Category: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

Why Scotch Smells Like Band-Aids & Sharpies

By Veronique Greenwood | June 15, 2012 11:43 am

spacing is important

spacing is important
Lysol, which, like scotch, contains cresol, was also once used as a vaginal douche.

Don Nosowitz over at PopSci has a lovely little explainer explaining something I am glad to realize I am not the only one wanting an explanation for. That is: why does scotch, hifalutin’ drink that it is, smell like Band-Aids? I’ve never liked that Scotchy odor, and now I know why it reeks of the pediatrician’s office. It’s because peat, the mossy stuff that’s burned in order to smoke the barley that becomes scotch, is naturally packed with a class of molecules called cresols, which are also, coincidentally, crack disinfectants.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

It Slices, It Dices–With a Minuscule Jet of High-Speed Water Instead of a Knife

By Veronique Greenwood | June 13, 2012 2:57 pm

moonpie
A moonpie sliced with a water jet cutter: Not a crumb out of place.

There are many wonders of engineering, confined to the labs and warehouses of industry, that we laypeople never get to see. That’s the case with the water jet cutter, which fires out a thin stream of water through a diamond nozzle at nearly the speed of sound and can slice through everything from peaches to linoleum with the greatest of ease.

It’s been around in some form since the 1950s, but if you’re not in the business of cutting things into ever-smaller pieces, you may not have come across it.

Here is a cutter made by Paprima going through beets like a knife through butter:

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Why Do Bubbles in Guinness Sink?

By Sophie Bushwick | May 30, 2012 2:31 pm

When you pour yourself a nice pint of Guinness, there’s only one thing running through your mind, right? As the brew settles, why do the bubbles sink down instead of rising up?!

Okay, so the “Guinness cascade” may not have been your primary concern, but the gravity-defying bubbles did intrigue a few mathematicians at the University of Limerick, who explored how the shape of the Guinness glass affected the flow of bubbles in an article they posted at the pre-print arXiv.

Flow in glass Credit: Alexander & Zare

The Guinness cascade is not a new phenomenon, and a basic explanation already exists. All things being equal, the bubbles of gas in a liquid like soda or beer rise because gravity exerts more force on the denser liquid around them. But it turns out that where the bubbles are in the glass makes a big difference in their behavior. The bubbles near the walls of a container stick to the glass, which drags on them and slows their upward motion. The bubbles in the center of the cup, in contrast, can rise unimpeded. As they move, they exert a slight drag force on the surrounding liquid. This motion forms a column that circulates the beer in the center of the glass upward, while forcing the beer—and the bubbles—along the wall to sink down.

In fact, this effect happens in other liquids as well, but in a glass of Guinness, the cream-colored bubbles stand out particularly clearly against the dark drink.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

Which Wine Goes Best with Semiconductors? A 2009 Beaujolais, Apparently

By Veronique Greenwood | March 23, 2012 12:58 pm

red

Heads turned last year when Japanese scientists announced that heating iron telluride in red wine did wonders for its conductive ability. (They are mysteriously quiet as to how they decided to do this experiment.) Sake, white wine, and other alcoholic drinks were also, uh, sampled, but none had the vigor-inducing properties of a full-bodied red.

They’ve now taken the matter further and tested which kinds of red have the strongest effect. Their results, posted on the ArXiv and summarized in the figure above, indicate that the winner is a wine made from Gamay grapes, a 2009 Beaujolais from the Paul Beaudet winery in France. Beaujolais are known for being acidic wines, and indeed, when the researchers did a component-by-component breakdown of the wine, testing to see which of the substances in it was the one having the effect, they narrowed it down to tartaric acid.

tartaric acid
The acid in question.

To test their findings, they mixed tartaric acid with water and found that the mixture did boost iron telluride’s conductivity. But not as much as wine itself, which indicates there’s something else in the wine that’s contributing to the effect.

Neat, eh? There’s still a lot up in the air, though. How, exactly, does wine do it? While we wait for the scientists to figure that out, we’ll take another bottle of the Beaujolais, thanks.

