Monday, 30 August 2010

A Golden Collection

There can be few elements more alluring than gold.

And at long last we've updated our main gold video for The Periodic Table of Videos.

But I thought I'd take this chance to look at all our gold-themed videos.

First here's the new one, sacrificing my Casio watch for science:

And here are a couple of extra "nuggets" which didn't make the main video - but still super interesting. Featured is Phil Moriarty for our Sixty Symbols videos:

Here's a video in which we dissolved gold in aqua regia:

Here's a discussion of Fool's Gold, which we made for April Fool's Day (complete with pirate story)!

And here's a video about gold we made while in Ethiopia:

A discussion of gold, silver and bronze which we made to mark the Olympics (and featuring Pete's beloved Welsh gold):

And here's our recent discussion about gold and the World Cup trophy:

And finally, our first ever gold video (which has now been updated of course)!

That's a lot of videos about gold, but I don't think they are our last because everyone always loves hearing stuff about gold.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Fire the Laser!

I guess most people associated lasers with scenes like this from James Bond.

But our latest video on Sixty Symbols shows that they can be used to make things extremely cold.

By firing specially tuned lasers at a small cloud of atoms, lasers can essentially take all the "jiggly energy" out of the atoms... And it is this jiggling which gives the atoms their heat!

A better explanation is here in this video:

Using photons to slow down atoms was described to me in quite a clever way.

It is like stopping a charging elephant by serving tennis balls at it!

Anyway, there was plenty of left-over footage from this video, so here is some more interview clips with Professor Peter Kruger that I popped onto our Test Tube "behind the scenes" site.

But just in case you want to see a laser that DOES cut stuff, here's another video I made a while ago!

We used the laser is used to cut butter, would you believe!?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Changes to Website

I've spent the last couple of days making some changes to The Periodic Table of Videos website.

The key changes are:

1. Videos no longer appear as pop-ups but on their own pages.

2. Videos are displayed bigger.

3. The pages are centred - not aligned to the left.

4. A few little design things.

However I should say I'm not a professional web designer and have done this all on my own. It means a few mistakes can slip through.

And there are always problems with webpages appearing differently in different browsers.

A page which looks brilliant in Firefox can sometimes look terrible in Explorer...

So if you see any mistakes, problems glitches, please contact me so I can fix them! But don't bombard me with jargon and technical stuff...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Even more chemistry captions

We've added a further 40 sets of English captions to The Periodic Table of Videos.

You can find them all at this link.

Or here they are in an embedded player (in no particular order).

To get the captions running, you use the little triangle button in the bottom right corner (while the video is playing!).

We will be adding even more soon!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Big Breakthrough

Here's something you rarely get to see - a genuine scientific breakthrough.

This is the moment Ed Lester and his team attempt to generate nanoparticles at an industrial scale (they'd already succeeded with smaller versions of the kit).

Everything was set up and they waited at the outlet pipe to see if their hard work had paid off.

A red solution would be a sign of success.

It's rare to see moments like this - whether triumphant or disappointing - because scientists and engineers often prefer to work behind closed doors.

I understand their reasons, but unfortunately that means countless magic moments like the one above are rarely captured for posterity.

Instead we're left only with important but comparatively dry research papers.

I appreciate Ed and the team letting me in to film the moment - whether it was a success (which it was) or set-back!

Back to the science itself, Ed and the team are creating nanoparticles using a unique method.

It involves the use of so-called supercritical water - water at extremely high temperature and pressure - which cannot be considered either a liquid or a gas!

There's an explanation of the process in the video below.

Ed's spin-out company is called Promethean Particles and hopefully we'll see more videos with them soon as they attempt to turn their lab success into a financial windfall.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Sunday Night Flight

The latest video on Test Tube is a hot air balloon flight with Dr Janet Folkes in the University of Nottingham balloon.

Janet's adventures have provided some of the most memorable footage of the project.

The main reason I filmed this fairly routine flight was to experiment with putting a small camera under the basket.

The camera experiment was a great success (though a small technical issue meant we missed the landing!)

By the way, the passengers (Darren and Julie) won their flight in a charity auction. Here's a map of the hour-long journey.

And here's a link to some of other great videos with Janet. Below is the blue balloon's maiden flight for which I was lucky enough to be on board!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Chemistry in the Clouds

For our latest video I joined Dr John Moses and his research team on an unusual expedition.

It was a trek up the highest mountain in Wales - Snowdon.

At the (rather wet) summit, the team pitched a small tent and made the famous anti-cancer drug Cisplatinum.

I know Snowdon (at just over 1000 metres) is not Mt Everest.

But this was certainly one of the more demanding films I've made on The Periodic Table of Videos - both phsyically and technically, with most of the filming done in rain and clouds.

The team was trying to publicise chemistry and raise money for anti-cancer research.

So if you fancy making a small donation, visit their charity page and please give.

And here are some photos from the trip posted to our Flickr pages.

PS: I will let everyone know when I have regained the ability to walk.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Japan Article

We're always really grateful when the media take an interest in The Periodic Table of Videos.

It's just nice to be noticed - but also helps us reach viewers who don't know we exist.

So we were especially pleased recently when we were contacted by the world's most read newspaper - The Yomiuri Shimbun (circulation about 14 million).

A journalist came to Nottingham to interview Profesor Poliakoff and they have just published the article.

You can read the online version here.

I love Japan and just visited there a week ago (even attending a Yomiuri Giants baseball game). But I don't speak a lick of Japanese, so put the article through Google's translation software.

The results made little sense, but churned out some amusing phrases including "While seemingly rude indeed, but like a mad scientist" and "Receive clarity, quickly fixed with a fan on YouTube"???

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

New captions in English

With a bit of help from our friends, we're expanding the number of captioned videos on The Periodic Table of Videos.

The extra captions have been made possible by the Student Services (disability and diversity) section at the University of Nottingham.

There are more to come, but about 30 have been added today.

You can find them all at this link.

Or here they are in an embedded player (in no particular order).

To get the captions running, you use the little triangle button in the bottom right corner.

We've had volunteers help us with caption in other languages too... Most prolific is our friend Luis Brudna in Brazil who has translated well over 100 videos into Portuguese.

A Blockbuster Drug

Our latest film on The Periodic Table of Videos deals with a chemical called Sildenafil citrate.

But most people probably know it better as Viagra.

We were lucky enough to obtain a pure sample of the "active ingredient" from the company which developed it.

It was a rare opportunity to see a raw version of a really famous drug (the well-known pills are blue, but pure Viagra is white!)

The drug has multiple medical uses, but Professor Poliakoff was mindful of our wide audience when discussing Viagra's best-known application.

One of the things we were keen to discuss was the "green chemistry" involved in making Viagra.

As outlined in the video above, it once required a large volume of solvent to produce a tiny sprinkle of the powder... However a new process has greatly reduced the amount needed.

Process chemist Peter Dunn, mentioned in the video, even won an award (pic below) for his work lowering the amount of solvent used.

Professor Poliakoff, himself an advocate of green chemistry, often sites Viagra as a shining example in this area.

Here's some extra interview footage not used in the main video which expands on some of the issues...

Of course making a video about Viagra is not without problems.

The main inconvenience is that many email filters block the word "Viagra".... Several emails between myself and Professor Poliakoff went missing while we were discussing the topic.

Regardless, it's a video we're pleased with because this is a real chemical success story and a true "blockbuster" molecule.