Wednesday, 17 September 2014

I quit my job for Physics

Recently received this amazing message from viewer Filipe (pictured):

Dear Brady, Hi. 

My name is Filipe (or Philip) and I live in Brazil. 

Two years ago aprox, I was working at an Investment Company in São Paulo. 

I was very unhappy with my current job. I was working insane hours and doing a job that I didn’t love.  I graduated as an engineer and I love Physics and Maths. But I wasn't doing any of that. 

Long story short: I saw your videos, particularly Sixty Symbols. They inspired me to change my life around. I decided to try going for a PhD. 

Everybody said I could not do it because I was already 3 years in the investment industry and it has been a long time since I had formally studied all the Maths and Physics. 

I decided to ignore these people. 

I quit my job, spent most of my savings on 30 day trip to England. 

I wanted to do a PhD in Physics. I travelled to meet people at the top universities (Cambridge, Oxford, Kings, Imperial, Nottingham...) and talked to everyone I could about my situation. 

In Nottingham I talked for hours (on several different days actually) with Prof Roger Bowley. Emailed Prof Martyn and talked with Prof Tony Padilla and with Samantha. 

And had a brilliant interview with Professor Philip Moriarty. I explained to him what I want to do. He said that he had just the exact idea and was waiting for the right person. 

I received and bunch of offers and I’m starting my PhD 1st of April at University of Nottingham. Philip is going to be my Supervisor. 

My whole life is changing. My girlfriend is considering doing a PhD as well in Medicine at Nottingham and my family is planning to move in to England the next year as well. 

I would very much like to thank you. 

The videos (Numberphile, Periodic Videos, Deep Sky Videos and Sixty Symbols) were the spark I needed to re-ignite the passion. 

Hope to see you some time over the next 4 years in Nottingham and get to say Thank You personally. 

Yours Faithfully Filipe

(Partly edited for privacy, style, etc, and reproduced with Filipe's permission)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Fire in Nottingham

So many people have asked about this, I thought I'd write a generic response.

Last night (12 September) a new chemistry building at the University of Nottingham was destroyed by fire.


It was a horribly spectacular blaze tackled by 60 firefighters.


The building was under construction, about 70% complete. It happened at night and no-one was hurt.

It was not the university's main chemistry building, where we film Periodic Videos.

In fact the new building was on a separate but nearby campus.

However everyone in the chemistry department was looking forward to using the new labs. Our very own Professor Pete Licence was to oversee their operation.

Artist's impression

It is too early to know how the fire started and what will happen next.

We had been meaning to make a film about its construction and, in fact, had recently scheduled a film shoot but cancelled at the last minute.

I sincerely hope the project starts again and we get to make that film!

PS: The destroyed building was the "GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry". More at this link.

PPS: University statement.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pride and Prejudice (and Mathematics)

The most recent Numberphile video about Stable Marriages uses the protagonists from Pride and Prejudice as a key example.

I think some people do not realise this.

And many more do not realise artist Pete McPartlan based his depictions of characters from the BBC adaption.

I requested this because I LOVE the BBC version.

I believe Pete had not seen it, but watched some episodes before starting his work. I think I converted him!!!!

See pictures below.







Wickham (boo!)


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Science and Intuition - A Collection of Quotations

The most recent Sixty Symbols video was bit of a departure from the standard fare.

Philosopher Jonathan Tallant discusses the role of intuition - or gut feelings - in science.

It is an interesting debate. To what extent should scientists make decisions based on intuition?

There are arguments for and against. Many of these have been appearing in the comments section.

It also raises questions about what is really meant by "intuition".

Here is the main video on Sixty Symbols.

And the interview continues on my occasional philosophy channel, PhilosophyFile.

As part of my preparation, I had some special friends collect some quotes about science and intuition.

I did not use them in the video, but they are well worth sharing. Thanks to the people who found them. Quote finding fiends!

I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research. 
— Albert Einstein Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931), 97.

The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know why or how. 
— Albert Einstein Quoted in Forbes (15 Sep 1974). In Larry Chang, Wisdom for the Soul (2006), 179.

The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. 
— Albert Einstein Address (1918) for Max Planck's 60th birthday, at Physical Society, Berlin, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934), 4.

