I’ve been distracted by YouTube a lot over the past few months. When I’m too tired to write and don’t feel like reading, sometimes I like to waste time watching old SNL skits, though most of them are so dumb I end up feeling worse than before I started, and then I feel guilty for wasting time on top of it.
Fortunately, when I stay on YouTube long enough, following recommendation after recommendation based on what I’ve viewed, eventually I find some gems. In the past few months, I’ve been watching amateur scientists do backyard experiments. Most of the experiments are done knowing ahead of time exactly what will happen, but in many cases the specific details are new and they are adding to the general knowledge of the world.
The Backyard Scientist explodes melons with molten salt or casts delightfully artistic sculptures by pouring molten aluminum into them. He also works on a lot of mechanical projects. My favorite video is his explanation of how he made a Nerf dart break the sound barrier.
The Slow Mo Guys use a powerful slow-motion camera to capture extremely brief events, such as the shattering of a Pyrex cup, the spinning apart of a record, the overinflating of a football, the collision of fruit with other fruit, and the driving of a truck into a bridge. They have also created a fire tornado, played tennis with jelly, explained how a television works, and dropped ink into water to watch how it dispersed. Very pretty!
The King Of Random plays with dry ice, gallium, tastes gross stuff, boils kinetic sand, and makes art from milk and soap or by mixing superglue and baking soda.
The Action Lab is probably the best in this category. His videos are the most polished, he explains the science behind everything, and he carefully measures his results so that something is learned. He teaches chemistry, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, how to make very dark spots, how the brain perceives colors that don’t exist, checks whether spiders get dizzy, cooks with sound, tries to take the color out of Coke, and explains why you can’t melt wood. My favorite video – and definitely the coolest thing I have seen all year – is his attempt to make black fire.
In addition to these four channels, there are many others who do less precise experiments, with little foreplanning, research, or followup. Their experiments are less scientific but no less fun.
How Ridiculous drops objects from tall places onto other objects to see what it takes to break them and which object is toughest. They have dropped anvils, bowling balls, bicycles, and armchairs onto trampolines, bulletproof glass, and oobleck (a non-Newtonian fluid made from cornstarch and water). They also do dart tricks and play around with the magnus effect (the reason that spinning objects moving through a medium feel a sideways force).
Jogwheel asks, “Is it a good idea to microwave this?” Usually the answer is no. They have microwaved eggs, glowsticks, and compact disks. This is the only channel of this type I was aware of before this year and I went back for nostalgia reasons. They no longer upload on a regular basis.
Sometimes I just want to see something destroyed – and who doesn’t love a satisfying crunch? There are many channels to serve this function and I am sure I have not found them all. They are also very similar to each other to the point that one could probably claim trademark infringement. Most of the hosts do not show their faces or speak and they play the same music while objects are destroyed. They use the same shredding machine often. They often replay the same event from different angles, including from below, and have slow-motion capability. The videos will be labeled as featuring one thing, but then be compilations between ten and twenty minutes long featuring multiple things.
MrGear not only uses a shredding machine, but also sulfuric acid, liquid nitrogen, hot knives, and the infamous thousand-degree metal ball. Watermelons and Nutella jars are favorite objects of his wrath. He also posts many videos showing how to build various things in unconventional ways with limited supplies. He posts crafts, pranks, magic tricks, life hacks (some better than others), and creative ways to tie shoelaces.
Life Hacks & Experiments feeds his shredding machine with toys, food, batteries, bullets, and household items. He also uses a chainsaw, waffle iron, thousand-degree metal ball, hydraulic press (heated and unheated), and hydraulic guillotine. He posts life hacks too.
The Crusher uses many of the same tools to destroy many of the same types of things, plus he will also play the video in reverse to show things come back together. Gojzer does the same. Experiment At Home does the same. Collectively, they destroy pencils, pens, Rubik’s cubes, lighters, phones, a VHS tape, an (American) football, a bowling ball, breakfast cereal, crackers, and Orbeez. Will It Survive? has fewer videos than the others, my favorite of which is Jawbreaker Meets Blowtorch.
It was in watching these videos that I was first exposed to the term ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Apparently, just as most people feel an unpleasant tingly feeling when nails are dragged across a chalkboard, some people feel a pleasant tingly feeling when hearing whispering, crunching, or other sounds, or watch something very repetitive and methodical. It is believed to have therapeutic properties. Unfortunately, it seems to have no effect on me.
Interestingly, there are those who associate the feeling-inducing videos with sexual eroticism, though there are others who deny any connection. It just goes to show that pornography is very hard to define and what might be pornography to one person can be totally devoid of such associations to another. I have also heard for the first time this year the terms “food porn” and “inspiration porn,” which further dilute the definition into total meaninglessness.
Press Tube does a lot of metal casting and also uses a kinetic press to destroy things, meaning he drops a large weight from a tall height. He has also fed his shredding machine real lava!
The best in this category is Hydraulic Press Channel. It is run by a husband-wife team from Finland who place objects under a hydraulic press and crush them. They are the cutest couple ever and bring a huge amount of enthusiasm to everything they do. They have exploded wood and ball bearings. They have made a knife out of compressed toilet paper and a frying pan from compressed aluminum foil. Using a piston head with extrusion holes in it, they have turned hair into powder, gummy bears into gummy worms, found the fastest way to make salsa and coleslaw, unmixed oobleck, and made beautiful worms out of soap, crayons, ballistic gelatin, play dough, and candles.
They also have a second channel called Beyond The Press, on which they seem to like to blow things up. It is just as good. They have a third channel called Anni Vuohensilta, on which they vlog about their life. They are fun people.
Sometimes I’m happy that I wasted time.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.