The science of champagne fizz: How many bubbles are in your bubbly?

The importance of fizz, more technically known as effervescence, in sparkling wines and champagnes is not to be underestimated — it contributes to the complete sensory experience of a glass, or flute, of fine bubbly. A scientist has now closely examined the factors that affect these bubbles, and he has come up with an estimate of just how many are in each glass. The report appears in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.Grard Liger-Belair notes that effervescence plays an important role in the look, taste, aroma and mouth feel of champagne and other sparkling wines. Wine journalists and bloggers often cite 15 million as the average number of bubbles fizzing in a single glass of champagne, based on some simple mathematics. Sounds impressive, but Liger-Belair suspected that the formula leading to this estimate oversimplified the matter. It didn’t take into account the fact that some of the dissolved carbon dioxide escapes from a glass without forming bubbles. Also, the size of the bubbles changes over time, and this could affect the final number. Liger-Belair wanted to set the record straight.Taking into consideration temperature, bubble dynamics and the tilt of a flute, Liger-Belair came up with a new way to calculate the number of bubbles in a glass of champagne. And the result is far lower than what has been cited. “One million bubbles seems to be a reasonable approximation for the whole number of bubbles likely to form if you resist drinking champagne from your flute,” he concludes. …

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Our memory for sounds is significantly worse than our memory for visual or tactile things

Remember that sound bite you heard on the radio this morning? The grocery items your spouse asked you to pick up? Chances are, you won’t.Researchers at the University of Iowa have found that when it comes to memory, we don’t remember things we hear nearly as well as things we see or touch.”As it turns out, there is merit to the Chinese proverb ‘I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember,” says lead author of the study and UI graduate student, James Bigelow.”We tend to think that the parts of our brain wired for memory are integrated. But our findings indicate our brain may use separate pathways to process information. Even more, our study suggests the brain may process auditory information differently than visual and tactile information, and alternative strategies — such as increased mental repetition — may be needed when trying to improve memory,” says Amy Poremba, associate professor in the UI Department of Psychology and corresponding author on the paper, published this week in the journal PLoS One.Bigelow and Poremba discovered that when more than 100 UI undergraduate students were exposed to a variety of sounds, visuals and things that could be felt, the students were least apt to remember the sounds they had heard.In an experiment testing short term-memory, participants were asked to listen to pure tones they heard through headphones, look at various shades of red squares, and feel low-intensity vibrations by gripping an aluminum bar. Each set of tones, squares and vibrations was separated by time delays ranging from one to 32 seconds.Although students’ memory declined across the board when time delays grew longer, the decline was much greater for sounds, and began as early as four to eight seconds after being exposed to them.While this seems like a short time span, it’s akin to forgetting a phone number that wasn’t written down, notes Poremba. “If someone gives you a number, and you dial it right away, you are usually fine. But do anything in between, and the odds are you will have forgotten it,” she says.In a second experiment, Bigelow and Poremba tested participants’ memory using things they might encounter on an everyday basis. Students listened to audio recordings of dogs barking, watched silent videos of a basketball game, and, touched and held common objects blocked from view, such as a coffee mug. The researchers found that between an hour and a week later, students were worse at remembering the sounds they had heard, but their memory for visual scenes and tactile objects was about the same.Both experiments suggest that the way your mind processes and stores sound may be different from the way it process and stores other types of memories. …

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