Sunday, December 4, 2011
Welcome to Part 2 of the Science Podcast Roundup. As with Science Podcast Roundup: Part 1 I'm only going to include podcasts that I have listened to so as to give a more honest opinion. I'm finishing up the list in this post so if you don't see your favorite podcast then please leave a comment with your suggestion. All of these podcasts can be found in the iTunes directory or through RSS feeds on the websites I’ve provided.
This podcast is from WNYC, a New York public radio station, and NPR. It is hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. The show is weekly and has full episodes that last over an hour as well as shorts that are about 20 minutes long. The podcast presents topics at the intersection of science, philosophy, and the human experience. They take on big questions and are often very story based. These stories are typically told through interviews. I find that the show explores interesting topics on a more personal level, and the hosts’ voices have almost a soothing quality that makes them very easy to listen to.
This is another podcast from the reporters and editors of The New York Times. It is a 30 minute long podcast, hosted by David Corcoran, that discusses news in science, medicine, and the environment. So why not just read the NYT Science Section? This podcast reports those stories in much more detail, often going to location and interviewing doctors and scientists.
This podcast is presented by The Guardian and is hosted by Alok Jha along with some of The Guardian’s science reporters. In general, it covers “the best analysis and interviews from the worlds of science and technology.” These weekly episodes run anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The episodes tend to be topic driven and include interviews by experts in the field. Overall, it is an easy to listen to, informative podcast.
This podcast reminds me quite a bit of This Week in Science (described below). If you are a TWiS minion then you will probably like this show. The podcast is hosted by The Paleopals (Patrick, Ryan, Charlie, Ben, Jacob, Kelly, and Justin) and is “about things that are science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science.” The weekly podcast runs about an hour and a half and covers more topics and stories than your average topic-based podcasts. The format is kind of just scientist friends talking about science stories they find interesting. It has a very informal sound to it, but that leads to some entertaining conversation and joking around. The informal format is not for everyone and to really like this style you may have to listen to a few episodes and get to know the personalities of the hosts. Once you do that you may find that you agree with certain people more than others and look forward to what they say in the next episode.
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe
This podcast is produced by the New England Skeptical Society and is “dedicated to promoting critical thinking, reason, and the public understanding of science through online and other media.” It is currently hosted by Robert Novella (a neurologist), Rebecca Watson (the founder of Skepchick, Evan Bernstein (blogger and professional skeptic), and Jay Novella (skeptical activist, blogger, and producer). The show discusses the latest news from the world of the paranormal, fringe science, and controversial claims. It is all discussed from a scientific point of view – and that is the important part for me. The weekly show has a run time of just over an hour, the format is informal, and the material informative and entertaining. I really like their scientific point of view for topics that can get very unscientific very quickly.
So I may have a small academic-crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and a scientist involved in educating the public. This (mostly) weekly podcast runs about 45 minutes, is hosted by Neil, and presented by Discover magazine. It strives to bridge “the intersection between pop culture and pop science, covering subjects like space travel, extraterrestrial life, the Big Bang, the future of Earth and the environment, and other breaking news from around the universe.” Neil is often joined by comedian co-hosts, celebrities, and other special guests. I’ve always thought Neil to be well spoken and funny and this obviously lends well to radio. Each episode tends to be topic or interview based. The show is well suited for the average listener, and even for younger audiences. I find the podcast to be funny and informative. Try it and I’m sure you’ll love it too.
Website: http:// www.startalkradio.net
The Story Collider
This podcast is all about personal stories. They are live shows that are recorded and posted as podcasts for us to listen to. The episodes are posted weekly and range from 10 to 20 minutes in length. Essentially they are one person telling one story about how science, any part of it, has affected them. These people come from all walks of life, they are scientists, comedians, librarians, artists…whoever. Their stories range from important scientific discoveries to the very personal process of going through fertility treatments. They often contain really funny moments of humor as well as really personal life struggles. If you like to hear stories then this is the podcast for you.
