Friday, 27 December 2013

Well done Andrew

Huge congratulations to eight-year-old Andrew who managed a one-roll Yahtzee in just NINE rolls.

Unfortunately it wasn't filmed because everyone thought it would take him an eternity (remembering the odds of five matching dice are 1 in 1296).

Not only a Yahtzee, but my personal favourite of five sixes (it's 1 in 11,664 if you specify the number!!!!)

FYI Andrew: My Christmas cracker this year contained three dice and I did not allow myself to eat dinner until I rolled three matching numbers… It took me about 30 rolls but I also managed matching sixes!)

Here's the Numberphile video which started the die rolling:

And here are some viewer Yahtzees (and some classic reactions).

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Happy Unboxing Day

It's Boxing Day - but on Numberphile it's Unboxing Day...

Here are two new calculator unboxing videos...

And here's our original unboxing video, uploaded a little while back.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Ten of my Favourites

Ten videos from 2013 (from my channels - there were plenty of good ones by other people too!).

(Not necessarily the most popular videos - just some I enjoyed making.)

After following him for years, James Clewett was in the hot seat for his PhD viva (and we had cameras in the room).

A bit of fun on Numberphile, calculating Pie with Pies.

Testing the boiling point of water at different altitudes during a trek to Everest Base Camp.

A "Friday Afternoon Experiment" with the physics guys.

On an amazing trip to the Very Large Telescope in Chile, we witnessed the elusive Green Flash.

Something different - a music video filmed at the Large Hadron Collider.

Our chemistry channel - periodicvideos - marked its 500th film.

With a new camera, we saw the Barking Dog like never before.

Since starting Deep Sky Videos, I had always wanted to see Charles Messier’s grave in Paris.

Comparing science videos to football matches.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Christmas Lecture

This year we've only produced one Christmas-themed video - our periodicvideos "Yule Log".

But here are some from years gone by, across all our channels…

ELEMENT FOR CHRISTMAS (periodicvideos)


ADVENT CALENDAR (numberphile)


CHRISTMAS STAR (sixtysymbols)

GIFT REVIEW (sixtysymbols)


SCIENCE OF CHRISTMAS TREES (nottinghamscience)

HOLLY TREE (nottinghamscience)


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Pebbling a Chessboard

Got a bit carried away with this video about pebbling a chessboard.

The video features Zvezdelina Stankova and was filmed at MSRI.

Here is part one:

And here is part two (part one is required viewing):

Here is a roughly-edited part three for people who are really keen:

And here is a section I cut from part one about the "invariant" - I thought people might it find interesting and it makes part one easier to understand…. but it also makes part one very long, so I chopped it!!!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Educational YouTubers

Been meaning to write this for a long time.

But now my hand has been forced… during a recent talk I mentioned some of the best educational YouTube channels - and promised the audience I'd post the links online.


Having several of my own YouTube channels (see the list here) means I spend too much time talking about my own videos!

Of course there are many others who do it better (and rightly enjoy more success).

Here I hope to have a list to show people who ask: "What are the best educational channels?"


The list mainly features people I know - it feels easier recommending channels when you've met the people (and it means I can add something personal).

There are many great channels not on the list - and I'm sure I'll add more as I get around to meeting them!

ViHart, Hank Green, Henry Reich, Angela, Mike Rugnetta, Me, John Green


I'll start with Michael's channel because it's the biggest and I've known him the longest.

At the Royal Institution
There's no point saying much - everyone seems to watch Vsauce.

Michael is a great guy. He's just like his on-screen persona - knowledgeable, curious and super passionate.

He's also generous with his success and helps other channels raise their profiles (including mine - here's a video he made with periodicvideos in 2012).

Of course Michael is also the grandfather of Vsauce2 and Vsauce3.

Michael's favourite number is 17.


Henry's videos are super successful with good reason - seemingly simple drawings but with a professional touch and some very clever animations.

The spin-off Minute Earth is also great.

Henry has also been a real catalyst within the "YouTube EDU" educational community and I don't think we'd all know each other if it was not for his passion and "can do" attitude.

Henry is hoping fans will start buying him ice-cream.


