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Makes watching paint dry seem dizzying

Have you heard of the Pitch Drop Experiment? It’s the longest-running ongoing lab experiment EVER.

Pitch, like what they put on the hulls of ships, seems like a solid at room temperature. Even brittle. But it ain’t. It’s a very, very viscous liquid, 100 billion times more viscous than water.

To demonstrate this, Thomas Parnell, University of Queensland’s first Professor of Physics, made a thing. In 1927, he heated some pitch and poured it into a sealed glass funnel. After three years – I guess he wanted to make very, very sure it was cool – he snipped the end of the funnel off and waited. And waited. And waited.

It has taken eight to thirteen years for each drop to fall. It’s a demonstration, not a proper experiment, so it isn’t in an environmentally-controlled environment. Meaning, it makes faster progress when it’s hot out.

Nobody has ever seen a drop fall. Per the link above: “In the 86 years that the pitch has been dripping, various glitches have prevented anyone from seeing a drop fall.” I don’t know what ‘glitches’ happen outside computers, I merely repeat what I have read.

But you might see it! It has a webcam! The ninth drip fell in 2014, so only another two to eleven years to go on Tenth Watch.

I know what I’m doing this weekend. Have a good one!

March 19, 2021 — 7:16 pm
Comments: 6