For the last 11 months, I’ve been getting carried away with a draft… YouTube channels I recommend. It turns out that my sense of perfectionism ran away with me.
…so, in the spirit of my old The Most Eye-Opening Things I’ve Ever Read post, and since I’m not sure when that’ll be ready, I’m going to pare it back and just post an updated version of the initial concept. The stuff I found most eye-opening or most unusually well-researched, which is already ready to go right now.
Here are some YouTube videos which I thought deserved more attention, grouped by the channels that uploaded them:
A British YouTuber who does high-quality documentary videos on the history of things relating to video games.
Barely Sociable does thoroughly researched detective-y videos, mostly about “Internet mysteries”,… sort of like Down The Rabbit Hole, but focused on a different slice of the Internet. I’ll let some of the example titles say all that needs to be said.
Slightly Sociable is his secondary channel and I also recommend some of the content on there which feels like it could have gone on his main channel if not for it only requiring a shorter and/or lower-effort video to answer to the same standard. (However, because it’s lower-effort compared to his primary channel, things do occasionally slip through that I wouldn’t recommend.)
While I normally wouldn’t recommend a Fortean channel, because their credulity tends to put logic and lunacy on equal footing in the viewer’s mind, these particular Bedtime Stories videos are a special case.
Yes, Bedtime Stories is a guilty pleasure at best, because they do still often put logic and lunacy on an even footing to make things spookier. (See, for example, their videos on Flight 19 and the Ourang Medan, compared to LEMMiNO’s and Skeptoid’s more thoroughly researched takes, respectively.) However, in these particular videos, they actually did manage to research them better than any of the other YouTube videos I’ve seen so far, and managed to spend more time debunking pervasive misconceptions than propagating them.
Run by an infectiously enthusiastic and friendly aussie named David L. Jones, EEVBlog is a channel full of useful lessons and advice for electronics hobbyists, cool teardowns of retired tech, debunkings of electronics and electrical engineering nonsense, and all sorts of other fun stuff that you’d expect out of someone who’s passionate about his work.
Joe Scott is a relatable, ordinary-sounding guy who makes educational videos on a variety of topics, but without the tendency to fall for bad information that I see on so many similar channels.
Aside from being a bit too credulous about UFOs (he’s still in the process of improving on that front, but compare Joe Scott’s or Thunderf00t’s coverage), this Swedish YouTuber does an amazing job of providing heavily researched, high-quality documentary content of the “let’s watch it again, just for leisure value” type, about topics that are usually covered in a wishy-washy, overly-credulous way.
Some of my favourite videos include:
Another YouTuber like Barely Sociable (in fact, I think he inspired Barely Sociable) who investigates mostly “Internet mysteries”, some real and some Alternate Reality Games, but has been getting into more real-world topics. Here are a few of my favourite of his videos:
If you like the Alternate Reality Games side of Nexpo’s work, you’ll also like Night Mind. I recommend this video of his most:
Another great channel I hadn’t written an introduction for yet.
While relatively young, this channel is a beautiful example of what happens when someone with a passion for a niche of history makes documentary videos. In this case, interesting events in the history of aviation. These videos don’t just cover events themselves, but put them in context and, aside from maybe a little break-in period to get used to the narrator’s accent, they’re very relaxing to listen to. Highly recommended.
This product of PBS Digital Studios is a high-quality free show about paleontology that I can watch for hours without it starting to wear on me. (As opposed to SciShow which, while good, just has something about its style that does start to wear on me after a while.)
Examples of good Eons videos include:
This channel is to SciShow Space as PBS Eons is to SciShow… a deeper, more academic, less whizbang (yet not still dry) look at astronomy, physics, and astrophysics. It’s fascinating on its own, but it’s also an invaluable resource if you’re an aspiring sci-fi author who wants to catch up on the state of things.
(Though, if your local library has it, the quickest way to get up to speed would probably be to start with this illustrated Stephen Hawking omnibus and then to jump to Space Time for the discoveries and details beyond what it covers.)
There are far too many excellent videos, so I’ll just present a few of the most mind-bending:
While best known for his comedy machinima series Freeman’s Mind and Civil Protection, and his Ross’s Game Dungeon series which draws attention to lesser known old games, Ross Scott is also an opinionated man who’s not afraid to do his research, with some very insightful things to say and some strong opinions on game preservation. Honestly, I dare you to disagree with his video titles after watching them.
SciShow is a general-interest science channel with a style that feels targeted at teenagers. The information is still very interesting but I find that, if I binge-watch too much of it, it starts to grate on me. Not nearly as rich in mind-blowing stuff as something like PBS Space Time or Veritasium, but still worth considering.
Along with channels like SciShow, VSauce, and Veritasium, Smarter Every Day is one of the big names in YouTube popular science channels. While the others focus on stuff that’s either more theoretical or further from home, Destin tends to focus on more personally relatable stuff and, when he does travel abroad, his focus is still distinctly down-to-earth compared to the other channels.
Aside from the fun, engaging, and admirably dedicated lessons about what makes things work, Technology Connections is also admirable for the high-quality content with none of that irritating “Like and Subscribe!” nonsense. Just a silent roll of Patreon supporter names over the blooper reel at the end of each episode. Now that’s classy.
If you like this, you’ll almost certainly also like engineerguy.
I said this was what I already had ready, but this video is too good to omit, just because I didn’t have time to write an introduction to the man who made it:
TREY does videos on dinosaurs, mythology, and cryptids.
While his dyslexia occasionally trips him up (read the names on screen yourself), his scriptwriting isn’t ideal, and he could use some enunciation practice, that fades from my attention after a minute or so.
More importantly, as seems to be a recurring theme among formerly Christian rationalist YouTubers, it’s hard to find someone on YouTube more dedicated to doing the research properly, including actually getting in touch with real scientists and paleo-artists.
