Noah Brier | March 24, 2021

The Youtube Edition

On videos, learning, and the WITI channel picks

Noah here. I watch a lot of YouTube. I’ve been a Premium subscriber for about five years now, and I pretty firmly believe it’s the best video service out there. I recently described my YouTube consumption as being made up of three main video types of videos: lectures (the start of almost any research process is finding experts and then looking for them on YouTube), sports highlights/analysis, and very random zone-out stuff (basketball card pack opening, lock picking, marbles, that sort of stuff). 

While the platform has obviously caught lots of heat over the last few years for its algorithms which can tend towards extremism, it’s undoubtedly one of the most amazing things that exists in the world. In a recent interview that I also highlighted in the Pace Layers Edition, Simon DeDeo remarked just how strange it all is: “When we switched on video, we can now make super high res iPhone videos. We didn't make Citizen Kane, we didn't make, I don't know, American Beauty. What we did was we pointed them at ourselves and started lecturing each other. It was like the world's biggest community college. It's great.”

Why is this interesting?

In the category of zone out and leave in the background, I like to relax with the lock picking prowess of LockPickingLawyer (2.79 million subs), the wood-turning of Andy Phillip (1.17 million subs), and more recently have been enjoying watching people open basketball (Packman Breaks with 26.8k subs) and baseball cards (Jabs Family with 87.5k subs). I now realize that the thing all these channels have in common is that they’re just two hands in frame with something else. Odd.

On the sports front, Minsk Cycling Club (24.9k subs) has tons of professional track cycling videos and you can’t ever go wrong just relaxing to the sweet sounds of perfect snooker games. And while it’s not quite as relaxing, Thinking Basketball (218k subs) is a treasure trove of basketball knowledge.

On the science front, Sabine Hossenfelder (241k subs) always does a nice job with interesting topics. And when I’m digging into something specific in math or computer science I like Numberphile (3.66 million subs) and Computerphile (1.88 million subs).  Two memorable Computerphile videos for me are Turing & The Halting Problem and P vs NP on TV. If it’s science lectures you’re after, you can’t go wrong with The Royal Institution (989k subs) or the Santa Fe Institute (37.9k subs). Two specific tips: Philip Ball’s talk about quantum physics at the Royal Institution and Melanie Mitchell at the Santa Fe Institute on AI.

I thought it might also be fun to ask some of the fine folks on WITI contributor’s Slack for their picks. So here are some additional picks from the broader WITI universe:

  • Dashner Design & Restoration (172k subs): Furniture restoration as ASMR therapy (Reilly Brennan)

  • Ediyasmr (131K subs): For tarot-reading and general zoned-out entrancement. She has a nice voice and good energy. (Edith Zimmerman)

  • Every Frame a Painting (1.85m subs): Every Frame a Painting's video essays provide deep-dive insights into how the illusion of film is made, from disguising Vancouver as a stand-in for any North American city, to exactly why Buster Keaton’s visual gags work. (Guan Yang)

  • (282k subs): Joe Barnard is on a years-long quest to build a self-landing rocket and it’s amazing to watch. He has a background in film/photog and now he's shaking up amateur rocketry. (Daniel Oberhaus)

  • Wintergaten (2.21 million subs): Musician Martin Molin has been striving for years to make the perfect Marble Machine: a complex mechanical machine that uses marbles to make music. (Rick Webb)

  • Chain Bear (418k subs): No one is a more charming guide to the complex engineering and design choices that produce the unparalleled pace of Formula 1 cars than the ever cheeky Chain Bear. (Graydon Gordian)

  • Cracking the Cryptic (336k subs): A guy solving really hard sudokus in real-time might not sound compelling viewing, but Simon Anthony’s passion and delight as he unlocks each elegant solution is unbelievably infectious. (Matt Locke)

Leave any favorites in the comments or reply to the email. Always looking for new stuff to fill the feed. (NRB)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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