Friday, 24 December 2010

Festive Science Films

It's Christmas and then means time for some festive films!

This year we've posted two from the Periodic Table of Videos.

The first is a montage of highlights from our films throughout 2010.

The second is a message from Professor Poliakoff telling everyone about the International Year of Chemistry in 2011 (and our plans for a new series called Chem Definition).

And here's this year's themed film from Sixty Symbols - it's Merry Christmas on a snow flake.

Of course, there's no harm in sharing a few more videos. here's our festive film from 2009, which is still one of my favourite ideas!

And here is a Sixty Symbols video from last year discussing the Christmas star!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Making a Space Camera

I'm very excited to have posted the first proper video for the Backstage Science video project.

It's all about a special camera being built to fly on a space telescope.

The camera is called MIRI - the Mid Infrared Instrument - and it will fly on the James Webb Space Telescope.

It was the first time I'd filmed in a "clean room" and wanted viewers to see how careful people must be when working on space instruments.

The most time-consuming job was cleaning MY video camera to take inside.

Have to admit I was quite excited by being up close to a camera which will fly in space and (hopefully) become so important!

Backstage Science is a project I'm doing with the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

They'll be letting me visit various labs, experiments and major facilities across the UK.

I'm hoping the videos will feel like we've all been given a "backstage pass" - seeing all the little details you don't always get to see in typical science videos.

I've already filmed at a few locations and look forward to posting more videos in 2011.

You can follow the project on YouTube or Twitter or Facebook.

There are also a few photos being posted to Flickr.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Antihydrogen and Dan Brown

We have been a bit slow to post this (for numerous reasons) but here's our Sixty Symbols video on antihydrogen.

It follows the announcement that scientists at CERN had trapped a small amount of the elusive "substance".

An interesting point raised by Professor Mike Merrifield.

While acknowledging it as a significant breakthrough, he pondered if it received more publicity than one might expect because of the Dan Brown book (and subsequent film) Angels and Demons.

In that tale, a container of antimatter is stolen from CERN and used for evil purposes.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

My Top 10 videos for 2010

It's the time of year when everyone does "top ten" lists for the year.

So here are my favorite films for 2010, chosen from the various projects I work on.

They're in no particular order.

1. CHEESEBURGER IN ACID (from periodicvideos)
Sometimes you do something just because you're curious! Here we put a cheeseburger in hydrochloric acid (the same type of acid found in our stomachs). If you like this, check out what we did to Coke cans!

2. FILLING AIR BAGS (from Test Tube)
This is a sentimental choice. Seamus Garvey was one of the first people I filmed at the Uniersity of Nottingham and he told me about a dream he had involving inflatable underwater airbags. This is the moment his dream became reality!

3. STANLEY FALKOW (from My Favourite Scientist)
My Favourite Scientist is a new project launched later in 2010. I chose the Stanley Falkow video because the subject himself watched and enjoyed the video. Read more about it in a previous blog post.

This year we invited Sixty Symbols viewers to submit questions and my favourite was definitely "what would happen if you put your hand in front of the beam at the Large Hadron Collider". I had a feeling it would make a great video. And when I saw the reactions of the scientists... well, here it is. Currently the most watched video on Sixty Symbols.

5. DARMSTADT & SUPERHEAVY ELEMENTS (from periodicvideos)
I've been lucky enough to travel to a few interesting and exotic places this year. But the most interesting from a scientific perspective was Darmstadt, where many of the artifical elements are created in a giant particle collider.

6. THE HOLY SEPULCHRE (from bibledex)
Another trip which impressed me away was to Israel for our Bibledex project. We travelled from the Dead Sea in the south to Galilee in the north. But the video I've chosen is the one we filmed in Christianity's most holy church, the traditional site of Jesus's death and burial. It was amazing that we could just walk in and start filming. (If you've not seen our Bibledex videos you should... they are not religious and are pitched at people that just find stuff interesting)

7. FLUORINE (from periodicvideos)
One of the real weak spots on our Periodic Table of Videos was always our fluorine video. The most reactive element in chemistry was one of our most disappointing videos because we didn't have access to the raw ingredient. That changed when we visited a helpful expert at the nearby University of Leicester.

