Monday, 31 October 2011

Sneak Previews

Last week we revealed details of two new channels - part of a major launch by YouTube/Google.

The channels - numberphile and DeepSkyVideos - are about maths and space.

We now have short little "previews" showing some of our raw footage.

YouTube channel
Facebook Page

YouTube channel
Facebook Page

Saturday, 29 October 2011

iPhone photo of Jupiter

This photo of Jupiter and two of its moons was taken last night with my iPhone.

iPhone pic of Jupiter and two of its moons
I was filming with amateur astronomer Roy Gretton, who lives nearby in Nottinghamshire.

(The film was for an upcoming film for Deep Sky Videos - more about that soon).

Jupiter is currently in opposition, meaning it's closer to Earth than usual.

Roy showed me the planet through his telescope.... it was amazing!

You could clearly see the striped bands of clouds and three of Jupiter's many moons.

Then, for a joke, I pointed my iPhone at the eye piece and snapped.

Although Jupiter is horribly overexposed, I was amazed that the planet and two of moons were pretty clear.

What would Gallileo say?

I haven't checked which moons they were - I'm sure the experts will tell me. The third moon was far off to the right in the above image.

Below is a video still also taken last night... Jupiter is clearly visible.

Roy and Jupiter (still from video camera)

Numbers and Stars

My next big projects have become "official".

Last night YouTube unveiled a list of new "original channels" - see their announcement and view the list of channels.

Among them are two by me - Numberphile and Deep Sky Videos.

Numberphile will be about, oddly enough, numbers.

James Grime at City Ground
Filming has already started and the films are full of great facts and figures.

Yesterday we were lucky enough to film at a championship football stadium - The City Ground, home of Nottingham Forest FC.

Pictured right is Dr James Grime sitting in the grandstand and discussing number 11.

James will feature in many of the Numberphile videos.

Each video will be dedicated to a different number - from zero to infinity!?

The second project is called Deep Sky Videos.

It's a series about space, featuring a selection of professional and amateur astronomers.

As a starting point, we're planning to feature the famous catalog of Messier Objects.

Roy's image of M15
Just last night I joined local amateur astronomer Roy Gretton in the backyard of his Nottinghamshire home.

I watched him capture this image of Messier 15, or M15 (right).

It is just a quick picture captured for my sake, but it still nicely shows the globular cluster of some 100,000 stars.

I'll be posting plenty more information here on the blog.

But below are some details about following progress on both projects.

YouTube channel
Facebook Page

YouTube channel
Facebook Page

Friday, 28 October 2011

Honorary Associate Member

Was really surprised today to learn I'd been made an "honorary associate member" of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.

It was for the promotion of chemistry through the internet - namely The Periodic Table of Videos with chemists at the University of Nottingham.

Was really touched by such a nice gesture from chemists in my homeland.

And it follows an honor earlier this year from the Chemical Society of Ethiopia.

I was in Australia last month with Professor Martyn Poliakoff on periodicvideos duty. A couple of our films below:

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Busy Halloween

It's been a busy pre-Halloween week, with three videos uploaded.

Two are for Sixty Symbols (physics and astronomy) and one for the Periodic Table of Videos (chemistry).

For chemistry we created a video about laser dyes.

The idea was cooked up by our cult hero, senior technician Neil Barnes, who also models the skeleton suit.

The first Sixty Symbols video was about ghost paticles... Quite technical stuff, but we had some fun with the filming and editing.

And a bit easier on the brain cells but still fascinating was this video about witches in space.

Finally, to see some previous Halloween videos from years gone by, visit my last blog.

They were about blood, candles and smashing pumpkins!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Halloween is coming

It's that time of year again...

And for some reason we always make an extra effort with Halloween videos.

This year will be no exception, with three in production for periodicvideos and Sixty Symbols!

But before that, why not enjoy these pictures of Professor Poliakoff snapped by Samantha Tang last week.

And below them, our Halloween videos from previous years.

An arty periodic table

Another video from our recent trip to Australia.

