Sunday, 30 September 2012

Friday Evening Discourse Running Order

Our Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution was not recorded. 

It was also unscripted, so I cannot recall exactly what we discussed. 

However there was a loose running order and a Powerpoint presentation, so here’s my best recollection of how it unfolded:

Brady Haran discussed his time working at the BBC and how it could be difficult to tell science stories in unusual ways. Cheaper technology and advent of websites like YouTube had made it possible to try new things.

He then explained The Periodic Table of Videos itself. 

It was then revealed our lecture would, in-keeping with the Royal Institution, be based on artefacts – namely objects related to our four years of film-making.

Professor Martyn Poliakoff was introduced and discussed the first object – his supercritical fluid rig which played a crucial role in his first meeting with Brady.

Neil Barnes was then introduced and the second object was discussed by Brady, the match on a stick.

Neil used it to ignite a series of balloons containing helium and hydrogen. The subsequent explosions seemed to make an impact!

Martyn discussed the next item – solidified molten iron left over from our thermite reactions. We showed brief video clips from our thermite videos.

Brady displayed a rock from the disused quarry in Ytterby and discussed the films we made there.

Martyn introduced the “small metallic collider” used in many of alkali metal videos and Neil demonstrated how it worked. Video clips were also shown.

Brady showed off “end products” from other periodicvideos reactions and played video clips. Martyn discussed these reactions in more detail.

Martyn discussed the Nobel Prize and how we have covered the prize over the past four years. He also revealed a real Nobel Prize medial loaned to us by winner Sir Paul Nurse.

An audience member helped The Professor weigh the medal.

Brady revealed The Professor’s huge collection of neckties, sharing a few anecdotes about them and revealing one damaged by white phosphorus. Martyn told more white phosphorus stories.

Neil then demonstrated a reaction of white phosphorus in a pure oxygen environment.

Brady displayed our “tiny artworks” – the periodic table etched on a hair and the Queen etched on a diamond.

Martyn discussed vodka, showing his Zirconium vodka glass and bottle of Mendeleev vodka. He discussed their role in various videos.

Neil volunteered to drink a shot of the vodka!

Brady discussed our interaction with fans, telling the stories of Eddie from Arkansas, Edoardo from Italy and Martyn the Mole. Displayed items sent in by various fans.

Martyn revealed the glass tube used in Barking Dog reactions – Neil then performed two barking dogs.

Martyn concluded the lecture by paying tribute to other members of the team and thanking our sponsors.

About 15 minutes of questions followed, covering topics such as education, assessing the success of the videos and what we plan to cover in the future.



  1. Hi Brady, again congratulations to you and the team. I was wondering if you could email me if possible the photo taken by someone(sorry cannot recall his name)of the Prof, yourself and me just prior to the lecture. It would be a nice memento for me to keep. I hope you can do more similar lectures soon.

  2. I really want to hear what you say about your time at the BBC and the difficulties of telling science stories in unusual ways.

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