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I am a bit puzzled because I can see two possible reasons, first one is more common and the other one makes sense too, so here they go:

1) balloon pops because of the fact that after pressure is applied over small area (tip of the needle for example) hole is created

2) balloon pops because after pressure is applied over small area pressure inside balloon rises which causes balloon to pop

Which one is it??? Thanks a million!

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  • $\begingroup$ or both may have a role? $\endgroup$ – Ed Yablecki Jan 12 '16 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @EdYablecki Well if both are contributing then I am interested in finding the major contributor ;) $\endgroup$ – user2820052 Jan 12 '16 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ Have you even tried to estimate by how much the pressure increases, e.g. as compared to what happens when you press agains the balloon with your finger? $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Jan 12 '16 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ @user2820052 I'd say it should relate to the change in volume, and you can easily induce the same change in volume by pressing with your finger without popping the balloon. $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Jan 12 '16 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ @user2820052 I reckon that the pressure change due to the needle will not pop the ballon, just as pressing with your finger won't. $\endgroup$ – Norbert Schuch Jan 12 '16 at 21:24
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How about neither of them? The balloon pops because of surface tension of the balloon!

Surface tension is what keeps the balloon in shape. Now when you puncture the balloon with a needle, the force along the edge will be imbalanced and the tension will pull the surface without anything cancelling it. Because of the rubbery nature of the latex, it will shrink and collapse in few milliseconds.

bubble burst.

Also, if you're asking about the pop sound, there are two effects involved:

  1. The air inside the balloon has higher pressure than the atmosphere, so when the balloon is suddenly removed, the pressure gradient(sound wave) will propagate.
  2. At the end of balloon burst, it will zap on itself which will produce a noise as well.

Googling some slow motion images of balloon or bubble bursting might help with the visualizations.

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    $\begingroup$ This would be basicaly 1) I've gone through some 100 slo-mo balloon popping videos and it seems that there is no reason to believe that the ruptute of balloon is caused by inside pressure (as a major cause anyways. Thanks for your answer! $\endgroup$ – user2820052 Jan 12 '16 at 7:57
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According to my understanding the balloon pops because its "surface tension is disrupted. The particles in the balloon experience some mutual attraction holding them together. Nonetheless the rubber stores potential elastic energy. When the needle is poked into the balloon the tension is disrupted and the rubber can tear resulting in the pop.

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