June 11, 2024 at 10:22 pm

The Pitch Drop Experiment Is The World’s Longest Laboratory Experiment, And It Is Steaming Live For The World To Enjoy

by Michael Levanduski

Source: TheTenthWatch.com

Way back in 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell at the University of Queensland started what would become the longest-running laboratory experiment in the world (don’t trust us, it is confirmed by Guinness World Records).

He knew going in that he would not live to see its end results, and neither would any of his successors for many years to come.

The experiment was set up to be a demonstration of highly viscous materials, in this case, pitch (which was gathered from the distillation of coal tars).

To get things going, the professor warmed up the pitch and placed it into a sealed glass funnel. From there, he waited three years to allow it to take the shape of its container.

That’s right, it took three years just to set the experiment up.

Finally, in 1930, Parnell carefully cut the stem of the funnel so that the pitch could start to flow out the bottom.

The first drop didn’t fall for eight years because of the extreme viscosity of the pitch. Since then, another eight more drops have occurred, without anyone witnessing them live.

To hopefully ensure that the next drop will be witnessed, the University has started a 24/7 live stream of the experiment with the hope that someone will be looking when it happens.

The last drop, which occurred in 2014, was recorded with a time-lapse camera and can be seen in the video below (don’t worry, while the video was recorded over several years, it only takes about a minute to watch).

But what is the point of this experiment and why has it continued so long?

It actually has provided scientists with some interesting, and surprising, information. In fact, a team at the University wrote a paper about it.

The team said:

“The result for the viscosity from the pitch drop experiment does not agree well with the predictions based on [previous] measurements, even allowing for the enormous variation of viscosity with temperature and the rather unknown temperature history of the experiment. The probable explanation lies in the differing viscosities of different samples of pitch – these could have dissimilar proportions of trapped volatile hydrocarbons and this would affect viscosity.”

To put it simply, they are trying to explain why the pitch is dripping at a significantly different rate than they would have expected.

While we don’t know when this experiment is going to end, we do know that it will outlive us all. The next drip, however, will likely take place sometime in the next 8 years.

Source: TheTenthWatch.com

If you would like to stream it live and see if you can be lucky enough to witness a drip nearly 100 years in the making, The University of Queensland has created a website called “The Tenth Watch” (since they are waiting for the 10th drip). You can watch it here.

Sometimes science really is boring.

If you thought that was interesting, you might like to read about a quantum computer simulation that has “reversed time” and physics may never be the same.