Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Filming Underground

Here is The Prof and I deep undeground in an Australian gold mine.

There's 20 million tonnes of rock (and a few specks of gold) above our heads.

We enjoyed a tour of the mine, then made our own video about where gold comes from.

Professorial Cake

Professor Poliakoff had some students visit his office the other day (right).

They claimed to be fans of our Periodic Table of Videos, which we always like to hear.

They also had a confession.

In a flagrant and unauthorised breach of The Professor's image rights, they'd used his likeness on a friend's chemistry-themed birthday cake.

The professor agreed to waive his usual fees is exchange for a few photos of the cake itself! :)

I've never seen The Prof's hair look more delicious!

Click here for another brilliant likeness.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Ernest Rutherford Collection

Our most recent film for The Periodic Table of Videos is about Ernest Rutherford - or his potato masher to be precise.

But it reminds me that I've now edited three videos with interesting tales about Rutherford.

Here they are:

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A message from Vietnam

Loved this email (and pictures) from a young Periodic Table of Videos viewer in Vietnam.

Dear periodic table of videos,

My name is Mark, I am one of your channel subscribers.

I am writing you this letter to inform you on some great news.

I started watching your videos only about 6 months ago when I was surfing the internet for some infos on aqua regia, since then I've been over every videos of yours, every single ones, including the previous videos too and some of Brady's other channels, because I found your videos astoundingly fascinating.

Most of your videos I found was unexpectedly useful when my classmates asked me about the stuff they didn't understand for example: gallium melting point, etc.

Ok, let's get to the main point.

I took the national Australian chemistry quiz held by RACI in July which spread over 15 nations (which Vietnam is where I'm from, Mark is just my preferred English name).

This test mainly aimed at basic chem learners (I'm only 13) so you get a bunch of infos before a question (so that you don't need to know much about chemistry at all).

I found it rather easy for some of the questions was on: year of chemistry, neodymium, buckminsterfullerene, 2010 Nobel prize, etc, which I already saw on your channel.

The result, I got 30 out of 30 and later received the award of excellence, which I'm very proud of since no one else in my school have it.


I've sent you some pictures. 

Yours sincerely,

PS And yes! I wrote this, not my English teacher.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Enigma Machine... on the dining room table

Filmed with a real-life enigma machine today for Numberphile.

Not every day you have one of THEM on the dining room table.

Videos about it soon!

Automatic advertising?

I'm sometimes fascinated by automatically-generated advertising.

Some examples on recent films I've uploaded.

Here we see a video about standard weights (such as the official troy pound stored at the Royal Society). We get an advertisement for weight loss and dropping dress sizes!

A video featuring the famously coiffed Professor Poliakoff - we have a hair product that will "end frizz now."

And somewhat mysteriously, this video featuring spy satellites runs with an advertisement espousing the merits of Russian ladies!?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Satellites in Shot

My new space series Deep Sky Videos is due to launch in January.

But production has already started. and today I shared a little preview.

The preview included this photo, which I think is amazing.

Courtesy of Nik Szymanek

The image is a five-minute exposure of the Andromeda Galaxy, taken by top astrophotographer Nik Szymanek.

But his photo has been blighted by FIVE satellites streaking across the field of view.

One of them streak "through" the core of Andromeda (though of course the satellite is in the foreground - by about 2.5 million light-years).

Here's the video in which we see numerous examples of satellites popping up in pictures.

Don't miss Deep Sky Videos when it starts.

Follow on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

(Photo courtesy of Nik Szymanek)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The view from Down Under

Here's another video from my recent trip to Australia.

It includes Dr Amanda Bauer, formerly of Sixty Symbols fame, but now working in Sydney.

And amateur astronomer Paul Haese, who lives in my home town of Adelaide.

Both are discussing the view of the night sky from the southern hemisphere, which differs somewhat from the northern view.

Here's some extra footage from the interviews which I posted on Test Tube.


And here is an earlier film with Paul, discussing an image of Saturn.

By the way, don't miss Deep Sky Videos... coming soon!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Four videos - time for a rest

Today I uploaded four videos... count them!

There was this one for The Periodic Table of Videos... Not only amazing because of its content, but also because it features our friend Michael Stevens from Vsauce!

A new film for Numberphile, explaining why Pac-Man ends at level 255.

Then we have the latest piece of food science from Foodskey... Did you know that mayonnaise contains lemon peels?

And from Bibledex, we learn how Professor Roland Deines turned half a Bible verse into a 300-page book!?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

What I did in the capital...

Back from an eventful couple of days in London.

On Monday, I filmed for the new Numberphile series.

The man in front of the camera was Matt Parker (right), who calls himself a “stand-up mathematician”.

Matt combines comedy and maths in a unique way and his contribution to Numberphile was great – stay tuned for his videos soon.

In the meantime, you can visit Numberphile and watch the preview and our first video about the number 11 (presented by Dr James Grime).