8. WORLD CUP FOOTBALL PHYSICS (from Sixty Symbols)
Of course 2010 was a World Cup year and we made several videos to mark the event, including a chemistry video about World Cup trophy which made international headlines! But here I've chosen one about the world cup ball, mainly because it was so much fun to get some scientists in lab coats to take free kicks and conduct a penalty shoot-out... A sight you rarely see.

9. GAS BALLOON TAKE-OFF (from Test Tube)
I've been following the adventures of Janet Folkes for a long time and it was great to see her taking off in the Gordon Bennett gas balloon race. It was a long day of filming but the shots were beautiful. Janet had a successful flight, but sadly two of her friends died when they flew into a storm off the coast of Italy.

10. WORLD'S SMALLEST PERIODIC TABLE (from periodicvideos)
Maybe I'm choosing this because it is so fresh in my mind - but I can't help thinking it is pretty cool. It features two icons of our chemistry videos - the periodic table itself and Martyn Poliakoff's hair!

My thanks to the men and women who share their knowledge and time... It's a joy to film them and be allowed to ask so many silly questions.

And finally thanks to everyone who watches my videos... If you didn't watch them, I probably wouldn't get to make them!

PS: A few more videos I couldn't resist mentioning.

The Periodic table of Videos trip to India

Chemistry in the Clouds

The Professor on Viagra

Samovar from Words of the World

The Vacuum Cannon (I really do have it in for Coke cans, don't I?)

Taking our show on the road to Turin

Friday, 17 December 2010

The World's Smallest Periodic Table

This blog is supposed to give some "behind the scenes" insights about my videos.

So today I'm going to give away a little secret about our latest video - The World's Smallest Periodic Table.

First, here is the video itself:

I had the idea for the video a few weeks ago when filming a Sixty Symbols video which used the electron microscope.

During that video, we kept comparing everything to "the width of a human hair".

I guess it wasn't much of a creative leap to think of Professor Martyn Poliakoff's memorable hair and imagine etching a periodic table onto one of the strands.

So here's the little secret!

It was simply coincidence that the microscope was available (ie: not being used for real science) on The Professor's birthday - December 16.

So it was a last-minute decision to centre the video around the birthday.

And so far I feel a bit like the decision has backfired.

That's because most of our YouTube viewers seem more excited about wishing Martyn a happy birthday than commenting on our "world first periodic table (*)".

Serves me right for breaking my own golden rule, which I constantly repeat to the scientists: "A video should only be about ONE thing!"

PS: There is a bonus video of extra footage from the shoot... Here it is:

(*) We are speculating that our periodic table is the world's smallest simply because we've not seen or heard of one smaller. It's not a claim we've verified though and is simply meant to be a bit of fun!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Professor as a movie star

We've released the results of the Periodic Table of Videos poster contest.

You can see who won the main prizes at this link or watch the video below.

Rather than focus on our worthy winners, I thought I'd use this blog post to highlight a few others.

In particular those posters which portrayed out famously frizzy-haired Professor Poliakoff as a star of the silver screen.

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

Tony Montana in Scarface
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

The Exorcist
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

Don Corleone in The Godfather
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

Forrest Gump
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

A T-Rex from Jurassic Park
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

James Bond in Gold Finger
Periodic Table of Videos Poster Competition

See more posters on Flickr

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Writing on a snowflake

The UK has been blanketed in snow for at least a week now.

So we couldn't resist making a Sixty Symbols video on the topic.

Initially I think Professor Phil Moriarty planned to discuss the shapes and properties of snowflakes - itself an interesting topic.

However when filming started, things kind of changed.

We teamed up with the the guys running the electron microscope to look at snow.

