The Royal Institution is an independent British charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of scientific study, and it also happens to be the oldest independent research body in existence. For more than 200 years The Royal Institution has been helping to unlock the secrets of the world around us with scientific breakthroughs, research programs and now YouTube videos.
Part of the task involved in connecting the public with science is making it fun and engaging. That’s exactly what the Royal Institution have done with their Christmas lectures, a tradition started in 1825 by Michael Faraday. Today’s Stuff to Watch features some of the best online feature-length RI scientific demonstrations that will make you feel like a kid in a chemistry classroom all over again.
Explosive Science (1 hour)
It goes without saying that a lecture titled “Explosive Science” is probably going to include things blowing up, and if you’re a fan of seeing things go bang this is a good place to start. Scientist, Vice President to The Royal Institution and all-round explosives expert Chris Bishop presents this lecture in which he examines the properties and uses for a range of common explosives.
The Science of Fireworks (1 hour 10 mins)
What’s more exciting than watching things blow up? Fireworks were created for the sole purpose of creating explosions in the sky to be watched by crowds of people and this lecture gets up close and personal with the raw materials that make rockets whizz and sparklers sparkle.
Chemical Curiosities (1 hour 10 mins)
The full name of this particular lecture is “Surprising Science and Dramatic Demonstrations” and once again it’s RI Vice President Chris Bishop at the helm, taking the audience on a journey through some of chemistry’s most memorable interactions. Rather than setting things on fire he’s simply playing with (sorry, demonstrating) some very volatile substances and their capability to shock and awe.
Multiverse Physics (30 mins)
Multiverse theory is the hypothetical belief that parallel universes exist, some barely distinguishable from our own and others which are different beyond comprehension. This is a scientific theory partly because it’s impossible to prove otherwise, and partly because some scientists have presented maths that add up to support the idea. Regardless of where you stand on the possibility, this lecture is bound to leave you with a sense of mind-blown confusion (in a good way, of course).
Consciousness: The Hard Problem?
What is consciousness? How do you measure something which cannot be seen, weighed or cut open and probed? Guardian science correspondent Alok Jha presents this rather special talk about what it is that defines us and what has created the complex systems, structures and even problems in the world today.
My Favourite Element
Finally departing from the demonstrations and lectures is a feature called “My Favourite Element” in which scientists and some celebrities are invited to answer the question: what is your favourite element?
It might be a bit of a pointless question but the results, explanations and demonstrations make it worthwhile. The video below is an embedded playlist, so you can just leave it running to watch the whole series:
For the latest in science experiments, research and thought-provoking discussions don’t forget to subscribe to The Royal Institution on their YouTube page. You can also view more videos over at the RI Channel, a dedicated resource for video content currently in beta.
Did you enjoy these lectures and scientific demonstrations? Any other favourite YouTube science channels? Post your reactions and links in the comments, below.