5 Video Blogs for Smart People

I’m still testing out some new products, but in the meantime, I thought I might go off topic a little bit and talk about something that I find a lot of fun.  Video blogs.

Because if you visit this site, it’s probably because, like me, you have a healthy curiosity about things.  And if you have a healthy curiosity about things, you’d probably appreciate what I’m about to share as much as I do.

Lately I’ve gotten into – and when I say “gotten into”, I mean somewhat obsessed by – video blogs.  There are a number of really smart people doing some really fun and interesting things on YouTube that, with a click of the subscribe button, you can get access to on a daily basis.  So I’m going to share my favorites with you.

These guys do some amazing, eye-opening work and in many cases, lead really awesome lives that I’d kill to emulate.

Watch the video blogs below, and if you find them interesting and informative, click their links over to YouTube and check out their other offerings.  Just get ready to lose mountains of productivity.


5. Smarter Every Day Video Blogs

This is one of the smartest video blogs out there. The host is a guy named Destin, who is the perfect combination of Bill Nye the Science Guy and the kid you knew in school who was always blowing stuff up with firecrackers.

(On a side note, I live in Texas, and one of the really great things about Texas that a lot of people don’t think about is that while it’s home to untold millions of rednecks, it’s also home to NASA.  And when you get down close to Houston, you start to run into some of the smartest people in the world who speak with some of the thickest accents you’ve ever heard.  While his accent isn’t that thick, Destin makes me think of that.)

Destin has an impressive array of super-slow-motion cameras and makes videos on all kinds of topics and brings them to you in a way that is both fascinating and broadens your understanding of the world, allowing you to make connections that you otherwise never would have.  For instance, in the video above, he uses slow-motion footage of falling cats to explain how they always land on their feet and how the same principle will be used on the James Webb Space Telescope to focus its instruments on stars billions of light-years away.

He’s also brought videos from Machu Pichu in South America and Germany and other places, and never misses an opportunity to shoot slow-mo video of something exploding.  He’s a lot of fun and clearly loves what he’s doing, while managing to remain educational.


4. A Show with Ze Frank

If you look up “internet famous” in the dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture of Ze Frank.

He gained a huge following several years ago with The Show with Ze Frank, a video blog where he literally posted a new video every single day, often with songs and observations on the news of the day.  He also leveraged his massive audience (whom he called “Sports Racers”) to collaborate on all kinds of interesting projects, like his famous “If the World Was A Sandwich” project, where he created a program to find two points on complete opposite sides of the Earth, where the goal was to get pictures of two slices of bread on the ground in those exact positions at the same time – effectively making the Earth into a sandwich.  And yes, they succeeded.

And that was all before YouTube.

After taking a few years off, Ze came back with A Show with Ze Frank (as opposed to THE Show), which has been different from the first one in that he doesn’t post every day (and I haven’t heard the term Sports Racers, come to think of it), but he still encourages participation from his audience, letting them record his intro and outros to each episode and assorted projects like his recent goal to have everyone submit some sound with which a song was made out of it, and then a video from assorted video clips.

He’s also brought in contributors like Lee Hall, who animates the dreams that the audience submits, and Stephan Bucher, who solves people’s problems.


3. C.G.P. Grey Video Blogs

Watch this video to get a fascinating look at the City of London, which is not at all what you think it is.

If there weren’t already a Mythbusters, this guy would be it.

C.G.P. Grey makes videos that bust misconceptions, present information you never knew existed, and basically makes you think of things that you never thought you needed to think about.  All with clever and simple animation and images that bring the subject to life in fun and interesting ways.  His style is the perfect combination of humor and information, with a minimalist animation that gets the point across without being showy.

He doesn’t post all that regularly (though it’s not like he goes months without posting), and I don’t know that much about the guy himself (only that he prefers his anonymity), so I can’t write as much about him as other people, all I can say is that whenever a new video is posted, I watch it IMMEDIATELY.  And I’ve never been disappointed.


2. Minute Physics

MinutePhysics is the science teacher you wish you had.

Henry Reich of MinutePhysics takes complex physics questions and breaks them down into understandable chunks with simple hand-drawn animations and a cool jazz bass line playing in the background.

He bounces from extremely complex topics like the Higgs Boson to questions you may not have ever considered like Usain Bolt vs. Gravity (in other words, which is faster, an object falling at terminal velocity or the world’s fastest sprinter).

His explanations don’t shy away from the technical stuff that’s probably beyond most of his audience, but like any good teacher, he’s able to explain the highly technical stuff in ways that make sense, leaving you feeling quite a bit smarter by the end of each segment and with more than a few “A-ha!” moments.


1. Vlogbrothers

If you’re going to discuss video blogs, you can’t avoid discussing the number one all-time undefeated heavyweight champion of video blogging, John and Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers.

These guys were on the forefront of video blogging from the early days of YouTube and have been posting at least 2 videos a week for over 5 years, for a grand total of just over 1000 videos.

John is an Amazon bestselling author of books like An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska, and Hank is a web entrepreneur, musician, and overall smart guy.  The videos started as a way for them to communicate back and forth with each other as Hank lives in Montana and John somewhere on the East Coast (I think), and over time it’s evolved into a web sensation.

They have hundreds of thousands of subscribers (who call themselves “Nerdfighters”) who are active in supporting and participating in videos and projects that the brothers have started, including a charity called This Star Won’t Go Out, dedicated to a Nerdfighter named Esther who died of cancer.

Their manifesto is to “Increase the awesome and decrease the suck.”  And that’s exactly what they do.

Their overwhelming popularity has spawned a couple of spinoff projects like Hank’s Sci Show video series:

And the Crash Course video series that they do together, with John tacking World History and Hank discussing Biology.

The only downside to the Vlogbrothers is that you will literally lose entire days watching their entertaining and informative videos.  I’m not kidding.  With 1000 videos in their stream, at around 4 minutes each, they’ve produced almost three solid days worth of content.  It can be really hard to stop watching.  And that’s just the Vlogbrothers channel, not counting their spinoffs.  You’ve been warned.


Special Mention:

One last thing, and this may be a little self-serving, but hey, sometimes you’ve gotta pimp yourself a little bit…

I have my own video blog that’s still in its infancy, but it’s finding a groove.  It’s called Ask Joe, and in it, I answer questions from viewers and add a bit of my own musings into the mix.  For those who don’t know, I have a film/video background and created this video blog to put that to good use.

There are literally hundreds of great video blogs out there, VSauce, Veritasium, Sixty Symbols, and Vihart just to name a few.  They’re definitely worth checking out, but didn’t make this list because I’m just not quite as obsessed with those as I am with these.

So, I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I do, they’ll go a long way to relieving stress (which could reduce your canker sores – I had to bring it all around somehow) and increasing your accumulation of knowledge, some more useful than others.

PS: A Cankerboy video blog is in the works as well, so be on the lookout for those!

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