The shape of your beer glass affects your grip, of course. But it also affects the way that the bubbles in the liquid behave. And now it turns out that beer glass shape can even influence how fast you down your alcoholic beverage.
To see how glass shape affected drinking speed, 160 self-described social drinkers watched a nature documentary while they consumed refreshments from glasses with either straight edges or curved ones. The glasses with curved edges were larger at the top than the bottom, so they held a greater volume in the top half. And researchers found that when drinking beer from these glasses, subjects finished 60 percent faster than drinkers who used straight-sided glasses.
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.
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.
That clangy thing taking up space in the bottom of your Guinness or Tetley’s can might soon be done away with and replaced by a coffee filter.
The ball inside the Guinness can, called a widget, contains a pocket of nitrogen gas held under pressure. When some lucky person opens the can, the pressure is released and the gas shoots out into the beer through a small hole and creates the foam.
You may now be thinking, Wait a minute—most beers seem to have plenty of gas bubbles even without some fancy widget. The thing is that Guinness and similar brews need the widget because nitrogen bubbles are smaller than those filled with carbon dioxide, the bubbling gas in other fizzy drinks. The small nitrogen bubbles make Guinness’ foam deliciously thick and creamy, but it’s harder to get the gas to come out of solution. The widget forces lots of excess nitrogen into the beer, setting off a well-timed bubble eruption.
A paper that explores the unlikely coupling of warm wine and the electric properties of iron is currently making its rounds on the media circuit—leading us to conclude that people get excited about science when there is alcohol involved.
“Drunk scientists pour wine on superconductors and make incredibly discovery,” declares the (slightly inaccurate) headline on io9. “’Tis the season to be pickling your liver in alcohol,” announces the (slightly irrelevant) opening line of a CNET article.
The researchers’ experiment—led by Keita Deguchi of the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan—involved first submersing an iron alloy in various hot alcoholic beverages, and then finding the temperature at which the treated alloy starts to display superconducting properties. A superconductor is a material that has no electrical resistivity, allowing electrons to flow through it with essentially zero friction.
The paper abstract, which was published on arXiv, gives an overview of the experiment’s findings and method (although there’s no mention of beverage consumption that might have inspired these scientific antics):
“We found that hot commercial alcohol drinks are much effective to induce superconductivity in FeTe0.8S0.2 compared to water, ethanol and water-ethanol mixture…. Any elements in alcohol drinks, other than water and ethanol, would play an important role to induce superconductivity.”
A new study out in the American Association of Wine Economist’s “Wine Economics” journal suggests that monogamous societies are bigger drinkers than those in polygamous societies. Does this mean that being stuck with only one partner drives us to the bottle, or does drinking make us more likely to settle down?
Actually the answer is most likely neither. Both monogamy and drunkenness seem to be related to economics, or at least, that’s why both seem to have blossomed during the industrial revolution. Jo Swinnen, one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times Freakonomics blog (which seemed to have missed the actual conclusion of the study) that he noticed the correlation over, unsurprisingly, a glass of wine:
The inspiration came from a casual observation (over a glass of wine) that the two social/religious groups that do allow polygamy ((parts of) Mormonism and Islam) also do not consume alcohol. So we wondered whether this was a coincidence or not.
While many studies have compared alcohol and cultural traits, this is the study to look at its relationship with polygamy. The researchers compared the marital style and “frequency of drunkenness” of 44 well-documented pre-industrial societies (24 of which were polygamous; 20 monogamous) and found that monogamy was indeed positively correlated with drunkenness. The paper (pdf) says:
By Katie Palmer
“Not all chemicals are bad,” wrote humor columnist Dave Barry. “Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.” Barry may have been right about the virtues of a cold one, but his description is missing a few chemicals: the proteins from beer’s other main ingredients, starch (often from barley) and yeast.
To better understand this intoxicating chemical recipe, researchers at the University of Milan have published an expanded proteome, or protein library, of their lager of choice in the Journal of Proteome Research. They used a method called combinatorial peptide ligand libraries, or CPLL, which involves running the beer through sticky beads to capture its proteins—even the ones that present at low levels. They turned up 20 proteins from barley, 40 from yeast and two from corn, a vast improvement on the previous proteome, which showed just 12 barley and two yeast proteins.
