Möbius Beer

Today is the birthday of mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius, for whom several mathematical items are named, although the most famous is certainly the Möbius Strip. Although the Möbius Strip was discovered by two different mathematicians around the same year, 1858, it bears his name and not fellow German colleague Johann Benedict Listing.

A Möbius Strip “is a surface with only one side and only one boundary,” so that it looks like it turns in on itself, but if you could walk around on top of one, you’d never come to the end. “The Möbius strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable. It can be realized as a ruled surface.”


I recalled seeing a famous beer label using a Möbius Strip, and a quick search revealed the one I was thinking of was Arizona Brewing’s flagship beer “A-1,” which used a multi-colored version.


Beer History has a good article about the brewery, A-1: The Western Way to Say Welcome
by Ed Sipos. The original A-1 label had an eagle on it, but by the 1950s Anheuser-Busch, which was spreading their tentacles nationally, decided to sue Arizona Brewing claiming the eagle on their label was too close to their own, and Arizona couldn’t afford to defend the lawsuit, and decided instead to simply change the label.

A can of A-1 from 1965-66.

And not too long ago, Tuscon-based Nimbus Brewery introduced a new version of A-1 Beer, though I’m not sure if it’s still being brewed.

Apparently there’s also a Mobius Infused Lager that looks like a gimmicky contract beer. It appears to be a generic lager “infused with taurine, ginseng, and caffeine.” Ugh, does that sound like a bad idea.

Boolean Logic & Beer

Today would have been the 200th birthday of George Boole, the self-taught mathematician who came up with Boolean algebra and Boolean logic. He’s been called the “father of the information age” because his Boolean logic made possible modern computer science. “Boolean algebra has been fundamental in the development of digital electronics, and is provided for in all modern programming languages. It is also used in set theory and statistics.” Boolean logic is “a form of algebra in which all values are reduced to either TRUE or FALSE. Boolean logic is especially important for computer science because it fits nicely with the binary numbering system, in which each bit has a value of either 1 or 0.” How Stuff Works has a nice overview of How Boolean Logic Works.

So what does any of this have to do with beer? Practically nothing, except that Scientific American had an article yesterday about Boole to celebrate his 200th anniversary coming up today. In the piece, The Bicentennial of George Boole, the Man Who Laid the Foundations of the Digital Age, after writing about Boole’s life and contributions to the study of mathematics, the author turns to some examples of how his Boolean logic is applied in the real world in, for instance, Google searches:

Boolean algebra and Boolean logic are very well known today, and form the backbone of electrical engineering and computer science. Indeed anyone who even casually searches the Internet , say for “Michael Jackson” the late beer and whiskey expert rather than the singer and dancer of the same name, knows how to make judicious use of AND, OR and NOT.

It’s pretty cool that he picked Michael Jackson as the search topic, and it’s a good choice since it’s hard to get just beer-centric results when the more famous Michael Jackson usually tops the list unless you figure out how to filter out the king of pop. Michael used to joke that the singer was named after him, since he was older, but it must be a pain in neck for anyone who shares a name with a person more famous them themselves. Remember the character Michael Bolton in the wonderful film “Office Space?”

I reproduced the search, and got slightly different results, but pretty funny, and cool — at least from my point of view — is in both instances one of my posts was the third result.


It’s a lengthy post I did a couple of years ago, Know Your Beer Gods & Goddesses, in which I researched world cultures and created a list of gods and goddesses that had something to do with beer, discovering over 100 examples. I jokingly included an entry for Michael as the “God of Beer Writers,” so that’s why my post turns up in a search for Jackson’s name. So that made my day, nice to show up in Scientific American, however tangentially.

And just to round out the ephemeral post, I’ll leave you with a little Boolean humor:


Martin Gardner’s Beer Signs On The Highway

Today is the birthday of Martin Gardner, who was an American science and mathematics writer. For many years, beginning in 1957, he wrote a column that appeared in Scientific American. He helped popularize science, and especially math, creating hundreds of puzzles, often collected into books. He passed away in 2010, at age 95. My father-in-law was a huge fan and read most, of not all, of his books.

One of his brain teasers was called “Beer Signs on the Highway,” and originally appeared in Gardner’s column in Math Horizons, in the November 1995 issue. It was also included in the collection My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles and also New Mathematical Diversions.

my-best-mathematical-and-logic-puzzles new-diversions

So here it is:


If you think you know the answer or have worked it out, leave your answer in the comments. I’ll post the answer in a couple of days. Good luck.

And the answer is? Drumroll, please:


Could I get a proper drumroll, please?


