Friday, 29 October 2010

A Halloween Trilogy

We've started an annual tradition of making videos at Halloween for The Periodic Table of Videos.

This year it is all about blood - both real and fake!

Last year's video was slightly more violent, and was centred on pumpkins.

And the year before that we looked at candles - a video that remains one of most popular.

Happy Halloween to all!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Advice to aspiring scientists

We get all sorts of emails at The Periodic Table of Videos. In most cases we try to respond.

Recently a young viewer emailed The Professor asking for advice.

The writer asked what they should do to be good at chemistry and succeed at university.

I thought I'd share the reply written by Professor Poliakoff, because it's good advice for anyone.

The Professor wrote:

"I spoke to my students and they suggested the following things:

1. Make sure that you learn the material and concepts rather than just memorising them.

2. If you don't understand, always ask questions.

3. Enjoy it, it's fun!

4. Go and see your tutor or lecturer

5. Practise by looking at exam questions to help you understand the concepts

6. Don't think that you are stupid if you don't understand something

And finally one from me:

Don't be frightened of making mistakes. It's mistakes that help you learn."

Finally, here's an old video I did with The Professor in which he discussed his university days.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Physics and astronomy website Sixty Symbols has been shortlisted for an award.

It's the " web awards" and we're in the President's Prize category (because I think the unusual website didn't fit in any of the normal categories!)

Sixty Symbols started last year with the plan of making sixty films featuring experts from the University of Nottingham.

However when we reached sixty, viewers seemed hungry for more so we embarked on a "second sixty".

I film and edit the videos (and run the website) but all the credit really belongs to the physicists and astronomers.

They've really got into the spirit of Sixty Symbols, which is about smart physics but making it interesting to everyone... And making videos with a human touch and sense of humour.

Each category in the " web awards" will be awarded in pairs - a people's choice and judges award.

Our category has some scarily prestigous judges...

And we're up against some pretty tough competition!

But you can go ahead and vote at

Here are a few of my favourite videos from the project...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Quizzing The Professor

There's still some nice videos to come from my recent trip to India with Professor Poliakoff.

Photos from the trip on Flickr

After two of his lectures at the Asian Science Camp, we ran a Q&A session with the students - filming both the questions and answers.

Here's the first of a few videos we'll be posting:

And here's bit of an overview of the India trip for those who missed it.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A really, really nice guy

One of the first videos I've posted for the My Favourite Scientist project is about a microbiologist called Stanley Falkow.

To be honest, I'd never heard of him.

But it didn't take much research to realise Professor Falkow is one of the top dogs... perhaps a future Nobel Prize winner?!

In the video he's described (by Dr Alan McNally) as "a really, really nice guy... a wonderful man".

That's not a description always attributed to successful scientists.

But below the video I'll explain why I agree with this assessment.

It was hard to find photos of Professor Falkow for this video.

I emailed Stanford University for help, but things were moving slowly.

So I figured, why not email the man himself?

Despite being semi-retired, Professor Falkow replied almost immediately with a charming and friendly email.

It would be wrong to share his personal correspondence, but he seemed genuinely surprised that someone chose him as a "favourite".

Not only that, but Professor Falkow watched the finished video and was kind enough to say some nice things about it.

He was very humble for someone whose work has doubtless helped save countless lives.

As the video says, he seemed a "really, really nice guy".

Oh yeah, and he supplied the photo I needed.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A letter from Sheila

We receive all sorts of great messages and do our best to read all of them (replying when we can).

Here's a nice one we recently received from a Periodic Table of Videos fan that I thought worth sharing (with the writer's permission).

Dear Periodic Video Staff,


My husband Bruce and myself really enjoy your videos and informative content on FB, YouTube and your official site.

I am getting my Masters in Chemistry and have a desire to continue my studies mostly in the lab doing research etc.

My first career was as a CNN Headline Newscaster in Radio and TV and I retired and went back for PharmD and then fell in love with Chemistry and Physics and knew I couldn't just stand behind a Walgreens counter all day:).

I NEED the lab. I have a wonderful home lab thanks to my adorable husband, who is very supportive with my crazy theories and ideas.

That is what I love about Chemistry. It is still very much a pioneering field and like Physics, many things are yet to be discovered about the Universe and how elements can improve our lives if used respectively and treated properly.

My gg grandfather Nicoli was a Chemist and Pharmacist from Samos, Samos Greece (a Hellenistic Jew).

I come from a long line of chemists, physicists and pharmacists:).

The Professor looks very much like my Dad Nathan (he was a Professor too).

I enjoy watching him very much! I've enclosed a pic of my dad (right) and myself (above).

My dad truly looks like Albert Einstein. He passed away in 2001.

We travel quite a bit and we would be so excited to actually meet the Professor someday in England (we have a son in England).

I would be delighted to perhaps do a video sometime with you guys!

