Thursday, December 5, 2013
Sometimes everyday materials are more fluid than they seem. In 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland started what is now the longest continuously running laboratory experiment when he filled a sealed glass funnel with a sample of heated tar pitch. After allowing 3 years for the pitch to settle, the funnel’s stem was unsealed and the pitch has been slowly dripping ever since. Now, over 80 years later, the ninth drop is still just forming. No one has witnessed the fall of a pitch drop but the odds are good that someone will catch the ninth drop now that it has its own webfeed. The experiment, which won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2005, demonstrates the incredibly high viscosity of pitch, which the researchers estimated at 11 orders of magnitude larger than water at room temperature.