So is there any good reason for the art of beer brewing to become a science? According to the researchers, better knowledge of the proteins that survive brewing could help improve flavor, aroma, and retention of the foamy head so prized by beer drinkers. While brewmasters can control taste by using different starches, yeasts and varieties of hops, they could refine their craft even further by designing fermentation processes to increase or minimize the release of specific yeast proteins. Sounds good, just as long as they don’t expect anyone to wait around empty-glassed while they figure it out.
This article is provided by Scienceline, a project of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.
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A new type of beer is being marketed to a very select demographic: space tourists. The special beer is about to undergo testing in a near-weightless environment to qualify it for drinking in space.
Unlike other space beers, which are created from barley that grew on the International Space Station, this space beer is being made especially to be consumed in space. The brew is a team effort from Saber Astronautics Australia and the 4-Pines Brewing Company (aka Vostok Pty Ltd), and will be given its low-gravity try-out by the non-profit organization Astronauts4Hire. From the Vostok Pty Ltd Facebook page:
As space exploration becomes more commercial, it is likely to support a market for the tasty brew. While the brew is designed to be enjoyed in low gravity environments (i.e., a space station, the Moon, or Mars) it will also be tasty on Earth.
The brew was bottled in early September and is expected to make its inaugural flight in November, aboard a plane that flies in long parabolic arcs to create periods of weightlessness. The beer will be tested for its qualitative taste and drinkability (hopefully not by the pilot). The reason why space-goers need their own beer is two-fold.
Oh, St. Patrick’s Day! Somehow it has become the day of binge drinking, day of doing shots, and the day before contemplating why you spent the last 24 hours drinking your head off. Nonetheless, St. Paddy must be honored, and honor him we shall—with alcohol and some science.
We decided to reach into the past and pull out the wondrous mystery of the Guinness beer bubbles. For years, the mysterious downward flowing Guinness bubbles have confounded both professional scientists and drinkers. When the bartender pulls a pint of most any beer, the bubbles can clearly be seen gushing to the top. When a pint of Guinness is poured, however, the bubbles slyly cascade down the sides of the glass, while the beer mysteriously maintains its frothy layer on top.
So in 2004, scientists Andy Alexander from the Royal Society of Chemistry and Dick Zare of Stanford University decided to find out why the bubbles act the way they do. After preliminary research trips to the local pub proved unfruitful, they decided to move the scene to a lab where they rigged a high-speed camera to take pictures of the Guinness being poured. The camera could zoom in and magnify the images ten times.
Atlanta was hit hard with heavy rains and severe flooding last week. But for a part of the country that was in such a deep drought the governor resorted to praying for rain, it makes sense that the good citizens of the ATL aren’t letting this newfound water go to waste. In fact, the conservationists at 5 Seasons Brewing Company in Atlanta are using their collected rainwater to make beer.
From The Huffington Post:
The local brewery uses 100% filtered rainwater that’s captured on-site to create their “green beer” (not to be confused with the St. Patrick’s Day type). The brewers believe that rainwater is cleaner and softer than city water, which makes their beer even better.
And here’s the video, from CNN:
Embedded video from CNN Video
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Image: flickr / brendan.wood
• Between global warming and trans fats, there are plenty of things to worry about. But we bet you forgot about this one: A massive jellyfish invasion that some Japanese researchers fear could occur this year.
• If you think you’re important, think again—unless you have a fish or insect christened in your honor. Check out this list of species named after famous people.
• Always having to see with your eyes can get tiring. Luckily, you can use sound to “see” by using echolocation, the same technique used by dolphins and bats to guide themselves and find prey. Experts in Spain say it takes just a few weeks of training to master the method.
• Add one more thing to the list beer can do: Send you into space on Sir Richard Branson’s spacecraft. Guinness is offering one lucky winner the chance to hurtle 68 miles above the Earth at three times the speed of sound. The contest is accessed via the company’s Web site and is open to people in 28 countries.
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