Okay, so the topic of nitrogen may not be the most exciting one in the world. You’ll rarely win the favor of friends, family, and perspective mates by discussing the hydrolysis of adenosine triphosphate into inorganic phosphate and adenosine diphosphate.
On the other hand, nitrogen makes up over 78% of our atmosphere, and is absolutely essential for most of the life on this planet. That’s what I call important, if not necessarily riveting.
And if you are into Molecular gastronomy or molecular cuisine, you know that liquid nitrogen is an important component. My daughter’s friend, Alice, attends Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. The science department in conjunction with their students and food services decided to celebrate culinary innovation by using molecular cuisine for their main cafeteria. The participating student chefs were to dress up as Albert Einstein look-a-likes on the day the molecular gastronomy cuisine was to be served. My daughter and Alice spent several days searching online wigs sites looking for a wig style that Alice could wear. They finally found an online store that sold Jon Renau wigs. This particular e commerce wig store offered well made clearance wigs at really reduced prices. Alice decided that if she was going to have to buy a Albert Einstein type wig, that instead of buying a silly looking Halloween type wig, she would spend a little more money and get one she could use for other purposes. We all went to eat lunch at the newly renovated Miley Cafeteria that had been transformed into a wild and crazy mad scientist food lab. The food was transformed into delicious molecular gastronomy cuisine using not only liquid Nitrogen but also such additives as carrageenan, maltodextrin and xanthan. Alice looked great in her Jon Renau “Albert Einstein” wig as she help serve the home made popcorn ice cream.
Nitrogen is a common molecular component of many organic compounds, many involved in health care. For example, the resurgence of sexually transmitted disease has created an opportunity for medical testing companies that offer online kits for private home std testing. Nitrogen plays a large role in the effectiveness of such tests in that the reagents used all contain sophisticated organic compounds that permit isolation of the disease markers and enable the rapid response features that these tests require.
If you’re the type that likes explosions, listen up: nitrogen is responsible for some very big bangs. You’ve probably heard of nitroglycerin? This is a compound that, like any number of celebrities I could name, is extremely unstable, and explodes onto the scene to make a very loud noise (for a very brief period).
If you’re more of a drinker, then you might know that nitrogen is responsible for the smaller bubbles and generally smoother, headier consistency of certain modern stouts and ales. But we caution you to keep your drinking of those nitrogen stouts and ales under control. Excessive drinking is simply destructive to not only the individual but to the community at large. We all probably know someone who has attended AA meetings or been in rehab, but has continued to drink excessively. Failure rates are high. However, there are other approaches to helping people take control of their alcohol use. Today there are medications such as Baclofen and Naltrexone that help eliminate the craving for alcohol. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the neuroreceptors in the brain from receiving the endorphins that are released when one drinks alcohol. Baclofen removes or strongly suppresses cravings for alcohol in 92% of people. It is these strong cravings that are the #1 reason people have difficulty cutting back or quitting drinking.
A friend recently started such a treatment found at an online site called LifeBac. Their modern methods of combining medication to remove cravings, with behavior change to rewire habits help people rebuild their lives, their careers, and their health. LifeBac is not a rehab or treatment clinic, but a collection of modern, science-based tools to empower people to take control of their drinking without the requirement of abstinence or “recovery”. That’s right. The LifeBac approach allows a person to drink their nitrogen rich alcohol while he/she gradually and naturally reduces their drinks per day. And once a person reaches safe levels, they can continue to enjoy drinking or quit entirely. I can vouch that this approach worked for my friend.
Further on the intoxication scale, nitrogen is the main ingredient in alkaloid plants, responsible for morphine, cocaine, codeine, magic mushrooms, etc. The marketplace likes nitrogen. Many companies make huge profits from nitrogen and products that use nitrogen. We probably all know of someone who has a drinking problem, been to AA meetings or rehab, and still continues to drink excessively.
Who would think that corporate gifts have anything in common with nitrogen. Read and discover. It is very likely that some corporate gifts such luxury gift baskets filled to overflowing with all sorts of savory and sweet delicacies and sent to offices for holiday celebrations will be festooned with nitrogen filled balloons. In corporate gifts that include modern stouts and ales along with other goodies nitrogen also would be present even without nitrogen filled balloons. Professional breweries “nitrogenate” their beer by chilling the beer to 32° F and forcing nitrogen into the beer under extremely high pressure. “Nitrogenation” helps brewers re-create the smooth feel and thick head of cask ales. So raise your glass to nitrogen the next time you have a great Draught Guinness or Murphy’s Irish Stout, or Boddington’s Ale. If you receive a corporate gift basket with a gift certificate to a cutting edge restaurant that uses molecular gastronomy, you very well may enjoy unctuous ice creams whose creaminess is obtained thanks to the small size of the ice crystals formed during cooling with liquid nitrogen. And liquid nitrogen also makes it possible to freeze alcohol to make original cocktails, which are not possible with traditional freezing techniques. All you foodies owe a salute to nitrogen!
For you divers, there’s also nitrogen narcosis — basically, getting drunk on the stuff. Nitrous oxide gives pretty much the same exact effect (not that I’d know, of course. All of those balloons were for my second job as a clown). Underwater explorers and flyers alike also have to deal with nitrogen bubbles forming in the body, which commonly known as “the bends” and may be the most painful thing that a human being can experience…