Neil wins President's Prize

Anyone who watched Periodic Videos will know the importance (and cult hero status) of Neil Barnes.

Neil is a senior technician in the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham.

Since we started making videos, Neil has been the guy who sets up, carries out and cleans up most of the experiments.

But what you do not see on camera is that Neil is also a key part of coming up with ideas and planning the whole process.

When I'm not around, Neil spends many hours plotting future videos, dreaming up new experiments, and building devices to make them possible.

This week Neil was recognised for his role with the Royal Society of Chemistry President's Award.

Professor Sir John Holman, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Neil brings together two things that are very important to me personally... 

"The first is technical skills. Skilled technicians are vital for the success of the chemical sciences and Neil has shown their importance as a research technician in physical chemistry at the University of Nottingham.

"The second is outreach: as chemists we all need to do our bit to inspire the next generation of chemical scientists, and Neil has helped bring the excitement of chemistry to thousands of young people around the world by supporting Sir Martyn Poliakoff so expertly with his brilliant Periodic Videos.

“For me it feels just right to be presenting this award to Neil Barnes who has brought these two priorities together so fittingly.”

Jonathan Hirst, Head of the School of Chemistry, said: “Our technical staff are the cornerstone of much of the School’s activity. Neil has supported and inspired many students and colleagues in the School, and much more widely through social media.”

Professor Poliakoff said: “Neil is a key person in the success of our videos.  His enthusiasm, knowledge of chemistry and silent acting skills have made him a super-hero of chemistry.  He is an excellent ambassador for chemistry, for Nottingham and for the role of University Technicians.  And he is fun to work with!”

Pictures courtesy of

The Maestro

Alan Stewart - or "The Maestro" as I like to call him - has released a new album of piano music.

 Hanging out with Alan

Hanging out with Alan

Alan is an England-based physics teacher, but also a talented musician who has helped with my videos for many years. See some examples below.

(He's also the creator of Hello Internet's short "theme tune" that plays at the start of every episode)

The new album is called Sunsettlement - and Alan has posted it to YouTube.

But I'd also really encourage you to consider it on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, GooglePlay, Amazon, et al.

It's well worth your time - but also a great way to show some support for a great guy.

I listened to the whole album (twice) on a recent long-haul flight, and loved it.

To remind you of my work with Alan, here are some videos he contributed to:

And here's an interview video I did with Alan a while back...

Those links for Alan's new music: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, GooglePlay, Amazon.


New Numberphile with Matt Parker about the number 10,958 comes in two parts...

Part One, The Problem

Part Two, The Possible "Parker Squarey" Solution - I quite like like it, actually!

There is also some extra footage on Concatenation.

If you are wondering about references to The Parker Square, there is this video which COINCIDENTALLY was uploaded exactly one year ago.

And this video featuring concatenation is also referenced in the videos.

The Collatz Conjecture in Colour

The latest Numberphile video is about the Collatz Conjecture - in particular a new way of visualising it.

Thanks to The Great Courses Plus for supporting the video

Inkthusiast Tiffany Arment did the coloring in!

The image is featured in the coloring book by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss called Visions of the Universe (USA NAME) and/or Visions of Numberland (UK NAME).

Click here for Alex Bellos books. (Amazon affiliate link)

Here is extra interview footage that was not used in the main video.

And if you're feeling especially hard core, here's the full 63 minutes of Tiffany's coloring... It seemed a shame to not share it.

Periodic Videos trip to Russia

The main reason for our trip was the inauguration of three new elements - 115, 117 and 118.

Watch the video here:

Here are some photos which tell the story of our trip... Captions are below each picture.

At the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, in Dubna, the office of Georgy Flerov has been preserved as it was when he died in 1990. The calendar lies open (from a few of weeks before his death) and his reading glasses are on the table. Element 114 was named Flerovium in his honour.

Adjacent to Flerov's "museum office" is the office of Yuri Oganessian, who is still the world leader on superheavy elements. Element 118 was named Oganesson in his honour.

Oganessian is based at JNIR's Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions.

