Monday, January 30, 2012

Wouldn't it be cool to look in on the world's longest running scientific experiment?

World's longest experiment now on webcam (still going slowly)

Well, now you can via webcam.  This particular experiment has been going for the past 85 years.  It seems that one Professor Parnell in the Physics department at the University of Queensland wanted demonstrate that fluid mechanics applied to all fluids, including brittle ones like tar pitch, even if they move VERY slowly,  So he heated up the coal derivative and put it in a glass funnel that he had pinched shut.  Three years later in 1930 he cut the end off the funnel.  Starting on that date the first drop started to form.  More than eight decades later, about one drop per decade has fallen into the beaker below.  If my math is right, that would make tar pitch more than 100 billion times more viscous than water (all right, that would be their calculations, but some of my best ideas are other people's).  Alas, Professor Parnell only lived to see the first drop fall in 1938 and was dead before the second one dropped in 1954.  Well technically, he didn't see it actually fall.  In fact, no one has ever seen a drop of tar pitch hit the beaker.  Keep looking to the webcam and you may be the first!

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