Thank you again,

Best wishes


Thursday, 14 October 2010

A mysterious new science project

Today I started filming on a new video project all about science.

It's still a bit mysterious - but I thought the die-hard loyal viewers might enjoy seeing a project like this evolve from day one.

You can subscribe on YouTube at

Or follow on Twitter at

Be among the very first to sign on!

A full website and Facebook page, etc, are still in the pipeline.

More soon...

And don't worry, usual service on projects like Periodic Table of Videos and Sixty Symbols won't be affected.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Red Sludge and Red Giants

This week I've posted two science main films - one each for Sixty Symbols and Periodic Table of Videos.

For Sixty Symbols it was video about star classification and why our Sun is designated as a G2V.

I love the way astronomers took something so vital to our existence and made it seem so un-special!

On the chemistry side of things we paid attention to recent news (and viewer suggestions) and took a look at the toxic red sludge which caused so much pain and havoc in Hungary.

As always The Professor dazzled with his ability to take a complicated issue and boil it down to a few interesting facts!

There was a bit of left-over footage from my interview with The Professor which I posted on our "behind the scenes" site, Test Tube.

Here it is:

Friday, 8 October 2010

Great Comments

One of the best things about posting videos online is that we get so much feedback from viewers.

And most of the time it's positive!?

I used to read every comment, but that's not possible any more.

Thought I'd use this blog entry to collect a few favourites (with creative spelling and grammar left untouched).

SS = Sixty Symbols
PTOV = Periodic Table of Videos
TT = Test Tube
BD = Bibledex
WoW = Words of the World

"If I ever perfect my time machine, I'm going back and enroling at Nottingham Uni. Awesome series!" (SS)

"I must say thank you to this channel, and all those who contribute for inspiring me completely. Throughout my school career i had never been very interested in chemistry, but your videos have provided and insightful and interesting way of learning the subject. I recently took my gcse in chemistry, and thanks to the inspiration i recieved from your videos I scored 95%. I have also chosen a level chemistry, and am closer to my subject teachers through interesting topics learnt from the videos. I feel I owe my success greatly to these videos, so thank you!" (PTOV)

"This channel inspired me to get back in school, hoping to major in physics." (SS)

"Brady, I've never heard of the name of Notthingham before (because I live in some remote country called Japan), but now I tend to see Nottingham as the center of the world's academics with lots of awesome researchers..." (BD)

"More videos! Ive watched them all now some a couple times..Fantastic stuff, id rather watch it than any TV show." (SS)

"I just wanted to congratulate all of you for the wonderful videos I've been watching for the past year and a half, as I never took the time before. Personally, as a laser physicist, it makes me realize all that I lost when I chose this path over chemistry back in school, but in the same time, helps me fill the gap. Plus I've grown very fond of rock-star Pr. Poliakoff, like many people on YouTube sure have. More generally, I am so happy that you guys are so successful and are able to inspire the new generation. You are an example to the scientific community." (PTOV)

"Brady, thank you and your Nottingham friends so much for all you work! I'm going back to college because of your videos." (TT)

"I really like this channel. I think it's hard to find information on YouTube about the Bible that isn't extremelly biased and telling you to belief in this and that. I'm not a Christian but I do find learning about it to be interesting purely from a cultural point of view. Good work! ;)" (BD)

"I LOVE all your channels and vids, so THANKYOU Brady and all the crews involved. These have to be some of the top YouTube channels." (TT)

"excellent channel, from what i seen, you've got another "better than Public School" grade channel in the works, congratulations." (WoW)

"What a fantastic channel, I came across it via a friends facebook post. This is a really excellent example of what a youtube channel can offer. Great work :)" (SS)

"I'm a great fan of sixtysymbols (being a physics teacher) but I discovered this channel today! It's wonderful." (WoW)

"Awesome channels guys. There are too many here in the states that believe science is reserved for the elite." (TT)

"Why can't any American universities do something like this? While Britain has Brainiac, we have crap like Mythbusters. These videos taught me everything I need to know about elemental chemistry." (PTOV)

"i lately found your channel and its amazing :) i just wish all professors could explain math and physics in the way you guys do. i think i watched all the videos and i crave for more. its so entertaining, interesting and addictive." (SS)

"I'm a chemistry student in Brazil, and i LOVE periodic videos, i saw all the videos in just 1 month!" (PTOV)

"I am year 11 and am doing level 1 Science in NZ and to be honest... I like Science... But when I watch these videos.. I love it... This is so much more interesting than speed=distance/time...." (SS)

"Thank you very much for doing this! Great directing, great camera work..Thank you!!" (SS)

"Awesome! You are such a great teacher. We are homeschoolers, (5th & 7th grade) and are learning the Elements this year, one each week. I sure am thankful for your videos. All of you are so interesting, funny at times and keep myself and the boys not only learning, but wanting to learn more; now that is a sign of great teachers!" (PTOV)

