Brisbane, coal tar, deep time, physics, pitch, Professor Andrew White, Professor John Mainstone, Professor Thomas Parnell, science, Shirley Way, The Ninth Watch, the Pitch Drop Experiment, The University of Queensland, UQ, wood tar
Although billed as “like watching paint dry, only much, much slower”, The University of Queensland’s Pitch Drop Experiment – the world’s longest running laboratory experiment – is reaching its climax.
In 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell decided to demonstrate that pitch, a derivative of coal tar or wood tar, has both solid and liquid properties. At a speed slower than continental drift, only eight drops of pitch have formed and fallen at UQ – and no-one has even seen one fall*.
The ninth drop is forming and the watch is on! If you’re online when it falls, your name will be recorded for posterity. Join the watch at http://www.theninthwatch.com
The experiment’s third custodian, Professor Andrew White, reveals the technology, the mystery and the fascination of slow science and deep time in this interview with 4ZZZ reporter Shirley Way: http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/news/audio/2013/oct/30/pitch-drop-experiment-and-ninth-watch
* The first drop of pitch recorded on film was at Trinity College Dublin on 11 July, 2013. Their experiment is younger as it started in 1944. You can watch the historic moment here: http://www.tcd.ie/Physics/tar-experiment/