From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Science of Steak and Wine

Who would ever eat a good steak without a glass bottle of a good red wine?  Not I.  I prefer an earthy Pinot Noir, but a Cab or a Zin will do just fine.

Gastronomes and chefs know that certain foods pair well together.  But why?

Science now knows.

Drinks such as wine and tea and foods like pickles and sorbets are astringent, and they "elicit ‘dry, rough’ sensations, in part, by breaking down mucinous lubricating proteins in saliva."  Steak and other fatty foods lubricate the mouth that lessens the astringent feelings. The recent work* shows that "oral fatty sensations and astringency represent opposite ends of an oral spectrum extending from ‘slippery’ at one end to ‘dry’ and ‘rough’ at the other. This provides an explanation of how these sensations interplay over the course of a meal and maintain the balance of a moderate position along a tribological scale of oral sensations."  In other words, the alternating bites of a rib eye with sips of red wine leaves the mouth with a nice feeling.

Bon Appetit!

*Opponency of astringent and fat sensations, Catherine Peyrot des Gachons, Emi Mura, Camille Speziale, Charlotte J. Favreau, Guillaume F. Dubreuil, and Paul A.S. Breslin, Current Biology, Vol. 22, No. 19, R830 (2012).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Magnetic Whine

I was flying back from Washington, D.C. on Tuesday when I got a little bored.  So I picked up the SkyMall catalog to see what outrageously expensive crap they had. 

These three items piqued my curiosity, so I ripped the page from the catalog.

Put your bottle of 2 Buck Chuck on one of these, and then somehow the magnets "realign the particles." Pardon my language and borrowing from Penn & Teller, but Bullshit!

I've dealt with this issue once before in Swirling Wine.  In my Electricity and Magnetism course, the students understand that magnets interact with other magnets, and they come to understand that a magnet does not necessarily have to be those things we stick to out refrigerator.  Electrical currents (moving electrons) also interact magnetically.  That's why we have electromagnets.

While there might be tiny, tiny amounts of iron in the wine, there is no process in which magnets will change the character of cheap wine.  

Now if I could get golfers to stop buying the magnetic bracelet crap.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Election Year Science

In election years, science issues rarely rise in importance to the level of ones involving the economy, foreign policy, and the military, but in my not-so-humble opinion, this is dangerous; science affects all aspects of our lives.  Climate change may not influence the way you live your life today, but your children and grandchildren will know a world greatly changed by our dependence on fossil fuels.

I care how you vote, though I care more that you vote.  We need to be responsible for the direction this country takes.  So when you are in the voting booth on Nov. 6, go ahead and vote your self-interests, but also vote for the interests of those we will leave behind.

With that said, let's look at some of our elected representatives and their wrong views on science.  I do not identify these politicians by their party affiliations, because that's not necessarily the issue, even if there is a correlation.

Rep. Todd Akin from Missouri:
 It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.  
 I don’t see [evolution] as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other. That’s one of those things. We can talk about theology and all of those other things but I’m basically concerned about, you’ve got a choice between Claire McCaskill and myself. My job is to make the thing there. If we want to do theoretical stuff, we can do that, but I think I better stay on topic. 
Well, I’ve taken a look at both sides of the thing. And it seems to me that evolution takes a tremendous amount of faith.  To have all of a sudden all of the different things that have to be lined up, to create something as sophisticated as life, it takes a lot of faith. I don’t see it as even as a matter of science, because I don’t know if you can prove one or the other.
Rep. Paul Broun from Alabama:
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.
Gov. Rick Perry from Texas:
[Evolution is] a theory that's out there. It's got some gaps in it. 
Rep. Mo Brooks from Alabama:
The last 4 or 5 years*, have they been cooler or warmer?
We're* being asked to undermine America's economy based on this guesswork speculation.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann from Minnesota: 
The science* indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming. And that in fact, nature is the cause, with solar flares, etc. 
Rep. Joe Barton from Texas: 
Global warming* is 'unequivocal'? It's just flat not true! 
Sen. James Inhofe from Oklahoma:
This* 97% [of climate scientists accepting human-caused global warming], that doesn't mean anything. I named literally thousands of scientists on the floor...and these were top people. 
The claim* that global warming is caused by man-made emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science. 
C02* does not cause catastrophic disasters-actually it would be benefitical to our environment and our economy.
The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous. 
Rep. Ben Quayle from Arizona: 
Our planet has warmed and cooled since the beginning of time. 
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from California: 
Is there* some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?
Rep. Ron Paul from Texas: 
You notice* they don’t call it global warming anymore. It’s weather control.
There is* no consensus in the scientific community that global warming is getting worse or that it is manmade.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin:
Our rovers* on Mars have indicated that there has been a slight warming in the atmosphere of Mars and that certainly was not caused by the internal combustion engine.
I personally* believe that the solar flares are more responsible for climatic cycles than anything that human beings do.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
My view* is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.
I exhale* carbon dioxide. I don’t want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.
I'll end this with the following comment made by Rep. Ed Markey from Massachusetts during a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce:

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to a bill that overturns the scientific finding that pollution is harming our people and our planet. 
However, I won’t rise physically, because I’m worried that Republicans will overturn the law of gravity, sending us floating around the room. 
I won’t call for the sunlight of additional hearings, for fear that Republicans might excommunicate the finding that the Earth revolves around the sun. 
Instead, we will embody Newton’s third law of motion and be an equal and opposing force against this attack on science and on laws that will reduce America’s importation of foreign oil. 
This bill will live in the House while simultaneously being dead in the Senate. It will be a legislative Schrödinger’s cat killed by the quantum mechanics of the legislative process! 
Arbitrary rejection of scientific fact will not cause us to rise from our seats today. But with this bill, pollution levels will rise. Oil imports will rise. Temperatures will rise. 
And with that, I yield back the balance of my time. That is, unless a rejection of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is somewhere in the chair’s amendment pile.
*original sources at http://www.skepticalscience.com/skepticquotes.php