This Week’s Science Blog: DROP THE BASS! …er, Pitch.


In 1944, an experiment was set up that would last quite a long time. At Trinity College in Dublin, tar pitch was heated and placed into a funnel. The funnel was placed in a jar and was left alone. It’s still sitting there today. Why? Because pitch is something that, at first glance, behaves very much like a solid. It just kinda sits there and if you hit it with something hard enough, it shatters. What they wanted to show with this experiment (which is actually similar to an even longer-lived experiment done in Australia) is that, given time, pitch will exhibit liquid properties. In particular, over a (very long) stretch of time, the pitch in the funnel will succumb to gravity and drop to the bottom of the jar.

So that’s the basic idea. But the big deal in all of this is actually witnessing these drops. Averaging things out between the Australian and Dublin versions of the experiment, it takes somewhere between 7 and 13 years for the drops to happen. That’s a lot of time sitting and watching for a payoff that takes a split-second. Up until now, no one has witnessed it happening.

However, when the Dublin scientists realized last April that a drop was imminent, they did something they could finally do because of today’s technology: they set up a camera to record the pitch* when it finally fell.

And a week ago? VICTORY! On Thursday, July 11th, a pitch drop was not only witnessed, but filmed! See a gif of it here.


And we know it’ll happen again…we just need to wait.

*Actually, I think I read somewhere that they tried this in Australia in like 2000, but the camera wasn’t on when it happened. Oops.

2 responses

  1. Wow, it finally happened AND got recorded!


    1. I know! I think I’d read about this experiment like 5 years ago, actually. Good to know they got the cameras rolling for the big event!


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