This Is The Longest-Running Laboratory Experiment In The World – And Has Been Going On For Nearly 100 Years

Nestled within the University of Queensland lies a testament to scientific patience – the world’s longest-running laboratory experiment.

The experiment was started in 1927 by Thomas Parnell, the first physics professor at the university, to demonstrate the remarkable characteristics of very dense materials. Pitch is a byproduct of distilling coal tar; Parnell heated it, transferred it into a glass funnel, and then watched it take shape over the course of three years. Considering the duration of the demonstration, the wait might have seemed long, yet it was only for a brief time.

The second part of the experiment began in 1930 when Parnell cut the stem of the funnel and let the thick liquid flow out. And so began a story that would span almost a century, starting with the first drop eight years after the experiment started and continuing with intermittent drips over the next few decades. Even though the experiment passed through a number of custodians, including Professor John Mainstone, Parnell’s successor, and Professor Andrew White now, neither Mainstone nor Parnell lived to see the expected drop; both men passed away before the experiment was completed.

However, technological advancements have now bestowed continuous surveillance upon the experiment through a webcam, offering hope that someone may bear witness to the next pivotal moment. The most recent drop, captured in 2014 through accelerated footage, stands as a testament to this enduring endeavor.

Despite the experiment’s inherent limitations, such as susceptibility to room temperature fluctuations and challenges in accurately measuring the stem’s internal diameter, it has yielded intriguing insights into pitch viscosity. Through meticulous analysis, researchers estimate the pitch’s viscosity to be staggering, far surpassing that of common liquids like water. This revelation challenges previous predictions and underscores the complexities of pitch composition and behavior.

Variations in pitch samples are the cause of the disagreement in viscosity measurements, which highlights the complexity of the experiment and the impact of volatile hydrocarbons trapped in the material. The experiment is nevertheless a fascinating study into viscosity dynamics and material properties in spite of these difficulties.

Real-time webcam monitoring provides insight for those interested in following the experiment’s story as it develops. Anticipation is growing for the next drop, which is anticipated to occur in the 2020s, as a large blob grows within the funnel. Even though there will likely be an additional wait, observers and scientists alike are drawn to follow the experiment’s ongoing journey because of its lasting significance and possible findings.

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