What do a Mormon father and son, a Finnish power-lifter and a small-town Nebraska family all have in common? They destroy things for fun and science — and put the results on YouTube.
This particular YouTube community is a bit “Mythbusters” and a bit Bill Nye. Its personalities are usually self-taught, the production values variable and the spectacle undeniably mesmerizing. Right now, the Hydraulic Press channel is probably the best known of the destruction bunch for its videos of an industrial hydraulic press crushing everything from small clay figures to a diamond, all gleefully narrated in Lauri Vuohensilta’s Finnish-accented English:
The Hydraulic Press channel blew up this spring after its attempt to fold a piece of paper more than seven times conquered Reddit. The channel has almost a million subscribers, and yes, Vuohensilta takes requests for what to crush in his press.
If you can imagine a thing, and a method by which to destroy that thing, chances are someone has already tried it on YouTube, and with varying degrees of safety precautions. Inexpensive but visually interesting items like jawbreakers, watermelons and rubber band balls are particularly popular targets of destruction, but many of the earliest videos focus on the creative annihilation of iPhones. Despite the expense of the new iPhones used for these popular videos, people do actually make a living destroying them for the Internet’s pleasure — even if it’s sometimes very dangerous.
Although not every video or channel finds an audience, a journey down the rabbit hole of destructive science on YouTube can lead viewers to videos with hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of views. The production values don’t always seem to matter: One video of a red-hot nickel ball slowly destroying a brick of floral foam has more than 15 million views. The camera work is done by hand, dipping in and out of focus, as is every other video in the long-running series. It still looks very cool:
Others feel more educational. One channel idea that began as a second-grade school project now attracts upwards of a million views for its videos, said Daniel Markham, who runs “What’s Inside?” with his 10-year-old son, Lincoln, from their home in Utah. The channel does pretty much what the title suggests: It cuts open an object to see what’s inside of it. Their most popular video? Cutting open the tail of a rattlesnake.
“People are just very curious, especially kids,” Markham, who works in sales, said. Their channel is part destruction video and part family vlog: Lincoln and Markham make field trips for their projects, sometimes bringing along other YouTubers for the ride. Markham guesses that their audience is mostly kids and families who like their channel because it’s friendly for younger viewers. But there are plenty of adults who watch it, too.
The Markhams get most of the stuff they cut open from eBay or Amazon, funded in part from the ads that play on their channel, although some of their more ambitious videos have had sponsors. While Markham declined to say exactly how much their channel makes, he said it was “significant enough that I do have plans to quit my job to go full time and make YouTube videos.”
The family is starting to think bigger about what else they could tackle for their channel. “I would love to do a big project like a car or an airplane” Lincoln told the Intersect in an interview with him and his father. “That would be a fun video.”
As it turns out, another father and son team are behind one of the newer destruction channels gaining attention. Joshua Zermeno runs “Let’s Melt This” with his 6-year-old son. The two created the channel in March, around the time that the Hydraulic Press channel really began to take off.
Zermeno, who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, said that most of the equipment they use for their videos are things he picked up over the years. Like many YouTube destroyers, he has access to equipment that not everyone might have lying around at home. That also means, he noted, that his safety precautions can include everything from a face mask to a blast shield, depending on what he’s destroying that day.
While Zermeno said that he really just enjoys watching things melt, he has a guess as to why so many other people like watching him do it. “People are usually raised to respect and take care of their personal belongings,” Zermeno said. “Seeing things be destroyed is not something people see happen on a daily basis.”