Guinness disobeys the laws of physics (Happy St Patricks Day!)

Posted: 2010/03/17 in General News
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Just in time for St Patrick’s Day! According to, the black stuff disobeys the laws of physics. Science has finally figured out just why Guinness is so different. Unlike other brews, the bubbles in Guinness go down rather than up.

They used a super-fast camera that magnified the bubbles to 1000 percent of their normal size and zoomed in on their behaviour. They found that the bubbles rose rapidly at the center of the glass, pulling the surrounding liquid with them and setting up a circulating current while the outlying bubbles moved downwards.

Senior researcher Dr Andrew Alexander, who lectures in chemical physics at the University of Edinburgh, said he had wanted to do this experiment since drinking Guinness as a student. “I’d wanted to try and capture the bubbles going down as I had obviously wondered whether it really did happen, having drunk a few Guinness during my time at university, or whether it was an optical illusion created by the waves in the drink that don’t contain any bubbles. Nobody had carried out the experiment before. Guinness is good for this experiment as the bubbles are small, due to being released at high pressure by the widget and therefore easily pushed around. The circulation cells in the glass provide the same effect like you see in a tornado. The gas in the bubbles is also important. In lager beers, the gas is carbon dioxide which is more easily dissolved into the liquid. The gas in Guinness bubbles is nitrogen – not so easily dissolved and therefore not prone to grow larger. Finally, the contrast between the dark liquid and the light cream bubbles make the bubbles much easier to see.”

I’m pleased they have finally solved this mystery in time for St Patrick’s Day when many people will no doubt be enjoying a pint or ten.

Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a yearly holiday celebrated on 17 March.
It is named after Saint Patrick (circa AD 387–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. It began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s. However, it has gradually become more of a secular celebration of Ireland’s culture.


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