Big News in World's Longest Experiment
Drop of pitch falls after 13 years of waiting
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Apr 18, 2014 8:46 AM CDT
Loading... Please wait

(Newser) – In what is surely one of the most gripping experiments currently underway, scientists in Australia have been watching a beaker containing pitch, a tar derivative, since 1927. The researchers' goal in the planet's longest-running experiment—which holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records—is to show that solids can flow like liquids. And flow this solid did, with the ninth drop finally occurring at the University of Queensland over the weekend, Phys.org reports. As New Scientist reports, drop No. 9 hasn't actually detached from the pitch above it, but has collided with the eighth drop on the beaker's bottom.

Between 1930 and 1988, one drop fell an average of every eight years, says Professor Andrew White. But "the 2000 (eighth) and 2014 (ninth) drop each took about 13 years to fall, and each collided into the decades-old pile of drops in the beaker before it could break away from the funnel," White says, explaining that the eighth drop didn't actually break free until this year. This marks the first time anyone's actually seen a drop occur, thanks to three webcams that are trained on the experiment and streaming a live feed. The scientist who spent 52 years hoping to see one never managed to do so, though there were near misses, including a very-ill-timed webcam outage in 2000. He died in August. (A similar experiment underway in Dublin since 1944 finally caught a drop on camera last year.)

View 1 image
More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Big News in World's Longest Experiment is...
5%
53%
1%
10%
3%
28%
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Comments
Showing 3 of 31 comments
JERZJOE
Apr 19, 2014 8:36 AM CDT
yawn... can we go to the permanent experiment!! that a lot of USA citizens will be doing is on NOV 4, 2014 & NOV 8, 2016 cause that's when the DUMOCRATS LOSE & the REP WIN BIG on NOV 4, 2014 & NOV 8, 2016 &.... 1-GROW the economy & create good-paying AMERICAN jobs!! 2-GET to repeal OBAMACARE & replace it with reforms that truly LOWER COSTS!!! 3-BALANCE the budget IN 10 YEARS,reduce debt & ease TAXES in the middle-class!! 4-PROTECT social security & medicare for current & future retirees!!! 5-STRENGTHEN the military, honor our vets & restore RESPECT FOR AMERICA!!! 6-FIGHT for our individual freedoms & defend the CONSTITUTION!! 7-Then in Nov. 08, 2016 Gov. Christie will be prez!!!! and everything will be AOK in the USA on Jan 20, 2017!! THERE YA GO!!
samurai1833
Apr 19, 2014 8:19 AM CDT
Perhaps a better title would be "The worlds longest human experiment."
Ezekiel 25:17
Apr 19, 2014 12:02 AM CDT
Dude had a tough job. Got up at 5AM. Drove to Denny's by 6AM. Read the paper from front to back. Got to the U at 7AM. Stopped by the pitch-pot to see if anything had changed. Grabbed a bagel from the conference room on the way to his secluded office. Read the paper through again. Took break at 10AM. Checked pitch pot again. Went to lunch at noon. Back at 1pm, checked pot again. Had tea in student union at 3. Checked pot and waited out 5PM checking pot on the way out. Thus ended a day's work of the pitch researcher.