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"You can measure your life in a number of drops."
April 19, 2014 4:11 PM   Subscribe

World's longest-running experiment captures elusive tar pitch drop fall on video after 84 years of waiting — though, sadly, too late for physicist and former pitch drop custodian Prof. John Mainstone, who passed away last year.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (15 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Related, although it challenges your "longest-running-experiment" claim. But what's science without a little prestige dust-up?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:14 PM on April 19

Previously, previously.
posted by el io at 4:37 PM on April 19

This has been posted several times since the previous drop, which is kind of cool.
posted by snofoam at 4:53 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

If "9th drop touched 8th drop" is the new standard of achievement, I wonder what the deal with the 10th drop is going to be. The 'bottom' which the pitch drop must reach has been working its way up, even as the time between drops has gone longer. Interesting. (A factor of less pitch above the drop pushing down on it? Maybe.)

Shouldn't they just start over with a taller flask underneath? Or don't scientists today want to bother with a project that is still going to be going on when they're long gone? Is this just a shark jumping ve-e-e-r-r-ry sl-o-o-o-w-w-w-ly-y-y?
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:56 PM on April 19

There are two versions of the experiment referenced here. The one in Ireland was a copycat that dropped last year after 69 years. This one in Australia was the original one, and it dropped after 84 years just now. Cool!
posted by Bistle at 4:59 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]

If you ask me, Mainstone is better off having missed this. Talk about your failure to plan ahead.
posted by valkane at 5:11 PM on April 19

John Mainstone, who oversaw the experiment for more than 50 years until his death last August, missed observing the drops fall three times – by a day in 1977, by just five minutes in 1988 and, perhaps most annoying, in 2000, when the webcam that was recording it was hit by a 20-minute power outage.

It's gutting that he didn't get to see one fall after half a century waiting, while this is the first I've heard of the experiment and all I had to do was click on a link and be like "Cool!", all casual-like.

It's kind of humbling to think about the timescale. When the experiment started neither of my parents were born, and given the rate of fall after only ten drops I might be in my 50s.
posted by billiebee at 5:20 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]

Yeah, by 'experiment referenced here' I mean 'conflated here'.

I love this experiment, I'm a sucker for a slow moving process. It's kind of a shame that the media reports tend to focus on the 'scientist missed seeing life's work completed' angle. Putting something like this in motion and having multitudes invested in observing it beyond your mortal existence is something to aspire to as an artist or a scientist.

Reminds me of ASLSP
posted by Bistle at 5:28 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

This has been posted several times.

Well, I missed it, and so am grateful to see the post.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:31 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

The video of the pitch drop is scored with some stock Garageband loops that I used to play with. Kind of disorienting to have such a personal connection to science.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:55 PM on April 19

World's longest-running experiment

Pshaw! Come back when you've passed you sesquicentennial.
posted by Tsuga at 8:50 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

There's also Kelvin's Pitch Ramp, still going at the Hunterian in Glasgow since 1887.
posted by scruss at 2:48 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

Well, I missed it, and so am grateful to see the post.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:31 PM on April 19

Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
posted by grateful at 4:05 AM on April 20

Well, I missed it, and so am grateful to see the post.

Perhaps an FPP on the pitch drop could be automatically generated at increasing intervals....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:59 AM on April 20

It's gutting that he didn't get to see one fall after half a century waiting,

Well, nobody has actually seen one fall, except in ex post facto recordings, so his expectations were probably a bit low. But one can also see it as watching the not falling, so to speak, and in its own way that is scientifically intriguing.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

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