YouTube Science or Why We Don't Need a New Cosmos

Ganesha's picture

In the discussions here and on the wider web about the new version of Cosmos, many people recall fondly how the original Cosmos ("TOC" as Kevin Long is calling it) instilled in them a feeling of wonder, the "wow" of science, and got them to realize that we are part of the universe and the universe is part of us. Thumbs up for all of that. The Carl Sagan Cosmos was just in the right time and place. There were essentially only 3 1/2 networks and TOC was on the 1/2 network that had a few shows a year that impacted people across America. Network TV was the primary method of bringing new ideas into people's lives. But that was before the internet, and before YouTube - which combined the infinite access of the internet with the immediate impact of video.

In the true spirit of Cosmos, I'd like to take you on a scientific journey.

Please allow me to introduce Derek Muller, creator and host of the YouTube channel "Veritasium" a portmanteu word based on veritas and -ium making "Veritasium: an element of truth." As an example of the interactive nature of YouTube science and its audience, I'd like you reveiw a special series of videos.

The first video introduces "The Bullet Block Experiment" and asks you to guess if a block of wood hit on the edge with a bullet will fly up as high as a similar block of wood hit in the center. At the end of the first video, you, dear viewer, are invited to make a prediction, click on the appropriate link and view the second video wherein the experiment is conducted and the maximum height of each block is compared. Derek challenges some other YouTube science hosts to make predictions and then explain why the results were in line with their predictions or not. Finally, in the third video, we get an explanation, that, like any good scientific experiment, opens up even more questions than it answers and paves the way for further research.

The most important aspect of this video series is that Derek asked viewers to offer their own explanations and he received hundreds, if not thousands of results. People were doing science and presenting their results to the world. People were trying to figure out why something happened the way it did, and why it happened differently or the same as they predicted it would.

This is why we don't need another Cosmos series. Carl Sagan's legacy does not live on in a TV show. It is carried forward by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, by Derek Muller, YouTube science channel host, and by the millions of subscribers to "Veratisum" and the other science channels, as well as by every science student, summer science camper and backyard science club member. What is the need to "recapture" a feeling that permeates our entire culture?

The first video is below. From there, follow the links to the actual experiment and to the explanation.