We’re all guilty of it, promising ourselves we’ll get to work as soon as we watch the new video on our favorite youtube channel. Three hours later we are hip deep in memes, gifs, and videos. If you are going to kill time on the internet you can at least write it off as an educational experience. Tada! It’s no longer wasting time, it’s growing your brain parts.
Here are some fantastic educational channels that are actually a ton of fun to watch:
The Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green, are brothers who started their channel by making weekly vlogs to each other since they lived far apart. Their videos are often informative and always funny, addressing current topics such as the SOPA or Global Warming, or answering user questions like, “Is college worth it?“. Hank writes and sings funny nerd songs and loves science; John is a published author who has written novels such as The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska.
A related channel, Crash Course covers a variety of subjects such as chemistry, US history, literature, ecology, biology, world history, and now psychology. Both Hank and John act as hosts on the channel and present the information in a more formal, polished manner than their videos on their personal channel but they maintain their sense of humor. The content is always presented in an accessible way and is embellished with animated clips. An example from the Literature videos include a 2 part break down of Romeo and Juilet, which covers iambic pentameter, Old English vocabulary, and historical context. (These two videos did a better job than any of my courses in high school and college, and I was an English Literature major. I sat through many lectures on this play.)
The Brain Scoop is, sadly, one of the few female created STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) channels. Emily works at The Field Museum in Chicago as the Chief Curiosity Correspondent; she is smart, witty, and awesomely nerdy. She made a great video addressing the lack of women led STEM channels here. But the channel isn’t hell bent on ladies, ladies, ladies. There are videos of various dissections (the Anteater, wolf, and zebra are just a few), Q&A sessions, and biological factoids (like Horns vs. Antlers). I think we’d be best friends.
Veritasium is the channel for people who want to understand astrophysics. Many of the videos are shot in the streets and passersby are asked to answer trivia questions, such as How old is the Earth? or What causes the seasons? Other videos use physical examples and experiments that help explain complex ideas like the time they used plum pudding to create a model of an atom or a medicine ball vs. a basketball to see which will drop faster.
CGP Grey focuses on one question or concept per video and also uses animation to help explain their content. Recently they did an interesting interactive video about the Nocebo Effect. They also have a running theme of Common Misconceptions about various topics.
Mental Floss makes videos for people who love trivia. The channel is divided into two types of videos: The List Show and “Be More Interesting” series. Some videos include 38 Bizarre Items Dropped on New Year’s Eve, 30 Game Changing Video Games, and How to Start a Fire Without Matches. It’s fun, fast, and quirky as hell. And yes, John Green is on this channel as well.
The SciShow, as you may have guessed, focuses solely on science related topics. Like the other channels there are videos that explain concepts or issues with the use of film clips, narration, etc. (Those Maddening Eyeball Floaters! or Strong Interaction: The Four Fundamental Forces of Physics). However, this channel also features the SciShow Talk Show, where (yes, again) Hank Green interviews guests about science news. The guests in turn try to stump Hank with trivia questions and there is usually an animal guest as well; one such episode was Human-Powered Helicopters and a Red Fox.
Vsauce tends to focus on science and sociological content, and answers questions you never thought to ask but really want to know the answers to, like Where do Deleted Files go? or Why are Things Creepy? (The last one totally contains nightmare fuel, follow it up with some cat memes.)
The Sixty Symbols channel is the creation of a team of experts from the University of Nottingham and it is all about physics and astronomy. Some of my favorite videos answer What would happen if you put your hand into the Large Hadron Collider? and Is E=mc² wrong? The titles only reflect the first question presented to those being interviewed but each video explores additional topics.
So go get your nerd on and check out these rad people!