The Best of Educational Television

Let’s face it, not all of us like to read a lot. And those of us that do love to read sometimes get burned out, and like to just zone out and watch something. With that in mind, I wanted to talk about some great, entertaining things to watch that also might teach you something.

The hosts of Mythbusters use science to answer old questions, photo by reedkavner

The hosts of Mythbusters use science to answer old questions, photo by reedkavner

I don’t want to call them movies; these are movies, documentaries, television shows, and more. Since even the DVD is becoming a thing of the past, with the rising popularity of streaming technology, let’s just call this Educational Stuff to Watch.

The Civil War, by Ken Burns – Burns is a storied documentarian, known for making incredibly long, in depth mini-series documentaries. Some of his topics have included professional baseball, jazz music, national parks, and the prohibition era. But for me, his best film was his first, this incredibly detailed and fascinating look at the Civil War. Old pictures are shown, old letters and correspondence are read by famous actors, and Burns tells dozens of small individual stories about people and events during this great war, and show it affected the country then, and how it echoes in our country now. A highly entertaining documentary that will keep you riveted through nine hour-long episodes.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan – Sagan is one of the most famous astronomers and astrophysicists in the modern era, and wrote a series of successful books. One of these books was turned into a ground breaking PBS series, which is available on DVD and on line to view. In thirteen episodes, Sagan explores our planet, our galaxy, and our universe, from the Big Bang through its theoretical collapse. And yet, with such huge topics to discuss, Sagan makes it intriguing and understandable for non-scientists. Warning – it may serve as a gateway to other astronomy documentaries, but there are none better than this.

National Geographic Channel – It’s not just about animals any more! This organization has been making nature documentaries since the 60s, but in recent decades it has expanded its scope while keepings its amazing level of quality. Hundreds upon hundreds of topics to choose from.

The Youtube Education Channel – Yes, there is more to Youtube than pranks and beauty tips. There are thousands of educational clips on the site, ranging from college lectures to recitations of famous speeches and documents, in every possibly field of study you can think of. Science, business, math, computer programming, and so much more. If you have a few minutes to kill, or a few hours, this site will keep you engaged.

Mythbusters – This show is almost too much fun to watch. Every episodes features a classic or modern myth being tested scientifically to see if it could actually happen. Does turkey make you sleepy? Can you slap the sense into someone? Can you recognize the back of your own hand? Wives tales and famous events from history are all put to the test.

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