Magnetic Chereos

I’ve been watching more YouTube videos than regular television this summer.

Tonight I was watching a two part episode of the educational video series; Vertasium.

In week one, he showed a number of science physics things. The one I’m writing about first, was the sequence where a a magnet is used to pull a piece of cereal around in a bowl of water.

The following week, a second video was released that showed the reasons. The science explanation for this “magic” was the simple fact that cereal apparently a huge percentage of your daily recommended supply of iron. Real iron. Our body needs it.

What made the video interesting to me, was that they explained the iron explanation, and then followed up with more information. They claimed to have received some viewer comments, indicating that other items like paper reacted the same. It seems almost anything that floats, is also pulled around in the water towards a magnetic source.   The magnet wasn’t effecting the iron in the cereal at all, but rather the liquid itself.

I was as much interested in the science, as I was in the experiment itself, and the logic of the science behind their first answer. It was an example of trial and error that failed. The video did indeed show me that the iron in cereal was magnetic, but the water experiment was showing me inaccurate results. It seems as though they neglected to show the experiment first with a control, to provide prof that items that don’t contain iron do not move towards the magnet.

As I watched the segment, I became curious as to whether they even knew about this second answer before the second reveal episode. It is an excellent example of scientific principle being misleading when used without a control. They proved a hypothesis with three actual sets of proof. The cereal is definitely magnetic, however they did not prove to us that the proof they used was legit.

On YouTube, we can’t always believe what we see, and entire videos are often made to look real, but instead just turn out to be bogus pranks, or fake science. We have to be careful. When I watch Mythbusters do experiments, they always provide a proof of concept and a control experiment to prove the proof.

I wonder if the show knew both answers and were going to reveal them both, or whether they were surprised by the second discovery, and amended their reveal video to show both truths. In the old days of Television, this curiosity woukd remain a mystery. Today, I think to myself – Google knows all, and somebody else has probably already asked in the comments, forums, or via  twitter.  People love to follow up interactivky these days. It’s probably the biggest change in media. We no longer just watch and learn… we get to watch, learn and ask questions.

As it turns out, the editors of the video admitted to learning something new. The discussions went on for pages. It seems they were excited by learning something new, just as we were. Science is cool.


Later in the video,  they described to me why hot air rises is a totally new way,  allowing me to better understand it,  than ever before. It’s great to learn new things at any age, even if they’re things that may seem obvious and things I should have learned when I was 10.  The floating teabag effect let me understand the idea of whooshing thicker air than the vaccine of thin heated air.  Whoosh.

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