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Check this out: last year, at the
University of Zurich, I was given this
little toy, which consists of four
permanent neodymium magnets and a little
piece of graphite. If I place that over
the magnets, it levitates. That is pretty
awesome! And how does it work? Well, when
the graphite experiences this strong
external magnetic field, it actually
affects the velocity of the electrons
around the carbon nuclei, and that
changes the magnetic moment to create
its own magnetic field.
So this graphite becomes magnetic itself
and repels the magnetic field beneath it,
and you can see that it's stable even if
I nudge the graphite around, and that's
because the field actually gets stronger.
These magnets are in north-south,
north-south, facing up, so the fields are
actually stronger when I nudge that
little bit of graphite outwards. Now
magnets have always fascinated me. I made
a video about that earlier, but someone
else they fascinated was Albert
Einstein, and he says that when he was 5
years old, he was amazed to see a compass
needle line up with the magnetic field
of the earth. And you know where he got
his PhD? the University of Zurich. There's
a new series about Albert Einstein, his
life outside of academia, it's called
"Genius", and it's on the National Geographic Channel,
with whom I actually
teamed up to make this video. They wanted
me to talk about how I got into science,
and I think I got into science the same
way that everyone does,, you know, with
baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. And
for me the interest in science didn't
fade from there, it only grew. Umm... I was a
triple threat in high school, it took all
of chemistry, physics and biology because
I found those subjects both challenging
and very fulfilling. They were
challenging in that, you know, physics, for
example, has this reputation of being
hard, and I liked that it had that
reputation I wanted to do well in it. I
think this comes from my sort of natural
competitive nature. I think deep down I
want to excel and get the top grades. In
fact uhh
that's what happened in my high school.
There were about 425 kids in my
graduating class, and I graduated as
number one. Then after high school I went
to Queens University, in Canada, and I
studied engineering physics. Again, I
think I was drawn to that because I was
competitive, and that was the hardest
type of engineering you could do. And I
did engineering rather than a pure
science because I felt like I wanted to
be practical, applicable, if I was going to
study these things. Our final year
project was designing, modeling, and
building a wind turbine that was about... I
don't know, three or four meters tall, and
we had to design it from the ground up,
absolutely from scratch, and use physics
to work out exactly how it would perform,
and that was a really satisfying end to
the degree. [clip audio] [windy] Winderrific. [offscreen voice] Say that again.
What? [offscreen voice] Say that again.
Winderrific. [end of clip] You know these days I am
obviously not a scientist. I don't do
science every day, and so some people in
the scientific community would ask me "do"
"I ever regret that, you know, I'm a"
"science Youtuber, rather than a scientist",
and my answer is "no", because [sigh] I think you
have to find the thing in life that
matches best with your personality. Of
course I think a lot of us, you know, when
I walk through a physics building, I
think everyone here would love to be the
next Einstein, everyone here would love
to make a huge discovery about dark
energy, dark matter, uhh...
just... just any of the massive questions
that are facing physics right now. Of
course you would want to be remembered. I
mean, Einstein was Times' person of the
century. That's the appeal of science.
It's so powerful and far-reaching. But
science wasn't my only passion. From the
time that I was a kid, I loved acting and
singing. In fact, when I was 11 years old,
I was on the stage in a Christmas carol.
I was... I played the role of Tiny Tim in
downtown Vancouver, and then throughout
high school I would work on various
plays and musicals.
I played the French horn in a number of
bands and orchestras. You know Einstein
played the violin, and he took it with
him everywhere he went. I think that
music and science are often tied
together. And, even through college, I
enlisted my engineering friends to make
videos. This was way back before there
was even YouTube, but we were making
silly comedy, videos that included ninjas
and vampires, and yetis or Bigfoot,
private detectives, pirates... There was
something about filmmaking that I just
fundamentally loved. And so, when I came
to do my PhD, I was looking to merge my
passions, my interests in teaching in
physics, and in films. And that's why I
decided to do a PhD in physics education
research. When it comes down to it, I feel
like my personality is best suited to
this. I get to do the things that I love
doing, the things that I feel I'm pretty
good at, learning
about science, teaching science, and
making videos, making films. And so I feel
like I'm absolutely in the right spot.
And when you think about what you're
going to end up doing, I think there are
a lot more important factors than your
intelligence, your raw IQ. I think a lot
of it comes down to motivation. Are you
really... are you really inspired to do
what you need to do every day to do that
job? And when it comes to science, that
can be particularly hard, especially for
a personality type like mine. I think, you
know, I can find the process of science a
bit tedious, that that's not necessarily
how I want to spend every day. And
there's also a great risk with doing
science, where you can spend six months
doing something, and then it cannot work
out, and I would just find that so
demoralizing. I think it takes a really
particular individual to do science, and...
and really do it well. And so that's my
recommendation whenever anyone asks me
what they should do, if they should
pursue physics, or engineering, or what...
what they should do with their future. I
always ask them to think about what you
would be doing day in and day out, and
whether that appeals to you. Do you enjoy
the process of the thing? I mean there's...
there's two ways that we can think about
things we want to do: we can think about
them as though we want to do that
activity every day that we enjoy the
process of doing whatever it is, and the
other way you can think about it is as
though you're going to enjoy the outcome,
that the process is going to be very
very hard and not very enjoyable, but the
outcome, having done the thing, is going
to make it all worth it. For me
science is... falls into the second
category, that maybe I wouldn't love the
process, but I would certainly love to
make a discovery like Einstein. I mean,
wouldn't every scientist that's... that is
the big dream. But the process the
day-to-day is not the thing that I would
love to do, and not the thing that I
think plays to my strengths, and
ultimately that is why I decided to go
into more of an artistic pursuit than a
scientific one.
[outro sound] This episode of 2veritasium was
supported by the show "Genius" on the
National Geographic Channel. New episodes
air Tuesday nights at 9:00, 8:00
central, so you should check it out. And
if you've missed any episodes, you can
always catch up on demand at
So I want to thank the National
Geographic Channel for supporting me, and
I want to thank you for watching.