Bruno Reynell recommends eight of the best science and technology podcasts.
Podcasts are an excellent way of keeping yourself entertained, whether it be on the morning commute, while you’re doing chores, or during exercise. With the recent growth of podcasts has come a wide variety of excellent science and technology shows, to suit a range of interests. Here are eight of the best to add to your collection.
Costing the Earth
Airing on BBC Radio 4, Costing the Earth covers the environment, and, in particular, how we as humans constantly influence and alter it. This includes, for example, investigations into how habitats and organisms are fighting for survival, glimpses into current climate change research, and explanations of how some of our everyday habits might not be as harmless as we might suspect. Costing the Earth is never the most comfortable listen, but the content is usually topical and always important.
Episode to try: Plasticphobia
Staying with the BBC, Health Check looks at anything and everything relating to health and medicine, from a local level right up to the global scale. Covering incredible research breakthroughs as well as worrying new issues, it’s a programme that frequently inspires both optimism and concern. Health Check is particularly worth listening to thanks to excellent presenter Claudia Hammond (who, incidentally, has one of the best ‘radio voices’ you’re likely to hear).
Episode to try: What’s the Irish Cervical Check Crisis All About
The Infinite Monkey Cage
Taking its memorable name from the infinite monkey theorem, The Infinite Monkey Cage is one of the best-known popular science radio programmes. Presenters Brian Cox and Robin Ince always do a fine job of balancing serious science chat with the humour that is one of the programme’s trademarks. In addition, the guests usually consist of a who’s who of scientists and comedians (this summer’s 100th anniversary show’s star-studded panel included Sue Black, Katy Brand, Brian Blessed, Eric Idle, Dave Gorman, Alice Roberts and Neil DeGrasse Tyson), which invariably makes for a good time.
Episode to try: The Infinite Monkey Cage 100
More or Less
Tim Harford (of The Undercover Economist fame) presents numbers and statistics podcast More or Less. Available in easily digestible 10-minute segments, Harford explains all manner of interesting (and often misleading) statistics that he and his team come across. What makes the programme particularly engaging is that the statistics discussed are often those that have recently been banded around by politicians or other people who think they’re being smart, which makes it especially satisfying when you listen to Harford thoroughly debunking them.
Episode to try: Foreign Aid: Who’s the most generous?
The Naked Scientists
“On the way, how can dance be used to help aging populations? And we delve deep into the science of wombat poo.” This description of what is to come, given halfway through an episode, gives an indication of the rich variety of topics covered by Cambridge-based The Naked Scientists. Since its creation in 2001, this multiple award-winning programme has become one of the world’s most popular science shows. The presenters are all extremely bright, their passion for science communication is evident, and the show’s often original approach makes for a refreshing podcast experience.
Episode to try: Scientific Shimmy: Why we Dance
Nature is, of course, a household name in the world of scientific academia. However, it’s probable that not too many people will be aware of the Nature podcast that accompanies each issue of the journal. Each week, you hear scientists discuss some of the most exciting research taking place today, as well as analysis of recent news from Nature’s team of journalists and editors. The ‘research highlights’ segment, in particular, is an excellent way of keeping up to date with the latest and the best in science.
Episode to try: Mood forecasting technology, and where are the WIMPs?
Science Weekly is The Guardian’s contribution to the realm of science podcasts. However, unlike broader focus podcasts like The Naked Scientists and Nature, each week, presenters Nicola Davis, Hannah Devlin and Ian Sample shine the spotlight on a single important topic. Never a podcast to shirk difficult questions thrown up by science and society, they examine questions that require debate, through revealing interviews and intelligent inquiry.
Episode to try: Mars is barred: why we shouldn’t go to the red planet
The Financial Times’ well-renowned technology section is, unfortunately, hidden behind a paywall. However, that won’t stop you from accessing their excellent Tech Tonic podcast. The Financial Times’ innovation editor John Thornhill presents, and each week, he talks to a range of entrepreneurs and academics who offer their ideas on how aspects of technology such as AI and big data are changing our societies and lives in the digital age.
Episode to try: Removing bias from AI