Periodic Videos: You NEED to be watching these

January 8th, 2013
submit to reddit Share

There is no denying that there is some great science content on Youtube, but one of the absolute best series of videos is from “Periodic Videos,” which dubs itself “Your ultimate channel for all things chemistry.”  It lives up to this claim and then some!  The videos are produced by the University of Nottingham, which should really be commended for its effort in public outreach education via Youtube.

The videos are about chemistry in general and especially about the elements.  What makes these videos especially unique is that they go to great lengths to actually provide hands-on demonstrations with samples of the elements being featured, even in cases where the element is so rare, reactive or radioactive that it is not normally available for direct observation.  In some cases, videos were made while the element was not available and then new versions were created once the facilities or samples necessary for the demonstration could be secured.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fluorine (version II, with actual fluorine) – An element which is so reactive that it is very rarely seen in its raw gaseous form.   It will react with damn near anything, making it very difficult to store and work with.
  • Gold at the Gold Bullion Vault of the Bank of England – It’s pretty amazing that they were able to get access to film here.
  • Difficult Elements – This describes some of the more difficult elements to obtain.  I was floored to hear that thorium has become extremely difficult to obtain due to regulations in the UK and elsewhere.  Thorium is naturally occurring and is commonly used in welding rods and some other products.  It is less radioactive than uranium.   I myself have had no trouble at all obtaining thorium nitrate, but apparently thorium metal is another story.  (although you could produce it from thorium nitrate with a series of reactions.)  In any case, it goes to show that regulations are often not based on sound science.
  • Plutonium – Yes, they did go to see plutonium, at a laboratory at Sellafield.  Not in its elemental form, but still very fascinating.  Also learn about the IPPu club.
  • Radioactive Lab – Some great scenes of many the equipment in a laboratory equipped for radioactive chemicals, including negative pressure gloveboxes and some of the safety procedures used.

I could really go on for ever with this, because these videos are so good.  I must have lost hours watching these, but then again, it’s a lot better than losing hours watching Jersey Shore.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 at 9:05 pm and is filed under Education, Good Science, media, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions



12 Responses to “Periodic Videos: You NEED to be watching these”

  1. 1
    JackWilshere Says:

    Fluorine (version II, with actual fluorine) – An element which is so reactive that it is very rarely seen in its raw gaseous form. It will react with damn near anything, making it very difficult to store and work with.bop nu


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    Nick P. Says:

    Oh wow, the guy in those videos has some wicked crazed professor hair.

    I’ve gotta agree on the gold video being pretty amazing.


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    DV82XL Says:

    No question, these are good.


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    Alan(UK) Says:

    Plutonium – Sellafield not Stellafield.


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    Matte Says:

    Fluorine, one of the few gases I actually hate working with (silane and acetylene are another two I hate). Fluorine leaks at my old jobb was not unheard of and boy does that gas stink, even at ppb-ppt levels.

    I’d rather work with As-F6, W-F6 or hydrogen, the first two will kill you without the fuss and the last one makes impressive bangs!

    HF gives me the “hilly-willies” as well…


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    Robert Sneddon Says:

    Some of the comments about toxicity in the Plutonium video puzzled me. For one thing it’s the light metals that are notably toxic and a health hazard, not the heavy metals in general. Lithium, beryllium, arsenic, cadmium etc. are a real toxic problem whereas being exposed to iron, nickel, chromium, silver, gold etc. is a daily occurrence for most folks. Lead seems to be the main culprit for this “heavy metals are automatically dangerous” meme.

    The justification that Pu is new to the world after production of it started in the 1940s and hence automatically toxic to biological systems is serious woo-woo. I can accept the radiotoxicity justification for being careful how it is handled and processed but with halflifes in the 10,000 year range it is much less radioactive than many other metallic radioisotopes — Co-60 for example or even our old friend, Cs-137. The purely chemical toxicity of Pu is quite limited from what I’ve read compared to, say, arsenic as it doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream very easily in oxide form.


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Robert, I agree with you I am a little conflicted on the Plutonium video. I still enjoyed the stories in it and seeing the working hot lab.

    The term “heavy metal” is a big misnomer. Yes, lead is heavy and so is mercury, but as far as toxic metals go, they are not the worst out there compared to lighter ones. Beryllium is pretty nasty stuff to be exposed to and its very light weight.

