Is Helium Beer Possible?

By Anupum Pant


For the fizz, almost all beers have carbon dioxide dissolved in them. However, some others have also experimented with Nitrogen beers. But as fas as I know, no other gases have been used to make beers. Tell me in the comments section if you know any other gasses that have been used to do this.

But, on April 1st  Samuel Adams announced a Helium beer on his YouTube Channel. Note, the date was 1st  April. Here is the video of the announcement.

Save Helium and Science of the Fake Beer

Of course it was an April fools stunt. But what if it was real?

In his “HeliYum beer” Adam announced that, instead of carbon dioxide to create the fizz, he had used the Helium gas in the beer. In the video, as an additional effect, the new beer gas also created a funny atmosphere by affecting the voice of beer tasters. Now, I certainly didn’t like the idea of using Helium to keg beers because I’m very touchy when it comes to wasting the precious gas – Helium. Why? Well, read this Helium article I wrote some time back.

Also, I was adamant in believing if it was even possible to do that. Firstly, the date was 1st  April. Secondly, the science clearly didn’t allow this. Here’s why…

1. Helium is about 700 times less soluble in water as compared to carbon dioxide. It is one of the least soluble gases in water and only about 0.0016 g of Helium would get dissolved in a litre of beer. While, at the same conditions, 2.5 g of carbon dioxide is usually present in a litre of beer. This dissolved carbon dioxide is what realeases slowly and creates the fizz. No slow fizz can be done with Helium. Undissolved helium in beer would coalesce into one or two big bubble and…ploop, would go out as soon as the seal would break.

2. Even if Helium was forced into the beer and sealed in a beer can, it would be useless. As soon as the seal would break, all the meaningful amount of helium present inside, undissolved, under pressure, would come out so quickly (due to less viscous beer) that it would bring out a lot of beer with it. It would create a mess. And you wouldn’t be able to even bring the can near your face by the time the whole gas goes away.

Had carbon dioxide been used for the same purpose, the gas would, like it normally does, come out steadily. It would make the bubbles last.

Verdict: No. It’s useless to try to make beer with Helium unless you make it so viscous that it won’t let the Helium pass so easily. In that case, it won’t be beer really. Also, I’m not sure if the fermentation process could take place in such a viscous condition.

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Cambridge University Says Spelling Does Not Matter?

By Anupum Pant


Oh tell me you have never received this old chain mail that had the following paragraph attached in it, and warned you that if you did not forward it to 20 friends, something bad would happen. The passage  –

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

The paragraph contains a bunch of letters that are jumbled and you are still able to read it at a normal pace. The passage speaks for itself and says that according to a research study done at Cambridge university, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are; only the first and last letters need to be in the right place. According to it, everything in the middle can be messed up and you can still easily read it even when it clearly shouldn’t be making any sense.

Questions, Questions!

Certainly blows your mind. But if you start questioning the legitimacy of what the passage claims, you start finding a couple of unanswered questions…

1. It says, “a researcher at Cambridge”. I’d like to throw an open challenge to you – Find me the publication where “the researcher from Cambridge University” published this paragraph (or something similar).

Cambridge does have a Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit where researchers try to figure how brain processes language. But it is clear from this blog-post that people at Cambridge didn’t even know about the  meme that had been circulating all over the internet. At the time when this meme started circulating, in Cambridge, no one was doing research in this area. The prof says:

To my knowledge, there’s no-one in Cambridge UK who is currently doing research on this topic. There may be people in Cambridge, MA, USA who are responsible for this research, but I don’t know of them.

However, in 1999, the effect was originally demonstrated in a letter – [here]

Let’s give it up for the internet trolls, the phenomenon is indeed, intriguing. The researcher tries to figure out the science behind it in the same blog-post. He finds that the effect is same with many other languages. However, it doesn’t seem to work with languages like Finnish and Hebrew.

2. Try reading this:

Bblaaesl pryleas pnmrrioefg srillaimy aeoulltsby dvrseee clbrpmaaoe tteenmrat.

If you need hints, it follows the same rule. The sentence has all the words with first and last letters in place. The letters in the middle are jumbled. According to “the researcher from Cambridge” you should be able to read it easily. Why can’t you? It follows the exactly same rules. Have I made my point?

Why does it work?

Believe it or not, the paragraph actually works. I could read it without any hiccups. At the same time, the one above, which follows the same rules is pretty difficult to read. So what makes the chain mail paragraph so readable? In simple words…

1. There are 69 words in the paragraph. Out of those 69 words, only 37 are jumbled. All the other 32 words are two or three lettered words, which can’t follow the rule. That clears up the structure of sentences.

2. Out of the 37 jumbled words. 12, if I counted correctly, are four letter words that can only have the middle letters swapped. Those are breeze to figure out. That leaves us with just 25 jumbled letters. Given your life-long experience with reading, you can easily predict those if you know most of the other words.

3. Most of these 5 or more lettered words (in 25) are at such places that they don’t even require reading. For instance, your brain can easily figure that “because” will come after “this is”. So it knows, “bcuseae” is actually “because”.  Also, all of these 25 “big” words are easy and familiar ones.

4. The words have not been jumbled a lot.  There are mostly letter swaps, like – porbelm. “Porbelm” has just 2 pair of letters swapped. All those words that have this are pretty easy to figure too. What if it was “pbelorm”? It gets tougher when the central letter is moved from its place. Isn’t it?

But the mission of the makers of the meme passage was to blow your minds in a way that you’d be forced to forward it to your friends. So, they put in easy jumbles.

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Snow Does Not Melt Like You Think It Would

By Anupum Pant


For the last several days, the national average temperature in the US plunged by a several notches when the country was invaded by the bitingly cold polar vortex winds from the arctic, not once, twice. For the second time, the eastern sea board experienced a lot of trouble. So much that the state of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina declared a state of emergency. People got trapped for hours, hundreds of accidents were reported and schools had to shut down.

Conspiracy theories

Of course with the extremely cold winds came an abnormal amount of snow. And like always, even the seemingly harmless snow spurred a few theorists to spin out conspiracy theories. There were stories going viral that suggested that the crazy amounts of snow was actually “geo-engineered” and was being sent down by the government, stuffed with nano-bots to control the minds of people.

What backed them? The theories were backed with a claim that the material falling down from the sky was not actually snow and something else which did not melt when held against a flame. Videos showing people trying to melt the snowballs using a cigarette lighter went viral. In fact, the snow as it’d be expected to, wasn’t melting, it was collapsing. Like a Styrofoam dipped in acetone, or Styrofoam held against a flame would do, snow was mysteriously disappearing from around the flame. There was no dripping water. Moreover, the concave part of the snow was left with a black charred mark like plastic would!


Turns out the “mysterious material” was nothing more than normal snow. The lesser known fact that snow does not melt like we’d  expect it to, made people believe in the weird theories.

Yes, snow does not melt like normal ice. I mean it does melt, but it leaves almost no dripping water when the rate of melting is slow. Now, why is that?

Since, snow is porous, it contains several little holes that can suck in the water just like a tissue paper with tiny holes is able to soak in water. This particular process soaking, where tiny solid holes suck liquid, is termed as capillary action and is the same action which enables plants to suck in water from the ground and send it to the higher parts without any motor attached.

The soaking in a snowball happens in real-time. As the water gets melted, it gets soaked instantly, there is no time for the water to drip. This explains the collapsing snow.

The “charred snow” is due to the unburnt carbon left from the fuel of the lighter, not because it is made of plastic. Astronomer and science writer Phil Plait explains it in the video below. [Video]

via [PopSci]

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