My Favorite Podcasts in 2014 so far

These are the favorite podcasts of mine that I listen to at the moment, and have been listening to for some time. I made a blog post about my favorite Podcasts about 18 months ago (see link) and I still love those ones. This bunch of new ones that I listen to, I encourage you to check out. I’m happy to get feedback good bad or otherwise.

Lets face it, as a designer i spend most parts of most days on the computer, and on the average day, I listen to podcasts for at least an two or three hours a day. My main topics of interest are science (in particular Physics (astronomy and particle physics)), lifestyle, health and nutrition, and technology. I listen to these as these are the things that affect my life, and will do so in the future. Basically its all science, and for those that want to understand the universe.

Some call that “critical thinking”, but i feel that sounds negative and prefer to call it just “thinking and wondering” or “trying to find out why the universe is so goddam awesome (without resorting to mythological trickery). I also love the history aspect of science and how technology and perception has evolved over the years. When you think about it, we have come a long way. While the world is not perfect, we are certainly progressing at lightning speed, and if you listened to these podcasts, you’d know how fast that was. There also has to be some kind of balance between learning and entertainment, as i can only devote a certain amount of my brainpower to listening to these podcasts as i’m busy working. If they are good enough, I will revisit them later when i have more time to let the information sink in.

So with the advent of iOS 7, downloading podcasts has become so much easier. They all download automatically over wifi and you never have to connect your iPad to your computer. That is great because I am not a big fan of the iTunes software. So now you can have up to date podcasts all the time. Another major improvement is streaming technology and in many cases you can stream live if you want to listen to a live feed for example. If you are a podcast fanatic like me, even with a 64GB iPad, you will need to spring clean on a weekly basis and listening live gives you the extra option of saving hard disk space.

Podcasts have become so popular that Apple decided to liberate them into their own app. This is an awesome idea as it was time consuming to open iTunes every time i wanted to listen to a podcast. Lots of Podcasts that have stayed successful have actually created their own apps now, so I will not only introduce the podcasts but also any associated apps.

Stuff You Should Know

Well actually I must say that this is my favorite podcast by far right now, and has been consistently for a while now. It’s the cousin podcast of one of my other favorites “Stuff to blow your mind” but has broader subjects and a more casual presentation.

These guys talk about just about anything. It’s completely random, but if you have some random question in your mind about something, it’s fairly likely that at some point they have researched it. They cover everything from “Were Abe Lincoln’s underpants made from hemp” (I made that up but it gives you the general idea) to “What was the purpose behind ‘Occupy Wall St.’”. It’s questions you had wandering around in your mind that you never bothered to answer. Almost every second or third podcast that gets released, I think, wow, I was just thinking about this the other day.

The best part of this podcast is that they way they present it is like they have researched it independently, as when one states a bit of knowledge he has found, the other is often shocked about that fact. That be said their ideas are coherent and seem to fill the void the other leaves, making the experience quite coherent. Another great part is that they are also quite opinionated, so it’s not just presenting the facts, but two peoples opinions of the facts… And when your opinion aligns with theirs, which mine almost always does it adds to the experience.

Definitely one to check out.

Recent episode topics

  • How amputation works
  • How salt works
  • Is lethal injection humane
  • Is there a scientific formula for funny?

[button link="http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com" target="blank" size="small"]Stuff You Should Know website[/button]

Mysterious universe + app

So. Mysterious Universe. Where to start with this? It’s probably the zaniest podcast I’ve ever listened to. The subject matter is off the charts and it makes me laugh out loud every time. I love it too because they will basically give everyone a chance to have their say and take it at. Face value, no matter how crazy the concept is. Alien abductions.. No problems. Afterlife.. Sure why not. Government conspiracy… Yeah that might be it. The start of every article is presented with just what they found out… And then the fun starts.

They will either then, say, here are some facts that back that up, we don’t really know whether that’s true or not, but it’s interesting, or that is so ridiculous that the fact someone thinks that is outrageous. They are people that want to believe that the world has a paranormal side, but know there is no sure fire way to prove it, so they just decide whether each story seems viable or not. In almost very episode there is a Sasquatch section where the stories are so funny, and I love when the act out the Sasquatch voices. You really have to hear it.

Another great thing about this podcast is that it’s incredibly long. Each episode is over an hour, and if you become a plus subscriber, you get an extra 40 minutes or so. What’s that you ask? Well if you pay 9 dollars, you can become a plus subscriber, where you get extended episodes, with ads removed, plus an extra show every Monday (the regular show is Wednesday). I thought I would never pay that much for a podcast, but after listening for a month or so I had to subscribe. For someone like me I want some chigger chatter on while I work and my 9 dollars buys me about. 15 hours of hilarious science and non-science banter from two very funny Australian guys.

