Hi, I have a question that I had asked my 6th grade teacher back in 1991. If you where to take a carpenters liquid level into space where would the bubble be. My teacher had asked her friend which was going to a space mission later that year and my teacher passed away from a skiing accident before she could tell me. In memory of my late teacher I have been searching for the answer ever since. Including taking several Astronomy classes at 2 university’s just to find out but never did. Do you know if they had done a child’s experiment like that? If so please answer my 20 year old question.

Very interesting question. Since I have never done, nor heard of this experiment being done, I can only give you theory for the answer. There is no gravity to exert a force on the liquid which would “level” the bubble, so we have to look at other physical constraints that affect the action of the bubble: viscosity of the fluid, surface tension of the bubble and surface interactions with the glass. Given the fact that there is no gravity in space (or microgravity while in orbit around the Earth), the bubble would always remain right where it originally was when it entered space unless other forces acted upon it. For instance, imagine you held the level at one end in your hand, and the bubble was at the far end away from your hand. If you swung your arm around in a circle, the liquid would go to the other end and the bubble would move to the end closer to your hand. There the bubble would stay unless you exerted another force on the level to overcome the constraints listed above in order to move the bubble around. Hope you didn’t have too many restless nights over this!

Brad Bailey
NLSI Staff Scientist

October 21, 2010

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