When looking at a wetted surface with a technique that can probe the nanoscale, a high surface coverage of gas bubbles is often revealed. So what? Well, if we believe in classical diffusion, these bubbles should dissolve in microseconds, but in reality they are found to remain stable for as long as anyone has observed (five days thus far, which is 10–11 orders of magnitude longer than would be expected). As well as the obvious question of why the lifetime is so long, and also the question of how the bubbles nucleate in the first place, we rapidly find ourselves asking can we use the bubbles to our benefit? A clear example would be in controlling slip in micro/nanofluidics: effectively, replacing a solid wall with a 'gassy' wall replaces the no-slip boundary condition with one of slip. Several other potential applications have also been suggested and nanobubbles have, in fact, already proven useful in the antifouling world.