Wonderful item on BBC Radio 4 Today. Report on an experiment begun in 1927 to test the viscosity of pitch. (at about 2hrs 18 mins in).
"At room temperature pitch feels solid - even brittle - and can easily be shattered with a blow from a hammer. It's quite amazing then, to see that pitch at room temperature is actually fluid!"
"In 1927 Professor Parnell heated a sample of pitch and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Three years were allowed for the pitch to settle, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date on the pitch has slowly dripped out of the funnel - so slowly that now, 80 years later, the ninth drop is only just forming" ... and no-one has ever seen any of the previous 8 drops actually happen.
Today interviewer Justin Webb asked the current professor in charge of the project "What can we learn from the 9th drop?", a question that his fellow presenter John Humphries characterised as one of the most "profound" "meaningful" questions ever asked on the Today programme for which Justin Webb was to be congratulated. Big chuckles in the studio! And in my car, too, as I was listening while driving to work.
What can we learn from the 9th drop? What it put me in mind of was the person at a child's annual review who, comparing two consecutive annual reports from the child's school, said that he could detect little progress over the year, was not happy with this and would have to report it. Mum and others present took a wholly different view, that despite the child's considerable difficulties progress had been made.
Two views, seeming almost to be seeing things at different speeds. Yes and no. No-one saw the first eight drops fall. Anyone who cares to access the website can stand by to see the ninth drop. I'm reminded of the philosophic question "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?"
If at the annual review, someone does not recognise the progress of the child, does it mean the child has made no progress?
The onus, of course, is on us in conductive education to find ways to describe and evidence that progress. Even if we all have to wait to discover what we can learn from the ninth drop.