SCIENCE

'Pitch Drop' Experiment May Be World's Most Boring Scientific Study (LIVE FEED)

05/01/2013 03:46 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2013
The University Of Queensland

What's the world's most boring science experiment? You could make a pretty good case for the "pitch drop" experiment. It consists of a glass funnel filled with pitch, which drips oh-so-slowly to demonstrate that the black, solid-seeming petroleum distillate is a liquid at room temperature.

Boring, right? Get this: in the 86 years the experiment has been running -- it was set up in 1927 by Thomas Parnell (1881-1948), a physics professor at the University of Queensland in Australia -- it has produced just eight drops. They seem to come about every nine years (see graph below), and the next one is overdue.

pitch drop experiment
Graph showing amount of time between pitch-drops.

If you'd like to witness the next drop's dynamic plummet, you can take a look at the live feed of the experiment. But good luck with that, as no one has ever seen even a single drop fall -- live or on camera. The last drop fell in 2000, and the webcam malfunctioned. John Mainstone, the current manager of the experiment and an honorary physics professor at the university, might have observed a drop back in 1988 -- if only he hadn't stepped out for a cup of coffee at just the wrong moment, the Guardian reported.

The experiment holds the Guinness World Record for longest-running laboratory experiment. Other long-term experiments may be older but were either not continuous or conducted outside a lab.

By the way, you shouldn't despair if you miss drop #9. Scientists at the university say they expect the experiment to continue for another hundred years.

(h/t io9.com)

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