It’s Podcast Time!

Every once in a while I publish a list of my current podcasts. I listen to a LOT of podcats, most of them pretty unrelated to science, but I’ve found a couple of other science bloggers do the same. Moreover, I am ALWAYS looking for new podcast recommendations. I spend a lot of time analyzing my data, and when you’re doing something tedious and mindless, it’s nice to be learning something at the same time. I can always use to improve my trivia skills. So here they are, and I’d love to know what other people think or if they can recommend other cool podcasts! I’ll group them by category, and include some of my likes and dislikes (podcasters voices, in particular, are very important to me, though if the information is good I can get past certain issues).

Science podcasts:
Science Talk: The Scientific American Podcast: This is always a good one, Steve Mursky (I guess that’s how you spell it) is clearly excited about all the latest stuff. It does tend to get a little physics heavy at times, but generally makes for very good listening. Weekly.
The daily Scientific American podcast, 60 second science: With a variety of podcasters, this is a great one for catching up on the latest science news, and has been the inspiration for more than a few of my Friday Weird Science posts. Daily.
The Nature Podcast: I admit a lot of the reason I like this has to do with the fact that the podcasters are British…a very well organized podcast, always well produced. Weekly.
Neuropod: I like this better than the Nature podcast, mostly because it’s about neuroscience, and thus is inherently more interesting to me. However, it’s only monthly.
History podcasts: I am a HUGE history geek, to me this is not learning, it’s entertainment. And it’s especially entertaining when the podcasts are as into it as I am, and gleefully relating the “gossip” of 1815. 🙂
12 Byzantine Rulers: This podcast has reached completion, but it’s still available at iTunes. It’s AMAZINGLY good. I knew absolutely nothing about the Byzantine Empire before I started listening. The podcaster is entertaining, well voiced, incredibly well-researched, and clearly excited about his stuff. If you’re looking for a first time history podcast, this is excellent. (WARNING: the new site will crash your browser, I’d get this through iTunes)
The History of Rome: Also completely brilliant. I know a little bit more about the history of Rome than I knew about the Byzantines, but this podcaster really knows his stuff. And it’s amazing how much of early Roman history (pre-empire), I was unaware of. I was incredibly disappointed when he disappeared on hiatus for a while, but now he’s back! Each podcast is only about 15 minutes long, which is great if you’re doing something short, or have a short attention span. And he delivers the best description of Roman fighting tactics I’ve ever heard, hands down. Weekly. Sort of.
In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg: This is actually the podcast version of the BBC radio show. In another life, I want to be Melvyn Bragg. He must have the best job ever, learn something new every week, get a whole bunch of impressive experts together, and talk about it. This might be filed under history, as it discusses the history of great ideas, but it’s also got the foremost researchers in the fields today, discussing different angles and takes. A great length, too, 42 minutes, perfect for a nice 5-mile run with a few minutes added on for cool down. Weekly.
The podcast network’s Napoleon 101: I first started listening to this podcast to get in line with Mr. SiT, who is a big fan of the Napoleonic period. I wanted to be able to understand the stuff he was telling me. And now I’m a fan, too! The discussion is between two guys on Skype, one in Australia and one in the US. The expert in the US is David Markham, the author of “Napoleon for Dummies”, and an impressive scholar. I have to warn you, though, if some people have faces made for radio, Markham has a voice made for silent film. But once you get past that, his knowledge is incredibly impressive, with tons of quotes and firsthand accounts at his disposal, as well as lots of Napoleonic stuff that is displayed on the website. Both podcasters are always well prepared, though apt to get more than a little long-winded (general length of each podcast is well over an hour), and they can get adorably geeked out. They love Napoleon and it shows. You will love him, too. Every two weeks or so.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: This one is by a “history fan”, and bounces around, focusing on no one era. Dan Carlin clearly does his background reading, and I LOVE his episode on 1066. It’s very cool if you like knowing little tidbits about history, or just covering great people and events. The podcast is very well produced, though the producers like to throw in little sound effects and have the podcaster speak in a DRAMATIC voice, with many pauses for effect, and it can get a little campy. But the information is great, and often entertaining. Monthly. Ish.
My History Can Beat up your Politics: This was especially good right around the election, putting the latest developments in a little perspective. Each episode focuses on a specific aspect of current politics, things like VP picks, presidents taking office, the economy, etc. The podcaster does a great job of putting this all into historical context, showing where there have been precedents, and what won or lost specific campaigns. His voice, however, is a little…uninflected. I can’t listen to it while driving long distances. But the information is great. Weekly.
The International Spy Museum Spycast: This has actually been waiting in my iTunes for a while, I’m really caught up in the History of Rome right now, and there’s only so much time I can be listening. I’m curious to hear if other people have listened to it.
And there they are! I recommend them all, and if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! I am currently looking for a good podcast (in English) on ancient China. I’m also really interested in learning a language, and I’m wondering if anyone out there knows of a good way to learn a language by podcast. I’m interested in French, German, or possibly Japanese (though with the entire other alphabet, that’s probably not an option).

4 Responses

  1. Two more excellent podcasts with British accents are Science in Action which is a good summary of the week’s science news and Digital Planet which is one of the best technology podcasts I’ve found.
    Also Skeptoid is a great, quick skepticism podcast and Seminars About Long Term Thinking presents really interesting monthly lectures.

  2. Comrade PhysioProf loves motherfucking history!! My favorite is revolutionary american history, and the history of the american political party system.
    “The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840”, by Richard Hofstadter is one of the most interesting history books I’ve ever read.

  3. Hi Scicurious
    I’m sorry I reached this post a bit late so my comment will probably pass unnoticed, but anyway I was delighted by the convergence of interests I found with yours and couldn’t help to answer.
    I’m just an intermediate English speaker (I’m from Chile) so podcasts help me improve my understanding too, but I’ve been enjoying “The Nature Podcast”, “In our Time” and even Dan Carlin’s for a long time. I’m curious though why you don’t mention “The Science Podcast”, from Science Magazine which may be not quite as reputed as Nature’s but still very good. Also interesting (though perhaps too basic for you) is “Science Weekly” from The Guardian. Also enjoyable to me is the Radiolab from WNYC
    As a History fan, I am grateful for the links on this topic, they are fantastic!. I would suggest myself the Gresham College Lectures:
    In general (non-technical) topics , I also have a high regard about many of the podcasts of ABC Radio Australia (as much as those from the BBC):
    You’d probably interested in visiting “all in the mind”.
    Also Radio Netherlands and CBC of Canada have a bunch of interesting programs each.
    For language learning, I enjoyed “The French Podclass” a lot, it was excellent until sadly discontinued in june 2008. Episodes are still available in:
    Bye, Pedro

  4. Thanks for sharing these Sci! I’ve thought about starting up a podcast, but I’m too self-conscious about my voice.

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