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Australian Times


World’s Longest-Running Experiment Goes On

May 8, 2012 by rochelle in Science with 0 Comments

In 1927, a University of Queensland professor posed a challenge to his students as he wanted to prove that some solid things are, in reality, liquid. 

Professor Thomas Parnell took a tar pitch, heated it up, and placed it in a funnel. He then sealed the container, leaving the solid polymer for the next three years to set after which he cut the funnel’s end. 

After eight years, the first drop of the tar pitch fell through the funnel. 

More than 80 years after the experiment started, the world waits for the ninth drop to fall. The eighth drop fell in November 28, 2000. 

Professor John Mainstone said he was overseas during the time when it was expected the eighth drop would fall. He said he felt confident that despite being out of the country, the new video surveillance system would capture the moment. 

Unfortunately, the surveillance camera failed, much to the dismay of Mainstone and others who wanted to see the drop fall. 

Mainstone, however, took comfort in the fact that five years after, he received the Ig Nobel Prize, which he shared posthumously to Parnell. They earned the award for the longest-running lab experiment in history. 

Fast forward to 2012, Mainstone believes that the ninth drop will happen between the next five seconds and 12 months. 

The scientist will again attempt to capture the moment by implementing a live feed. The prospect does not look good currently because the live feed gets cut every so often. Mainstone said he is taking steps to ensure the live feed does not fail at the exact moment of the drop. 

If the live feed does not capture the ninth drop, Mainstone said he would just have to accept that some things would remain a mystery.

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