Scientists at Trinity College Dublin are celebrating after an experiment which has been running for 69 years finally came to fruition.
The experiment was to prove pitch, a black carbonic substance, is a viscous, or flowing, material. Scientists first set up the experiment in 1944, but it has been "sitting on a dusty shelf for 69 years", says scientist Professor Shane Bergin.
Bergin, who remembers the experiment from when he was a student at Trinity in 1999, was one of the lucky few to witness the phenomenon live. "It was a very exciting moment," he told the Huffington Post UK. "During my time here I always kept an eye on it. I saw a drip forming a few weeks ago and I thought it would be great to put a web cam to capture it live. Although from anecdotes I knew a drip had fallen before, it had never been captured on camera."
The experiment involved placing pitch into a funnel, and putting the funnel into a jar. The drops take around 10 years to form, and although there was evidence of the drops in the jar, the theory could never be proved as no-one had witnessed it.
"For me it gets to the very heart of what science is about: curiosity," Bergin continues. "It was to demonstrate the fact that while it may look like an immovable object, it is viscous.
"We broadcast the live footage in the physics department. It's had a huge amount of attention and it's acted as a catalysts to get scientists talking to each other so much more."
Nobody owns the experiment, which the physics department regard with nostalgia. "It's one of a few very old pieces of kit we have here," Bergin explains.
The other physicists involved in the experiment were Professor Denis Weaire, Professor Stefan Hutzler and student David Whyte.
The feat, which happened on 11 July, was a victory for Trinity scientists against their Australian rivals. The University of Queensland set its pitch drop experiment up in 1927, but due to a series of technical glitches at unfortunate moments, has never captured "the drop" on camera.
"It was a good old fashioned race," Bergin adds. "The slowest race in history. We are absolutely delighted."
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