Why Do We Ask Questions? By Michael “Vsauce” Stevens (Transcript)

So some of the hairs here moved down here but other than that, I am the same guy. Seriously, still doing the same thing. To be at that tournament, and to see the expression on someone’s face win, they suddenly understand and are fascinated by something in the same way that you are is a phenomenal feeling. And I’ve learned two things from this. First of all, people love a good explanation. I mean they hunt them down. Even people who say they hate learning and that they hate books and all that stuff, they love explanations.

Second of all, if you look closely enough and you take the time, anything can be interesting to anyone because everything is related in some way to something they care about.

Richard Feynman called the pleasure of finding things out a kick in the discovery. And I agree but I think there might be a little bit more to that. Let’s get rid of this picture of me. Okay. So we want to express ourselves. Everyone wants to express themselves. They do this through the music they listen to, the clothing they wear, the way they act but they also do it with knowledge, the things they know about the stuff they like, their interests, their hobbies.

I’ve noticed that the most operative motive behind someone sharing one of my videos, promoting me by word of mouth isn’t so much about me as it is about them. Hey, look what I found. I like this. I am like this. Whenever you share a video, whenever you share anything, a few of the attributes of that thing reflect back on to you.

So I’ve found that one of the best ways to gain attentive listeners is not to be who you think your audience wants you to be but instead to say and make and show things that allow your audience or your students to be who they want to be.

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I once discussed in a video why the sky is blue. And backstage when I was sort of going through what I wanted to talk about, I ran into this girl, that seriously actually happened backstage go finder. I said, “Do you know why the sky is blue?” And she said, “I think I used to know but like it didn’t really matter.” Exactly, exactly, and I knew that was going to be a problem. It turns out that the sky is blue because of the way light scatters in our atmosphere. It’s called Rayleigh scattering. And light of shorter wavelengths scatters more, so greens, blues and violets. That’s why when you look at the sky away from the sun, you see this beautiful sky blue. It’s all of those shorter wavelengths combining. And when you look directly at the sun which you shouldn’t do very often — don’t do it ever — you see the longer wavelengths which are surviving that scattering. That’s why the Sun looks yellow during the day. Of course, when the sun’s light needs to travel through a whole lot of air to get to your eyeball, a lot of scattering occurs and only really really long wavelengths make it all the way there directly from the sun, which is why it looks orange or sometimes red at sunrise, or sunset.

Now I think that’s really cool, but obviously some people, including someone backstage right now, don’t or maybe they kind of already know it or, you know, could probably figure out if they thought about it. So what do you do — I’m trying to collect the largest audience possible that I can I want to appeal to and attract as many people as possible. So what I do is I camp out with the subject, in this case, Rayleigh scattering. I learn as much about it as I can. What else is it responsible for? Who is it named after? Who did he love? Whatever I can find that could become a great hook to bring in just the right person.

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So in this case, I read about Rayleigh scattering and I realized — I didn’t realize I learned — that blue eyes or blue for the exact same reason — blue eyes do not have blue pigment in them. So we heard that was real. Blue eyes don’t have blue pigment in them anymore than the air has blue pigment in it. If you were to rip out my iris, I would be like ouch, but then if you grounded up into a fine powder it wouldn’t be blue anymore, it would be sort of a dole brownish blackish color. Instead blue eyes are blue because at a microscopic level their texture scatters light just like the air in our atmosphere scatters the sun’s light to make the sky blue. Maybe you already know why the sky is blue, maybe you don’t care but maybe you will be fascinated by something like this, and this is why my episodes often seem to go all over the place. It’s not just because I’m crazy, it’s also because I want to have as many hooks out as possible to catch as many people and make them interested.

I once did a video about rainbows. And I thought some people might think rainbows are lame. Mmm, I’ll teach about rainbows. What other types of bows are there? Well, like windstream like a knot is a bow, a knot, why do headphones always get tied up in knots? So I researched the mathematics behind this. It’s fascinating. I’ll spare you all of the details. Also, this will allow you to go check out my videos and give me many many views rather than just one.

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