Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Two visits from VIVs

An unexpected pleasure of making popular YouTube videos is meeting fans - some of who make great efforts to visit us in person.

Two young lads recently joined this club and received treatment befitting any VIV (very important viewer).


First, here is Aidan, a 10-year-old from here in the UK diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and described by his dad Stuart as a "Numberphile Addict".

In an introductory email, Stuart explained: "We stumbled across the Numberphile videos and website, and he has started consuming them at a rate of knots. He has even started doing his homework whilst filming himself as a mini-video and 'presenting' what he is doing in the format of your films."

Aidan and his family visited the University of Nottingham and met various people from the videos - Ed Copeland, Phil Moriarty, Ria Symonds, Meghan Gray and Gerardo Adesso.

Here are some pictures:

But perhaps the best picture came after the visit from Stuart:

By way of explanation, Stuart said: "Just wanted to say another HUGE thank you for yesterday; as Aidan himself said, 'to leave with gold nano-particles, his own galaxy, the solution to the Rubik's cube, a good piece of homework from Ed, and of course THE brown paper, it was quite a good day!'

"I'm sure you'll already know this, but 'quite a good day' for a child like Aidan is the utmost of praise!

"I've attached an image of our journey home, which a couple have seen on twitter, but I think it sums up the day perfectly - Aidan is content with Leonard (his pet Lion!), and the only other time we have seen this look of contentment on his face was on the way home from his ASD assessment 6 months ago when he finally had a 'reason' to explain things to others!"


Another young Numberphile fan is nine-year-old Quarrie.

His family was visiting London from the US - but made a special trip up to Cambridge to see Quarrie's favourite YouTuber, Dr James Grime.

James showed Quarrie around his workplace and they even spotted Stephen Hawking!

Here are some pics from Quarrie's dad, Tim:

Tim told me in an email:  "James was incredible. I have never seen Quarrie smile so much. You know, James even took him up to see Stephen Hawking, and still, I think he was more impressed with James. That says a lot from a kid like Quarrie."

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Come and see me

I will be giving an hour-long talk at 12pm on Friday, 30 November, 2012.

The talk will be to communications students at Nottingham Trent University - but others are welcome to come along and listen.

It's free!

The talk will be at NTU's Clifton Campus.

It will be in Lecture Theatre Two (aka GYM 030) which is, I'm told, "sort of connected to the George Eliot building and next to the bus stop".

I'll be talking about my work, showing some videos, telling some stories and giving some advice to people who are interested in online videos and/or science and/or just having a fun job.

And I'll hang around afterwards if anyone wants to say hello.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Tau of Phi

By Professor Phil Moriarty
(to accompany Numberphile's Tau of Phi video)

The song can be downloaded from Soundcloud.

For some unfathomable reason, not everyone is a fan of heavy metal so I thought it might be helpful to compose a piece of "mathemusic" which didn’t involve growling, screaming, and/or distorted, detuned guitars.

If nothing else, it just might win Brady back a few of those subscribers who unsubscribed from Numberphile in protest when our Golden Ratio Song was uploaded.

There are, of course, a number of great pieces of music out there whose composers have used fundamental mathematical constants as their basis (long before we decided to ‘metallize’ phi in the way we did).

ViHart’s “A Song About A Circle Constant” and Michael Blake’s “What tau sounds like” are great examples and highly recommended.

And both Tool (with ‘Lateralus’) and After The Burial (with “Pi”) have written songs directly inspired by constants in Nature (more on Tool below).

But what do we get if we mix melodies and riffs based around a number of different constants?

This was one of the motivations for the “Tau of Phi” piece.

I was intrigued as to how a piece inspired by the digits of both tau and phi would sound.

Here’s how the piece of music works. I used Audacity for all of the recording, effects, and mixing.

0:00 – 0:17 Opens with a gently looping piano melody derived from the first eight digits of tau mapped onto a Bb harmonic minor scale. (The same scale as we used for the math metal song). The sound in the background is a combination of strings and a crescendo involving Bb octaves which I then time-reversed. The strings throughout the piece are based on the digits of tau.

