First Click: This YouTube channel is catnip for stoners

August 25th, 2016

Kurzgesagt has been around for years, but I only discovered it a few months ago. It was very late, and I was sitting around with a friend, talking about Dune and outer space. At one point, my friend grabbed my laptop and started playing one of Kurzgesagt’s YouTube videos: a 6-minute animated clip about the Fermi Paradox. Then, I went down the rabbit hole.

Created in 2013, Kurzgesagt (German for "in a nutshell") is a Munich-based design studio that creates animated explainer videos on a wide range of subjects. Some of their most popular videos have tackled science-y topics like the immune system, addiction, and designer babies, but they’ve also produced clips about the Syrian refugee crisis, the war on drugs, and copyright infringement on Facebook. The studio publishes one video a month, and has so far amassed more than 2.8 million subscribers on YouTube.

There’s certainly no shortage of animated explainer videos on the web, and they tend to incorporate the same types of tropes. But I’ve found Kurzgesagt’s clips to be especially engaging, if not addictive. The pacing is quick, but not too quick, and the animation is crisp and bright.

But what really sets Kurzgesagt apart is the way they tackle big, existential questions within the space of a few minutes. Some recent video titles include "What is Life? Is Death Real," "What if there was a black hole in your pocket?" and the ever-relevant "What Are You?" You won’t emerge with any sort of expertise after watching them, but they’ll at least give you a few interesting nuggets to think about over a late-night spliff. Sometimes, that’s the best thing the internet can offer.

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