As the bubbles of vapor float upwards along the exposed glass and away from the heat source, they slowly shrink as the gas cools down, condensing back into a liquid state.

share|improve this answer
A great explanation. How did you find it? I spend ages Googling before I came here. –  Rocketmagnet Dec 29 '11 at 21:41
I think I used the following Google search: "Wurlitzer jukebox" bubbles liquid. –  Qmechanic Dec 29 '11 at 22:03
add comment

Either this gas is dissolved, or it is a vapour of that liquid that condenses gradually.

share|improve this answer
+1 for vapor... –  Vineet Menon Dec 28 '11 at 10:46
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.