The Universe In A Glass of Wine | It’s Okay To Be Smart

This, this right here, is why I love science. And it’s why I love Richard Feynman. In this video, Feynman quotes a poet, but he’s the true poet. Listen to him wax poetic and scientific about a simple glass of wine.  I’ll never just mindlessly pour a glass ever again. 


NEW SHOW FROM PBS DIGITAL STUDIOS! So make sure you tell everyone and their mom(s).

There’s now more than 7 billion human beings on Earth, and that got me wondering: How successful are we compared to other species? I take a look at out how our numbers stack up to some other domains of life. It turns out that biomass, or what things weigh, can be more important than how many of something there are. Find out how our numbers stack up against everything from bugs to bacteria, and get ready for some mind-blowing numbers!

Have an idea for an episode or an amazing science question you want answered? Leave a comment below!

Tweet at me: @jtotheizzoe
Email me: itsokaytobesmart [at] gmail [dot] com
For more awesome science, check out:

Written and hosted by Joe Hanson
Produced by Painted On Productions (


Clips from this episode via:
“Aspens” by Altitude Filmworks:
“Golden Aspen Meadow” by David Huting:
Red-billed queleas by Antero Topp: 
Bacterial growth:
Dengue virus infection:


Joe’s new episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart got me all choked up. I am always full of goosebumps and a few tears when I think about the absolutely unbelievable fact that we have sent people to space and we continue to explore as far out as we do, mostly for the sake of curiosity. 

Earth's Private Light Show . . .

Some gorgeous GIFs made from clips in the latest episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart all about auroras. Have you seen it yet? Check the link to watch, you’re gonna love this one :)

The SUn can get a little angry sometimes, but when it does … what a light show it gives us. I don’t always post #spaceporn, but when I do, I post the good stuff.
It's Okay To Be Smart is now on YouTube!

Thank you, everyone.

I want to start by saying that, because without all of you reading, sharing and supporting this science blog over the past couple years, today’s announcement would never be happening.

Starting today, It’s Okay To Be Smart is also a YouTube series from PBS Digital Studios! I’ll be teaching you about science in fun, creative, unique and quirky ways, just like I always have, only now you get to watch and listen instead of just reading along. Here’s my first episode, “Life By The Numbers,” which looks at just how many things there are on Earth.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be doing this, or that I get to work with PBS. I grew up with PBS and their programming is a large part of what made me realize the value of combining education with creativity. I feel like me and Big Bird are basically co-workers now. We’ll be posting a new episode every other week on our YouTube page, and I’ll still be maintaining this blog like always. You’ll even get added bonus material to go along with each episode and expand your knowledge that much more.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Share this awesome science channel with your friends on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit or wherever you like to hang around on the internet. If you could get Neil deGrasse Tyson to watch, that would be great.
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any future episodes. Seriously, subscribe :)
  • Speak up and leave us a comment telling us what you think of the show, any questions you have, and if there’s something you’d like to see in a future episode. You can also email me at itsokaytobesmart <at> gmail <dot> com.
  • Sit back … enjoy the showand expand your knowledge and your curiosity!

Let’s go learn something amazing together! Stay curious, everyone.


New episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart! Let’s all do the “new video” dance:

My latest creation is an ode to space exploration, from its rather war-themed beginnings, to the pure adventure of Apollo, to the golden age of the shuttle era, to the curiosity of Curiosity.

Where do we go from here? Special thanks to the National Air and Space Museum for letting me hang out with a real-life space shuttle for a few hours.

HA! So, today’s my last day working in my lab, today’s Dilbert is amazingly appropriate, eh? :)

On to bigger and better things! I’ll be working the science beat at Wired Magazine in San Francisco this summer, and my PBS YouTube show continues on and on.

Thanks, everyone. In a way, I feel like we did this together. Let’s see what else we can learn! (Or at least pretend to learn)

-Dr. Joe

Who would you most like to share a breath with?

Since shooting the latest episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart, “Whose Air Do We Share?”, I haven’t been able to escape those poetic feels that come with knowing we all really do share the same air. I mean, our atmosphere’s 1044 molecules of air is a lot, but given enough time we will share at least a few of those with everyone, living or dead. That’s pretty awesome.

Not only does it give me a wonderful sense of connection with people I’ll never get to meet, but it reminds me that we have to be careful about what we’re putting in the air up there.

My answer is pretty obvious (just look at the GIF above), but I want to hear from you all (it will make sense after you watch the video at the link, of course): Living or dead, science-y or not, famous or anonymous, whose air are you most excited to share?

Watch on

I’ve been making YouTube videos for 7 months now and I STILL get messages from people on Tumblr or Twitter or wherever saying “Heywhahuh I didn’t know you had a YouTube channel!!

Well I do have a YouTube channel, and it would be cool if you watched it and subscribed and shared it with your friends, because I know you love science and this my job now and when you watch I get to, like, eat :) 

How can I make sure all of my Tumblr followers know this? Maybe I should rent one of those planes that uses smoke to write in the sky? Except that would be expensive to get it to all of your cities … hmm …

Here’s the new trailer for the channel we just put up. New videos are starting up next week!


Why Is The Sky Blue…Or Red…Or Any Color At All?

New episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart is up! I tackle one of the oldest questions in the book:

Why is the sky blue (or any other color)? It’s a question that you’d think kids have been asking for thousands of years, but it might not be that old at all. The ancient Greek poet Homer never used a word for blue in The Odyssey or The Iliad, because blue is one of the last colors that cultures pick out a word for.

