The Best Science Videos of 2013

A top ten list of this year's best, most inspiring science videos curated by the Ri Channel team.

From the world's smallest ever stop-motion film, to a stirring space-based rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity, 2013 has been yet another brilliant year for science videos.

This December richannel.org celebrated its second birthday with over 1 million page views and 370,000 video plays in the past 12 months as we've strived to bring you the finest videos exploring science, technology, engineering and maths. The Ri's YouTube channel has also gone from strength to strength as one of the top science media platforms with 3,200,000 video views, 58,000 additional subscribers and 9,000 comments.

In celebration of all this we've taken a look back over the past year of inspirational videos to compile a top ten of the most entertainingly informative and awe-inspiring science media content on the web.

Curated by the Ri Channel team the following list features a combination of our most popular videos as well as a few personal favourites. If you've found any great science shorts in the past year that you think we've missed out on feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Happy New Year!

Beyond the Gardens - The Plant Family Tree

Another fascinating glimpse behind-the-scenes at Kew Gardens, this time to explore the historic Herbarium. Discover how a modest collection of dried plant specimens in 1853 grew to become an epicentre of ground-breaking plant science and home to over 7 million plant and mycological specimens.

This film is part of the Beyond the Gardens series by Lonely Leap.

Why do I study physics?

How can we live with a world which seems to display a "schizophrenic character", torn between the elegance of physics and the irregularity and randomness of nature? In this short yet striking animation Xiangjun Shi talks about her inspiration to study physics and describes how, through its lens, the world seems beautiful.

Celebrating crystallography

Not wanting to blow our own trumpet too much, but we're rather proud of this year's crystallography animation. Narrated by structural biologist Stephen Curry, and beautifully crafted by 12foot6, this short film takes viewers on animated journey through the 100 year history of crystallography. By taking a quirky look at a rather challenging subject matter "Celebrating Crystallography" has been one of our most successful videos this year.

This film was produced in celebration of the Bragg Centenary and was funded by STFC.

Space Oddity

While in space, Cmdr Chris Hadfield had already taken the internet by storm sharing snapshots of his life at the International Space Station via twitter. But when he released this five minute clip of himself singing David Bowie's 1973 hit "Space Oddity" whilst floating more than 200 miles above the Earth the world listened. Picked for sheer inspirational value this one-of-a-kind video had nearly 2 million views in the first 24 hours, and for good reason.

Prince Rupert's Drop

Another gem from Destin 's "Smarter Every Day" series reveals the unique mechanical properties of the Prince Rupert's drop – a tadpole-shaped glass structure created by dropping molten glass in cold water. Catching the explosion at an impressive 100,000 frames per second, this video uses stunning high-speed footage, thermal imaging and some mini Destins, to elegantly explain the interactions of compressive and tensile stress that give rise to the unusual explosive process of the Prince Rupert drop .

Xtreme Everest

Lying at 5,364 metres, Everest Base Camp contains around half the amount of oxygen compared to sea level - the perfect place to study the effects of low oxygen conditions on our bodies. This video tells the inspiring tale of the incredible doctors and scientists of the Xtreme Everest Project who brave the elements to investigate what happens when our vital organs aren't receiving enough oxygen - knowledge which could help 90% of intensive care patients, from heart attacks to lung failures.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, science presenter Greg Foot and filmmaker Thom Hoffman travelled to Everest base camp to meet the Xtreme Everest team and experience the effects of altitude for themselves.

Beauty of Mathematics

From the symmetry of a snowflake to a tactical game of backgammon, the coding behind a webpage and the growth pattern of trees, all are underpinned by elegant mathematical equations. This short film from parachutes.tv by Yann Pineill & Nicolas Lefaucheux demonstrates the mathematical splendour behind our everyday lives.

A Boy and his Atom

Winner of the Guinness World Records™ record for the World's Smallest Stop-Motion Film "A Boy and his Atom" can only be seen when when magnified 100 million times. This making-of video reveals the work of the team of IBM researchers who used a scanning tunneling microscope to move thousands of carbon monoxide molecules into different positions to create this famous, first-of-its-kind stop-frame animation.

Tales from the Prep Room: Levitating Superconductors

Our most popular Ri video of 2013 sees our Lab Technician Andy  Marmery take a closer look at one of his favourite demos from the 2012 Christmas Lectures. Using a huge Möbius strip made from over 2,000 magnets, teamed with a levitiating superconductor, Andy demonstrates the remarkable properties of Yttrium barium copper oxide that allow this little superconducting boat to seemingly float both above and below the track.

The Plankton Chronicles - Sea Urchins

This unearthly looking footage may look like something extra-terrestrial but these colourful spikes and probing arms actually belong to sea urchins. A beautiful video describing the strange yet fascinating life cycle of these spiny-structured sea creatures.

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