Paper Monitor: B of the Boffin

  • 23 December 2013
champagne cork shooting out of bottle

Boffins are increasingly prominent in food journalism.

Just look at page three of the Times.

The top is taken up by how Heston Blumenthal will get old people eating in hospital by devising meals rich in umami - the "fifth basic taste".

But it's the downpager that interests Paper Monitor. Just when you thought there wasn't another drip of nourishment that could be wrung out of festive food and drink, along comes a new take on champagne - "The science of celebrating with a bigger bang".

A deadpan Tom Whipple asks: "Have you considered how the distribution gradient of the kinetic energy from adiabatic expansion in your vintage Moet relates to temperature?"

Well luckily for us, fluid dynamicists at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne - sounds like a tough gig - are on the case.

They put together a series of high speed infrared films of bottles popping. Playing around with different temperatures they noticed that cork velocity rises with temperature - from 40km/h at 4C to 55km/h at 18C.

Their conclusion - only 5% of the energy within a champagne bottle goes into propelling the cork out of the bottle. The rest goes into the bang. Readers familiar with Billy Wilder's The Apartment will know just what a usefully ambiguous racket a champagne cork can make.

But enough about Paper Monitor's favourite movies. The Reims boffins do a wry line in health and safety. "It is worth noting that Dom Perignon, the French monk widely credited with inventing champagne and developing cork stoppers, was blind at the end of his life."

Something to tell the rellies before the conversation turns back to sprouts or onesies.

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