24 April 2014

On 24 April the ninth drop in the University of Queensland’s famous Pitch Drop Experiment separated during an operation to replace the beaker containing the previous eight drops. 

Pitch Drop custodian Professor Andrew White said the ninth drop had run into the previous drops in the beaker and had backed up.

“John Mainstone, the former custodian, and I had discussed over the years the best thing to do to keep the experiment going for another 80 years,” Professor White said.

“We decided the best time make room for the next few drops to fall would be soon after the ninth drop touched down.”

To replace the beaker, Professor White had planned to lift the funnel, remove the existing beaker full of drops before the ninth drop welded to them and slide in the new beaker.

However, as he removed the bell jar, the wooden base wobbled and the ninth drop of pitch snapped away at the funnel.

The beaker with drops one to nine is now in the bottom right of the live display.

Professor White said he was genuinely curious to see how long the next drop would take to form from a clean reset.

“Open questions are how many years will it take to form a bulb, and will it go back to the older cycle of every eight years or will it stay on the new 13-year period,” he said.

After replacing the beaker, Professor White took the opportunity to clean out the milky spots inside the Bell jar that were obscuring the vision.

These formed in 2013 when the Pitch Drop Experiment was stored in a different room while building renovations were being done in Parnell.

Media: Professor Andrew White, +61 466 256 329, agx.white@gmail.com

            Julie Baglot, +61 411 162 577, j.baglot@uq.edu.au