Tuesday, May 11, 2021

What We’re Watching: Kurzgesagt Explores Big Questions with Bite-Size Videos

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Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell animated YouTube channel

If you’re the type who’s always scouring the internet looking for something interesting to read, you were also probably the type of kid who was always pestering your parents and teachers with enormous questions like “Is reality real?” or “What if we detonated all nuclear bombs at once?” Lucky for you, Kurzgesagt is here to answer these questions and more.

Although its title is difficult to pronounce, Kurzgesagt simply means “in a nutshell” in German. The sciencey YouTube channel uses stylized animations alongside its educational narrative to discuss difficult topics in its videos, which each average about ten minutes. However, many of Kurzgesagt’s videos have a tendency to induce existential dread, but they’re worth watching anyway for the amazing knowledge they offer.

The channel has playlists entitled “The Universe and Space Stuff,” “The Existential Crisis Playlist,” “Futurism,” and “Medicine & Biology” among others, so there’s plenty of videos to enjoy, exploring topics from science and technology to politics and philosophy. Clearly, Kurzgesagt understands the massive scope of the universe and everything in it. But instead of shrinking from our fear-inducing reality (even if it is an understandable reaction), Kurzgesagt chooses to face it head-on. After all, fear comes from ignorance, so what better remedy than to become educated?

The channel’s colorful yet minimalist animation balances out the dreadfully enormous topics it tackles, making it easier to visualize and digest what you’re hearing (as does the narrator’s smooth and appropriately calming voice). The channel is known for using adorable animated birds in its videos, too, which is honestly endearing. In fact, if you become a member of the channel’s Patreon at the $40-per-month tier, you’ll get a fancy and unique Bird Icon—and your bird will be in a future video, joining the ranks of the Kurzgesagt Bird Army on display on the channel’s website.

Kurzgesagt has been around for years, doing its best to answer the heavy-hitting questions that tend to bounce around everyone’s minds at three o’clock in the morning. Its team does a terrific job of researching the topics it chooses and explaining even the most difficult ones in a simple and straightforward manner that everyone can understand. Each video’s pacing is comfortably quick, telling you everything that you need to know in a concise manner. Or, as they say, in a nutshell.

The channel goes to great lengths to ensure that its videos aren’t only entertaining, but also, that it remains trustworthy (unlike other edutainment channels on YouTube, which only seem to care about being flashy and getting clicks). The channel really makes an effort to find stories worth telling, to account for every possible perspective and context, and to decide whether the video should be a comprehensive overview or merely an introduction. Its writers and researchers go to great lengths to review multiple sources, talk with trusted experts, and solicit feedback from them before publishing a video.

So far, Kurzgesagt has amassed over 13.8 million YouTube subscribers since it was first formed in 2013. It has also produced over 100 videos, which have yielded over a billion views total. And with perspective-shaking videos like “The Egg,” “The Warrior Kingdoms of the Weaver Ant,” “The Origin of Consciousness,” “Wormholes Explained,” and “How to Build a Dyson Sphere—The Ultimate Megastructure,” it’s easy to understand why. Few things in life are better than having someone knowledgeable soothe our existential dread with well-researched information and cute animated birds.

In 2015, Kurzgesagt was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a video on the end of disease, and has since worked with the foundation on other commissions, including a video covering motherhood mortality. In March of 2020, the channel created a video explaining COVID-19, which has now been viewed over 28 million times.

Typically, the channel releases two to three videos per month, which is impressive given the small size of their humble production team. And on a site where explainer videos are a dime a dozen, Kurzgesagt manages to stand out and above them all with its stellar writing and creative animations. It also has an active subreddit where you can chat with other fans about recent videos and similar topics.

So if you’ve got a little bit of free time and don’t mind facing the enormity of the universe head-on, feel free to drop by Kurzgesagt’s brilliant YouTube channel and watch a video or two.

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