The MIT team injected small quantities of air into a highly viscous liquid to stimulate the formation of air bubbles. As the bubbles reached the surface, da Silveira and colleagues punctured them with a needle. A high-speed camera recorded the collapse of the bubble.

They discovered that the bubble bursts slowly through the hole punctured in the surface, and that this hole widens as the air inside escapes. Meanwhile, the overhanging surface of the bubble is pulled back into the liquid by surface tension. As the bubble collapses under its own weight, its buckles, causing a series of ripples to rush across the liquid's surface.

According to the experiments and calculations carried out by da Silveira and colleagues, there is a direct relationship between the number of ripples and the bubble radius and liquid viscosity.