They showed us how thy are able to use a beam of ions to "engrave" at an unimaginable scale.

Displaying quite a sense of fun, they etched "Merry Christmas" onto a shard of snowflake

You can see a picture of it here.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Chemical Garden

Today we posted a video about a chemical garden... And it has had an impact already.

First, here is the video:

As a result, one of our viewers and Twitter followers made their own garden.

Here's the effort posted by @LeighJKBoerner just a few hours later.

Nice one.

By the way, we have a second video which shows our chemical garden's growth in more detail. Here it is:

Plenty More Words

I've stepped up production lately on Words of the Word.

The main website is really starting to look quite busy...

Below are some of the more recent videos, with plenty more on the way before Christmas (including words like Volkswagen and Castro).

Friday, 26 November 2010

Want to see backstage?

This is a quick post to tell you all about a pretty exciting project I'll be working on for the next few months.

I hope you'll be joining me.

It's called Backstage Science.

Basically I'm going to be making my style of videos about some of the UK's biggest and best science facilities.

It will include particle accelerators (like the pictured Diamond synchotron), super computers and amazing labs where space instruments are made.

If you've enjoyed projects like Sixty Symbols and periodicvideos, I'm sure you'll love this too.

If you're a social media type, please support it by following us in the various ways available.

You can subscribe on YouTube at (and click subscribe if you're a YouTuber)

Follow the project on Twitter at

And we're on Facebook at

The project is being backed by The Science and Technology Facilities Council, which is responsible for most of these amazing places we'll be visiting.

Thanks to those following already - your views, feedback and comments is what makes these projects possible.

There'll be plenty more information coming as the films are made, but in the meantime here's a little teaser I quickly put together before we all go "backstage"!

(It's not really what the videos will be like, but is just a video to show for now!)

Neil the Cult Hero

Neil Barnes has become a cult hero on The Periodic Table of Videos.

Neil's a senior technician at the University of Nottingham's School of Chemistry, helping keep everything running smoothly in various labs and solving countless problems.

He has also become a vital part of our videos, helping out with technical equipment and general chemistry know-how.

Neil rarely talks on camera and his silent presence seems to have created an air of mystery.

Below I've collated some of the countless comments about Neil which have been posted on YouTube:

Neil is my hero.

Neil is a dangerous, dangerous man. Thank goodness he's on our side.

Neil looks like he would rip your head off....with science!

Neil can create gold from lead using only his bare hands.

Neil "just happens to have a bottle of oxygen". LIES!!! Neil summons oxygen and it obeys. Neil eats Radium, exhales pure Fluorine and sweats solid Gold. When he presence, conflagrant high wind blow mother earth chaos, all biology became skeleton. Praise Neil.

Neil, he's bald.
He's got glasses.
He's chews pure potassium.
And he's just bad ass.

Cool stuff, and Neil looks badass as usual. That guy should have his own Facebook page.

I love the Prof, Pete, etc. - but especially the stone-faced Neil!

Neil is my favourite. He is an enigma wrapped in a riddle...

OMG poor Neil looks like he has the same relationship with the university that I have with my wife. We are on opposite sides of the earth but I still feel your pain! Hang in there brother!

Neil.. We love you! <3

Did Neil just wink? I think I need to sit down for a while and calm down...

Neil's a beast

Why doesn't Neil ever smile?

Neil always looks thoroughly disinterested.

Neil reminds me of vince clark from depeche mode, yazoo, and erasure.

I always thought he was from one of those james bond movies where he (unfortunately) portrays the evil guy :P

Give Neil a huge raise for all the stuff he does to keep the lab going smoothly!

Neil is chewing pure potassium.

Neil, the secret god of chemists

If there's residual potassium in that beaker, Neil's just gonna eat it off to get rid of it.

If you gave Neil a knife he would probably kill everyone in the world and then reproduce by mitosis to populate a whole world full of badassery.