It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover. 
— Henri Poincaré In Science and Method (1908) translated by Francis Maitland (1914, 2007), 129.

I’m supposed to be a scientific person but I use intuition more than logic in making basic decisions. 
— Seymour R. Cray In transcript of a video history interview with Seymour Cray by David K. Allison at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, (9 May 1995), 30.

My view of the matter, for what it is worth, is that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. My view may be expressed by saying that every discovery contains an 'irrational element,' or 'a creative intuition,' in Bergson's sense. In a similar way Einstein speaks of the 'search for those highly universal laws ... from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path.' he says, 'leading to these ... laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love (Einfühlung) of the objects of experience.' (1959) 
— Karl Raimund Popper The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Logik Der Forschung (2002), 8.

Notion without intuition is empty, intuition without notion is blind. 
— Immanuel Kant In Ralph Keyesr, The Quote Verifier, 52.

Science does not mean an idle resting upon a body of certain knowledge; it means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an end which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp.
— Max Planck In The Philosophy of Physics

Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind... The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise. 
— Immanuel Kant Critique of Pure Reason (1781), trans. Norman Kemp Smith (1929), 93.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Numberphile2 FAQ

Okay, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about my YouTube channel Numberphile2.

1. What is Numberphile2?

It is the second or supplementary channel to Numberphile.

2. What is it for?

It is designed to host Numberphile material that I do not want to put on "main channel" for various reasons.

3. What sort of material is that?

It could be anything. Mainly it is "extra material" cut from Numberphile videos. It could also just be stuff that I thought did not quite belong on the main channel or behind-the-scenes stuff. Maybe it is too niche, too long, too short, etc.

4. But I love seeing all that stuff, why not just put that on Numberphile?

Because Numberphile has a large following (about one million subscribers) and casual viewers do not want their feeds clogged up with "extra material" or 2-3 videos every time I put something new out. They just want the headline act.

Numberphile2 can be a channel for the real die-hards who want everything. Like a little club for the true believers! :)

5. Why not just put that "extra stuff" on Numberphile (main) and make it unlisted?

I used to do that, but the material then becomes impossible to find in searches. And some people do want to be able to have this turn up in a subscription feed in some form so they don't miss it.

6. Then why is some material on Numberphile2 still marked as unlisted?

There are a few reasons that Numberphile2 videos START as unlisted and become listed later.... The main one is this: When I release a new video on Numberphile, I probably release the "extra material" at the same time and link to it from the main video. If I made them both listed, they would turn up in subscription feeds around the same time, increasing the chances that people might watch them in the wrong order. To get around this, I make the second video unlisted so it does not show in sub feeds... I then list it a few day later.

7. Why is the logo/avatar for Numberphile2 the number 2 and not Tau?

The current avatar for Numberphile is Pi on a brown paper background - a famous "number" everyone recognises and it just looks cool. Now because Tau is 2Pi, many people think that should be the logo for Numberphile2. I agree that people who "get the joke" would appreciate that. But I think it would be confusing for people who do not. For a start, Pi has two "legs" and Tau has one. Some people might think Pi should be the second channel logo? The number two is just really clear and obvious... It says: "This the second channel". Sometimes it is best to not be too clever.

Should I subscribe to Numberphile2?

In some ways, my advice to casual viewers is "no". I will usually link to Numberphile2 material from main videos, either via links or annotations.
I will also let people know about anything great on Numberphile2 via Facebook and Twitter.
However if you are really into all the extra stuff and not want to miss anything, than of course please do subscribe. I appreciate all the support!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Slicing cake all over the place

We made this Numberphile video...

Then this happened:

Hear a discussion about this - and viral videos in general - on Episode 15 of Hello Internet.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Special Roll

From a viewer named Patti...

My class has been studying probability and yesterday we calculated the probability of rolling a Yahtzee on the first roll.  
So, today, we watched your video.  
The students were intrigued and waited for that Yahtzee with close attention.  After the video, I told them, like you said, in the game Yahtzee, you get three tries.  
So I rolled five dice...and got a Yahtzee!  
The class and I were stunned.  Utter silence and disbelieve.  
The look of "did that really happen"  on 30 7th grade faces.  
Thank you for showing the students your perseverence of waiting through 600 some trials.  
And thank you for making my roll look so special!!