How Physics Saved Two Million Premature Babies

How Physics Saved Two Million Premature Babies

This video is in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates. You can check out the Gates Annual Letter here:

Doctors beat back a disease that was killing tens of thousands of babies a year with a machine based on a simple principle of physics.

Thanks to Bill and Melinda Gates for their financial support. Thanks also to our supporters on

FYI: We try to leave jargon out of our videos, but if you want to learn more about this topic, here are some keywords to get your googling started:

Preterm Birth: The leading cause of death of children under five years old, prematurity occurs for a variety of different reasons.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome: A syndrome in premature babies caused by insufficient production of pulmonary surfactant.
Alveoli: Tiny air sacs in the lungs that allow for rapid gas exchange
Pulmonary Surfactant: A mixture of lipids and proteins that decreases surface tension in the alveoli.
Law of Laplace: A law of physics stating that the pressure within a sphere is inversely proportional to its radius.
CPAP: A ventilator that provides Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) to keep the airways open.

Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: David Goldenberg (@dgoldenberg)
Script Editor: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Illustrator: Ever Salazar (@eversalazar)
Video Director: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
Video Narrator: Emily Elert (@eelert)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Peter Reich
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:


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Gregg, R. Bernstein, J. (1961). Pulmonary Hyaline Membranes and the Respiratory Distress Syndrome. American Journal of Diseases of Children 102 (871-889). Retrieved from:

Gregory, G., Kitterman, J., Phibbs, R., Tooley, W., and Hamilton, W. (1971). Treatment of the Idiopathic Respiratory-Distress Syndrome with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. New England Journal of Medicine 284 (1333-1340). Retrieved from:

Kamath, B., MacGuire, E., McClure, E., Goldenberg, R., and Jobe, A. (2011) Neonatal Mortality From Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Lessons for Low-Resource Countries. Pediatrics 127 (1139-1146). Retrieved from:

Mai, C., Yaster, M., Firth, P. (2013). The development of continuous positive airway pressure:an interview with Dr. George Gregory. Pediatric Anaesthesia 23 (3-8). Retrieved from

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