The Hangover Hypothesis

With festival season well and truly upon us, the cider is flowing – and the hangovers demons are gearing up for another busy summer!

A greasy fry up? Hair of the dog? Or Irn Bru from a glass bottle?

There’s a multitude of methods for tackling that sair heid the morning after. But what’s the surest way of checking out of Hangover Hotel?  And why do we get hangovers in the first place? Does science hold the answer?


The truth is, there’s a lot that scientists still don’t understand about hangovers.  Dr Joris Verster of Utrecht University remarks: “This lack of scientific interest is remarkable, since almost everybody is familiar with the unpleasant hangover effects that may arise the day after an evening of excessive drinking, and with the ways these symptoms may affect performance of planned activities”.

[Top tip: NEVER arrange to play a game of badminton on an Addlestones-induced hangover. Trust me.]

The most commonly held belief is that hangovers are caused by dehydration, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support this. An alternative and more compelling hypothesis is that hangovers result from the buildup of acetaldehyde. This toxic compound is produced when alcohol breaks down in the liver; it is estimated to be 10 to 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself! Studies have linked it to a range of symptoms, from sweating to headaches and vomiting. Sound familiar?

The severity of a hangover is influenced by a range of factors, including the number of drinks (no sh*t!) and the type of alcohol consumed (as illustrated in the graph below, from Verster, 2008).


Hangover severity relating to number of drinsks and type of alcohol consumed. Read the full paper at:

So what can you do to circumvent that hangover from hell?

Some symptoms may be actually related to sleep duration and quality, rather than the alcohol itself.  Getting a good night’s sleep after a heavy night might be a good first, preventative step.

Last year, Professor David Knutt hit the headlines when he identified a compound that could mimic the effects of alcohol but with a much lower toxicity. Is hangover-free booze the future? This research is still very much in its infancy and it may be some time before synthetic alcohol makes it to your pint glass.

Until then, Glasgow Science Festival is here to help. We’ve partnered up with our pals in the east, Edinburgh International Science Festival for a special event to stretch, slurp and scoff your hangover into submission.

The Hangover Hypothesis comes to DRAM! on Saturday 7th June. The £10 ticket price includes a full cooked breakfast (veggie option available), Bloody Mary cocktail and a healthy dose of science – bargain!  Bring your hangover along from 2-3.30pm. Book online.


Images of Research

A picture speaks a thousand words. Science meets art at The University of Strathclyde’s new exhibition “Images of Research”, which comes to Glasgow Science Festival next month. Rachel Clark tells us more. 

Image by Guy Hinks.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Rachel Clark, I am a Project Manager at the University of Strathclyde tasked with engaging businesses, organisations and the public in partnering with the University.  I’ve worked in this role for four years, moving on from a research post in the drug discovery group.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

This is the first year I’ve been involved with the festival so I’m very excited to be part of such an amazing range of events.  I’m displaying this year’s “Images of Research” at The Lighthouse, 6th – 8th June.  I hope the eye-catching array of images submitted by University staff and students will inspire you to learn more about the research we do at the University and how it benefits wider society.  It’s a competition so make sure you vote for your favourite shortlisted entry here and register for the event to see who’s won!

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

When you’re walking around the city don’t forget to look up – the buildings are fantastic!

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

Oooft – you’re on my favourite subject now – I couldn’t possibly decide so why don’t you visit one of the Farmer’s Markets at Queens Park or Dumbarton Road (find out more) and taste a range of local produce.  Don’t forget to check out the best coffee you’ll ever taste by Matthew Algie at various locations including Tinderbox.

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

Anhydrous copper II sulphate turns warm and blue when you add water, I still remember that from my first chemistry set!

Images of Research comes to The Lighthouse from 6-8th June and is free to drop-in. You can vote for your favourite image until 31st May and book to attend the awards ceremony on 6th June.  

Wind energy, a pint and a panel debate

To some, they are grotesque scars on our landscape. To others, they are the future of Scotland’s energy production. But how do wind turbines actually work? And how has science and technology informed the renewable energy sector? On Thursday 12th June, Glasgow Science Festival attendees will have the chance to pitch their questions to a panel of wind energy experts for a special event in The Admiral Bar. Jethro Dowell gave us the lowdown.


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jethro Dowell. I am a research student at the University of Strathclyde in the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and it is my job to work out how to better predict renewable electricity generation, which can be very difficult when the weather is involved!

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Wind energy is a hot topic that polarises opinions and divides communities. Both sides of the debate rely on science and engineering to make their arguments. The Glasgow Science Festival is the perfect platform for experts to publicly debate the issues with each other and the public, and to highlight the importance of science and engineering in society today.

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

Explore as much as possible! Glasgow has a rich history that can be seen in the city’s architecture, art galleries and museums. There is a great panoramic view from the top of The Lighthouse right in the city centre.

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

I have a sweet tooth so I has to be Scottish tablet, and a nice peaty whisky… though probably not together!

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

As I write there are 6 people living in space …and 3 of them have been there for half a year!

Discover the science behind wind technology at Scotland’s Future: The Wind Turbine’s Arms in The Admiral Bar on Thursday 12th June. Have a pint and pitch your questions to experts working in the field. You can tweet your questions in advance of the event @GlasgowSciFest or email

The funny side of science

On Monday 9th June, everyone’s favourite clever comedy night Bright Club is coming to The Admiral for a Glasgow Science Festival special, hosted by funny biologist and TV presenter Simon Watt. The show will coincide with Universities Week (9-15 June), with events taking place across the country to inspire the public about research.

On the night, six scientists and engineers will present their research through the medium of stand-up comedy! Brian Morton is one such performer, who’s doing Bright Club for the first time.


Who are you and what do you do?

