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The Pitch Drip Dripped ‘Round the World

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A science experiment 69 years in the making has finally come to a conclusion at Dublin’s Trinity College. Though this may seem like small potatoes compared to the 421-year-old university, scientists are thrilled that the experiment—a test of the viscosity of the plant byproduct pitch—has come to fruition.

Last Thursday, the act of a drip of pitch dripping through a funnel and into a jar below was finally captured on camera, after decades of waiting. The drip in question was said to have formed weeks prior; in April, scientists set up round-the-clock webcam surveillance in order to catch the exact moment in finally fell into the jar.

So, why is this a big deal? Back in 1944, the experiment was started by a colleague of Nobel Prize winner Ernest Walton at the Trinity physics department. His aim was to prove that the black carbonic substance was indeed viscous or flowing (this had long been hypothesized, but there wasn't any actual proof). Over the years, a few drips were said to have fallen into the jar—the last was recorded on November 28, 2000—but the evidence had never before been captured on camera until last week. Based on the results of the experiment, they can now estimate the viscosity of pitch to be two million times that of honey.

Professor Shane Bergin of TCD School of Physics called the long-awaited event “amazing,” saying it summed up why he likes being a scientist—science serving as a catalyst for curiosity. Until its 69-year-old hypothesis was fulfilled, many physicists believed the experiment to be among the oldest active experiments in the world. The title for the world’s longest running experiment is a similar study started in Australia in the 1920s—another jar of pitch, one that has not yet been caught dripping on camera.

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'Lime Disease' Could Give You a Nasty Rash This Summer
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A cold Corona or virgin margarita is best enjoyed by the pool, but watch where you’re squeezing those limes. As Slate illustrates in a new video, there’s a lesser-known “lime disease,” and it can give you a nasty skin rash if you’re not careful.

When lime juice comes into contact with your skin and is then exposed to UV rays, it can cause a chemical reaction that results in phytophotodermatitis. It looks a little like a poison ivy reaction or sun poisoning, and some of the symptoms include redness, blistering, and inflammation. It’s the same reaction caused by a corrosive sap on the giant hogweed, an invasive weed that’s spreading throughout the U.S.

"Lime disease" may sound random, but it’s a lot more common than you might think. Dermatologist Barry D. Goldman tells Slate he sees cases of the skin condition almost daily in the summer. Some people have even reported receiving second-degree burns as a result of the citric acid from lime juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, the chemical that causes phytophotodermatitis can also be found in wild parsnip, wild dill, wild parsley, buttercups, and other citrus fruits.

To play it safe, keep your limes confined to the great indoors or wash your hands with soap after handling the fruit. You can learn more about phytophotodermatitis by checking out Slate’s video below.

[h/t Slate]

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Why Eating From a Smaller Plate Might Not Be an Effective Dieting Trick 
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It might be time to rewrite the diet books. Israeli psychologists have cast doubt on the widespread belief that eating from smaller plates helps you control food portions and feel fuller, Scientific American reports.

Past studies have shown that this mind trick, called the Delboeuf illusion, influences the amount of food that people eat. In one 2012 study, participants who were given larger bowls ended up eating more soup overall than those given smaller bowls.

However, researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Negev, Israel, concluded in a study published in the journal Appetite that the effectiveness of the illusion depends on how empty your stomach is. The team of scientists studied two groups of participants: one that ate three hours before the experiment, and another that ate one hour prior. When participants were shown images of pizzas on serving trays of varying sizes, the group that hadn’t eaten in several hours was more accurate in assessing the size of pizzas. In other words, the hungrier they were, the less likely they were to be fooled by the different trays.

However, both groups were equally tricked by the illusion when they were asked to estimate the size of non-food objects, such as black circles inside of white circles and hubcaps within tires. Researchers say this demonstrates that motivational factors, like appetite, affects how we perceive food. The findings also dovetail with the results of an earlier study, which concluded that overweight people are less likely to fall for the illusion than people of a normal weight.

So go ahead and get a large plate every now and then. At the very least, it may save you a second trip to the buffet table.

[h/t Scientific American]

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