On Tuesday, I headed for the hallowed halls of the Royal Society.

The morning was spent mainly with library manager Rupert Baker (right) trawling through old documents about the French astronomer Charles Messier.

It was a tremendous success (partly due to Rupert’s better-than-mine grasp of French) and the footage will be seen in the upcoming YouTube series called Deep Sky Videos.

The films will be focusing heavily on the so-called Messier Catalogue, a collection of objects in space recorded by Messier in the 1700s.

In the afternoon we were joined by familiar face Professor Martyn Poliakoff and a new friend – Michael Stevens (pictured together).

Michael's the man behind the wildly successful YouTube channel, VSauce.

We met in the Royal Society’s secure vault and discussed some of the society’s precious science artifacts.

It was a great privilege and should result in some nice little video snippets (aka, mind-blowing science awesomeness, as I imagine Michael would describe it).

Michael and The Prof had some fun banter!

I won’t give away too much, but rest assured all will be revealed here on my blog and on YouTube.

I should point out that the Royal Society’s amazing collection of objects and documents is freely available to anyone who’s interested.

It’s routinely on public display or items can be viewed by arrangement. Visit the Royal Society website for more information.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Photoshoot with The Prof

Just saw these pictures of myself with Professor Poliakoff.

They were taken in Adelaide by photographer Brenton Edwards, from The Advertiser.

You can see him taking the pictures midway through our recent "Mr Dunaiski video".

Friday, 11 November 2011

Star Gazing with Nik

It's been cloudy all week here in the UK - and Thursday was no exception (right).

So with a heavy heart I got in my car and drove three hours from Nottigham to Essex.

I was meeting Nik Szymanek, one of the UK's best astrophotographers.

The plan was to film Nik in action and capture some images for our soon-to-be-launched series "Deep Sky Videos".

But as I approached Nik's home and the sun started setting, something remarkable happened.

The skies started to clear. The stars came out.

I couldn't believe it.

Nik and I immediately headed into his backyard observatory, convinced the clouds would return.

Bu tthey never did, and we fillmed almost three hours of great footage for Deep Sky Videos.

I should say observing conditions were still not the best, mainly because of the full moon (see below).

But they were certainly better than a complete cloud out!

Nik (right) is a great astrophotographer - but also very good on camera and will certainly be popular with viewers.

Driving home through the night (didn't get back until about 1.30am) I was certainly feeling much happier.

Deep Sky Videos will be launching in earnest from January, but I'm putting a bit of preview footage up beforehand.

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Some Extra Gallium Stuff

A interesting little post script to a video we posted a couple of weeks ago.

Annick's image courtesy of RACI
The video was about a periodic table depicting artworks for each element.

In the video, Professor Martyn Polikaoff commented on the element gallium.

It was one of our favourite depictions, although Professor Poliakoff was bemused by a "radioativity symbol" in the portrait.

Well, we have since heard from the artist, Dr Annick Ansselin.

Annick explained: "The reason the radioactive sign is there
is because Gallium is radioactive and used medically as a radioactive
tracer.  By the way, the blue/mauve background refers to its use in the LED and BLUERAY industry."

Professor Poliakoff replied: "How kind of you to write. and explain your thinking.  Your element picture was my favourite!"

More about the RACI's artistic periodic table at this link.

And more Annick's picture at this link.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A video about ETS Walton

A new video from Sixty Symbols.

This one is from our trip to Dublin back in July (yes, I've had a backlog).

In this video Professor Phil Moriarty discussed Ireland's only Nobel Prize winning scientist - Ernest Walton.

We also discussed Walton with his former colleague at Trinity College, Iggy McGovern.

Iggy is a physicist (and happened to be the external supervisor for Phil's PhD).

But Iggy's also an accomplished poet.

In our video Iggy shared his poem "Hammer and Spark", dedicated to Walton.

Iggy also explained the nicknames given to Walton by his colleagues - "ETS" and "The Wee Prof".

Here's the video:

11th of 11th of 11

So we've launched our first proper Numberphile video, and it's all about the number 11.

The video marks the date 11.11.11 which is on Friday - the last binary day of the century.

Yes it's uploaded a few days early - but you don't start advertising Christmas on December 25, do you?

You can follow Numberphile on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Featured in this video is Dr James Grime - one of several people who will appear in the videos.

We filmed at Nottingham Forest FC's home ground, the City Ground.

This was one of three videos we filmed at the famous stadium.

Very lucky that the club allowed us in for these.

Stay tuned for the other films in the near future.

You can find out more about my two new channels - Numberphile and Deep Sky Videos - at this link.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Some monster trees - and the maple

A regular feature on my Test Tube project is Dr Markus Eichhorn's Guide to Trees.

Here's the latest, briefly discussing the Maple.

And speaking of trees, thought I'd take this chance to share a couple of trees encountered over the past 12 months.

