The first Professor of Physics at the University of Queensland, Professor Thomas Parnell, began an experiment in 1927 to illustrate that everyday materials can exhibit quite surprising properties. The experiment demonstrates the fluidity and high viscosity of pitch, a derivative of tar once used for waterproofing boats. At room temperature pitch feels solid – even brittle – and can easily be shattered with a blow from a hammer. It’s quite amazing then, to see that pitch at room temperature is actually fluid!
Behold: The Pitch Drop Experiement! After heating some pitch, Parnell allowed it to cool for three years. It took eight years for the first drop of pitch to travel from the funnel to the beaker below.
82 years later, the 9th drop in this experiment is only just now forming. Professor Parnell is long gone, but his experiment changed our perception and understanding of a fairly common substance. The University of Queensland now has a live webcam at the link above, where you can watch as this ninth drop makes its way. (In case you have a LOT of time on your hands.)
Innovation and breakthroughs are not always instantaneous. Sometimes innovation takes years before it is recognized.