Nerdy topics for the lay person, video edition
August 2, 2023 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently not working for health reasons and can't do much physical activity either. One thing I am able to do is enjoy learning new nerdy topics on YouTube. Help me out with more recommendations?

What I've enjoyed has been a fairly specific genre of video. They are
* Someone who is an expert with deep knowledge in a particular field
* Who produces content for the (reasonably well educated) lay person
* Without me having to pay money for it
* In a video series
* Where the individual episodes are fairly short, half an hour absolute max
* Bonus points for episodes that have the same form every time, like "explain this medical mystery", "discuss this plane crash" or "build this gizmo"
* Also bonus points if it has to do with the solving of problems or mysteries in the person's field.

I'm not looking for reaction videos, clickbait and outrage, challenges, or people who know a superficial amount about a whole bunch of things.

Examples of things I already enjoy include
* Bernadette Banner
* Simone Giertz
* Nerdforge (building cool art/craft projects)
* Mentour Pilot and his air crash series
* Violin MD on medicine
* Simon Roper talking about linguistics
* Old Bon Appetit content, like the "replicate this commercial snack" series
* Pasta Grannies

I'd be really happy with content that's not in English so long as it has subtitles, and it absolutely doesn't have to be confined to the topics above.

Any ideas?
posted by quacks like a duck to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Sabine Hossenfelder on physics and other science-related topics
posted by alex1965 at 7:36 AM on August 2, 2023

Best answer: Max Feinstein is an anesthesiology resident at a big NYC hospital who has done a whole series of videos explaining various aspects of anesthesiology procedure and practice. The hospital appears to have agreed to let him show actual working spaces (though not patients, of course), so they can be quite detailed.
posted by praemunire at 7:43 AM on August 2, 2023

Best answer: Simone Giertz's pal Laura Kampf.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:52 AM on August 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hard to go wrong with Technology Connections if you're looking for nerdy things explained well.

I can also recommend Engineering Explained for automotive engineering.

The History Guy for well-told and interesting historical stories.

Engineer Guy for a more academic discussion of engineering topics.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nicole Rudolph talks about historic dress in great depth

BaumgartnerRestoration Julian Baumgartner is a very eloquent 2nd generation professional restorer of fine art
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2023

Best answer: Billy Matsunaga is very knowledgeable about traditional Japanese garments and all things kimono related
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a job for Kurzgesagt! I just read his book on The Immune System and I feel so smart now.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:33 AM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Look for Vanity Fair Techinque Critique videos. Eg: CIA expert critiques movie disguises
Wired has a bunch of good ones, too.
Movie Therapy is good if you are interested in movie relationships.
posted by Enid Lareg at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not a carpenter, or really very handy, and I enjoyed following along as a general contractor built a house, explaining the process: Spec House playlist from Essential Craftsman
posted by cmerrill at 8:54 AM on August 2, 2023

Enid mentioned Wired; their Levels series is good, especially this one on drumming, which I first saw on
posted by cmerrill at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2023

If you like Pasta Grannies, you might enjoy Afternoons with Baba.
posted by Lescha at 9:02 AM on August 2, 2023

Best answer: I find Practical Engineering very interesting, despite not knowing much about engineering. Most of the episodes are of the format "How does this work?" or "Why did this collapse?"
posted by justkevin at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

The Victoria and Albert museum have a wide range of Curator talks about different items in their collection, with an emphasis on clothing/costume. I started on the talk about this Ballet Russe Salome costume
posted by theweasel at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

How about some:

Urbanism: Not Just Bikes (what makes cities pleasant and livable or hellish to navigate)
Deadpan urbanism: CityNerd (droll 15-minute episodes explaining why North American cities are badly designed)
Big vehicles: Calum (obsessive investigations into strange old vehicles: nuclear-powered trains, flying homes, etc.)
Spanish traditional crafts: Eugenio Monesma (more than 40 years of documentary videos about every kind of traditional craft in Spain)
posted by Mournful Bagel Song at 9:37 AM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ask A Mortician
Mercury Stardust, a self-described trans handy ma'am; some of her videos are longer than 30 mins but may be of interest anyway
posted by wicked_sassy at 9:54 AM on August 2, 2023 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Miniminuteman for archaeology/anthropology
Lindsay Nikole for ancient creatures
SerpaDesign for aquarium and paludarium building
Ask A Mortician (sadly not as active recently but she's got a great backlog) for... death stuff
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:54 AM on August 2, 2023

Summoning Salt's video essays about the history of old videogame speedruns are fascinating—he starts back in Speedrunning Prehistory (which is... the early 2000s, when people would record their games on VHS and mail the playthrough in) and talks about all the crazy techniques and tricks people have discovered to drive the fastest time down.

Ben Taylor's Greatest NBA Peaks series fits your criteria to a T—he's done some incredibly thorough charting of old basketball games to learn more about the best basketball players of all time. Might be a little over your head at first if you are not familiar with basketball but he's very good at explaining things and you'll learn a ton. Whenever he's talking about something a player is uniquely good at he's highlighting the player, circling him to show how he moves, etc., and explaining why most guys can't do it.
posted by Polycarp at 10:05 AM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Chubby Emu and his more nerdy in-depth series, Heme Review. Medical related, mostly toxicology.
posted by kathrynm at 10:24 AM on August 2, 2023

Dylan Beattie has a bunch of very layperson-accessible (I am not a tech person) lectures on interesting techy topics. They are all over various conference youtube channels, but a search for his name usually works. I especially recommend this one on plain text.

