Longest Running Experiment In The History Of Science That Lasted For 90 years


The University of Queensland Australia holds the world record for the duration of a scientific experiment.

Since 1927, Thomas Parnell was the head of a study that set the task to demonstrate the viscosity of the resin (Pitch) – the densest liquid known to humans.

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pitch drop experiment
pitch drop experiment

At room temperature, the resin seems hard and even brittle, it can easily be broken with a hammer. But in reality, at 25°C, the resin is 100,000,000,000 times more viscous than water and is in a liquid state.

The essence of the experiment is as follows: Professor Parnell heated a small amount of resin, poured it into a glass funnel with a welded rod, and left to cool. Three years later, the bottom of the funnel was cut off and the resin began to flow down.

Quite a bit, in small drops. It took seven to almost 14 years to drop each drop.

The fall of the 8th drop proceeded more slowly than the previous ones and took more than 12 years, possibly due to the low pressure from the reduced resin mass. Or because of the air conditioner installed in the 1980s, which lowered the temperature and made the resin even more viscous.

Since in 1930, as part of the experiment, the runoff of resin along the funnel started, no one has observed a real drop of drops. In fact, neighboring drops were connected to each other.

The fall of the 9th drop was so exciting that it attracted the attention of more than 35,000 people from 160 countries who registered to watch the live broadcast. Of course, anyone would be mistaken if he thought that nothing interesting was happening in Australia. The fall took place on April 12, 2014.

pitch drop experiment
pitch drop experiment

John Mainstone had been the custodian of the experiment for over 50 years. According to the results of the study of the first six drops, the viscosity of the resin was estimated as exceeding the viscosity of water by 250,000,000,000 times.

Today, there is enough resin in the funnel to stretch the experiment for another 100 years.

Parnell was replaced by Professor John Mainstone who died at the age of 78 in 2013. And since then, the study has been led by Professor Andrew White.

In 2005, for their experiment, Parnell and Mainstone were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

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