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When chemistry Prof. Richard Zare made the cover of Physics Today, he got lots of friendly attention from colleagues and from the media.
Zare's article, written with postdoctoral researcher Neil Shafer, is science applied to everyday life: a (mostly) serious study of the physics of the bubbles rising in a glass of beer.
Associated Press science writer Lee Siegel saw the photo of a foaming glass of brew on the cover of the respected physics journal and wrote up the story for the Sunday editions of papers across the country, under the headline, "Scientists Tap Knowledge, Draft Report on Nature of Beer Bubbles." Papers like the Minneapolis Star-Tribune picked it up: "Researchers aren't crying in their beer," the Twin Cities paper wrote.
Stanford News Service saw the article too, and sent out the accompanying story. (A pre-Physics Today publication of some of Zare's beer findings appeared in the Stanford Daily last March.)
Fellow scientists sent their congratulations. "Finally one of your papers that I could understand! (Just kidding.)" wrote Kenneth Raymond, a professor of chemistry at the University of California- Berkeley. He plans to use reprints to show students how much fun science can be.
"Since all chemists . . . have become highly concerned with disposing of the reagents after an experiment, I would like to see the description to the health safety officer about how experimental waste disposal occurred," Raymond wrote.
Both the AP wire story and the Stanford story made a point of the fact that no federal funds were used to support the beer research. Zare and Shafer conducted their bubble measurements as a spare-time diversion. But some editors made their own assumptions about research funding. The Star-Tribune wrote that Shafer and Zare had done "what legions of Norms and Cliffs (from TV's "Cheers") would love to do: figured out a way to write off the cost of their beer."
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