Hey, did you know that when Coca-Cola first launched, its two main ingredients were caffeine and cocaine? Yep. Party hard. “Coca” came from the coca leaf, where you get cocaine, and “Cola” came from the kola nut, where you get caffeine (the “K” changed to a “C” for marketing purposes). Similarly, the most popular drink in the wasteland of Fallout is Nuka-Cola because it’s made with caffeine and the products of nuclear reactions. We’ve talked about the health effects of drinking Nuka-Cola on Because Science before, but never about why some versions of the drink look so alluring. Nuka-Cola Quantum glows a brilliant blue, but why?
In my latest Because Science, we’re looking at the physics of the fabulous soft drink. We can’t assume that the makers of the Fallout series get all their physics right, so we need to start with some basic questions. Can nuclear radiation make things glow, and if so, water, and if so, can it glow blue? (Oh god I sound like the narrator of Ancient Aliens now.) It turns out that there is a surprisingly simple explanation for why Nuka-Cola Quantum looks the way it does–if you worked in a nuclear power plant you would see the science behind it every day.
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