The worst experiment in the history of physics


In 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell at the University of Queensland began the longest laboratory experiment in history.

Pitch is a hard, tar-like bitumen obtained as a by-product of petroleum tar distillation. The professor wanted to show his students that pitch, despite the fact that it looks like a solid, is a very viscous liquid by its properties.

He filled the funnel with hot pitch and left it for 3 years to solidify properly. After that, the professor opened the funnel.

And he waited and waited. And then he waited some more.

Very, very slowly, the droplet formed. And after 8 and a half years, the drop finally fell.

However, this happened at a time when there was no one near the funnel. The professor decided to wait for the second drop. The second drop fell in 1947, a year before the death of the professor, but he missed this fall too.

The experiment was continued. Drops fell at intervals of about once every ten years, but no one has ever been able to see this process with their own eyes. At the end of the 20th century, a webcam was installed in the room where the experiment was taking place to record the fall of a drop on video.

And you will laugh, but when another drop fell in November 2000, the camera did not capture this moment due to a temporary technical malfunction.

The last straw fell in April 2014 and people were present. However, this cannot be considered a success of the experiment, since the purity of the experiment was disturbed by the oscillation of the table during the attempt to lower the glass lower. And besides, Professor White, the new curator of the experiment was not looking at the drop at that moment, so in any case, no one saw the fall.

A similar experiment is being conducted at Trinity College in Wales and a drop of bitumen was successfully captured in 2013.

Experiment Guardian John Mainstone and Professor Parnell (posthumously) received the 2005 Shnobel Prize for conducting this experiment. The only meaningful result of the experiment was the calculation of pitch viscosity, which turned out to be about 200,000 times higher than the viscosity of bee honey.

Calculations show that there will be enough pitch in the funnel for about another 100 years of experiment. The experiment continues and at the moment no one has seen the drop falling, as well as it was not filmed on video. This is truly the most unsuccessful and longest experiment in history.