Back before COVID when I regularly guest-hosted the NosillaCast I had a tradition of doing a segment with podcast recommendations. I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts back then, and I have a broad taste, so I always had some shows to share. Did the pandemic reduce my podcast consumption? Heck no! So let’s revive the tradition 🙂
Rather than try rank my recommendations, I just popped them into alphabetic order.
This one’s pretty niche, but if you’re interested in what’s going on in aviation, this weekly show by the folks behind the amazing Flight Radar 24 app will keep you in the loop. I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to my love of aviation, but I do want to keep up, and this show is just perfect for that — one hour a week, and I feel I’m keeping myself in the loop.
Cautionary Tales (timharford.com/…)
I’m a huge fan of British storyteller and economist Tim Harford, and I think this show is his best work yet. History has a lot to teach us, and it’s very often not the lesson we think. Think you know what really went wrong with the infamous exploding Pinto gas tanks? You probably have the same misconceptions I did, but listening to the show I realised it was as important as I thought, but for totally different reasons!
There are lots of podcasts where a tech journalist interviews tech people, but this be is different for two reasons. Firstly, host Nilay Patel focuses his questions on how the tech leaders he interviews made decisions, which guarantees insights you don’t get on other shows.
Secondly, Nilay sets up each show with an intro to put it in context before he plays the interview. He also uses the intro to explain any jargon that comes up in the conversation. This is great because it means you won’t be distracted trying to figure out the term, and Nilay doesn’t have to interject with an explanation and interrupt the flow of the conversations.
Malicious Life (malicious.life)
I regularly plug Darknet Diaries on Security bits, so rather than repeat myself I’ll plug my second favourite security show instead — Malicious Life. This show is supported by the Israeli security firm Cybereason, and hosted by Ran Levi who has a wonderful Israeli accent, and the cutest mispronunciations 🙂
The main show’s main episodes tell stories from the history of cybersecurity in detail. Those story episodes are interspersed with so-called B-sides, which discus a current cybersecurity news story with a relevant expert (often a Cybereason security pro).
If you’re wondering how this differs from Darknet Diaries, Jack Resider builds his episodes around specific people, Ran builds his around specific events. That may not sound like a big difference, but it really is. It’s the difference between Ann Frank’s Diary and Churchill’s History of WWII.
The Sceptic’s Guide to the Universe (theskepticsguide.org/…)
This is a fun weekly science podcast that focuses on the news for the majority of the show, then pivots so what I can best describe as science games to finish. They show us always a panel show, and the tone is conversational — thinks science geek friends catching up on the week’s news over dinner. It’ also LONG, so I have Overcast set to cut the silences and play it at 1.25x speed.
The news segments do a good job filtering the important nuggets from the hype, and adding the larger context that’s often missing from main stream coverage.
The games vary depending on the hosts, but three recurring segments definitely dominate:
- Who’s That Noisy (not a typo) — a listener submitted mystery sound for us all to ponder on till next week. These are usually fascinating!
- Science or Fiction (my favourite and the most reliably present) — three science news headlines, two real, one fake, the panel have to reason their way to guessing which one is the fictions. Superb practice for spotting nonsense stories in the wild!
- Quote Quiz — guess who said a science-related quotation. This is double fun because the quotations are usually interesting in and of themselves, and then you have the game as a bonus! Thankfully they’re usually multiple choice!
Excellently researched and meticulously produced half-hour shows exploring something at the edge of our scientific understanding. The edge is where the fun is, it’s where we know what we don’t know, and we’re figuring out how to learn more!