I agree and resonate with many of the things Jaron Lanier shares in the Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” but I disagree with his advice on YouTube’s “recommended videos.” Jaron advises we should never click on “recommended videos” on YouTube, since that furthers the dystopian economic model of “surveillance capitalism” upon which many of Silicon Valley’s most profitable empires companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc) are built. I disagree with this because YouTube’s video recommendations regularly introduce me to WONDERFUL and AMAZING ideas, which I’m not sure how I’d encounter or learn about otherwise. A case in point: Dominic Walliman’s (@DominicWalliman) incredible series, “Domain of Science – Map Videos.” In this post, I’ll share a few reflections on these incredible videos (there are 8 of them so far) as well as the serendipitous, algorithmically generated pathway I followed today to discover them.

Visual notetaking and sketchnoting are superb learning strategies, especially when visual notes / sketchnotes are created by STUDENTS as projects which “show what they know with media.” Animations which break down complex ideas with simple icons can constitute “animated sketchnotes,” and that’s exactly what Dominic Walliman (empowered in part I’m sure, by studies he completed for his Ph.D. in Experimental Quantum Physics) has created with his “Map Videos” series on his YouTube channel, “Domain of Science.”

Although I was a “fuzzy major” as an undergraduate student (majoring in Political Science and Geography and minoring in Spanish) my alma mater required everyone take an extensive number of engineering courses as part of our “core curriculum.” Therefore, although I stopped taking mathematics classes at Calculus II, I was introduced (albeit on “the fuzzy track”) to a wide variety of scientific and engineering concepts via courses in aeronautical engineering, astronautical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and engineering design. There are interesting stories which go with several of these classes which I would like to share at some point, but those are topics better saved for another day. Suffice it to say that although I consider myself firmly grounded in liberal arts studies, because of our undergraduate academic course requirements I learned a bit more about science and engineering than a typical college Poli Sci major.

In college, I read books like “The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics” and “The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism” for fun. While I would never be a theoretical physicist or mathematician who would make meaningful contributions to our quest for a “Grand Unified Theory” of fundamental forces, I loved glimpsing into this world of both scientific ideas as well as philosophy. This passion has manifested itself in different ways in fatherhood, introducing our kids to amazing NOVA PBS specials, encouraging them to undertake creative science fair projects, and (at times) engaging in wide ranging conversations which delved into questions about the ultimate nature and origins of our universe. My August 2013 post, “Learning About Physics and Four Fundamental Forces on YouTube,” is an example with Alex, our oldest child. The September 2012 recording with Rachel, our youngest child, “I Want to Be a Scientist,” is another example.

Dominic Walliman’s “map videos” are amazing and incredible for many reasons, but primarily for me they are phenomenal because they SYTHESIZE so many different concepts, terms, and ideas within single, coherent videos.. Here’s the pathway I followed today to find and watch several of these.

  1. I taught our Sunday School lesson today for “Curiosity and Questions: Jesus and Science” on the topic, “Science, PseudoScience and the Truth about the Bethlehem Star.”
  2. Shelly wanted to find a video about Monday’s upcoming convergence of Jupiter and Saturn to share with her 3rd graders at home via their Seesaw learning journals. A bit of YouTube searching turned up the NASA JPL video, “What’s Up: December 2020 Skywatching Tips from NASA.” (3.5 min)
  3. Here’s where the YouTube RELATED VIDEOS algorithm comes in: YouTube’s recommendation machine showed me Dereck Muller‘s (@veritasium) November 2020 video, “These are the asteroids to worry about.” I subscribe to his YouTube channel, and was able to hear him speak and present in person at the 2015 “Miami Device” conference. He’s a phenomenal YouTuber and STEM educator.
  4. In that video, Derek recommends the YouTube video, “The Map of Doom | Apocalypses Ranked” by Dominic Walliman.
  5. After starting to watch that video, Rachel (our daughter) came in our living room, and we watched it together, along with his videos, “The Map of Physics,” “The Map of Mathematics,” and “Every Kind of Thing in Space Mapped.”
  6. Whoa! Our minds were collectively BLOWN UP!

Rachel is currently an 11th grader at our school taking both PreCalculus and AP Physics. (This year I’m teaching 5th and 6th grade Media Literacy and introductory 5th grade Spanish, and Shelly is teaching 3rd grade.) Rachel took Chemistry last year and loved it. She’s doing exceptionally well in all her classes, and it was fun to hear her responses as concepts and academic domains were mentioned in the videos on physics and math. I LOVE the fact that our children have and are acquiring a deeper understanding of both science and mathematics than either Shelly or I possess. Our universe is so amazing, and so big, and so complicated, and so WONDERFUL to both study and strive to understand… and I’m so thankful for their teachers who have opened up this world to them in engaging ways! All our children are not pursuing or desiring to pursue mathematics beyond my own studies… and of course that is WONDERFUL TOO, since we are each called to our own path in life… and one of the most important things we can do as parents and teachers is help the children in our care discover what those pathways are.

In his video, “Every Kind of Thing in Space Mapped,” Dominic Walliman shares that scientists today believe there are between 1 and 2 TRILLION galaxies in our visible universe. What an absolutely mind boggling statistic and concept that is to consider. Let that sink in a little. How incredibly small minded and ethnocentric of us, as human beings on earth, to think that we are alone as “intelligent beings” in this universe. We still have so much to learn and discover together!

I strongly recommend you check out some of Dominic Walliman’s “Map Series” videos. Not only are they amazing examples of animated visual storytelling, they’re also masterful syntheses of a complex collection of ideas, terms, people and concepts. These are SO INSPIRING to me for so many reasons!

I just had to share them. 🙂

View and download images of these incredible maps from Dominic’s Flickr channel. Order poster copies for your classroom and home via his online store. I just wished I’d found this earlier so some of these could find their way into Christmas stockings at our house this year!

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