Bubbles


“A soul is but the last bubble of a long fermentation in the world.” — George Santayana

Papal bubble

Pope Pius IX

Pope St. Pius X

A letter or charter issued by the Pope is known as a Papal bull. The Latin word for “bull” (in the papal sense) is bulla, derived from the Latin verb bullare, “to boil”. Bulla originally meant anything that boiled or swelled up and became round (like a bubble).
From that it came to mean anything bubble-shaped such as a metal boss on a shield or a knob on a door. This came to be applied to the lead seals with which papal (and royal) documents were authenticated in the early Middle Ages, until it eventually transferred to the document itself.

South Sea bubble

The most famous of all financial “bubbles”, in which the stock of the South Seas Company rose from £100 to £1,000 per share in less than six months in 1720. The speculation was based on the belief that the countries of South America were filled with gold and jewels just ripe for the plunder. When the company directors started surreptitiously selling their shares, the bubble burst and thousands of investors were bankrupted.

Speech bubbles

The first American comic strip character was called The Yellow Kid, drawn in 1895 by Richard F Outcault for America’s leading red-top, the New York World. Bald, gap-toothed and permanently grinning, his words were initially written on the front of his yellow nightshirt, but by 1896 Outcault had given him speech bubbles.

In the paintings and carvings of the Olmec and Mayan civilisations of Mesoamerica, “speech scrolls” filled with wispy lines of speech were drawn coming out of the mouths of speakers as early as 650BC.

More Speech bubbles

Commercial herring catch

Caught Herring

Herring talk out of their bottoms. They communicate by emitting bubbles from their backsides that sound like high-pitched raspberries. These sounds are thought to help shoals to stay together in the darkness. The noise is known as a Fast Repetitive Tick or FRT.

Bad bubbles

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the father of modern chemistry, first described “the bends”, or decompression sickness. In 1660, he proved that a reduction in pressure could lead to gas bubbles forming in living tissue when he placed a snake in a depressurised chamber and saw a bubble of gas form in its eye.

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