[via the ArXiv Blog]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

To Replace Beef Fat in Hot Dogs, Try Using Something Like Paper

By Veronique Greenwood | March 22, 2012 8:43 am

hot

Hot dogs are pretty bizarre already (proof: the infamous pink slime video). But they may take a turn for the weirder, should a new beef-fat substitute take off. It’s a gel made from ethyl cellulose that combines the physical properties of beef fat with the nutritional properties of a postage stamp.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

Investigating the "Charlie Brown Effect": Astronauts' Chubby Faces and Hot-Sauce Cravings

By Sarah Zhang | February 27, 2012 8:45 am

spacing is importantOne of these pockets must have Tabasco.

Does this zero gravity make me look fat? Yup. It’s called the Charlie Brown effect, according to Michele Perchonok, NASA’s shuttle food system manager, and it’s not because she’s fattening them up with shrimp cocktail and chicken consommé. Without the benefit of gravity, bodily fluids accumulate in the head, giving the astronauts rounder, cartoon-like faces.

As anyone who’s had a cold knows, more fluid in our facial cavities also means congestion and weakening our sense of smell. But is lack of gravity actually responsible to for all this? There’s only one way to find out: “Perchonok has asked [food engineer Jean Hunter] and her crew at Cornell to test the stuffy nose theory. To do that on Earth, volunteers will spend several weeks in a bed where their heads are lower than their feet to try to re-create that Charlie Brown effect.” This might not be what people had in mind when they volunteered for astronaut simulations.

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Hearty Penguin Steaks: the Old-School Explorers' Salve for Scurvy

By Sarah Zhang | February 2, 2012 11:12 am

spacing is important
An Emperor penguin being skinned on board the Endurance.

Imagine you’re in Antarctica. It’s cold. You’re cold. Your joints ache, old wounds are reopening to ooze pus, and your teeth loosen, threatening to fall out one or two at a time. What do you feel like eating? How about “a piece of beef, odiferous cod fish and a canvas-backed duck roasted together in a pot, with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce?”

If this sounds delicious, then your stomach serves you well. That’s how famous polar explorer Frederick Cook described the taste of penguin meat, and that is how you cure yourself of scurvy in Antarctica when fresh vegetables are nowhere to be found. Fresh meat—lightly cooked or raw—contains vitamin C, whose deficiency causes scurvy and the delightful symptoms described above.

Unfortunately for turn-of-the-century Antarctic explorers, most expedition leaders were not as enlightened as Cook and many a man succumbed to scurvy. Unfortunately for Antarctica’s penguins, they were also easy prey for the men who did eat them. “Long lines of curious penguins marched across the ice and right into camp, which almost always meant death as dog food, human food, or fuel for the boiler. A stew of penguin heart and liver became a crew favorite,” describes Jason C. Anthony in a paper on Antarctic cuisine in the Heroic Age in Endeavour.

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Chocolate Science #539: Taking a Walk Makes You Eat Less Chocolate

By Veronique Greenwood | December 9, 2011 4:42 pm

chocolate

It should come as no surprise that scientists have spent many hours contemplating new tortures for the chocolate-addicted. After all, how else will science know how much, say, boredom, will affect chocolate intake? Or stress? Or watching a psychologist unwrap a chocolate bar? These are the important things, people.

The latest edition of this research addresses a question close to many a cubicle drone’s heart: will exercise reduce the amount of chocolate you eat while at work? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

6 Servings of Thanksgiving Science: Ideal Turkey Diet, Black Friday Sales Tricks, Turkey-Phobia…

By Valerie Ross | November 23, 2011 8:17 am

It’s almost Thanksgiving here the US. Before you tuck into your stuffing, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce, save a little room for a big helping of science. Here are a few of our favorite Thanksgiving science stories from around the Internet, detailing the research behind fattening turkeys, giving thanks, post-holiday shopping, and more: Read More

The Typewriter That Will Mix You a Drink After a Long Day At the Keyboard

By Veronique Greenwood | September 21, 2011 2:46 pm

Making a living as a writer is tough, but if you can drink your words, everything will start looking up. A maker going by the handle Morskoiboy has built a typewriter with syringes for keys that does just that: each syringe sucks up a different fluid for each letter, runs the fluid through a microfluidic-style screen to display the letter, then drains the fluid, which can be any booze or mixer you like, into a glass.

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