Free booze, long drive

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Posted by AshFan at on January 16, 2004 at 08:31:34:

100% true: scientists have discovered beer in space. Well, not exactly beer but alcohol - ethyl alcohol, to be precise, the active ingredient in all major alcoholic drinks. Three British scientists, Drs Tom Millar, Geoffrey MacDonald and Rolf Habing, discovered this interstellar booze floating in a gas cloud in the constellation of Aquila.

Millar and his colleagues estimated the size of this cloud as approximately 1,000 times the diameter of our own solar system. There's enough alcohol out there, they say, to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer. That's British or Irish beer, mind you, because if it were American weak-as-piss beer you'd have to double that figure.

But how did this reasonably complex molecule (two carbon atoms, five hydrogen atoms, and a hydroxyl radical) come about? It's not the kind of compound that's going to arise spontaneously out of the cold depths of space. So what exactly is this cloud?

1. It's God's beer. He worked for six days creating the universe, and on the seventh day, he rested. And after a hard week at the office, wouldn't YOU fancy a large feed of pints?

2. It's Purgatory ("400 trillion trillion bottles, hanging on the wall, 400 trillion trillion bottles, hanging on the wall, and if one green bottle...")

3. Proof of a highly advanced but chronically dipsomaniac alien civilisation. A messy theory though, because it's reasonable to assume that if the aliens were going to construct a nebula of alcohol, they'd also have large clouds of crisps or peanuts (or pork scratchings or Pringles or pretzels or whatever) nearby for grazing on.

The gas cloud (with the utterly romantic name of "G34.3") is a mere 10,000 light years away: 58 quadrillion miles. So even if you hijacked the Space Shuttle and headed out with thrusters on full blast, by the time you got there Fianna Fail would be well out of office.

No, the Space Beer Cloud will have to wait for the far future, when humans can leap through wormholes in the space-time continuum at warp speed. And picture the scene when they get there...

Captain Kirk: My....GOD! Sulu!
Sulu: It's a free-floating cloud of alcohol, sir.
Kirk: And we've just run out of Romulan Ale! Could it be a trap, Bones?
Bones: Damn it, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a distiller of fine spirits!
Kirk: We need that booze! But if we fly through that cloud, we'll be too drunk to drive! Just think of the penalty points!
Spock: May I remind you, Jim, that I am a Vulcan. We are a race of designated drivers.
Kirk: Well, all righty, then. Spock, drive us through! Bones and I will be out on the hull. With our mouths... open. To boldly drink what no man has drunk before.

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