The most boring, yet captivating, experiment in the world.

An experiment has been running in the School of Physics at the University of Queensland since 1927. Set up by Prof Thomas Parnell, it was to demonstrate the strange properties of pitch – a substance that seems solid at room temperature, but is actually an outrageously viscous liquid.

University of Qld pitch drop experiment, via Wikipedia via UQ

It’s very simple: Parnell heated some pitch, poured it into a funnel, let it set for three years, then cut the bottom off the funnel to let the room-temperature pitch drip. The first drop fell in 1938, and, fast-forward to 2012, we are now waiting for the ninth drop to fall. No-one has actually witnessed the drops falling – it seems that the pitch likes to work under cover of darkness, or perhaps during lunch breaks. Considering we now live in the digital age, UQ has set up a live stream of the experiment, which lives in a case in the foyer of the physics building, so you can watch for yourself. Hopefully this will mean that someone will catch the moment when the drop falls.

View the stream on the UQ’s pitch drop experiment page.

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3 thoughts on “The most boring, yet captivating, experiment in the world.

  1. This is so fabulous! I knew that glass was a viscous liquid but not that pitch was another. Has anybody made art about this experiment? Music based on the sound of a pitch drop falling?

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