Thursday, January 25, 2007

Diluting your alcohol

Real nerds know that global warming is for sissies, the real ultimate, unavoidable death to all things in the universe is the ever increasing entropy. Real nerds might also know that when you combine water and alcohol they seem to mix in an exothermic reaction, and the overall volume of the solution is less than the combined volumes of the water and the alcohol because of hydrogen bonding. However according to this reasearch, they never truly mix: "Nobody has ever tasted a microscopically perfect mix of alcohol and water," says ALS scientist Jinghua Guo, one of the leaders of this research. We found that the mixing of alcohol and water on the microscopic level is incomplete no matter how long you wait."
So what does this mean for entropy. Well when mixing two perfect pure liquids, you would expect entropy to increase substantially as the mollecules randomly distribute in the solution. However because water and alcohol don't mix, alcohol mollecules create ordered cages of water, thus decreasing the entropy... "The rings formed when alcohol and water are mixed are stable structures because the hydrogen bonds are saturated," says Guo. "One would expect to see even further reductions in the entropy of the system if there were more methanol and water molecules forming highly ordered structures."
So there you go, save the world one drink at a time.