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NileGuide Science Tip: Fizzy Drinks Help You Understand The Bends

Active/Outdoors — By John Curran on December 8, 2010 at 10:30 am

If you’re going on a SCUBA outing in the Caribbean this winter and have been worried about the possibility of getting the bends, the soda or beer you had the night before can help you remember why you need to pause before you come up for air. It helps to think of a bottle of soda (clear bottle) that’s gone flat, according to io9. Anything that’s largely water can be pressurized with carbon dioxide or nitrogen gases, which form the nice fizz you’d normally get when you open up a bottle of whatever libation you’ve got on hand.

Without getting too much into the science of it, gases can get into liquids via either pressure or heat, or some combination of the two. So your flat soda (the whooshing sound is already gone hours ago), let the carbon dioxide fizz out. That’s the same problem that divers face with nitrogen. It gets into the bloodstream with the pressure of being underwater. If it’s not gradually released by slow ascents, the effect is the same as opening a bottle and the gas hissing out and the drink bubbling over.

While the best bet is to get a qualified SCUBA instructor to teach you how to dive properly, you can use the idea of beer and soda to help remember the concept without reading the textbooks while you’re on a dive.

[Image: Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr]

Tags: Carbonation, SCUBA safety, the bends

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