This summer I was completely swamped with my company's work designing the software for some kiosks for Create Your Mayo Clinic Health Experience, a new installation at the Mall of America. But during that time, I was also interviewed by Ben Good, a blogger who writes for Scientific American, and the resulting article was called "Has Science Gone Viral?". Here's a few paragraphs to whet your appetite, please follow the link for the whole article.
Wikipedia defines a virus as “a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms”. The use of viral terminology to describe the movement and sharing of online content is very apt. However, whilst science has given the phenomenon its name, the question persist as to whether or not it has truly ‘gone viral’ in online video.
As a source of media YouTube is a titanic entity. With 3 billion videos watched per day it is the most popular place to try and create an online visual phenomenon. Science does form a proportion of the millions of hours of video on the site. But, according to Kevin Allocca, YouTube Trends Manager, “there is a huge opportunity [for science] that we haven’t quite seen taken advantage of yet”.
Whilst it may not have gained the view counts of Justin Beiber, or people getting hit in the face or kittens, there are people out there who are producing high quality science content. One such individual is Rob Bryanton, whose physics videos have had over 6 million views, with his ‘Imagining the 10th Dimension‘ video receiving particular praise and attention. “The project was born from a personal obsession I have had since I came up with this idea in the early 1980′s. I imagined a way to be able to visualise the extra spatial dimensions. And when I then discovered that with string theory there were ten spatial dimensions, I created this video so I could give people a way to visualise it, that was launched in July 2006 and it immediately took off…” he said.
Rob’s videos demonstrate the medium being used as an engaging way of explaining complex scientific ideas.Thank you so much for your support, Ben, and also to Tom Ridgewell, the hugely popular youtuber whose TomSka channel is currently at almost 150 million views (edit: as of the end of June 2012 he's now up around 250 million!). It was Tom who recommended to Ben Good that he take a look at my project. Thanks Tom! Near the end of his article, Ben returns to the discussion of my videos, and offers this:
While the respect for professional scientists is important and understandable, it shouldn’t be at the expense of amateur scientists and enthusiasts... YouTube began life as a place for amateur film makers to show their wares, it would be a shame if in its rise to becoming a media dominant force it lost the considered lay people like Rob.Well said, Ben!. Next time, we're going to take a look back at 2011 and list some of the other exciting things that have happened with Imagining the Tenth Dimension this year. Till then, enjoy the journey!