Also suckerpinch/Tom7 has some awesome videos on all kinds of weird, nerdy topics that don't assume loads of background knowledge.
posted by Dysk at 10:42 AM on August 2, 2023

Best answer: Just came across Dave Huxtable, language/pronunciation maven
posted by staggernation at 12:07 PM on August 2, 2023

Best answer: Some saved playlists I have:
* The Secret Life of Machines
* Rebuilding Tally-Ho
* A History of Ideas
* The Making (Japanese "How It's Made" type of show) - Episodes 1-150, 151-323
* The Economics Of
* Building a Medieval/Iron Age Roundhouse
* Crash Course Black American History
* Rules of Sports Explained
* Building an 8-bit Breadboard Computer
* Game Console Security (by Modern Vintage Gamer)
posted by hankscorpio83 at 12:12 PM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: And from my subscriptions:
* South Main Auto channel focuses on the more interesting problem solving aspects of car repair.
* Numberphile, Computerphile, and Objectivity
* The History Guy
* Clickspring entirely, but at least Machining The Antikythera Mechanism
* Stuff Made Here
* Veritasium

And seconding Baumgartner Restoration, Essential Craftsman, Practical Engineering, Technology Connections, and Summoning Salt.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 12:31 PM on August 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

Someone introduced me to Dr. Angela Collier's youtube channel recently and I've been enjoying her videos. She has a conversational and unpolished delivery, but the content is well structured and easy to follow, so the effect is like getting coffee with your physicist friend who's good at explaining things. Some of the videos are about topics in physics, others are about academia, and the most recent video was about Lord of the Rings. If you're looking for a place to start, in this video she talks about the decades of hype that propped up string theory and why that was a bad thing while playing Binding of Isaac.
posted by jomato at 2:56 PM on August 2, 2023

I came to say plus-one to Clickspring and the Antikythera Mechanism series
posted by bug138 at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2023

You might like Chronicle’s Tudor-era re-enactments of monastery and farm life. They’re re-enactments in the sense that um they aren’t Tudor era farmers but they demonstrate planting/harvesting crops, making food of all kinds, animal husbandry, building, book making, so much cool stuff. Why You Wouldn’t Survive Life As A Medieval Peasant Farmer
posted by tatiana wishbone at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2023

These might veer too far into “knowledgeable on a lot of topics” but I’d also check out Tom Scott, as well as Wendover Productions and their sister channel, Half as Interesting. Also perhaps look into content by Hank and John Green?

Finally, I know you said you wanted free, but I really think you’d like Nebula. Its a video platform started by Youtubers who wanted to makes videos the algorithm wouldnt like/promote/monetize, and they have a ton of content I think would scratch this itch. Even if you can’t find a promo code, its only $5/month.

Apologies for the lack of links but im on my phone.
posted by cgg at 6:44 PM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

The New Yankee Workshop
posted by sdrawkcab at 8:09 PM on August 2, 2023

PBS Spacetime.

Also, thanks for this question - lots of new stuff for me to watch here!
posted by inexorably_forward at 10:12 PM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Rohin Francis, London UK cardiologist runs Medlife Crisis with his skeptical hat on. Funny
August Hunicke, Oregan arborist solves tree problems aloft and alow. Good team work.
Mark Felton, Norwich UK historian of WWII and adjacent topics.
Arizona geologist talks a lot about volcanoes and tsunamis on GeologyHub.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:53 AM on August 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Ben Eater has a few series where he builds computers or video cards from first principles. Very informative with a very chill delivery.
posted by Uncle at 5:52 AM on August 3, 2023

Best answer: Two of my current favorites:
  • Hikma History. In the creator's words: "If you want to learn about Islamic civilisation's incredible past from a non-religious perspective, this is the channel for you!" Emphasis on the areas formerly part of the Ottoman Empire as well as what are now India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
  • Let's Talk Religion: "This channel aims to educate on the subject of religion from an academic perspective and to open up for informed discussions on the subject." Much rich material on Islam, especially Shi'a and Sufi perspectives, about which a balanced examination can be very hard to find.

posted by rabia.elizabeth at 7:07 AM on August 3, 2023

BPS Space Joe Barnard's amateur rocketry channel.
Xyla Foxlin Mix of boatbuilding, woodworking, amateur rocketry, and general aviation.
Curious Marc Restoring vintage electronics (the Apollo Guidance Computer series in particular is great).
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:21 AM on August 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Ancient Americas perhaps? Videos are longer but can be split into two sessions.
posted by The Adventure Begins at 11:03 AM on August 3, 2023

A friend and I have had a fun year delving into the world of jigsaw puzzle YouTube and competitive puzzling. I particularly recommend Karen Puzzles, For the Love of Puzzles, The Puzzled Mandy, The Casual Puzzler, and Puzzlephile. As a bonus, jigsaw puzzles are a fun and non-strenuous activity you might be able to do!
posted by Threeve at 7:10 PM on August 6, 2023

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