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What happens if you blow bubbles into a glass of lemonade on the international space station?

Since you are weightless in orbit, there's no up, down, left nor right. We define down on the Earth surface as the direction things tend to fall, down. On Earth bubbles rise if blown into a glass of lemonade (with a straw and a cover).

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  • $\begingroup$ There are no "glasses of lemonade" on the ISS, since the lemonade is weightless. You could make an interesting question by asking what happens to a bubble in a sphere of water floating in the air in the ISS. (I believe the answer is that the bubble is attracted to the nearest surface.) $\endgroup$ – Mark Eichenlaub Jan 3 '11 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkEichenlaub, maybe no glasses of lemonade are allowed on board, but if you smuggled an ordinary drinking glass up to the ISS, and if you gently squirted some lemonade from a pouch into the open end of it...? On the one hand, I'm thinking that the lemonade wants to wet the glass and spread until it envelops the whole thing, inside and out. On the other hand, I'm thinking that surface tension wants to pull the lemonade into a spherical glob. I'm imagining some weird, chaotic shapes happening inside the glass as the two forces fight it out with each other. $\endgroup$ – Solomon Slow Nov 30 '18 at 20:58
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Here is a YouTube link of an experiment done on board the International Space Station.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXsvy2tBJlU

In the second part of the video, air is injected into a spherical water drop. As you can see, nothing really dramatic happens. There is certainly no explosion. The air bubble adopts a spherical shape to minimize its surface area, but otherwise it sits quite happily inside the water drop. This is probably as close as we can get to answering the lemonade question. One could easily blow bubbles (or a single bubble) into a floating drop of lemonade. There are some differences due to the lack of gravity. When you blow bubbles into a liquid here on earth, they are pulled upward by buoyancy due to gravity. Thus they do not get very big before detaching from the straw. In contrast, in zero-g the bubble will stay put (other than being pushed a little by air entering the bubble). So you will not get the same bubble 'train' as on earth.

This has important implications for drinking soda/pop or sparkling wine/champagne on the Space Station: don't do it! These drinks are supersaturated with carbon dioxide (with respect to our normal atmosphere). On Earth, we open a bottle of champagne and bubbles nucleate around defects (or fibers) on the surface of the glass, but they quickly rise due to buoyancy. They grow by capturing more carbon dioxide as they rise, but they escape into the atmosphere before getting very big. In space, the bubbles would quickly grow without rising! So it would seem that opening the champagne in space would always make it bubble over completely!

There are some other nice experiments in the YouTube video, including the addition of an effervescent tablet (pill) into a water drop, leading to the growth of gas-filled bubbles.

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  • $\begingroup$ So cool, its water bouncing off water that it's inside of. You could do like layers of these! I so want to go into space before I die!! $\endgroup$ – Jonathan. Jan 3 '11 at 20:21

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