A lecture about an experiment

Listen to the lecture about a science experiment to practise and improve your listening skills.

Instructions

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.

Transcript

In today's lecture we're going to be talking about experiments, and I thought it might be interesting for you all to learn about the world's oldest continuously running laboratory experiment that is still going today. In fact, it holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest-running experiment. This experiment began in 1927 and has been going ever since.

It's called the 'pitch drop' experiment and it was created by Professor Thomas Parnell at the University of Queensland, Australia. Parnell was the university's first physics professor, and he wanted to show in this experiment that everyday materials, such as pitch, can have quite surprising properties.

You see, when pitch is at room temperature, it feels solid. You can easily break it with a hammer. However, it isn't in fact solid. At room temperature, pitch is many billions of times more viscous than water, but it's actually fluid.

In 1927, Professor Parnell took a sample of pitch. He heated it and poured it into a glass funnel. He allowed the pitch to cool and settle – for three years. He then turned the funnel upside down and cut the top off it.

Since then, the pitch has slowly dropped out of the funnel. How slowly? Well, the first drop took eight years to fall. It took another forty years for another five drops to fall. Today it's been almost 90 years since the experiment started. Only nine drops have fallen from the funnel. The last drop fell in April 2014 and the next one is expected to fall in the 2020s.

The experiment has a tragic story associated with it. Professor Parnell died without seeing a pitch drop. His replacement, Professor John Mainstone, became responsible for the pitch drop experiment from 1961. He held the job for 52 years, and missed seeing the drop fall three times – by a day in 1977, by just five minutes in 1988 and finally in 2000, when the webcam that was recording the experiment suffered a power outage for 20 minutes, during which time the pitch dropped.

The pitch drop experiment is something we can all participate in now. There's a live web stream that allows anyone to watch the glass funnel and wait for the fateful moment. A similar experiment to the Queensland pitch drop was set up in Dublin, and the video of the moment the pitch actually dropped went viral on the internet. It's interesting to see how a very slow event can spread news so quickly.

Discussion

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Profile picture for user El Cuy Mágico

Submitted by El Cuy Mágico on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 22:21

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Yes I listened there was something like an psychological experiment called “Rhythm”. In summary, it was about a woman in a room who put different things on a table, from bread to a gun, then she invited some people to came in and closed the door. For many hours she just stand without make a noise and the more hours passed the more aggressive people became. Its a little creepy but its interesting.

Submitted by Minh on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 19:33

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It is a hard topic, if we had on the experiment, we couldn't image what happen. Fortunately, I had it when I was in elementary school. But I can't remember clearly because the school hadn't enough condition for us to practise full time. With a few hours were impressed my memories. Moreover, practise experiment are made everybody to understand long time and be aware of the theme.

Submitted by Saad786 on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 13:30

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My first experiment was the dissection of the frog. Catching a frog is a very difficult task somehow I managed to catch it. I took the frog in the laboratory, dissected from the middle. I observed that the internal organs and system of the frog is very similar to humans.

Submitted by Mara120 on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 05:49

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I never heard about that experiment when I was studing at different Uni in queensland state. On my opinion, first few years it looked like really intresting experiment but time goes by it is more be like a guinness world record than scientific experiment. Because Dr Parnell already got his result (pitch is liquid)and there is nothing to wait new result or changes anymore. Only interesting thing is it has going long time thats it.
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Submitted by DJ Singh on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 09:06

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I love experiment stories but unfortunately can't remember any of them.

Submitted by loveiseverything on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 09:34

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I recalled an experiment about the human moral or psychology. There was a crazy train losing control when you were in the driving room and you could decide which direction to turn the steering wheel. Ouside the train, there were 5 people in the right track and 1 person in the left. Which side will you choose to turn the steering wheel?
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Submitted by javibuendi on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 09:51

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I found the tasks of this listening very useful, I´m looking forward to finding this kind of activities in the following listenings. According to the question above, I know a few psychological experiments. One of them is called The Stanford prison experiment. In summary, it´s about how the behaviour of a person changes depending on the role that he or she is playing. You can look it up for further information, it´s really interesting. Cheers from Madrid.

Submitted by l.jiang. on Wed, 11/11/2020 - 14:09

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I remember the element radium that discovered by Madame Curie. The downsides were also great. Marie's work with radioactive elements inflicted serious burns to her arms and hands. She devoted all her time to the study of radium.

Submitted by Echo1 on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 08:21

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The Michelson-Morley experiment. The main objective of this experiment was to detect the luminiferous ether which was believed to be the medium wherein light and other electromagnetic waves propagate. In this experiment, they measured the speed of light in many different angles and speculated that they should measure a maximum and a minimum value for the speed of light. The maximum value of the speed of light will be measured when the light is travelling within the ether, and the minimum value can be measured when the light is travelling against the motion of the ether. However, no differences in the speed of light was detected which suggested that the light does not require any medium to propagate onto. This experiment is now known as the "Best failure in science" because it is being used in a lot of practical applications specially in laboratory testings.
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Submitted by danisep on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 02:52

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No I don't know a lot about any experiments, at the beginning I get the point of the experiment and I think that it's an interesting fact and we have learned something new which is great, but now this experiment is just marketing for the university I can't believe that there are people watching constantly a stream waiting for a drop.