Thursday, October 15, 2009

You know what I think of research

Regular readers are probably more than familiar with my general attitude towards most scientific research, but this piece brought a smile to my beer-drinking apparatus. The Brother-in-law works at a venerable Victorian place of special high learning and sent me some interesting lab based tid-bits.

Haven’t we all, at one time or another, sat with a nice beer and pondered the following; “Would it be better to be smashed over the bonce with a full glass bottle – or an empty one?” Wonder no more, Beer Blokes and Blokettes!

From the opening line which boldly states;

“Beer bottles are often used in physical disputes. If the bottles break they may give rise to sharp trauma. However, if they remain intact they may cause blunt injuries”,

You just know these guys are fairly serious about their craft. And they don’t miss a thing! They went on to conduct a series of drop tests to determine the force required to break both a full and empty 500ml glass beer bottle versus the force required to break the human skull.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking; “But Professor (Pilsner, not Skullsmasher), surely the impact zone of the bottle, the variable nature of the wall thickness and bottle curvature and its relationship to expected stability have direct implications on the results?”

Well, of course! But don’t worry, these Bar-Fight Poindexters have considered all of this – AND MORE!! What about the fact that beer is an almost uncompressible liquid? Huh? Thought of that too, didn’t they! And the fact that beer is a carbonated liquid and that any impact is likely to cause the bottle to explode if it’s full, thus rendering it a less effective Head Hitter. They thought of that, too.

I can sense that this is all getting a bit too exciting so I will cut to the Money Shot. The team from the University of Bern in Switzerland came up with the following formula and conclusion;

E = (Mn / (Mt + Mn)) x W

where E is the Energy (of course!), Mn is the Mass of the bottle and Mt is the Mass of the body part swinging the bottle i.e, the arm or the shoulder (which can be assumed to weigh 2.4 to 4 kg) and W is the work performed by the muscle.

So how did you do? The team found that through electrohydraulic experiments using human skulls (don’t ask) neurocranial fractures occurred between 14.1 and 68.5J3. Now, as empty and full glass bottles were found to break at forces of 30-40J, respectively, it is clear that both are capable of cracking the thinner parts of the human brain-holder. In addition, empty bottles were sturdier than full ones and took less energy to raise and swing. But I think we all knew that, didn’t we?

They did concede, in the last line of the conclusion that further research was recommended to assess the overall danger of bottle related head trauma. Good for them and I wish them luck!

Next week in ‘Beer and Science’ Beer Blokes will look at the age old question – Does a gutful of lager really make people of the opposite sex better looking?’ No, seriously, Chris sent me some research papers on that as well!

Prof. Pilsner

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