Wanna get dirty with me?
From star stuff to microscopic fluff to skin cells that slough while you’re in the buff, the universe of dust is curious enough to turn your mind into a cream puff.
May this week’s episode spread like dust on the wind.
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Ask Joe #3
This week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart features more soothing knowledge ointment for your burning sciencey questions. You’ll learn about vomit, if bananas and humans share DNA, what the heck “LUCA” means, why “c” is the speed limit of the universe, and what I think was the most important event in the history of life on Earth. Oh, and I share an inspirational message that I wish had made it on the Voyager Golden Record. Ah… if only.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions! Have a question? You can always send them to me here on Tumblr, catch me on Twitter (use the hashtag #AskJoe), leave a comment on the video page, or that good ol’ email business: itsokaytobesmart at gmail.com.
And how about those banana puns? Right?!
Will *you* accept the The Art Assignment?
PBS Digital Studios launched a brand new show today, The Art Assignment. It’s hosted by Sarah Urist Green and her husband (some guy named John Green?) and if the first episode is any indication, it is going to be awesome.
I’m really excited because not only does it dig into the lives and work of artists themselves, but the audience is invited to participate via the art assignments. I know that science can seem like a very analytical, uncreative endeavor sometimes, but I don’t think our process is that different from art, nor are we that different from artists. We both create new insight based on assembling influences and observations from the past, right? It’s so important to include creative experiences and arts education alongside STEM in order to fully hone the mind into a potent weapon of curiosity and creation, and I’m super-excited that the Greens are doing this.
So who wants to meet me in the middle?!
I realize that a lot of the people who watch and read It’s Okay To Be Smart might not regularly tune into the NPR show Marketplace, because one is about stock markets and economics and one is about science (mine’s the one about science). If you did tune in, though, then you got to hear me and Henry from MinutePhysics tonight (along with soundbites from Hank Green and Emily Graslie!), talking about the explosive rise of educational YouTube channels!
If you didn’t listen, that’s okay. I gotcha covered. Listen to it above!
After you’re done hearing me talk, head over and read the accompanying article on Marketplace’s website to see a rare behind-the-scenes photo of me shooting an episode of IOTBS.
Thank you to everyone who has made this trip from “grad student blogger” to “Ph.D. YouTube guy” possible. We’ve still got a lot of fun and interesting stuff to discover together.
Is Earth the only living needle in this haystack of planets?
We live in one of a hundred billion of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. And now, thanks to modern astronomy, we know that the Milky Way is home to perhaps a hundred billion planets! In the past two decades, these exoplanet discoveries have spawned new questions about our universe, and if there might be another Earth, or other life, somewhere out there.
In part one of my two-part series on exoplanets, we’ll look at how astronomers find exoplanets, and what it means to call them Earth-like. We also trace the history of planetary science back three thousand years and examine Earth’s changing status in the cosmos.
We were once the center of the universe, and now Earth is just another rock in the sky. What does that mean for us?
Behind the scenes shot from tomorrow’s IOTBS episode. It’s about space! And planets. Planets in space.
You know, for a biologist, I sure do love talking about space. That’s cool, though. “It’s okay to like every facet of science” is like my sub-motto. (Although naturally biology wins because it’s coolest … trufax, no argument, case closed).
Also, stop stop-motion, frame-by-frame animation takes forever. I now know why Pixar uses computers.
Emily asks "Where My Ladies At?”
Stop. Watch this.
The lack of women with STEM shows on YouTube is the nail, Emily Graslie is the hammer, and this video is the proverbial strike upon its head. There’s not much that I can say that Emily doesn’t say better, and truer, and from an emotional place of which I can only begin to imagine the outermost atoms of the outermost superficial shell.
Digging into how women are treated on YouTube taps into much larger issues, in STEM fields and society in general. But it’s also a very visible place to begin to make an impact and force change. I think I still fall into the “not knowing exactly how I fit in to this” category like she mentions. And I know there’s lots of people, male and female, who feel like that. But we’re here, we’re listening, and we have your back. That’s a start.
Head over to the video page to see a great list of female-led STEM YouTube channels in the description. Can’t wait to see that list grow.
New video: Ghosts of Evolution
There’s ghosts living in your grocery store. I promise. Just head over to the produce section and pick up a mango, papaya, or avocado.
There’s also gardens of ghosts lining the streets of New York City, same as hundreds of towns across the country. The ginkgo tree, known for its pungent, vomit-smelling seeds, holds ancient secrets dating from the age of the dinosaurs.
Check out my latest video to find out why these ghosts live on, discover that the ginkgo’s friends are all dead, and learn the answer to how an avocado is like a dodo.
Oh, and you’ll get to see an extinct giant ground sloth use an outhouse. That’s a YouTube first, I’m pretty sure.
As always, thanks for watching, and stay curious!
There’s a new scientific revolution on YouTube, where creators are explaining the extraordinary science at work in our ordinary lives.
Highly recommend this look at science educators on YouTube from Simon Owens. It features a conversation with our friends at ASAPScience and how they developed their particular approach to making science videos.
I think lots of science creators, YouTube and otherwise, draw our motivation and genesis from the same place. These are things that we already feel passionate about explaining and teaching, and we’ve been dropping science on our friends (whether they like it or not) and/or students for years. It’s a pretty natural step for us to do that online, because that’s the nexus of our lives.
There’s ever-fewer gatekeepers defining who gets a chance to make something and whose voice gets heard. We’ve gone from a one-to-many teacher-student relationship to a many-to-many everyone-is-a-teacher relationship. How ironic that science education is teaching people that the world really is flat.
I disagree with Simon on one thing, though. He writes that science shows on YouTube have gotten popular because of a greater pop culture trend, like Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Daily Show and the success of Mythbusters. I think anyone who watches TV knows that precisely the opposite is true. The outlets we once turned to for science and critical thinking now do stuff like this, and to them, “reality” is now a type of programming, not a thing to showcase or educate about.
Science on YouTube is so popular because people are genuinely curious and enjoy learning about the wondrous ways the world works. TV banked on underestimating people’s intelligence and disregarded any desire to use their brains. We’re trying to do the opposite. Who’s your money on?