This article will consume about 2 (two) minutes of your time and give you a list of the best science pod casts around.
You’d better stay informed or you just might lose your job unexpectedly. However, Part I is mainly about a handful of really good pod casts.
Summary: start listening to the TED Radio Hour pod cast by NPR. It will educate you, broaden your perspective on the human mind, keep you prepared and ready, as well as stimulate your own brain’s plasticity and make acquiring other skills easier, when you lose your current job (or the one you’re aiming for with your education).
Walking With Science
Avoid growing old
I recently listened to a “radio” program about brain plasticity. One topic concerned how a flawed “noisy” brain (neurons firing or being quiet when they shouldn’t) learns to avoid using the noisy parts and those parts thus slowly atrophy and die, leading to severe dysfunction.
A less severe variation of that happens when you voluntarily retire your brain, don’t challenge it in a wide range of areas, don’t expose it enough to novelty or strong emotions. Some would call it growing old, whereas I and some scientists these days see it as an avoidable brain disease.
You can understand these things and dodge them at the same time, by taking part of new science through “radio”. It’s fun too.
The most stimulating, educational and interesting pod casts are about science, new discoveries and people. Sure, we are wired to be interested in gossip and empty talk too (there is research made on the science of gossip on some of these pod casts), but that’s about as fulfilling in the long run as eating candy.
Motion and emotion
Humans are made for moving; the brain evolved to understand motion (and happened to develop emotion as a by-product; as a way to understand the motions/behavior of other people). Brain plasticity and learning is enhanced during motion (not that surprising, considering moving is what the brain was made for).
I’ve learned these things particularly well, by listening to programs about the brain while going for long walks :)
If you have trouble focusing on talking heads casts, talk shows, nonsense popular news yapping, you really should give “walking with science” a try.
In short it means 1) Listen to well edited science pod casts while 2) Taking a walk. The walking can be substituted by any kind of drone-like tasks, such as vacuuming, cooking a familiar dish, walking the dog or light exercise.
NPR TED Radio Hour is number one
If you are new to this you should try NPR TED Radio Hour.
There are already hundreds of episodes available on all kinds of topics ranging from health and happiness to technology, biology, neurology and politics. One 1-hour show is made from 2-4 different TED talks on a certain topic (usually mind-blowing in themselves at at full length one a a time, but made more accessible this way).
The show is narrated by the ever cheerful and curious Guy Ross who interviews the TED speakers, explains concepts, as well as plays excerpts from the talks.
You will exercise every part of your brain trying to understand the wide ranging topics presented by some of the smartest people on the planet.
The current episode is a re-run about originality, creativity, copyright infringement etc.
Other pod casts can only fight for second place
Popular science: Recent episodes include Gene Editing, Music and Thought, How English Became Dominant. You won’t be disappointed if you subscribe to Nature.
Everything neurological: My favorite episodes are about the connectome (the brain’s physical wiring) and findings about plasticity. Recent episodes include The Brain’s Way Of Healing. BS is probably my favorite show after TED.
The human connectome
Documentaries, science, new findings…: A recent eye opener was the February 9, 2015, show about the science of smell and how olfactory cells have cured a paralyzed man. By the way, did you know that whereas you have 3 (three) different vision receptors responsible for all the millions of colors you can see, you have 350 different olfactory receptors.
More recent episodes concern the nocebo effect, the psychology of money (does it make us mean and selfish?) and the growing mountain of electronic waste (I hope you don’t have any old cell phones or WiFi routers just sitting in a drawer). A great show.
1-minute scientific tidbits (new findings); perfect for a short walk to the grocery store or the office, and as inspiration for other pod casts or web sites (I have recently subscribed to the gastropod about the history of food).
This show is less sciency and more talky than the other shows. It’s still good, but in this list it ends up last
I’ve included a non-natural sciences show too. Freakonomics deals with how human psychology, rationally irrational decisions affect the macroeconomy around us. Recent topics include Advertising, Obsolete Technological Paradigms, Willpower and Temptation, Online dating.
Economics is not really a science but it’s still about discovery and that’s the most pleasurable activity there is.
Okay, not everybody is a science nerd like I am, so here is something for you. 60 minutes will give you investigative and penetrating news stories about terrorism, politics, leaders, racism, cyber security, Ebola, movie stars (Bradley Cooper, e.g.) and the U.S. military.
Even if this usually is the very last pod cast I go to, I am out with my dog for four hours a day, so there is room for a lot of things to listen to.
Beware, your career could be on the line
If nothing else, listening to science shows will give you a feel for how fast technology is evolving. Even if most, if not all, guests on these pod casts still say The Singularity is a pipe dream, the shows demonstrate the accelerating pace with which innovations will change almost every aspect of the human experience.
One of the first things that will change is Education and Career planning (more in a coming post… soon, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get that one in a timely fashion. You’ll get my free e-book as well).
The backgrounds of the guests on these pod casts also clearly show the value of having a wide range of experiences and skills, not to mention doing truly meaningful and long-term things rather than mindlessly just trying to outdo your neighbor.
If nothing else, quite a few of these accomplished scientists exhibit weirdly random career paths.
- Subscribe to the TED Radio Hour pod cast (and others)
- Move while you listen to the show
- Remember to pay close attention
- Actively try to remember the interesting findings by repeating them silently to yourself
- Your career is on the line
The AI in the picture is a friend of a friend of mine
BTW, did I mention I’m involved in the inception of a European wide venture capital fund for robotics? Stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath. Robotics is still so far away from mind-blowing that it hurts, as I have written about before (here on Linked In).