A breaking story from the Coast: San Francisco's famed Exploratorium science museum became a Tower of Bubble as an effervescent crowd of bubble experts and bubble fans converged from around the globe for a blowout called the 2d Ever Bubble Festival.

There were people enclosed in bubbles, self-blowing bubbles and frozen bubbles, a bubble magic show, bubble movies, a bubble boutique and, of course, bubbly drinks. Why a festival for bubble connoisseurs? "Why not?" crowed one in the crowd. "Bubbles have begun to receive their due. They have come of age."

Indeed, if you think bubbles are frothy stuff of concern only to bubble heads, think again, bub. This confab made clear that bubbles are more than light entertainment. There were serious scientists floating around. Ilan Chabay, associate professor of chemistry at Stanford, used dry ice to generate self-blowing soap bubbles that froze. Israeli chemist Ze'ev Luz arranged bubbles to replicate the structure of molecules. Then there was physics professor Eiffel Plasterer, 87, known as "Mr. Bubble" in his hometown of Huntington, Ind. "Life is like the blowing of bubbles, and two can blow bubbles together," observed Plasterer, regarded as the sage of so-called bubbleologists. Plasterer brought a glass jar containing a 340-day-old bubble made of his own "secret stuff," and said he was "always looking for a bigger and better bubble." When better bubbles are blown, Eiffel Plasterer will blow them.

The festivities came to a head with the opening night grand finale. Billed as "Leonard Burstein and the San Francisco Bubble Pops Orchestra," it was actually a participatory percussion performance by audience members jumping on plastic bubble packs, popping brown paper bags and bursting balloons to the tune of the William Tell overture. Never has there been a crowd so bubbling with enthusiasm. If a bubble festival pops up near you, don't blow it. Be there.