Monday, 30 July 2012

A visit from Derek and Henry

Fellow science YouTubers Henry Reich (minutephysics) and Derek Muller (veritasium) have just paid a visit to Nottingham.

Here are some photos:

Robin Hood statue with (Derek, Henry, Brady)

Derek interviews Professor Poliakoff (Henry films)

The Prof shows his supercritical fluid demo

Derek and Henry with Brady's house in the background

Just kidding, it was Chatsworth House

Henry and a beloved sheep!

Skyping our mate Destin at his Alabama arsenal

Heading out for dinner in Mrs PeriodicVideos' toy car!

It's not the wind... Henry pulled that face on purpose!!!!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Sunflower missing a spiral?

A while back Dr James Grime planted a sunflower in my backyard.

He was trying to raise awareness for the Turing's Sunflower project.

Well I'm pleased to report the potted sunflower is all grown up.

Slight problem though. We counted the seed spirals which supposedly should match with Fibonacci numbers.

In one direction got a match (34) but in the other direction we seem one short (54).

The seeds are notoriously hard to count though!

Have we got it wrong?

I've put a higher res version of the pic on Flickr.

Send us your Rubik's Cube solve...

I'm still looking for people to send in footage of themselves solving Rubik's Cubes.

It needs to be YOUR video and I'll include it in an upcoming series of films we're doing on Rubik's Cubes.

You can email it to me at or post it on YouTube and send me a link.

Extra credit if you include a shout-out to Numberphile, like these people did (but it's not necessary):

If you can't make a video, then at least send a photo!

Brady gets lucky?

Numberphile viewers are brilliant. One of them, Alan Stewart, has very promptly (*) emailed me about the latest video.

In the film, I attempt to throw a one-roll Yahtzee.

The odds of accomplishing such a feat (five matching dice showing any number) are 1 in 1,296.

I achieved the feat on the 627th roll. According to Alan's spreadsheet and graph (below), there was a 38% probability I would have reached my goal so early.

To reach a 95% chance of success, I'd have needed 3,881 rolls.

So 627 doesn't seem such an ordeal after all.

Here's the video:

(*) Alan's email arrived in the numberphile inbox at 10am - exactly one hour after the video was published!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Can you solve a Rubik's Cube?

Do you know how to solve a Rubik's Cube (or know someone who can)?

We've got an upcoming video for Numberphile about the cube and would love to feature a few cameos from our viewers.

Email me a short video (it doesn't matter if it is a bit rubbish or just filmed or your mobile phone!)

I'll try to make sure you get a brief appearance in the video.

The email address is

PS: A video is best, but just a photo of you with a Rubik's Cube, past or present, would also be nice!!!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Methane on the Nose

Cute viewer pic this one!

This is River from Plainfield, Vermont, USA, and she's a fan of our Periodic Table of Videos.

She's modelling a molecule of methane.

The photo was sent in by her dad, Josh, who also watches Sixty Symbols... Sounds like my kind of guy!

Send any pics to periodicvideos at gmail. We love viewer photos.


Oh, and here's our methane video...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Tarantula Nebula and its HUGE stars

We've posted two videos in the past week or so about the epic Tarantula Nebula (aka NGC 2070).

The nebula is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the larger of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies.

One of our experts on Deep Sky Videos, Professor Paul Crowther, is an expert on the nebula.

The first video we posted dealt with the massive stars in its core.

The second video deals with a runaway star which has "escaped" the central region.

Visit the Deep Sky Videos website:

Friday, 13 July 2012

Metallizing Phi - By Phil Moriarty

Professor Phil Moriarty and YouTuber Dave Brown (boyinaband) created a "math metal" song based on the Gold Ratio (Phi).

Here's the track (with music video!):

Below, in his own words, is Phil's explanation of what they did:

(note timings are mapped to start of the song, not the YouTube videos)

Here are all the gory details for the musicians amongst you...

Guitar tuning: Bb F Bb Eb G C

(This is traditional “drop D” tuning, i.e. D A D G B E, dropped two tones in order to approximate the math metal/Djent sound without a seven string guitar.)

We stick almost exclusively to riffs derived from the Bb harmonic minor scale (although the chorus is based around the natural Bb minor scale).

I used Guitar Rig to record the riffs (both clean and effected) which I then sent to Dave who used his studio wizardry and musical acumen to arrange and structure the song.

This involved quite a number of e-mail exchanges to hone the structure of the song during which Dave had to rein in my old school metal tendencies on more than one occasion.


0:00: We kick off with a clean picked piece which looks like this:

The digits of phi are “embedded” in the notes played on the 4th and 3rd strings.

I make use of octaves and finger picking to embellish the riff.

0:08: Dave comes in with sixteenth note “chugs” (on Bb) which are timed to match the digits of phi (as explained in the video).

00:16: All hell breaks loose. Same idea as for ‘chug’ pattern starting at 0:08, except this time matched by kick drums.

(All drum programming by Dave – visit his website for tutorials on how he lays down those impressive drum tracks).

00:40: The riff for verse 1 is basically power chords given by the digits 161803398, as follows (where ^ represents a higher octave):

1 - Bb
6 - Gb
1 - Bb
8 - ^Bb
0 - ^Db
3 - Db
3 - Db
9 - ^C
8 - ^Bb
8 - ^Bb

00:55: The chorus is a similar idea but this time in Bb minor (not harmonic minor).

