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Cosmic 'Booze' Created In Quantum Brewery 52

astroengine writes "The intense cold of interstellar space shouldn't be conducive to chemical reactions between methanol and hydroxyl radicals — two molecules that are known to exist in stellar nurseries and cold interstellar clouds — and yet the product of this reaction, methoxy radicals, are found in abundance throughout the universe. What is creating them? In a paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry (abstract), Dwayne Heard and colleagues from the University of Leeds think that interstellar alcohol is undergoing a destruction mechanism facilitated by a weird quantum effect known as tunneling. On encountering hydroxyl radicals, methanol molecules should be repelled by the electrostatic force. But at very low temperatures, when both chemicals are mixed in a cold gaseous state, quantum tunneling becomes extremely efficient at allowing chemical reactions to occur. The researchers write: 'at temperatures relevant to the interstellar medium, almost every collision between methanol and OH (hydroxyl) would result in a successful reaction to form CH3O (methoxy).' What's more, they find that the reaction rate is 50 times higher in the cold interstellar environment than it is at room temperature. 'If our results continue to show a similar increase in the reaction rate at very cold temperatures, then scientists have been severely underestimating the rates of formation and destruction of complex molecules, such as alcohols, in space,' said Heard."
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Cosmic 'Booze' Created In Quantum Brewery

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  • headache... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @03:21AM (#44162857)
    Taking quantum tunneling into account for reactions? pChem just became an even bigger headache then it already was....
  • by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @03:25AM (#44162871) Homepage
    Wasn't that already brought by Americans (burbon) and Russians (vodaka) back in the space race age?
  • That's whatever you're talking about for ya.
  • Booze? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @03:45AM (#44162953)

    I'm pretty sure you don't want to use methanol for booze.

    • Which explains the quotes around it.
    • About 20 years ago my high school chemistry teacher claimed that if you showed up at the emergency room and said you had been drinking methanol, they would actually give you a shot of ethanol ("normal" alcohol) as a treatment. Apparantly the body breaks down ethanol before methanol allowing the methanol to pass through without causing damage.
  • Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster anyone?
  • I'm exploring the galaxy.

  • weird quantum effect known as tunneling

    Is this news for nerds, or news for Luddites? If you think tunneling is "weird" instead of just "fact of life", you don't belong here in /.

    • Pretty sure something can be considered 'weird' and still a 'fact of life'.

      It's weird because its not something you would expect to be true, on a scale we normally work with such a thing is impossible.

      Seems like the only one who doesn't belong here in slashdot, is you.

  • ..God rested. And, obviously wanted a cold one, just like those made in His image.
    Q.E.D. the universe is laced with booze.

    Any other questions Intelligent Design can answer for you?

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972