More importantly for his inclusion on this list, it’s hard to find youtubers this dedicated to research who spend time on cryptids.
I find his cryptid videos to be both entertaining and a source of knowledge that’s surprisingly difficult to encounter elsewhere on the ‘net.
Finally, it’s very satisfying to see how engaged and contributory his audience is in the videos themselves, and I like his sense of humor, as best demonstrated in his series of videos on sea monster carcasses. (“A globster, also knows as a blob by racists, …”)
Along with channels like SciShow, Smarter Every Day, and VSauce, Veritasium is one of the big names in YouTube popular science channels. However, his turn to sponsorships has hurt his credibility recently, so, aside from applying the usual critical thinking, my advice is to stick to the “mind-blowing/expanding introductions to science/history stuff with minimal financial interest behind it” stuff, like these… especially the earlier ones For the rest, maybe Tom Scott, since he’s British and their laws on advertising and sponsorships require you to be more overt about your potential financial conflicts of interest.
Just as SciShow Space is sort of like PBS Space Time, but with a punchier, more whizbang scriptwriting style, Vsauce is sort of like Veritasium, but with a punchier, more whizbang style.
Vsauce episodes are fascinating… but also hard to summarize because they’re characterized by a rambling style that wanders through a bunch of loosely related topics, like a Wikipedia crawl in video form. They do technically have multiple channels, but I’m specifically recommending Michael’s content on vsauce1.
- How Earth Moves (Calendaring, perspective, shadows at noon, and a visualization of how we’re moving through space.)
- Spooky Coincidences? (Coincidences, pareidolia, selection bias, confirmation bias, the law of truly large numbers, etc.)
- What Is The Speed of Dark? (Why shadows can move faster than light, a kind of eclipse you never realized you experienced, stages of twilight, etc.)
- The Brachistochrone (Circles, rolling, acceleration, refraction, the speed of light, and actually building a practical demonstration with Adam Savage to show a ramp that takes the same amount of time to roll down no matter where you start.)
- The Banach–Tarski Paradox and How To Count Past Infinity (Thinking about infinity)
- Dord. (All sorts of stuff about language, copyrightability of facts, ancient puns, irony, etc.)
- The Zipf Mystery (Zipf’s law, the Pareto principle, hapax legomena, and more about power law statistics)
- Supertasks (Ends with a powerful argument for why we ask and answer “pointless questions”)
While not technically officially on YouTube, these videos by the creator of the Ogg Vorbis audio format (
.ogg files) are so neat and worthwhile that I just had to make an exception.
- Episode 1: A Digital Media Primer for Geeks (A friendly explanation of all the terms you might need if you want to understand how digital audio and video work or experiment with them, and need to be able to google up further answers.)
- Episode 2: Digital Show & Tell (An explanation and live demo of analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion to explain the Nyquist sampling theorem and band-limiting more deeply and explain why, if 24-bit 192kHz audio sounds better than 44.1kHz and you’re not using very special ultrasound-rated speakers, it’s because it was mixed and mastered with more care, not because 44.1kHz with 16-bit samples is insufficient.)
…and the miscellaneous scraps
- Moon Landings Faked? Filmmaker Says Not! (A very entertainingly presented explanation of why, in the 1960s, film-making technology hadn’t yet reached the point where they could fake a moon landing.)
- How Road Barriers Stopped Killing Drivers by Andrew Lam (Just a really fascinating video about engineering from someone who usually doesn’t do this kind of video.)
- Ancient Aliens Debunked (Aside from 15 minutes at the end of this 3-hour film, when its creator lets his skeptical rigour slip on flood stories and the nephilim, this is a perfect example of how to do a rigorous, well-cited documentary and I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t watch Ancient Aliens, and I don’t, it’s a fascinating and entertaining watch.)
(Note that it’s usually hosted on YouTube, and you’re granted permission to save and share copies non-commercially, but I think Ancient Aliens fans like to send false DMCA complaints, because it’s been taken down several times and flipped back and forth between YouTube and Vimeo. The embedded player on the website will always be up to date with that.)
Regarding the last 15 minutes, see TREY the Explainer’s videos on the nephilim and Leviathan to see what it would have looked like if the author of Ancient Aliens Debunked didn’t let his faith cause his skeptical rigour to falter.
- We Stopped Dreaming (Neil deGrasse Tyson) Parts 1 + 2 (A very moving and insightful compilation of Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining the history of NASA and its effects on our culture.)
- Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot (A very powerful excerpt from the audiobook version of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”, set to music from his series, Cosmos.)
- A Universe Not Made For Us (Carl Sagan on religion) (A very powerful excerpt from the audiobook version of Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”. I also like the quote from Kurzgesagt that one commenter posted: “In a way, it seems like the cruelest joke in existence has been played on us. We became self-aware only to realize this story is not about us.”)
- Science Saved My Soul. by philhellenes (An incredibly powerful description of what the universe is.)
- Titanic’s Final Mystery (I don’t normally link to an unofficial upload, but I highly recommend this. See also the IMDB Page. Also known as Titanic: Case Closed.)
I’ve watched a lot of Titanic documentaries over the years, and this one is the only one new enough to show off a relatively recent explanation for the sinking which just fits all the evidence so well.
- …and I hadn’t gotten around to digging up video-specific links yet, but:
- Thunderf00t has excellent videos going into the science of why various Kickstarter projects are impossible, why various Elon Musk claims are scientifically impossible, why batteries with energy density higher than LiPo batteries are both unlikely to be possible and not a good idea anyway, etc.
- NativLang has fascinating videos on things like the letter Yogh, the “lost other letter Z” used in names like MacKenzie, and features English is missing but most other languages have.