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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Einstein Couldn’t Figure How the Drinking Bird Worked

By Anupum Pant


DrinkingBirdThe Drinking Bird is a toy which almost every one of us has heard of. If you haven’t, may be this picture of it rings a bell. Otherwise, it is a funny looking bird-head made of felt, mounted atop a glass or plastic straw, with a little bulb at its lowest point. The whole contraption is suspended at two points, which allows it to swing smoothly like a pendulum – drinking water at regular intervals, from a glass, for ever.

The amusing thing about this little toy is that, once it starts, it keeps swinging and “drinking” for ever. Upon giving it a cursory look, it seems to be a perfect perpetual machine – a contraption that can run indefinitely without an external source of energy. In reality, it isn’t a perpetual motion machine. There is a complex physical and chemical activity going on inside the toy, which keeps the simple heat engine running forever without a battery – Something so complex to deduct, that even one of the greatest Physicist ever, Albert Einstein himself couldn’t figure out the correct mechanism that keeps it running.

Don’t worry, it isn’t as difficult to understand the mechanism.

How does it work?

Assuming you have properly understood the parts of the toy, you will notice that the little bulb at the bottom of it has a colored liquid in it. This colored liquid is a chemical called Methylene chloride – A chemical that dissolves caffeine and can be used to decaffeinate coffee, teas and colas. The special property of this chemical which makes the toy work is its extremely low boiling point. It has a high vapor pressure at room temperature.

At room temperature the vapor pressure in the tube and head is high. The fluid remains in the bulb and the bird is upright due to the weight of the fluid.

The first thing you do is, you make its head dip in water. That way, the head made of felt absorbs water. The water cools due to evaporation (like our sweat cools our body), drops the temperature of the head and the bird comes up.

While swinging in the upright position, as the head cools further, the vapor pressure at the head decreases, while the pressure at the bulb becomes relatively higher. This causes the chemical to rise up the tube and it changes the center of gravity (CG). Due to the change in CG the bird tips its head back into the water.

Absorbs water and the process starts once again. It keeps on going till the bird can no longer reach the low water level. You, then have to fill up the reservoir.

Source of energy?

There is a lot going on in the toy so it isn’t really easy to point a single source of energy. However, it is pretty clear that the bird isn’t a perpetual motion machine. Anyway, watch the insightful video now. The simple toy is indeed a beautiful thing to marvel about. [Video]