Destin's channel is super smart and full of surprises. His videos are often fun but also filled to the brim with hard-core science.

Introducing Destin & Destin's Bride to
Yo Sushi in Nottingham
They cut no corners down in Alabama.

Destin is also the Jedi of high-speed camerawork (and has been instrumental is helping us in Nottingham dip our toes in the water).

Destin's a good mate, true gentleman and a very generous person.

Here's an interview I did with him a while back discussing his videos, faith and grandfather.

4. CGP Grey

Grey's videos are obviously brilliant and - like everyone else - I wish there were more of them.

CGP Grey
Grey lives in the UK (where I live) so we often catch up for a drink and chat.

He's always full of interesting perspectives - very wise, witty and a good laugh.

Here's a Numberphile video in which he made a guest appearance.


I always find Derek's videos especially interesting because he is someone who has made an academic study of using videos in education.

But don't worry, his videos are not like a dry thesis… They're energetic, innovative and full of detail.

Derek's also quasi-Australian so we have a common bond!


Her videos have an eccentric streak but are totally inspired - never to be missed.

Maths, art and music combined in such an original way.

Vi has also been a cool friend helping on my own projects, including Numberphile (which she has hugely supported) and Sixty Symbols (collaborating on our LHC song).

Don't miss this song from Vi's second channel - I love it and not enough people have seen it yet!


Hank and John Green have loads of great channels and projects going on - most notably in education they have Crash Course and SciShow.

I have no idea how they find time to do so much stuff (both on YouTube and beyond).


Educational? Definitely.

Also, I was able to earn massive brownie points with my nephew when I said I was hanging with Gavin and could get his autograph.


Host Mike Rugnetta is a top guy and the videos deal with some weird and wonderful issues.


Okay, Dave's channel is not really "educational".

But he loves smart videos and has collaborated with us on loads of great projects for periodicvideos (dubstep), numberphile (phi) and sixtysymbols (LHC).

He is also insanely talented and great to hang out with.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Ultimate SLOW MO

So "Movember" is over and that means shedding my moustache.

I grew the mo to raise money (and awareness) for men's health - especially the too-rarely-discussed problems of prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental illness.

So here's a final throw of the dice.

We've filmed the mo removal in glorious SLOW MO (get it!?)

We captured a few other things in slow mo too, including some great shots of soap bubbles.

I will share one of the videos after every additional £50 raised from this point onwards.

You can donate via my Movember page.

These are legitimate fundraising pages - the money does not pass through me. 

Here's the first video, made live because of your KIND DONATIONS

THIS WILL BE THE SECOND ONE IF WE CAN RAISE ANOTHER £50! (it's of a bubble bursting!)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A Bag of Money

We just received the following email (and picture) from Henry at Minute Earth.

Dear Professor Poliakoff,

It has come to my attention that your cartoon likeness appeared in our most recent MinuteEarth video about the chemistry of the oceans, and thus we would like to offer, as means of compensation, a cartoon appearance fee (attached).

Both the original likeness as well as the fee were produced by Ever Salazar.

Thanks for your time (and for appearing in our video).


Monday, 2 December 2013

Text on the Screen

My latest Sixty Symbols video is an extended interview with Professor Ed Copeland.

The video lasts nearly 30 minutes and throughout there are full-screen plates will with text.

Some viewers have said they disliked the use of text.

As is the way with YouTube, other viewers have said they DID like it.

I should say I feel no great need to justify it… I'm just an average guy who makes videos that some people like and some people don't.

However I'm aware there are people who interested in the technical process… So I thought this might be a good opportunity to discuss the thinking.

Thirty minutes is a long time to just have one guy talking on screen (even someone as brilliant as Ed). And with a topic like cosmic strings there's little else to put on screen… The text breaks up the monotony for people with shorter attention spans.

I do not mind harsh jump cuts in my videos. In fact I quite like them. However we filmed for a LONG TIME and sometimes my arm gets shaky, or I spend too long adjusting the focus or fixing the exposure… Text lets me paste over those messy bits.

(NOTE: I'm not usually one of those people who films cutaways of people's hands or random flowerpots to do this - I personally find that a bit old-fashioned and weird!)

