Friday, May 27, 2016

The Chicken Man is a rocket scientist.

Destin of YouTube's Smarter Every Day Channel
with the chicken that made his first viral video.
I want to tell you about a cool YouTuber named Destin Sandlin who calls his channel Smarter Every Day. Destin has a boyish fascination with fire, shooting, and blowing things up, but as a real-life rocket scientist­ he is able to show us, often in slow motion, how these fires and explosions happen and work. Destin packs a lot of science into a few minutes of video, but he is never boring. The first Smarter Every Day video that grabbed my attention and made me an instant follower was this one about a spectacular Rube Goldberg machine full of pyrotechnics that operated out of Destin's barn/workshop. This video makes a good introduction not only because it has some of Destin's signature fire & know-how, but also because it contains a flashback to his first viral video about chickens and for which he was nicknamed "the Chicken Man":

I think it would be fascinating to be a brain scientist. In one of his early videos Destin visits his sister, who is in the Peace Corps in Africa. He notices at one point that the letters T.I.A. are painted on her shutters, and he asks her what they mean. It isn't Transient Ischemic Attack but "This Is Africa," a kind of latter-day realization that his sister is not in Kansas anymore. Some of the local people are hanging out at the house, and they're helping slaughter a goat. With one clean blow of the machete, a goat's head gets perfectly bisected, and the camera shows the two open halves in a shot that fascinates me: here are the two chambers of a brain, and in this, or in something very much like it, is where I live. Yet it's such a passive thing, lying there open in the sun to view. There are no moving parts except for the tongue at the bottom, yet this is the tissue that regulates the systems of the body and where resides the consciousness, of which even the goat had some. It seems anti-climactic that something so mission critical to the goat's existence should lie there so inert as if it were nothing. Yes, I've heard we use only a small percentage of our brains, but exposed in this way you can't tell that it's used at all.
Destin, as of this writing, has 3,882,002 subscribers: that's 786,810 more subscribers than Casey Neistat, who is generally considered the King of YouTube. One of the down sides of being a successful YouTuber lies in the heat that a busy kitchen can make. For example, in the comments section of a video about a potato gun, most of the comments focus on Destin's son saying "yes sir." Some viewers say things like "Some of us are still taught to respect our fellow human beings by default," and others say things like "it drives me crazy that his kids say 'yes sir.'" As some noticed, and as Destin explains on a Tumblr blog, his son uses "yes sir" when it's important to acknowledge understanding in moments when safety or protocol is an issue. But to focus on the father-son protocol is to miss the exciting point of the video, which lies in expolosively propelling potatoes into the hearts of watermelons and large squash. Take a look:
In another video Destin addresses the question of how a cat lands on its feet. There's a paradox because once something starts turning, Newton's laws of motion say that it should continue turning. Yet a cat that is falling with its back facing the ground, will turn only 180° and stop so that it will land precisely on its feet. Destin brings out the slow-motion camera again to show us exactly how the cat pulls this off. I have to say that though the cat wasn't harmed, that it is designed to handle easy falls like this one, and though it landed on a cushion, I still felt a little bad for the cat. This video drew some pretty funny comments.
Destin was one of three YouTubers who were invited to the White House to interview President Obama. The interviews went to the White House server where you can see them, but Destin put an interesting behind-the-scenes video on Smarter Every Day that shows how the interview came to happen, and it includes some excerpts of his interview with the president.