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17 science shows on YouTube that will totally blow your mind

These shows highly recommended for lunch break viewing.

Feb 29, 2020, 9:03 pm*

Internet Culture

Cynthia McKelvey 

Cynthia McKelvey

Love science but don’t have the time to binge watch nature documentaries?

Lucky for you, YouTube has seen an explosion in popularity of educational videos in the last few years. Many channels offer bite size videos packed with mind-blowing ideas and information.

And if the idea of seeking out the best of the best sounds like a huge pain, we’ve already done the work for you. Here is our comprehensive list of the best videos for science and deep thought, in no particular order. Remember to like and subscribe to your favorites!

 


1) AsapSCIENCE

  • Hosts: Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown
  • On the web since: 2012
  • Average video length: 3 minutes

AsapSCIENCE is one of the longest-running, most popular web shows about science. With clear narration, cute whiteboard animations, and always-topical topics, AsapSCIENCE is a crowdpleaser. There are many videos about the effects of food and drink on our daily lives, how drugs work in the body, and why our favorite TV shows are woefully inaccurate. If you want more AsapSCIENCE, the Canadian duo host another show called AsapTHOUGHT where they tackle a wider range of topics, including some outside of science.

 

2) Vsauce

  • Host: Michael Stevens
  • On the web since: 2010
  • Average video length: 10 minutes

Vsauce hosts some of the most in-depth content on this list. Host Michael Stevens is a master at leading the viewer through a trippy maze of science, puns, and philosophy, which usually begins with an innocuous, seemingly benign question like, “Is cereal soup?” Not all of his videos are about science; many focus on aspects of culture and art, but with the same inquisitive tone. Stevens tends to dive very, very deep in each video so his content is not for someone looking for light-hearted digestible stuff. But each video is guaranteed to blow your mind and deepen your understanding of the world. If that’s not your bag, check out Vsauce2 and Vsauce3 for lighter, but just as interesting and entertaining videos.

3) SmarterEveryDay

  • Host: Destin Sandlin
  • On the web since: 2011
  • Average video length: Varies

Ever wonder why a cat always lands on its feet, or how tattoos stay on the skin permanently? Destin Sandlin’s got your answer. SmarterEveryDay aims to do what the title says: make you a little smarter–though not every day. Sandlin uploads videos once or twice a month. But they are always a treat. The video series often makes use of slow motion cameras to document and observe physical phenomena that are too subtle for the naked eye.

 

4) ViHart

  • Host: Vi Hart
  • On the web since: 2009
  • Average video length: Varies

Vi Hart possesses the rare gift of making math accessible. In the above video, Hart explains the how to find the right shape to form your “mathed” potatoes for optimal gravy storage. In her series, Doodling in Math Class, she begins with the premise that you’re struggling to focus on your teacher droning on and on in math class, so you start to doodle. But like doodles, Hart’s meandering narrative takes on a life of its own, exploring the complexities of something as simple as a squiggly line. Before you know it, you’ve suddenly learned about fractals, spirals, or number sequences.

 

5) SciShow

  • Hosts: Hank Green, Michael Aranda
  • On the web since: 2011
  • Average video length: 3 minutes

SciShow boasts the most comprehensive subject matter and some of the best production values of this entire list. With new videos eight times a week, SciShow also promises to be the best source for your quick science fix when you need it. While much of their content is explaining science phenomena, the hosts aren’t afraid to tackle controversial and cutting-edge topics like GMOs and Crispr. SciShow is always educational and thorough, posting sources in the comments. Its greatest strength is its reliability and thoroughness: you can always trust that SciShow does its homework and is giving you the most accurate information possible in bite-size 2-4 minute videos. Best of all? SciShow comes in Space and Kids flavors, too!

 

6) PBS Idea Channel

  • Host: Mike Rugnetta
  • On the web since: 2012
  • Average video length: 10 minutes

Idea Channel is a bit unlike the rest of the videos on this playlist as it isn’t directly science-focused. But host Mike Rugnetta (formerly of knowyourmeme.com) brings in scientific and philosophical theories and ideas into his commentary on popular culture, so he makes the list. PBS Idea Channel specializes in putting way too much thought into how pop culture affects our daily lives. Rugnetta also sets himself apart from other video hosts by responding to viewer’s comments in a more conversational and in-depth manner than many other video hosts. Because of that, the show’s comment section on YouTube and the subreddit provide a lively venue to discuss the videos and ideas that seem Ideal-Channel-esque. In the spirit of fostering discussion, Idea Channel has also created several videos explaining logical fallacies and devoted a decent amount of time to discussing the nature of arguing on the Internet.

 

7) Vertasium

  • Host: Derek Muller
  • On the web since: 2011
  • Average video length: 7 minutes

On Veritasium, you get a mix between science (mostly physics), history, and personal musings. Host Derek Muller is also one of the more well-traveled hosts of the list. His videos often take viewers all around the world as he strives to document science. He’s been to Chernobyl, Hiroshima, the Czech Republic, and more just to document radiation. He’s been to more countries and far-flung corners of the world for other videos. Muller also sometimes posts experiments where he challenges viewers to employ their critical thinking skills to solve a science question.

