Remember that 84-year-old pitch drop experiment, where scientists watch as a liquid 230 billion times more viscous than water drips from a glass container? Well, finally, it's been given a modern overhaul.
New Scientist reports that a tweak to the old experiment is letting researchers cheat at the world's longest-running experiment. It uses the same so called pitch — sometimes known as bitumen — which seems solid but flows like liquid over long, long periods of time.
But the new set-up, dreamt up by Kostya Trachenko at Queen Mary, University of London, uses a special low-viscosity version of the pitch. You can watch it in action above, but New Scientist explains how it works:
The group put the pitch in five containers with nozzles of various widths, to see how that would affect the flow rate, and let it drizzle into vessels below. After 317 days, Trachenko's students weighed the pitch that had fallen and calculated its viscosity, which was about 30 times lower than the Australian pitch. In combination with its predecessors, the London experiment clearly shows how materials sit on a continuum between solid and liquid, says Trachenko.
Beats waiting 13 years for a drip, eh? [New Scientist]