Physicists Figured Out Details of Meteor Headed Toward Earth Through … YouTube Videos?

I often underestimate YouTube. But then something like this happens on there that actually makes me laugh so hard and makes me so, so happy. Or something like this happens wherein I have to give credit to YouTube for at least being a giant video receptacle bin available to anyone willing to dig through it: physicists, by studying hundreds of personal videos uploaded to YouTube of a 12,000-ton meteor that exploded over a 1.1 million person-populated Russian city, have figured all manner of things about the meteor, including that it was 30 times more powerful than the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima and also WHY THEY DIDN’T SEE IT COMING.

Look, if YouTube videos help physicists make sure I don’t find myself in some sort of “Deep Impact” situation in the near future, then yes, YouTube, I give you credit for being, as I said earlier, “a giant video receptacle bin available to anyone who wants to dig through it” — kind of like the celebrity trash cans that paparazzi are tempted to dig through — you might find a positive pregnancy test, but most likely you’re just going to find banana peels and cocaine particles.

NPR (disclaimer: I proudly work at NPR) reported on the story and said that aside from having been able to “estimate the power of that explosion, calculate the exact trajectory of the meteor and figure out why we didn’t see it coming,” scientists published two papers based partially on the video data in the journal “Nature.” YouTube, you done outdone yourselves this time around.

Watch the video above to see how science was crowdsourced through online video.

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