Thursday, 28 July 2011

Watching Sport - Philisophically

Just posted the second video of my little foray into philosophy (following the previous video about Harry Potter).

This time I'm talking with Stephen Mumford in the first of a few clips about sport.

Professor Mumford's particularly interested sports spectators.

This first section is quite general, but in future clips we'll be focusing more on football (the soccer variety, that is).

PhilosphyFile on YouTube

Pretzels and Physics

Thanks to Sixty Symbols viewer Connor Hause who posted this picture to our Facebook page.

Connor has fashioned some pretzels into the shape of two important symbols of physics - lambda and h-bar.

Connor says: "Inspired by your videos, I made pretzels of my 2 favorite symbols. Thought you'd like to see. I picked h-bar because I have been studying Max Planck recently and Lamda as a tribute to Einstein's self proclaimed 'greatest mistake': the cosmological constant."

Below are some videos on the topics (we did h instead of h-bar)...

Roger, Over and Out!?

I just posted a video to Test Tube about the imminent retirement of Professor Roger Bowley.

Roger's been a physicist - and very popular lecturer - for 40 years.

As he packed up his office, I asked him a few questions about retirement.

Test Tube is all about these one-off moments in science, and retirement is something I'd never covered.

But is Roger really retiring? I'm not so sure.

Okay, he won't be doing any more lectures.

But I think he'll still be coming into the university and doing physics with his friends and collaborators.

After all, physics is Roger's hobby.

And perhaps more importantly (to me!) Roger has agreed to continue appearing in Sixty Symbols videos.

So Roger may be emptying his old office... And receiving his pension... But I suspect he'll still be a busy physicist.

Maybe he'll just have a bit more time in the garden and with his lovely wife.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The recipe for Dr Walsh

I've just posted a video from our recent trip to Dublin.

Midway through the video (below), Dr Darren Walsh uses a clever contraption to count the atoms in his body (based on his weight).

A few people have asked to see the full details in the list.

Dr Walsh has kindly supplied it.

