02 August 2010

Dr Andreas Sella and Marcis Dzelzainis

Andreas and Marcis began proceedings with an elaborate and intriguing set up that included an overhead projector, an iced bucket filled with bottles of water, a fluorescent light (used to spotlight tonic water, and the brighteners present in Marcis’ shirt)... and a host of articles that promised to live up to the expectations of explosions and excitement. Dr Sella began by analysing the humble G&T- recalling the origins of this ubiquitous highball, and the race to decipher the make up of- and subsequently the attempts to try to synthesise- quinine. These efforts made a huge impact on the development of organic chemistry and the modern chemical industry. One attempt starting with coal tar, and the oxidation of toluidines led to the creation of mauveine- the first purple dye- that created a phenomenon; all from the chase started by the gin and tonic!

At this point, samples of Corpse Reviver No.2 were passed around and the notes of the drink prompted an illumination on the absinthe louche, as Dr Sella demonstrated the precipitation of the oils through the use of the overhead projector. The hydrophobic oils form a microemulsion and when displayed through the projector omits a blue light, which casts a complimentary orange projection on the wall. Dr Sella used a technique of dynamic light scattering using a laser to show how the droplets of oil in the absinthe solution do not coalesce- by showing how the laser forms a solid observable beam through the liquid.

Marcis then recalled a brief history through drinking, including an observation of recent studies into inebriation- including a discussion into the fact that it is now believed that drunken behaviour is an acquired/learned trait and is more impacted by societal influences than by alcohol itself.

This left enough time for an attempt at super cooled water- where the temperature of water is dropped rapidly below its standard freezing point using ice and salt- then it can be instantly frozen using a seed crystal by tapping the bottle sharply or by pouring the super cooled ‘glass’ water. And still time for an explosion before Harold and Tony were due....