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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions I get asked a lot, listed in the order I wrote them down.

  • What software/cameras/tools do you use to make your videos?

    • I used to think that the tools you use really mattered… but the more important thing is that you have something interesting to say, and the skills/ability to present it in an interesting way. Like, it doesn’t matter what brand of hammer (or video editing software) you have if you don’t know how to use a hammer. So go learn how to use a hammer! That said, here, in detail, are the tools I currently use for production (this list changes from time to time): Canon T3i with Magic Lantern and 50mm f1.8 lens on a copy stand inside a light cube/light tent, 2 metal clamp lights from the hardware store with 200W bulbs, crayola markers & colored pencils, Ulysses for writing, Adobe Premiere for video & audio editing, Adobe After Effects for visual effects/compositing/animation, Adobe Photoshop for digital drawing/screencapture or anything to do with still images, iPad pro with pencil and Astropad as a tablet for digital drawing or notepad for sketching out ideas, Trello and Wunderlist to keep track of things. And I run it all on a macbook pro (2012) and a souped-up BOXX workstation. But I know people who are happy with Final Cut Pro, or Avid Media Composer, or GIMP instead of Photoshop, or whatever.
  • How do you get ideas for your videos?
    • All over the place! Sometimes things I learned when I was actively studying physics, sometimes from books or articles or papers I read or questions people ask me (friends or viewers), or sometimes I’ll see something interesting and it’ll be the seed for a video. The real trick, in fact, isn’t coming up with ideas – it’s figuring out which ideas are actually interesting enough to make into a video, and then picking between those which to make next.
  • I have an idea for a video!
    • Great! You should go make a video about it!
  • Please watch my latest video and like/share/subscribe!
    • I’m happy to take a look at videos from new educational/science/etc channels, but I can’t promise more than that (even acknowledging that I watched it). Of course, if I really really like something, I’ll probably share it and tell you I think it’s awesome. I view sharing as a public reflection of my own tastes and interests, and my friends tell me I have very very high standards… so it turns out I don’t “like” or “share” other videos very much.
  • Will you collaborate with me on a video/book/project/etc?
    • When I was first starting on YouTube, I would do collaborations with other creators of similar size and focus in order to cross-promote our channels and meet new people, and I suggest you do the same! However, at this point I mainly do collaborations with friends/colleagues/other people I already know – there are a ton of them who I’m excited to work with and never have.
  • Should I study physics? My parents want to know if it’s a good career choice.
    • Haha. Mine did too. At least until I started making youtube videos, which might be an even more questionable career choice. Just kidding, my parents have actually been supportive of me throughout! But here’s the truth: you aren’t going to get rich doing physics (try engineering or finance or software development or real estate or being a dictator if that’s your goal). And given that I left academia, I can’t even give you much insight into how the jobs are in physics, but I know this much: top-tier research physics is very competitive. If you want to teach physics at either a high school or university level then there are plenty more options, but it’s a simple fact that more people are graduating with physics PhD than there are available research positions at any one time. Of course, maybe you’ll be really good! Or you can do something else with your physics degree, like finance or software development or engineering or making youtube videos.
  • I’m about to start college/university/high school/etc – can you give me advice about how to become the next Einstein?
    • No. But regardless of what you’re going to do in life, I think you should take as many writing and math classes as possible. Those two skills – clear communication and the ability to describe and analyze logical – will be huge assets throughout your life, regardless of where your life takes you.
  • I love physics, but I’m not good at math. Should I study physics anyway?
    • I once had a professor who said “Physics is the application of mathematics in order to understand the universe”. I’m not sure I agree with him (and I imagine a lot of mathematical chemists and mathematical biologists and statisticians & so on would object, too), but his point does have at least this truth to it: physics, as a profession, requires a TON of math and statistics. So it sounds like step #1 for you is to study more math and get good at it!
  • I have a business proposition for you!
    • I’m happy to hear it, but please know that I already have lots of side projects and hobbies on top of making videos and I will very likely say no (even if it is a very good/interesting idea).
  • I have a great idea – why don't you/I start a youtube channel called MinuteMath? MinutePsychology? MinuteLanguage? MinuteChemistry? MinuteFinance? Minute...
    •  As I mentioned above, I've already got too much on my plate for me to take on explaining all of human knowledge... If you're interested in starting your own youtube channel about topic X, awesome! Go for it – but I highly recommend you do it in a way that's authentically "you", with your own voice, style, show name, etc. Based on my limited experience, being true to yourself tends to lead to the best results and greatest likelihood of success (however you define that) in your endeavors on youtube.
  • I wrote you an email/tweet/facebook message – why didn’t you write back?
    • The sad reality is that there are only 24 hours in a day, and if I made a sincere, honest attempt to reply to every message I receive, I would have no time for anything else. In fact, I don’t read facebook messages and I only occasionally check in on twitter @mentions. If you really want me to see what you have to say, email is the way to go – I read every single email that is sent to me. So even though I probably won’t be able to reply, at least know that I’ve seen your message.
  • How do you make money on youtube? (I usually get asked this one by my friends’ parents)
    • Ads, Sponsorships, Crowdfunding, Licensing, Merchandise, Consulting/Speaking gigs
  • Can I translate your videos into another language?
    • Yes please! You can simply upload translations of subtitles directly in the youtube player (more info here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6054623?hl=en). However, if you want to dub videos into your own language and re-upload to your own channel, we need to talk about how serious and professional you’re going to be about it, and maybe I’ll say yes. And if you just want to subtitle them and reupload to your own channel, then no. You can upload translated subtitles directly in the youtube player, remember?