"This channel should be part of the national curriculum. Keep up the good work!" (PTOV)

"This is a great idea. I think giving people a chance to look at science in a creative and fun way to make it appeal to the masses is fantastic. The educational value is also great! Keep up the good work!" (PTOV)

"I just found this channel and wish I had more time. It's AWESOME! Now I have to scratch my head and wonder why it took so long for me to find it. I love this channel already." (SS)

"Well Brady I take my hat off to you mate!!! Ive just found this channel, as a result of being totally hooked on periodic and sixty, and I LOVE what Im seeing and hearing. I think what youre doing is just awesome all the way - from starting idea/concept, to the finished product. Might actually have to leave my wife at work overnight tonite so i can do bibledex without being talked at...nah...Im dreamin. THANKS AGAIN!!!" (BD)

"love this! this is a phenomenal idea!" (WoW)

"This is my #1 Youtube channel! I check for new videos at least twice each week." (PTOV)

"Hello from Norway! I must say great videos! It is incredible that you make the effort of covering all the elements. You really make the University of Nottingham attractive, even for Norwegians like me:)" (PTOV)

"Hey guys, I really enjoy your videos! I send them to lots of people and everyone enjoys them all. You are all a bunch of characters too, it's really an amazing job you have done." (PTOV)

"im currently doing a level physics, every lesson i get confused, but i soldier on!!!! this sort of theory, is what im interested in and is a real motivation! :)" (SS)

"thank you for making these videos. you guys are the reason I am going to quit working and start college again in september, in chemistry of course! :-)" (PTOV)

"This channel is great! Religious belief and controversies aside, the bible is just an interesting book, both regarding its contents and its historical significance. Keep up the good work!" (BD)

"What a fantastic collection of fun, educational videos. Thanks for doing these and sharing them, they really are a wonderful resource!" (SS)

"Another channel from Nottingham, Brady has done it again :)!" (WoW)

"You guys should feature Neil in more videos. He's cool. Reminds me of Lex Luthor." (PTOV)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Crunching video

My poor computer is working overtime tonight.

Over the last two days I've filmed a timelapse video as a group of engineers constructed a special rig.

I just wanted to show the hard work and long hours which go into science.

But now it's a lesson in the hard work and long hours which go into film-making.

For various technical reasons, all the video files (and they are very big) need to go through three pieces of software before I can edit them.

So my (usually) trusty Mac has been crunching the files in the background for the last seven hours.

And it will continue working through the night.

I've been monitoring the computer's CPU temperature as it works. It's currently lurking between 81 and 84 degrees... hotter than usual.

In the end, I expect the three days of work to yield only a few minutes of useful video!!!

The rig being built in the film is just like this one, which I featured in August.

A Heck of a Day

The Chemistry Nobel Prize created a hectic day on par with the awarding of the physics prize.

I watched the announcement live with Professor Poliakoff, who immediately burrowed into his box of dog toys for some props.

I think he enjoys the challenge of speaking about it the moment it's announced!

The prize was given to Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for work in the field of organic chemistry.

So I popped upstairs and grabbed Rob Stockman - an organic chemist who has recently joined the periodicvideos team.

Rob gave me a quick interview, but also suggested I speak to the other organic chemist who appears in our periodicvideos, John Moses.

It turns out John worked briefly with one of the winners.

And John was also able to demonstrate one of the Nobel-winning reactions in his lab.

I think filming reactions to the Nobel Prize within minutes of the announcements adds some excitement. I hope it comes across?

It is the third year we have done it... Here are the previous two:

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Who knows the Nobel winner?

The annual awarding of the Nobel Prizes is like the World Cup Final for science.

So little surprise it's a crazy day for my main science websites - Sixty Symbols and Periodic Table of Videos.

Whatever happens, we need to quickly figure out what we can film and get it online as quickly as possible.

Today it was the Nobel Prize in Physics, and I hoped it would be won by someone a Sixty Symbols expert could talk about.

And what luck!

In fact it was won by someone who formerly worked with one of our presenters.

Andre Geim (pictured), who shared this year's prize with Konstantin Novoselov, worked as a postdoc fellow at the University of Nottingham in the 1990s, researching alongside Sixty Symbols regular Professor Laurence Eaves.

The prize was won by Geim and Novoselov for work at The University of Manchester.

But having a small link to Nottingham was a bonus for Sixty Symbols - it meant we could talk about the winners with a small amount of personal insight.

Professor Eaves was at pains to make sure all the glory went to the worthy winners, Geim and Novoselov. But it was clear he was delighted for them and he vowed to toast their victory this evening!

I had no time for toasts though. It was a mad rush to get the video edited and online as quickly as possible.

And it all starts again tomorrow with the chemistry prize. I wonder who will win that one?