YouTube has taken on the role of educator for an entire generation of connected young people, and that means channels that actually focus on education are more important than they have ever been. PBS Digital’s It’s Okay To Be Smart is one such channel that successfully bridges the gap between education and entertainment.
Hosted by Joe Hanson PhD, new videos are uploaded every Monday and tackle the weird, wonderful and weirdly wonderful science of the everyday.
The Physics of Space Battles
Did you know the science behind your favourite Hollywood space battles is laughably inaccurate? You can probably blame George Lucas for this, whose yardstick Star Wars battle scenes were based on World War II dogfights rather than the pitfalls of zero-G maneuverability (even the trench run was an ode to Dambusters).
Much of this has to do with the fact that space is completely devoid of atmosphere. Running thrusters continuously would be a wicked waste of fuel, explosive weapons simply wouldn’t work without oxygen and if you’re thinking laser weapons are the answer you’re wrong.
There Was No First Human
Many scientists have spent their lives looking for the moment our pre-human ancestors became “human” in the form of paleolithic man. The transformation from homo erectus into modern man has no single point of entry, and that itself is a reflection of the way evolution works.
The process that saw primitive pre-humans become advanced hunter-gatherers of the paleolithic isn’t a simple one, but this video does a great job of visualising our history as a species.
What If There Were No Sharks?
Sharks are often vilified by Hollywood and environmental agencies alike, to the point where some agencies (like the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority) are routinely culling near popular beaches. From a scientific (and ethical) standpoint this is ridiculous, for the many reasons outlined in the above video.
Pay close attention to the counter in the bottom-left – that’s (on average based on current data) how many sharks have been killed since you pressed play on the video.
The Real “Doctor Frankenstein”
Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein in 1816 after a volcanic eruption in Indonesia left the northern hemisphere in a volcanic winter, “trapping” her indoors. Challenged by Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, she started to work on a “ghost story” which ended up becoming the first real example of the science fiction genre.
While Shelley’s inspiration for the story will never be truly known, the video above does have one rather far-fetched explanation. It also explores the other side, culminating in some bizarre experiments that were – dare I say it – probably fuelled by the desire to realise Shelley’s design.
The Smell of Rain
The smell of rain is as indescribable as it is pungent. It invades your nostrils like wet dog, and the second the first few drops start hitting the ground a veritable feast of aromas are released. Well wonder no more, because there are in fact two main causes: ozone and soil.
The smell itself can most probably be attributed to petrichor, which are essentially nutrients stored within the soil. These not only smell like great but also play a large role in the lifecycle of plants and aquatic environments.
It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube
You can subscribe to the YouTube channel and enjoy new videos every Monday. I’ve only featured a small selection of the total number of uploads, so if you find Joe’s videos interesting be sure to check out his back catalogue.
If this is your sort of thing you might want to further expand your scientific knowledge with Veritasium, broaden your tech horizons with Computerphile or hit up last week’s 10 self improvement tips in 10 minutes.
Aside from never reading the comments, what’s the best thing YouTube has taught you?