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Issue 03

Summer 2019

Spotlight on a YouTube phenomenon

The Periodic Table of Videos: sharing science with over 200 million viewers
Vision Spotlight Spotlight on a YouTube phenomenon

The Periodic Table of Videos launched 11 years ago and shares science with an unprecedented global audience.

With film-maker Brady Haran, Sir Martyn and co-adventurers from the School of Chemistry have explored each of the 118 elements (many more than once). The short films have been watched well over 200 million times, from boiling water on Everest and visiting Sydney’s Bondi Beach to examine ozone, to etching the Queen’s portrait onto a diamond to mark the Jubilee. A video of a rare descent into the vaults of the Bank of England, where Sir Martyn muses on the nature of gold, has 5.8 million YouTube hits. 

There’s never a script or formal educational objective. “When I got to element 108 – Hassium – I was videoed without my knowledge saying ‘I don’t know anything about element 108, should we make something up? It made it into the final cut and has become one of my favourite videos.”

I’ve visited places and done things which I would have never dreamt of doing. I’ve washed my hands in a million pounds worth of uncut diamonds. Who knows where it will lead next?
Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff

He bashfully admits that the most popular video to date (19 million views) involves dissolving a cheeseburger in hydrochloric acid. 

Sir Martyn describes it as a wonderful adventure. “I’ve visited places and done things which I would have never dreamt of doing. I’ve washed my hands in a million pounds worth of uncut diamonds. I’ve spoken to and reached people that I would never have dreamt of, from Nobel prizewinners to young children. Who knows where it will lead next?”.

Find out more: Periodic Videos on YouTube.

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