A very old deuterium sample. Must be Neil's history. I bet he was behind thermonuclear weapons :)

Whoa Neil. look at those beefy muscles

Neil is awesome cool. He's like the quiet awesome guy like standing there quiet and letting kids play. Man, i would like to know who the f he is. In my opinion hes a chemist during the day and something like a secret crime fighter during the night.
He is just AWESOME!

Cool. Smooth. Lethal. Neil is the man.

You guys over there better appreciate Neil. I demand a tribute video to NEIL!

Neil the "Beaker" of Nottingham University School of Chemistry.

Neil is a super star. He needs top billing and more in shot work.

One of these days Neil's gonna bring a mac 10 to work and shoot up the joint :P

Poor neil. you're still my favorite periodic video star!

Neil, the gray eminence of periodic videos, doesn't want to reveal his sources of Heavy Water.

Beware the fury of patient man. But seriously nice video keep em coming. See if Neil has any old tricks he knows and that he would be willing to show.

The most important question about Neil, to my mind is this...Neil V Chuck Norris; who wins?

Must. Have. More. Neil!!! :-)

I wish Neil would come clean up all of my messes

Neil is the Fonzie of PV.

When is Neil's autobiography being released

Neil reminded me of my grade 9 science teacher Mr. Zurock , buff, and bald.

What are the chemical properties of Neil?

Neil has some huge arms! :

I have a feeling that Neil is just a ticking timebomb. he never says anything and every time his involved in a video its involves fire or explosives

Neil is the MACK DADY

Neil's deadpan expression always makes me smile, he's like the Jack Dee of the science world.

Some say his skin is fireproof, and that his chest hair is even more impressive than the professor's hair... all we know is he's called Neil.

Neil is a robot.

Neil looks like a secret agent!

Neil is the unsung hero of these videos. We should have a whip 'round and get him a gift!

I imagine Neil just following Pete around town, providing a light whenever one is neeeded.

Neil is 100% badass, seriously, what high security detainment centre did he escape from?

Neil doesn't speak. Neither do Neil's victims.

I love Neil... standing there holding a lighter shownin off his BEASTLY arms :

Do you have to get Neils permission to place items in the fumehood? I like to think he guards the fumehoods in case people make a mess.

I bet Neil has a lot of manly chemistry scars =)

Between Neil and Chuck Norris who is the bigger badass?

I want to have an anniversary date with Neil ;)

Where do you get all that stuff, Neil?
Instant top 10 in people I wish I knew. :D

Neil just always looks so cool and "I don't give a crap about this stupid video series". For the record, I think your video series ROCKS!!!!!!!!

I'll be glad to spend a night with him to cheer him up ;)

Wait... Is Neil's last name "Norris"

'Neil has made us some gun-cotton!' Neil sits in the background with an air of; 'Yeah? And? I make guncotton every day, it's not hard...'

Neil for president!

Aw poor Neil, ya meanies. You owe him a nice card and a group rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler :) A dozen tulips wouldn't hurt either!

Is Neil a Terminator?

My favourite videos are the videos where you make things blow up. My other favourite videos are the ones with Neil in them.

They could never make a movie about Neil, because Paul Newman and James Dean are dead and no one else is cool enough to play the part. :D

Neil makes me want to be a lab technician

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A question of molarity

A few people have asked about the molarity of the acid and base used in our recent Coke Cans video...

Sam and Neil did not make any exact measurements (it was just a demo, not a proper experiment).

However the pair have made a few retrospective estimates and tell me the likely molar concentrations were roughly 12 for the Hydrochloric Acid and 16 for the Sodium Hydroxide.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Not as easy as it looks

We've just posted a new video in which two Coke cans are dissolved in acid and base.

We used hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. The results were impressive.

However making this video was not straightforward.

Originally the idea was to dissolve two different aluminum cans - Coke and Pepsi.

We thought it would be visually striking because red (Coke can) is traditionally associated with acid and blue (Pepsi can) with base.

However an initial test run resulted in virtually no reaction.

