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Pitch Drop Experiment (wikipedia.org)
97 points by Amorymeltzer on Feb 6, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments



Not fair! They discount two longer-running experiments because they were interrupted. Then go on to explain how this experimental procedure was changed halfway through to control for temperature. So really, not the world's longest-running experiment. Not by a century.


It's a pet belief of mine that Guinness World Records are a 'scam'. The big sporting records, like fastest 100 m sprint, are actually tracked by the sports bodies. What say they have in the matter is its own debate (e.g. there's no record for the 150 m, because the IAAF don't sanction a 150 m race, but there was a famous unsanctioned race between winners of the 100 m and 200 m races), particularly in sports with multiple federations or codes, but at least they sometimes have international government funding from which to derive some kind of authority.

GWR have nothing but a tacky book, yet we've all been sucked into this notion that it's not an official world record unless they say it is. And what they accept as a record is subject to strict guidelines (i.e. what they're willing to put in a child's Christmas stocking) and dubious rulesets. There are even unbreakable 'first xyz' records and geographically limited 'world' records.


From Wikipedia

> On 10 November 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the Guinness Breweries, went on a shooting party in the North Slob, by the River Slaney in County Wexford, Ireland. After missing a shot at a golden plover, he became involved in an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the red grouse – it is the plover. That evening at Castlebridge House, he realised that it was impossible to confirm in reference books whether or not the golden plover was Europe's fastest game bird. Beaver knew that there must be numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Ireland and abroad, but there was no book in the world with which to settle arguments about records. He realized then that a book supplying the answers to this sort of question might prove successful.

Yes, the Guinness of world record is the same Guinness as the beer, and it is meant to be used in the same context: in a pub, having a good time with friends.


It's entertainment, an annual coffee table book where you can raise your eyebrow and have a good chuckle about. For competitors it's the challenge to come up with something silly to add as a new category as well.

And in a lot of the categories it's a huge fundraising / charity event, or a media event for e.g. a baking community to create the world's biggest cake.

Of course some corporations also try to get in on it but I think that's with limited success. I mean at the moment I could probably compete in "world's worst PHP codebase", but there's probably a lot worse out there.


Its an entertainment book to have in a bar to settle bets. If you have something more convenient/as cheap, let us all know!


I find pulling up Wikipedia easier than carrying the book, albeit not when it references the book!


Also, you can quickly edit it so you win your bet.


I've never been to a bar that actually had the book. Is this a regional thing?


Have you made a bet in a bar that the book could have settled? Maybe they only pull it out when needed, instead of keeping it on display.


GWR has recently shifted its business to consulting companies countries and other entities with image problems.

They hand out records to them and make a show and everything, as to "record-wash" their image.

You're damn right GWR is a scam


I walked past this 'experiment' every day for a number of years at UQ in Brisbane (on route to my lunchtime nap in the great court). The glass cabinet is fairly inconspicuous, sitting outside a bunch of small rooms, above a minor thoroughfare. I don't remember exactly how long it took me to take notice and stop to read the inscription (2 years+?) but I was impressed when I did. And it's extraordinary the number of times it has come up in conversation since.


For some reason, I find the thought of a pitch drop hanging on (for years and years before falling) very unsettling. I just want it to fall already!


Seems like precisely the thing that so many mobile games are monetizing on.


St. Andrews has one as well, apparently dating to 1927 too. https://books.google.ie/books?id=74PgZAHPw38C&pg=PA32&lpg=PA... It was on display in the Physics building, and I assume probably still is.


> Large droplets form and fall over a period of about a decade.

It would be fun to pair this with a program that outputs the amount of liquid collected, with the display delayed by the amount of time it took for the previous droplet to fall.


(I want to tease the Long Now folks about their clock: Why not just make a big pitch drop "water" clock? I know, I know, it's not to their point, and FWIW I love the machines they make, but the reliability and simplicity of a 10,000+ year clock made of pitch has something going for it, ne?)


Calibration is a huge issue for clocks. Your pitch water clock would have issues knowing the correct month after 10,000 years. But, if you just want cheap and long lasting, erosion of a large stone is worth considering.


Oh I know, it's a dumb joke.


It's a good source for a RNG. Just compute if the interval for two consecutive drops is bigger os smaller from the two previous drops.

Might block, of course, if you ask _too frequently_ for a new bit.


Would be a highly biased random source, only one drop was quicker.


My dream research job.


"Has another drop fallen yet? No." Done working for the day.



I figure you could get away with coming into work in person about once a month or so, status meeting on the state of the developing drop, risk assessment for unexpected drop preparedness, maybe a a quick scrum for an Enterprise suite of "Is there a drop Y/N" management software.


What a time to be alive. This is incredible. I wonder what those balloons in the case are used for.


That's the older beaker containing the previous drops.


Is today "post a wikipedia article" day?


What, no mention about glass being an even more viscous liquid? I grew up believing the story about medieval church windows being thicker at the bottom because the glass had flowed downward over a period of centuries. It turns out that medieval windows are indeed thicker at the bottom but the part about glass being a "slow liquid" was wrong:

These windows are thicker at the bottom owing to the production process. Back during medieval times, a lump of molten glass was rolled, expanded, and flattened before being spun into a disc and cut into panes. These sheets were thicker around the edges and installed such that the heavier side was at the bottom.[1]

[1] https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-glass-is-a-liquid-myth-has-final...


nth time i've seen this posted on HN


Excerpt:

University of Queensland experiment

"The best known version[1] of the experiment was started in 1927 by Professor Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, to demonstrate to students that some substances which appear solid are actually highly viscous fluids."

Perhaps conversely, perhaps all solid materials are really just liquid... just locked in place by a local stasis field of some sort... call that stasis field time, gravity, magnetism, the electrostatic, or strong or weak nuclear forces... Perhaps the stasis field and the distance of its effect, is also relative to scale... and perhaps all fields are just variations of interia, relative to scale and material...




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