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10.25.2006

Where do Those Bubbles Come From?

I've always been a bit bemused when confronted with the phrase "food science." There's just something....hokey about it. I can't help suppressing a chuckle when I read it. It calls to mind men wearing thick rimmed glasses, white lab coats, and very serious expressions as they measure the elasticity of peanut butter between two cracker crusts.

But food science is a real discipline, and there are lots of people out there who are doing some pretty bizarre interesting research. I've done a lot of Champagne reviews recently, so one of their latest studies caught my eye as I browsed through the Web: a piece of research bubble_nucleation.jpgentitled, "Champagne Experiences Various Rhythmical Bubbling Regimes in a Flute."

I don't know what a rhythmical bubbling regime is, but just writing it makes me feel dirty and excited. I think I would like to experience one. Apparently so would these scientists.

The study examines just how the streams of bubbles that characterize Champagne get started and what determines their behavior. Apparently the streams of bubbles generally begin around tiny particulates (fibers, etc.) that end up on the inside of the glass accidentally or due to towel drying. These particles attract the gas as it emerges from solution and the way the gas bubbles form and cling to the particulate "nucleation sites" can cause rhythmic bubbling sequences.

I don't know about you, but that makes me a little weak in the knees.

All joking aside, apparently (and who am I to raise an eyebrow at science?) this research actually may have medical applications, as it may provide explanations for problems in the body "where undesired bubbles form."

Here's hoping most of your bubbles stay right where they belong. If you think you might (unlike me) actually understand a scientific paper about this sort of thing, I might recommend this paper on bubble formation from Gérard Liger-Belair and Philippe Jeandet, which is where I borrowed that lovely image from.

Comments (4)

Carl Schulze wrote:
10.26.06 at 12:36 PM

As a professional agriculture/food scientist myself, albeit not in an area touching on wine, I think I ought to point out that the motivation for such research is less a matter of curing cancer or broading other medical research than getting their mitts on all that free champagne from Moet&Chandon and Pommery. You DID see the acknowledgement at the end of the article, didn't you?

Alder wrote:
10.26.06 at 6:32 PM

Carl,

You busted me. I didn't get to the end of the article! Very funny note.

Andy wrote:
10.27.06 at 10:15 AM

I love it. All of the emphasis on the bubble trails coming from the irregularities inherent with hand blown glasses is bogus.
The nucleation site (start of the bubble trail) is actually lint from the rag used to wipe the glass dry or from dust.
The high end, hand blown, champagne glass manufacturers are going to go ape.

Golly wrote:
10.29.06 at 12:29 PM

In pubs in the UK plenty of pint glasses come with an etched design in the bottom to keep the bubbles flowing and create a pretty pattern. I've destroyed quite a few champagne glasses trying to etch a scratch into the bottom to get the bubbles flowing, just think how much I could have saved by using a dirty rag instead!

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