We quickly realised this was because the cans were covered with a protective coating, inside and out.

Lab technician Neil Barnes sand-blasted the coating from the inside of the can (it took two attempts to remove it).

The cans then sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks while we made other videos.

Then we noticed another problem.

Just before filming, Dr Sam Tang noticed the sanded Pepsi can had rusted slightly!

This should not have happened to aluminium.

A quick check with a magnet showed the Pepsi can was not aluminum but steel... A fact we then noticed was written on the can itself!

So the Pepsi cans were put to one side, and the whole experiment was done only with aluminium Coke cans.

Below is an extra video we've created showing it in real-time with less editing.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Tycho Brahe

So astronomer Tycho Brahe's body has been being exhumed (again) for scientific testing.

It seemed a perfect excuse to make a video about this famous and eccentric scientist.

But what symbol would represent him on the Sixty Symbols website.

To me, the solution was obvious?

Tycho also lends his name to perhaps the most identifiable crater on the Moon.

Films buffs may know that the crater Tycho is where the monolith is discovered in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It also pops up in other books and movies.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Meeting Google

On Wednesday I visited Google’s UK offices in London.

It was essentially to have a chat about making and promoting videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google, of course).

I told them about the bits of YouTube I like, and suggested a few things that would make life easier for film-makers like me.

It was also a chance for me to tell them what I’m doing over the next few months (stay tuned to this blog for more about that).

The people I met seemed very interested and took lots of notes (on laptops of course).

I don’t expect to see big changes as a result of my humble suggestions, but it was nice that they took time to meet some its video makers in the flesh.

My main YouTube channels can be found at:

Friday, 12 November 2010

New Copper Video

This week we updated our copper film on The Periodic Table of Videos.

Here's the new one:

And here's some extra footage we posted on Test Tube, in our time-honoured tradition of using that site to share extra material:

For real copper nuts, here is our original video from a couple of years ago - you'll see we kept a couple of the old clips and used them in the update, such as The Professor's fun fact about crabs and lobsters:

Monday, 8 November 2010

Unexpected photos of Pogson

Our recent video about astronomer Norman Pogson has unearthed a surprising result.

The video's part of the series My Favourite Scientist. Dr Daniel Brown from Nottingham Trent University chose to speak about Nottingham-born Pogson.

Pogson - who did significant work on stars and asteroids - died in India in 1891 and faded into history somewhat.

After posting the video to YouTube, we received an email from Pogson's great great grand daughter - a woman named Julie who lives in Australia.

Julie is a descendant of Pogson's daughter, Fanny Sappho.

And Julie has been kind enough to share some photos from the family's personal collection.

First, here are a few of Pogson himself.

And here's Mrs Pogson:

And finally here's Fanny, one of their daughters:

Our thanks to Julie for getting in touch and showing us these photos.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Time's running out...

Less than a month to go until we judge our poster competition.

This week I posted a video to let viewers know about it - and some great entries have followed.

Click here for details.

First prize is the gold watch we "made" a few months back and one of The Profesor's famous ties.

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?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Enlightenment and the Statue of Liberty

Two new videos for Words of the World have been uploaded.

This one on "enlightenment" is the first time I've used multiple speakers on a single word... It's a technique I use regularly in films on other projects (such as Bibledex and Sixty Symbols).

I think it works well.

And this second video I really enjoyed because, well, I love the Statue of Liberty anyway!

Words of the World is going well and starting to build up a dedicated following.

Fingers crossed it continues.

What's it like to win the Nobel Prize?

This year's Nobel Prizes are announced next week.

So to get you in the mood, here's an interview with Richard Ernst who won the chemistry prize in 1991.

We met him during our recent trip to the Asian Science Camp in Mumbai.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

God and the Large Hadron Collider

It has been an eventful time for our Sixty Symbols project.

Everything started when I invited viewers to submit their own questions.

We received hundreds in just a few days.

I then posed a selection to our team and made them into a series of videos.

