Monday, January 11, 2010

Slo Mo

I came across something just as strange as the picture of Lady Gaga meeting the Queen...
In 1927, a Professor Parnell at the University of Queensland set up a demonstration experiment that is still ongoing 83 later. The intrepid physicist heated a chunk of pitch, a substance derived from tar that was used to caulk boats throughout history, and poured it into a glass funnel with the stem stoppered. In 1930, when the pitch had returned to its normal solid, brittle, state, he unstopped the funnel. And he waited.
This is slow stuff: the pitch has 100 billion times more viscosity than water. The ninth drop is now forming (and nobody has seen one fall, so anticipation is high among those excitable science guys). And to add to the suspense, it's taking about 12 years between drops recently since the building has been air-conditioned. Video camera, you say? It's being observed by one, but at the previous drop event the camera failed at that very time. And you thought waiting for Christmas when you were a kid took too long.
We were told as students the reason very old glass window panes looked rippled and sagged was that glass was actually a liquid. An oversimplification, it turns out, as glass has properties of both solids and liquids, and is not definably either one. I think all we really understand is that everything's on its way to somewhere else -- maybe just for something to do.
We sure don't know what Lady Gaga is either.

1 comment:

  1. It is funny how we are worried about Lady Gawgaw that we forgot to remember we are floating on glass?
    I wonder if we would not drill so deep if we knew we were letting out the balloon?
    We drift on a fragile skin.