ScienCentral News
 
environment general science genetics health and medicine space technology May 19, 2003 
home NOVA News Minutes archive login

is a production of
ScienCentral, Inc.
Making Sense of Science

Also of Interest
Mystery Map (video)

The God Particle

Why Waddling Works (video)

A Volcano Vindicated

NOVA News Minutes
Visit the NOVA News Minutes archive.
ScienCentral News and Nature
Nature genome promo logo
Don’t miss Enter the Genome
our collaboration with Nature.
Best of the Web!
Popular Science Best of the Web 2000
Selected one of Popular Science’s 50 Best of the Web.
Get Email Updates
Write to us and we will send you an email when a new feature appears on the site.
Beer Foam Physics (video)
October 11, 2002

Can't see the movie above??
download realplayer logo
You can choose to either view it with a RealPlayer by clicking here. Or get the free QuickTime player to view the higher-quality video above.

Interviewees: Arnd Leike, University of Munich; Dudley Herschbach, Harvard University.

Video is 1 min 21 sec long. Please be patient while it loads enough to start playing.

Produced by Ann Marie Cunningham

Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc., with additional footage from NASA.

Also on ScienCentral News

Make a Toast Right - You too can describe the aroma of your wine exactly the way it is. (4/3/01)

Millennium Buzz - Scientific research gives some insight into what happens when we drink, which could help keep your night from being one that you’d rather forget... or can’t remember at all. (12/30/99)

Elsewhere on the web

The Foam Book - an intro to aqueous foam technology

Foam under the Microscope - See the crystal structure of beers from around the world.

Virtual Trips to Black Holes and Neutron Stars Page - Robert Nemiroff, Michigan Technological University

This week, a few scientists won the Nobel Prize for outstanding discoveries.

And as this ScienCentral News video reports, some others won the Ig Nobel prize for research that’s… highly unusual.


Fizz-ics

A German physicist won applause at Harvard for studying beer foam. Although his work sounds silly, he found a way to illustrate a law that applies to daily life, and to the farthest reaches of the cosmos.

Every October, a week before the Nobel Prizes are announced to honor key scientific discoveries, several Nobel Laureates hand out the Ig Nobel Prizes for results that “cannot or should not be reproduced.” Some winners actually have lobbied to be awarded an Ig, but that doesn’t mean it’s all a big joke. All the prizewinning science has been published in reputable journals, and one Ig Nobel winner is rumored to be on the short-list for a Nobel.

The Ig Nobels were launched 12 years ago by the Annals of Improbable Research, a bimonthly magazine devoted to skewering “inflated research and personalities.” Each year, winners travel from all over the world at their own expense to Harvard University, where they are presented with the coveted Ig Nobel Prize at a very popular evening of music and skits that spoof the annual Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden.

This year’s Ig Nobel Prize for Physics went to Arnd Leike of the University of Munich (home to the annual Oktoberfest and a great deal of beer foam) for his paper, Demonstration of the exponential decay law using beer froth. Throughout the scientific community, foam is the subject of a great deal of study for many purposes. For example, foam was used to decontaminate Congressional offices after last year’s anthrax scare. Sidney Perkowitz’s book, Universal Foam: Exploring the Science of Nature’s Most Mysterious Substance, provides an excellent overview. A more scholarly study is The Physics of Foam, by D.L. Weaire et al.

Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach is a regular presenter at the Ig Nobels and the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. Herschbach helps oversee the magazine Science News, and is committed to furthering public understanding of and enthusiasm for science. “The joy of science,” he says, “is that you can learn something and have fun, too. The Ig Nobels present that spirit very well.” He points out that black holes decay in the same way beer foam does. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking’s Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, describes the life cycle of black holes in detail.

Herschbach also points out that beer foam is an excellent example of a fractal, a mathematical tool that shows order in what seems to be chaos. And he jokes that another example of a fractal is the coast of Maine, which boasts as many irregularities as beer foam: “The length depends on whether you measure it on a map with a ruler, or whether you bicycle along it.”

by Ann Marie Cunningham



About Search Login Help Webmaster
ScienCentral News is a production of ScienCentral, Inc.
in collaboration with the Center for Science and the Media.
248 West 35th St., 17th Fl., NY, NY 10001 USA (212) 244-9577.
The contents of these WWW sites © ScienCentral, 2000-2003. All rights reserved.
The views expressed in this website are not necessarily those of the NSF.
NOVA News Minutes and NOVA are registered trademarks of WGBH Educational Foundation and are being used under license.