I want to talk about a shirt. Specifically, I want to talk about this shirt:
It happens to be one of many Awesome ThinkGeek Shirts. If you are reading this post, then A) you’ve probably already heard of ThinkGeek, and B) there’s a good chance you know what the molecule on that shirt is.
If neither A) nor B) applies to you, though – that’s okay! Because I plan to discuss 1) what the molecule represents, 2) which school I think the shirt is poking fun at, and why it’s of personal interest to me, and 3) what the molecule has to do with schooling, anyway.
This will be fun…
1. I don’t like to beat around the bush. The molecule is ethanol.
Look, Wikpedia says so: I’ll just hope that you, dear reader, have taken a chemistry class at some point in time, and I just want to remind you that anytime you have a bunch of carbons and hydrogens with an -OH sticking off of it (like in the figure below), it’s often an alcohol of some sort. And the name of the alcohol will very likely end with the suffix “-ol.”
But I want to be really clear on something: the only alcohol you should actually consume (if you choose to consume alcohol) is ethanol. ETHANOL, people. Drinking methanol can cause permanent blindness, unconsciousness, and death. Forty percent of the methanol in the world is used to make formaldehyde, which is the stuff used to embalm dead people and pets and such. So that’s not what you want. Propanol is thought to be 2-4 times as potent as ethanol, so I don’t think you want to go the propanol route either. Just…stick to ethanol, if anything. You don’t want to be this guy:
2. Look at this logo again:
Observe the bold, striking crimson inside the oval. See the golden leaves of some sort, hugging the oval tenderly. Note, if you will, the abundance of H‘s, and how the letters are connected by cute little lines.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Well, now look at this logo:
Observe the bold, striking crimson inside the shield. See the golden leaves of some sort, hugging the shield tenderly. Note, if you will, that the school represented is the most popular school worldwide that starts with the letter H, and how the letters of the motto are connected with cute little lines.
Am I wrong in thinking that the Awesome ThinkGeek Shirt above is inspired in some part by the logo for Harvard University? I think not. And, well…this tickles me to no end because I’m currently a PhD candidate at Harvard (I refuse to accept any cool points for this). And although some might think there’s irony in using the symbol of hoity-toity Harvard to make a play on alcohol…it’s not as ironic as you might think.
Ever heard of “work hard, play hard”? From what I’ve observed, Harvard students party like students at most other campuses. As an example, I point you to this list of 15 Harvard Drinking Games. Yeah, so, we’re not the most uncool school in the world, and we’re not unfamiliar with the world of alcohol consumption and the concept of beer blankets and whatnot. I mean, you watched The Social Network , right?
3. Let’s talk about higher education and alcohol consumption. For many young people, going off to college is their first time being completely out from under Mom’s and Dad’s thumbs, and with that comes self-discovery, all types of life lessons, and a ridiculous amount of drinking. Beer pong. Flip cup. You know what I’m talking about.
A study out of the University of Florida and Texas A&M found some strikingly obvious facts about what influences students to drink:
1. Emotional status. A “bad day at work” or “boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them” can impact a student’s drinking behavior, particularly in the direction of drinking more.
2. Monetary considerations. Excess cash means more drinks; less cash means fewer drinks. (Mind. Blown.)
3. Surrounding environment. If you’re with your best buddies, you’ll drink more. If you’re with a bunch of sketchy strangers who might slip something into your drink, you’ll drink less.
4. Drinking games. As I alluded to before, drinking games go with the college drinking scene like brooms go with Quidditch. One student participant gives a poignant explanation, in his own words: “this person says that they can do this many shots, well then I have to one up that. I cannot let that person out show me.” No, he’d never live it down if someone got drunker than him.
5. Other people. If someone buys a round of shots for everyone at the bar, you’re more likely to drink (direct effect). If you’re at a frat party where you know that drinking is the theme of the general environment, you’re more likely to drink (indirect effect).
Koehrer P, Creuzot-Garcher C, & Bron AM (2011). Methanol poisoning: two case studies of blindness in Indonesia. International ophthalmology, 31 (6), 517-24 PMID: 22200859
Rajamani A (2012). Two cases of toxic methanol ingestion, one leading to brain death: case reports and a brief review. Critical care and resuscitation : journal of the Australasian Academy of Critical Care Medicine, 14 (1), 56-9 PMID: 22404063
Cascallana JL, Gordo V, & Montes R (2012). Severe necrosis of oesophageal and gastric mucosa in fatal methanol poisoning. Forensic science international, 220 (1-3) PMID: 22398189
Barry AE, & Goodson P (2012). Contextual Factors Influencing U.S. College Students’ Decisions to Drink Responsibly. Substance use & misuse, 47 (10), 1172-84 PMID: 22662910