Here we're in Bendigo and checking out a periodic table of artwork.

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute commissioned artists to depict each element, and this was the result.

It was a happy coincidence that the exhibit was in Bendigo when we were Down Under.

This is interesting because Bendigo is named after an old-time prize fighter from Nottingham (in a strange and indirect way)

And of course periodicvideos is based in Nottingham!

I told the story of this many years ago, in my BBC days.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ed's Inaugural

Ed Lester is an engineer and scientist at the University of Nottingham, and a regular contributor to Test Tube.

Ed was recently promoted the post of professor.

Traditionally this means he must deliver an inaugural lecture - a sort of showcase of his work for an audience of colleagues, family and friends.

I went along and filmed a few highlights.

Here is an earlier Test Tube video about Professor Cameron Alexander's inaugural lecture (involving a train set!)

Friday, 21 October 2011

A week at the seaside

I'm just back from a very plesaant week in Hastings, in the south of England.

I'd love to say it was a pure vacation, but seemed to spend most of the time working.

This message was to explain my YouTube absence and promote the new Foodskey series, about the science of food.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Thanks to Aldrich Chemistry

The Periodic Table of Videos is a collection of more than 350 videos, and growing every week.

We love making them and are grateful to the audience who watch.

But the project takes time and resources - we can't do it without support.

Several organisations (and of course the University of Nottingham itself) have made the videos possible.

And now we have secured sponsorship from one of THE big names in chemistry - Sigma-Aldrich.

Anyone working in a chemistry lab would know the name Aldrich and its familiar logo on chemical containers.

The company has kindly made a financial contribution  - but also agreed to supply us with chemicals for demonstrations.

Their support has secured the future of our videos for a couple more years at least.

Here's the page on which we thanks all our sponsors.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ice Cream on Foodskey

Another video in the new Foodskey series, this time looking at stringy ice cream from Turkey.

Follow the food science series on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

And our website is up and running too.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A laser called Octopus

There's still a few more videos to come from Backstage Science, and here's the latest.

Octopus is a very cool name for a laser with different "arms" coming from a central hub.

Though it does lose a few cool points when you learn the name's an acronym for Optics Clustered To OutPut Unique Solutions.

But we don't have to talk about that!

You can learn more about lasers at the STFC's Central Laser Facility at this link.

And here's another backstage video about lasers at the STFC.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A tough nut to crack

The second film in the Foodskey series is done - it's about Bambara Groundnuts.

A bit like peanuts, this traditional African nut is described by experts as an "underutilised crop".

Scientist Sean Mayes is trying to change that, but faces some challenges.

One of the biggest is adapting the plant to places in the world with different "photoperiods" (or different day lengths, to put it in my language).

You can follow the new Foodskey series on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The Foodskey website is under construction and should be ready soon.

The first video in the series was about crackers and sensory science.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Beatles and chemistry that sucks

Today I posted two videos about scientific papers.

The video for Sixty Symbols was very timely, because it was about The Beatles.

Timely because yesterday (October 9) was the late John Lennon's birthday and the third wedding of Paul McCartney.

The video is about a paper co-writen by four people, including Ed Copeland and Tony Padilla who are regulars on Sixty Symbols.

Their paper drew inspiration from The Fab Four, as they explain.

You can read the paper (for free) at this link.

The second video, from periodicvideos, was about a paper published by Pete Licence, Adrian Boatwright and Simon Puttick.

It's about using a siphon in a vacuum.

We filmed it a long time ago but had to wait for publication.

Again, here's a link to the paper, but this one will cost you $35 to read!!!

I should point out that's a fee set by the journal, not the writers.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Imaging Saturn

On my recent trip to Australia, I caught up with astro-photographer Paul Haese.

Paul lives in my home town of Adelaide.

He recently won second place in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year award (in the solar system category) for this brilliant image of Saturn.

(Image used with permission from Paul Haese -

But what I found really interesting was seeing these two "raw data" images, which contributed to the final masterpiece.

It's all these colour-filtered filtered sub exposures which contribute to the final image.

