Brady Haran, Doctor of Letters

A short blog post to say just how delighted I am that Brady Haran was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Nottingham earlier this week. It’s been my great pleasure to work with Brady on Sixty Symbols (and a number of his other channels) over the past seven years. Despite — no, make that because ofour occasional tête-à-tête on just how to put across a piece of physics for a broad audience, I always look forward immensely to Brady (+ camera + bag of accessories) appearing at my door.

Brady’s work, and his remarkable work ethic, have put Nottingham on the map — and then some — when it comes to public engagement and communicating science. As Mike Merrifield describes in the video below, Brady’s ever-expanding portfolio of videos has topped 400 million views./ That’s nearly 2 billion minutes’ worth of viewing worldwide. All of us at the University of Nottingham owe Brady a huge debt of gratitude and it’s wonderful that this has been formally recognised by the award of Doctor of Letters.

Brady is his usual modest self in his acceptance speech (starting at around the 6 minute mark below), but it’s no exaggeration to say that he has fundamentally and radically changed my approach to explaining science and, by extension, my teaching.

I have learnt so much from him over the years.

Thank you, Brady, and congratulations.






Author: Philip Moriarty

Physicist. Rush fan. Father of three. (Not Rush fans. Yet.) Rants not restricted to the key of E minor...

2 thoughts on “Brady Haran, Doctor of Letters”

  1. Over the past 7 weeks, finishing just now, I watched all the Sixty Symbols videos in chronological order. Seven years is a long time to compress into 7 weeks, but it has given me the opportunity to see, and perhaps understand, how Brady’s videos differ from the efforts of others who post science videos on YouTube.

    First, it’s not just people talking about ‘sciencey’ stuff. It’s people who have made science their lives talking about what they love, without a script. Brady clearly places the focus on the *people* in front of the camera, emphasizing curiosity and passion along with the physics.

    Second, Brady really understands his audience. His comments and questions from behind the camera so often voice thoughts in my head. Of course, that simply means Brady is part of his own audience, fascinated by his subject, serving not just as a videographer or journalist creating a product, but also as my personal representative in the room.

    Third, Brady moves the camera quite a lot, from prop to paper to physicist and back, effectively destroying the “fourth wall” of my screen. Snap zooms, pulled focus, all make it feel like he happens to point the camera to where I want to look. This style of videography adds both presence and immediacy, and keeps me looking at the details.

    Finally, the editing. I really don’t understand how and when the choices are made to add graphics or animations, nor how multiple contributors are interleaved. I understand only that making any of the videos “5 minutes shorter” would likely be a very grave mistake.

    Key moments? Lots of science insights, of course. But what sticks with me most are the people moments. Professor Copeland’s blissfully joyful “wow” moment seeing the LHC detectors. Professor Merrifield on the passing of Tom Kibble. Professor Gray sharing the astronomy book from her childhood. Dr. Clewitt sharing his viva. And you, Professor Moriarty, whenever you find a way to get a guitar into a video.

    Brady’s creation of all these videos has been a great gift to me. But it is also great to also hear Brady praised by the folks in front of his camera.

    Now that Brady has his Doctor of Letters, what’s next? Sheriff of Nottingham? No, hopefully at least another 7 years of YouTube videos.


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