Nonspherical Bubble Clusters

John Sullivan
Proceedings of Bridges 2014: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2014)
Pages 453–456 Short Papers


Soap bubbles have always captured the imagination of artists as well as of children. We present computer graphics renderings of some small bubble clusters of mathematical interest. A single soap bubble is a perfectly round sphere; it seems that the soap films in (stable) clusters of small numbers of bubbles are always pieces of spheres. We focus on a cluster of six bubbles where this is not the case – in particular its central film is a saddle-shaped minimal surface. My computer-graphics rendering of this cluster dates from 1990. After it was featured last year in Ziegler's new book of mathematical pictures, I returned to it, printing it for exhibition for the first time and describing it here.