First, this one in New Zealand called The McKinney Kauri which lays cliam to be 800 years old and a girth of 7.62 metres. Pretty big, bro!

And this Abies Grandis at Ardkinglas in Scotland, with a girth of 5.8m and height of 63m, lays claim to being Britain's tallest!?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Not my favourite foods

If you haven't seen the latest from Foodskey, you don't know what you're missing!

Though admittedly some of the recent videos have featured items you won't find in my trolley - tomatoes and broccoli.

My favourite comment on this first one was a from a clever viewer who said: "Treat 'em mean, keep 'em green."

Makes sense when you've seen it!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Back to my periodic table roots

The periodic table has become a big part of my life due to The Periodic Table of Videos.

But this is the periodic table where it all started.

It's the table on the wall of my old chemistry and physics teacher, Mr Lothar Dunaiski.


During our recent periodicvideos trip to Australia, we visited my home town of Adelaide.

So I took the opportunity to visit my old school.

Back to the beginning
And amazingly, the original periodic table was still hanging in the lab.

It was gazing at this table which fueled my curiosity about the elements.

Sure, I knew plenty about the likes of hydrogen and oxygen.

But what of those mysterious and exotic elements lower down - what were they about?

Of course I was unaware that, many years later, I would explore the entire table in such detail with my video camera.

But more important than the table was the teacher.

I had fond memories of Mr Dunaiski and hoped to meet him again.

And to introduce him to Professor Martyn Poliakoff, with whom I was travlling.


As fate would have it, Mr Dunaiksi was very busy the week we were in Adelaide.

He was arranging his annual "outdoor education camp" - taking when students into the hills above Adelaide to learn survival skills.

So we headed for the hills and met with Mr Dunaiski - filming a short interview.

Lothar Dunaiski - my chemistry and physics teacher
Mr D and The Prof also met briefly in the lab

It was very special to see him.

And Professor Polikaoff said it was the highlight of his trip Down Under.


I should point out I have a notorious history on Mr Dunaiski's outdoor education camp.

In 1991 I left the camp after only two nights, breaking my arm in a stupid fall from a rope

Action man Mr D
Yes, I was clowning around.

Yet Mr Dunaiski allowed me to take part in the next year's camp as a "junior leader".

He didn't want me to miss out on the experience, despite my stupidity the previous year.

What a nice man and a great teacher.

The Periodic Table of Videos and Sixty Symbols would never have started without the interest in chemistry and physics he ignited.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Filming around the world

Created this clickable map showing some of the places we've filmed over the last few years.

Also see the Periodic Table of Videos road trip page.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Discovering Osmium and Iridium

This is the first time the names Osmium and Iridium were used.

They were written by scientist Smithson Tennant, who lived in the 17th and 18th century.

We were lucky enough to see his original letter during a visit to the archives at The Royal Society.

This year marks 250 years since Tennant's birth and Professor Martyn Poliakoff will be giving a public talk as part of the commemorations.

Here's the video we made during our visit:

Professor Poliakoff had a few interesting observations about the documents.

He seemed to especially enjoy the "cutting and pasting" by Tennant - an old fashioned version of what we still do with word processors.

But most interesting were Tennant's descriptions of why he chose the names - due to the appearance and odour of his discoveries.

The video also has a sad and mysterious post script.

The Royal Society archivists showed us a letter outlining Tennant's demise in a horse riding accident.

And how Tennant may have taken another discovery with him to the grave.

More photos from our visit can be found at this link.

And here are details about Profesor Poliakoff's upcoming talk.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Virtual chemists

One for all you Nintendo users.

Simone, who follows us on Facebook, has made Mii versions of our chemists Professor Martyn Poliakoff and Dr Pete Licence.

And here are the real Martyn and Pete!

If you don't know what a Mii is, then you probably don't need to know.

If you do, here are QR codes to grab the characters.

Epic Fail of Hard Drive!?

A minor catastrophe this morning when my Drobo Pro Hard Drive stopped working.

I can no longer switch the system on and it's suffering what I've learned is called a re-boot loop.

I'm not the first person to experience this, I have learned.

My data is in here somewhere?
I'm currently talking with the company about a replacement and am hopeful my data is intact.

The alternative does not bear thinking about, with years of video stored among those precious 1s and 0s.

The data is backed up across the drives - but all contained within the one chassis which isn't working.

Customer service from Drobo has been good so far and quite prompt... But will reserve judgement until the replacement arrives and the issue is resolved?

Watch this space - but video production will be slow for a few days.

I'm trying to stay calm. :)


The replacement arrived slightly sooner than expected and allowed me to recover all the data (or so it seems so far!?)

Credit where credit is due... A component failed, but sure enough all my data was safe as advertised and the customer sevice was very good.

Thank you Drobo.

Will try and blog more detail on this later as bit of a resource for other Drobo users.