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by Ian Fortey
If Wikipedia is to be believed, and it always is, then alcohol can trace its roots to at least the year 7000 BC. That means that cavemen and dinosaurs were doing shots with Merlin. That's incredible. But man, have we had a spotty history with booze. So many bad decisions made whilst utterly plastered. So many foggy mornings. Surely there must be an upside, right? Some cool, secret power that booze has that doesn't involve horribly regretting the night before? Yes. Yes there is.
You Can Send Text Messages With Vodka
Remember the first time you sent a text message? If you're old enough, you did it on a phone that required you to press the number 5 three times in a row to get the letter L. It was like psychological warfare with your own thumbs. Nowadays you can just mash your meat sticks into a digital keyboard and probably spell words correctly 60% of the time. But there's yet an easier way to do it, and it involves no finger mashing at all. Only vodka!
In 2013, Canadian researchers, who are legally required to be sauced at work, encoded the alphabet into vodka vapor. They sprayed the vapor into a highly scientific desk fan and blew it across a room to where a receiver took in the vapor and decoded the message. This is pretty much the same way any animals in nature use stank to speak to each other. Ants, bees and online comedy writers all send messages to each other via pheromones, but average humans haven't really mastered the technique until now.
Go home, vodka, you're drunk.
The message the researchers sent was a simple "O Canada." Did anyone reply "New vodka who dis?" We don't know. But we do know the stage has been set for your beer farts to one day be a method of calling you a cab, so that's pretty awesome, right?
Whiskey Waste Makes Great Biofuel
Not too long ago people thought Elon Musk would save the world with Teslas and moon whistles or whatever he makes these days. But have you seen the cost of a Tesla? Yeesh. Instead, maybe what you want to do is double down on value by working toward fuel efficiency and a decent buzz. Turns out you can actually make the world a better place simply by drinking whiskey. Whiskey by-products are a very effective fuel not just for your bad novel and ennui, but for cars.
The idea for a whiskey biofuel comes from Scotland, because of course it does. The process of making it creates some by-product slop called pot ale and draff. Draff is just the leftover grain after it ferments, while pot ale is a residue that's high in protein that you find in the bottom of the still. Usually this crud becomes animal feed ... or maybe the last, desperate hope of dumpster-diving Scottish drunks. But you can also make a biofuel out of it.
"One for you ... and one for me ... and one for you ... and one for me."
The big upside to this whiskey biofuel is that it goes right through a normal engine. You don't need to swap out any parts in your car, which is a concern for some biofuels. It also gives a power output of 30% more than ethanol. Ethanol can totally suck it.
So essentially this fuel is an environmentally friendly reason for you to get smashed more often. At the very least, it's a reason to give a semi-cheap bottle of Scotch as a gift to people more often so you look sophisticated while at the same time making the world a better place.
You Can Make Batteries Out Of Vodka Or Beer
No one's saying that making a solar battery is easy in the traditional sense of the word, but it's probably nowhere near as complex as you thought, either. You need to start with some powdered donuts, because everything good starts with powdered donuts. In this case it's because that sweet, white dust is partially made of titanium dioxide. Who knew? Dust off your nuts, then filter the powder through some water to remove all the sugar. Then you bake the leftover white sludge to remove the fat and BAM! Titanium dioxide, which is renowned for its donut-whitening properties, also has the ability to make electrical current out of light.
You're going to want to put your powder on some conductive glass. How's that work? Mix the powder with vodka to make a boozy, white paste full of energy-producing properties. You then have to carefully coat the whole cell in your slurm, bake it, and then dip it in some nice, dark tea. Why tea? It helps capture light from the visible spectrum.
Plus, it makes your electricity smell terrific.
Once you add another plate with graphite dust and fill the space between the two with an iodine solution, you're basically a walking Tesla coil, shooting lightning around like an Asgardian. Well, maybe not that, but it'll generate a measurable charge. It's still pretty cool that it can be made out of what was left in the couch cushions after a Friday night of solo partying.
On the more tech heavy side of things, researchers in Colorado had a few pints and figured out a way to turn all that waste water from producing beer into a cheap base for lithium-ion batteries. The sugary waste from making beer is a great place for a certain kind of fungus to grow. That fungus cleans up the waste by eating it and also produces a super efficient lithium-ion electrode. It's like nature is begging you to drink because everything will be more productive and efficient if you do. Nature may be lying to you, but still. It's good that something useful can come out of it.
Improve Your Foreign Language Skills By Getting Buzzed
You know that thing where some people think they're smarter when they drink? And then they try to do things that are mostly the opposite of smart? That's because alcohol is full of what science calls "dumb." However, everything in moderation, right? Turns out there's a sweet spot for booze where it can actually improve a bit of your cognitive abilities in a way that boosts your foreign language skills. Sacré bleu!
Some researchers from the Netherlands decided to test a theory that drinking improves your ability to speak another language. In the Netherlands this is a common belief apparently. Probably a European thing, since you can walk for 10 minutes in any direction and end up in a new country, so people need some more diverse language skills. But anecdotal evidence from drunks about how awesome they are at speaking Italian is hardly science.
"Wait, did Dad just tell me to go eff myself in German?"
To test the theory, the Dutch researchers got a bunch of Germans either slightly buzzed, or just hydrated with water, then had them argue in Dutch. Native Dutch speakers listened in and, wouldn't you know it, the buzzed Germans were actually better at speaking Dutch. In terms of both pronunciation of words and things like understandability and vocabulary, drunks did better than the sober ones.
Why booze would improve your language skills when it slaps the good sense out of every other cognitive skill you have is a bit of a mystery. One theory was that when you're speaking a non-native tongue you're not comfortable with, you tend to be a little nervous. The alcohol helps calm those nerves so you're more relaxed. But that's just a guess. For all we know, booze is made out of a very specific magic that only affects the Dutch part of your brain.
You Can Make Bone Grafts Out Of Beer Waste
When you're done making beer, there's a bunch of crap left over, called bagasse. Go ahead and have a giggle because it sounds like "bag ass" or "big ass" depending on how you say it. Regardless of pronunciation, this stuff is heavy in minerals; chock full of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. You need all that junk in your bones, and in this form it makes a solid foundation for grafting bones after injuries. This is a pretty big deal because there are over 2 million bone graft procedures performed each year, and if you've ever broken a bone or needed a joint replacement, you have some idea of the level of potential pain associated with serious bone injuries.
What this bagasse can do is operate as what they called an osteoconductive scaffold. In super rudimentary terms, they treat the substance and apply a thin layer to the injured area. Because it's chemically similar to actual bone, it helps start that new bone growth the same way skin grafts help grow new skin on burn victims. The big difference here is that it was maybe supplied by the good people at Corona, so you should never make fun of their brew again.
Initial tests turned out a bit weird, but give it time. We're still learning.
Traditional scaffolds for bone grafts are often made either synthetically or from processed sheep bones. The synthetic ones produce a lot of waste product and the sheep ones really make sheep unhappy. The beer waste solution fixes that problem as well as making something useful out of the beer waste. It's a situation in which everyone -- brewers, people needing bone grafts, medical science and sheep -- wins.
Like this article? Check out "Meat-Hacking Scientists: Making Beef Without The Cow" and "From Batteries To Plastic Wrap: 5 Ways Science Is Making Our Garbage Edible".