Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Views of the Isaac Newton Telescope

Just posted a blog for the Guardian website about the Isaac Newton Telescope.


And here's the video which inspired the blog.

And below are some pictures of the telescope from my recent visit to La Palma.

ORIGINAL SITE IN SUSSEX (Pic by David Brander)








FILMING TIMELAPSES (it was windy, needed the rocks!)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Mini Professor

Received this picture and message from a long-time periodicvideos viewer.

"So for a while now I've been showing periodicvideos to my little sister, she's become a big fan of the Professor!

"Despite knowing this however, I still wasn't prepared for what she gave me for xmas.

"A periodic table mug and a tiny Professor!"

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Professor and the Nyholm Prize

Professor Martyn Poliakoff has picked up a top award for his work on The Periodic Table Of Videos.

The Royal Society of Chemistry awarded him the Nyholm Prize for Education.

In our latest video, The Professor discusses how he missed out on meeting Ron Nyholm in rather tragic circumstances.

The silver medal is quite an impressive sight!

Next week Professor Poliakoff - who already has his medal, trophy, etc - will give a special lecture at the University of Nottingham as part of the whole prize-receiving tradition.

Some Australia Videos

It's Australia Day.

Here are some videos - covering chemistry and astronomy - from our recent roadtrip Down Under.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Never forget your first

Over the next year or so I hope to upload videos about all 110 Messier Objects.

This is astronomy's most famous collection of galaxies, star clusters, nebulae and other objects (and a few non-objects). 

Of course I have previously seen pictures of many of them (The Crab Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, etc)

And, without knowing it, I have probably seen some of them with my naked eye as small smudges in the night sky.

But this video about M15 documents the first time I knowingly saw a Messier object through a telescope.

After my special moment, amateur astronomer Roy Gretton attached his camera to the telescope and also captured an image for posterity (right).

So there you have it... M15 was my first Messier object.

They say you never forget your first.

<iframe width="400" height="233" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/S-vLAg3bNDk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>iframe>

Films about our stormy sun

Solar flares, CMEs and aurora are back in the news.

Well the Backstage Science project has plenty of great stuff about them - fill your boots!

Backstage Science is a series of films I did behind-the-scenes with the Science Technology and Facilities Council last year.

The chap in these videos is solar scientist Chris Davis.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Funny comment

Hundreds and hundreds of comments are posted every day on our YouTube videos.

I try to read most of them, especially on newer videos.

And I try to reply to a dozen or so each day, just so people know I'm reading them.

But today there was a comment on a video that really made me smile!

It was posted on the latest Sixty Symbols video about 3D glasses.

The comment said:

"Ironically I'm watching this video when I should be revising for my physics exam tomorrow. Even more ironically, I'm revising for my physics exam so that I can go to Nottingham University to study physics xD So if I don't get in to Nottingham university, I'm blaming Nottingham university :L"

I shared this one with the whole Sixty Symbols team because I thought it would amuse them!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Another surprising ad?

Sometimes surprised by the advertisements which are automatically selected to appear next to my videos.

The introduction to Deep Sky Videos - a new series about hard-nosed astronomy and physics - was accompanied by this one for some sort of astrology/psychic thing?

Not exactly sure what it is because I didn't clcik on it. I'm pretty sure no-one, man or woman, will propose to me in 2012.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Messier Objects - First Steps

This week was the proper launch of Deep Sky Videos.

One of our main tasks will be making videos about the famous Messier Catalogue, which we introduced in this video:

There are 110 object in the catalogue, so it should keep us busy.

We won't be doing them in order, but we did start with M1 - the Crab Nebula:

Follow Deep Sky Videos on Twitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Brilliant Janet Folkes

Dr Janet Folkes died today after a long battle with cancer.

Janet was an engineering lecturer at the University of Nottingham

Her successful career included work with lasers and a high-powered waterjet.

I first met met Janet through this scientific work, but spent far more time with her making films about hot air balloons.

Flying was Janet's great passion - especially in balloons - and she still holds numerous world records in them.

I was lucky enough to share just a few fragments of these adventures (usually from the ground)... and spent many hours hearing tales about the other ones.

