Thursday, 30 September 2010

Enlightenment and the Statue of Liberty

Two new videos for Words of the World have been uploaded.

This one on "enlightenment" is the first time I've used multiple speakers on a single word... It's a technique I use regularly in films on other projects (such as Bibledex and Sixty Symbols).

I think it works well.

And this second video I really enjoyed because, well, I love the Statue of Liberty anyway!

Words of the World is going well and starting to build up a dedicated following.

Fingers crossed it continues.

What's it like to win the Nobel Prize?

This year's Nobel Prizes are announced next week.

So to get you in the mood, here's an interview with Richard Ernst who won the chemistry prize in 1991.

We met him during our recent trip to the Asian Science Camp in Mumbai.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

God and the Large Hadron Collider

It has been an eventful time for our Sixty Symbols project.

Everything started when I invited viewers to submit their own questions.

We received hundreds in just a few days.

I then posed a selection to our team and made them into a series of videos.

The first video was quite popular, dealing with things such as the speed of light and gravity.

But the second video has gone off the charts, centring on the simple question "What would happen if I put my hand in the Large Hadron Collider?"

The video has attracted a lot of attention from websites and blogs and become the most watched video on Sixty Symbols.

As the Bad Astronomy blog noted:

"I love how different scientists think of different angles on this, and come up with different answers. Clearly, they hadn’t really thought about this before, so as they realize various aspects of this the answer changes."

And as John Butterworth said in a Guardian blog:

"I love this video from the University of Nottingham where physicists try to answer tricky but valid physics questions in real time. Seeing them think, and say they 'don't know' sometimes, gives a better feel for research (and teaching) than a bevy of meticulously prepared seminars."

The third video deals with the vexed question of "Do you believe in God?" which a number of viewers wanted me to ask.

Religion is always an electric fence on YouTube - touch it at your peril!

To the credit of the scientists, they were honest and gave an answer.

As expected the video has created a long and tangled debate on the YouTube comment section.

But it is mainly people debating each other - I think they have appreciated the scientists' honesty.

And I think it has been fun to let the viewers decide what they want to ask - and it has been great seeing the experts tackle everything, no mater how big or small.

It really shows they are not only clever - but a down-to-earth and open bunch of people.

Whether you agree with them or not, what a great advertisement for their profession!?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Morphine and Heroin

The latest film on The Periodic Table of Videos is about heroin and morphine.

The thing I found most interesting was that the smallest change to a molecule could make such a difference.

Also interesting and something I learned after filming was that heroin was a trademark... It was registered as a brand name by Bayer in 1895, when you could buy the drug in shops!!!

The chemist featured in the above video is Rob Stockman, our first regular organic chemist to feature in the videos.

(PTOV regular Pete Licene trained as an organic chemist but has now moved into the field of ionic liquids)

Rob featured in our earlier video about frog poison, and we hope to see him pop up more regularly with these interesting tales about amazing molecules.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

From India

Here's the first main video from our adventure India, covering the main highlights of the trip.

An even shorter video about The Professor giving away his tie is here...

There are more videos to come from the trip coming soon, and a collection of photos can be found at this Flickr link.

Russian Dolls

It's funny how almost anything can be fascinating...

I've always liked the concept of Russian dolls, but didn't know the story behind them until making this video for Words of the World.

They're much more recent than I imagined, and made their "debut" at the World Fair in Paris in 1900.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Lots of Viewers

I like to check our web statistics when I have time... The joys of Google Analytics!

A quick glance shows that yesterday (Sept 13) was the biggest day of 2010 for The Periodic Table of Videos website.

We almost beat our all-time record from 2008.

It's worth noting more people watch our videos on the YouTube channel... But the website is still very important.

It seems the main reason was people on Twitter and a few glowing recommendations from popular websites.

Thanks guys!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Do you want our gold watch?

We're offering a chance to win some Periodic Table of Videos memorabilia...

The prize includes the "gold watch" created in our recent gold video. And "The Professor" will donate one of his periodic table ties (personally autographed!)

We'll also include a certificate signed by the Periodic Table of Videos team – including Neil, our silent technician!

So how do you win them?

We'd like you to design a "Periodic Table of Videos" poster.

We don't mind how you do it - pencils, crayons, computer?

However we'd like it to be in the "style" of movie posters seen in cinemas (I've chosen one of my personal favourites as an example!).

We'll accept any size (within reason) and you can submit the designs by email or post.

The best posters will be decided by the periodicvideos team. Runners-up will also receive small prizes.

A selection of entries - not just winners - will feature on our website and Flickr page.

Remember the competition is only fun – but our decision will be final!

The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2010. Details of winners will be posted on our website.

Be creative!

Entries can be emailed to:

Or by post to:
Periodic Posters
c/o Mrs D Mann
Room B13a
School of Chemistry
The University of Nottingham
United Kingdom

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Periodic Table Mistake

There's been plenty of interest in a video we posted about a periodic table mistake.

We came across the table during our trip to Turin, in a lecture theatre dedicated to the chemist and writer Primo Levi.

Here is a picture of me under the table:

Our hosts sheepishly admitted it contained an error and challenged us to find it.

After a quick scan we hadn't seen it, so the error was explained.

We thought it would make a fun challenge for Periodic Table of Videos viewers, so here's the video:


We'd never have guessed how many responses we'd receive and how many theories would be put forward!

The main thing people have pointed out is the incorrect order, names and symbols for elements 104 to 108.


Between 1994 and 1997 the officially proposed names for the elements were:

104: Dubnium
105: Joliotium
106: Rutherfordium
107: Bohrium
108: Hahnium

It wasn't until 1997 that we had the more familiar names and ordering:

104: Rutherfordium
105: Dubnium
106: Seaborgium
107: Bohrium
108: Hassium

So if that can't really be considered a mistake, then what is it?

Well, the error pointed out to us was the symbol for element 110. It should be Uun (Ununnilium, since named Darmstadtium), but on the Primo Levi table it is Unn (a typo, we were told).

Many people identified this and our congratulations to them.

However many people have pointed out other "errors" - some real and some humorous.

They include minor rounding errors in the atomic masses and debates about the style and classification of elements. You can read them all in the comments section of the video - we have enjoyed everyone's contributions.

I was also impressed by people who noted the date on the table does not match the anniversary of Primo Levi's death.

I personally doubt this is an error and more likely results from the table being "unveiled" at a later date - but who knows?

Once again, we'd like to thank COST for supported our trip to Turin. Below I've included a couple of other videos from the trip.

Icons and Iroquois

Two new additions to the Words of the World project, both starting with the letter I.

We have Judith Still talking about "Iroquois" and Monica White on the topic of "Icons".

Meanwhile the main website itself is taking shape nicely, with the "crossword" design really filling out.

Here are the two latest videos:

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Great Unknown

What are the concepts in physics and astronomy that pose the most questions?

It seems most of them revolve around light, time and energy - at least if this rather non-scientific study is a guide.

You can get a better look at it here on Flickr.

It's a "word cloud" of the questions we've been asked by viewers. The bigger the word, the more often is comes up!

The questions were posed in response to the video below.

I've been putting some of the questions to our Sixty Symbols team... Their responses will be coming soon.