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Do Carbonated Drinks Go Flat Quicker on Their Sides?

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by James Hunt

From Coca-Cola to carbonated water, there isn't a fizzy drink around that tastes better once it has gone flat. As soon as you break the seal on the bottle, it's a race against time to finish off your soft drink before the precious bubbles that make the drink taste better are depleted. The last thing you want to do is speed up that process. 

That's why we had to know: Does laying a bottle on its side make a soft drink go flat more quickly? Or is it nothing more than a consequence-free way to cram more and more of them in the fridge?

To figure out the answer, you first have to understand why fizzy drinks go flat at all. The carbonation in soft drinks is a result of additional carbon dioxide being dissolved into the liquid, which is then sealed under pressure. When the container is opened, the difference in pressure allows the carbon dioxide to form into bubbles, which then rush to the surface and escape back into the air. As each bubble bursts, the drink becomes a little less fizzy.

This process can theoretically continue until the drink contains the same amount of carbon dioxide as the atmosphere around it—though the drink will seem flat long before that point.

So does it matter if the container is on its side?

The answer: Not really. While it's true that a bottle that is lying down will have a greater area of contact between the liquid and the air inside the bottle, that's a small enough factor that any effect on the speed of carbon dioxide dissolution will be negligible. Since carbon dioxide bubbles form, or  "nucleate," on the side of the bottle, increasing the surface area between the drink and the air might actually make it go flat slightly slower if the bottle is on its side—but again, this effect isn't pronounced enough to make much of a difference over anything other than very short time scales.

What really matters when it comes to keeping a drink fizzy is the pressure inside a sealed container. As the carbon dioxide escapes, it builds up the pressure in the air within the bottle, until it's high enough to prevent bubbles forming, which keeps the liquid fizzy. The pressure inside an opened bottle of soda that has been resealed is virtually the same, whether or not it's standing up or on its side.

Things that do help keep drinks fizzy include chilling (carbon dioxide dissolves into air more readily at higher temperatures) and screwing the cap on tightly to help keep the pressure within the bottle high.

Squeezing the bottle doesn't help, unless you keep it squeezed until the next time it's opened—otherwise, the carbon dioxide will just escape the liquid and deform the bottle back to its original shape. Indeed, the fact that there's no air inside the bottle will effectively suck extra carbon dioxide out of the drink in an attempt to equalize pressure inside the container, so squeezing the bottle actually makes the drink go flat more quickly than the alternative.

And finally, those repressurizing pumps? They'll only work if you pump in something that contains more carbon dioxide than the drink. Air doesn't, so the extra air you pump in creates a high-pressure mix of mostly oxygen and nitrogen, which—if anything—helps forcibly displace the carbon dioxide in the drink by encouraging oxygen and nitrogen to dissolve.

Whew. Knowing all that, the main tip for keeping your drink from going flat before you finish it? Keep it cold until you're ready to drink it, then chug it down. Your dentists and doctors might not thank us, but your taste buds will.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
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How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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This Concrete Block Makes a Fine Espresso
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Have you ever thought your kitchen could use more of a Soviet Union vibe? Do you find the fixtures in abandoned buildings charming? Then the AnZa espresso machine—essentially a coffee maker encased in a concrete block—may be for you.

According to Curbed, the AnZa is part of the art and installation aesthetic dubbed Brutalism, an architectural movement using spare, blocky designs. Moving away from the sleek, shiny appearance of most modern appliances, design firm Montaag crafted a rough block with simple knobs. As post-apocalyptic as it may look, it’s reputed to make a very good cup of espresso. And it’s “smart”: a smartphone app can adjust the brewing temperature to the user’s preference.

A close-up of the AnZa's knob

The project’s Kickstarter recently met its $145,000 goal and is now accepting preorders at Indiegogo for $799. You can hoist this subjectively beautiful appliance on your countertop beginning in March 2018.

[h/t Curbed]


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