Getting Smarter Every Day
By Erik Jones This is the third post in a series about learning on YouTube. Check out the first two here and here.
"In a world of talkers, be a thinker and a doer." -Destin Sandlin
At it's core, Smarter Every Day is really just a vehicle for a super curious rocket engineer from Alabama to dig into things he doesn't fully understand. Destin Sandlin is a full time employee and a part time YouTuber who fits firmly in what is rapidly becoming my favorite type of person, a professional explainer of interesting things. You have to watch at least a half dozen videos to really get a feel for Smarter Every Day because there are so many different types of topics addressed. If I had to pick a theme for the channel though, it's that hands on learning is the best way of truly understanding something. The big idea is that knowledge is internalized by doing things, not googling things. Becoming a fan of the channel means becoming a fan of Destin's unique way of figuring things out and of his contagious curiosity. Learning something new along with him is half the fun. An example is the question of "why are cats able to perfectly land on their feet when dropped upside down"? My thought process would involve something vague about tails and a strong sense of balance. Destin's thought process includes wondering how the cat isn’t violating the law of the conservation of angular momentum. Hmm, that certainly never would have crossed my mind. His unique thinking also includes filming his kids actually dropping cats upside down again and again with super high speed cameras and figuring it out. This hands on approach with a twist is Destin's specialty. The videos on Smarter Every Day are a wonderful mix of topics and below you'll see some major different themes broken down with context on where to dive in.
START WITH THE POPULAR
For anyone completely new to any channel, it's always a good idea to check out some of the more popular videos. Here are some of my favorites that will give you a great idea of Destin's style. Check out a playlist of these and all others listed below in this playlist.
The Backwards Brain Bicycle
This video is probably the best all around showcase of Destin's contagious excitement and of his hand's on approach to learning. The premise is around the complete frustration people feel when trying to ride a bike that turns right when you move the handle bars left and vice versa. It's funny, you learn something, and it's a fascinating look into how the brain learns.
Tattooing Up Close (In Slow Motion)
There is a reason why this is the channel's most popular video. You get to see Destin walk into a random tattoo parlor and convince them to let him record what getting a tattoo really looks like, up close and in slow motion. I feel smarter but also more confident in my position of never getting a tattoo.
Mystery of Prince Rupert's Drop at 130,000 fps
I had never heard of a Prince Rupert Drop, but watching one shatter in slow motion is the definition of oddly satisfying. This is Smarter Every Day though, so expect much more than just cool shit blowing up. This goes well with How to Escape a Car (in Slow Motion).
What I Learned from President Obama
Whatever your opinion of President Obama, you have to admit he is very savvy with participating in the changing social media landscape. In one such example, he set up some interviews where popular YouTube personalities could ask him questions important to their audience. Before you assume that any popular YouTuber is going to be a liberal that fawns over Obama, Destin tells us as one of the chosen interviewers that he is not necessarily a fan of Obama's overall politics and didn't vote for him. I love this video because Destin brings us into his mindset on what he wanted to accomplish with the interview and shows us first hand how to not let the polarizing political landscape make us incapable of reasonable discussions. The full interview is here.
Slow Motion Cat Flipping Physics
This video mentioned above sounds like an answer to "What are the best possible key words to string together to break the internet?" I don't know what else to say except you know you want to see cats flipping in slow motion as you also learn the hidden physics behind it.
Why You Didn't Die During Birth
When my two kids were born, my main goal was to simply survive the first week. When Destin has a kid, he wonders how babies survive going from a liquid to a gas environment and makes a video out of it. Really interesting stuff and this is worth the watch solely for the look his wife gives him towards the end.
VIDEOS TO MAKE YOU APPRECIATE ENGINEERING
A welcome unintended consequence of diving deep into this channel for me is a much greater appreciation for engineering. I am the product of a public schooling system where the E of STEM definitely gets the short straw and this channel does an admirable job at filling in the gaps. Below are some great examples of Destin showcasing his engineering brain and showing us how legitimately fascinating the whole field can be.
Turning Gravity Into Light
An elegant solution for undeveloped and off the grid parts of the world to have access to a safe and reusable light source. How amazing to be able to build this and really help people.
The Drill We Sent to Mars
Destin completely geeks out during his visit to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and his excitement around the tech involved with the Mars rover just might rub off on you. File this away as one more thing to send to people who comment on Facebook about NASA being a stupid waste.
SpaceX-PLOSIONS: Why it Matters
An eternal optimist who can learn from anything, Destin explains why a recent SpaceX rocket explosion is actually a good thing (nobody on board of course).
Acoustic Levitation in ULTRA SLOW MOTION
Levitating objects with only sound waves is crazy to see. Come for the real life magic, stay for the lesson on pressure waves.
Burning Astronaut Pee
If you want to feel like you know nothing, check out the smart people in this video. One last look on how engineers simply don't mess around and NASA still makes things happen.
THE AMAZING AMAZON
The series of videos Destin took during a visit to the Amazon rainforest are among my favorites on the channel. These videos are basically what happens when someone gets to follow their curiosity in one of the most biologically dense places in the world. Here is a link to a playlist with all of them and below are my top recommendations.
How to Get Ants to Carry a Sign
Having just recently paid to get carpenter ants removed from my house, you'd think I'd have no love for the little industrious buggers. Nope, videos like this will bring me back every time into the "ants are pretty damn cool" camp. The Leaf Cutter Ants featured here are strangely delightful to watch and you'll learn a neat biology hack to get them to carry whatever you'd like (spoiler alert- it involves urine).
3D Audio Machu Picchu Hike
After watching this half hour video with good headphones and while drinking some good wine, I had an epiphany about how revolutionary virtual reality tourism will be. Machu Picchu is high on any traveler's wish list and this experience, even with the warped fish eye look of the GoPro, was super engaging to me. I can't imagine what a more professional walk through with a true VR headset would be like, but dammit sign me up.
The Insanely Scary "Tailless Whip Scorpion"
If you want to hear someone say "nope, nope, hell no", show them this video. The lesson here is don't walk into the rainforest without some kind of space suit.
Alabama+science+slow mo=guns. That's at least one equation I've definitely come to understand from this channel. Even if you don't like guns, Destin's passion for using them as tools to learn about the world just might make you a believer.
Detonation vs Deflagration
This is where it all started. There were lots of videos posted to this channel before this, including the hilarious and viral Chicken Head Tracking, but this was the first in what turned the channel into "Smarter Every Day". Blowing shit up and explaining what happened isn't a bad way to start a passion project.
AK-47 Underwater at 27,450 frames per second (part 2)
Over 20 million views on this video that delivers everything you could hope for. Destin, in his signature style, drops way more knowledge than your average "whoa that's cool" type of slow mo video.
EXPLORE THE CHANNEL AND GET SMARTER
There are well over 100 videos to check out, so it's definitely worth your time to join 3 million+ others and to subscribe so that you don't miss future ones. I've always loved science, but never in a very hands on, practical way. Smarter Every Day is unique compared to most of the other popular science channels on YouTube because Destin goes way beyond simply explaining something on camera with some occasional graphics thrown in. This is a channel that grew on me the more I watched it so let me know what you think in the comments below. I'm Erik, getting Smarter Every Day, have a good one.
Find the Unexpected- TedX talk given by Destin in Vienna Science, Faith and the Internet- Destin at Skepticon An interview from Brady Haran. Among many other things, Destin addresses why he puts a Bible proverb at the end of each video. Destin is /u/mrpennywhistle (very active user) on Reddit and hangs out at /r/smartereveryday. For Reddit newbies, be sure to read this post for an explainer on using Reddit the right way. Check out this solo AMA and this AMA with Derek from Veritasium. You learn things like the logo at the end of the videos is inspired by Reepicheep from the Narnia series and that Derek's favorite Smarter Every Day video is Poop Splash Elimination. This Q & A video will give you tons of background on why he started the channel and all sorts of interesting tidbits, like what the crazy looking electronic device is on the wall and his motivation to keep creating videos. Check out this playlist Destin put together around Helicopter physics. It's him walking through some of his videos and some from other channels like MinutePhysics. Vsauce has similar types of mixed "lean back" playlists, and I love the concept. Destin has a secondary channel, Smarter Every Day 2, where he posts extra stuff that didn't make it into his main channel. Here is the playlist again with all the above mentioned videos. Here is a short interview on the Patreon podcast and here is the Smarter Every Day Patreon page if you want to support Destin. All money he makes from videos goes to either making more videos or supporting his kids' college fund. For more interesting podcasts, check out my supersized playlist. Destin loves to communicate science, loves rockets, talks to NASA, and knows a ton about engineering. You'd think he might as well become an astronaut himself. Well, in fact, he's trying hard to do just that. How cool would that be? I can imagine non stop videos from the ISS as he tinkers with every possible thing on the space station.