Unless you are planning on pursuing a career in science it is unlikely that after leaving Northwest you will interact with science on a daily basis. Or is it? Yes, it is. But it is less unlikely after reading this blog post! That’s because, listed below are several of my favorite YouTube channels that attempt to bring the fascinating world of science into the non-scientific lives of non-scientists. Hope you’re a fan of carnivals, here we go!
Perhaps the most topical channel, the Brain Scoop, is a biology-based web series based in the Chicago Field Museum and headed by Emily Graslie. A former volunteer at the University of Montana Zoological Museum, Emily soon landed a gig with the Field Museum and assists in dissections, interviews researchers and curators, and answers any questions that viewers have about the fascinating world of biology. With a master’s degree in Museum Studies, Emily is the perfect host for this show, as she understands how to effectively communicate complex biology to the channel’s traditionally lay audience.
Professor Marty Poliakoff famously flails his hands
around while shooting Periodic Video episodes.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Although the name would imply this channel has very little to do with biology, the concepts and science discussed in Periodic Videos have wonderful applications to the field. Ever wonder why skunk spray smells so bad, or what really ruined Darwin’s centennial celebration? Then check out Periodic Video’s “Smelly Chemistry” and The Professor will introduce the stinky chemistry behind Thiols, a very important organic compound functional group, discussed in chapter four of our book. Other biology related videos include their episode on Sarin gas, what would happen if ice floated, and their video showing the reaction of hydrochloric acid (stomach juice) on a cheeseburger. Though the channel is formally dedicated to chemistry, as Mrs. Podany would eagerly point out, the purpose of chemistry is to explain biological processes.
The Sci Show deals with all things science, but has a playlist dedicated to biology. With catchy music, backgrounds that pop, and a host that has probably drunk more red bulls than an elephant can handle, the Sci Show really knows how to lure in the attention of its nominally scientific audience. Biology related topics discussed in Sci Show videos include genetics, obesity, mind reading, human’s affinity toward sugar, vestigial structures, and much more!
Minute Earth, sister channel with Minute Physics, touches on a vast array of biology related concepts. From climate change, to the largest organism on earth, the channel will continuously challenge previously held contentions of everyday science. What came first, the rainforest or the rain, how does commercial fishing affect the physical size of fish, and why are leaves green rather than purple or yellow or even black? These are only a fraction of the topics discussed on Minute Earth.
Why continue studying science? Astrophysicists Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson gives two great quotes. The first is that “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.” Through our continuing understanding of the underlying scientific constants that flow through each person, organism, and object in the universe we can come together in scientific cooperation and strengthen the bonds between one another. Secondly, Dr. Tyson says “… there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.” In our quest to discover more about the universe, we may better educate those who operate under the falsehoods of pseudoscience and pose a significant roadblock to the progress of society.
No one will ascend to the knowledge level of a PhD by watching YouTube, but we can all benefit from learning a little bit more about the truly magical world around us, and how every decision we make has an effect on its well-being.