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Drips and Drops

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54047.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:01 pm Reply with quote

Q: What shape are rain drops?

Forfeit: tear-shaped, pear-shaped, pointy

A: Spherical. Apparently the tear-shaped thing is a cartoonist's convention, designed to express movement.

s: Radio 4 programme on "The Sphere", Wed 21/9/05

Ball-bearing and lead shot makers use the spherical shape of droplets in their manufacturing process. Molten lead is dropped through a sieve from a great height into a cooling liquid, and comes out spherical. Shot-drop towers used to be built for the purpose - eg the one that stood next to Waterloo Bridge until the Festival of Britain. Pictures of British ones at,8543,-10604514616,00.html and and an American one which was at one time the tallest building in America at

This was originally posted at post 24550

54051.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:12 pm Reply with quote

The topic went on to the subject of making better ball-bearings in space, which was something that was touted as a justification for the Shuttle in the early days of the project but which was apparently just a load of old ball bearings.

54053.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:14 pm Reply with quote

Could the drip-shaped thing not have originated from the shape a drop makes as it is about to leave a tap, or fall off a leaf, or whatever.

Hmmm, that was hard to describe - what I meant was this:


See how long this one stays put.

Last edited by eggshaped on Sat Apr 01, 2006 6:02 am; edited 1 time in total

54059.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:21 pm Reply with quote

There's an experiment which has been running since 1927 in Brisbane to record the rate at which pitch drips - about one drop every eight years in this set-up:
In the foyer of the Department of Physics at the University of Queensland in Brisbane is an experiment to illustrate, for teaching purposes, the fluidity and the very high viscosity of pitch, set up in 1927 by Professor Thomas Parnell, the first Professor of Physics there.

The pitch was warmed and poured into a glass funnel, with the bottom of the steam sealed. Three years were allowed for the pitch to consolidate, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date the pitch has been allowed to flow out of the funnel and a record kept of the dates when drops fell. The observations which appear in the illustration are brought up to date in table 1. The pitch in its funnel is not kept under any special conditions, so its rate of flow varies with normal, seasonal changes in temperature.

There have been eight such events since the experiment started.

54080.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:04 pm Reply with quote

The word 'stalactite' is from the Greek 'stalaktos', 'dripping'. They're formed from calcium carbonate and other minerals precipitated from mineralized water solutions.

The longest stalactite known is in the Chamber of Rarities in the Gruta Rei do Mato in Brazil. It is 20 metres long.

'Stalagmite' is from the Greek 'stalagma', 'drop'.

Stalactites have to hang on tight so they don't fall, whereas stalagmites might reach the ceiling if they keep growing.

Don't know where the biggest stalagmite is, but there are some jolly big ones in the Carlsbad Caverns.

54083.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:07 pm Reply with quote

BTW, thanks, James. Yes, I guess that's right - but also the shape of a raindrop when it runs down a window pane.

54094.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:18 pm Reply with quote

Drop Bears are oversized carnivorous koalas which attack their prey by jumping out of the treetops onto their heads. They are fictional creatures used to frighten Australian children into not sitting under eucalyptus trees (which do drop their branches unpredictably) and to tease gullible poms, but it does appear that the extinct creature Thylacoleo carnifexmay well have been more or less as described.

54100.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:23 pm Reply with quote

In scientific terms the 'drop' is a defined amount of liquid, but it's defined differently in the metric, medical, Imperial and US systems (indeed, in two ways in the US system).

54106.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:29 pm Reply with quote

Bread and Dripping makes a nourishing breakfast (a bit like ciabatta dipped in extra virgin olive oil, only not so damn soft). In Yorkshire it is known as a 'mucky fat' sandwich.

54110.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:33 pm Reply with quote

If I went into the pub and asked them to sell me the contents of their drip tray, would they be allowed to? James, you're in the business, what do you reckon?

54240.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 4:24 am Reply with quote

Err, I'll look into it but my initial thought would be no.

Certainly we wouldn't allow our landlords to do it, there's a health and safety issue, as well as the fact that pubs get ullage allowances for any beer lost. But as for a legal standpoint - I'll see what I can find.

54249.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:13 am Reply with quote

Don't take any time on this, it was an idle thought. But I like the sound of the ullage allowance. Is that a credit that the publican is allowed by the brewery for beer spilled or wasted? If so I think that's all I need in this context.

54254.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:22 am Reply with quote

Researches indicate that the word is applied to all kinds of waste beer - beer left in the barrel, beer drawn off when you're switching barrels, beer in the drip tray, etc. It used to mean 'the amount by which a cask or bottle falls short of being full' (1481).

54265.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:58 am Reply with quote

Ullage is an all-encompassing word for beer which is wasted rather than sold. In real-life, despite the fact that you should get 88 pints in an 11Gallon barrell, you will always lose a few pints for the reasons you mentioned above. Incidentally, the drip trays which you see in pubs are always (in my experience) exactly 1/2 or 1 pint in volume, for obvious counting reasons.

In stocktaking, when comparing the amount of beer sold with the amount of stock used, it is important to take into account this "lost" beer, and so an allowance is given to the licencee.

In practice though, the licencee will attempt to minimalise his wastage, in order that the ullage allowance might cover any other slight anomolies - an unscrupulous barman mightn't clean his lines as often as he should, knowing that he will get the allowance whether it is done or not.

54358.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 8:37 am Reply with quote

Drip-tray update:

I’ve just found a trading-standards leaflet, which says that beer or lager must be served in a stamped glass - or at least measured in an officially stamped receptacle. That means that it would be illegal for the barman to sell you the drip-tray contents unless he has first measured the amount in a normal glass. Still nothing around the office which answers your specific question though.

Also did you know that you are only allowed to sell beer in multiples of ˝ pint? Well there is an exception; it is legal to sell 1/3 of a pint of beer, though I wouldn’t have thought that would be enough to even wet your whistle.


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