Meditate With Me

2020 has thrown a lot of uncertainty our way.

We don’t know when we can film with our hosts in our studio again.

We don’t know when the air will clear from the fires in LA so we can enjoy the outdoors again.

We don’t know when we’ll be able to go to conferences and see our colleagues again.

We don’t know when we can visit friends and loved ones again.

It’s so easy to fall into patterns of thinking like this, agonizing over the time we’ve lost and worrying about the future. Meditation is really the cure for what ails us, because it helps you focus on the here and now.

Meditation/ Mindfulness has become a bit of a fad lately, especially in Silicon Valley. But meditation has been around for thousands of years, as part of the Hindu and Buddhist traditional practices. It’s hardly a new invention, but if it helps people to treat it like a new discovery, I don’t have a problem with that. Maybe by making YouTube videos and meditation apps, more people will discover meditation as a way to find peace.

Are you reluctant to try meditation?

Whatever it is holding you back, I’ll bet you anything it’s not a good reason. You don’t have to practice the religions that include meditation in their traditions. You don’t have to do meditation the way it’s shown on TV and in the movies. You don’t have to be in good shape or have a peaceful outlook on life already. You don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way.

Anyone can do meditation.

It’s all about finding what works for you.

Meditation just requires you to do one thing: pick something to focus on. If you get distracted (and you will, that’s natural, and it’s kind of the whole point), you re-focus. That’s it. That’s all there is to it! Meditation is a way to exercise your mental muscles, developing your ability to focus.

I’ve noticed that in most videos and apps that teach meditation, they start with breath work. This is the technique used in “Zazen” meditation. You sit in the lotus position and focus on your breath – inhale, hold, exhale, hold. This works just fine for me, until my broken-down knees start barking. But I know that for many people, focusing on their breath actually causes anxiety. So they give up and think they can’t meditate.

You don’t have to meditate in this exact way. There are other forms of meditation that don’t focus on your breath at all!

I’m very curious about Transcendental Meditation (TM). This is what the Beatles studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and is championed nowadays by any number of movers and shakers. David Lynch has started a foundation to spread the word about this practice. TM is based on the ancient practice of Vedic meditation, which involves silently repeating a mantra to yourself.

TM (the branded version) requires you to meet with a specially trained instructor, who gives you your personalized mantra. Ooh, do I ever want a personalized mantra! But there are no funds in our kitty to try such a venture. Maybe one day.

So instead, I usually do Yoga Nidra. This probably isn’t what you’re picturing. I do yoga every day, with postures and breathwork. But this is something different. I think of Yoga Nidra as a kind of mind-body integration. It involves a “body scan,” where you concentrate on increasing your awareness of all the parts of your body. You wouldn’t think that would do anything, but I feel calm, conscious, and not distracted by worries about the past or the future.

If you’d like to try this method of meditation, please watch our video:

There’s a brief introduction, followed by a relaxing meditation for you to try.

We’ve also made the mp3 recording of the Yoga Nidra practice available to download for free, so you can take it with you anywhere and continue to practice, even when you’re offline and can’t watch our video on YouTube. Sign up for the free download here:

I hope you’ll meditate with me, Socratica Friends!


We recommend the following books and goodies (affiliate links that support Socratica):

Meditation Pillow

Muse – a brain-sensing headband that trains you to meditate

The Miracle of Mindfulness: an Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation Gong

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How to Work From Home

Learning all about this the hard way!

First, it must be understood that we don’t know what we’re doing. Nothing wonderful can come from this unless this is made perfectly clear.

Are you working from home? We are. Or we’re trying to.

Because of the Covid Pandemic, we can’t film together in studio. So we’re finding things to work on that we can do solo, like our website and our new podcast Socratica Reads.

We’re also doing our best to keep our spirits up by watching movies, reading books, playing games, and doing a little creative cooking.

Liliana and I made this video via video chat so you could get an idea of how we’re handling this very strange time.

Stay well, Socratica Friends!


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Ray Bradbury Centennial

My hero Ray Bradbury turns 100 today.

Yes, I know, all too well, that he is no longer with us. And yet, he most certainly is.

At a very early age, I was lucky enough to discover Ray Bradbury’s brilliant, lyrical, emotional, intuitive writing. His stories revealed the world to me, as well as my place in it.

I was lucky enough to meet Ray Bradbury on a number of occasions. But today I’d like to share the day I first discovered him, when I was nine years old. I read his short story called All Summer in a Day.*

My life was forever changed.

I’m telling this story in the inaugural episode of our new podcast: Socratica Reads.

This is not your typical book review podcast. There are plenty of those out there already! Socratica Reads is a personal journey. It’s an exploration of the profound effects that the right book at the right time can have on a person.