The Answer:

We can answer this without knowing the car’s speed. If x is the number of signs that the car passes in one minute, then the car will pass 60x signs in an hour. We’re told that the car is traveling at 10x miles per hour, so in 10x miles it will pass 60x signs, and in one mile it will pass 60x/10x signs, or 6. So the signs are 1/6 mile, or 880 feet, apart.

Never Drink And Derive

No that’s not a typo. Today’s Friday frivolity is a nice mix of drinking and math. Remember people, don’t try to figure out the quadratic formula while operating heavy machinery. Once you start deriving, it’s hard to stop. I assume this will resonate with the illiterate and math-challenged among the neo-prohibitionists.


Three Logicians Walk Into A Bar …

While I had a logic class in college, and dabbled in debate, I’ve probably forgotten more than I ever learned. But I still love the notion of breaking down the thought process. My son, who’s 11 and autistic, often has trouble understanding humor. As a result, I increasingly find myself trying to explain the punchline of a joke — why it’s funny — and I’ll break it down for him. What invariably happens, of course, is that in that process, the joke is stripped of its humor and is no longer funny. For some reason, that never deters me. I’ve always had a thing for jokes and thinking about why they’re funny. If I wasn’t so damn shy I would have loved to have tried my hand at stand-up comedy back when I was a younger man. I think that’s why I loved The Aristocrats so much. Ninety minutes breaking down and re-telling one joke. What’s not to love?

So check out the comic strip below. It’s mildly amusing, at least to me. You most likely won’t laugh out loud, but you may smile, at least. But from the point of view of logic, it’s also quite correct, and instructional. It was originally posted by Spiked Math Comics, who admits he doesn’t know the strip’s original creator.


But here’s where it veers headlong into geekdom. It was picked up by a Danish University linguistics student, Emil Kirkegaard, who posted Three Logicians Walk Into a Bar: A Formal Explanation, a breakdown and analysis of the joke, complete with formulas, and explanation of the logic principles behind it.

Here’s one expressing the root problem: E↔(Wa∧Wb∧Wc)

The whole explanation is just as funny as the original strip, to me at least, in its own right and certainly does explain the joke, although if you didn’t think it was funny to begin with, this probably isn’t going to help. But us geeks have to stick together, no matter what geekworld we belong to.

Ancient Egypt, Math & Beer

Thanks to Pete Slosberg — he of the formerly wicked persuasion — for passing this along. It’s not strictly about beer, so feel free to ignore it if math and history isn’t your cup of beer. Today’s New York Times Science has a fun article, Math Puzzles’ Oldest Ancestors Took Form on Egyptian Papyrus, about how the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus contains several clever math puzzles, including some thought to be more modern and also having to do with beer.


For example, some of the puzzles “involve a pefsu, a unit measuring the strength or weakness of beer or bread based on how much grain is used to make it,” such as this one:

One problem calculates whether it’s right to exchange 100 loaves of 20-pefsu bread for 10 jugs of 4-pefsu malt-date beer. After a series of steps, the papyrus proclaims, according to one translation: “Behold! The beer quantity is found to be correct.”

Fun stuff. I wonder what “pefsu” is compared to say a.b.v.?

The Math Behind Beer Goggles

This isn’t exactly news, the effect known as “beer goggles” — where after a few pints people appear more attractive — was confirmed in 2002 and the mathematical formula was announced in 2005. Whether Matt Damon wrote it out on a hallway blackboard one late night is still not known. But How Stuff Works (under the TLC Cooking imprimatur) has a nice summary of the formula.

The first study I recall seeing was in 2002, and was conducted by the University of Glasgow. Both the BBC and the Daily Collegian had the story. Then, in 2005, researchers at the University of Manchester stumbled upon the formula for how it all works. They also discovered that “alcohol is not really the only factor affecting the drunken perception of beauty. Other factors, according to their research, include:

  • How brightly lit the area is
  • The observer’s eye-sight quality
  • The amount of smoke in the air
  • The distance of the observer from the observed

The formula is laid out below.


Here’s how to decode the formula:

  • An is the number of servings of alcohol
  • d is the distance between the observer and the observed, measured in meters
  • S is the smokiness of the area on a scale of 0 – 10
  • L is the lighting level of the area, measured in candelas per square meter, in which 150 is normal room lightning
  • Vo is Snellen visual acuity, in which 6/6 is normal and 6/12 is the lower limit at which someone is able to drive

The formula works out a “beer goggle” score ranging from 1 to 100+. When ø = 1, the observer is perceiving the same degree of beauty he or she would perceive in a sober state. At 100+, everybody in the room is a perfect 10.

And one last odd finding of the second study. “A nearsighted, sober person who isn’t wearing his or her glasses can experience a beer-goggle effect equivalent to drinking eight pints of beer.”