FIGURE 6-1 Martin Poliakoff being recorded for PeriodicVideos by collaborator Brady Haran.
SOURCE: Martyn Poliakoff, University of Nottingham. ©All rights reserved by Periodic Videos.

including 118 elements, a trailer, and an introductory video, with a total running time of 4 hours, 7 minutes.

Before they were finished producing the videos, they had more than a half-million hits and a lot of publicity. At the time of this workshop, they had had at least 11 million hits, but the number is not totally accurate, because it doesn’t account for instances where a class of schoolchildren have all watched at once.

They can also track the many countries in which the videos were being viewed, and many viewers provide comments. For example, one said, “I love your videos and from watching these videos I have learned more than [in] a full term of college,” and another, “Videos like these [are] what makes me interested in school and better improving myself. Thank you.” Haran actually downloaded all the comments for all the videos about 2 weeks before Poliakoff’s presentation and analyzed the words. The top 100 words in frequency they found included chemistry, element, and love, “which is quite encouraging,” Poliakoff said. Other words he mentioned were awesome, cool, and interesting, which he said “are not words that are normally associated with chemistry.”

Poliakoff showed some of the early press coverage of the website, as well as a mention of the project in an international review of UK chemistry research (by the EPSRC [Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council], the UK equivalent of the National Science Foundation [NSF]). The review said, “Particularly impressive was the presentation describing online outreach, including a YouTube video on the periodic table of elements that has already received greater than a million hits worldwide.” The importance of this is that, in general, chemistry outreach is being appreciated more and more—“much more than people understand, than the researchers understand.”

Poliakoff explained more about the features of the periodicvideos website; how people can view and watch videos on the periodicvideos website, and they can also look at them on YouTube. One of the added values of YouTube is the ability to track the number of views and numbers of subscribers. About an hour before his workshop presentation, Poliakoff found that the periodicvideos YouTube channel had 25,307 subscribers. To put that number in context, he compared it to the video channel for the Kelsey Football (soccer) Club, which he said is one of the leading clubs in the United Kingdom. He noted that the soccer club had about 4,000 fewer subscribers than periodicvideos. He said, “Chemistry, at least in this context, is considerably more popular than soccer.”

In addition to the videos about the elements, the group has done special features—for example, on the medals of the Olympic games. “When the large Hadron Collider leaked helium and closed down we made the video to explain why,” Poliakoff said. For the Nobel Prize in 2008, they had nearly 40,000 hits in one week, describing what the prize was about, which was more than the official Nobel Prize video got for that week. One of the most popular videos they made was called “Candles at Halloween.”

Poliakoff discussed how they also put subtitles on video. In addition to ones in English and Spanish, he said they have more than a hundred videos subtitled in Portuguese, some in Turkish, and now even in Indonesian. Once a YouTube video is subtitled, it can be translated to other languages automatically with reasonable satisfaction. He said they are now trying to subtitle all of their videos.

Poliakoff’s team has also made an effort to go on the road and visit famous laboratories. For example, one trip was to Darmstadt, where element 111 was discovered. They also make trips to schools and conferences, and they have even collaborated with the Broadway Cinema, which is the leading private independent cinema in Nottingham. They once did a live performance at the cinema. He showed a picture of Sam Tang demonstrating dry ice on the stage at the Broadway Cinema. Because of the success of that event, they have plans to do a similar performance at other venues. They also have been involved in exhibitions, where viewing stations have been set up at a science expo or museum and people can watch the periodic videos online. Polikoff suggested that perhaps in the future the videos could be available for in-flight entertainment on airplanes.

Poliakoff highlighted the periodic videos team (Figure 6-2), and ended by saying “these videos are unique. As far as we know there is nothing else like it. There is obviously good publicity for Nottingham [but]… I think the most important thing of all is they make chemistry fun.”

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