Stories tagged vodka

Another danger associated with alcoholic beverages. Be careful not to store your vodka bottles in the way of direct sunlight. Or get ready to call the fire department.

Jun
07
2010

Let's form a transient cage-like entity around an ethanol molecule: I mean... a person. I think.
Let's form a transient cage-like entity around an ethanol molecule: I mean... a person. I think.Courtesy Urban Mixer
That's right, vodka is 103%. According. To. Me.

And today, on the birthday of Paul Gauguin, the inventor of vodka*, we learn that that extra 3% is composed largely of science. Possibly.

See, vodka is supposed to be a neutral spirit—pretty much just a tasteless 40% ethyl alcohol, 60% water solution. (Tasteless except for the taste of alcohol, which is very strong.) And yet, when you get to the age where going to a bar is an appropriate thing to do, you will see and hear gentlemen saying things like, "Grey Goose on the rocks!" And then they give the bartender an amount of money they probably worked half an hour or more to earn.

Why?

Three reasons:

1) Something about filtering. Whatever.

2) Some people are ridiculous. If you ever say something like, "Grey Goose on the rocks!" you're one of them. But that's ok, because it takes all kinds, you know?

3) Apparently there may be some science to their seemingly arbitrary brand loyalty, even though they may not be conscious of it.

In the 40/60 alcohol/water solution we call vodka, groups of molecules called "hydrates" form. Hydrates in vodka consist of a molecule of alcohol sequestered by a bunch of water molecules, bonded together with hydrogen. If the bottle of vodka were a club, say, the alcohol would be like an attractive individual, surrounded by damp gentlemen united by their taste for premium vodka. (Don't think about it too much—it's a dangerously recursive metaphor.)

Scientists carefully analyzed several different popular brands of vodka, and found that the concentration of hydrates differed in each. So a good vodka might be like a happening club, with lots of attractive people surrounded by fellas. Or maybe it'd be like a very exclusive club, with just a few foxy people being ground into sweaty embarrassment on a relatively lonely dance floor.

The scientists didn't go so far as to say what concentration of hydrates was best, only that different concentrations might lend to an individual's brand preference. Instead of actually tasting the difference, though, drinkers might "perceive" the concentration of hydrates through other qualities, like how "watery" the vodka feels (even though all the brands tested had the same concentration of water.)

So there may be something to the practice of ordering specific expensive brands of vodka, and then drinking them straight. That doesn’t mean you should do it, though.

*Not true. Paul Gauguin never invented vodka. He did die of syphilis, though. Happy birthday, Paul!

Mar
05
2009

Scientists?: Progress?
Scientists?: Progress?Courtesy Renato Souza
Well, okay, that headline needs some clarification and elaboration.

By “Russian,” I mean Russian and Estonian. By “indie scientists,” I mean engineering-inclined criminals. By “breakthrough against,” I mean secret pipeline to avoid. But “vodka” and “taxation” mean exactly what you think they mean. (Vodka and taxation, respectively.)

Now put it all together! That’s right, some clever criminals built a 1.2-mile-long pipe for smuggling vodka across the border from Russia to Estonia. They managed to smuggle about 1600 gallons of vodka through the pipe before the vodka police caught them and put them in jail.

Vodka-piping is a big deal, apparently. See, Russia has vast natural reserves of vodka, and so it can be obtained on the cheap in that country. Its little neighbor, Estonia, isn’t so lucky, however. Vodka isn’t as cheap in Estonia, and you have to pay taxes on Russian vodka if you want to bring it across the border. That’s why these guys built a pipe.

So, right, a long pipe full of booze. Why are we reading about this on award-winning Science Buzz?

What? How could you even ask that? Because, like, it’s super clever! Clever in sort of a dumb, cartoony way, but still… I mean, this is an engineering challenge, isn’t it? It’s a lot of vodka, and a long pipe. Like… let’s see here… we can squeeze some math into this…

Let’s treat this booze pipeline like a long, skinny cylinder. The formula for the volume of a cylinder is the area of its base by its height. Height, of course, will be 1.2 miles. To get the area of the base, we just need to use ol’ pi times the radius squared. Your average garden hose is about ½ to ¾ inches in diameter, but because these are clearly slightly above average guys, we’ll give them a pipe 1 inch in diameter. The radius, then, will be .5 inches. So .5 squared is .25. Pi (3.14159265) times .25 equals .7854 square inches. Ooookay. Now let’s just multiply that by the height (or length, in this case) of the pipe. But, wait… we need to keep our units straight, so lets have that height in inches. 1 mile is 5280 feet, so 1.2 miles is 6336 feet. 6336 times 12 is 76,032. So there are 76,032 inches in 1.2 miles. 76,032 times .7854 (the area of the base, remember) is 59,715.5.

So that pipe held 59,715.5 cubic inches of vodka at one time. But what is that in gallons? Well, there are 231 cubic inches in a gallon, so… 59,715.5/231= 258.5 gallons! Holy Cats, am I right? Hopefully Estonia is down hill from Russia, or there’s a bunch more calculations I don’t feel like thinking about.

Wasn’t that fun? 6th grade math for a 21+ theme? And next time you hear a classmate flapping their mouth hole about how they want to be a Russian gangster when then grow up, so why would they need to learn any math, just point them this way.

Any budding entrepreneurs looking to get in the alcohol sales field might not want to the follow the path that this Texan has taken.