Sometimes Ed might say an unfamiliar term, like "Grand Unified Phase Transition" and putting the text on screen allows people to be sure of what was said.

Sometimes Ed may say something I wish to visually emphasise because it was important.

Sometimes I can do the opposite, and add the "gravitas" of a text plate to something which Ed said which was funny or "un-technical" - it just adds a bit of personality.

Sometimes I ask a question that I want left in the video, but don't want my voice ruining the flow… I can put the question in text.

Of course this is a stylistic decision and people may not like it.

However I will probably stick with it for the Ed Copeland trilogy, so you may want to skip the next instalments about inflation and dark energy!


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Marking our 500th video

Our periodicvideos chemistry channel has now uploaded 500 videos.

To mark this milestone (in base 10, at least) we've posted a few videos.

The main one is this music montage of highlights from the last five-and-a-half years.

Thanks to Alan Stewart for the great track, written specially for the occasion.

We also posted two Q&A videos, with Professor Martyn Polikaoff answer questions from our viewers (posted via Twitter and Facebook).

Here's the first:

And the second:

Periodicvideos stars various chemists from the School of Chemistry and the University of Nottingham.

Well done Pete

Just a quick shout-out for periodicvideos star Pete Licence.

Earlier this year he was promoted to the role of professor.

And now he has been appointed director of the University of Nottingham's soon-to-be built Carbon Neutral Laboratory.

Pete is so busy it's hard to get him in videos - but he's promised to be back soon (and will also tell us about this new lab!)

Here's a couple of my favourite videos with Pete...

Monday, 18 November 2013

Comet ISON

So Comet ISON is in our neighbourhood.

Will it be a classic, lighting up the skies? Or will it fizzle to nothing as it grazes the sun?

Here's a main video from Sixty Symbols and some bonus footage posted on our extras channel.

The videos feature Dr Meghan Gray from The University of Nottingham.

And special thanks to Pete Lawrence - our good friend who often helps out with astronomical images in times of need.

See Pete's recent APOD of Comet ISON at this link.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Movember and Men's Health

I remember back in Adelaide, Australia, a friend grew a ridiculous moustache and talked about something called "Movember".

Of course, Movember has now become a world-wide sensation.

But only today, reading on Wikipedia, did I realise I was witnessing the birth of Movember back in my home town!

In 2013 I've decided to take part (perhaps only now am I capable of such a hirsute feat!?)

Movember (the growing of moustaches in the month of November) has become an annual fundraiser for men's health.

In particular, it raises fund for two issues extremely important issues - cancer (*) and mental illness.

Not only do these affect countless men - they cause tremendous hurt and sadness to those around them.

I am more than happy to be ridiculed (a little more than usual) if a few people make a donation!

I know not everyone can afford to make donations - but thanks for reading and maybe there are other ways you can show support for the causes.

And to all of those who are experiencing the cruel effects of cancer or metal illness - stay strong and hopefully help is on the way.



(* The cause focuses on prostate and testicular cancer for obvious reasons)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Atmospheric Effects

Captured these pics of the Moon and Sun recently (not in the UK, where objects like the Sun are rarely sighted these days!!!)

I think the Sun picture nicely shows how the inside of a rainbow is darker, as discussed recently by Professor Merrifield on Sixty Symbols.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Professor Samuel

Here is seven-year-old Samuel, from Alabama, dressed as Professor Poliakoff.

His mother told us Samuel "loves your videos and was inspired to be Martyn for Halloween... Keep up the great work of inspiring the next generation of scientists".

The Professor described Samuel's outfit as "brilliant".

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Nobel Prizes of 2013

It has become bit of a tradition for us to post videos very quickly on the day of the physics and chemistry Nobel Prizes.

It's normally a crazy day for me - rushing to post detailed videos within a few hours of the announcements.

In fact I think one of Professor Poliakoff's favourite days of the year is me filming him as he watches online and reacts immediately.

Unfortunately this was not possible this year - I have flown to San Francisco for a conference at YouTube.

We will try to catch up when I get back, although it might take a little while due to other commitments.

