Ten years of YouTube

This December we celebrate 10 years of the Ri on YouTube. Our resident YouTube whisperer Liina Hultgren looks back on a decade of science video.

  • Our 12 most recent videos


On 16 December 2009 we uploaded our first video to YouTube. It asked the age old question - how much methane does a cow produce in an hour? And it does… not answer that question, other than in giant fireball form.


We released six videos this year. They were all behind the scenes videos from the 2010 Christmas Lectures “Size Matters” and they were not terribly popular, but we’re still proud of them. My personal favourite is the one about ant weightlifters.


We uploaded the first Ri Talk onto YouTube in 2011 - Uncovering the Universe: Latest news from the LHC - with Tara Shears. We were told that we were doing YouTube wrong and that no one would watch an hour long lecture on particle physics. It’s all about Nyan Cat and Rebecca Black’s Friday instead (both were in the top 10 most popular videos on YouTube in 2011).


Everyone loves an advent calendar, right? 24 tasty, tiny morsels of deliciousness, one for each day leading up to Christmas. So what would be better than a science advent calendar? But instead of chocolate there would be 24 small science videos? And perhaps we could get some of our favourite people to talk to us about their favourite elements from the periodic table? The ‘My Favourite Element’ advent calendar was born, and featured among others Dara O Briain, Andrea Sella, Jane Goodall and Alice Roberts.


We celebrated Halloween in video form for the first time this year. Those poor pumpkins never knew what hit them.


For the first time ever, we dipped our toe into the world of animation in 2014. Animator Jack Kenny and Jim Al-Khalili explained why science is not “just a theory”.

We also started a new series of videos called ExpeRimental which were designed to encourage parents who are not confident about science to do science experiments with their children, using household ingredients.


In 2015 we really doubled down on our talks and committed to releasing one every other week. It was a good year for us, we had our first true long form hit on our hands with Matt Parker investigating things to see and hear in the fourth dimension and, in May, we reached one million views per month for the first time.

We also founded our second channel - Ri Archives - to show off the Bragg archive of videos for the very first time.


We got to work with one of our favourite people, physicist Suzie Sheehy, on a multimedia project called ‘Particle Accelerators for Humanity’. It had talks and experiments and explainers and animations and we had the best time exploring the topic.


MORE CONTENT. We were starting to get the hang of this whole YouTube business in 2017. We reached 300,000 subscribers and exceeded 25 Million views for the first time. So what better way to put the pedal to the metal than with a commitment to a weekly release schedule? From February, we were releasing at least one talk or short film a week, bringing everyone, everywhere even more science.


The Christmas Lectures are pretty great, aren’t they? In 2018 we signed a licensing agreement with the BBC that allows us to publish our entire back catalogue of Christmas Lectures on our website, and to put highlight clips on YouTube. We started posthaste with the earliest video in our collection, a clip on non-euclidean geometry from Philip Morrison’s 1968 lecture series ‘Gulliver’s Travels’.


And here we are in 2019. To date we have published over 800 videos, garnered over 68 Million views and convinced over 677,000 people to subscribe to our shenanigans on a regular basis.

We have worked with some of the biggest names in science and the most talented people in the field. We have blown up, burnt, frozen, disintegrated, levitated, and shattered more objects than you could shake a stick at. And we have loved every minute of it.

None of us know what the new decade will bring but we hope to be there with you, exploring science in all its magnificent glory.

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