Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lost in YouTube Land

Hi, I'm Cat and I'm a YouTube addict.

They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Well I have a problem. For years I followed webcomics, collecting comics like they were postage stamps. I'd read the entire archive and then add them to my list of daily or weekly reading. Then I did the same with blogs. I still follow over 120 blogs and 30 webcomics and that's pared down from two years ago.

YouTube has been just as addicting, if not more so. At least when I finish one webcomic it doesn't instantly direct me to 30 or 40 more just like it. I can lose hours just clicking from one video to the next. Mostly I start with the channels I love (which I'll link to below) but then it just branches from there. And suddenly I've spent four hours watching 3 to 7 minute videos.

I blame Jeff. He got me started with a YouTube channel called Smarter Every Day. Destin Sandlin makes educational videos of the stuff he finds fascinating. Fortunately for us, it's really fascinating stuff. He tries experiments, he shows examples, and he makes videos with so much enthusiasm that you can't help but be intrigued by his subjects. Just watch a few of his experiments and I know you'll be hooked. It's incredible stuff. I learn something new with each video. But once I started watching Smarter Every Day, it opened up the doors to all the other educational videos out there.

Periodic Videos, created by Brady Haran, is a channel that focuses on chemistry. They started out by going through each of the elements in the periodic table. It is a mixture of narrative, experiments, and some of the wildest hair you'll ever see. I'm only halfway through their archive of 500 videos but I never get tired of watching their work.

CGP Grey creates very professional looking animated videos to discuss politics, geography, and sociology, among other topics. Each episode is meticulously researched. It's a great mixture of entertainment and education. Grey's wonderful sense of humor and personality keeps me riveted to subjects that would normally leave me cold.

MinutePhysics by Henry Reich uses drawings to explain incredibly complicated physics topics in a video that's only a couple minutes long. Henry manages to make the topics seem simple and understandable with his drawings and his easy explanation. I've learned more watching that channel then I ever did in my high school physics class.

Veritasium by Derek Muller also explains physics and science topics. Derek normally starts each video by presenting some of the misconceptions about that topic and then uses experiments to show the correct reason why things work the way they do. I find it both interesting and humbling to realize that I often have the incorrect assumption about how things work. All of his videos make me want to learn more about the topic at hand and even more importantly, make me want to try experiments of my own.

The Brain Scoop with Emily Graslie was one I wasn't sure how much I'd like at first. Emily started out presenting videos of her work in U of Montana's Biology Department. She dissected a wolf, taught us about pangolins (one of the coolest animals ever), and showed us the fascinating animals in the school's collection. She's since moved over to the Field Museum and her videos now cover that amazing museum, which is my favorite place in the world when we go to Chicago.

Recently I've started getting into Numberphile, also created by Brady Haran. Jeff started watching this mathematics video series a year ago or so, but I struggled with it at first. I've never considered myself very good at math but these videos are making me see that it's just a matter of looking at things in the proper light. Some of it may still go over my head but I'm started to see patterns, and deciphering the language that is math.

But it's not all educational. I listen to most of my music on YouTube. Even after I've bought the songs and they are on my iPod, I find myself pulling up the videos. YouTube allows me to jump from song to song, using the suggestions on the right side. I've found some great new music that way.

My current fascination is John and Hank Green, collectively known as the Vlogbrothers. I'm a little late to the party since they did their well known Brotherhood 2.0 years ago. But the video correspondence between the two brothers makes for both entertaining and educational watching. I had originally found John Green through his work with Mental Floss (even before I found out he was an author) and Hank as the creator of The Brain Scoop. But since discovering their year of video correspondence and other videos, I think I might become a full fledged Nerdfighter.

I know that I've barely skimmed the surface of what's available on YouTube. There's plenty of material that I try to stay away from. I'm not looking for stupid human tricks. And I only occasionally watch funny cat videos. But I know that there are plenty of other videos out there that will both entertain and educate me. There are creators making some of the most unique and fascinating material being produced right now. YouTube has become a classroom. And I'm so glad I've found so many ways to learn.

No comments: