Unexpectedly Intriguing!
28 March 2014
Alcohol-based beverages - Source: niaaa.nih.gov

Suppose for a moment that you were planning to enjoy some alcohol-based beverages during your lunch. But you also have to be on top of your game once you go back to your office, and certainly by the time that big meeting where you will be making a key presentation rolls around.

Do you know when to say when?

That's a subject that Adam Kucharski explored in looking for useful bits of math that can really be applied in everyday situations. He explains how we might go about resolving the question with the kind of math you should have learned in that dreaded Algebra class:

Sobriety (or lack thereof) is measured via the level of alcohol in the blood. One way to estimate blood alcohol content (BAC) is to use the Widmark formula, which was originally concocted by EMP Widmark, a Swedish doctor, in the 1930s.

If you weigh W kilos, and have consumed A units of alcohol at a lunch that started T hours before 5pm, your estimated blood alcohol content is:

BAC = (0.967 x A) / (W x C) - (0.017 x T)

(Here 0.967 adjusts for the level of water in the blood, 0.017 represents the amount of alcohol you burn off over time and C adjusts for body composition – it equals 0.58 for the average man and 0.49 for a woman.)

Now that we've shown you the math, let's next consider what might be the most difficult part to work out to make it useful - just what is a "standard" drink where alcoholic beveridges are involved?

We found the following chart posted at the U.S. National Institute of Health:

Standard Drinks by Type of Beverage

And then, we made it easy to apply this math through the following tool (click here to access it on our site) - just enter the relevant information, and we'll let you know what your blood alcohol level will likely be by the time you indicate you want to know (and to find out what it might peak at, enter zero for the number of hours).

Your Personal Data
Input Data Values
Select your sex: Male or Female
Enter your weight [lb]
How many "standard" units of alcohol (see chart) will you consume?
How many hours have passed since you stopped consuming alcohol?
What is the legal blood alcohol limit for operating an automobile in your jurisdiction?

How Much Should You Drink?
Calculated Results Values
Estimated Blood Alcohol Content
The Bottom Line

Our "Bottom Line" comment focuses on several key levels for your potential blood alcohol content, but if you would like to know more about how you might be negatively impaired for various levels of excessive alcohol consumption, we'll turn your attention to the experts at Clemson University.

Otherwise, enjoy your lunch!

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