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Old 06-04-2002, 11:30 AM   #1
Undertoad
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6/4/2002: The pitch-drop experiment



It doesn't look like much, but what you have there is a scientific experiment that has been in progress since 1927.

Pitch, a derivative of tar, is very much like a solid, but a Queensland scientist wanted to prove that it has "fluidic" properties. In other words, that it flows like water. It just has an extremely high viscosity.

So, in 1927, he heated some pitch and put it into a glass funnel. He let the pitch "settle" for three years, and then in 1930 he cut the bottom off the funnel. And then the pitch began to drip.

In December 1938, the first drop fell.
February 1947, the second.
April 1954, the third.
May 1962, the fourth.
August 1970, the fifth.
April 1979, the sixth.
July 1988, the seventh.

And recently, the eighth drop fell. Amazingly, nobody has ever seen a drop actually fall. They had a webcam on it for the last drop, but there was a glitch during the actual drop...!

The full story:

http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/pitchdrop/pitchdrop.shtml
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Old 06-04-2002, 12:25 PM   #2
MaggieL
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Very, very cool.....
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Old 06-04-2002, 12:31 PM   #3
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If ever there was an instance where this expression applied:

"Somebody has way too much time on their hands!"

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Old 06-04-2002, 12:34 PM   #4
Griff
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nice product placement as well... just for a sense of scale don't you know
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Old 06-04-2002, 12:40 PM   #5
elSicomoro
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I wonder why it took 14 years for that 8th drop to fall, given that the other drops happened about 7-9 years apart.
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Old 06-04-2002, 01:06 PM   #6
warch
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Quote:
I wonder why it took 14 years for that 8th drop to fall
Cool years?...
This is just a wonderfully weird object. Does anyone know the estimated time to complete the experiment?
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Old 06-04-2002, 01:14 PM   #7
jeni
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wow. so when did the scientist die? or is he not yet dead? maybe i should read the story. ahem.
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Old 06-04-2002, 01:16 PM   #8
jeni
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okay, i read the story and still don't know. so my question, then, is...how many drops did he live to see? not see, but rather know about.
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Old 06-04-2002, 01:31 PM   #9
Nic Name
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PARNELL, Thomas

Born Northants, England, 5 July 1881; died Brisbane 1 September 1948. Education, St. John's College, Cambridge (B.A. 1903). Tutor, Trinity College, University of Melbourne, 1904-11. Lecturer in physics University of Queensland 1911-18; professor 1919-48. A.I.F. 1917-19.
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Old 06-04-2002, 01:32 PM   #10
Tobiasly
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I'm gonna be painting my living room soon. Maybe I'll point a webcam at the wall, so people can watch the paint dry. In the name of science.
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Old 06-04-2002, 01:48 PM   #11
warch
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I am 4 in pitch drops. that's a lot of pitch.
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Old 06-04-2002, 02:03 PM   #12
lawman
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timeline

here's a visual representation of the 'drip' timeline.

now, if someone could cross reference this with the average yearly temperature and humidity whereiver this thing is, maybe there would be some correlation. Of course that person would have to have much more free time than I do.
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Old 06-04-2002, 02:14 PM   #13
MaggieL
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And I've been alive for six of them . Wow.
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Old 06-04-2002, 02:21 PM   #14
snubber
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14 years...

if you read the comment from professor mainstone here you will see that he mentions the school's decision to air-condition the hall where this experiment resides, causing it to drip much much slower.
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Old 06-04-2002, 06:48 PM   #15
Joe
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14 years is a long time

I bet if you just heated up the funnel with a propane torch you wouldn't have to wait so long.
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