Of course, this year's physics prize was awarded for the Higgs Boson, which we have covered in great detail on Sixty Symbols... Here are just some of our videos already:

The chemistry prize looks like largely unchartered territory for periodicvideos, but Professor Poliakoff has already been in touch and promised to speak about it. Other members of the team may also contribute.

Finally, here are our Nobel Prize videos from previous years to keep you occupied.







Friday, 4 October 2013

A message about the VLT in real time

Certainly one of the best things about my "job" is receiving nice messages and emails from viewers.

This one from a viewer called Steve was especially nice, as it was responding to a recent Deep Sky Video which was rather experimental!

Hi Brady, 

I've just watched your video of the VLT opening in real time

Can I just say that this is one of the most beautiful and spine tingling videos I've ever watched. The fact that it shows in real time what's happening gives me a feeling, that no 'normal' documentary ever can, of what it's like to actually be there. 

As a science geek, I love hearing about the details of these telescopes: about the engineering and the awe-inspiring work that they do and I'm spoilt for choice of documentaries about such things. 

But as a human being it's a rare feeling (albeit via youtube) to actually be there. 

I'm a huge fan of all the documentaries that you've done but this one is something else. I'm actually quite envious of what you do and this video really captures the magic of what I guess you must feel when you're there. 

Keep up the great work!!! 


Thanks Steve... And here's the video:

Monday, 30 September 2013

Fermat's Last Theorem

Just thought I'd put all three videos I did with Simon Singh about Fermat's Last Theorem onto one page here.

Main Video

Fermat v Simpson

Extra Footage

Simon's new Simpsons book - BUY IT HERE
His earlier Fermat's Last Theorem book - BUY IT HERE

The brown paper from this video is on ebay. Simon was kind enough to sign it for us.

Friday, 20 September 2013

One small gift

Last night my suspicion was aroused by unusual behaviour by two people I THOUGHT I knew well - Mrs PeriodicVideos and YouTube buddy Destin (from Smarter Every Day).

I have since found out they have been in secret contact for weeks.

But it's okay - they were only conspiring to get me THE BEST PRESENT EVER!

It was this signed photo of Neil Armstrong!


I am a big fan of the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

Many years ago - when I finally had a job and some money - I started collecting Apollo memorabilia.

Most notably the autographs of moonwalkers.

I know it is silly - but we all have hobbies!

Over time I've accumulated quite a collection but never Neil Armstrong.

This is because he had "retired" from signing autographs and buying a second-hand version is super expensive (and risky, with forgeries everywhere!).


I left my collection in Australia when I moved to the UK in 2002.

But eventually I had it shipped to the UK.

Mrs PeriodicVideos admires my passion but does not particularly like space photography plastered everywhere.

BUZZ - sits on my office mantle

So most of the collection lives in a secure trunk, with just a few pics on "public display".

For very special (and nerdy) guests I unlock the trunk and show off the collection.

Many of them are framed with elaborate plaques and mission patches, etc.

One such guest was Destin, who stayed with us in the UK last year (along with his wife Tara).

Destin has a long family history with rocketry and NASA.  I am sure he will be an astronaut one day.

He loved the collection and, like everyone, was told that it is missing a Neil Armstrong.

The elephant not in the room, I guess!


Unbeknownst to me, Destin and Mrs PeriodicVideos plotted to acquire a Neil Armstrong autograph.

(Of course, the great man sadly died last year - an older signature is the only option)

I had no idea, but my wife was being suspiciously guarded about her email communication in recent weeks!

(I have since learned it was because Destin was using "Neil Armstrong" in the email subject fields!!!!)

And last night - very much out of character - she asked me to switch on Skype so she could test something!?

Then Destin called me and the trap was sprung.

The signed picture was revealed and Destin was able to enjoy (and photograph) my bemused response.

CONFUSED - Destin watches me get the gift

I later learned that Destin - ever the stickler for detail like Armstrong himself - had put the autograph through a rigorous and costly authentication process.

I feel a bit disappointed that I was perhaps not excited enough about the gift - but honestly after all these years, I was just a bit shocked.

Best present ever.

Thanks guys!

Monday, 16 September 2013

A Four-Day Run

For while we've been following Ed Lester's work in the world of nanoparticles.