Oxygen Mass: 41.925 kg Atoms: 1.578273 x 10^27
Carbon Mass: 11.61 kg Atoms: 5.821916 x 10^26
Hydrogen Mass: 6.45 kg Atoms: 3.854385 x 10^27
Nitrogen Mass: 1.935 kg Atoms: 8.320665 x 10^25
Calcium Mass: 967.5 g Atoms: 1.453978 x 10^25
Phosphorus Mass: 645 g Atoms: 1.254234 x 10^25
Potassium Mass: 161.25 g Atoms: 2.484017 x 10^24
Sulphur Mass: 161.25 g Atoms: 3.028875 x 10^24
Sodium Mass: 96.75 g Atoms: 2.534716 x 10^24
Chlorine Mass: 96.75 g Atoms: 1.643656 x 10^24
Magnesium Mass: 32.25 g Atoms: 7.991844 x 10^23
Iron Mass: 0.387 g Atoms: 4.174249 x 10^21
Fluorine Mass: 2.3865 g Atoms: 7.565841 x 10^22
Zinc Mass: 2.064 g Atoms: 1.901418 x 10^22
Silicon Mass: 1.29 g Atoms: 2.766434 x 10^22
Rubidium Mass: 0.2967 g Atoms: 2.090874 x 10^21
Strontium Mass: 0.2967 g Atoms: 2.039516 x 10^21
Bromine Mass: 0.18705 g Atoms: 1.409945 x 10^21
Lead Mass: 0.10965 g Atoms: 3.187365 x 10^20
Copper Mass: 0.0645 g Atoms: 6.113421 x 10^20
Aluminium Mass: 0.056115 g Atoms: 1.252637 x 10^21
Cadmium Mass: 0.04644 g Atoms: 2.488263 x 10^20
Cerium Mass: 0.036765 g Atoms: 1.580373 x 10^20
Barium Mass: 0.019995 g Atoms: 8.769378 x 10^19
Tin Mass: 0.01548 g Atoms: 7.854101 x 10^19
Iodine Mass: 0.01032 g Atoms: 4.897965 x 10^19
Titanium Mass: 0.008385 g Atoms: 1.055066 x 10^20
Boron Mass: 0.044505 g Atoms: 2.479453 x 10^21
Selenium Mass: 0.012255 g Atoms: 9.348007 x 10^19
Nickel Mass: 0.00903 g Atoms: 9.266406 x 10^19
Chromium Mass: 0.001548 g Atoms: 1.793135 x 10^19
Manganese Mass: 0.010965 g Atoms: 1.202121 x 10^20
Arsenic Mass: 0.01677 g Atoms: 1.348152 x 10^20
Lithium Mass: 0.0019995 g Atoms: 1.735051 x 10^20
Mercury Mass: 0.012255 g Atoms: 3.679738 x 10^19
Caesium Mass: 0.0013545 g Atoms: 6.138313 x 10^18
Molybdenum Mass: 0.008385 g Atoms: 5.262907 x 10^19
Germanium Mass: 0.008385 g Atoms: 6.953443 x 10^19
Cobalt Mass: 0.0013545 g Atoms: 1.384305 x 10^19
Antimony Mass: 0.007095 g Atoms: 3.509624 x 10^19
Silver Mass: 0.000645 g Atoms: 3.601465 x 10^18
Niobium Mass: 0.1032 g Atoms: 6.690322 x 10^20
Zirconium Mass: 0.387 g Atoms: 2.55514 x 10^21
Lanthanum Mass: 0.00903 g Atoms: 3.915446 x 10^19
Tellurium Mass: 0.00774 g Atoms: 3.65345 x 10^19
Gallium Mass: 0.00774 g Atoms: 6.686175 x 10^19
Yttrium Mass: 0.007095 g Atoms: 4.806566 x 10^19
Bismuth Mass: 0.007095 g Atoms: 2.044842 x 10^19
Thallium Mass: 0.007095 g Atoms: 2.090835 x 10^19
Indium Mass: 0.0001806 g Atoms: 9.473721 x 10^17
Gold Mass: 0.00903 g Atoms: 2.761265 x 10^19
Scandium Mass: 0.00903 g Atoms: 1.209801 x 10^20
Tantalum Mass: 0.00903 g Atoms: 3.00571 x 10^19
Vanadium Mass: 0.01677 g Atoms: 1.982778 x 10^20
Thorium Mass: 0.00008385 g Atoms: 2.17649 x 10^17
Uranium Mass: 0.00008385 g Atoms: 2.121711 x 10^17
Samarium Mass: 0.00000645 g Atoms: 2.583689 x 10^16
Tungsten Mass: 0.00000645 g Atoms: 2.113161 x 10^16
Beryllium Mass: 0.000003225 g Atoms: 2.155324 x 10^17
Radium Mass: 0.00000000000000645 g Atoms: 1.718954 x 10^07

And here is the automatically generated pic of Dr Walsh on the scales at Science Gallery!

New Face on Sixty Symbols

The latest video on Sixty Symbols features a new team member.

Professor Mark Fromhold is in our new video about chaos and the butterfly effect.

Let's hope he'll help out with more videos soon!

Another seldom-seen face you may have noticed is my own... I swapped places with Professor Laurence Eaves after he struggled at the snooker table.

Maybe "Professor Cam" could be a regular feature!?

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Graffiti on Sam's Cast

Our latest film on Periodic Table of Videos features Dr Samantha (Sam) Tang at home wearing a plaster.

She snapped her achilles tendon a few weeks back.

As an outreach scientist, Sam kindly agreed to feature her injury for a video about the chemistry of plaster.

You may notice the graffiti on the plaster... A few people have asked about it already.

It was by Sam's sister and I'm told it was a series of funny lines from a YouTube video. Sam described the video as "a random animation we both like".

So, here it is:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Backstage in Engin-X

I've posted the first Backstage Science video in a little while.

The project's main production period has ended for now, but I'm still putting together more films from all the footage.

There's still some really good ones to come.

The latest was inside an instrument called Engin-X - one of the many "hutches" at the end of "beam lines" at the ISIS neutron source.

Engin-X has more of an emphasis on engineering, so often it is probing things like the strength of metals, etc.

It also means sometimes the samples can be quite big (like plane wings).

