Monday, February 2, 2009

Gen Y Science: Jo's Guide To Podcasts

If ever you catch me walking in the corridors of power, ahem, the McMaster, across the quad, or Gunn, you will see usually see me plugged into my ipod. Now you might be thinking I’m listening to music, but actually I’m “doing my reading” or at least that’s what I tell my supervisors. It is partially true. I am listening to podcasts and many of them are science based. This means I have large amounts of trivia left in my brain to regale you with at Bakeoff or Flodge Friday but just sometimes it gets me thinking about other types of science, and I guess that’s better than listening to Britney.

So I thought I’d enlighten some of you about podcasting and point you towards some of my favourite podcast.

Podcasting, for those of you who have been under a log/doing a PhD, is a form of audio broadcasting on the internet, or simply put, it’s radio downloaded from the net.

To subscribe to podcasts you need to use a program to download them to your mp3 player. The program subscribes to them and then downloads them when there is a new episode. This is very easy to use with itunes, or if you are not that way inclined, you can use “Juice” which is a freeware program which does the same thing.

I’m assuming you can get podcasts onto your mp3 player… if this is still a challenge, then collar me some time and I can show you.

I listen to a broad range of podcasts and it makes lab work so much more fun. To find any of these you can search for them in itunes, or find their homepages and click on the feed (again, if you have problems, ask me to show you).

Here are some of them:

Science: Let’s start with science, because, well that’s what we are supposed to be doing.

The Science Show from ABC Radio National
Ok, I know Kao finds Robin Williams boring but I’ve grown up with the Science show and I love listening to it. This is a one hour digest of what is new in science together with interviews with leading scientists. Robin Williams does not dumb things down, but just offers explanations. This is the most popular podcast on the ABC, which is good news!

The Nature Podcast
Nature does a podcast highlighting what is new in Nature. It’s a well thought out and slickly produced podcast. How else would I know the story behind the mammoth hair being bought on Ebay.

The Naked Scientists
Dr Chris Smith and a team of other scientists (well everyone seems to have a PhD so there is hope for us yet) answer questions from listeners around the world, and bring up to the date info on what is hot in science. This is lighter than The Nature Podcast.


The Health Report from ABC Radio National
This is a great one for discussions of some of the latest medical research. Of course it is based on people, but we can always extrapolate to our species of interest. Norman Swan has been presenting this for my entire life as well, so it takes me back…

All in the Mind from ABC Radio National
I just love this one. It is up there as one of my very favourites. Everything mind brain and mental is explored in this podcast, from autism, to brain surgery, to economic psychology. If you are interested in psychology or anything to do with thinking you’ve got to listen to this one.

Nothing to do with science or medicine
Sometimes I don’t listen to science stuff, but don’t tell the supes!

Hindsight from ABC Radio National
Ok so you are picking up a theme here and I think it must just be because I’m ancient now and have to listen to radio national or I’ll expire. Hindsight is the ABC’s history program. It mainly deals with Australian history. Recently there have been programs on the social history of the word “Cooee”, Captain Cook’s voyages to Antarctica, and changing attitudes to death and burial through time. See, nothing to do with science. It’s great.

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
A panel of skeptics headed by Dr Steve Novello, president of the New England Skeptical Society, take on all that is questionable in this world. The podcast has a number of sections: news – in which the panel dissects the latest news (for example recent studies in alternative medicine, Tom Cruise’s latest scientology escapades, psychic phenomona), an interview with a prominent skeptic, and finally Science or Fiction (a game). This is pretty hard core scepticism, but it makes me laugh. If you are a fan of alternative things you might not like this. If you are interested in learning to think critically, this is a useful podcast regardless of your background.

This American Life
I think this is probably my most favourite podcast. This American Life is a public radio show in Chicago, with something like 300,000 podcast listeners. The show is around an hour long and is presented in 3-4 acts. It usually has a theme (for example, poultry, the economic crisis, breaking up) and the acts are short essays, interviews or plays from some extremely funny and inciteful people (for example David Sedaris). Listen to it, you won’t be disappointed.

From Our Own Correspondent
Dispatches from BBC foreign correspondents around the world. Get transported from your lab bench to a Russian sauna for a good beating with a birch branch, go trekking on a yak through Nepal, head into Zimbabwe under cover... it’s all there.

I’ve got oodles more that I won’t review but for your information here are more if you just can’t get enough:
Background Briefing
BBC History Magazine
Correspondents Report (ABC)
Digital Planet
Documentaries (BBC)
Dr Karl and the Naked Scientists
Dr Karl on triplej
File on 4
Friday Night Comedy from BBC
In Conversation
Lonely Planet Podcasts
Ockham’s Razor
Pods and Blogs
Radio 4 Choice
Science Talk (Scientific American)
Street Stories
Triple J Hack

By Jo Griffith

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