Chief Science Correspondent
If you've been on the internet at all this summer, you've most likely heard of John Green. You may have even read his young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars, or at least seen the movie.
You might not, however, have heard of John's possibly lesser known but equally awesome younger brother, Hank. But if you haven't, you definitely should. The pair's internet fame started in 2007 when they launched their joint YouTube channel, VlogBrothers. The premise of this channel was that Hank and John would forgo all written communication for one year, using this video channel as their only non-face-to-face communication portal.
In addition to documenting their lives and entertaining their more than two million subscribers (as an example of how random these four-minute videos could be, one vlog inspired my roommate and I to buy small, musical plush toys known as Sing-a-Ma-Jigs), the Greens have used their internet fame for both educational and charitable purposes, both on and beyond their still-active vlogging channel.
As I said before, both Greens often use the internet as a forum as an educational tool, sharing a remarkably wide range of information they believe to be important to the general public - but often in an entertaining manner. And this is the foundation Hank employs as the host of SciShow (occasionally substituted by Michael Aranda and Lindsey Doe), a YouTube channel that has amassed nearly two million subscribers since its launch in 2012.
SciShow is one of my absolute favorite YouTube channels. The shows, generally less than five minutes long, have a very simple format, each tackling some specific science topic.
The videos can answer very simple everyday questions, such as why our ears ring, what causes the formation of rainbows or why zebras have stripes. These types of videos remind me of a preschooler incessantly asking "Why" questions about things she sees but does not understand. "Why aren't there giant insects?" "Why do cats purr?" SciShow has the answers to these questions, and a dozen more that your favorite inquisitive five-year-old hasn't even thought of yet.
Other times Green might tackle more complex (or perhaps simply less tangible) scientific topics such as black holes and genomics. My molecular genetics professor actually used Green's video on epigenetics video to supplement our lecture on the topic.
Often, these videos are created in response to popular current events, such as ebola, colonization on Mars, global warming in Antarctica, and the mass extinction. In one video, Green points to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the culprit for the "Zombie Apocalypse" craze. The videos often use pop culture as a hook to the scientific content, referencing Frozen, Gravity and Angelina Jolie.
Think of just about any topic even remotely related to science, and SciShow has probably done a video on it. Besides its breadth, what really makes this channel stand out is its presentation. Standing against a solid background with rotating graphics to supplement the content of the video, Green delivers his talks very quickly, leaving little space for air throughout the entirety of the video. The effect makes you want to take a breath, yet his straightforward, quirky and slightly awkward presentation style makes the videos invariably interesting very easy to follow along.
"You know, redheads take a lot of crap," Green says. "Not only do they fall prey to nicknames like Big Red Rusty and Daywalker, they also carry a rich history of misunderstanding on their frequently freckled shoulders."
After describing many of the stereotypes surrounding gingers (including the myth that redheads become vampires after death, and the common practice of slaughtering redheaded people for various purposes), Green points out that redheads may be misunderstood because redheads are relatively, but not critically, rare in the world's total population.
"Though certain countries like Ireland and Scotland seem to be hosting perpetual Weasley family reunions," Green quips.
Why should we care what some random guy on the internet has to say about science? As Green points out, the media will often skew science in favor of a catchy, attention-grabbing headline that is often inaccurate.
Conversely, Green attempts the opposite approach: simple reporting with a goal of accuracy. Green's style may be embellished, but he makes sure that the content is not. And on the whole, he appears to stay true to this philosophy.
"Naturally, the hole of the internet took the 'tl;dr' route and didn't bother reading what Hawking actually wrote" Green said, referencing a widespread misrepresentation of a paper and interview by physicist Stephen Hawking on the existence of black holes. "I understand that; that's what we're here for."
Green accomplishes something that many other science educators strive to do; he actually makes science fun, and relevant. And although some of Green's videos may be more adult- and teen-oriented in their content, there are just as many that are completely relatable to viewers of all ages.
No matter what your level of science interest is, I challenge you to find and watch just one SciShow video that you find interesting. If you're anything like me, you'll be hooked within the first ten seconds.