Pitch, Pech, pix

It is sad to learn that professor John S. MAINSTONE (Ger.) died (obituary, Nachruf) without having seen the pitch drop (Ger., Eng.). While he curated the experiment two drops fell, but he did not witness the first one, because he had just went to fetch a cup of coffee. The second one went undocumented because the installed webcam failed. Luckier were his colleagues at the Trinity college in Dublin who run a similar experiment  – their drop can be seen falling. I find it a bit unfair that he was awarded the Ig-Noble (Ger., Eng.) in 2005 for Physics, but of course he went there to collect his price (see winner list here) – in stark contrast to the winners for literature that year, who shunned the ceremony.
Very impressive, imho, was the exploration that was awarded the price in 2012 in the field of Neuroscience, for showing that the use of advanced instruments and simple statistics can proof the occurrence of brain activity everywhere, even in a dead salmon (pdf). We still do not know what a dead salmon thinks, but it may just be a matter of time until we can solve this riddle too.
In between I can confess that I prefer MAINSTONE’s experiment: It is simple, everyone can understand what is going on, no failure-prone and unnecessary equipment (the camera went dead when the drop fell!) – and, best of all:  No statistics.
Sad that he was not allowed to see the pitch drop.

The 2013 ceremony will be held on 12th of September, 18:00, Sanders Theater, Harvard, webcast available.

10 thoughts on “Pitch, Pech, pix

  1. I hope you are satisfied now, Ms Quotes.

    Spot on beschiß LX! We simply did not find the fitting spider hole … To save Mainstone’s reputation: He did serious stuff for the most time through his long career.

  2. The Guardian ran an interesting article about this experiment a while ago and its deviser’s unfortunate knack of missing the crucial moment. It reminded me of the performance in Halbstadt of John Cage’s piece “Organ²/ASLSP”, which is ten years into its more than 800 year duration. They’re going to change the note in October and if I had the money I would love to come to see that happen.

  3. I find it enchanting in it’s simplicity, Hoppelschaum – there is nothing unnecessary, no trallala: Just some pitch/tar, and we wait ’til it drops. It doesn’t get much more reduced.

    Won’t there be a long brake after this note? Do you believe it will be finished, 1looby?

  4. The note will change on 5th October this year; that note will then sound for six years and eleven months.

    I would like to think the piece will be finished, but how can we sure that political and social peace will reign in Halberstadt for another eight hundred years?

    It certainly adds a new dimension to the adage ars longa, vita brevis :)

    Wikipedia: Organ²/ASLSP

  5. Oh that’s fine, so we have a chance to hear it while it last’s! Halberstadt, Germany, Europe … yes, it’s a risky and strangely optimistic endeavour!

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