0:18 – 0:43 The tau riff continues to play. The chords underlying this are an interpretation on piano of the opening of the math metal Golden Ratio song. I take some ‘liberties’ here, however, and first play the sequence: “1…6…1” three times in a row, (starting at 0:18, 0:27, and at 0:36). That is, I repeat the first three digits of phi three times. This adds to the overall ‘atmosphere’ of the piece. What’s important, I feel, is to use the constants to inspire the composition, rather than to slavishly reproduce the sequence of digits. Music and maths (and physics!) are all about creativity.

0:45 – 0:51 Chords represent the “8” and “0” of phi.

0:52 – 1:00 …and then the “3..3..9..8” of phi.

1:02 seconds (and ~ 0.8 of a second!) – “Reprise” of opening tau riff on guitar and piano.

1:09 Tool’s “Lateralus” riff (downtuned to Bb and played on electric piano, rather than guitar). There were very many comments about “Lateralus”, and its relationship to the Fibonacci series, under the video for our golden ratio song. I felt it only right to ‘allude’ to Lateralus here. Timing of riff not coincidental (for Tool aficionado).

1:20 ViHart, in her wonderfully crystal-clear vocal tones, sings 6..2..8..3..1..8..5..3. Lots of delay and reverb courtesy of Audacity’s standard effects base. I sampled the numbers from Vi’s “Oh No, Pi Politics Again” video. …except for the “6”. Unfortunately, she didn’t sing the digit “6” in that video so I add to resort to sampling her rendition of “6” from her tau song. But in her tau song, she’s singing along with a guitar. This meant quite a bit of manipulation of the frequencies of the sample to attempt to isolate the vocal.

(Warning – ‘tech-y’ musical bit)

ViHart sings the notes in her songs/melodies in the key of C major. But the music in the “Tau of Phi” is based around Bb minor. My first thought was to transpose ViHart’s vocals down to Bb.

But she ended up sounding not too unlike Barry White at times. Not good. So I instead transposed her vocals up a semitone to C#. C# major is the tonic major key of Bb minor so shifting Vi’s vocals up a semitone (a) doesn’t modify her overall vocal tone too much, and (b) works harmonically (in principle).

1:28 – 1:37 Piece fads out with tau riff gently looping on guitar.

The song can be downloaded from Soundcloud.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Northern Lights Flight

Last night I went on a "northern lights" flight.

The plane departed East Midlands Airport and essentially headed north for an hour.

It then circled for about an hour, offering views of the stars and aurora.

The pilot then turned around and came home.

Huge thanks to Pete Lawrence - an onboard astronomer and Deep Sky Videos regular - for making the trip possible.

And which put on the flights.

Below are a few of my hand-held shots through the window - very amateurish.

A video about the trip will be coming soon. And I've included a few more thoughts below the pictures.

I realise my pictures are poor - I'll post some better ones from Pete very soon.

The flight was an unusual experience.

All cabin lights are switched off (even the no-smoking signs and wing lights) so everyone's eyes could adapt to the dark.

It was a funny atmosphere on the plane as everyone rotated to share window seats. The aisle was always bustling with bodies, like a giant game of Twister in the dark!

And the onboard astronomers excitedly commentated on the intercom throughout, describing the stars and aurora.

To be honest, our light show was below par. The space weather was not spectacular.

And I must say the northern lights didn't look to the human eye as they did in the photos.

It is more like a white-ish light haze caused by some distant city - but with more definition and shape to it.

The green and red colours were not obvious until seeing the long-exposure pictures.

But the excited and enthusiastic atmosphere on the flight added something special and the trip was worthwhile.

And I've heard tales from flights where the aurora was more playful and vibrant.

My video on the trip will be coming soon.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

It's 200K-athryn

So Numberphile reached 200,000 subscribers today!

I tried to capture the moment for posterity, but my screen refreshing was not quick enough.

It has also been challenging to establish the identity of our 200,000th subscriber.

Anyway, it appears number 200,000 may have been this person!

Kathryn lives in Broomall, Pennsylvania (just outside Philadelphia).

She said: "I happened to come across your channel a few days ago. I'm horrible at math, but for some reason your channel just puts me in a better mood."

When not watching Numberphile, she is into musical theatre.

Number 200k may also have been Travis from Italy. 

