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.