Science media roundup: YouTube

Profiling vlogs and channels that make science accessible

Since its creation in 2005, YouTube has been a staple entertainment website. Through their streaming services, one can find videos on anything from cats to the latest sports highlights.

YouTube can also be an excellent educational tool. Sal Khan’s website, Khan Academy, gained momentum through the accessibility of YouTube. With over 19 million members, Khan Academy’s success is an example of YouTube’s capacity for being an educational resource.

There are many YouTube channels dedicated to communicating science in fun and quirky ways.

MinutePhysics is a YouTube channel created by Henry Reich. The channel addresses physics concepts with videos that are about a minute in length. The videos employ the use of “time-lapsed drawings,” typically of stick figures, depicting interesting physics concepts. The videos are illustrated by Reich himself. The most popular MinutePhysics video, which has over nine million views, addresses the collision between an immovable object and an unstoppable force. Other topics covered in a minute or so include quantum tunnelling, cosmic inflation, and why there is no such thing as pink light. Reich’s second channel, MinuteEarth, addresses the science of our planet in the same short manner.

AsapSCIENCE is a Canadian channel created by Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown. Equipped with a white board and a charming voiceover, their channel focuses on addressing science topics in a quick and snappy manner, much like MinutePhysics. Some of the topics that the channel has addressed include what would happen if we stopped sleeping, and the science of orgasms. The channel has collaborated with Bill Nye on a video about humanity’s ability to stop an impending asteroid collision, and with the CBC on a series about how Olympian bodies have changed since 1924, which aired during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sally Le Page is a interdisciplinary biosciences doctoral student at the University of Oxford. Le Page’s YouTube channel, Shed Science, covers many quirky and interesting biology topics. Her video “Without Evolution” depicts Le Page trying to, unsuccessfully, explain many biological concepts without referencing evolution by natural selection. “Without Evolution” won Le Page a British national short film competition run by the Guardian.

Veritasium is a science video blog created by Derek Muller, who has a PhD in physics education research. His thesis showed that individuals were more likely to learn a difficult physics concept after viewing others fail at it first. The results of Muller’s PhD research are reflected in his channel. Many Veritasium videos involve addressing scientific topics by first presenting related popular misconceptions. The concepts covered in the channel are as broad as they are interesting. Muller travels the world and provides demonstrations to add context to topics about our universe, which range from the world’s roundest object to the northern lights.

Myles Power is a chemist and skeptic from England whose channel, powerm1985, is partially dedicated to the destruction of pseudoscience. Power’s videos have targeted movements that he believes employ pseudoscience, including AIDS denialism, the 9/11 truth movement, and anti-vaccination beliefs. Power has enjoys his work, too. In his videos, he has demonstrated the fun science can be, notably by playing with ferrofluid, a magnetized liquid. Power also tackles interesting scientific phenomenon, recording his own reactions to explain the science of hot peppers and wasabi.

Finally, the University of Manitoba’s own YouTube channel is worth mentioning. The Ask An Expert video series addresses a variety of topics, including scientific ones, with the help of U of M researchers and academics. Some scientific topics include a discussion on the importance of flu shots with physician Dr. John Embil, and an explanation on why we treat icy roads with salt by chemistry professor Philip Hultin.

By exploring what science communication channels YouTube has to offer, you can learn a little bit about our universe in many different ways. At the very least, you can procrastinate a bit more educationally!