The popularization of edutainment is not new. I remember learning all kinds of helpful things from TV shows like Sesame Street, as a kid. When I had children of my own I even ordered a set of School House Rock DVDs. I’ll assume at least a few people still remember that program. They were single subject cartoons (history, times tables, etc) that ran between kid’s shows, almost like a commercial. They had catchy tunes, and singing one of that show’s songs is still the only way I can remember the preamble of the US Constitution. And I’m sure the School House Rock people should get full credit for me passing Pol-Sci 101 freshman year of college. My professor never once tore off his polyester tie and broke into song.
Someplace between Mr. Rogers and National Geographic reruns, innovative people discovered most adults want to learn new things too, as long as that teaching moment fits into our frenzied lifestyle. With the aid of YouTube, more single subject short videos are coming out everyday, and they feature a host of fascinating topics.
Here are some of the shows I think everyone should be watching.
The creation of the School of Chemistry at The University of Nottingham, this show makes understanding the periodic table of elements a brain party! Using controlled laboratory experiments and slow motion video, these guys are willing the blow the crap out of their laboratory, so you don’t have too. Want to see what happens with Hydrogen meets flame in a Hindenburg inspired pairing? Of course you do! And these fine people have got you covered.
Recent video: Underwater Sodium (Yes, there will be a BIG pow!)
Using lots of colorful cartoons and slick one-liners this show is half stand up comedy routine, half smart pill. Best of all, it really is a one to two minutes time commitment, not counting the massive sponsor messages at the back end. With Minute Physics around, you no longer have a valid excuse for telling your kids you have no flipping clue why the universe is flat.
Recent video: The Counter-intuitive Physics of Turning a Bike (Dull name = interesting physics.)
8 Bit Philosophy:
This show (and the next one) are from one of my favorite YouTube channels, Wisecrack. As far as geek chic shows go, this is the grand prize winner. Old school 8 bit video games and graphics re-purposed into 3-4 minute shows that distill complicated philosophical concepts down to their core. The shows are easy enough for kids, but thought provoking for adults too. One of my kids used Plato’s Allegory of the Cave the explain something to his 4th grade class and rocked his teacher’s world.
Recent video: Is Batman JUST? – 8-Bit Philosophy
The tagline for this show is “Your favorite movies get probed by aliens.” Movies represent this century’s mainstream cultural art form, as well as our dominant entertainment source. This show is all about seeing these creations and what they say about our society through the wide eyes of a future alien race. The show’s narrator reads and misreads all the movie’s social cues in brilliant and often humorous ways.
Sort of recent video: The Shining (over a month old, but I really liked this one)
The divine search for knowledge and trivia consumes me, or maybe I just like YouTube. I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll watch anything. Once! Except unboxing videos because those are just weird. With all the shows currently available, if you don’t know enough tidbits and factoids to impress your family and resemble a modern day Renaissance Man/Woman/Person, you have only yourself to blame.