Celebrating Crystallography – An animated adventure

Celebrating Crystallography – An animated adventure

Why water boils at 100 degrees
and methane at minus 161. Why blood is red and
grass is green. Why diamond is hard
and wax soft. Why glaciers flow and iron gets
hard when you hammer it. The answers to all these
problems have come from structural analysis. That’s how the Nobel Prize
winner Max Perutz summed up x-ray crystallography. Never heard of it? Don’t worry. Not many people have. Yet it’s arguably one of the
greatest innovations of the 20th century. 28 Nobel prizes have been
awarded to projects related to crystallography. And the very first of those
is where it all began. It’s now 100 years since,
following early work by Max Von Laue, the first structures
were determined by father and son team, William and
Lawrence Bragg. In 1913, they fired a narrow
beam of x-rays at a humble salt crystal and photographed
the diffraction pattern as the crystals split the beam
into many rays. Lawrence soon realised that this
pattern held the clues to the atomic structure of
the crystal itself. The equation he developed,
Bragg’s law, made it possible to work out how the spots in
the diffraction pattern are related to the specific
arrangement of atoms in the crystal. Two years on, and the Braggs
were awarded the Nobel Prize. Impressive stuff. Not only that, the Braggs
mentored a dream team of crystallographers who went on to
work out the structures of a huge range of molecules. From Kathleen Lonsdale, JD
Bernal, Dorothy Hodgkin, to David Phillips, John Kendrew,
and Max Perutz. Remember him? Plus Rosalind Franklin and
others even helped map the structure of DNA, probably the
most famous result of x-ray crystallography. Today, the work hasn’t
stopped. Crystallography remains the
foremost technique for working out the atomic structures of
almost anything, which is very useful for finding out why
things behave the way they do. From the metallic structure of
the blades of a jet turbine to the immune system fighting
off viruses. Turns out Max was right. Modern crystallographers are
doing exactly the same thing as the Braggs, just at a
larger scale with more sophisticated mathematical
methods and more impressive machines. Crystallography is even reaching
beyond our planet. The Curiosity Rover is now
performing x-ray diffraction analysis of the soil on Mars. But there’s plenty
of unfinished business back on Earth. There are still many thousands
of complex molecules to look at, and a lot more questions
to answer. [MUSIC PLAYING]

David Anderson

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81 thoughts on “Celebrating Crystallography – An animated adventure

  1. Lorenzo Maria Vetrone says:

    amazing animation!

  2. Noel Ho says:

    very educational! =D

  3. The Royal Institution says:

    The animation company 12foot6 are fab!

  4. IcEye89 says:

    I'm not sure how popular those were outside of continental Europe – Germany&France in particular I think – but this reminds me of the old "Once upon a time…" cartoons.

  5. The Royal Institution says:


  6. Abdawee says:

    Nicely Done ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. voveve says:

    Always hated crystallography! Until now…now I dislike it.

  8. Penny Lane says:

    Hum, I was hoping this video would actually explain how it works, not only what it is.

  9. The Royal Institution says:

    We have more videos coming in the next few months (also funded by STFC) explaining how crystallography works – from isolating proteins and growing crystals to taking them to Diamond Light Source and crunching the data…

  10. Daniel Sultana says:

    so we need another 3 animations, one to make you indifferent about it, a second one to make you like it, and a third to make you love it.

  11. voveve says:

    hahahah I think I could reach quite liking it…loving is just too much!

  12. Penny Lane says:

    That's so great to hear ๐Ÿ™‚

    Even though I know what a Fourier Transform is, this crystallography stuff still boggles my mind.

  13. rith5 says:

    They sure are!

  14. rith5 says:


  15. rith5 says:

    Lovely animation.

  16. TheInfirit says:

    Nice video, thanks.

  17. torosyan says:

    whats the song name?

  18. International Year of Crystallography 2014 says:

    Very good job!
    Eyes CANNOT see what X-ray crystallography CAN!
    Thumbs up for you!

  19. Puzzler33 says:

    From Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky.

  20. mindtravellerpsycho says:

    This is why I internet….

  21. Anton Kulish says:

    That was pretty epic

  22. AmarokingTelly says:

    Amazing work,perfect for non-scientific audiences. And also to help crystallographers on how to explain what x-ray crystallography is in a very simple way.

  23. Thomas Giles says:

    So… it's a tricorder, right?

  24. KitZunekaze says:

    I learned something very interesting today. Thank you Ri.

  25. Ketone-Kun says:

    Can't read the Double Helix without hearing about crystalography!

  26. The Royal Institution says:

    A fantastic endorsement – thank you!

  27. Ketone-Kun says:

    Yale Open Course has a great video explaining crystallography using only a laser pointer and some card. /watch?v=cm9W10Kg8q4

  28. Syroforce says:

    That was real nice.
    I liked the style, everything was understandable too ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. nowiecoche says:

    I very much liked how Watson and Crick was at the corner of the video while the narrator recognized Rosalind Franklin's team for their research on DNA structures.

  30. yuri778 says:

    I wish my inorganic chem teacher didn't suck.

  31. danny sulyma says:

    Thank you for another entertaining, informative video. Dumbed down just the right amount for me.

  32. AmarokingTelly says:

    Proper recognition of her work for sure (loved it!).

    There's a small x-ray crystallography exposition at the Science Museum in London at the moment, which ends by the end of 2013. There's an info box telling how x-ray crystallography has been one of the 20th century sciences which both men and women were equally involved in.

