Podcasts. Billions and billions of podcasts (say this in Carl Sagan's voice). In our lifetime, we cannot hope to listen to one tenth of one percent of extant podcasts. And every second, new podcasts are uploaded to the vast infrastructure that is the internet, several hundred hours of audio every day. Whole universes of knowledge and humor and pathos and crap, so so much crap.
We turn our ears to the speaker and yearn for sound waves to excite the thousands of cilia in our cochleas. When the podcast suits our tastes, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released, giving us a feeling of reward. Not unlike what happens with sweet and fatty foods, alcohol, and cocaine. Assuming we have a fairly typical mesolimbic system in our brain, the feeling of reward will increase our desire for good aural stimulation. The more we consume, the greater discernment most of us will apply to listening. Low quality work, boring narratives, repetition, unwarranted crassness, tension without payoff, these will not satisfy us.
Now, for many of us, we will experience a great deal of reward when we listen to something both entertaining and educational. Learning and fun, these are well established recipes for greatness. And what can be more educational than science? Fortunately, there are many, many science-related podcasts in our sliver of the universe.Unfortunately, we do not have an infinite amount of time in which to partake of them. So we must discern those that will cause us the most dopamine release. We can speed that process up through recommendations and reviews. Or by merely accepting what we say here (recommended).
Okay, so Carl Sagan-y shenanigans aside, picking the essential science podcast has presented quite a challenge. There are a number of good science efforts, and there are a number of things that might be considered in the science category, like RadioLab and Professor Blastoff. What about skeptics' podcasts? Are they science? They cover science to quite a degree. Something like Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is almost entirely science, but they are technically approaching the subject from a skeptical point of view.
So, with this in mind, I've decided to do a separate entry for Essential Listening: Skeptics.
Without further ado, a tie...
Essential Listening: Science
This Week in Science - An irreverent review of the week's science and technology news, with neuroscientist Kirsten Sanford and Justin Jackson.
Star Talk - Neil deGrasse Tyson's podcast, and nothing Neil deGrasse Tyson does is not completely awesome.