Friday, March 06, 2009

It'll take a little longer if you want a double: (Cool Things I Never Learned In School, 1)

What's this all about? Click here.

Nobody has ever seen one of the weirdest experiments ever.

Back in 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell heated up some "pitch" (pitch is a tarlike substance used to caulk ships, and is heated up to pour it or spread it) and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Then he waited three years to cut off the end of the stem, letting the pitch settle.

Then he waited.

And over the course of the next 77 years or so (according to an article found here, and apparently written in 2004), eight drops of pitch fell through the funnel into the waiting beaker.

Nobody ever saw one fall, but eight drops fell, nonetheless.

This experiment proved, apparently, that pitch is actually a liquid at room temperature, that it can flow, something that would surprise everyone who saw the video they link to on that site, showing a piece of pitch being shattered by a blow. "The Pitch Drop Experiment" demonstrated that pitch is not solid though, and was useful to anyone who... wanted a glass of pitch at room temperature and was willing to wait 77 years, or more, to get it.

So its usefulness may not be readily apparent, but the coolness of this experiment is.

Viscosity is studied in physics class. Did I learn this in physics class, though? No. Instead, I heard about this on Jeopardy! last night -- and then googled it today to find out what the answer meant.

School: 0. Jeopardy!/Google: 1.

No comments: