There are a couple of competing tar-pitch drop experiments going on in the world. The oldest is taking place at the University of Queensland in Australia. It has given us eight drops of pitch over its 86-year history. The ninth drop could happen at any time.
In honor of the impending occasion, the university has launched The Ninth Watch, a site where anyone can sign up to view a live feed of the experiment and have their names on the official list of witnesses if they happen to be online and watching when the drop finally falls.
The University of Queensland is aiming to stop a long losing streak. Though the pitch drops have been counted, there have been no actual witnesses to those drops over the years. That's about to change, assuming there is at least one viewer logged on when the pitch takes a tumble.
The pitch-drop experiment has lasted for so long because of the extremely slow nature of the pitch's movement. It looks like a solid, but acts like a liquid over an extended time period. The live feed would be hard to distinguish from a still photograph if it weren't for an analog clock tracking the time, but there is still a sense of anticipation every time you log in.
"The names of people logged in to the site when it falls, and their observations, will be added to the official records, so it's their shot at immortality," says professor and pitch-drop custodian Andrew White.
So far, more than 3,300 people have signed up as watchers. In a recent viewing session, 123 of us were watching at the same time. If you want to know what to expect, you can check out a video from an Irish version of the experiment that captured a drop 69 years in the making. If that doesn't get you excited about the Australian experiment, then nothing will.