Henry Reich, 25, is a digital artist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada. At Minute Physics ( www.youtube.com/user/minutephysics), Reich explores complex science using hand-drawn animation, video and graphics – all in 60 seconds. Follow him on Twitter at @minutephysics. Questions and answers have been edited.
Q: How did the project get started?
It’s kind of a crazy, long story. I’ve always been interested in film and in science. After doing a yearlong master’s course in theoretical physics, I graduated and I didn’t go straight into doing a Ph.D. I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. I took some time to go out and do film-related stuff.
While I was in LA, I somehow managed to get a job with freddiew, which is now the fifth- or sixth-biggest YouTube channel. I didn’t know much about YouTube at the time. I learned a lot through osmosis. They know the Internet very well and how to make interesting content.
These guys had started the YouTube channel a year before and were already hugely successful. I thought I might as well see if I could do the same thing in physics.
Q: How do you decide what to tackle for each video?
My criteria for what I’m going to do a video about is one of three things. It’s something I’m super excited about that I want to share with people. Another reason is if I’ve figured out a way of explaining or talking about something.
The third is (whether) I feel like it’s an appropriate topic at the time. I want to get people to watch my videos, so I find something relevant. Very often, there are a lot of questions the public has about what’s going on. Many times, regular journalists and even scientists don’t answer the questions people have.
Q. Are you ever surprised by what we’re able to learn just by applying science to seemingly silly questions?
These kinds of little, crazy thought experiments, in many ways they’re very important to physics. We do want to understand what possibilities there might be for the universe.