Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More on Podcasts

My mother-in-law gave me a cool little MP3 player for Christmas. Thank you, Sue. Since I've given up talk radio I've been listening to a lot of books on tape and podcasts for the past year. Without an MP3 player I've just been setting up my laptop at work and listening that way. With my new player however, I can listen much more than I used to. I can take it on my walks on my lunch hour; I can listen in the car; and I don't have to pause it while I walk back and forth to the printer and the break room. You get the idea.
I've found that there are a bunch of books that I can download directly from the library in MP3. That's been a great resource. I recently listened to Thoreau’s Walden. The irony of listening to Walden on an MP3 player while I stare at a drafting program while designing a fiber optic based high speed data circuit for American Express was not lost. It actually helped me stay sane during the process.
There are several weekly podcast that I eagerly await the next episode so I can download and learn more. Lately my new favorite is Astronomy Cast. Each episode is remarkably simple yet very intriguing. It's just the host, Fraser Cain, the publisher of Universe Today talking with an astronomy professor, Dr. Pamela Gay. Fraser typically steers the conversation by asking tough questions and then just let's Pamela give a very thorough answer. I'm sure Fraser actually has much more knowledge on the subject than he let's on to. But he plays the role of an amateur very well. His questions and responses are right in line with what an average college student might ask on each subject. Listening to Astronomy Cast is very much like sitting in an ASTR 101 class and just listening to that one guy who likes to ask all the questions that you'd have asked. I'd recommend it to anyone as a companion to an astronomy class or just if you think astronomy is cool and would like to know a little more. Fraser lives in Canada so it's kinda funny to hear the way he pronounces "about". Being from the South, I'm sure he'd get a kick out of how I pronounce some words too.
SETI has a very interesting podcast that I also enjoy. It's very professionally mixed and edited and has the feel of an PBS documentary. They explore much more than the typical astronomy topics. Many of their episodes detail the scientific method and how we've learned what we know about the universe.
My old standby is The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. Dr. Steven Novella hosts a well informed group of "skeptical rouges" on discussions of current events. Whether it's UFOs over Texas, ghosts in gas stations or the latest panic about Autism, I've really grow to trust the fact based, logical advice given on this podcast.
Recently I've also been downloading podcasts that have been reference on NPR. Electrons to Enlightenment explores the intersection of science and theology. It's only a four part series but I'd love to see it expanded into a weekly podcast.
Speaking of Faith is a program that my mother-in-law recommended because of a program they did on Mormonism. I downloaded that episode and several others. I'll review them more in detail after I've listened to a few more episodes.
I'd like to find more podcast out there that explore religion, science and politics as well as the complex interplay of the three. With all of this very intriguing material now filling my MP3 player I don't see how I could ever find the time to listen to the monotony of talk radio again even if I wanted to. Given the choice between learning something new about our universe like how we're finding extra-solar planets or just hearing some pundit recycle Clinton jokes, I don't have to think very long to figure out which would be a better use of my time.


  1. You should have seen me in college. I was totally that guy that asks all the questions.

  2. I have a feeling that I was too..

  3. Granny Sue1:32 PM

    I am so happy that the MP3 player was a good choice for a gift. Now I have to think of something for your birthday!

  4. You already given me a present for my birthday in the form of the cake class for Victoria.