    Of course, plutonium *is* toxic, because it is a high energy alpha emitter and any alpha emitter is something that can do some real damage if it enters your body

    But if you want to talk about alpha emitters in terms of their relative toxicity, plutonium in general is not the worst or even close to it.

    Radium-226 is one of the most difficult and problematic to deal with. It gives off high energy alpha particles and also produces a large number of short-lived daughters that contribute to the radiation produced. It produces radon gas and other daughters that give off hard gammas. It has a half-life that is long enough to make it a disposal headache yet short enough to make it very radioactive. It’s chemically active and has a high biological uptake. It forms compounds that tend to cling to things in unwanted ways and makes it hard to decontaminate. It turns up all the time in old medical equipment and luminous paint.

    Far more radiotoxic than Pu-239, but also natural and extracted from uranium ore.

    Anther is polonium-210. Today it can be synthesized in reactors, but it is a natural part of the uranium decay chain and is found in nature. It is a very very high energy alpha emitter that has a short half life.

    It is many thousands of times more deadly than pu-239. A lethal dose is measured in nanograms. It has a very high uptake and it is rapidly incorporated into the body, including the bones, in a manner that makes it very hard to remove, even if it is detected early and very intensive chelation, dialysis and other measures are taken.

    Of course that’s what happened to Alexander Litvinenko.

    If you put a lethal amount of raw Po-210 in one mass, it could not even be seen with a standard optical microscope.


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    Atomikrabbit Says:

    I want to see a spectrographic analysis of the Professor’s shampoo.


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Atomikrabbit said:

    I want to see a spectrographic analysis of the Professor’s shampoo.

    Not surprisingly. Martyn Poliakoff gets a lot of comments online about his hair. He acknowledges he has an “eccentric hairstyle,” and that this might make him look more like the prototypical geeky science professor.

    I don’t think it’s really on purpose. Apparently he has very curly frizzy hair and simply does not seem to put a whole lot of effort into straightening and combing it. He just keeps it natural.


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    OneManShow Says:

    University of Nottingham has two other channels that are almost as good as Periodic Videos. Sixty Symbols is about physics and Numberphile is all math, all the time. Unfortunatly, neither has anyone who fits the “Mad Scientist” look as well as Professor Poliakoff.


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    Christopher Willis Says:

            OneManShow said:

    University of Nottingham has two other channels that are almost as good as Periodic Videos. Sixty Symbols is about physics and Numberphile is all math, all the time. Unfortunatly, neither has anyone who fits the “Mad Scientist” look as well as Professor Poliakoff.

    Another great one from them is http://www.youtube.com/user/DeepSkyVideos

    However, I have a plethora of science channels I sub to:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/destinws2 Is a pretty good applied engineering stuff

    http://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium Is a great site from someone who is interested in overcoming misconceptions as the method for teaching. Has a lot of good demonstrations as well as interaction with the public to stamp out common misconceptions

    http://www.youtube.com/user/CGPGrey usually tackles more esoteric subjects, and never shows himself, kind of a man of mystery!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse is from the vlogbrothers, and focuses on History, literature, Biology, and Ecology and its sister show
    http://www.youtube.com/user/scishow Which focuses more on science pop culture

    And of course http://www.youtube.com/user/minutephysics which are brief physics updates for an actual physicist.

    Along with UCBerkeley (and all the national labs) Nuclear engineering 101 Videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tctSW1lFwE), the staggering quality, type of, and focus of educational and edutainment on youtube is getting to be so that it is hard to find hours in the day to focus on stuff other than learning.


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    Calli Arcale Says:

    I have started showing these to my daughters (6 and 9 yrs of age) as part of the bedtime routine; they get to watch videos on YouTube while they brush and rinse their teeth. (That did momentarily backfire, as one of them didn’t quite catch the explanation that flouride is way safe compared to flourine. The six-year-old was briefly afraid her teeth would catch on fire. Once she understood, she thought that was awesome how something so amazingly dangerous could become something so useful.) They love them, and especially love the presenter’s hair. Their favorites are the videos where things burn or explode, so of course they love sodium and potassium.


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string seu0HM to the field below:

Protected by WP Anti Spam