There are certain "scientific" topics that are almost always guaranteed to catch a non-science editor's eye and allow a science writer to grab a few column inches. Anything that talks about astronomical subjects from comet sightings to supernovae, theories of black holes and whether or not we can peer within or exploit them as so-called spacetime wormholes are cosmic dead certs. Anything that has a sexual allusion, in whatever style you fancy, the more the merrier. And, of course, drugs. Or, more specifically, those supposedly mundane and innocuous drugs that many of us imbibe if not daily then at least several times weekly - tea, coffee, and alcohol.

I recall, a few weeks ago, a friend excitedly telling me about a write-up in that day's papers explaining why you inevitably lose some of the contents of your unlidded coffee cup on the walk back from the machine to your desk. Apparently, it was all to do with the resonant frequency of the liquid in a generic cup and one's walking pace setting up a standing wave with a splash zone that takes the fluid over the rim. Well, yes, indeed. Recent research, hit the headlines. But, I'm certain that the same topic was researched and written about at least once or twice before and I vaguely recall writing about it myself on one of those occasions and grabbing a few column inches on the erstwhile science page of a parochial newspaper back in the day, long before enticing headlines were referred to as clickbait.

Tea and coffee spillage is commonplace and perhaps gets as many mentions as the rise and fall of sticky bubbles in a jammy daddy's pint of foaming ale or more cheekily these days in a yummy mummy's flute of school night prosecco. (By the way, trendy gin and tonics with chunks of cucumber instead of a slice of lemon should strictly be for Fridays and Saturdays only, except during school holidays). There has been many a night when a drinker with a scientific background might spend a boring hour or two explaining to boring barflies why bubbles do what they do in their glasses. It's a stellar conversation that occasionally warrants the addition of a peanut to take it to post-graduate level. Sometimes it might even become so heated a debate that it is taken outside where a cigarette butt may well be extinguished in an only half-drained glass. This would be much to the chagrin of the smoker who must then duck and weave to escape the conservation of momentum of the scientific boozer's fists as they attempt to increase the entropy of the smoker's teeth.

Anyway, back to the news. Latest headline and column-inch-grabbing research is about beer spillage and why a drop of liquid makes a splash. I recently discussed in Materials Today why a drop of liquid will not spread forever on a solid surface, but this new study is looking at what happens when a drop of liquid descends speedily on to a liquid surface. Apparently, a microscopically thin layer of air between falling drop and liquid surface will preclude the drop of beer simply penetrating the pint of beer, for instance. This leads to smaller droplets that become detached from the original drop and from the surface. High-speed photography will capture this moment in exquisite detail and will provide the eye candy for any good feature article about spills and thrills.

The press release discussing this particular research talks about this 1 micrometer layer of air causing dispersion and splash of a droplet as being akin to a 1 centimeter layer of air being able to prevent your average tsunami from heading up a beach. It's all theoretical work so far, undertaken by James Sprittles from the Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick, UK. Theoretical or not, it's likely fodder for an IgNobel prize, wouldn't you say?

The real-world application of Sprittles' theoretical work however, presumably lies in devising ways to reduce splash risk. Such measures might lead to more precise three-dimensional printing of tiny and delicate components with precise tolerances that would be ruined by splashing. There is also the perennial issue of splashing in tanker trucks that make those vehicles unstable as well as finding ways to improve flow efficiency in pipelines, chemical industry equipment, and fracking, one can imagine.

But, most importantly, reducing splash back is surely key to a peaceful pub and the minimization of facial entropy caused by sinister angular moment and application of clenched digital force to the lower mandible of a fellow barfly. Pub landlords and landladies really don't like to see left hooks in action in their bars, whether swung in the name of science or I hope it wasn't you...that spilled my pint.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".