Monday, August 26, 2013

Pitch perfect patience.

Pitch Drop
By Amber Cunningham (Afternoons producer)
Did I tell you how much I love my job? I love my job.
We get to meet the coolest people on ABC Afternoons and today I think we met the most patient man in the world. 
Professor John Mainstone has been custodian of a single science experiment for 52 years. Enough time for eleven Prime Ministers to move in and out of Kirribilli House and for the passing of seventeen olympic games. The experiment is called The Pitch Drop wherein it takes between ten and twelve years for a lump of pitch to schmooze through a funnel and drop. Pitch is solid enough to smash with a hammer but its solidity co-exists with fluidity. I know. Crazy.
In terms of visible thrills and spills, there are none, yet science egg-heads the world over watch this thing on webcams and obsess about seeing the exact moment when one piece of pitch becomes two. It happens in one tenth of a second. You can ignore it for nearly a decade but after that, look away at your peril.
Professor Mainstone has been watching since 1961 during which time the pitch has dropped eight times and on every occasion ... he's missed it. Once in 1979 because he took a Sunday off and once in 1988 because he was getting a cup of tea. That right there would rot my socks. Yet he remains the most patient and sunny-natured man, he didn't even throw his cup of tea at a wall. On the most recent drop Professor Mainstone had cameras rigged to capture the moment, the cameras failed. 
So while the dual properties of pitch might excite the science-y types among us, people like Professor John Mainstone inspire in me equal levels of wonder. It was lovely to meet him.
P.S. Sarah Knight has been standing in for a poorly Gillo. Quite literally standing in, Sarah has jerry-rigged a stand-up work station, stacking her computer on top of a couple of boxes. Apart from that, working at the ABC is exactly like being on the Starship Enterprise. True.

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