Culture on My Mind
Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines
August 6, 2021
This week, the educational side of YouTube is on my mind. Specifically, I’m looking at Smarter Every Day.
The channel is run by Destin Sandlin, a mechanical and aerospace engineer from Alabama. His channel focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics, and each video provides him and his audience a chance to learn something new about the world around them. Smarter Every Day is a must-watch subscription on my YouTube feed.
Destin started a series of videos in June of last year focused on nuclear submarines. He was invited to participate in ICEX 2020, a biennial Navy exercise that explores operational readiness in the Arctic. The video series was particularly intriguing since I was a nuclear submarine officer, and I was very excited to see how the engineering and lifestyle complexities would be seen and interpreted by civilian eyes.
I wasn’t disappointed.
This series of videos was quite well done and offers an easy to digest perspective on the submarine force. My wife watched the series with me and finally understood some what my former job entailed. I want to thank Destin for that and for taking the time to teach the world about the basics of the Silent Service.
There are nine episodes in the series, filmed during a brief underway on the USS Toledo and released over a year. If you enjoy them as much as I did, consider chipping in to continue his mission through Audible, KiwiCo, or any of Destin’s other sponsors.
The first episode was published in June of 2020 and focused on ICEX. Specifically, Destin covered the science of arctic ice and how that data feeds into the Navy’s mission. After that, he boarded the Toledo and submerged beneath the ice cap.
The second episode debuted in July of 2020 and continued the story with a basic overview of his adventure and submarines overall.
The third episode took us into a torpedo tube and explored how a submarine’s teeth work. One trivia item that my wife found interesting as we discussed the video was how visitors are able to autograph the tube with grease pencil. My signature was one of the tube doors of the USS Greeneville, though I’m absolutely sure it has since been washed away by pressurized seawater over the ensuing two decades.
The fourth episode premiered in October and focused on two of the most dangerous casualties that a submarine can face: Fire and flooding. Since Destin is an engineer, he was also able to explore the principles behind how the sailors fight these casualties.
The fifth entry was about how submariners eat. Since submarines are designed to make their own water, air, and electricity, food is truly the limiting factor for how long a boat can stay on station. The methods and creativity involved in feeding over a hundred sailors are unique in the submarine force.
The sixth episode came at the end of 2020 and explored how submarines listen underwater. It was quite fun to see just how far the discussion could go before hitting classified information. This video will give you the basics of the sonar science and how one can see underwater without light and windows.
In February, Destin discussed how submarines make and maintain breathable environments while underway. The counterintuitive science of lighting a fire to produce oxygen was a fun topic to watch him explore.
In May, sanitation was the topic du jour. Toilets and showers seem simple enough, but they’re a bit different on the boat. Water conservation is vitally important and one wrong move could mean getting a face full of feces. Not the most dangerous thing you might do on a submarine, but…
The series came to a close on July 30th with the complex evolution of surfacing the ship under the polar ice cap. Surfacing a submarine is already a complex and dangerous evolution, but the added wrinkle of precision piloting is a whole new level. It’s not something that I ever did, but I still studied the basic principles at one point.
Once again, if you’re interested in STEM topics, Smarter Every Day is a great place to land for quality education and production values. Thanks to Destin for sharing his perspectives and experiences with the world.
You can find Smarter Every Day on YouTube.
Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.
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