Saturday, September 6, 2008


I was doing more research for the Beers of Grand Taupeaquaah page, trying to resolve the question of whether the "Heavy Red Lager" consumed in the book is more closely approximated by the Irish Red from Carlyle Brewing or the McCarthy Red from Emmett's Ale House (don't you wish you could drink beer and call it "research"?). And this led me to revise the entry for "Batatat's Stout," naming two different beers--one to describe Batatat's on tap, and another to describe it when served up in the World's Most Perfect Beer Container. This in turn led me to research how the "widget" cans used by Guinness and others work, and to ask myself just how the Batatat's container manages to chill and churn the beer, and then automatically dispose of itself when emptied.

This is a problem about writing "science fiction," or what I sometimes call "technological fantasy," versus "pure" fantasy--if I were writing pure fantasy, I could just explain it away as magic. But if it's SF, there has to be a mechanism, and preferably one that doesn't violate too many laws of nature too blatantly. It's OK to have a little BS, like the "hyperspace" or "warp drive" of space-travel stories, because you can always say that while we haven't discovered them yet, nobody's proven they're impossible. On the other hand, you don't want to set your story on a helium-filled balloon floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, because what we already know about Jupiter (its atmosphere is 80 percent hydrogen and 20 percent helium) tells us the blimp would sink like a rock. Oops.

So, back to the Batatat's container. Is the thing even possible? Well, let's see... the stirring-up thing is obviously not too hard, since it's a product already. As for cooling the beer, decompressing a gas (or better yet, letting a gas that's been compressed to a liquid state flash back) generates a lot of coldness, so that might be part of the system. Cornstarch-based "biodegradable" plastics which just sort of crumble away to dust already exist, as do "smart" materials which can change their properties on command. Stir in a little nano-technology... yeah, I think I can make this work.

But first I'm gonna have another beer. Research, you know.

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