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There is quite a story to tell about how it is that every week the AOPE department has a informal meeting where many of the scientific/technical people will get around a table and talk about all manner of things. Sandy Williams can tell this story best, so I'm going to ask him to relay the tale via email which will then be posted here.

The topics of conversation at these meetings range from scientific data analysis to instrumentation to computer issues to, wait for it, how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew.

Larry Connor, a Postdoc within the department, commented a few months ago that he heard the reason why wine bottles were shaped the way they were (with the tapered neck and the strong base) was so that you could open a bottle by pounding it on a strong hard surface (such as wood, not cement).

Of course, there was much amusement and hypothesizing as to whether or not this would actually work, so being scientists, we decided to investigate further.

Two days later, Larry brought in a cheap bottle of wine that could be sacraficed. We all went out behind Bigelow building and Larry, wearing appropriate safety gear, boldy went where no doubt few have bothered to go before.

What follows are a series of images that Hanu Singh took with his digital camera to save the event for posterity.

Tree inspection

Todd Morrison and Larry are inspecting the tree to make sure there are no sharp edges (nails) that could cause potential hazard. Notice Larry is wearing gloves and protective glasses.

Before Image

Once the tree has been inspected, Larry poses proudly as a hopeful "Before" image. Time will tell whether or not the experiment will be a success. Todd is covering his eyes since Larry had the only glasses available at the time.


Larry's system was to hold the bottle tightly by the neck and gently pound the base against the tree. It turned out that this didn't seem to make much of an impact, so to speak, on the cork position. An increasing amount of force was used until....


Ahhhh, it works!!! As you can see, there is a build-up of air beneath the cork. The operating theory as to why this happens is that a combination of shockwaves being focussed towards the cork-end of the bottle, in combination with the agitation of the existing air contained within, builds up enough pressure to ease the cork out.

It took several more pounds before the end result was achieved:

The Victor

Larry, proudly holding his cork and bottle. Science has once again served WHOI well. As to what happened to the bottle of wine, no comment.

This page thrown together by Scott A. McIntyre