A guided tour of overlooked assumptions

You know we’ve been recommending sites and YouTube channels in casual settings that pique our curiosity in recent months. Today we shine the spotlight on one more amazing source of understanding, perspective, and fun for your spare moments. This one makes a veritable habit of turning assumptions on their head. Who says there’s nothing worth seeing on the Internets?

Look no further than Veritasium, yet another one of those mind-expanding, world-exploring YouTube offerings you may have already run across at some point. Award-winning science communicator Derek Muller goes back to revisit things we might have overlooked to expose the faulty, wondrous, and counter-intuitive all around us. That his work finds an audience on so many different media outlets speaks to the variety of topics he focuses on, and to his ability to resonate with things everyone cares about.

I’m your vehicle, baby

Muller is famous for reaching out to interview regular people about their intuition on the subject at hand, and for getting literally hands-on, sometimes risking life and limb, in search of “an element of truth,” as the channel’s name implies. More often, it’s a satisfying, no-holds-barred, no-loose-ends look into the often unexpected truth of the matter. Witness his jumping in the driver’s seat to defend his $10,000 wager that a wind-powered vehicle could defy physics and outrun the wind (The answer, my friend, was yes).

Or hopping on a barely (at turns completely un-) steerable bike to question our assumptions about a common object and challenge what we think we know about what keeps us from falling on our face. One thing we didn’t know we didn’t know is how bicycles actually work. Who knew?

Viewers’ comments, in this case on settling the wind vehicle debate, also show the value of what these presentations achieve:

A respectful and intelligent discussion. Haven’t seen this (normal) behaviour since some years. Very nice. “If I’m wrong, I want to understand”

…everyone wins through civil, evidence-based scientific debate

In something of a recurring theme in these sharings, Muller has been active with Veritasium all through the 2010s, and into the 20s with foot firmly on the accelerator. You may be among the over 1.5 billion views racked up in that time without even knowing it. Yeah, he was that guy who had to know about the 96 million balls in the reservoir. Then he took the ultimate plunge to get to the bottom of it.

Let’s get bored

Or, if you watched it way back, why not return to the infamous slew of Slinky drops? Or catch some cross-country controversy and collaboration with Smarter Every Day’s Destin Sandlin?

And it’s not just within the traditional realm of science that Derek plies his trade. Any aspect of human experience is fair game, even doing nothing at all. To that end, he finds that boredom can be good for you. Maybe it’s the same idea as a simple cardboard box fostering more creativity in a child than some technicolor fancypants contraption. And finally, as a prospective tie-in to our own game, check out the expansive paradoxical world of Penrose tiles. We’ve long imagined spelling out words in its infinitely irregular plane. Talk about never having the same game twice.


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