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October 08, 2005


Alejandro Rivero

If it were not because the set up was done in the antipode, I should say it is plagiarising the glaciar emulation experiment at Glasgow, which regretly stopped accidentally after everyone forgot the goal of the experience, and now it is shown in the physics cafeteria, jointly with other various instruments from Lord Kelvin. Can anyone from Glasgow expand on this?

John Mainstone

I am well aware of the Lord Kelvin glacier model (ca. 1870), and the later 'ether' model, at the University of Glasgow. Parnell was a St John's College Cambridge man. The Pitch Drop experiment that he set up in 1927 at UQ Physics may have its antecedent in Glasgow, or elsewhere. It would be of great interest to trace a lineage, and several leads have been suggested, but at this stage I am not aware of any 'data collection' - as in a laboratory experiment - anywhere else. In the same year (1927), St Andrew's University in Scotland attempted to set up a similar pitch experiment, but it failed to produce drops. There is no eveidence of any correspondence between Parnell and his counterparts in Scotland. Several years ago The Guinness World Records people contacted me, and not vice versa; many months later they returned their "longest running laboratory experiment" verdict, presumably choosing their words carefully. I might add that in the light of what was happening in the world of quantum mechanics in 1927, it is not inconceivable that a 'classical' physicist would want to show that the new breed of quantum physicists shouldn't have it all their own way when it comes to mysteries!

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