 

8) PBS Space Time

  • Host: Gabe Perez-Giz
  • On the web since: 2015
  • Average video length: 10 minutes

PBS Space time is one of the youngest shows on this list and, like all the PBS Digital Studios shows, one of the highest quality. The show employs useful animations and visuals to walk you through questions as silly as “Can you fart your way to the moon?” to as mind-bending as “What is Spacetime?” Parez-Giz also responds to comments like the Idea Channel, but the nature of the comments is a bit different and more oriented toward savvy and curious viewers. It’s an excellent program for people who want to dig in a little deeper into space and astrophysics.

 

9) MinutePhysics

  • Host: Henry Reich
  • On the web since: 2011
  • Average video length: 3 minutes

As its name suggests, MinutePhysics is all about packing a lot of science flavor into tiny bite-size episodes. With its use of stick-figure cartoons to explain complex science phenomena, the show is like the more explainer-y pages of xkcd merged with the stop-motion whiteboard animations of AsapSCIENCE. And, while AsapSCIENCE tends to focus more on biology, neuroscience, medicine, and chemistry, MinutePhysics is—as its name suggests—mostly about physics. It’s a great complement to some of the quick-explainer shows on this list and definitely one to subscribe to if you have kids.

 

10) PBS BrainCraft

  • Host: Vanessa Hill
  • On the web since: 2013
  • Average video length: 4 minutes

Another PBS Digital Studios entry on the list: BrainCraft. This show is about brains, all the brains, and nothing but the brains, and it’s awesome. Host Vanessa Hill is an expert at breaking down what we know about the mysterious thinking organ and making it easier to understand. While she covers a lot of neurological phenomena that you cover in neuroscience 101, she gets bonus brain-nerd points for making a show all about the unsung cells of the nervous system: glial cells.

11) Physics Girl

  • Host: Dianna Cowern
  • On the web since: 2011
  • Average video length: 5 minutes

It’s hard not to find Dianna Cowern, a.k.a. the Physics Girl, to be endearingly and infectiously enthusiastic. The show appeals to the child within everyone by wowing you with physics experiments you can do at home. With an eye for the GIF-able, Cowern likes to make use of everyday objects around her to help explain physics to her viewers. New videos are uploaded roughly once a month, so they’re always a treat in your subscription list when they pop up.

12) Science Friction

  • Host: Rusty Ward
  • On the web since: 2013
  • Average video length: 5 minutes

Science Friction takes on an ambitious endeavor: using science to make you superhuman. Each episode, host Rusty Ward tells you how to recreate the superpowers you see in comics, TV, and movies using nothing but science. So basically, every geek’s fantasy made reality. So far Ward has let us in on the secrets of Spidey sense, invulnerability, teleportation, and more. His material also tends to veer more into engineering than other shows on this list, making Science Friction an especially unique contribution.

13) It’s okay to be smart

  • Host: Joe Hanson
  • On the web since: 2013
  • Average video length: 5 minutes

Living thinking-face emoji Joe Hanson is, by his account, a “curious group of atoms” with a Ph.D. who makes science videos for PBS Digital Studios. It’s Okay To Be Smart covers an incredibly wide range of topics, from how squirrels find their nuts to the color of the universe. He takes a creative approach to questions you hadn’t previously considered and answers them thoughtfully and thoroughly. Great for kids and adults.

14) Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

  • Creators: Kurzgesagt
  • On the web since: 2013
  • Average video length: 6 minutes

Kurzgesagt, German for “in a nutshell,” promises its namesake: complicated topics in a nutshell. Kurzgesagt is a great resource to provide a jumping-off point on any scientific topic you want to sink your teeth into. The channel’s coverage has a little flair for the dramatic, but they always remember to season their videos with some grains of salt. They also sprinkle in some interesting pop culture references, like Rick and Morty and Dragon Ball Z. Even if you miss the references, the animation is beautiful enough on its own to prove a mesmerizing and unique addition to this list.

15) Skunk bear

  • Host: Adam Cole
  • On the web since: 2014
  • Average video length: 4 minutes

Skunk Bear is a project by NPR that explains science in really creative ways, like finding the speed of light with peeps. It’s a wonderful video series that never takes itself—or science—too seriously. The videos are pretty bite-size; many are right around a minute long, though some go on for about seven minutes. This is the series to watch for fun facts and parlor tricks for your next party.

16) Deep Look

  • Host: Amy Standen
  • On the web since: 2014
  • Average video length: 3 minutes

In a brilliant collaboration between San Francisco NPR member station, KQED, and PBS Digital Studios, fans of Deep Look get a big window into a tiny world. But these videos aren’t really for the faint of heart. If you don’t like creepy-crawlies, especially the kind that feed on your flesh and whose poop you, in turn, feed on yourself… then you might want to pass on Deep Look.

17) Reactions

  • Creators: American Chemical Society
  • On the web since: 2014
  • Average video length: 4 minutes

If chemistry seems too complicated for you, Reactions will change your mind. Full of videos that are both helpful in everyday life, like cooking, and explaining everyday things, like why metal rusts, Reactions makes chemistry fun and easy. The channel will also help you bust some pervasive myths, like that MSG is bad for you or that circular, baked bread that aren’t boiled are somehow acceptable to refer to as “bagels.”

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

Screengrab via PhysicsGirl/YouTube

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*First Published: Aug 25, 2015, 10:30 am