Last week, I started writing about Podcasts:
- The Rise Of Podcasts: Get In There While They’re Still Free (which is mostly my lament about how the rise of Podcast networks will one day mean that I’ll have to pay for my content); and
- The Best Podcasts To Listen To In 2015: Part 1 (which are two lists of my favourite podcasts – the first dedicated to podcasts that I listen to as soon as a new episode is released; and the second dedicated to podcasts that had a season of episodes, and are now on hiatus, which continues to make me sad).
This post has two more lists.
The Binge-Listening List
(being those podcasts whose back-catalogues of episodes I frantically download whenever I’m in the vicinity of free fast wifi; and which get played whenever I’m not listening to freshly-released episodes from the providers in Part 1)
*gets choked up*
Radiolab takes stories and science and turns them into art.
I mean, not to overstate it, but the “Desperately Seeking Symmetry” episode from April 2011 is actually a religious experience. In particular, the third segment of that episode (titled “Nothing’s The Antimatter”), in which scientists speculate that the primordial soup that spawned us did so through a minute imperfection in the laws of physics. And it turns out that the Birth of the Universe was the triumph of the unexpectedly asymmetric: the one that had no counter-one to offset it.
I dare you not to experience awe at that conclusion.
Another example: yesterday, I listened to an episode called “Colors“. In it, they investigate how the works of Homer, and the Hebrew Bible, never mention the colour “blue”. And in fact, there’s actually a common thread of that across ancient literature: when you go back into history, and start to roll forward, it’s almost like colours started to bloom into consciousness in order. As though ancient humans first saw in black and white, then they noticed red, then yellow and green, and finally, we started to perceive blue.
How crazy is that?
When I first started listening to Freakonomics radio, I got a bit bored. But I must have struck out on a bad episode – because I went back, rediscovered it, and it’s pretty awesome.
Each episode is like a mini-chapter from their books – or, rather, from books that they’re yet to write.
If I had a podcast, I hope it would be a bit like this. Suggestion: start with “What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have In Common?” It’s still one of my favourites.
Death, Sex + Money with Anna Sale
This is one of the more recent podcasts that I’ve discovered: and I think Anna Sale chooses really interesting subjects, and she has this great way of interviewing people that almost makes you forget that she’s interviewing them.
I particularly liked her two episodes on cheating (the first was an interview with Dan Savage – and the second was a follow-on of people reacting to what Dan had said). Also, there’s a great episode on money in relationships.
Point Of Enquiry
When I wrote Part 1 last week, this was on my list of potentials. Only, it’s now a week later, and I’ve already done a solid 6 hours worth of podcast, and I’ve downloaded dozens of episodes into my playlist.
A disclaimer: I think that the hosts tend to emphasis atheism in a way that gets condescending. Mainly, I think they confuse “knowledge” and “belief”. For example, I am both agnostic and Christian because those two things are not mutually exclusive: being “agnostic” is a statement of knowledge (eg. “I don’t know if there’s a God because I acknowledge that any evidence for His existence is open to interpretation”) while being Christian is a statement of belief (eg. “But I choose to believe in a God through this Faith anyway, because belief is a choice, and I’ve chosen that over the alternatives”).
But if you can bear through some of the hard-edged condescension, the content is worthwhile. I started with an interview with Frank Schaeffer, talking about the future of Evangelical Fundamentalism just after the death of Fred Phelps (the founder of Westboro Baptist Church). Interesting stuff.
The Binge-Listened-To-Exhaustion List
(being those podcasts that I have listened to so often that I just can’t anymore. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t).
Everyone loves a good TEDtalk. I just got tired of hearing “this talk contains powerful visuals – watch them at…” at the beginning of each episode.
The other problem: because the talks vary so much in their content, it requires a bit of curation to get to the stuff that you’re interested in. And I’d already found other, better podcasts (like Radiolab) that came pre-curated.
But I do go back occasionally and have a TEDtalk splurge. It’s just happens less often.
Planet Money releases two episodes a week on finance, the economy, and other business-related things. It feels very similar to what I try and do on this blog (making finance and economics accessible and interesting). So when I first started listening to them, I began at episode 590 and worked all the way back to episode 381, including the newer episodes as they were released.
And by then, I’d had enough.
I still feel exhausted thinking about it.
And to think – there was once a time that I had real anxiety over running out of Planey Money episodes…
Stuff You Should Know
“Stuff You Should Know” taught me things about quantum physics, head-hunting, head-shrinking (for ye olde shrunken head necklaces), presidential pardons, cremation, mirrors, gender reassignment, prohibition, how to grow dreadlocks (and wash them), molecular gastronomy, how long you’ll stay conscious after being decapitated, acne, sword-swallowing, fractals, asexuality, peak oil, the five-second rule, the history of condoms, the papacy, doing police sketches, how to join the French Foreign Legion, allergies, no-fly zones, castration, the Panama Canal, Miranda Rights, bitcoin, the origin of grief and how to use the insanity defence. Amongst many many others.
At some point, I just got tired of hearing Josh and Chuck talk.
Stuff To Blow Your Mind
After I got tired of hearing Josh and Chuck talk, I thought that it might just be the presenters. So then I started to listen to this podcast, in the hopes that new presenters would make a difference.
And I learned about wendigos, the science of hell, dinosaur sex, our aversion to the word “moist”, autotomy (the ability to self-amputate on demand), sasquatches, the psychology of smiling, normalcy bias, the illusion of continuity, and the outsourcing of memory before I got tired of those presenters.
Stuff You Missed In History Class
This was the last of the HowStuffWorks.com podcasts that I listened to before I realised that the presenters were not the problem – it was the format. Pure informational discharge. There was no story; it was just factoids, coming at you, continuously, interspersed with mini-anecdotes and mini-jokes.
That said, if you do want to know how some stuff works, then they’re your guys. All three of them.