In this episode, I’ll tell you not only why the sky is blue, but why it’s red at sunset. It turns out, those colors are all part of the same sunbeam. And when you’re looking at a blue sky, you could be sharing a special moment with someone thousands of miles away. Next time a kid (or the kid inside you) wants to know why the sky is blue, you’ll have science to back you up!

Subscribe to It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube.


The Auroras, Earth’s Art Show!

Hey folks, the next episode of It’s Okay to be Smart is up on YouTube! If you like pretty sky stuff, you’ll like this one.

Space might seem like an empty place, but the area surrounding Earth is constantly being bombarded by waves of charged particles released by the Sun: The solar wind. Luckily, thanks to Earth’s swirling, molten core (and the magnetic field it provides), we are protected from this planet-sterilizing onslaught with an invisible force field.

All that science has a beautiful side effect: It makes the auroras! The Northern and Southern lights are the result of the solar wind and its dance with Earth’s magnetic field and polar atmosphere. It’s like our own cosmic light show!

Head on over to the YouTube channel and subscribe for more great science. Be sure to check out the last episode while you’re there, a cosmic love story featuring Ann and Carl (about our search for alien civilizations). If you’d like to see something on a future episode or tell me wheat you think, send me a message or leave a comment on the video!

I like this photo even better, it’s like the public broadcasting version of Inception.

If you’re confused why I was on TV for a few seconds, it’s to get viewers like you* to watch my PBS Digital Studios series, in case you somehow hadn’t heard about that yet. We’ll have promos up most Wednesdays in April, so keep tuning in to NOVA and the other great Wednesday PBS shows.

*See what I did there? Call and donate now for your tote bag/coffee mug.

Why does music make us feel so many emotions?

I’ve got a new episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart going live on YouTube in a few minutes, all about some of the science behind why music is capable of making us feel so many feels.

I’m also excited because Mike from PBS Idea Channel did a video about the same thing and you can watch both and really get your think on. Whatever the reason, the fact is that music is just vibrations of sound in various patterns and arrangements … so what gives?

What makes it different from a jackhammer? Are our brains wired to sense emotion in music? Or do we just associate emotions based on our cultural influences? Is music just a side effect of our evolution? Or is music/emotion deeply rooted in our neural development as a species, even contributing to our species social success?

The video will be up in no time. But first … What do you think?

That awkward moment when . . .

You publish a video about a similar topic as another YouTube channel, namely Vsauce, within a day of each other and everyone decides to comment on that fact instead of how awesome it is that I am breathing the same air molecules as Albert Einstein may have used when he figured out the theory of relativity. 

I mean, at least we could comment on how I totally catch that soccer ball in the opening scene without looking at all?! I’m like a science ninja. Bam. Ball = caught. 

Anyway, I think both videos are great and clearly great minds just occasionally think alike! Not only do we share the same air, but we can also share the same ideas. That’s pretty neat. :) Thanks to all the people who are leaving constructive comments instead of negative ones. 


Fightin’ the Shutdown Blues

Sure, the government may be shut down today because of extremely silly and childish Congressional arguments, which means that our nation’s monuments are closed to the public … but never fear!

You can visit a few with me in this episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube, all about monuments! You’ll even learn a little bit about the science behind the rocks.

A not-so-little note from me . . .

I just wanted to write you all a quick note to say thanks. Specifically, thanks for getting my new YouTube show off to such a strong start. If someone told me when I started this blog that it would become a YouTube show … I would have laughed at them. We’re really off on a good foot.

(Is that a thing? “Off on a good foot”? I dunno, it sounds good to me.)

Just three episodes in and I keep smiling when I look at the numbers! Maybe not Gangnam numbers, but pretty awesome. Of course, I’d love to get to a million views in record time … so by all means keep watching and subscribing :)

There’s lots of great science shows on YouTube that I look up to, and I’d be happy just to get close to their level one day. There’s established ones like SciShow, MinutePhysics, Vsauce, Smarter Every Day, Vi Hart, ASAPScience and Veritasium.

There’s awesome newcomers like The Brain Scoop, Bite Sci-zed and Comaniddy to support, too. We’ve got quite a science army up in here! We are a force of nature, man! It’s great to see how many people are hungry for awesome science, and they want seconds, thirds and more. How great is it that we have Tumblr and YouTube and everything else? It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of information. You guys are the key to making sure that buffet has gourmet stuff and maybe some veggies, and not just dessert and condiments … if you catch my drift. Watch and share good stuff, so more good stuff gets made.

Don’t you ever let anyone tell you the world is getting dumber! We (science folks) are not going to let that happen. Together I think we can write a pretty smart future.

I’ll keep making good shows, because you guys deserve it. Don’t ever hesitate to tell me what you like or don’t like about the show or something you’d like to see on a future episode. I’m having a ton of fun and I’d love to keep doing this forever, because this is SO FUN. With your help, maybe I’ll get to :)

(No, seriously … I’m finishing my PhD this spring and I really want to do this for a living!)

Thank you … and stay curious!


New episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart! 

Why do we build monuments? What are they made of? 

Think you know the history of the monuments in Washington D.C? THink again. You have to go back billions of years to find out where they really come from.

First person to GIF me on the carousel is gonna get it*.

(*and by “it” I mean “my undying love and affection”)

Hey guys! Check out your local PBS station tonight!

I’m gonna be on for-real TV (for like 10 seconds)!

That’s right, promos for my new It’s Okay To Be Smart YouTube series from PBS Digital Studios start airing TONIGHT in the 9 pm or 10 pm hour on your local PBS station!

Tell me how I look in HD! I wore a blazer with elbow patches to film these promos, in order to look more “scientific”, so you know I’m committed.

My face, on TV, supported by viewers like you.