YouTube’s Vsauce Has The Special Ingredients to Make Science Viral [INTERVIEW]

Life always makes us ponder some interesting questions. For example, have you ever wondered if you’re actually looking at the color yellow on your computer screen?

Host Michael Stevens has the answer as he tries to break it down to viewers in a video on the Vsauce YouTube channel. He uses the lowly lemon as an example, being “subtractively yellow” — it absorbs all visible light wavelengths except yellow. While Stevens knows that he is seeing yellow light as he’s holding the lemon, the viewer is seeing a “fake yellow” since computer screens produce only red, green and blue light.

With more than 5 million views in just three days of its September release, it’s no wonder that his breakdown of questions like “What is really yellow?” are gaining a foothold on YouTube. It’s clear that the Vsauce channel is reaping the rewards of viral appeal and video views.

The Vsauce channel focuses heavily on science and educational programming, but Stevens, a London-based YouTube employee with previous stints at humor websites like Barely Political, uses quirky humor and visual appeal to make these subjects appealing to a wider audience. For those reasons, Vsauce recently reached a milestone with more than 1 million subscribers.

On reaching the 1 million subscribers mark, Stevens explains to NMR by email: “Vsauce’s audience is a testament to how hungry people are to learn and how excited they are to share what they’ve discovered. What I think works so well on Vsauce is simply showing that a silly or mundane topic can quickly become mind-blowing if you look closer, read a lot, and let your curiosity go crazy.”

When it’s production time, coming up with ideas for a Vsauce video requires viewer input and what he’s learned from his college days.

Stevens explains:

“Every time I hear something that blows my mind I look through my ideas to see if it fits any of them. When an idea has enough content, it’s ready to get written up (with wacky segues) and made into a video!”

Even though asking questions about the color yellow and weapons in space has caught the attention of millions of viewers, Stevens wasn’t always talking about science on YouTube. When Stevens began the channel after the 2008 election, it focused on video game culture. Although many of his videos during his gamer days garnered a respectable amount of views, he admits he wasn’t great at talking about the latest Xbox 360 or Playstation games.

He says: “I decided to make videos about things I knew better like psychology and physics and it worked! Doing what I was good at and sharing the things I was most excited about was the best move I ever made on Vsauce.”

His passion for psychology and physics have worked wonders on YouTube. While his “This Is Not Yellow” video has gained massive viewership in less than 72 hours, it doesn’t hold a candle to his 6 million-viewed video released two weeks ago asking the question: “What If Everyone JUMPED At Once?” In the video, he explains that the Earth at the equator spins at 1,000 miles per hour. One person jumping out of the billions living on Earth won’t make a difference to the Earth’s rotation.

He explains further in the video: “We’re all awesome people here on Earth, but our collective mass compared to the mass of the entire Earth? It’s like nothing.”

Although deciphering science and psychology for the masses is his passion, Stevens hasn’t given up on video games completely. Vsauce has recently spawned a more gaming-oriented channel called Vsauce3.

Videos from Vsauce and other science-oriented channels on YouTube have made science more accessible to a wider audience. These channels may not have all the answers to science’s pressing question, but they sure won’t bore us to death with the details.

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