Thursday, August 5, 2010

Three Radio Shows You Should Listen to as a Podcast

Podcasts are one of the coolest and most useful products of Web 2.0: I think I've learnt more from podcasts over the last five or so years than I have from nearly any other source. In case you're a touch behind the times, a podcast is essentially a radio show syndicated over the web - but, thanks to the long tail the web makes possible, there are podcasts on nearly every conceivable topic, the vast majority of which would never make it onto radio. (Hint: use iTunes to subscribe to your podcasts).

Luckily, the rise of the wonderful amateurs has not put the professionals out of work - well, at least not yet. And since many stations now release their radio shows online as podcasts in addition to broadcasting them, it's possible to listen to radio shows from anywhere in the world and at a time of your convenience. Here are three great podcasted radio shows I highly recommend:
  • In Our Time is the single most unabashedly cerebral show I've ever come across. In a typical episode, the host Melvyn Bragg gathers half a dozen or so Oxford and Cambridge dons, who then discuss some topic in history, science, philosophy or art. Bless the BBC. There have been episodes on Darwin's Origin of Species, Munch's "The Scream", the Battle of AgincourtMachiavelli and the Italian City State, the Zulu Nation, and much, much more. I simply cannot recommend this show enough. (Bonus: you get to laugh at British academics' preposterous affected accents). 
  • Like In Our Time, Material World is a BBC production, but its host Quentin Cooper takes himself far less seriously, and the show is a lot lighter as a result. Indeed, I suspect I love listening to it as much for the comedy as for its interviews with working scientists at the heart of important recent developments. It's as entertaining as informative, so it's an absolute joy to listen to. 
  • Radio Lab is hard to describe. Produced for NPR and hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, this show is into telling stories and doing so compellingly. Not just fascinating, wonderful stories (it's not This American Life), but fascinating, wonderful stories about science. I'm not sure how to describe it further, so here are some episodes I particularly liked: "Placebo", "Limits", "Parasites" (featuring the wonderful Carl Zimmer), and "Famous Tumors". 
Oh, and just for the hell of it, my Top 5 (non-radio) podcasts:
(Hat tips: Simon Grest for introducing me to In Our Time; Clint Armitage for telling me about Radio Lab and some random commentator on a Facebook atheist group many years ago for telling me about The Skeptics Guide - the very fist podcast I listed to). 


  1. I love In Our Time, and I agree with your comments about it. Simply a brilliant show.

  2. Try Quirks and Quarks from the CBC as a podcast that's a radio show. I also like Science in action from the BBC. Thanks for the tip on In Our Times.