86 years ago, the University of Queensland in Australia began conducting an experiment in which the flow rate of a piece of pitch was measured. For those of you who may not know what pitch is, it's a highly viscous liquid which, for all intents and purposes, appears to be solid. Bitumen is the most commonly used form and at room temperature, this tar pitch flows at a very slow rate sometimes taking up to a decade or more for a single drop to fall.
The University of Queensland is not the only institution studying this phenomenon. Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland has also been conducting their own experiment since 1944. Finally after 69 long years, the first drop of pitch has finally fallen. The drop occurred on July 11, 2013 at 5 PM local time and webcams that were set up last April were on hand to catch this extremely rare occurrence.
While some of you may not understand the excitement, I find in things like this let me break down how many times human eyes have missed seeing this event take place. According to Prof. John Mainstone of the University of Queensland, he has missed several opportunities to witness the drop happening with his own eyes. First in 1979, Mainstone said that he skipped one of his usual Sunday campus visits and coincidentally the drop happened the same day. Then again in 1988, Mainstone left his lab to grab a snack and apparently missed the drop by just five minutes. Finally in 2000, fed up with missing the drop, Mainstone set up a camera but unfortunately a glitch at the moment of the drop prevented any video of the event occurring.
For those of you interested the pitch drop experiment, the University of Queensland is expecting their pitch to fall later this year. If you have nothing to do and love watching things like this then you can follow along and hopefully catch the next drop fall live by visiting the University's WebCam set up at Source #2.