Thursday, January 02, 2014

2013 - The Year of the Pitch Drop Experiments

Pitch drop experiments were a big rage in the rheology world in 2013. Rumors were floating around back late February that this would be the year that not only would the University of Queensland's pitch shed it's 9th drop, but also that it would be finally captured on video for the first time.

We know now that even 2 days into 2014, the 9th drop is still hanging in there as I am writing this column. Sadly, the longtime custodian of the experiment, John Mainstone, passed away late this summer without having ever seen a drop fall.

And then there was the unexpected news back in July that a video camera had caught a drop of pitch falling. The shocking aspect however, was that is was NOT the Queensland experiment that plopped, but a largely unknown experiment at Trinity College in Dublin. Many people were confused about that little detail, and it did, at least for a while, take away some of the excitement about the Queensland experiment, but not for long. Queensland upped the ante by providing a high resolution video feed of their experiment.

And then there were a number of knockoffs of these pitch drop demonstrations, one being a pitch drop experiment for the impatient using Silly Putty, and the other being a contest held in conjunction with the IgNobel Prize ceremony.

I never thought I would see so much interest in rheology by the general public, but I'm elated that it is occurring. Hopefully we can look back on 2013 as a breakout year, rather than the Golden Year of rheology.

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