St. Patrick’s Day is the annual festival where Ireland’s contributions to the world are celebrated and none more than the long list of alcoholic delights from Guinness Beer to Jameson Whiskey. It is said that wisdom flows from the bottom of a glass, so here is some booze news and information in time for St. Patty’s.

Get Sober the Borg Way

The thought of nanocapsules floating around your bloodstream bring mental visions of nanoprobes assimilating people into the Star Trek Borg Collective. However, there are positive uses to this technology which don’t turn you into cyborg zombies. Biochemists Lu and Ji collaborating cross-town in Los Angeles between USC and UCLA have actually managed to reduce blood alcohol levels in lab mice who had been hitting the bottle too hard. By packaging a number of key enzymes into a nanoscale shell and injecting it into the mice, the blood alcohol content fell precipitously. Although it’s too early to go on a bender and expect to drive home sober after a quick nanoenzyme injection, this technology could find widespread applications in a number of treatments from detox to (believe it or not) preventing male pattern baldness!

Rats with Anti-Drinking Genes

Our friends the laboratory rodents are certainly doing their part to minimize the damage to human individuals as well as our society. Professor Israel at the University of Chile succeeded in holding back the tendencies of rats which had been previously hooked on booze by using gene therapy. By mimicking a natural mutation which is rather common among East Asian humans the researchers were able to lower the rodents’ tolerance to alcohol and thus less likely to imbibe to excess and become alcoholics in the first place. Nearly a third of all East Asian people have this natural genetic mutation that makes their faces flush red, their hearts start pounding, and provoke nausea as soon as they drink any alcohol… which is a great incentive for any alcoholics wishing to recover to go hang out in Chinatown and make friends with these folks. Nothing like having your peer group support you in kicking the bottle!

Drink & CAN’T Drive

Almost everyone can appreciate a drink but no one appreciates a drunk driver, so engineer Bud Zaouk is pioneering a combination of touch and breath based technologies to ensure that no one with an elevated blood alcohol level can do anything in the driver’s seat of a car other than curl up and go to sleep. By embedding a touch sensor in the Start-Stop button of a car, the blood alcohol level can be measured in half a second and an interlock activated to keep the engine from starting should the reading be over the legal limit. Since alcoholics are an inventive sort who might talk a sober passenger into using their finger to start the car, Zaouk combines his starting system with a breath based sensor mounted near the steering wheel to monitor the alcohol level of molecules in the driver’s breath. Since the only way around this system is to stop breathing, that should certainly stop any drunk driver in their tracks.

Everything That’s Old is New Again

Archeological research has been applied to the creation of new alcoholic beverages based on the long-forgotten tipsy drinks of prehistory. Some of the most impressive:

  • Chateau Jiahu: Based on the analysis of pottery fragment residues found near Jiahu in China’s Henan province which found a mixed wine/beer hybrid made from rice, honey, hawthorn fruit and grapes.
  • Midas Touch: Another similar drink but this one based on the findings of an elaborate tomb near Ankara, Turkey, this brew was found in 157 bronze vessels which is a mix of honey mead and grape wine with barley beer.
  • Tongba: This cooked millet drink from Nepal traces its roots to the yellow liquor legendarily invented by the Chinese minister DuKang a bare 41 centuries ago.

Archeology has also brought to light 5,400 year old barley beer from Iran, 3,400 year old chocolate wine from Honduras, and pre-Columbian Peruvian Wari’s pepper tree libation which combined spice with its punch.

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day while you imbibe responsibly!