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Bringing chemistry to life

Martyn Poliakoff

26 Jan 2012

The Liverpool and North West Group and the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre jointly organised a public lecture that aimed to raise the profile of science in society. In the lecture, the chemical sciences and particularly the chemistry of the elements came alive through demonstrations linked to the Periodic Table of Videos which can be found via the link below.

These videos are created by video journalist Brady Haran, featuring working chemists from the University of Nottingham, including Professor Martyn Poliakoff, CBE and Dr Samantha Tang, who presented a live demonstration at Catalyst on 22 October 2011. The Periodic Table of Videos was born out of Haran's passion for science, inspired by his high school chemistry teacher Mr Dunaiski, and a desire to appeal to a general audience.

The videos combine interviews and 'live' experiments in a format that allows for spontaneity and freshness. They have been very successful in YouTube, where the Periodic Table of Videos channel has accumulated over 17.5m views.

The Liverpool and North West Group and the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre first got involved Professor Poliakoff and the Periodic Table of Videos in 2009, when Dr Mike Pitts, from the group, suggested that Catalyst put together an interactive exhibit where visitors could view these video clips. This was arranged in conjunction with Martyn and the Chemistry Department at Nottingham University, and the exhibit was funded by Solvay from Warrington.

The event on 22 October was called Chemistry Goes Live, and used clips from the Periodic Table of Videos plus live action, to compare and contrast watching something on screen with seeing it live. Attendees were able to smell an experiment, which is obviously not possible when watching a video.

When Martyn Poliakoff did a demonstration that was over in a few seconds, however, the audience quickly realised how useful being able to replay the video is; as well as the ability to do it in slow motion. Nevertheless, the audience said they preferred having the real thing. Sue Halliday, education manager at Catalyst and winner of the 2009 SCI Science Education Award, commented: 'Martyn and Sam worked as a team with a great patter to give a lively show that everyone enjoyed. Martyn made the science understandable with his own dry sense of humour. He was able to address all ages and kept us all entranced. We were all left wanting more.'

SCI Member Communications and Meryl Jameson, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

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