Palcohol — the new powdered form of alcohol — is something that slipped by my radar when media reports began breaking about it a few months back. I don’t drink a whole lot, so it’s not the sort of thing I’m likely to pay attention to. When it becomes available, I may buy some as a curiosity, but I’m not likely to buy a lot.
I stumbled across a month old Gawker article on the stuff this morning. I read that, then I Googled “Palcohol” and read more, and I visited the Palcohol website. Basically, I did what we sometimes like to pretend that the media does: I researched the topic. And by “research,” I really mean I sat on my ass and typed some shit into Google and read a little tiny bit. It’s generous to call this sort of activity “research,” but whatever.
The media doesn’t research things, however. They are only interested in sexing up headlines to score maximum hits. And if Senator Charles Schumer researches anything, it’s how he can exploit sexed-up headlines to gain a few easy votes.
Schumer and the media are all in a tizzy that Palcohol will bring about the apocalypse. “Children might eat it!” they wail. “Teenagers will snort it like cocaine! It’ll make it easy to dope someone’s drink at a party! And … and … what about the children!!! And the polar bears!!!” The image of Palcohol being presented by these bloviators is one of a magical dust that can be casually sprinkled onto someone’s food or, for fuck’s sake … snorted!
Senator Charles Schumer might be surprised to learn that alcohol is matter, and that matter has mass and occupies space. See that picture there of George Jetson about to eat his food pill? That’s science fiction, Senator Schumer! It ain’t real! A meal cannot be compressed into a little tiny pill, and likewise alcohol cannot be compressed into a fairy dust that can be snorted or casually sprinkled into someone’s beverage. These things are science fucking fiction. Get with the program!
From what I can tell from my “research,” (i.e. sitting on my ass and reading), Palcohol is a solvate of a sugar known as a cyclodextrin. The exact identity of the specific cyclodextrin used, I don’t know. But there is nothing particularly Earth-shattering about these carbohydrates. Solvates are generally crystalline substances in which a liquid solvent has been incorporated into the crystal lattice. They are common, especially when the solvent is water, in which case we usually call them hydrates. They are all around us, in places most people would never expect. Epsom salt, for example, is a heptahydrate of magnesium sulfate, meaning there are seven water molecules per molecule of magnesium sulfate. Blue copper sulfate, commonly purchased in hardware stores as a root killer for septic tanks, is a pentahydrate. You can spread out some copper sulfate crystals on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake it in the oven to drive off the water. Four water molecules come off easily; the fifth is more tightly bound and takes a bit more heat. What you’ll end up with is a very fine white powder. It will be so fine, as a result of the original crystals of copper sulfate pentahydrate breaking down, that you need to be careful not to blow on it and spread it around the kitchen. Put some of this fine white powder on a dish and add a few drops of water. Where the water hits, the copper sulfate will turn blue again as the pentahydrate is reformed, and a lot of heat will be given off. [Yes, I’ve done this, many decades ago. And yes, I accidentally blew on it.]
That was your lesson on solvates and hydrates. The point is this: No matter what process is used to make Palcohol, the mass of the product is going to be greater (probably double) than the mass of an equivalent amount of alcohol. There is NO WAY to get around this, outside of science fiction. Do you think you can snort an entire box of baking soda up your nose? Would you want to try? Because that’s basically what you would have to do in order to snort enough Palcohol to get drunk.
Freelance “journalist” Jessica Firger wrote in a CBS News article:
Palcohol is simply freeze-dried alcohol in powder form, packaged in small packets that promise an easy way to take a stiff drink on the go.
WTF? I guess she hasn’t learned those Google skills I talked about earlier. No, Palcohol is not “freeze-dried,” for starters. If it were, it would be alcohol free, since alcohol would be removed along with water by the process of freezing and evacuative sublimation that is freeze-drying. Secondly, the language that she uses, “packaged in small packets” gives the misleading impression that somehow the mass of the alcohol is reduced to something that can fit into a little tiny packet, like a packet of sugar. Is anybody going to get shit-faced from a half-teaspoon of alcohol? Probably not.
Anyone interested in the truth on this subject should consider watching the video on the product, narrated by its creator, Mark Phillips. You can find it on Youtube or on the Palcohol website. Oh … I know what you’re going to say:
That video is PROPAGANDA created by EVIL GREEDY CORPORATISTS! I’m not going to watch that video, man! Palcohol is alien technology! It’s the secret ingredient that’s sprayed in CHEMTRAILS on the unsuspecting masses to keep the people down! It’s all part of the Bilderberg conspiracy! And what about the children!!! And the polar bears and shit!?
The truth is that even Mark Phillips can’t trump fundamental chemistry, math, and physics. His product isn’t magical, and it isn’t going to lead to the end of civilization.