Professor Poliakoff sports a Russian tie for inauguration day.

Prof Oganessian arrives at the Central House of Scientists, in Moscow, for the inauguration. Here's a video we made when the names were first announced.

Another element pioneer is there - Professor Sigurd Hofmann. We met him in Germany in 2010 to make videos about other superheavy elements. Watch him here.

Professor Oganessian delivers talk about the island of stability - and continues a great scientific tradition of using comic sans.

The President of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry is Natalia Tarasova. IUPAC oversees the names of elements and it is her announcement that makes the new names "official'.

Professor Poliakoff takes to the stage and discusses our video project - and how it exciting it was when superheavy elements transformed the table.

Professor Oganessian watches as Professor Poliakoff describes him as a superhero and then gives him a superhero costume (see the video). 

A series of VIP guests then make short speeches and shake Yuri Oganessian's hand.

Oganessian's name will live forever on the periodic table.

Scientists gather the next day for a tour of the facilities at Dubna and a short seminar about the future of element synthesis.

Filming with the professors. Behind them is the cyclotron which speeds the projectile isotopes (very often Calcium-48) to enormous speeds, then fires them down the beamline which is also visible in this photo.

Funnily enough, the lab where the new elements have been made is adorned by this old periodic table which stops at element 104. We could not get any closer due to some radioactive equipment. You might note 104 was being called Kurchatovium (Ku) by Russians at this time.

Super heavy weights! Legends Oganessian and Hofmann chat with Professor Poliakoff.

A better view of the cyclotron and beamline. Behind the blue box atop the cyclotron is where the isotopes are fed into the system.

Now standing atop the cyclotron, you can see the beamline and, beyond the blue wall, the area where the projectile isotopes will smash into the target.

About to film at ground zero. The beam of isotopes streams into the target area and then strikes the target wheel, which is laced with an exotic heavy element. The collision and subsequent fusion happens inside the clear box to the left of the professors. The newly-formed superheavy element then flies into the waiting detector.

Another look at the collision zone, taken from where we are standing in the previous photo. The actual collisions happen inside a secondary box which was not installed at this time.

The target material is loaded onto this fast spinning wheel. Each sector on the outer part of the wheel contains a piece of foil (see at the right) which is coated with a very thin amount of the heavy target isotope.

Professor Oganessian with a small piece of target. When being used, it is laced with an exotic element such as Californium or Berkelium.

To make heavier elements, a better and more powerful set-up is needed. Here is the cyclotron under construction for Dubna's new Superheavy Elements Factory.

Oganessian peers into the void where, eventually, isotopes will be spun to enormous velocities and then slung towards targets.

The collisions will happen in adjacent rooms. The experiments and beamlines are not yet installed, but on the far wall you can see the holes in the wall which will eventually accommodate the beams.

View through the "beamline hole", looking back to the cyclotron in the adjacent hall.

So perhaps this is the room where elements 119 and 120 will be created - and maybe even elements beyond.

Dubna sits on the Volga River (Europe's longest) and includes a section called the Mendeleev Embankment.

The river attracts families at the weekend...

And occasionally visiting science professors.

Dubna has many monuments to its science pioneers.

Thank you to everyone at JNIR for hosting us - but especially Professor Oganessian who was very generous with his time.

Hearts on Valentine's Day

A Valentine's Day themed Objectivity video...

Well, sort of.

Keith and his library colleagues were suggesting love poems, but I requested we dig out the best images of hearts we could find.

Watch the video here:

129-digit number


This number is better-known as RSA-129.

It was posted in a 1977 magazine article as a challenge.

The co-inventors of RSA Cryptography wanted to see just how hard it was to factorize a number (it was crucial to the new technology).

RSA-129 is created by multiplying two very large prime numbers.

Ron Rivest (the R in RSA) thought it would take 40 quadrillion years for the prime numbers to be found.

He was wrong. It took 17 years.

Watch the Numberphile video to learn more.

I also recommend the extra footage at Numberphile2, which is some extra questions I asked Professor Rivest.