  • Do you want to join our YouTube Network (aka MCN)?
    • I have never understood the benefits of joining a youtube network, despite getting emails every week for years from people trying to convince me otherwise. They kind of just seem like a giant Ponzi scheme to me.
  • I’m an agent/publisher, can I publish your book?
    • I make videos, not books! So at the moment, I’m not looking for an agent/publisher. But if I do ever decide to write a book I will need one, so it can’t hurt to send me free samples of books you publish to show me how awesome they are ;) 
  • You have a mistake in your video
    • I have mistakes in lots of my videos – such is the nature of making technical content (sometimes you mess up). Also, because youtube doesn’t allow swapping out of video files, the only way to fix mistakes is delete and completely re-upload from scratch, which just isn’t worth it for small errors (spelling, etc). Also, most of the time the things I actually get wrong are very different from the things people think I get wrong – there’s a lot more subtlety to physics beyond what you learn in high school/first year university and part of my goal making these videos is to expose everyone to more of that physics! Which unfortunately means that sometimes people who’ve had a little bit of training will think there are mistakes, when actually it’s their schooling that’s incomplete. But, if you still think there’s a mistake in a new video, please let me know – I’m always eager to learn.
  • Will you come speak at my event/school/university/conference/show?
    • Perhaps. I’m honored by your invitation, but is your event/school/university/conference/show within biking distance of my house? I try to keep my air travel to a minimum given the dark realities of disastrous planet-wide climate change (air travel is pretty much the worst thing you can do to exacerbate climate change, along with eating meat), so unless there’s a stupendously cool reason to come to your event (are you inviting me to the launch of the first manned mission to mars? or to go cross country skiing for a month in Norway? Count me in!), or you’re offering ludicrously high appearance fees that no sane person would turn down, I’ll probably have to graciously decline.
  • Why do you talk so fast in your videos?
    • I tend to talk faster when I get excited about something! Also it keeps people engaged/interested in the videos, they have to be on their toes to follow along so they never have any time to think “maybe I should go watch something else…”
  • I have a theory about the universe, will you help promote it?
    • Are you an established scientist looking to promote your published research? Send me an email explaining why your work is so awesome we should make a video about it. Or are you trying to get your research out into the world so you’re sending it out to professors and researchers and youtube video makers? I know that’s what Ramanujan did (well, not the youtube part), but in our modern era, sending your original research ideas directly to professors/experts is not the appropriate path. There are plenty of legitimate scientific avenues for getting research out into the world: conferences, academic journals, etc. Try one of them!
  • But really, will you help me put my theory about the universe into math so I can submit it to a journal?
    • Universities and graduate schools exist for exactly this reason: to teach you the math and other skills to help you become a researcher!
  • Why don’t you make more videos?
    • I’m making more videos all the time! But I think the question is, why don’t I make videos more frequently? Well, for the first year or so of MinutePhysics, I released a video roughly every week. Once I started MinuteEarth and had to work on two youtube channels at once and run a business and pay other people’s salaries and all that, my time became a bit more limited. Also, you may have noticed that my videos now tend to be a bit longer/fancier/more involved than they used to, which also takes time. But as MinuteEarth becomes more and more self-sufficient without me, there should be an increase in either the number or length or quality of MinutePhysics videos. Unless I decide to use that extra time to play fiddle or go climb mountains.
  • I have a physics question, will you answer it?
    • Perhaps. Is it a homework question? Then no. But if it’s a legitimate question that you haven’t been able to find an answer to, then by all means. Many of my videos are inspired by questions people ask me – sometimes I think the question is so cool I make a video answering it, but more often the question inspires me to think of something else cool I’ve been wanting to make a video about.
  • How did you get into making youtube videos?
    • Short answer: luck. Long answer: I always liked making movies/videos, so after grad school I went to Los Angeles and tried to get work doing anything related to film production. Most of the jobs I did were things like being a grip or electric or camera assistant on super low budget indie movies. But even though I knew nothing about youtube (or perhaps because of it?) I somehow lucked into a job doing computer vfx/compositing for Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch (co-creators of the freddiew youtube channel), which showed me that you could intentionally make videos for youtube. I also saw some RSAnimate videos whose style I liked, and thought there was a big empty space on youtube where science videos would fit nicely.
  • What did you study in school?
    • Math and physics BA at Grinnell College in Iowa. Theoretical physics MS at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics/University of Waterloo in Ontario. I almost started a PhD in physics at CU Boulder, but didn’t in order to go to LA to focus on film/video. I also started an MFA in film at the University of Southern California but dropped out after a semester to make YouTube videos full time.
  • I really want to start a successful youtube channel. Do you have any advice?
  • Can I re-upload your video/use it in my museum/conference/exhibition/TV show/school/translate it/etc?
    • That depends. If you’re looking to license the videos, please get in touch via business@minutephysics.com. I generally allow non-commercial, freely available, educational use by non-profits. That is, if you want to use my videos (1) for educational purposes, (2) your organization is a 501c3 non-profit (or equivalent), (3) no money or financial transaction is required for people to be able to see the video and no ads shown alongside the video nor any other revenue being made off of its use in any way, and (4) you do no editing, other than dubbed translations, nor adding other promotional material (ads, promotions, sponsorships, announcements, etc) to the video, then I will probably be happy to let you use the video for free. Either way, please get in touch via business@minutephysics.com – this FAQ does NOT constitute permission to use any of my videos.