Bar Science 101

Story Stream
recent articles

A bar is a hotbed of social interaction. It's where friends are made, where shenanigans abound, and where (responsible) inebriation can spawn surprisingly keen insights. In light of these observations, the bar might actually be one of the best venues to discuss the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world.

So, if you're looking to impress a new acquaintance or just want to show-off your science smarts for your compatriots, here are the three best science topics to discuss at a bar.

1. Drink with me if you want to live. A 2010 study found that those who abstain from alcohol consumption had higher mortality rates than moderate or even heavy drinkers. The researchers followed 1,824 participants aged 55 to 65 for twenty years. Over the study's duration, 69% of the abstainers died, 60% of the heavy drinkers died, and only 41% of the moderate drinkers died. The authors of the study were careful to note that even though drinking is associated with longer life, alcohol can still be hazardous to your health. If you've ever tripped over a curb then you know what I mean.

2. Why are we here? We all venture to the bar for different reasons. We might be letting off steam, drowning sorrows, or succumbing to procrastination. For those who fit into the latter category, here's an interesting scientific tidbit: According to the Ainslie-Rachlin Law, "Our decisions... are guided by the perceived

values at the moment of the decision - not by the potential final


This means that if you find yourself at the bar instead of studying for your exam, you have likely fallen victim to the low-hanging fruit of a fun night out. On Monday, you knew that Friday's test was more important than a night of revelry.  But when the phone rings on Thursday night, the tables have turned. An alluring reward (a good time at the bar) is now within your grasp and it's perceived value has grown too powerful to ignore. So the next time that you're at a bar the day before a big test, four shots deep and already missing the dart board, tell your friends about the Ainslie-Rachlin Law, and why they were just too tempting to disregard.

3. After a night at the bar, why do I feel like I've run a marathon? The sobering process initiated by your liver results in the build-up of acetic acid and lactic acid in your muscles (most commonly in your legs). You can remedy this build-up by drinking lots of water and satiating your alcohol-induced appetite with bananas instead of pizza.

If scientific knowledge doesn't provide a spark to your beer garden revelries, you can always try a joke:

Some helium floats into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve noble gases in here." The helium doesn't react.

Related Articles