He's 14 years old and said: "You're lucky because I'm good with English despite my young age. Even though I'm not perfect yet."

Of course Numberphile has had many more than 200,000 people subscribe in total - nearly 218,000 in fact - but sadly we have lost some of them as time goes by. But Kathryn and Travis helped take us past 200,000 current subscribers.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

YouTube EDU on a Hair

We were lucky enough to have Angela from YouTube EDU come to visit on Monday.

She was joined by elusive YouTuber CGPGrey - here we're photographed at Nottingham's Robin Hood Statue.

Brady, CGP Grey and Angela

Most of the day was spent at the University of Nottingham, where periodicvideos and sixtysymbols are filmed.

With Professor Martyn Poliakoff

We were also hosted by Dr Mike Fay at the Nottingham Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Centre.

There Mike was able to engrave the YouTube EDU logo onto a few hairs, including one of Angela's!

A hair (note scale bars in bottom right corners)

Closer up

The logo was etched with a beam of gallium ions

Dr Mike Fay at work on the logos

The small logo can be seen on a "huge" hair

The logos are imaged with an electron microscope

Mike returns Angela's strand of hair

Invisible to the human eye - but we promise it's there!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Weddings, Rings and Chemistry Cakes

Some pictures I've been meaning to share - these relate to weddings and chemistry.

The first comes from Thilina - a periodicvideos fan from Sri Lanka.

Dedicated viewers may remember Thilina - he was the young lad who received a tie from Professor Poliakoff at the 2010 Asian Science Camp in India.

Thilina has remained in regular contact and sent us this picture from his wedding!

And ever the chemistry nut, this was Thilina's wedding cake!

I hope his wife likes chemistry too!

This second tale comes from a viewer named David Adams.

Back in 2011, David submitted a viewer question which said the following:

"I am getting married to my fiancé next year (although I not sure who else anyone would get married to other than their fiancé, but anyway). There are obviously the standard metals of gold, silver and platinum. There are also some slightly more interesting options like tungsten and titanium. But is there anything more interesting that this? What metals would be non-toxic and suitable for a jeweler to work with? Neodymium perhaps? Maybe one for Pete?"

David's question resulted in the following video:

Well, much like Thilina's, this story has a conclusion.

I've just received the following email and photo from David:

Hi Brady

You may may recall me asking you guys what interesting metals would make a good wedding ring which you then made a video about.

I was quite pleased as to the extent for which I managed to stump the team and I was entertained by their responses.

Anyway, I thought I should let you know what we went for...

My wife Sarah chose diamonds set in platinum to match her engagement ring. Diamonds as the prettiest element and platinum as one of the most expensive. 

I went for tungsten. Although a cheap metal (and certainly cheaper than Sarah's - you could probably do a Numberphile video on the order of magnitude difference in the price) it was the perfect choice.

Firstly for its colour: a dark, masculine metal. Secondly for its strength, representing our love (and will preserve the brushed effect longer). 

And thirdly due to one of its most common uses: light bulb filaments. We both work in television as studio managers and I have a particular specialism in television camera colorimetry.

Tungsten plays a hugely important role in what we do everyday so seemed a fitting choice. 

The number 3200 is etched into everything we do. 

Thank you to you and the team for a brilliant video and please find a picture of our rings attached.

Kind regards


PS: Perhaps a Sixty Symbols videos in lightbulbs and tungsten?

Friday, 2 November 2012

News from Japan

The recent confirmation of element 113 by Japanese researchers was a "must cover" for us at The Periodic Table of Videos.

Here's the video with Professor Martyn Poliakoff.


But I also too the opportunity to collaborate with fellow YouTuber KemushiChan, who makes films teaching people Japanese.

She was kind enough to dub the professor.

I hope some people find it useful!


PS: I love Japan so thought I'd share a few snaps from previous trips.

Nothing to do with chemistry - just because it was an excuse to go back over some fun memories!

Pass for the bullet train

At the baseball (it is extra fun in Japan!)

Sneaking backstage at the sumo wrestling

Botching some ritual, no doubt!

Shirt being eaten by a deer

Feeling happy at the Fuji Rock festival

Mt Fuji

My favourite pic!