Over the last year or so I have begun listening to various podcasts on many topics. This post will deal with the science and skeptical based podcasts that I have found to be the most informative and entertaining.
The reason I am combining two separate topics into this post is that in many ways, I find skepticism and science to be closely related. The reason for a skeptical view on a topic is that one is looking for the scientific reasoning behind that topic, which is also known as scientific skepticism.
If you do have any recommendations for a good podcast (or website) along these lines that I have missed, please post a comment and let me know, so I can check it out and spread the word further.
There are two podcasts from Scientific American that I listen to regularly.
60 Second Science is a 1-2 minute daily podcast that touches on recent science news. Obviously with such a limited amount of time this podcast can only briefly touch on the topics and not give an in depth overview, but it gives enough information to allow the listener to search for more detailed information on the topics which they find interesting. The website has the text of each episode, and a comments section for each that can sometimes give you a good place to start learning more about the topic as well.
The other podcast from Scientific American that I have much more recently begun to listen to is Science Talk with host Steve Mirsky. While so far I have only listened to a small handful of episodes, I have previously heard interviews of Steve and I found him to be a very entertaining personality. He is also one of the regular contributers on the 60 Second Science podcast, so I am relatively familiar with his “style”. Each episode of this podcast is essentially a 20 to 30 minute interview with a scientist or journalist on a scientific or technological topic. Steve is very good at adding a bit of humor to even the driest topic and getting the most out of his interview subjects. Steve also writes a very good column for Scientific American magazine if you enjoy his style and are interested in more along a similar vein.
Skeptics Guide to the Universe
The Skeptics Guide is a very informative podcast. At times hosts can be annoying, but very solid content roughly 75% of the time. Currently, I am still trying to catch up on all of the past episodes, which average 70-90 minutes. The podcast is put on by the New England Skeptical Society in association with Skepchick and the James Randi Educational Foundation.
The hosts are Dr Steven Novella, an academic neurologist at Yale. Did I mention he is a neurologist? At Yale. Dr Novella works at Yale. During his work at Yale, he is an academic neurologist. Yale, Yale, Yale, Yale. Academic neurologist.
Rebecca Watson is the founder of Skepchick and since apparently the majority of the vocal listeners of the podcast are older undersexed men, Rebecca’s view of herself has steadily risen throughout her time on the podcast. While she is intelligent and an asset to the podcast, at times her ego gets to annoying proportions, and can be a hindrance to the topic.
Not to speak ill of the deceased, but the 3rd most noticeable host, at least on the older episodes, Perry DeAngelis was easily the most cynical member of the cast. While Perry’s comments are at times very insightful he has some preconceived notions and biases that certainly “get in the way” of the conversation.
James Randi, who is a well known magician and skeptic does a 5 minute segment on the podcast, in a number of episodes, where he blathers on about interesting topics, but I personally am not a fan of his style. I respect the man and the message, but not the delivery of the message in his case.
The final three hosts are Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein and Jay Novella. While I much prefer these three over the other hosts, in all honesty, they are all a bit bland, nondescript, and tend to blend in with each other.
With all the negativity I’m sure I may have pushed some away from this podcast, but it’s actually a much better podcast than I have made it sound so far. The topics are usually very informative, and the guests they interview are almost always very good. While I have focused primarily on the faults of the hosts, if you can get beyond them (which I find that I can) then the information being conveyed is great, and at times hard to find in other realms. The Skeptics Guide is very formulaic, but they do have some very fun and educational “bits” they do regularly, including “Science or Fiction”, the “Skeptical Puzzle”, and the “Skeptical Quote of the Week”.
The website for the Skeptics Guide is fairly easy to navigate and gives a good deal of information, including “Top 20 Logical Fallacies”, and a very good detailed review of each episode.
The Naked Scientists
Decent podcast that I’ve just started listening, so I will add more comments after I have had a chance to listen to more episodes and gotten a better feel for this podcast. Really the only comment I have so far is the British accents are sometimes hard to understand, but .
This Week In Science
This is a stupendous science podcast, and easily my favorite right now (I find myself actually looking forward to downloading it Tuesday’s after work). This was the first Science podcast I started listening to, and it got me into the concept of finding scientific and skeptical in new venues.
The hosts, Kirsten Sanford and Justin Jackson, are very good and contrast each other quite well. Justin can be a bit much at times, but his enthusiasm adds to the topics usually. Kirsten generally does a good job of reining him in when need be, and together they seemingly have a good chemistry. Kirsten generally handles most of the interviews with only slight input from Justin, which seems to work well, since she seems to do a good amount of research into the subject before hand, to help lead them through a very informative interview while remaining fun at the same time.
My personal favorite regular “bit” they do is a bi-weekly conversation known as the Weird From Washington with Michael Stebbins of the Federation of American Scientists and Scientists and Engineers for America where they discuss the impact of politics in scientific endeavors.
Finally, the associated website has a phenomenal collection of science based links for any topic imaginable.
The Conspiracy Skeptic
Really the worst thing I can say about this podcast is that the creator, Karl Mamer, has stated numerous times, that he only plans to do (roughly) a dozen or so episodes. His goal is to point out the essentials of various “recent” conspiracy theories, and give enough information to discredit them He has stated that he will not go into 9/11 for whatever reason, and that in his view there really won’t be enough unique information to go past 12 or so episodes before he would begin repeating himself regularly. In Karl’s opinion most conspiracy theories are based on very similar themes and can really be boiled down to a few basic ideas.
Karl obviously does a great deal of research into his topics, and being just a one person podcast unlike all of the others listed here, his episodes are completely scripted, which does not leave any room for improvisation or other view points, but so far (through 6 episodes) I have not really found anything that I wanted to question (disagree with) but I have had a few things I wanted to question (get more detailed information on).
The website is very bare, with only links to listen to the individual episodes and links relevant to each episode.
For more information check out Skeptical and Scientific podcasts – Part 2.