Over the last 8 months, I have been exploring Physics. And I have explored and learnt most of the things from YouTube videos. The topics include Linear Algebra, basics of Special Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and many more. I was greatly amazed by the way YouTubers deliver the content, and how most of the learning becomes fun. The enthusiasm of fellow learners is reflected in the comment section of the videos and in sub-reddit posts. YouTube has been a great platform for people with great teaching skills and knowledge make a huge impact. In this blog, I wish to talk types of Science YouTubers and their role in an individual’s learning, like mine.
Obviously, the classification is not a strict one. There are YouTubers, which belong to both category. But I am mentioning the examples, based on the majority of the videos, that I have watched. Basically, you can consider it as a classification of Science YouTube videos rather than Science YouTubers.
1. Amazing Summarizers
There are many topics outside which are difficult to grasp when you read them or hear it in a lecture. This type of YouTubers summarize it in a well understandable way, with cool animations and helpful analogies. They save a lot of time. Things that we understand by re-reading different articles can be understood simply by watching their videos. Some of the amazing Summarizers are Up and Atom, Arvin Ash and PBS Space Time. It is from these videos, that one gets a broader understanding of topic and most importantly, it establishes curiosity in one’s mind. Because, by very nature the aim of these videos is to let audience be aware of new and amazing things in the field. Anyone can watch and enjoy them. Mostly, these videos don’t assume any background.
These videos serve the role of introducing a topic in an exciting and interesting way. If you are lucky enough that one of such videos is recommended by YouTube’s algorithm, do watch it! It might be beginning of amazing journey of learning something new.
2. Valuable Insight Providers
There are some niche topics, which have a very dry explanation in the academic textbooks or might be boring when we hear them in a lecture. But sometimes these topics turn out to be of great importance(eg Fourier Transform, Gradients, Linear Algebra). Proper understanding of these topics is essential to learn other important topics in Science. It is here that our Valuable insight providers come to rescue. As I have put the name, these YouTubers provide a valuable insight that is rarely found in most of the conventional resources. Sometimes, I am amazed on how these YouTubers come up with these insights! Mostly, it seems to me that their insight is a result of their past experience or thorough knowledge in the field.
For example, consider Fourier Transform. The Fourier Transform is an algorithm of great importance. But sometimes, it is just introduced as a tool to shift basis. Hardly, any intuition is provided in most of the resources. I am sure, you will be amazed on watching the 3blue1brown’s video on Fourier Transform. Explaining Fourier Transform with the idea of winding a wave in a circle and locating it’s center of mass, wow! The video is also visually pleasing to watch. More than Fourier Transform, what excited me the most was Linear Algebra playlist by 3blue1brown. I still don’t know from where Grant got the idea that a 2x2 matrix can correspond to a Linear transformation, and how the linear transformation can be visualized on a 2D plane and the idea that 2x2 matrix can be thought as 2 “new” basis vectors stacked side by side, but it is amazing! I have noticed the effectiveness of this explanation personally. Previously, if I wanted to perform transformations after changing basis, I would try to recollect the formula like $JAJ^-1$ or something similar(I don’t even remember what the terms mean!). But after few months, when I was faced with such a problem of applying transformations alongside changing basis, I couldn’t recollect the formula. So, I tried solving the problem from first principles, instead of bothering about formula and what is given in the question. And, I had solved it by using the basic idea that a 2x2 matrix corresponds to Linear Transformation. It was an amazing moment for me! (here is a pic from my assignment)
Another YouTube channel, who provides valuable insight is Nick’s channel Science Asylum. The channel is filled with Physics videos, where Nick provides an amazing insight into some of the most confusing and misunderstood topics. For example, the uncertainty principle. At first, to a beginner it sounds as if its a technological limitation which is the cause of uncertainty. But when you dig deep, one understands, that it is inevitable due to probabilistic nature of Quantum Mechanics. Nick explains that really well in this video, with nearly no mathematics!
It is from these YouTubers, that we learn to appreciate the beauty in subtleties of Science.
So, we have YouTubers, who can introduce to a new topic and create enough interest in you to explore more. And there are YouTubers to help you out with understanding of Niche topics and provide beautiful insights, which help you keep your learning journey exciting. So, what do we need more?
I am greatly intrigued by the book - Peak by Andres Ericsson, the famous book on expertise. The book introduces the idea of deliberate practice, a form of practice which includes - specific goals, focused attention, getting a feedback, pushing out of comfort zone. Once someone has learnt a topic from YouTube, there should be some platform, where the learner can test his/her understanding. MIT OCW understands it well. They open source the assignments along with the Tests too, so that the learner gets a feedback of his/her understanding. It is very common in Science to feel that you have understood the topic after watching a lecture or a video. But to make sure, if one has really understood the topic or just has become familiar with the terms, a feedback system is necessary. Some good resources like QCVC - Quantum Computing for the very curious and course.fast.ai have included Questions periodically to help learners to test their understanding. In future, I hope that more learning resources will come up, where feedback systems are embedded implicitly.(Something like this maybe - Universe in Problems)
In this era, where conventional resources, mostly focus on feeding information to the learner, we are lucky to have YouTube and other Free Open platforms on web, which provide a great value to independent learners and curious people.