For this reason, Engin-X is quite a big instrument.

Here's the video:

Irish Luck

I'm just back from a brief but successful trip to Dublin, in Ireland.

The main reason was to give a public talk at the Science Gallery.

It was about making science films and, as always, I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss my work.

I also checked out the gallery's excellent "Elements" exhibition, which runs until September 23.

It was really good and any science buff will love it. Worth a cheap flight to Dublin if you can afford it!!!

I was joined on the trip by two of our Irish science stars - Phil Moriarty from Sixty Symbols and Darren Walsh from periodicvideos.

The pair helped me out with a few films we'll be posting in the coming weeks.

Professor Moriarty did three (or "tree", as he would say in his Irish lilt).

We discussed Erwin Schrödinger at the lecture theatre bearing his name at Trinity College.

We also discussed Ireland's only science Nobel Prize winner - Edwin Walton.

And of course we did a video about Guinness, the famous Irish drink which is jam-packed with interesting science stuff.

Dr Walsh joined me at the Science Gallery exhibit I mentioned above, and we'll have some videos coming soon about periodic tables and elements.

They should be fun and will include a few little "gimmicks" that I think chemistry fans will love, including a really cool platinum sample and a periodic table in Braille!

PS: We didn't drink the Guinness - neither Professor Moriarty or I are particularly fond of it!

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Galaxy Man

I thought a few recent videos on Sixty Symbols were worth highlighting.

They've been filmed with Professor Mike Merrifield, the head of astronomy at the University of Nottingham.

He's regular contributor to my videos.

Like many on the Sixty Symbols team, Mike's a science "all-rounder" and a good sport.

He's willing to tackle many areas of astronomy and physics - from the planet Mars to Einstein's theories of relativity.

However the last few videos we've done are really in his area of expertise - galaxies.

The most recent is this one about "pattern speed" and why many galaxies have spiral arms.

We were really dealing with his everyday work.

In fact, the diagrams and graphs used in the video are from real scientific papers that Mike has co-authored.

There's more information in this Test Tube "additional footage" video.

A couple of weeks back Mike also helped with this video about the Milky Way's twin.

It seemed the perfect time to ask about Mike's little hobby business (something I knew about but had never had reason to discuss on camera!)

Mike makes replicas of astronomical objects, sculpted in glass cubes with lasers.

Among others, his collection includes the Sun and The Milky Way.

It was not my intention to "advertise" the cubes.

But when making a video about the Milky Way's structure, it would've been stupid to ignore the fact Mike makes sculptures of the galaxy.

It added a personal and unexpected touch to the video... And yes, Mike did sell a few extra cubes.

But I don't think he'll be retiring to the Bahamas just yet.

PS: A piece of trivia... Mike featured in the first ever Sixty Symbols video... It was about the speed of light.

PPS: To some viewers, Mike is best-known for having the controversial Atlas of Creation on his bookshelf... It has been so contentious, we even made a video about it.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A true Periodic Table fan!

Many of you will be aware we have been "collecting" photos of our viewers for a while now.

It's great to see who's watching.

These two photos, which just arrived this evening, definitely caught my eye.

I'll show them first, with explanation below.

The pics came from a chap in Amsterdam.

His email said:

"I like the updates on your videos, I watched them with great joy! All of your videos I've watched on my computer which is on my table, or shall I call it my periodic table?
I'm an element collector, so far i've got 46 (or 47, if you realize that my empty Nitrogen compartment is acually filled for 78% with Nitrogen) and all of my specimens are in my desk.
Keep uploading videos!
Greetings from Amsterdam
PS: I realize my periodic table is upside down, but this way it's more convenient ;)"

Send your pics to

Big asteroid news

This weekend a space probe will go into orbit around the asteroid Vesta (pictured).

Always exciting when stuff like this happens, both for the pretty pictures and scientific data.

For anyone wanting to get up to speed on their asteroid facts, Sixty Symbols has a useful video about them.

Here it is:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Philosophy and Harry Potter

Philosophy is not a topic I know much about... But I find it incredibly interesting.

So maybe I'm just the right person to make some videos about it!

