Fizzics and Chemistry: How to drink Champagne

10 02 2012

photo credit : Ross

First a disclaimer. I have borrowed that headline from the Daily Mail, because it I love a good pun!

Now, down to the important business at hand.

A study conducted at the University of Reims in France has found that champagne does actually taste better in a tall flute than in a saucer-shaped glass. Something to do with the flavour-enhancing bubbles (CO2) being better promoted in the flute. Apparently there are up to 30% more flavour-enhancing substances in the bubbles than in the rest of the drink. So Marilyn Monroe and Marie-Antoinette were wrong.

And decreasing the temperature of the champagne does not affect the amount of carbon dioxide in the champagne. However, colder champagne loses less CO2 when it is poured, hence being cold does make it taste better.

So now you know exactly how best to drink champagne. Cold, and in a flute.

I wonder if there any other such studies that I could get involved in? I feel a new career coming on!

Anyway, if this is your – I was going to say cup of tea, but obviously that is the wrong beverage – “thing”, here are the links to a couple of the important studies.

Champagne tastes better in flutes
Thermography shows how to pour champagne (Editor’s note: finally a genuine use for thermography!)

photo credit:


Life would be so much easier if……

15 12 2011

It’s almost time to start thinking about those New Year’s Resolutions again. I love goal-setting. I actually do it four times a year, not just annually. I have specific dates for the reviews: My birthday (March), End of Financial Year, Halloween, and of course New Year’s Eve. For those of you not into goal setting that probably seems a little obsessive, but it works for me. Any longer and I lose motivation, any shorter and I can’t actually achieve anything noticeable in the time period.

I have achieved a number of goals over the years: saving money, getting a new job, investment, study etc. However, there are some that seem to come up every time and never seem to really get anywhere. And I know all the tricks about phrasing them in the positive (you don’t lose weight, you gain fitness), making sure they are specific, measurable, and have a timeline attached to them. Developing baby-steps and plans to sit behind each goal. Keeping them written somewhere obvious so you need to keep reading them adn reminding yourself. Yes, yes, done all that.

But I’m guessing some of these might plague you as well. So here are some of my “wish list”, should a Fairy Godmother come flying by….. If these things could come true, life would be so much easier (and I would be achieving those stubbornly resistant goals).

If only……

photo credit Charlie Brewer

1. Buying a book counted as having read it (and you absorbed all the knowledge through osmosis). Particularly educational literature.

photo credit Adactio

2. Buying diet food counted as having dieted.

photo credit Magnus D

3. Signing up for the gym counted as having done the workouts. Ditto for buying the exercise equipment, clothes and running shoes.

phto credit: all day I dream

4. Printing the journal article counted as having read and absorbed the information (for study purposes)

phot credit getzzy photography

5. Buying the clothes and/or makeup counted as becoming the model in the advert for the clothes

Unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. SIGH! Off to diet, exercise and read now.

I am sure there will be a posting about goals setting coming along shortly, so please pop back if you are interested, or sign up to get updates delivered by email.

Gamification – WTF or FTW?

9 12 2011

You may recently have seen this article or the many articles like it, on how gamers solved a puzzle regarding the shape of an AIDS-related enzyme (above) that had stumped scientists for years. The enzyme is believed to be part of the transmission process of the AIDS virus (or a similar animal virus) – knowing the shape of the enzyme means scientists can work on how to block it, hence this may be an important part of the puzzle for finding an AIDS cure or vaccine.

It took the gamers less than ten days to solve the puzzle.

So how did this happen? The scientists knew what made up the protein, but they didn’t know how the pieces fitted together and what shape they formed, an important factor in the functioning of proteins. The scientists, we can assume, were equally motivated to solve the problem, highly educated in the ways of atoms and molecules. The scientists also had computers that could turn the puzzle over and over – and even the computers couldn’t solve the problem. How did gamers do what scientists and computers couldn’t?

The answer is basic human nature. What the scientists did was make the puzzle into a game. They knew it had to be fun. They attached a points-based reward system. They set up the game so that users could collaborate or build on each others’ work. And then they set it free!

The gamers, motivated by the challenge, the fun and the reward system, worked together and competed against one another. And of course, the human brain is better at solving spatial problems than computers.

So gaming – stereotypically seen as non-productive and somewhat addictive technology – turns out to have application in the “real” world. And of course a multi-syllabic word has been invented to describe this turning of boring or non-entertaining problems into games: gamification.

Gamification is increasingly finding more and more application in the real world. Wikipedia suggests the following list of uses, some productive, some less so:

– Employee training programs
– Education (repetition is good for learning, but currently many educational games are BORING!)
– Project management
– Financial services websites
– Healthcare and wellness

– scientific problems
– engineering problems

– loyalty programs
– online shopping experiences

Membership and recruiting
– attracting new memberships
– religious
– cult or terror organisations
– I believe the US Armed Forces already use games as a recruiting tool

Gamification has many potential uses, through harnessing our innate natures to seek entertainment and continue behaviours that result in reward. The only proviso is that the program / puzzle / game needs to be set up properly to achieve the aim. If the scientists hadn’t already known the molecules that made up the enzyme, and programmed in the ways that the molecules interacted with each other, into the program, the gamers would not have been able to come up with the meaningful result.

So scientists of the world can breathe a sigh of relief. Gamers are not taking over your jobs, they are just the latest tool in your tool belt. Your knowledge is still needed to ask the questions.

And without the right questions, you can’t get the right answer.