Sherpas star in hit video

June 10th, 2013

No location is too remote or idea too far-fetched for the team behind the University’s award-winning Periodic Table of Videos.

Film-maker Brady Haran has used Bondi Beach as a location to examine ozone, recorded the etching of the Queen’s portrait onto a diamond to mark the Jubilee and made a rare descent into the vaults of the Bank of England as Research Professor in Chemistry, Martyn Poliakoff, mused on the nature of gold.

So it seems completely natural that Brady should head to the Himalayas to illustrate water’s capacity to boil at lower temperatures as altitude increases.

Brady’s video of a three-week trek to Everest base camp, in which he filmed Sherpas using a kerosene stove to boil a kettle of water at ever-increasing altitudes, is another hit on the Periodic Table of Videos YouTube channel.

Brady bought a thermometer in Kathmandu — “admittedly quite a ropey one” — and roped in Sherpas Buddhi Rai and Chandra Rai to perform the boiling experiments while he filmed them.

At Monjo (2850m), Buddhi tellers viewers the water boiled at 95ºC. By the time the team reach Everest base camp at 5365m, the boiling temperature has fallen to 79ºC.

On the way, Brady discovers mountain trekkers use different methods to heat water and cook — from solar cookers (giant reflective dishes in which cooking pots sit, absorbing the sun’s heat) to the more traditional burning of dried yak dung for fuel.

Brady admits his methods — while making an entertaining and informative film — perhaps didn’t meet the highest standards of scientific rigour.

He says: “Since returning I have subjected the kettle and thermometer to scrutiny by the team in the School of Chemistry. The have, in the friendliest terms, pointed out a few deficiencies with the equipment and methods.

“That in itself has made a nice sequel video.”

Brady’s film can be viewed at

Or visit the Periodic Table of Videos website, where Professor Poliakoff explains the science behind the Everest video — and points out where Brady’s experiment could be improved.

Last year, the Periodic Table of Videos beat shortlisted rivals such as Getty Images Music, Discovery Communications and Yahoo! to bag the gong in the reality online film category of the Webby Awards, regarded as the internet’s Oscars.

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