At Strombo.com, we're big fans of AsapSCIENCE, the online video series that tackles fascinating questions — like why hitting the snooze button might make you sleepy — in bite-sized animated segments. The two Canadians behind the hit series, Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, have partnered with CBC to produce Science Says, a special 20-part series about the science behind the Games. We've got an exclusive first look at one of those videos, about how the bodies of Olympians have changed over the years, right here on Strombo.com.
To go along with the video, we asked Mitch and Greg, the Toronto-based couple behind the phenomenon, a little bit about what makes AsapSCIENCE tick.
How did AsapSCIENCE get off the ground?
We graduated from from the University of Guelph with degrees in biological science. We always used our passion for science to try to explain things to our friends. Most of the time we were talking about how to scientifically cure hangovers, or what happens to your body when you get drunk — but it was still science. After graduating, Greg went on to teachers' college while Mitch began to learn about creating online content. We then came together to create this channel to inspire science education by creating science videos that everyone can relate to.
Why do you think your videos have resonated so widely online?
It’s all about the angle and trying to find what people are already interested in, to show them that science can be fascinating. Apart from that, we made a decision early on to use whiteboard animation, as not having our faces in the episodes allows the content to become the main focus. And we build a lot of our episode ideas using suggestions from fans and people who watch the series.
What kinds of topics make for a good AsapSCIENCE video?
In many cases, we’re looking to teach people without them even realizing. For example, we wanted to do a video about Vitamin D, explaining how humans use sunlight's energy to synthesize vitamin D from cholesterol. And so the original iteration of the episode was called "Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin." Of course, we realized this was something people may not relate to, and unless you were interested in science or nutrition, it was likely something you’d skip. Combining this idea with more research about the detrimental effects of sitting, we created the episode "What If You Stopped Going Outside?" The video then became a viral hit, because people — often bound to their desks at work, or school, or even coming home and binging on TV, the internet or video games — genuinely wonder how this is affecting their lives.
What are each of your favourite AsapSCIENCE videos?
Greg: My personal favourite is “The Science of Heartbreak”. The episode explains how when you have lost a loved one or recently experienced a breakup, it may seem easier to isolate yourself, but this leads to even more depression and isolation. Science actually says, as social beings we have evolved to feel decreased pain when experiencing social support. So it ends with a beautiful message of supporting each other through rough times.
Mitch: If I had to choose one, I’d say "Which Came First — The Chicken Or The Egg?." It’s such a classic question, and our most popular video. I think it perfectly demonstrates our goal of talking about something interesting, and teaching science without people realizing it. This episode was essentially an opportunity for us to teach evolution and the process of natural selection without making it seem technical or boring.
What other online video series do you watch?
The YouTube channel Vsauce is a huge inspiration to us. As well, MinutePhysics, Veritasium and SmarterEveryDay are all YouTube channels with a similar mission to ours. We also watch the VICE YouTube channel regularly, as they are creating amazing long-form content that is changing the landscape of YouTube.
What's next for AsapSCIENCE?
More awesome science videos, hopefully! We’ve also been working on a book with the same goals of making science fun and accessible in a different space. We have some concepts for new videos that will help to expand our vision, as well as a second channel we just started called AsapTHOUGHT where we can cover even more interesting ideas in person. Ultimately we just want more people to see how amazing science can be, and how it doesn’t have to be stuffy, complex, equations in a laboratory (not that those are bad!).
Head over to the CBC Olympics site for full coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Television coverage kicks off on February 6 on CBC, and runs until the closing ceremonies on February 23.