Screenshot from intro to a Kurzgesagt video

Kurzgesagt Is the YouTube Channel That Explains Science Simply

Want to know what happens when you nuke a city? Look no further.

February 3, 2021
5 mins read

When you think of a science-based YouTube channel, you may think of dreadfully dull videos that you force yourself to watch the night before an exam, or crackpot conspiracy theorists ranting about how climate change is a hoax. Believe it or not, some entertaining, reliable videos explain the complexities of science in an understandable way. Kurzgesagt — German for “in a nutshell” — is a YouTube channel that creates minimalistic, animated videos using a flat design style. The videos cover an abundance of subjects, like extinction-level events, the future of humanity, AI and space travel.

With 105 videos and over 13 million subscribers to date, the channel aims to raise awareness and understanding of topics related to philosophy, science and outer space. The “about” section of the channel summarizes the channel’s goals: “Explaining things with optimistic nihilism. We are a small team who want to make science look beautiful. Because it is beautiful.”

Rest assured that the content on this YouTube channel is valid. Kurzgesagt has a team of fact-checkers with support from scientists and NGOs. Don’t be intimidated by the sound of the channel; the script is written so that anyone can understand. Kurzgesagt has taught me more than my science teacher has. The videos’ presenter has a measured, soothing voice and a sense of humor that relaxes you even as you learn about the various ways life as we know it could end.

One of my favorite videos is part of a playlist titled “Science and other stuff explained.” The playlist consists of 26 videos and has over 1.5 million views; its content covers a wide range of topics, with titles like “String Theory explained” and “Is It Too Late To Stop Climate Change? Well, It’s Complicated.” One of the most visually engaging and easy-to-follow videos is called “What if We Nuke a City?” Naturally, this title draws most casual scrollers to click straight away.

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Published back in 2019, the video is a collaboration between the International Red Cross and Kurzgesagt, where they explain nuclear weapons. Around nine minutes in length, the video begins with the “Voice of Kurzgesagt,” narrator Steve Taylor, saying, “Playing around with nuclear weapons in videos is fun. There’s a visceral joy in blowing things up and a horrifying fascination with things like fireballs, shockwaves and radiation.”

While the gorgeous animations and bright colors accompany (and act out) this line, soon the video will go on — in detail — to explain the effects of a nuclear explosion in a real-life major city. Kurzgesagt breaks the process down into phases to ensure the video is easy to follow.

It describes the original massive fireball that obliterates everyone within it, with people farther away being rendered temporarily blind if they look in its direction. The third phase, the aftermath, is much worse than the aftermath of a typical natural disaster. “A nuclear explosion is like every natural disaster at once,” the narrator explains, complete with death, impassable streets, trapped residents, leveled hospitals and masses of blind, scared people.

Radioactive black rain causes the number of survivors to dwindle. Help from other cities will be difficult; recovery will be slow. Even in the years to come, many survivors will succumb to cancer. Kurzgesagt explains that there is no way to provide immediate help for a nuked city.

The video concludes with the narrator reminding viewers that this is no natural disaster or accident, but an intentional decision made by a person in power. The opening line repeats, “Exploding stuff in videos is fun,” with the addition of, “in real life, not so much.” The video explains how there is now a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that will go into effect in January 2021.

While over 50 countries have signed this treaty, many nuclear-armed states have not. Even if every country on Earth signed up, every viewer knows that it wouldn’t be the end of nuclear weapons. Power-hungry, paranoid people would still have nukes hidden away.

This is just one of the videos on the Kurzgesagt channel. Many people may not have been aware of this treaty, nor the exact effects of a nuclear explosion. The videos are engaging, aesthetically unique and leave an impact on audiences. If you want to educate yourself on anything from AI to atoms,  Kurzgesagt is a good start. If you want to learn more than the simplified, condensed version the video provides, Kurzgesagt supplies their sources for each video.

Emily Davies, Solent University

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Emily Davies

Solent University

Third year journalism student, interested in literature and environmental issues.

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