Slow-Speed Photography: Pitch Tar Drop Caught on Camera After 69-Year Wait

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of high-speed cameras out there, doing work to slow down footage of fast moving objects enough for us to study what’s happening in that short, short time frame. But what about using a camera to capture what could potentially be the slowest moving substance of all time? Yep — someone’s doing it.

The folks over at Trinity College in Dublin have been carrying on with one of the longest-running lab experiments in the world — waiting for a highly viscous substance to finally drop after a whopping 69 years. This is surely exciting stuff. Best of all, they’ve captured it on camera, which means high-fives all around.

The moment came at about 5PM on July 11th. The video above is a time-lapse video showing the event taking place. It was the first time a pitch drop has ever been captured on camera.

“We were all so excited,” says physicist Shane Bergin. We were too (and still are), Shane.

The observed substance is called pitch, better known to us folk as asphalt. While appearing to be solid, it’s actually flowing (fun fact: pitch is around 2 million times more viscous than honey, and 230 billion times more viscous than water), and Trinity College set up a webcam to wait for that magical moment when the drop of pitch plopped downward.

Pitch drop camera

A short time before the drop dropped.

Using a camera to record the event actually plays a pretty big role in this scientific experiment. Imagine if the drop of pitch had given way and nobody was around to see it!

Good news though, the University of Queensland is conducting a similar experiment (the original one). The next pitch drop is slated fall some time this year, so hold on to your hat and view the live feed here.

(via Nature via

  • tyrohne

    well that was anticlimactic…

  • Scott

    Imagine if they had a time lapse of the whole 69 years!

  • Zack

    Slow news day? ;)

    Pun intended.

  • IAR

    and…… Poop!….

  • TylerIngram

    I assumed that is what they did.. I clicked on the link to come here to find out how they did a 69 yr time lapse lol

  • poopybutt

    Looks like a poop drop, not a pitch drop

  • AGuest

    All those years of studying in school when I could have done this instead.

  • Matt

    Is it my imagination, or was there a vaguely pendulum-like behavior in the pitch drop for a moment there?

  • Josh

    What’s with the jump cut and funnel moving up?