Proof: The Science of Booze

Adam Rogers, Author
Adam Rogers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-547-89796-7
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“Our history with the stuff [alcohol] is our history on earth, a history of humans becoming modern, tool-using, technology-making creatures,” writes Rogers, an articles editor at Wired and a former science/technology writer for Newsweek, who more than justifies that statement in this impressively reported and entertaining work. Alcohol and its related practices really do span human existence. The arrival of distillation some 2,000 years ago “gave rise to the modern study of chemistry,” while “an economic ecosystem surrounding aged liquor represents a signal moment in the early Industrial Revolution, a mile marker on the road to a more civilized world.” But like the story of us, the story of alcohol is incomplete—scientists are still trying to identify what ethanol, a major component of alcohol, does to the body; only theories exist for what causes hangovers—and at constant odds with the past. For example, technology exists that can artificially age whiskey and other spirits. The science here can be intimidating to process, but when enjoyed in leisurely sips, Rogers’s cheeky and accessible writing style goes down smoothly, capturing the essence of this enigmatic, ancient social lubricant. (June)
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