The first video was quite popular, dealing with things such as the speed of light and gravity.

But the second video has gone off the charts, centring on the simple question "What would happen if I put my hand in the Large Hadron Collider?"

The video has attracted a lot of attention from websites and blogs and become the most watched video on Sixty Symbols.

As the Bad Astronomy blog noted:

"I love how different scientists think of different angles on this, and come up with different answers. Clearly, they hadn’t really thought about this before, so as they realize various aspects of this the answer changes."

And as John Butterworth said in a Guardian blog:

"I love this video from the University of Nottingham where physicists try to answer tricky but valid physics questions in real time. Seeing them think, and say they 'don't know' sometimes, gives a better feel for research (and teaching) than a bevy of meticulously prepared seminars."

The third video deals with the vexed question of "Do you believe in God?" which a number of viewers wanted me to ask.

Religion is always an electric fence on YouTube - touch it at your peril!

To the credit of the scientists, they were honest and gave an answer.

As expected the video has created a long and tangled debate on the YouTube comment section.

But it is mainly people debating each other - I think they have appreciated the scientists' honesty.

And I think it has been fun to let the viewers decide what they want to ask - and it has been great seeing the experts tackle everything, no mater how big or small.

It really shows they are not only clever - but a down-to-earth and open bunch of people.

Whether you agree with them or not, what a great advertisement for their profession!?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Morphine and Heroin

The latest film on The Periodic Table of Videos is about heroin and morphine.

The thing I found most interesting was that the smallest change to a molecule could make such a difference.

Also interesting and something I learned after filming was that heroin was a trademark... It was registered as a brand name by Bayer in 1895, when you could buy the drug in shops!!!

The chemist featured in the above video is Rob Stockman, our first regular organic chemist to feature in the videos.

(PTOV regular Pete Licene trained as an organic chemist but has now moved into the field of ionic liquids)

Rob featured in our earlier video about frog poison, and we hope to see him pop up more regularly with these interesting tales about amazing molecules.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

From India

Here's the first main video from our adventure India, covering the main highlights of the trip.

An even shorter video about The Professor giving away his tie is here...

There are more videos to come from the trip coming soon, and a collection of photos can be found at this Flickr link.

Russian Dolls

It's funny how almost anything can be fascinating...

I've always liked the concept of Russian dolls, but didn't know the story behind them until making this video for Words of the World.

They're much more recent than I imagined, and made their "debut" at the World Fair in Paris in 1900.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Lots of Viewers

I like to check our web statistics when I have time... The joys of Google Analytics!

A quick glance shows that yesterday (Sept 13) was the biggest day of 2010 for The Periodic Table of Videos website.

We almost beat our all-time record from 2008.

It's worth noting more people watch our videos on the YouTube channel... But the website is still very important.

It seems the main reason was people on Twitter and a few glowing recommendations from popular websites.

Thanks guys!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Do you want our gold watch?

We're offering a chance to win some Periodic Table of Videos memorabilia...

The prize includes the "gold watch" created in our recent gold video. And "The Professor" will donate one of his periodic table ties (personally autographed!)

We'll also include a certificate signed by the Periodic Table of Videos team – including Neil, our silent technician!

So how do you win them?

We'd like you to design a "Periodic Table of Videos" poster.

We don't mind how you do it - pencils, crayons, computer?

However we'd like it to be in the "style" of movie posters seen in cinemas (I've chosen one of my personal favourites as an example!).

We'll accept any size (within reason) and you can submit the designs by email or post.

The best posters will be decided by the periodicvideos team. Runners-up will also receive small prizes.

A selection of entries - not just winners - will feature on our website and Flickr page.

Remember the competition is only fun – but our decision will be final!

The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2010. Details of winners will be posted on our website.

Be creative!

Entries can be emailed to:

Or by post to:
Periodic Posters
c/o Mrs D Mann
Room B13a
School of Chemistry
The University of Nottingham
United Kingdom