I am a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. I am an Immunologist and my work is focused on identifying important molecules associated with the chronic inflammation seen in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Having recently moved to Glasgow to pursue a career in biomedical research, Glasgow Science Festival affords me the opportunity to experience the city from a different perspective and to explore the interface between science, history and the arts. As a publicly-funded researcher, Bright Club offers a unique platform from which I can engage with the public about my research.

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

Experience a whisky tasting event directly before attending the Lawn Bowling; it will make the spectator experience infinitely more enjoyable.

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

There is a lot to be said for a late night Scooby Snack. By finishing one you feel like you’ve achieved something great.

I like to wash that down with a nice can of Vitamin T (Read: My flatmate works for Tennent’s and would disown me for publicly endorsing another brand).

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

An electron driving down the motorway was pulled over by the police for speeding.

The policeman asked him, “Have you any idea how fast you were going?”

The electron replied, “No, but I can tell you where I am.”

Watch Brian, Simon Watt and five other funny academics take to the stage on Monday 9th June at The Admiral Bar, Waterloo Street. Tickets are available online, book here.

Mhairi, malaria and talking science

From parasite-themed crafts to life drawing classes, who says science can’t be creative? We spoke to Dr Mhairi Stewart, a malaria expert, writer and self-confessed comic geek about why she enjoys sharing her science with others.


Who are you and what do you do?

Dr Mhairi Stewart. Post-doctoral researcher WTCMP. I study the sex life of the malaria parasite.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I really enjoy taking part in the festival and telling the public about my research in a fun way. I hope to give people from 5 to 105 a better idea of what we do in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology, and our audience also gives me a new perspective on my research. Often the most straightforward of questions can be the most challenging, so I love it when people ask me about what we do.

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

There is so much science and art in Glasgow make sure you look into the smaller venues too. There are all sorts of wee out of the way museums that are fascinating and free, like the Hunterian Zoology Museum. Also, look up. Even in the city centre the architecture is stunning, just look above the shop fronts.

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

Haggis and Froach. Or maybe Cranachan and a wee nip of whisky.

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

Malaria, a single celled creature, uses the same proteins as we do to develop as a zygote.

Also, a single gram of human poo contains the remains of more bacteria than there are humans on the planet.

Meet Mhairi and friends for fun science at Kelvingrove Musuem on 7th and 8th June, parasite-themed crafts at Crafty Critters on 11th and 14th June and a science-themed art class with Under the Skin: Still Life on 15th June, with specimens from the Hunterian Zoology Museum.  All events are free and drop-in.

Malts and Molecules

This year’s Glasgow Science Festival is packed with tasty ways to explore science. On the festival’s opening night on 5th June, Malts and Molecules will serve up an array of molecular-paired canapés, taste experiments, delicious drams and molecular cocktails to guests in The Corinthian. We spoke to Ewan Henderson who’s leading the event, in collaboration with scientists from Glasgow Polyomics.


Who are you and what do you do?

Ewan Henderson of Scotch Broth Events, we create sensory food & drink experiences with molecular whisky pairings to make events more memorable. Interests include anything molecular, volatile, distilled, cutting edge, techie stuff and artisans.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Glasgow is my hometown and after speaking at other science festivals I thought it was time to bring my science event home. We’re the first to bring together the avant-garde, science, Scotch, tech and Scottish produce into one big sensory broth!

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

Top tip for visitors would be to go local and seek out one of our great whisky bars, Glasgow is the epicentre of the Scotch whisky industry don’t you know. Or if you have time take a local distillery tour like Auchentoshan or Glengoyne.

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

My favourite food has to be Scottish seafood especially shellfish, try some smoked mussels from Kintyre and a glass of Scotch whisky of course!

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

I always forget jokes, so how about this; lignins in oak used to make barrels are made of the same molecules as lignins in grape stalks – the grape & the grain has a natural link.

Join Ewan and friends for the full Malts and Molecules experience on Thursday 5th June, 7-9pm at The Corinthian. Tickets are £40 and available online.

Cool science. Brrr!

Science Sunday on 15th June will showcase some of the amazing scientific research happening right on our doorstep, with hands-on activities and shows to entertain visitors of all ages and interests. We interviewed physicist Steven Thomson, whose show “Colder Than Scotland” will feature throughout the day. 


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Steven Thomson and I’m a PhD student researching theoretical condensed matter physics at the University of St Andrews. I study the quantum mechanics of how materials behave at ultra-low temperatures close to absolute zero (-273C) to try to understand what makes Nature tick.

In particular, I work on disorder and impurities in materials – we live in an imperfect world, but if we’re clever we can make use of imperfections in materials to improve their properties and design better, stronger materials of the future.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’ve taken part in other Scottish science festivals before, but somehow never Glasgow Science Festival. I’m looking forward to finally rectifying this oversight! It’s a beautiful university and a wonderful city and I can’t wait to be a part of the festival.

With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, Glasgow is gearing up to welcome the world. What’s your top tip for visitors?

Bring an umbrella!

Favourite Scottish food and drink?

I discovered a fantastic Scottish dessert last year called a cranachan – I’d definitely recommend that anyone who hasn’t tried one should give it a go! As for Scottish drinks, it’s got to be a smoky Islay whisky for the grownups and a tot of Irn Bru for the weans.

Impress us with your favourite science fact. Or joke.

Did you know that nanotechnology has been around for a millennium? The first (accidental) use of nanotechnology was over a thousand years ago, during the Crusades. In a method lost to history, Damascus swordsmiths unknowingly stumbled upon the secret of building extraordinarily strong swords – carbon nanotubes! Even with all our tools and knowledge, modern science still can’t replicate this feat.

Join Steven for his show “Colder Than Scotland” as part of Science Sunday on 15th June. The show is free and drop-in. For show times, please visit our website.