Give it a go. You will know whether you like it within one episode. It’s a love or hate podcast for sure.

The app – I better add that as I run mysterious universe directly from its own app. The app is epic. It has all links from the episode, so youn further research anything you find interestingly some extra bits and pieces. Even links to all the songs. They don’t actually play songs in t, except they have 20 second clips now and then, of various genres. They are usually pretty good so I mainly check the song titles and artists. I don’t research the other things much as I don’t have time but sometimes there is something I just must find out more about. The app is good for that .

One note is that if you aren’t a plus subscriber, there is advertising on the app, which kind of gets in the way. This disappears if you upgrade (and also upgrades the feed to 320kb/s) plus gives you the longer episodes, add-free plus the extra show on Mondays.

[button link="http://www.mysteriousuniverse.org" target="blank" size="small"]Mysterious Universe website[/button]

The Guardian – Science Weekly with Alok Jha

Alok Jha is a legend in my eyes. I have seen him on countless do documentaries and guests on various science podcasts and shows. He is the kind of guy who can freestyle on almost any topic and sound like he has a prepared speech. He is very knowledgeable, and almost always asks the questions that appear in my head when listening to those science podcasts. I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me, as often there are many unanswered question when you listen to deep science podcasts so it’s great to have someone who thinks like you do asking the questions.

Oh yes, that brings me to the next point. He is not presenting anything in this podcast. Each episode (usually) is an interview with a scientist presenting a particular view of science with the most recent discoveries , which are often under scrutiny, and it gives the scientists a chance to explain the fundamental reasons that these advances have been made. In word. Epic. And Alok Jha so the guy you want to present this stuff.

Examples of recent podcasts from the Guardian science

  • Forensic Science written in blood
  • Our Mathematical Universe
  • Bringing the Sun down to Earth
  • Science 2013 – from Google Burger to Higgs Hotel

[button link="http://www.theguardian.com/profile/alokjha" target="blank" size="small"]Alok Jha on the Guardian website[/button]

Stitcher app

This thing is amazing, and could completely replace your podcast app, but unlike your podcasts, its best feature is recommending random shows within categories you like. Think of it as the Netflix of the podcast world. (For those not in America or Canada, Netflix streams movies and TV shows onto your TV)

Stitcher has all kinds of shows, but what i use it for is the “Latest News Feed”.It goes for about an hour if you wanted to listen to the whole feed, but it updates every few minutes, so its easily to refresh it after an hour and keep listening. It contains an amazingly diverse. Each article goes for about 5 minutes too, so you can find out a lot. For example the feed i’m listening to contains

  • Chameleons using color to communicate
  • Nirvana and other bands join rock and roll hall of fame
  • Six troops die in helicopter crash in Afghanistan
  • ‘Geek’ has been voted word of the year
  • Navy expands Sonar testing despite marine life concerns

So as you can tell. Anything goes.Its world news. Its pretty simple, and just an overview of what happening. My kind of news.

You can also make your own stations, so just add science related news or comedy or any other category

I must say, they do have an upgrade to “Stitcher Plus” which is $5.99 for 3 months ( which is an introductory price so i assume it gets higher after that). This removes ads. i wouldn’t bother unless you listen to this app all the time. It does just play them right in the middle of what you are listening, so you can miss out on the end of your story. That IS pretty annoying sometimes if you are really hooked on that article. Its easy to get back to it though by clicking on it again.

Then there is NPR. NPR is awesome. Hands down my favorite collection of seemingly needless but actually awesome news stories. NPR deserves as much community support as we can muster.the way I see it, use Stitcher to listen to NPR. Stitcher has a better ability to make money than NPR does, but every time you listen to NPR through Stitcher you vote for them and Stitcher will make sure NPR stays afloat. One thing that is important to remember, is that the feed qualty is pretty low, which is fine for speech and news but not great for music and things that require quality. I haven’t really ever noticed too much problem with this ( in some ways i like the old school AM radio kind of sound) but something to remember. If you like a specific podcast they i recommend you download it independently.

[button link="http://www.stitcher.com" target="blank" size="small"]Stitcher website[/button]

The round up

So there you have it. My current favorites. Please give them a go and give me some feedback. I’m always open to suggestions too and love being introduced to somethign new.

I love bouncing between happy-go-lucky podcasts like mysterious universe which is often infused with tongue in cheek pseudoscience, and then listen to the guardian where the science of the real world actually surpasses expectations, and almost always amazes me as much.

The world is a beautiful place. Know science. Make it fun. Listen to the news but not too much, and as always.. Thanks for watching.