Is time travel really possible? Does hydrogen make a sound? Why is the universe expanding, and why is it accelerating? How does the sun actually work?
Yeah… right away I knew this is my kind of series—intellectually stimulating and yet accessible and concise. One Minute Physics is one of its names, though officially known on YouTube as just Minute Physics, it quickly illustrates findings at the forefront of academic physics in a curt, breezy one-minute-plus format.
The weekly series, which launched in June, comes from the hands of creator Henry Reich, a producer with an unlikely mix of Physics scholar and production veteran. And the two fields aren’t just casual interests, Reich earned two degrees in Physics, one at Grinnell College and then a Masters at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics before leaving Canada and heading to Los Angeles to go after an MFA in Film Production at USC. (Side note: check out Reich’s festival-winning Star Wars student film.)
To distribute the series, Reich has a distribution partnership with New Scientist magazine that is fairly open—it selects episodes to run for its readers—but the minutephysics YouTube channel isn’t just a passive re-posting, it’s a fully breathing life of its own. Reich has grown the channel to over 32,000 subscribers in just over three months, and total views at just shy of 2 million. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular videos is in fact a cat video, but at least we’re talking Schrödinger’s Cat.
After devouring the entire library of videos on the channel (there are 16 total right now), I had to ask Reich a few questions, and ultimately, make sure he plans on making many, many more.
Tubefilter: What sparked this idea to craft the series?
Henry Reich: I had a lot of fun giving a few public lectures after I finished my masters, and I was somewhat inspired by RSAnimate, xkcd, and Khan Academy – I thought one thing none of them did was present an educational topic in a concise video, with an artistic sensibility, AND have the drawings contribute additional content to the video. Some do one or two… but not all three.
Tubefilter: You have a unique background of physics and production, was this matchup inevitable at some point?
Reich: I suppose so… though I didn’t really think this is how it would be playing out. I’ve always imagined making films that are guided and informed by science, not necessarily with the explicit purpose of education. I’m definitely having fun with it, though!
Tubefilter: How does the partnership with New Scientist TV work?
Reich: It’s really fun and open – New Scientist lets me know which videos they’re interested in, and I send them over.
Tubefilter: How many videos do you plan on making at this point?
Reich: As long as I can keep going! There’s so much depth to physics and math that content will never be the limiting factor – just time, and people’s interest in watching.
Tubefilter: How has the response been so far from the academic community?
Reich: From what I’ve heard, I would say fairly good. Last week’s video was in collaboration with Sean Carroll of Caltech and he’s promoted some of my other videos on twitter. I’ve also had social media support from Terence Tao and Neil deGrasse Tyson, so I can’t complain there. I really want to focus Minutephysics as much on modern physics and current research as on traditional high school or college classroom physics, so it’s really important to be in touch with working physicists.
To be sure, this is not the first online series to take a stab at making complicated science more accessible to the masses. 2009’s Sixty Symbols broke down physics and astronomy . It was even a follow-up to creator Martyn Poliakoff’s Periodic Table of Videos.