School of Chemistry

Happy 500 to the Periodic Table of Videos


Martyn Poliakoff

The University of Nottingham’s chemistry-themed Periodic Table of Videos is firmly established as an internet heavyweight — attracting more than 350,000 YouTube subscribers in the last five years — and is celebrating this success in style with its 500th video.

The brainchild of video journalist Brady Haran and fronted by unlikely internet sensation Nottingham’s Professor Martyn Poliakoff, have travelled the globe — including Everest basecamp and Sydney’s Bondai beach — to fulfil its initial aim of making a video about each element in the periodic table. And, having established a loyal fan Professor Martyn Poliakoff

One of the big reasons for the videos’ success is the University’s Professor Poliakoff — as celebrated in the 500th video. But Brady had no idea how popular the professor would prove.

Brady said: “Off camera the professor is very humble and almost shy. He doesn't strike you as a clichéd ‘internet star’. But in hindsight it is that humility, combined with great knowledge, that makes him so popular. People can spot a fake — and they know Professor Poliakoff is the genuine article.”

In addition to the Poliakoff-effect, Brady believes that it’s chemistry itself which is key to the videos’ popularity. He said: “I think that even after 500 videos, the scientists are still excited to be sharing their love of chemistry. I also think the videos try to be very honest and show what life's like in a real lab. You don't see that unvarnished depiction of science too often on TV or in videos.

“We've also been lucky — with so many people making so many videos, you need a little bit of luck on YouTube.”

But reaching the 500th video doesn’t signal the end — there’s lots more in the pipeline.

Brady said: “For starters we'd like to update our element videos. Some of them could be much better. There are countless molecules we’re yet to discuss. And every day there are new stories and things happening around the world with a chemistry angle. 

“We've also got our hands on some new equipment and cameras which will help us show things we've not tried to capture before.”

Professor Poliakoff is equally delighted at the videos’ success. He said: “Once a journalist — not Brady — said their favourite story is the one they’re working on at the moment, and once it's done, it fades into the background. And it’s a bit like this for me — I hope that every video when we make it is going to be the best.

“I think the single video that I think is funniest, which amused me most at the time and I still like, is our original video about Hassium where at the beginning I say ‘Hassium — I know nothing about Hassium, should we make something up?’”

You can watch two Q&A videos with Professor Poliakoff on the Periodic Videos blog.

Posted on Tuesday 3rd December 2013

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