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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 kottke.org)