Ever heard of "panicum virgatum"? Statistically, if you're reading this, you're probably a liberal, atheist, baby eating millennial, so I have to assume that you have. But, in case I’m wrong, I’ll give a brief summary: Essentially, in an effort to create a biofuel market in the U.S. among various other ventures, the government began subsidizing corn production. Corn has a substantial sugar content, these sugars are a little bit hard to unlock and make usable, but if you artificially inflate the need for corn, thus causing a massive surplus of the stuff, it rapidly becomes a cheap commodity, and thus, the highly expensive processing is balanced. This is by no means a comprehensive history of this industry, which is far more complex than I just described, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that high fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener, not because it’s easier to make, but because corn subsidies and high tariffs on imported cane sugar, made it the cheapest option to use.
This is where panicum virgatum comes in, commonly known as switchgrass. As it would turn out, switchgrass is far more efficient at creating bio-fuel than corn is. The reasons behind it’s efficiency are numerous. It can grow on a wide range of climates, it can deal with drought and floods easily, requires relatively low herbicide and fertilizer input, requires less energy for maintenance, remains hardy in poor soil (such as sandy or heavily erodible areas), and generally kicks total and complete ass. I suppose I keep forgetting to mention, the bio-fuel we’re talking about here is ethanol.
Ethanol is currently blended into just about every kind of gasoline you purchase nowadays. It is high octane, clean burning with no smoke, and unlike gasoline, is produced with renewable resources. So to summarize this, generally speaking, swtichgrass and ethanol are good, corn and oil are bad. Ok good. Now that we have you properly indoctrinated, we can move on to more pressing uses.
Ethanol. Doesn’t that sound familiar? I know it’s been largely associated with bio-fuel as of late, but it was used far before that. As a matter of fact, ethanol production is one of the oldest biotechnologies implemented by humans, ever. Pottery from the neolithic period has been found in china with ethanol residue on it. The reason we’ve been making this shit for so long, is because, as Samuel L. Jackson might say, it’ll get you drunk.
In terms of our common vocabulary, when someone says they are drinking alcohol, what they mean, is ethanol. Now, of course ethanol IS an alcohol, but I feel like due to its widespread use in association with beverages, we have come to believe that anything called alcohol, is also ethanol, and vice versa. This is absolutely not true. All alcohols are not created equal, and not all alcohols should be consumed in mass quantities. Some would argue that you shouldn’t drink any kind of alcohol, but those people are Baptists, and hypocrites, so we’re going to pretend they don’t exist, and maybe they’ll go away and stop picketing outside our bars with axes.
Alcohols, by definition, are an organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group is bound to a carbon atom, whose center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms.
OK, simply put, alcohols are a compound of 3 things: Oxygen & Hydrogen(hydroxyl) connected to Carbon. These can be combined in various different ways, to form VERY different outcomes.
A good example of an alcohol that is very different from ethanol is Isopropyl Alcohol. Have you ever thought about what would happen if you drank Isopropyl? The answer is, not much, other than, you know, organ failure, hypothermia, direct impacts on the central nervous system leading to a slowed heart beat, massive drops in blood pressure leading to heart attacks or possible seizures. No biggie. That shit is super serious stuff, and should not be consumed in any fashion, other than what is prescribed on the side of the bottle. Basically, topical cleaning use only.
The reason I’ve taken all this time to tell you that drinking Isopropyl Alcohol could easily kill you, or at the least send you to the Emergency Room, is because I cannot in ANY. WAY. WHATSOEVER. condone this weeks TIP. And so instead, I will offer the closest alternative.
THE ISOPROPYL-TANG COCKTAIL
There just aren’t enough cantinas in space, or at least, not in our neighborhood of the galaxy. The amount of drinkable ethanol currently in orbit is severely lacking. One issue has to do with buoyancy. On earth, since CO2 is lighter than H2O, carbon dioxide bubbles rise to the top of fizzy things like soda and beer. This isn’t the case in zero gravity environments. The CO2 remains evenly dispersed inside of the liquid, apparently creating quite a fizzy mess. This makes beer especially hard to manage in space. But don’t worry, apparently some crafty aussies that have been working on brewing an outerspace-safe beer (I love you sly, upside down, sons of bitches. I really do.)
That doesn’t entirely explain why they don’t have any martinis in space, but I imagine that tax dollars and boondoggles have something to do with it.
So if you were to try and drink in space, you’d probably have to get crafty, and start drinking some stuff that you usually wouldn’t drink. Maybe some astronauts have made some Apollo Pruno, as far as I know, they haven’t, so maybe they’d turn to isopropyl instead. For their sake, lets hope not, but IF THEY DID, they’d probably soften it up a bit with everybody's favorite space drink: Orange Tang. Again, since I cannot stress enough, how amazingly unsafe it is to drink Isopropyl Alcohol, let’s substitute the strongest stuff you can find:
2oz Bacardi 151 (or Everclear, strong vodka, or whatever other clear alcohol you like.)
- 4oz Orange Tang
Mix the ingredients with some ice in an empty, cleaned out plastic bottle, preferably the kind with the easy to drink top, like this. Shake it up, and squirt it in your mouth hole. If you use the powdered tang, be sure to mix it with the appropriate amount of water first, then follow this recipe, otherwise... well... I don’t know what will happen. But it probably won’t be good.
Here is the most unfortunate part of the TIP: Next week will not have a new cocktail, due to the fact that it’s a two part episode, thus, this shall be the last TIP of Season 3. º/\º I’m getting teary eyed just thinking about it.
Go to the crappiest grocery store in your town, and see if you can find some frozen dinners. Specifically, see if you can get yourself some frozen tofu teriyaki. Heat it up, and eat it straight out of the pouch, or tub, or whatever it comes in. No matter how bad it is, remember that it’s way better than space food, and rejoice.