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!