Monday, April 11, 2011

News: 'No gravity, no trouble for beer bubbles' for The Courier-Mail

This is a story that first appeared on The Courier-Mail website, then in the app edition. It can be viewed here. A shortened version also appeared in the print edition, April 8.

No gravity, no trouble for beer bubbles

By Anna Angel

IT might not be long before beer connoisseurs can sip a pint in space, but you probably wouldn't be able to keep it down, or even want to. 
A special blend of 4-Pines Brewery's 'space beer' flowed freely at Queensland University of Technology's zero-gravity research facility yesterday, in a trial of the beverage's behaviour in the low gravity of space.

The lab's director Professor Ted Steinberg said the project, which began in October last year, focuses on tweaking the brew's carbonation levels for safe consumption in space.

``You would want to be careful because people are already prone to throwing up in zero-gravity,'' Mr Steinberg said.

``You know what happens when you pop the lid of a beer bottle - image what it could be like if that happened inside of a person.''

He said while he prefers scotch himself, beer lovers might be disappointed with the brew.

``A lot of the flavour of beer comes from the carbonation, so you may end up losing a lot of flavour,'' Mr Steinberg said.

Mr Steinberg said he had no trouble enlisting student volunteers for the unusual project.

``All the students were happy to work on this one, normally it's quite hard to get them down here,'' he said.

The Microgravity Drop Tower - the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere - accurately simulates the conditions of space here on earth, for two seconds at a time.

The facility has been involved in research projects for both NASA and the European Space Agency since it opened late last year.

``We always come up with more questions instead of answers, so the research is ongoing,'' Mr Steinberg said.

``So few people have access to zero-gravity''.

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