Listen here:

or you can subscribe through your favourite podcast player (Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc.).

This will not be the one and only episode that will feature Ray Bradbury, because of course many of his works helped shape us into the creators we are today. Stay tuned for more Bradbury and other creators whose works we have found influential.


*If you’d like to read this story, you can find it in the collection A Medicine for Melancholy here:

When you use our affiliate links, a small portion of the sale supports Socratica.

You can also support our work at Socratica on Patreon.

How to Take Online Classes

Have your classes gone online? Because of the Covid19 pandemic, schools around the world are shutting down and sending their students home.

Sick woman

That’s not to say that education is coming to a halt. Most schools are scrambling to put classes online.

For many students AND teachers, this is their first experience with distance learning. It’s kind of a meta experience, in some sense – everyone has to learn HOW to learn in this way.

Technology For Young Hispanic Woman Studying With Laptop Computer

We’ve signed up for a few online classes over the years, but honestly, we’ve never actually completed a whole course this way. Did you know that the completion rate for online courses hovers around THREE PERCENT?

We put our minds to it and gathered all the best advice we could to put in this video. We were actually planning on releasing it in August/September, for the start of the school year, but we thought it might help people more now.  Share it with all the teachers and students you know!

How to Take Online Classes


Stay home and stay safe, Socratica Friends!


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Socratica Quarantines with Met Opera

We’re under quarantine here in California, due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. That means we can’t film at Socratica, at least for the time being.

So how are we spending our time? We’re still writing scripts and editing videos. But we’re also taking time for cultural enrichment, thanks to a generous gift from the New York Metropolitan Opera.

The Met is streaming an opera every day, for free. 

We’ve always loved opera here at Socratica.

Believe it or not, when I was a kid, most of grownups in my life loved and embraced opera. It wasn’t thought of as some kind of elite art form, only for the wealthy. It was easy to understand even as a kid, often bawdy and over-the-top. It was digested into simple acts, with well-known stories and musical themes. I defy anyone to watch “Marriage of Figaro” and say it is inaccessible.

But as I entered adulthood in the 90s, something started to change. People started to think opera was something fancy.  Was it because of “Pretty Woman?”  A wealthy man takes a prostitute to the opera and opens her eyes to refined culture. I prefer the depiction in Moonstruck – we see an everyman who lives for the opera.

Moonstruck love opera

Ticket prices started to rise uncomfortably. I still got to go to the opera a lot because when I was in grad school, Princeton would give poor grad students FREE tickets and a FREE ride to the glorious opera house in New York City, the Met. I saw everything they did for five years.

Met opera at night


But when I moved back to LA in 2003, by then, ticket prices were out of control. Even with two of us working good jobs, we couldn’t, in good conscience, spend a couple of hundred dollars on two hours’ of entertainment. That’s more than two week’s groceries in our house.

Thankfully, the Met started streaming HD recordings of their operas. You can rent a gorgeous production for $5. They’re beautifully made videos –  it’s like the best seat in the house, complete with subtitles.  It’s really a wonderful resource. And now, during the pandemic, they’re making one of their operas free to stream each day. Thank you, sincerely. What a lovely, lovely gift.

If you’re hesitant – you don’t think opera is for you – we have a gift for you, too. When we first started our channel, we made a playlist to give an introduction to this incredible art form.



You can tell these are some of our earliest videos!  The lighting is crazy hot (we were using powerful ARRI Fresnel lights). We were just learning how to edit using Adobe Premiere.  But I look back on these early videos with great affection.

Our playlist of opera terms is here:

Opera is for everyone!


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Multiple Choice Tests, defanged.



Do you think Multiple Choice tests are unfair?

Is this because you don’t do very well on them? Be honest, now.

Wouldn’t you like to know how to do better on these tests? Socratica can help.

The truth is, that while multiple choice tests can seem tricky, they really can be the best way to test for certain kinds of knowledge. Namely – can you draw distinctions between closely related ideas?

Answer sheet

To do well on Multiple choice tests, you have to stay calm and proceed through the test without getting too hung up on any one question. Don’t waste your time fretting if you don’t know the answer right away. This is easier to do if you prepare well.

In this video, we share some of our best strategies for doing well on multiple choice tests. Our number one tip is to take a practice test, and then use it to figure out what you DON’T know. Then, study only the material you don’t know! This can feel uncomfortable, but it really is the most efficient use of your time. After studying, then re-test yourself, only on those topics you previously missed. Now, you have a much better chance of success on the real test, and you haven’t wasted precious study time on material you were already going to get right on the test.

Try our techniques on your next multiple choice test, and see for yourself!

