IJMC NASA's Throwin a Party

		    IJMC - NASA's Throwin a Party

Or at least they have enough beer to do it with...read on...and someone 
please tell me if you could actually make real alcohol (ie, vodka or fine 
Virgin Islands rum) with it?					    -dave

This week, a million fraternity brothers rushed to join
NASA. The reason: scientists have discovered beer in space.
Well, not beer exactly. But they did find alcohol: ethyl
alcohol, to be precise, the active ingredient in all major
alcoholic drinks (antifreeze Jell-O shots, quite obviously,
are exempted from this category). Three British scientists,
Drs. Tom Millar, Geoffrey MacDonald and Rolf Habing,
discovered this interstellar Everclear floating in a gas
cloud in the contellation of Aquila (sign of the Eagle, the
mascot of Anheuser-Busch! Hmmmmm). Millar and his
compatriots has estimated the size of this gas cloud at
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. These guys are British,
mind you; if you were to translate this in terms of American
beer (which the British, with some justification, regard as
fermented club soda), the amount of potential brewski just
about doubles. In human terms: remember that double-keg
party you threw at the end of your Junior year in college
(the second Junior year)? Imagine throwing that same party,
every eight hours, for the next 30 billion years. You'd
STILL have beer left over. And boy, would YOUR bathroom be a
mess! Simply put, no one could ever drink 400 trillion
trillion pints of beer, except maybe Raiders fans. The sheer
volume of all this alcohol begs the question of how it
managed to get out there in the first place. Despite the
simplifying effect it has on the human brain, ethyl alcohol
is a reasonably complex molecule: two carbon atoms, five
hydrogen atoms, and a hydroxyl radical, all cavorting
together in beery camaraderie. It's not a compound that is
going to spontaneously arise out of the cold depths of

 It can lead to speculation: What is this cloud?

1. It's God's beer. After all, He worked for six days
creating the universe, and on the seventh day, He rested.
And after you've had a hard week at the office, don't YOU
grab a beer? Since man is made in God's image, it could be
that this cloud is the remaining evidence of the first, best
Miller Time.

2. It's Purgatory ("400 trillion trillion bottles of beer on
the wall, 400 trillion trillion bottles of beer! Take one
down, pass it around, 399,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999
bottles of beer on the wall!")

3. Proof of an undeniably highly advanced but chronically
dipsomaniac alien society. This particular theory is shaky,
however: it's reasonable to assume that if the aliens were
going to construct a nebula of alcohol, they'd also have
large clouds of Beer Nuts and pretzels nearby for snacking.
Advanced spectral analysis has yet to locate them.

The truth of the matter, however, is far more prosiac. In
the middle of this gas cloud is a young and no doubt quite
inebriated star. As the star heats up and contracts, sucking
the dust and gas of the cloud into a smaller area, complex
molecules form as a result of greater intereaction between
the elements. Ethyl alcohol forms on small motes of dust in
the cloud, and then, as the motes angle in closer towards
the star and heat up, the alcohol is released from the motes
in gaseous form. And there you have it: an alcohol cloud.
Or, as Dave Bowman might say, "My God! It's full of booze!"
Enough with the science lesson, you say. Just tell me how to
GET there! Sorry, Chuckles. You can't get there from here.
The gas cloud (which, by the way, has the utterly romantic
name of "G34.3") is 10,000 light years away: 58 quadrillion
miles. Even if you hijacked the shuttle and headed out with
thrusters on full, by the time you got there, the guy in
Purgatory would be done with his tune. You'd have had time
to work up a powerful thirst, but you'd also be, in a word,
dead. No, the Space Beer Cloud will have to wait for the far
future, when men can leap through the universe at warp
speed. One can only imagine what they will do when they get

Captain Kirk: My....GOD! Sulu! What....is....THAT?

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!

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.

IJMC February 1996 Archives