Beer in space

Written by Sharad Raghavan | Updated: May 20 2011, 08:59am hrs
Retaining the fizz in space

Man and beer seem inseparable in ancient Sumeria they even considered it holybut nobody takes this belief as seriously as the Australians; theyre famous for it. Possibly chagrined by the fact that as space travel becomes more viable, there will be no beer there, two Australian entrepreneurs have developed a beerVostok 4 Pines Stoutthat can be drunk in zero gravity. Now, this isnt as easy as buying a six-pack, getting onto a spaceship and popping them open. There are many factors that complicate the seemingly simple act of taking beer into space. The first is that your tongue swells in space, hampering the ability to taste. Second, there is the problem of the effect the alcohol will have on the body (the rate of absorption differs even on flights on earth). Finally, and most importantly according to the entrepreneurs, is the issue of carbonation. In zero gravity, the bubbles and the liquid dont separate well, resulting in what they call a wet burp, which would be quite unpleasant. The alternative is to have beer with no bubbles, which the Australian duo disparagingly called just an alcoholic tea.

They tested their beer in a zero-gravity flight over Florida, but want to conduct more tests. They are quite excited about the prospects of their product, especially in the light of the Russians already getting into space tourism, and Richard Branson building the infrastructure for his own space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Watery boundaries

Now, from the future of space flight to the ancient days of the earth. Its long been known that before the continents separated into the shape that they are, they were first all joined together into one super-continent called Pangaea. Pangaea would have been surrounded by water, but wouldnt have had any massive water bodies within it. Nor would it have had mountain ranges, which were created when landmasses collided with each other. As such, there would have been no physical barriers to movement across the massive landmass. Still, scientists found that the ancient mammals and reptiles that lived there kept entirely to themselves, never venturing into each others territory. Studying a section of Pangaea from about three degrees south to 26 degrees north, a team of scientist at Brown University found a possible answer for this: the climate. In the tropical zone where the ancestors of mammals lived, monsoon-like rains fell twice a year. But farther north, where the reptile-ancestors lived, major rains occurred only once a year.

The thing with mammals is that when they excrete, they release a lot of water, and have to then make it up from the environment. Reptiles, on the other hand, get rid of bodily waste in the form that contains very little water, and so a region with scarce rainfall is more suited for them. This finding becomes all the more important in the light of climate change, and how changes in rainfall in some regions can affect the mammals living there.