Measurement of bitumen viscosity in the room-temperature drop experiment: student education, public outreach and modern science in one
Physics Education 49(4), 406 (2014)
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Slow flow of the viscous liquid is a thought-provoking experiment that challenges students, academics and public to think about some fundamental questions in modern science. In the Queensland demonstration, the world-longest running experiment earning the Ig Nobel prize, one drop of pitch takes about 10 years to fall, leading to problems of actually observing the drops. Here, we describe our recent demonstration of slowly-flowing bitumen where appreciable flow is observed on the time scale of months. The experiment is free from dissipative heating effects and has the potential to improve the accuracy of measurement. Bitumen viscosity was calculated by undergraduate students during the summer project. The worldwide access to the running experiment is provided by webcams uploading the images to a dedicated website, enhancing student education experience and promotion of science. This demonstration serves as an attractive student education exercise and stimulates the discussion of fundamental concepts and hotly debated ideas in modern physics research: difference between solids and liquids, the nature of liquid-glass transition, emergence of long time scales in a physical process, and the conflict between human intuition and physical reality.
AuthorsWiddicombe, AT; Ravindrarajah, P; Sapelkin, A; Phillips, AE; Dunstan, D; Dove, MT; Brazhkin, VV; Trachenko, K
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