  33. Rebecca Wang says:

    wow ive always been interested in crystallography and this video was so beautifully animated and informative. :))

  34. RamanSB says:

    2dsin(theta) = wavelength

  35. MilMike says:

    What an aweseome animation! ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. The Royal Institution says:

    It's certainly done a lot to help the world!

  37. ReubenLL28 says:

    When a thin beam of x-rays is shot at a crystal, the crystalline lattice acts as a diffraction grating for the rays. By observing the wave interference that this x-ray diffraction creates, scientists can deduce the shape of the grating itself. (the crystal structure)

  38. chronoflect says:

    Fantastic video!

  39. NAJE GARDNER says:

    So basically 3d effect of a base form

  40. Rubiscofy says:

    It's the theme from Swan Lake, by Tchaikovsky!

  41. Alien Philosopher says:

    10 points Humans.

  42. tobster421 says:

    That was really cool

  43. sina chiniforoush says:

    THANK YOU! But seriously it's amazing how little people know about crystallography…

  44. CYANIDE Adiccted says:

    Man, I don't want to be a douchebag but… I made that stuff up. retweeted by Humble Bragg

  45. torosyan says:


  46. rammerstheman says:

    Whoo, can't wait to study crystallography in materials science at uni next year.

  47. Kronn says:

    that music ๐Ÿ˜€

  48. LFTRnow says:

    Never underestimate the power of organic crystallography! -Dr. Who

  49. Paolo Norio says:

    Something to "Bragg" about!

  50. Valentin Uzunov says:

    I felt the epic-ness of it too

  51. Tomi Adewole says:

    Big people know about crystallography, too. I'm 6'4" and I studied it at university.

  52. Steve Snowcrash says:

    The music is Swan Lake BTW.

  53. sina chiniforoush says:

    Thanks for making me laugh.

  54. daedra40 says:

    The dream team! Rofl

  55. Suleyman Bozkurt says:

    whats the song in the video ?

  56. Everon Goen says:

    This is a great video. Great animation. Easy to follow.
    Has anyone else noticed the correlation between the Diffraction Pattern and the Seed of Life pattern? They've known this for a hundred years?
    This is surely the link between science and spiritualism.

  57. Tomi Adewole says:

    you're certainly welcome, mate!

  58. Arnis says:

    Science of human emotions promoted the video. Very Positively. I almost had a heart attach ๐Ÿ˜€

  59. Penny Lane says:

    Thanks, what was indeed a very enlightening lecture ๐Ÿ™‚

  60. Penny Lane says:

    Dude, please do the world a favour and never get into teaching.

  61. lcliam1000 says:

    From How Much Energy It Gives Off Couldn't We Turn That Into Electricity?

  62. Neceros says:

    Too much on WHO and not enough on WHAT.

  63. Florencia Di Salvo says:

    EXCELLENT!! And also there are Spanish subtitles by clicking the 'Captions' icon.ย 

  64. Alex Agius says:

    Kinda exciting as i did about this not that long ago in biochemistry (it being related to proteins in this instance)

  65. Fuvity says:

    This animation is absolutely fantastic!

  66. Jonny Comics says:

    I'm sorry, I'm trying to concentrate but the music from Swan Lake softly playing in the background is stealing my attention. Arts vs Science: ART WINS!

  67. mamrx2011 says:

    Very nice animation!

  68. Youthro says:

    The song fit perfectly with this video!

  69. restricted access says:

    Really like this song! What's the name of it?

  70. Matt Mars says:

    IMO, The 'only' problem with this video, is that it doesn't tell you anything at all about crystallography (other than that you shine a beam through a crystal and photograph the pattern). Not a single example of precisely how one deduces a particular fact from a particular image is given. Mm

  71. deepthi reddyvasi says:

    whoa! supreme .no info about crystallography though.couldnt help liking the video…

  72. Eduardo Contreras says:

    Hola. Me gustรณ mucho su video. ยฟLo tienen disponible con subtitulos en espaรฑol?. Gracias.

  73. leukatz says:

    awesome vid!

  74. AmbitiousAnimator says:

    This video presents its content in an entertaining way. Good job ๐Ÿ˜€

  75. Ethan SWAZIE says:

    This video was presented really well, I thoroughly enjoyed the animation. Keep up the impressive work :p

  76. Free Music Downloader - All Music says:

    Awesome )O_-(

  77. Princess Rory Pajigal says:

    Very nice animation and the content is rich.

  78. Joshua Gough says:

    this is gonna be my major, im so excited

  79. AV2 Tech2 says:


    I am a project coordinator with Smartbook Media Inc. We produce educational books for the school and library market. I am seeking permission to upload a few minutes of this video to our site.

    Most schools have restrictive Internet filtering software, and this is the only way to guarantee that content such as this can be viewed by students in a classroom environment. This is a service with no advertising, designed to help children engage with topics in an interactive manner.

    We believe this particular video would greatly benefit student learning and your permission would be appreciated. I would like to use it in conjunction with our book 'Life Sciences', part of our 'Scientific Breakthroughs' series. As a publishing company, we have a tight deadline on this project and hope to hear from you soon concerning this video.

    If you could reply to [email protected] or forward this e-mail to the person who handles such requests, I would be most appreciative.
    Please include your request ID ( LNG1L ) in your response to help us keep track of this request.

    Best Regards,

    Project Coordinator
    Smartbook Media Inc."

  80. Onsight Technology USA says:

    Bragg XRD Microscopy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08g44fmdu6g&list=PL7032E2DAF1F3941F

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