Ready for a webcam where nothing happens for years at a time? Nope, not the treadmill in my attic, this is the Guinness Book of World Records' "longest continuously running laboratory experiment."
Highlights from the website of The Pitch Drop Experiment:
"The first Professor of Physics at the University of Queensland, Professor Thomas Parnell, began an experiment in 1927 to illustrate that everyday materials can exhibit quite surprising properties. The experiment demonstrates the fluidity and high viscosity of pitch, a derivative of tar once used for waterproofing boats.
At room temperature pitch feels solid - even brittle - and can easily be shattered with a blow from a hammer. It's quite amazing then, to see that pitch at room temperature is actually fluid!
In 1927 Professor Parnell heated a sample of pitch and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Three years were allowed for the pitch to settle, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date on the pitch has slowly dripped out of the funnel - so slowly that now, 77 years later, the ninth drop is only just forming.
The experiment was set up as a demonstration and is not kept under special environmental conditions (it is actually kept in a display cabinet in the foyer of the Department), so the rate of flow of the pitch varies with seasonal changes in temperature. Nonetheless, it is possible to make an estimate of the viscosity of this sample of pitch. It turns out to be about 100 billion times more viscous than water!
In the 77 years that the pitch has been dripping no-one has ever seen the
drop fall. If you're interested in trying your luck, or at least just
having a look at the experiment, you can view it live."
If your eyes glassed over a few paragraphs in, here's the gist: These scientists figured out that tar was not a solid but a liquid. So they are letting it flow but it is so thick that only one drop falls every eight to twelve years. And the pitch sample is large enough that it is expected that the experiment can continue for at least another hundred years!
Thanks to blog reader White Devil for the tip. Let me know if you connect to the video. I was unable to but if the trouble is on my end I don't want to deprive you of the sheer joy of watching history being made. That pitch could drop any month now!