"The Heart of the Matter"

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Week: 518.4 Guest: Joel Achenbach Topic: Fascinating Facts About the Body - One Part Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is another program on fascinating facts about the human body with Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach, author of Why Things Are and Why Things Aren't.

NEMA: Why do we get a hangover after we've been drinking?

ACHENBACH: Alcohol is a great solvent. It can go everywhere in your body that water goes and it can take with it all the little particles, little congeners they're called from an alcoholic beverage like in red wine or in rum, tequila. Vodka doesn't have as many congeners - it won't give you a hangover as bad or white wine doesn't have as many but a lot of the different spirits and wines and things and even beer have these little particles. They're toxins and they get dissolved in the alcohol and the alcohol transports it essentially to every cell in your body. That's why when you get a hangover, it's not just that your head hurts. Your whole body hurts. A hangover is like a full body nightmare and that's part of the cause. There are some other theories for it. One of them is that your body, your brain has sort of adjusted itself to cope with being drunk and when you go through withdrawal your brain is sort of set - the thermostat is set wrong and you get jittery and there's too much adrenaline pumping through your body and your whole hormone or endocrine system is set for being drunk but suddenly your not drunk anymore and so you're just shaky and so forth.

NEMA: Let's move up to the brain right now and a slightly different subject from another part of the book. This is particularly pertinent in light of the recent match between Gary Kasparov and the computer and he won. Why can't chess computers beat humans?

ACHENBACH: Eventually they will probably. Even these super giant computers like "Deep Blue" or whatever it's called don't have the ability to calculate every single possible outcome of a computer game because although it seems unlikely just from common sense, there are too many. There's so many billions and billions and billions of possibilities of what can happen from any given position on a chess board even with the great number crunching abilities of these computers, they can't go 14 moves into the future with every possible thing that could happen because it increases exponentially. If you have 20 pieces on a board at a given moment and all these different squares - there's 64 squares and there are so many things that can happen so that's part of the problem. The computer, even though it's incredibly powerful, they're not powerful enough. The other problem is that they're vulnerable to the problem of they're only as good as their programmers and in one of the Kasparov games recently, apparently the computer could have won one of those games but did not see the opening, you could say, to victory and some of the experts said well, the computer kind of blew it because the computer has to be programmed with strategy in mind and the programmers are not necessarily as good at strategy as someone like Kasparov is.

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