Some films about Janet's adventures can be found below.

Janet was a brilliant woman - generous, genuine and brilliantly understated.

My wife and I joined her in Switzerland for a remarkable ballooning festival and the maiden flight of the University of Nottingham hot air balloon.

The trip remains one of our fondest memories.

Janet also "donated" numerous flights for charity, including one with my brother-in-law which we followed as ground crew.

It was another great day made possible by Janet.

I imagine there are hundreds of other people whose "brilliant days" had Janet working the burner!

It's sad that she's gone, but we've been left with many great memories. It's just a bit hard to smile about them today.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Science-named Pets

This week I posted a video about a viewer in Norway who named her pet rabbit "Buckyball".

Small, round, black - it seems an appropriate name for a chemistry fan. 

Buckyball (rabbit)

The 16-year-old owner, named Izabelle, told us that Buckyball was expecting babies and was after more science-themed names.

Since then, viewers of our chemistry videos have been suggesting plenty of options. And feel free to suggest more here on the blog, etc.

However I've since cast my net wider and been asking people to share more pets who have science-inspired names.

Here are a few that have caught my eye:

Neil deGrasse Tyson (boxer dog) 

Jayden from New Zealand told me his family adopted this dog because his owners were fleeing Christchurch after the first big earthquake.

Apparently he was in poor condition and underweight, but he's since back to full fitness.

Jayden's family wanted to call the dog Tyson...

But Jayden only agreed on the condition the dog's official name was Neil deGrasse Tyson, the American astrophysicist and science communicator.

Dubnium-Dysprosium (centipede)

A Swiss physicist named Maja sent me this rather alarming picture of a pet centipede named after two of the lesser-known elements on the periodic table.

Maja said she chose the name because: "I thought it sounded special."

But apparently Maja's mother preferred to call the creature "Alejandro" because it was easier to pronounce and was from a popular Lady Gaga song?!

Dubnium-Dysprosium died of old age last September.

Niels (cockatiel) 

Twitter user paradoxosaurus shared a picture of his cockatiel named Niels.

The bird's named after the late, great Danish scientist Neils Bohr.

We can now add the bird-naming to Bohr's impressive list of honours which also included the Nobel Prize.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

This is Steve

Some of you may be aware I'm launching two new projects in 2012 as part of YouTube/Google's "made for web" initiative.

They are Numberphile and Deep Sky Videos.

These are in addition to various ongoing projects  (Periodic Videos, Sixty Symbols, et al).

An impossible amount of work for one person.

But help is at hand.

Stephen Slater is an assistant producer, editor and camera operator.

He has edited many of my Foodskey films and, more importantly, is editing many of the Deep Sky Videos (launching next week).

Stephen's an excellent editor with plenty of impressive projects under his belt - perhaps the best-known being his labour of love Destination Titan which was screened on the BBC.

He also works on various projects across the country, ranging from space to sport.

Why introduce him on the blog today?

Because it's his birthday.

Behind Closed Doors at the STFC

Have been putting the finishing touches on a year of work for Backstage Science.

The videos have been going behind the scenes at ghe Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The final videos included this one about a machine used to simulate the shaky ride into space.


But I also put together this little montage which - for me at least - encapsulates the curious spirit of Backstage Science.


Not sure if there will be more Backstage Science videos - there's certainly plenty more to see and a growing following for the project!

But regardless, you can find the whole collection of videos at this little website I created for the project.

And thanks to the STFC for letting me behind all those doors.

Special mentions to Tony Buckley, Terry O'Connor and Robin Clegg at the STFC. And to Professor Mike Merrifield from the University of Nottingham who helped out at my end.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Neutrons and Nanoscience

Happy New Year everyone!

(Here's a private video from my holiday in case you're interested)

I'll try to find some time later for bloggy reflection on 2011 - but for now it's back to real work.

To start 2012 here are two videos from the STFC's amazing ISIS facility in Oxfordshire, where beams on neutrons are used to probe the world at the tiniest levels.

The films are all about using the beams to explore things at the comparatively large nano scale!!!

So large that the team doing the work is called the Large Scale Structures Group.

The videos are part of my Backstage Science project for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).