Six Easy Pieces, 19th century edition
July 4, 2016 6:51 PM   Subscribe

The translation of science into laypeople's terms is now a well-established part of our culture; so is the idea that we should make science exciting for children. Michael Faraday (d. 1867) figured this out earlier than most; like Richard Feynman, he was not only a world-class researcher, but a world-class educator. The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (previously) he initiated remain an annual tradition, almost two centuries years later. Recently, Bill Hammack (previously) created a beautiful, verbatim re-enactment of one of Faraday's most simple and elegant series of lectures on The Chemical History of a Candle, together with a series of commentary videos (though the lectures themselves remain remarkably clear).
posted by Dr and Mrs Eaves (12 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
This is so neat! Just diving in now, but I like that they were thoughtful enough to include commentary tracks and captions for everything.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:50 PM on July 4, 2016

Writing about science for children was one of the "acceptable" outlets for early nineteenth-century women writers like Jane Marcet (an influence on Faraday, as the link points out) and Priscilla Wakefield. It's notable that children are prominently represented in the audience of Joseph Wright's most famous painting, A Philosopher Giving that Lecture on the Orrery...(1766).
posted by thomas j wise at 7:50 PM on July 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

And all of this, of course, was in the far distant era before the wonderful new technology that we know as "scented candles" had arrived!
posted by rongorongo at 10:46 PM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nice, but I wish the guy wouldn't speak so fast. Yes, I can grok what he's saying, but my sons (the "young chemist" target audience) keeps having to pause and rewind. Adding the commentary to the mix is even worse.
posted by adamgsteinberg at 10:58 PM on July 4, 2016

Mefi's own!
posted by J.K. Seazer at 4:09 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

adamgsteinberg, you can try adding the subtitles (by clicking the lower-right "CC" button, if you're watching this on the web/desktop version of YouTube), and also slowing the video down by clicking the gear icon (again, lower-right), then selecting speed and 0.5.

In terms of speeds, there's nothing available between 1 (normal) and 0.5 (which is a bit distracting in its robotic-voice-ness). However, you can install a Chrome extension such as this (there are probably others that do the same thing, check the Chrome store) and slow the speed by increments of tenths. 0.80 sounds reasonably well, for example.

posted by vert canard at 4:43 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

AT UW-Madison, a chemistry prof does a tribute of this. Tickets are hard to come by.

The talks are called "Once upon a Christmas Cherry, in the Lab of Shakashiri".

It is always fun!!
posted by indianbadger1 at 7:10 AM on July 5, 2016

When I was in primary school my dad worked with a descendant of Michael Faraday (maybe a great, great nephew?)
I did a project on "my favourite scientist" and Dad's friend shared lots of stories and family pictures with me.
Nice post! Thanks
posted by sconbie at 7:40 AM on July 5, 2016

I watched these are few days ago and they are just fantastic. In fact I was working on a MeFi post about it myself. Curse you Dr and Mrs Eaves and your delightfully framed post!
posted by gwint at 7:55 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bill Hammack is a treasure. Between him, the Crash Course people, and others, educational youtube has really been shining.
posted by Theta States at 8:49 AM on July 5, 2016

I've finally watched these now, they really are excellent. Don't be put off by the "lecture" label, they are concise and to the point. And don't miss the guest appearance of Bill's bong in lecture 5.
posted by Acey at 9:25 AM on July 5, 2016

fwiw neil degrasse tyson in (his version of ;) cosmos had a nice episode on faraday!
posted by kliuless at 5:55 PM on July 5, 2016

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