As a researcher, a number of hours are dedicated to reading scientific journals. There are the cutting-edge papers you need go over to stay updated, the articles you must review, and of course your own thesis which you look through over and over until your brain shuts down. If you are a student, then there is the never-ending stream of course syllabi, textbooks and lecture notes that you do not only need to decipher, but also memorize. Opening up a newspaper or diving into a book consequently becomes a rarer occurrence. I mean, who wants to read on their break from reading?!
Story by: Olivia Miossec
These little gems of knowledge are great companions during walks, errands, house chores or simply during moments of intense ‘chilling’. They are thus perfect replacements to novels, newspapers and magazines and, of course, ‘easy on the eyes’.
I have therefore put my willingly untreated podcast addiction to good use and made a ‘beginner’s list to podcasting’ with suggestions based on what you’re looking to learn/ what you enjoy.
So this is what you should be listening to:
If you simply can’t get enough of science in your life (nerd!)
As the name suggests, Radiolab is a scientific podcast. More importantly, it is about the profoundly human stories science has to offer – from the past and the present. Sometimes it is about the forgotten, odd or heartbreaking lives behind the facts and theories of science – such as the tragic fate of Henrietta Lacks, the rise and fall of Heimlich or the carelessness of Typhoid Mary. Other times it deals with the exciting scientific discoveries and dilemmas of today, narrated by researchers who made science their life’s passion, or the lay people saved, betrayed or changed by science. Co-hosted by Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, the storytelling prowess and editing perfection of each episode will grip you from start to finish.
Episode to get you started: ‘Famous tumours’ – it is pretty self-explanatory. It includes the story of famous tumours preserved in a museum, the tragic life of Henrietta Lacks, but also the struggle of Tasmanian devils against a contagious tumour.
Note – recently Radiolab has diversified into other topics outside of science. Check out the earlier episodes to get the pure scientific experience.
If you find the economy boring (but secretely wished you understood it)
Planet Money (NPR)
Planet Money does the impossible: it makes the economy fun. They take seemingly dreary topics such as the price of oil, employee salaries or off-shore tax havens and turn them into lively investigative episodes. The Planet Money team won’t simply lecture you about money; they will go and set up an offshore company in a tax heaven and tell you all about it. They will get in the middle of the ruthless food truck business and interview competitors. They will go to song writing camp to find out how one manufactures the song of the summer (or how everything about Rihanna is absolutely fake). Or they will investigate the deep dark history of the Swiss cheese mafia. In between the awe, silliness and incredulousness – you may learn a thing or two about the economy as well, and then flaunt it to any friend that still tolerates you.
Episode to get you started: ´We set up an offshore company in a tax haven´ – this was released right before the Panama paper scandals (coincidence? I think not) and truly helped me understand the whole story better. It takes you step by step on how exactly offshore banking works.
If you want to keep up with the memes, the tweets and the youths of the internet
Reply All (Gimlet Media)
It is so hard to describe what Reply All is about. The short answer is that it’s about the internet and all the craziness, knowledge, humanity and evil contained within it. As a ‘generation Y’ baby with a smartphone surgically implanted in her palm, I figured I knew everything I ever had the desire to about the internet. I was wrong. The entertainingly neurotic duo hosting this podcast reveal, from one episode to the next, corners of the internet I was unaware of. If you want to know how internet is used as a tool for ISIS fighters, but also why Pepe the frog has become a symbol of right wing activism – then this is the podcast for you. .
Episode to get you started:
´Quit Already´ – on how a single Facebook event sparked a popular uprising in Guatemala.
If you want to win next week’s pub quiz
No Such Thing as Fish (BBC)
If you are currently in a pub quiz team, or simply want to annoy your friends with random but topical facts about everything and nothing, you need this podcast in your life. You might have heard of QI, the well-loved British game show in which a panel of personalities are asked obscure questions about the news that week. The podcast ‘No such thing as fish’ is hosted by the researchers behind those questions. In this podcast, they each come up with their favourite fact dug up that week. From there starts a banter filled conversation in which random facts and a bit of knowledge are thrown back and forth between the hosts. It’s hilarious and strangely informative. Thanks to this podcast, I now know that Neanderthals wore capes, that driverless cars’ software play Grand Theft Auto to improve their driving skills (yes, I find it reassuring too) or that some chickens are both male and female (like, split down the middle!).
Episode to get you started: The most recent episode. Keep your facts up-to-date.
If you are in need of a little inspiration:
TED radio hour
By now everyone knows the concept of TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) talks. These are short talks which transmit ideas worth spreading delivered by leading thinkers and activists on the TED conference stage across the world. Whilst you can access such talks from their website, there is a wonderful podcast known as the TED Radio hour. These are hour-long episodes containing a collection of different TED talks selected according to a single theme. They also include interviews from the speech-givers themselves, adding further insight and depth into the talks.
Episode you should listen to: How We Love. I like this episode mostly due to Amy Webb’s entertaining talk on how she ‘hacked’ online dating algorithms to find her husband. Who said nerds can’t find love?!
Other notable podcasts to look out for:
If you enjoy a bedtime story: The Truth is a storytelling podcast which describes itself as movies for the ears. That is spot on. Each episode features a short story re-enacted by voice actors with nicely crafted sound effects which will grip you from start to finish.
If, unlike Trump, you are a sucker for facts: Science Vs is the show for you. In each episode, the host pits a phenomenon of questionable reliability such as gun safety, organic food or antidepressant efficiency against actual research data and the cold hard facts of science. Basically Trump’s worst nightmare.
If you are looking for a way out of academia: How I build This is a podcast about successful companies, from Spandex to AirBnB and how their creator made it to the top (failures included). If you dream of getting out of academia and beginning a start-up then you may want to listen for some inspiration and a few lessons of humility.
Or, even closer to home, there is PhD career stories hosted by Tina Persson (you may have attended one of her talks organized by the career center). In each episode, a different PhD graduate tells their career story so far, and what their next step will be.
So where does one access these podcasts?
There are many options! If you have an Apple device, iTunes still remains the best (even though it kills me to say so). They have an amazing selection, you can subscribe to any podcasts you are interested in and new episodes will automatically add to your device every time you sync to iTunes. There are of course alternative apps to manage and download podcasts such as Overcast for iOS or Google Listen for Android. Even Spotify offers podcasts – look under the ‘show’ tab in your Spotify app.