This Week in Microbiology (TWiM)
This is a new podcast funded by the American Society for Microbiology. It is hosted by Vincent Racaniello (a virologist at Columbia University), Cliff Mintz (biopharmaceutical educator, microbiologist, and blogger), Michael Schmidt (professor and researcher in microbiology and immunology at MUSC), Stanley Maloy (bacteriologist and professor at San Diego State University), and other experts in the field. This biweekly podcast runs from an hour to an hour and a half in length and discusses the “unseen life on Earth.” They “strive to produce an informal yet informative conversation about microbes which is accessible to everyone, no matter what their science background.” I find that statement to be true, for the most part. I think that the average person can keep up with them but that it defiantly helps to have at least a little knowledge of the subject. The hosts definitely know their stuff, effectively and thoroughly exploring a recently published article or news story, often referencing related primary literature. I find the podcast to be very well put together and easy to listen to. I subscribe to it because it keeps me up-to-date on a topic that I don’t read a lot of literature on. This podcast follows in the path of the successful This Week in Virology (TWiV) and This Week in Parasitism (TWiP). I have not given these shows a try, but if you like TWiM it is likely you will enjoy these other two shows as well.
Websites: http://www.virology.ws/2011/02/23/this-week-in-microbiology/ and http://microbeworld.org/twim
This Week in Science (TWiS)
This is actually the first science podcast I ever listened to. It is a weekly science radio talk show broadcasted by KDVS 90.3FM on the University of California Davis campus. The weekly, hour long show is hosted by Dr. Kirsten Sanford and Justin Jackson. They review articles and news stories in a wide range of topics and they will often have a long interview with a guest. This is one of the more entertaining podcasts as the hosts often take a “humorous and irreverent look at the week in science and tech.” Some of their more famous segments include This Week in World Robot Domination and the TWiS Bookclub. And, more recently, they have started broadcasting a live video stream of their show through the KDVS website.
NPR: Science Friday
SciFri is a weekly (yes, on Friday), two hour, call-in talk show hosted by Ira Flatow. It is part of NPR’s Talk of the Nation and is one of the most popular iTunes downloads, it even has iPhone and Android Apps. They “focus on science topics that are in the news and try to bring an educated, balanced discussion to bear on the scientific issues at hand.” The show frequently includes panels of expert guests, takes questions from listeners, and has in-depth interviews with scientists. This is one of the premiere science shows and one I highly recommend.
Science on Saturday
This show can be found in the iTunesU section of the Apple Store. It is an approximately hour long video podcast from the University of California Television Network (UCTV) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Education Program. It consists of a series of lectures for middle and high school students. They focus on cutting-edge science topics and explore them in fun and interesting ways. Although this is geared towards pre- through late teens, the average listener will probably also enjoy them.
The Science Show
This is one of the longest running shows on Australian radio. It is a weekly, hour long show hosted by Robyn Williams and broadcast by ABC Radio National. It features current scientific issues, debates, events, and personalities. It also has segments recorded on location, interviews with scientists, and special feature stories and series. I find Robyn to be an exceptional host, often going to locations and hosting full interviews himself. If you like Science Friday and the Nature podcast then I highly recommend trying this one out.
This podcast is a production of the blog of the same name. It is an almost weekly show that runs about an hour and a half and is hosted by Andrew Mayne, Justin Robert Young, and Brian Brushwood. It is geared towards “people who love both science and are fascinated by the impossible and fantastic” and “who believe a mystery is interesting no matter the outcome.” They attempt to answer questions like: How can you prepare for a zombie apocalypse? and How would you fight a Yeti in hand to hand combat? The hosts will present a story and then spend the rest of the time both talking directly about that story and going off on wild tangents. I find this podcast’s informal format and unique topics to be very entertaining and strangely informative, all at the same time. I definitely wouldn’t call it hard science, and it is skimming the surface of science news reporting at all, but it is funny. Consider becoming a Weirdling!
And last, but not least, I’m going to throw out a general approval-blanket over iTunesU. Several universities are now posting large amounts of information on the service. You can find individual podcast-type shows, made-for-audio specials, and even listen to class lectures. All for free! Want to know about a topic you never got around to taking in school? No problem. You’ll find several versions of the class here, you just need to decide on the school and professor. A note here though: Audio quality varies, especially for class lectures, so take a quick listen before downloading an entire class. If you can’t listen to a few minutes then there is no way you’ll get through an entire semester. But because there are so many choices, if you don’t like one then there is sure to be another out there.
Hope you enjoyed this tour through the world of science podcasts. I've gotten many friends, family, and collegues hooked on them in the past and I hope to do the same for you. As with all things, have fun!