Japan from the inside out

A scientific application for C2H5OH

Posted by ampontan on Monday, January 17, 2011

MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS have long looked to the grape to inspire their muse, and esoteric religious philosopher/entertainer Alan Watts maintained that having a few belts before meditation could advance one’s spiritual progress by six months. In fact, Watts would drink so much before his lectures that he sometimes zoned out at the podium. His adoring but unsuspecting listeners patiently waited for him to return to Earth because they thought the Zen cosmonaut was exploring the farthest reaches of inner space.

Liquor, however, has not been thought to be conducive to the rigorous exactitude demanded of scientific experiments–until now:

Yoshihiko Takano and other researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan were in the process of creating a certain kind of superconductor by putting a compound in hot water and soaking it for hours. They also soaked the compound in a mixture of water and ethanol. It appears the process was going well, because the scientists decided to have a little party. The party included sake, whisky, various wines, shochu, and beer. At a certain point, the researchers decided to try soaking the compound in the many, many liquors they had on hand and seeing how they compared to the more conventional soaking liquids.

Sounds as if they would have been right at home at my college fraternity. After some of our parties, I was convinced that I too had become a certain kind of superconductor. (Ethanol, by the way, is the name of the type of alcohol used as a recreational drug.)

No, I am not making this up. In fact, here’s the summary of their paper:

We found that hot commercial alcohol drinks are much effective to induce superconductivity in FeTe0.8S0.2 compared to water, ethanol and water-ethanol mixture. Both the highest zero resistivity temperature of 7.8 K and superconducting volume fraction of 62.4% are observed for the FeTe0.8S0.2 sample heated in red wine. Any elements in alcohol drinks, other than water and pure alcohol, would play an important role to induce superconductivity.

Red wine far outperformed ethanol and water, which could achieve a superconducting volume fraction of just 15%. Even shochu kicked the numbers up to 23%.

The more one thinks about it, the more potential applications of this variant of the scientific method arise. Wouldn’t a great place to start be the Chicken Littles of the anthropogenic global warming movement? After all, they were converted into an esoteric religious cult long ago!

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2 Responses to “A scientific application for C2H5OH”

  1. level3 said

    Looks like Japan will be getting another IgNobel Prize.

  2. Marellus said


    Good one …


    … but it was worth it for a Nobel Pint !!!

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