Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine by Stephen Braun

By Stephen Braun

Alcohol and caffeine are deeply woven into the material of lifestyles for many of the world's inhabitants, as shut and as cozy as a cup of espresso or a can of beer. but for many humans they continue to be as mysterious and unpredictable because the spirits they have been as soon as regarded as. Now, in Buzz, Stephen Braun takes us on a myth-shattering travel of those renowned elements, person who blends attention-grabbing technology with colourful lore, and that incorporates cameo appearances via Shakespeare and Balzac, Buddhist priests and Arabian goat herders, even Mikhail Gorbachev and David Letterman (who as soon as quipped, "If it weren't for the espresso, I'd haven't any identifiable character whatsoever").
Much of what Braun unearths at once contradicts traditional knowledge approximately alcohol and caffeine. Braun exhibits, for example, that alcohol isn't easily a depressant as popularly believed, yet is as a substitute "a pharmacy in a bottle"--mimicking the motion of gear reminiscent of cocaine, amphetamine, valium, and opium. At low doses, it raises electric task within the comparable mind structures laid low with stimulants, impacts an identical circuits distinctive via valium, and motives the discharge of morphine-like compounds referred to as endorphins--all while. This explains why alcohol can produce a number reactions, from boisterous euphoria to darkish, brooding hopelessness. Braun additionally shatters the parable that alcohol kills mind cells, finds why wooden alcohol or methanol factors blindness, and explains the organic reason for the one-drink-per-hour sobriety rule (that's how lengthy it takes the liver, operating complete tilt, to disable the 2 hundred quintillion ethanol molecules present in a standard drink). the writer then turns to caffeine and indicates it to be no much less amazing. we find that greater than a hundred plant species produce caffeine molecules of their seeds, leaves, or bark, a really remarkable distribution all through nature (nicotine, compared, is located basically in tobacco; opium purely within the poppy). It's now not mind-blowing then that caffeine is way and away the main universal brain changing substance in the world, present in tea, espresso, cocoa, chocolate, delicate beverages, and greater than 2,000 non-prescription medicinal drugs. (Tea is the preferred drink on the earth, with espresso a detailed second.) Braun additionally explores the position of caffeine in creativity: Johann Sebastian Bach, for one, enjoyed espresso quite a bit he wrote a espresso Cantata (as Braun notes, no tune captures the caffeinated adventure greater than one in every of Bachs frenetic fugues), Balzac may paintings for 12 hours continuous, consuming espresso all of the whereas, and Kant, Rousseau, and Voltaire all enjoyed espresso. And during the booklet, Braun takes us on many attractive actual sidetrips--we study, for example, that Theodore Roosevelt coined the word "Good to the final drop" utilized by Maxwell residence ever considering that; that distances among Tibetan villages are often reckoned through the variety of cups of tea had to maintain an individual (three cups being approximately eight kilometers); and that John Pemberton's unique recipe for Coca-Cola integrated not just kola extract, but in addition cocaine.
Whether you're a subtle buyer of cabernet sauvignon and Kenya AA or simply somebody who wishes a cup of joe within the morning and a chilly one after paintings, you can find Buzz to be an eye-opening, informative, and sometimes fun examine ingredients immediately totally generic and deeply mysterious.

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It's true that, like ether, alcohol—especially at moderate to high doses—can act as a general anesthetic, depressing a broad range of central nervous system functions. But alcohol also mimics the action of the drugs cocaine, amphetamine, Valium, and opium (Charness et al. 1989; Koob and Bloom 1988; Weight et al. 1993). Like cocaine and amphetamine, alcohol directly stimulates certain brain cells. At low doses, it increases electrical activity in the same brain systems affected by these classic stimulants and can lead to feelings of pleasure and euphoria—feelings that may underlie much of alcohol's addictive potential.

Working full-tilt, these enzymes can intercept and disable all the roughly 200 quintillion ethanol molecules in a half-ounce of pure ethanol in about an hour. This fact is the basis for the one-drink-an-hour rule of thumb for remaining sober. As we've seen, however, this rule must be applied carefully. It's most accurate for young, healthy males who slowly consume a modest drink over the course of an hour, who are taking no other drugs (such as aspirin) that interfere with the action of alcohol dehydrogenase, and who arc not drinking on an empty stomach.

2 percent—about twice the legal limit for intoxication in most states. This research shows that alcohol—even at very low doses— disrupts the cellular machinery most widely believed to underlie our ability to form new memories. Since the disruption can occur at levels below those causing more obvious impairments of motor function and speech, people may not appreciate the degree to which their memories are being impaired. Interestingly, the impairment is of the ability to form new memories, not the ability to recall stored memories.

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