This could make it safer to go to concerts and eat out

Technology |  2 min. read

The expression, “living in a bubble,” doesn’t typically equate to living life to the fullest. But with music fans stepping into them in order to attend concerts in the middle of a pandemic – and with foodies willing to dine in one so they can enjoy their favorite restaurant safely – the saying appears to be taking on new meaning.

In mid-October, the Flaming Lips performed their first live-audience concert where each fan was protected in inflatable space bubbles.

Video footage from the show, which took place in the band’s hometown of Oklahoma City, shows people happily dancing within their individual bubbles. About 100 bubbles in the test-run concert were packed tightly enough into the space that Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne, while within his own bubble, could “crowd-surf” while continuing to perform.

RollingStone called the show a success. Coyne said the tactic allowed rock fans to set their troubles aside for a night of live music, while protecting themselves so they can return to do it again.

“I don’t really have a fetish where I want everybody in rubber space balls; it’s just a protection device which, at the same time, is such an absurd symbol of our moment,” Coyne told the rock magazine. “Hopefully not for the rest of time, but it’s the moment.”

Some restaurants are using a similar strategy to keep their diners safe.

In San Francisco, Michelin-starred restaurant Hashiri set up dome/igloo-like structures on the sidewalk to keep its diners socially distanced. The domes allow struggling restaurants like Hashiri to return to business, while attracting diners who may feel uncomfortable eating out with the coronavirus circulating in their communities.

These days, living in a bubble is providing a way for many to live it up while staying safe. For those wondering about the tech that makes these type of bubbles possible. It starts with chemical building blocks that come from oil and natural gas.

Many of the bubbles used to protect concert-goers attending the Flaming Lips show, were made with PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) which comes from ethylene. Meanwhile, acrylic domes used at Hashiri are made of acrylic plastic, more specifically polymethyl methacrylate (or PMMA) — which starts with propylene. What do these materials have in common? They are all important petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas.

These modern materials work together to create an impenetrable protective barrier against the devastating COVID-19 virus, while removing a barrier that’s kept people from living their lives as normally as is possible.


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