Check it all out here: PLAYLIST

The University of Nottingham professor is heading a spin-out company with ambitions to take the technology further.

Here's the latest video - an ambitious four-day run of the company's nanoparticle reactor.

Of course, running a new reactor for four days continuously will not be without problems?

SHYMAN research project.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Brown Papers on Ebay

Brown papers from these Numberphile videos are currently available on ebay.

Click on the link under the video if you're interested.

Thanks for supporting Numberphile.

(LIST LAST UPDATED 21 NOV 2013 - some may no longer be available)



Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Lighthouse Photos

I just spent a few days at the Start Point Lighthouse - which I loved.

Got a little bit of video which I may put together soon.

But for now, here are some photos...

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Monster Prime

Wearing my Numberphile hat, many people have drawn my attention to the recently uploaded Adam Spencer TED talk about Monster primes.

I just thought I'd use my blog to group reply...

I actually watched it on the day because I was lucky enough to be at the TED Active event earlier this year (as a guest of TED-Ed).

And I thought it was great - can't believe they took so long to "publish" it!

Great to see a fellow Aussie on the TED stage too!

Numberphile has also done plenty on the subject, including this.

And here is our whole prime number buffet.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Capturing the Green Flash

I've always been intrigued by "The Green Flash" - but had never seen it until making this video at the Very Large Telescope in Paranal.

I really enjoyed this film because it captures some of the magic and excitement experienced by amateur astronomers - and shows observing is more than just watching a static sky!

And here is a shorter version for those with lesser attention spans.

Pete Lawrence captured a great series of images during the sunset.

But this compilation really shows them off beautifully.

It also shows there was some blue light in there - an even rarer sight.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Chile Diary - Day 6

This will be my final entry from Chile (and I also note it's my 500th blog post).

Today we started early and visited the extraordinary ALMA Observatory.

A vicuna (?) on the road to ALMA
A massive cactus - but there were none at 5000m!

At an elevation of 5000m, its antenna are high on the Chajnator Plateau.

We even took oxygen as a precaution, but thankfully did not need it.

However the altitude was evident - thinking became muddled and physical exertion more difficult.

The array of antenna were an amazing sight, set in a natural amphitheatre of Andes mountains.

But perhaps the highlight of the day was meeting Denis Barkats.

Denis is a Sixty Symbols viewer who contacted me after hearing we were in Chile.

Not only is he a man with great taste in videos (!) he's also a commissioning scientist at ALMA, and knows the place back-to-front.

Denis and me

So Denis joined us for the trip to the plateau and became the star of the video.

He did a great job explaining the facility.

Stay tuned for a slew of great films from this trip, on both Sixty Symbols and Deep Sky Videos.

I'm now back in Santiago and looking forward to getting home (without looking forward to the long flight!)

A special thanks to Laura Ventura from the European Southern Observatory for being a great guide and host.

Chile Diary - Day Four
Chile Diary - Day Five
Chile Diary - Day Six

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Chile Diary - Day 5

Woke at around 3am this morning for a final dose of astrophotography at ESO's Paranal Observatory.

I joined Pete Lawrence - he's the real pro and his images will come later.

Here are some of my efforts, shot on a Canon 650D.

Note the satellite - no doubt breaching the 40km/h limit

The VLT fires its laser into my star trails

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds

The future E-ELT site - the peak at the centre

Went back to bed around 6am for some rest, then we embarked on a long drive through the Atacama Desert.

(I say "we" - the driving was done by our ESO host, Laura)

Some bleak landscape as we passed some of the world's biggest copper mines.

We also had a quick look at villages that were hastily abandoned as industrial forces pushed and pulled at livelihoods. The village cemeteries seemed particularly poingnant.

But as we approached the Andes, the landscape became increasingly spectacular.

We now find ourselves at San Pedro de Atacama, a charming village at the base of the Chajnantor plateau.

Tomorrow we climb beyond 5000m - so high we take oxygen with us.

There, if all goes to plan, we'll come face-to-face with ALMA, one of the grandest astronomical projects on Earth.

The videos from the trip will eventually appear at Deep Sky Videos and Sixty Symbols.

PS: Although I am away, a few videos were pre-planned and have gone live on Numberphile and Computerphile.