1 - Bb
6 - Gb
1 - Bb
8 - ^Bb
0 - [rest]
3 - Db
3 - Db
9 - ^C
8 - ^Bb
8 - ^Bb
7 - Ab

1:11: Here we switch to ‘encoding’ the [1 + sqrt (5)]/2 representation of phi in the riff.

It’s a much more old school metal riff and involves lots of use of the open sixth string (first note of the Bb harmonic minor scale) to incorporate ‘1’.

The digits of sqrt (5) are then encoded as shown in the tablature below.

I wanted to get a somewhat Mastodon-esque feel here so used lots of octaves (and slides into octaves).

I tried to down-pick as much as possible to ‘drive’ the riff . The ½ of (1+sqrt(5))/2 is built in as half-time on the drums.

1:27: I very much wanted to have a heavily Tool-influenced riff in the song. Tool are math metal pioneers and, as many of those who have watched the “Golden Ratio – Making a Math Metal Anthem” video have pointed out, their song Lateralus has lyrics which are based around the Fibonacci sequence. So, the following is my ‘homage’ to Tool...

The digits of phi are encoded in the notes on the sixth and fifth strings and I ‘pedal’ around Bb notes on the third, fourth, and fifth strings.

2:15: As explained by Dave in the video, his riff here is also derived from (1 + root 5 )/ 2. Root 5 is embedded in the number of chugs again and the drums are half time.

The “1” is a sustained and ringing Bb note.


Real but uncountable
At the root of the problem 
Patterns will 
Emerge from the equation 
Golden Angle 
Sprials out of control 

The proportion is divine 
You'll find your way to Phi (to Phi) (to Phi) 
The ratio defined 
You can’t deny it's Phi 

The five-fold way
Forbidden symmetry 
Crossing points define 
Demonic geometry 

--- Verse 1 is fairly self-explanatory. Verse 2 above is a little more obscure. It refers to the pentagram which, of course, is a key piece of metal ‘iconography’. The verse refers to five-fold symmetry which is directly linked to phi ---

Phi = root(1 + Phi = root(1 +Phi = root(1 +Phi = root(1 +... 

--- This stems from the equation φ = sqrt (1 + φ) which, of course, is recursive – hence the looping lyric ---



Friday, 6 July 2012

Our Royal Diamond on Display

Our "famous" royal portrait on a diamond is now on display at the Royal Society.

Why not go and see it (part of the society's famous summer exhibition)? It's open until Sunday at 6pm.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A visit from Vsauce

Those following my escapades via Facebook and Twitter may be aware of a recent visit from Michael Stevens, the man behind the YouTube channel Vsauce.

Here he is with none other than Neil (and Neil let Michael keep his lab coat - how is that for a souvenir).

Well the fruits of our video labours went live yesterday.

Michael's film, about the scarcity of various elements, is embedded below:

On periodicvideos I posted a "behind-the-scenes" version:

It was great fun to have Michael in Nottingham and we hope to see him again soon!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Meeting Science Video Makers

For the past week I've been enjoying the company of people who do what I do - make science videos on YouTube!

It's rare that we spend time together (it was a first meeting for many of us), and it was loads of fun.

Before sharing a few pics and videos, here's a run-down of just some of the people I met with (there were many more).

Destin from Smarter Every Day
Henry Reich from Minute Physics
Vi Hart from ViHart
Derek Muller from Veritasium
CGP Grey from, well, CGPGrey
Michael Stevens from Vsauce (also met Kevin from Vsauce2)
John Green (a famous vlog brother but also behind Crash Course)
Hank Green (the other vlogbrother and host of SciShow)
Chris Casella from Science Alert
Gavin from the Slow Mo Guys

The trip included attending the VidCon conference in Anaheim, which was a huge three-day event for all sorts of YouTubers.

Education really was a tiny part of the massive event, but we did have an education panel hosted by Angela Lin from YouTube... Here are the panellists.

ViHart, Hank Green, Henry Reich, Angela, Mike Rugnetta, Me, John Green

The panel was standing room only (see below), with many people unfortunately turned away.

View from the podium

An earlier panel about physics was run by Henry, Derek and Destin and was also standing room only - the science stuff was proving popular!

Destin also set up an impromptu (and unauthorised!) session where people were allowed to experience his high-speed Phantom camera.

Destin (in yellow) shows off the Phantom

People took turns slapping each other's faces and watching it back in high speed!!!

Here's me being whacked by two of the most famous hands on YouTube:

MinutePhysics and ViHart slap Brady

Earlier in the week, prior to the madness of VidCon, the science film-makers were at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada.

This was for an even dubbed BrainSTEM, a more intimate gathering of people with an interest in online education.

Professor Mike Merrifield - a regular in films for Sixty Symbols and Deep Sky Videos - came along for this event.

It was called an "unconference", the idea being that the format was rather free-flowing and informal. We often gathered in smaller groups for themed discussions which were more like conversations than meetings.

It was brilliant and very helpful.

Derek and Henry put on an impromptu performance

And it was also fun, as this video put together by Derek probably shows!?

I've also filmed a few videos with my fellow science YouTubers and will hopefully be posting soon... For now, here's the first one I filmed with Henry about how he makes his wildly successful MinutePhysics videos.

One little extra shout-out to end my blog... I managed to forget my camera battery recharger and found it hard to find one at VidCon.

But a young film-maker named Micah went the extra mile and loaned me his charging cable... He didn't have to. If anyone has read my blog this far and wants to repay a young lad who helped me in a time of need, why not subscribe to his fledging YouTube channel.

One good turn deserves another!