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.
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]
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:
Imagine dropping a few hundred dollars for a bottle of “premium wine” only to discover it tastes like plonk! For years, collectors of fine wines have gone to great lengths to ensure that the wine they buy is indeed of the advertised quality and age. From tamper-proof caps to prevent the dilution of a premium wine with cheap stuff to an electric tongue that can distinguish fine wines, connoisseurs have tried their best not to get ripped off. Now, they have another trick at their disposal, and this one involves an atom bomb.
According to new research, collectors can avoid purchasing a faked bottle of an old vintage by running the wine through a “bomb pulse” test, which uses the radioactive material present in air to date the wine. The system is accurate enough, say scientists, to date your wine’s vintage up to a year of its production–so that a collector can be certain, for example, that a Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 isn’t actually a child of the aughts.
• Bizarre condition of the day: phantosmia, where you smell something and can’t stop smelling it, sometimes for months.
• Thank goodness we’re doing something productive in space: A satellite is tracking and improving French wine harvests.
• The Romantics managed to mesh science and poetry. Any hope for the rest of us?
• Technology can be sexist; news at 11.
• Is the double-secret hangover cure really…asparagus?