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The pitch just dropped
July 18, 2013 1:20 PM   Subscribe

The three most exciting words in science concern one of the longest running experiments of all time that finally produced a recordable result.
posted by z11s (41 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
How on earth is "The Pitch Drop Experiment" not already the name of, like, five different bands?
posted by yoink at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


This AskMe is about the other experiment, but is amusing as an appropriately slow sort of liveblog.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:30 PM on July 18, 2013


I'm having a Watterson moment. Scientific progress goes gloop.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:30 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a scientist out there who just loosened his tie and lit a cigarette and gazed into the middle distance with an oddly dreamy look on his face.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:31 PM on July 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the three most exciting words in science are still "We got funded".
posted by demiurge at 1:34 PM on July 18, 2013 [38 favorites]


Perfect!
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:35 PM on July 18, 2013


Huh, the wiki page isn't updated yet?
posted by hypersloth at 1:35 PM on July 18, 2013


Focus. Focus! FOCUS!!
posted by aramaic at 1:37 PM on July 18, 2013


I have post titles turned off, and even so, when I read your post I knew exactly what experiment you were referring to! (However, I didn't know it was the one at Trinity; I thought it was the original one at the University of Queensland, AU. That one still hasn't happened yet. I check in on it every so often.)

That is so exciting. The episode of Radiolab referred to in the linked article is well worth a listen.

From the comments to the article linked in the post: here is actual footage of the pitch drop at Trinity.

Now I just want Professor Mainstone in Queensland to be able to see the pitch drop in his lab. Poor guy's earned it!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:41 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where's Skrillex when you need him?
posted by schmod at 1:41 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


And human eyes, of course, are notoriously unreliable. This fantastic episode of Radiolab recounts the series of Alanis Morissette-song-worthy near-misses that prevented people from observing the Queensland pitch in the act of dropping. One time, John Mainstone -- a Queensland professor who curates the Pitch Drop experiment and has made it his mission to observe its fall -- stepped out to get tea. During the 15 minutes he was away, because of course, the pitch dropped. Another time, later on, Mainstone and his colleagues put video-monitoring technology to use to record the moment even if no humans were nearby to see it. The equipment malfunctioned. The pitch dropped, unobserved.
I guess you know you're a True Scientist when that happens and you don't just fire up a few bunsen burners to "encourage" the next drop.

"Think you're so clever, don't you Mr. Pitch?"
posted by yoink at 1:43 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only thing more gratifying than to be there at the moment when the pitch dropped would be to have been there with a trombone when John Mainstone got back from his tea break.
posted by invitapriore at 1:43 PM on July 18, 2013 [29 favorites]


I shall now add to my storehouse of phrases for times of unparalleled non-excitement, "This is as exciting as watching pitch drop." (I will also use it as a shibboleth to discern scientists hiding in my surroundings.)
posted by Atreides at 1:53 PM on July 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


here is actual footage of the pitch drop yt at Trinity.

What, they didn't have enough time to focus the camera?
posted by stopgap at 1:57 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh, the wiki page isn't updated yet?

"This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses."
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:57 PM on July 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


For other examples of long-term experiments, I submit the Oxford Electric Bell (1840) and the Beverly Clock (1864).
posted by endotoxin at 1:59 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the big deal? I got 99 problems but a pitch ain't one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:06 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the three most exciting words in science were "What is that?"
posted by xedrik at 2:17 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want to watch un-speeded-up footage of the drop! Don't give me this time lapse nonsense. If you watch a time lapse it just looks like a regular, boring, fast-dripping goo.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:21 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this mean we have to start over at year one again? From 2013 C.E. to 1 A.P.D? What a pain.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 2:33 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the three most exciting words were "ROBOT TYRANNOSAURUS REX," but I guess that's more Engineering's domain.
posted by invitapriore at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is one of those things that everyone I see over the next few days will give me a weird look as I excitedly explain it to them.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:47 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This entire experiment sounds so much like an OCD experience.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2013


I want to watch un-speeded-up footage of the drop!

I suspect it would look very much like the speeded up footage. Well, assuming you showed just the last ten seconds or so of the process. Because if you showed the un-speeded-up footage of the whole several days worth of the speeded up footage it would be "c'mon, c'mon, c'mon drop already, just drop dammit, drop drop drop drop drop, oh, bugger it, I think I'll go get a cup of tea (pause) AAAAAAAAAARGH!"

And then,

"oh, I'll just rewind a bit."
posted by yoink at 2:57 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I shall now add to my storehouse of phrases for times of unparalleled non-excitement, "This is as exciting as watching pitch drop."

It can also be adapted to describe slowness:

#38, Cecil, you're slower than shit on a cold roof
#39, Cecil, you're slower than the pitch dropping
...
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 3:48 PM on July 18, 2013


The 4 most exciting words: Send More Chuck Berry.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:58 PM on July 18, 2013


How on earth is "The Pitch Drop Experiment" not already the name of, like, five different bands?

Drop the "The." Just "Pitch Drop Experiment." It's cleaner.
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:15 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dammit. I had the over.
posted by Etrigan at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I always thought the 3 most exciting words in Science were, "Huh, that's funny... "
posted by The otter lady at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


How on earth is "The Pitch Drop Experiment" not already the name of, like, five different bands?

It is, but they're all still playing the first note of their (relatively) soon-to-be hit singles.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:10 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is, but they're all still playing the first note of their (relatively) soon-to-be hit singles.

Obviously they're all John Cage cover bands.
posted by TwoWordReview at 6:21 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always thought the 3 most exciting words in Science were, "Huh, that's funny... "

No, those are the three scariest words.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:39 PM on July 18, 2013


No, those are the three scariest words.

That's "hold my beer".
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:32 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been waiting years for this.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2013


Damn, I thought this was going to be the UQ experiment - it was located right outside the door of the lecture theatre where I had first year physics lectures, and where both my parents had first year physics lectures, and where my grandfather did night-school physics lectures.
posted by girlgenius at 9:22 PM on July 18, 2013


Might this drip have something to do with the heatwave we've been having in Dublin for the last two weeks? We're having the warmest summer in two decades. Would that make the pitch slightly softer, more viscous? I know the drip would have happened eventually anyway. Just wondering about the coincidence.
posted by distorte at 12:57 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did my PhD there (6 or 7 years ago). All those years and I never knew. In fact none of the other postgrads and undergrads/postgrads seemed aware of it either as I had a conversation about the Queensland experiment and nobody mentioned the TCD one.

I must have passed it by and never even noticed it.
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 3:56 AM on July 19, 2013


This thing is still moving faster than our economy...
posted by StephenF at 4:30 AM on July 19, 2013


anyone who's never seen pitch drop clearly has never been to an acapella choir concert...
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 7:10 PM on July 19, 2013


In other news: The Livermore Bulb still hasn't burnt out.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:17 AM on July 20, 2013


anyone who's never seen pitch drop clearly has never been to an acapella choir concert...
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy


Right, about equally mind numbingly boring and similar level of drippiness.
posted by spitbull at 11:36 AM on July 20, 2013


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