Without a lot of fanfare, the 9th pitch drop from the famous University of Queensland pitch drop experiment “fell” last week. Widely anticipated for over a year, the rheological event of the decade, and webcast in high def, the actual event was a seriously disappointing non-event.
While too many people claim that the drop fell, it really didn’t. At least not in the traditional sense.
Back on April 17th, the 9th drop made contact with the 8th drop that was still in the collection beaker. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, the staff at Queensland had already decided that when that occurred, they would remove the previous drops out of the way. And in doing so, Mr. Murphy decided to show up as a wobbly stand which resulted in the 9th drop prematurely breaking off. So while it did in fact drop, it was assisted by humans in a most unnatural manner.
They could have let the drop continue to fall – contact would do nothing to stop the flow anymore than water falling in a fountain is stopped by the water already in the base. The contact would have only slowed the time for the drop to actually break free, but it would not have prevented it.
So what else is there to do but be truthfully honest about it, mark the time that it occurred and more on. (I can just imagine a student writing this up as part of a lab report. “We tried to move the other drops out of the way but my dog bumped the stand and so…”) However, there is an upside to this result. As the University notes on its non-announcement announcement page, this drip will be the first recorded drop to start from a clean break. It will initially have the diameter of the outlet, but over time, the surface tension will force it into the deformed spherical end that we have stared at for so long. That should be fascinating to see develop over time.
But at the same time, I am greatly disappointed by this result and that the University isn’t doing more to straighten out the nonsense on the internet about the drop being broken off. The main webpage should have this information front and center, not buried on another page at the site. They needed 3 dedicated webcams just to show someone come in and knock the thread of pitch off?