Over the next few weeks I'm putting together some videos with philosophy experts at the University of Nottingham.

I'm posting them on a YouTube channel called PhilosophyFile. (Do subscribe if you're YouTuber)

The first video is quite topical, dealing the phenomenon of Harry Potter and asking why the books are so popular?

Professor Poliakoff and Pekko Pyykko

Professor Poliakoff has sent me this photo snapped at a recent conference in Cardiff, Wales.

It shows The Prof (right) with Professor Pekko Pyykkö from the University of Helsinki.

Professor Pyykkö wrote the paper about an "extended periodic table" which we discussed in a recent video.

So when Professor Poliakoff met him in the flesh, he thought it only fitting to capture the moment for posterity!

Bigger version of the photo at

Monday, 11 July 2011

Harry Potter and Horticultural Hogwash

An occasional series on Test Tube is a light-hearted but informative guide to trees, fronted by ecologist Markus Eichhorn.

With the final Harry Potter film about to be released, Markus decided to have fun with trees used in the films.

Markus discussed, among other things, the famous Whomping Willow which appears in some of the films.

In particular, he questioned whether it's truly a willow.

It was all tongue-in-cheek, but like a typical scientist Markus has since delivered me the following analysis (for the true tree enthusiast).

"It appears that there are actually two different 'whomping willows' in the Harry Potter films.

"Both are amalgams of several different trees, though in fairness, freezing frames on the DVDs reveals that they have been dressed with appropriate willow leaves.

"The first one, which Harry crashes into in a flying car (yes, I can suspend disbelief) is almost certainly modelled on a sweet chestnut, and the bark was taken from this tree in Kew:

"In the second film, the group fights the tree before getting thrown underneath it.

"From a distance it has silvery bark, more like a beech, and those flailing branches resemble lianas.

"Still, however, the close-up shots suggest that there is actually some willow in there.

"That said, what would a tree of wet ground be doing on a rocky outcrop?"

Happy Birthday Neptune

I just read that Neptune is about to celebrate its first birthday.

July 12 marks one Neptunian year (164.79 Earth years) since its discovery in 1846.

Sixty Symbols has done videos on all the planets (and the Sun - and Pluto - and asteroids).

Here's our Neptune video (from last year)... Some nice stories in it.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Periodic Table of QR codes

This took me a while, but I'm quite pleased with it!

It is a periodic table of QR codes, with each code linking to our YouTube video about that element.

If you don't know what a QR code is here's a Wiki article.

And here's a link to a hi-res version of the poster... Feel free to print it out and stick it up somewhere for us!!!

And here's a link to a version with symbols under each code...

PS: Special shout-out to Professor Merrifield from Sixty Symbols who loves QR codes much more than me and will be rather smug about the fact I've done this!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Photos from Colombia

Received some fascinating photos from a fan in Colombia.

I'll just share the email...

Hi, I'm a chemist from Colombia.
I want to share with you a few photos of the 140's periodic table birthday. This event was made in the Antioquia University (Colombia) due to a huge effort of the group "Metodologies in Chemistry Teaching" at Chemistry Institute of the University.
And welcome at any moment in Colombia. Thanks for you magnificent project.
Johnatan Diosa Arango
Grupo de Coloides
Universidad de Antioquia

I've put bigger versions of the pics on the periodicvideos Flickr account.

A day of video

Over the last few days I've been pulling together a few statistics about The Periodic Table of Videos.

It's mostly for my own use, but I thought one figure was worth sharing.

We've now uploaded 22 hours, 57 minutes and 42 seconds of footage.

Nearly a full day!

And that's just PTOV.

I have not added up the figures from other projects like Sixty Symbols and Test Tube, etc.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The American Way

It occurs to me that we didn't do anything to mark the 4th of July.

So I thought I'd share this older video I filmed during a visit to the US a while back (it includes a pledge of allegiance, which caused plenty of chat in the YouTube comments section).

And The Prof answering questions from US students.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Barium in your butt

Our latest element update in Barium...

Or as one of our viewers delicately described it on Twitter, "the heavy element that goes in your butt".

This was a reference to barium meals and enemas used in x-rays... described in slightly more subtle terms by The Professor himself!