It made me realise what an art form astro-photography can be.

Plenty more to come from Paul in future videos, but for now here is the video about his Saturn photo:

Friday, 7 October 2011

Introducing Foodskey

I'm working on a new "science project" with researchers at the University of Nottingham.

It's called Foodskey (will explain the name later!)

The videos will cover all aspects of food science.

That'll include everything from sensory science to food security to crop technology.

I'll explain more soon, but here's the first video.

If you're YouTuber, do subscribe to the channel!

Oh, and I'll be tweeting it at @foodskey

PS: The pictures of me with the yummy cupcakes really has nothing to do with Foodskey - it's just a happy food memory!!!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Quasicrystals and a busy day

At 10.45am yesterday I had never heard of quasicrystals.

By 2pm I'd filmed and edited a video all about them.

Such is the life of a video journalist.

The video was about the awarding of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

It has become an annual tradition that we do "on-the-day videos" about the physics and chemistry Nobel Prizes for periodicvideos and Sixty Symbols.

However the chemistry video turned into bit of a technical nightmare... Mainly due to a combination of fatigue and my eagerness to finish it quickly.

(I had to attend and film an inaugural lecture in the evening, which added to the pressure)

I ended up uploading the film three times before getting it just right (one of the times due to a stupid typo which had the prize awarded in 2001 rather than 2011).

Not my finest hour.

But well done to my professors-on-demand - Martyn Poliakoff and Phil Moriarty - who explained the prize well and immediately!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tiny table back in the spotlight

Our teeny tiny periodic table is enjoying a fresh wave of fame and glory.

We created the table in December last year by etching it onto a strand of Professor Martyn Poliakoff's hair.

The subsequent video created some interest and of course we enjoyed the attention.

(We even had an advertising company co-opt the idea and we helped them create a similar "nano advertisement" for a shaving company)

However our tiny periodic table has been thrust back into the limelight after being featured by the Guinness Book of Records.

It seems featuring in the tome (we're in page 166 of this year's edition) is a big deal.

The University of Nottingham issued a nice press release about our appearance in the hallowed pages.

The BBC website followed and ran a lengthy online story.

And Sky News contacted us about permission to use the video for its iPad app.

It was reported by Fox News and ABC news in the US!

A rather famous scientific publication has also asked to see some pictures - so maybe they'll use one?

But the cherry on the cake - our local BBC News ran a lengthy piece about the record.

So there was Professor Martyn Poliakoff, floating behind local newsreaders Dominic Heale and gorgeous Kylie Pentelow. Quite a sight!

So thanks to the Guinness Book of Records for giving a single strand of hair a second moment of fame.

A photo gallery about the tiny table can be found at our Flickr site.

Now, back to work.

Some cool Nobel Prize stuff

Today the Nobel Prize in Physics was announced.

The 2011 winners were Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess for discovering the accelerating expansion of the universe through the study of supernovae.

Each year Sixty Symbols tries to make videos about the announcement.

This year was easy because some of our Nottingham-based astronomers actually knew the winners.

In fact, our own Mike Merrifield is on quite good terms with co-winner Brian Schmidt.

In our video, Mike sheepishly admits he has doubted an aspect of Brian's work and the two have a long-standing bet about it.

With the Nobel Prize committee's verdict now pubic, Mike concedes he owes his old friend a bottle of whisky.

But there's another fascinating link with today's prize and Sixty Symbols.

Another of our regular contributors and fan favourites - Professor Ed Copeland - was cited in the Nobel Prize committee's announcement (see image).

Unfortunately Ed was not in Nottingham today so I couldn't interview him - but I'll try to catch him soon and find out what it's all about!

Nobel Prize Back Catalogue

With the 2011 physics and chemistry Nobel Prizes about to be announced, here's a chance to re-live our previous Nobel Prize videos from Sixty Symbols and Periodic Table of Videos.

Monday, 3 October 2011

It's the Scots Pine

Another episode in Test Tube's tree series posted today...

This time Markus was rather adventurous and ate some tree resin.