SEx Education - Merry SExmas!

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Science Explained

Merry SExmas!

So Christmas is just around the corner, and what better subject with which to tax the SExperts than booze? Here are three quick questions from the SEx archive that got everyone drinking.

1. Drained Dry

Our first question was provided a clearly long-suffering Guru Roghan Josh:

It's a known fact that alcohol causes dehydration (and you suffer more the next day if you don't drink lots of water before bed!). But, want I want to know is: is the water lost only by urinating or is it also lost by some other means?
- "it's a known fact that alcohol causes dehydration"

First to this one was Mu Beta:

Alcohol will increase the concentration gradient between the cells and the bloodstream, and water will osmose out into the blood. Excess water is indeed filtered into urine, but also will be breathed out via the lungs (although the majority is in urine). I suspect, due to the high energy content of alcohol, that metabolic rate will also increase, causing you to sweat more as well.

A little extra detail was provided by Varindweion, who noted that:

Alcohol has a major effect on the production of vasopressin, also called the antidiuretic hormone. This hormone determines the concentration of your urine. The more of this hormone that is produced, the more concentrated the urine will be (it stimulates the re-absorption of water out of the urine, back into the bloodstream). The purpose of this hormone is therefore to preserve water in the body. Alcohol inhibites this production, so your urine will contain a lot more water and will be very diluted. You get dehydrated. Result: headache.

So now you know what to blame when you wake up the morning after. Of course, who to blame is another question entirely...

2. Clever Corking

Over to Lucky Llareggub for question 2:

Having just toasted the New Year in, with Sekt1, I see that the cork that shot out is now 50% wider than the neck of the bottle. I've tried with all my might, but I can't force the darned thing back into the neck, so I'm going to have to drink the lot. But how did they manage to get that cork into the first place? Seems impossible. What's the trick?
- "How did they put the cork in the Champagne bottle"

Leaving aside the terrible inconvenience of having to drink the whole lot in one go, Gnomon supplied the first answer, with the benefit of having written h2g2's Edited Entry on corks:

Normal corks are just cylinders cut from the bark. Sparkling wine corks are much more complicated. They have to be much stronger so that they can withstand the pressure of all those bubbles. They are also cylinders, but much wider and the cork is layered to provide extra strength. The cork is compressed laterally before being inserted into the bottle, but it retains a sense of its original shape, apparent in the familiar mushroom shaped heads of such corks.

So all it takes is a large mechanical press to generate the brute force necessary to squeeze the cyclinder of cork into the bottle neck. Not trick involved, although Cardi-Bling posed the follow-up question...

Why does the top mushroom out? Is it due to the pressure exerted on it, or something else? which Blatherskite the Mugwump provided the answer:

It's not so much that there is a force acting on the top causing it to mushroom, as the fact that there is an absence of pressure which is allowing it to do so. Right there at the neck, where the border between pressure and no pressure is happening, the fibers are coming closer together, and are beginning to push against each other. That pushing spreads the fibers out as they get away from the choke point, with the space growing further and further until one achieves the mushroom effect. You can squeeze a sponge from the middle and observe the same effect.

So, all you have to do is hope that all that pressure doesn't blow the cork out before you actually want to drink the contents...

3. Depressingly Droll?

Our third question was supplied courtesy of Kyra:

If alcohol's a depressant, why is everything funnier when you're drunk?

The answer was supplied by your correspondent2:

It's a 'depressant' because it depresses (ie, reduces the activity of) a lot of different receptors in the brain. Depending on the person, their prevailing mood and the situation, this can make everything funny, make you violent, make you cry etc.

So there you have it - the SEx festive guide to alcohol. On behalf of all the SExperts, have a great [Christmas/holiday season/plan to ignore the whole tacky shebang3] with a sensible amount of the depressant of your choice!


This article was based on conversations at the SEx forum - where science is explained.

Why not pop over with your own questions? The pick of the bunch
will feature in The Post's next

smiley - mistletoesmiley - crackersmiley - mistletoesmiley - crackersmiley - mistletoe

SEx Education Archive

Danny B.

21.12.06 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1An imitation Champagne - can't afford the real thing!2Hey, it's Christmas - I can quote myself if I want smiley - winkeye3Delete as applicable.

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