More Excellent Study Tips Here (YouTube Playlist)


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A Social Media Fast



YouTubers have to promote their content and be visible. They have to be present on social media. That’s the common wisdom, anyway, but do we really know this? Is this constant sharing, constant online interaction really necessary? And does it contribute to burnout?

I use Twitter professionally to promote our Socratica SciComm work, and to stay updated by scientists and science communicators. But it’s also a social outlet, connecting with my peers – because, let’s face it, being a YouTuber is a weird job. It’s not like we have coworkers.

No one else but a fellow YouTuber understands the strange details of our jobs (good and bad). When someone leaves a nasty comment on one of our videos (unbelievable, the sorts of creeps math and science videos attract), I can point it out to my online friends and we can support each other. When a friend reaches a subscriber milestone, we can all celebrate together.

In that way, Twitter has served a much larger purpose for me, allowing me to connect with fellow Edutubers (that’s how I met the We Create Edu group) and find some much-needed camaraderie.

touching phone

But there has been a slow, steady creep of social media into my life, and like so many others, I’ve found myself scrolling, scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, TikTok – and to what end?

Thankfully I got off of Facebook years ago. And for the next 40 days, I’m giving up the rest of it. I’m not a practicing Catholic, but it’s my family tradition, and the ritual of Lent appeals to my Transcendental nature.  (I usually give up popcorn.)

This year, no more endless scrolling and online dopamine hits. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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Where did the year go? Socratica in 2019

I was about to make a Happy New Year post, when I noticed the last real post I made was for the New Year, January 2019. Where has the year gone? In a word: PROJECTS.

2019 was the year of 3 major projects for Socratica: SQL, VR180, and Python Kickstarter. 


We were tapped by the YouTube Learning Initiative to create a “Learning Playlist” about SQL – Structured Query Language. The Learning Initiative was a major undertaking by YouTube to create a new way for people to interact with educational videos. This new system allows you to subscribe to a learning playlist (as opposed to a channel). YouTube presents these videos in a distraction-free environment, and keeps track of your progress. We hope YouTube continues developing ideas like these to help educational creators and viewers who want to learn!

Introduction to SQL (Computer Science)



VR has finally gone mainstream, with the arrival of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, etc. But while there are a number of Virtual Reality games available, VR content on YouTube remains sparse. Socratica was once again chosen by YouTube to represent educational creators on their platform as part of their VR Creator Lab. We were invited to attend a special hands-on course with ten creators, including Patrick Starr, Big Cat Rescue, Invisible People, the LA Times, and Titanic Sinclair/ Poppy.

We learned how to use a special VR180 camera, which captures a 180-degree hemisphere in 3 dimensions. Filming like this poses special challenges, including deciding how close to stand to the camera (not as close as you’re used to, or it feels scaryclose!), how to move it (very carefully), and how to enhance the 3D experience. Then we learned how hard it was to work with 8K files! Our poor computers got a real workout. As a result of this project, we also learned about how to use render farms.

We made 3 videos to explain how VR works (we are an educational channel, after all) – The Science of VR, The Math of VR, and The Tech of VR.  Then, as a bonus fun (but also highly educational) reward, we made a VR180 Tour of the Solar System.







Our last major project of the year involved you, all of our Socratica Friends. We took stock of the progress on our channel, and also all of your comments and requests. Our most popular playlist was Python, but we had only made about 30 videos over the course of 5 years. You kept asking for more, but we just didn’t have the resources to make them any faster. So we decided to ask you for help!

Working on the SQL project and the VR180 videos allowed us to see just how much we could get done when we had reasonable funding and a chunk of time set aside. We drew up a careful budget and asked if you would like to support us making 20 Python videos in 2020. And you said yes!  Our Kickstarter was successful. We begin production in January. That is…NOW!!

We’ll be writing, filming, and editing Python for the next several months, thanks to your support. We can’t thank you enough. Soon we’ll have our new Python videos to share with you. In the meantime, here’s our Python Playlist:


Happy New Year, Socratica Friends.  


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Socratica Python Returns – with your help.



We’ve made some very fine Python videos on our Socratica YouTube channel. They’ve done well, and we’re happy we’ve been able to help so many people get started programming.

But the truth is, it’s not enough. We’ve made 32 videos over the course of 5 years. It’s going to take more than 32 videos to make you into a great Python programmer.  We need to make more videos, and we need to make them faster.

But we’re working as fast as we can! We need help.

That’s where you come in.

If you love our work – if you think what we’re doing offers value – consider supporting our Kickstarter project to make 20 new Python videos over the course of the next year.

Support what you love!  Socratica Python Kickstarter