This month in 1930 an experiment to document a very, very slow process began.

It holds the world record for longest-running lab experiment: the Pitch Drop Experiment at the University of Queensland.

Just to give you an idea of how slow all of this is moving: the prep for the Pitch Drop Experiment took place in 1927, and then the drop part of the pitch drop started three years later.

The idea came from Professor Thomas Parnell, who was trying to show his physics students that some substances may behave like one form of matter when they’re actually an entirely different form.

To do this, he started a project with pitch, a derivative of tar that’s been used for waterproofing and road surfacing.

If you heat the stuff up, it’s liquid.

When it returns to room temperature, it’s brittle enough that you could smash it up with a hammer, but it’s actually still a fluid, just a very, very, very, very thick one.

To demonstrate this, Parnell heated up some pitch, poured it into a sealed glass funnel, left it there to cool for three years, and then cut the stem from the bottom of the seal.

The pitch started dripping out of the funnel very much at its own pace.

The first drop didn’t fall for eight years, and as of 2023 the tenth drop is still working its way down.

Interestingly, no one has been in the room when any of the drops have found their way down.

Parnell came into the lab several times to see that a drop had fallen, but didn’t see it happen himself.

His successor, Professor John Mainstone, supervised the Pitch Drop Experiment for 52 years.

He almost saw drop number seven fall, in 1988, but he left the room to get a drink and when he came back it was too late.

There was a webcam set up to watch the fall of drop eight but it malfunctioned at just the wrong time!

The third and current custodian, Professor Andrew White, did see the ninth drop separate, but that was because he was moving the pitch to a new beaker because the stuff had backed up.

So it wasn’t quite the same.

However, there is a fully functioning live stream of the Pitch Drop Experiment available online.

But if you want to see that next drop fall, you’ll probably need to be patient.

This weekend in Easton, Pennsylvania, the Easton Garlic Fest.

Foodies can try a variety of garlic-themed dishes from local restaurants, and there’s a special activity area for kids known as Little Stinkers Row.

Plus, the festival will keep vampires away!

Pitch Drop experiment (University of Queensland)

Easton Garlic Fest

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Image from University of Queensland Pitch Drop Experiment livestream