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Bringing Astrophysics to YouTube: An Interview with Jessica Few

  • By Sara Mitchell
  • November 22, 2013
  • Comments Off on Bringing Astrophysics to YouTube: An Interview with Jessica Few

Earlier this year, Blueshift contributor Koji Mukai sent us a link to a series of astronomy videos produced by Jessica Few, a student at Durham University in the UK. We loved the videos, and knew we wanted to share them… and find out a bit more about Jessica and her project!

Blueshift: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Jessica: I finished my physics degree at Durham University this summer. I’ve always been interested in physics – it’s so fundamental. I find it amazing that we can understand so much about the way that the universe works from the smallest scale to the largest… but there’s still so much more to discover!

Supernovae and their Remnants

Blueshift: Can you tell us a bit about the video series that you’ve made and posted on YouTube?

Jessica: I made these videos for my final year project; the idea was to do some outreach based on the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) and I chose to make these videos. I think making science accessible is really important because it plays such a large part in our lives and also just because there’s a lot of interesting science out there that a lot of people will enjoy hearing about. It was a really different final year project, but I had so much fun doing it!

An Introduction to the Cherenkov Telescope Array

Blueshift: What got you interested in making videos?

Jessica: YouTube is such a massive phenomenon (it has over a billion users a month!), so I thought it would be fun to get involved with it. I’d seen channels like MinutePhysics, so I knew that YouTube could be used really effectively for educational purposes. I’d never made any videos at all before I started this project though, so it was a steep learning curve!

Dark Matter

Blueshift: What inspired the topics that you chose?

Jessica: The whole series is based around the CTA and the new things that we hope it will discover and help us understand. I looked at the sources that the CTA will search for and they just sound so exciting: gamma ray bursts, dark matter, supernovae… so I based some of the videos on these sources and then also made some videos about the actual telescope since that is what will allow us to observe all these sources!

Gamma Ray Bursts

Blueshift: Which video was the most challenging to make?

Jessica: I made the videos all at the same time, so the challenges were spaced pretty evenly between them. The Cherenkov Effect video probably contains the most challenging science to I had to think really hard about how to make that accessible to someone with little scientific training.

The Cherenkov Effect and Cherenkov Telescopes

Blueshift: Which one was the most fun?

Jessica: Well, in the pulsar video I demonstrate the misaligned magnetic and rotational axes using an orange with cocktail sticks stuck into it, and I have to say, that orange was very tasty! But honestly, the most fun thing was interviewing the guest scientists. They were obviously so engaged with what they were doing and genuinely excited by the prospect of CTA, so it was really inspiring to be around them and talk with them.

Pulsars and Pulsar Wind Nebulae

Blueshift: Now that you’ve graduated, what are you up to? Will you continue to work on educational videos?

Jessica: I’ve just got a job at the National Physical Laboratory as a research scientist in the environmental monitoring group which I’ll be starting in a few weeks. I think that climate change is the biggest challenge facing my generation, so I’m excited to start my new job! I’ll definitely try to keep doing outreach as well, but I’m not sure if there will be any more videos, I’ll just have to see how things go!

Active Galactic Nuclei

Blueshift: We wish you the best of luck!

We are working on getting transcripts for the videos – if anyone is interesting in these, email us through our contact form, and we’ll try our best to help!

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