Pay attention students; here's yet another reason to do your advanced math homework. Mathematicians have conducted a new analysis that could have a profound impact on future St. Patrick's Days--by building a better beer widget.
If you've enjoyed a Guinness or one of several other stout beers from a can in the last few years, you've probably encountered a beer widget. It's the hollow plastic ball that's left rattling around in the can or bottle after all the thick, creamy goodness has been poured out; it's also largely responsible for the foamy head on that just-poured brew.
William Lee, a university mathematician from Limerick in Ireland (disclosure: also the ancestral home of this writer) has set out to improve one of the most treasured modern inventions of pub-goers, and his findings seem to indicate a way to create a more efficient, less expensive widget. Drinkers rejoice!
But before getting to the toasting and celebrating, a little background on the fluid dynamics of stout beers. A tall can of Guinness has nitrogen added to keep it pressurized, rather than just the carbon dioxide found in most other canned beers. This is because nitrogen produces smaller bubbles, creating that distinctively smooth, creamy stout foam.
The downside of nitrogen is that just cracking open and pouring the can doesn't create enough bubbles for a truly satisfying head. Enter the widget--the hollow ball is filled with nitrogen that shoots out into the stout when the can is cracked, creating millions of bubbles and giving a little turbo-boost to the foam creation process. Problem solved, right? Sure, but there's always a way to build a better widget.