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But we’re not the only ones doing things right. One of the truly great things that’s come out of the last few years is the explosion of the short educational video. Such things predate the YouTube era, of course, but they were more likely to wind-up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 than to be sincerely recommended to — let alone willingly watched by — friends.
But thanks to the affordability of high-quality production equipment and the ease of publishing and peer-to-peer sharing available through YouTube and social media platforms, excellent videos can be disseminated easily to be enjoyed by millions. Obviously, there’s a great deal of schlock out there, but there are some real gems as well. And, being the internet, they’re available for free to anyone in possession of a tablet with an internet connection or USB port, a few minutes’ worth of attention, and little interest.
For example, this video on the Fermi Paradox (the apparent conundrum as to why we haven’t encountered alien intelligences given how widespread the conditions for life appear to be and the cosmic time scales involved) has been viewed more than 600,000 times since its publication two days ago:
Similarly, Phil Plait has produced a masterful “Crash Course” series on Astronomy (when Phil isn’t belittling everyone who expresses the slightest skepticism regarding global warming, he’s quite wonderful and charming):
On a more political note, Dennis Prager’s Pragertopia videos cover a variety of historical, political, philosophical, and theological subjects. Whether you’re a believer or not, his series on the Ten Commandments is a fascinating introduction and exploration of the matter:
Of course, this isn’t a peek into a new Uptopia. Trying to sort the wheat from the chaff remains a challenge, and it’s sometimes easy to mistake slick production for good thinking. And, obviously, anyone who thinks they know more than the bare essentials of a subject after watching a five minute video is being a fool in the extreme. But given that none of us have either the time or inclination to become experts in everything, the fact that it’s never been easier to get solid, entertaining introductions to a variety of subjects really is rather wonderful.