69-Year-Old Australian Experiment Finally Worked For The First Time

One of the longest standing experiments has finally yielded a result. Started in 1944, it only took 69 years but the tar-like pitch at Trinity College Dublin has finally dropped.

Pitch, for the uninitiated, is a highly viscous material that looks solid but is actually just a slow moving liquid. The point of the experiment is to prove that the matter is actually a liquid. Drops normally form every decade or so.

The University of Queensland in Australia has been conducting its own pitch drop experiment since 1927 where the last witnessed drop occurred in 1961. In the decades proceeding that drop, a series of mishaps have thwarted scientists until now.

According to CNN, Professor John Mainstone of the University of Queensland in Australia, has missed several opportunities to witness one himself for various reasons:

  • In 1979, Mainstone says he skipped one of his usual Sunday campus visits.
  • In 1988, Mainstone opted to grab a snack and missed the drop by five minutes.
  • In 2000, Mainstone attempted to catch the drop on camera but a “glitch” again thwarted his efforts.

Scientists in Dublin only recently started recording the pitch, and last April set up a webcam for anyone to watch and witness. Dublin’s drop occurred on July 11 at 5pm local time. Researchers there have estimated that the pitch is about two million times more viscous than honey.

The University of Queensland’s pitch is expected to drop some time this year too. You can watch it here. [Nature via Kottke]