While we may feel like the knowledge of the world is at our fingertips thanks to the tiny supercomputer that we carry with us everywhere (and we do mean everywhere – hands up who takes their phone to the bathroom), being able to Google whatever you want is not the same as being knowledgeable.
Want to learn more about the world around you and why things are the way that they are? Want to have smart things to say to your friends and good conversation starters? Science podcasts are a great way to expand your mind and your conversation starters.
Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine takes a dark, disturbing and hilarious look at the history of medicine. Hosted by Dr Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin make a dynamic duo, and they aren’t afraid to look at the more disgusting side of medicine and medical history. They can get pretty graphic in their descriptions, so this is not one for those with a weak stomach.
Stuff You Should Know
Stuff You Should Know is a lot broader in the topics that it covers than some of the other podcasts on this list. While some of the topics might not seem ‘sciency’, it is always a pleasure to listen to Josh Clark and Charles Bryant prove first impressions wrong. They discuss topics such as night terrors, radiation sickness, body language and chaos theory. This show is like sitting in on a very interesting, and thoroughly researched, conversation between two bery good mates at the bar.
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe already has a library of almost 600 episodes, so once you have a listen and get hooked, there is a lot of content to enjoy. Each week, primary host Dr Steven Novella works with a panel of special guests to explore recent scientific discoveries and developments. He also interviews notable figures in both the scientific and skeptic communities, and isn’t afraid to push for hard answers.
The Infinite Monkey Cage
The Infinite Monkey Cage is hosted by comedian Robin Ince and physicist Brian Cox and usually features three guests, one comedian and two scientists, who take part in a roundtable discussion on subjects such as mysticism, parallel universes and climate change. The non-scientist guests can make the conversation go in weird and interesting directions, just like good conversations should.
Naked Scientists does not see our scientists losing their clothes (which as a podcast, we wouldn’t be able to see anyway, hmmm), but rather answering whatever strange questions that listeners have to ask, or ask the strange questions themselves when interviewing guest scientists. They have a nice recurring ‘Kitchen Science’ segment that features experiments that listeners can do at home.
Talk Nerdy is a spin off podcasts from The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe where the popular Cara Santa Maria branches out on her own to interview a variety of guests about science, including NASA astrophysicists, artists and YouTubers. The conversation often spirals out into the weird and wonderful, and Santa Maria’s passion and sense of humour makes it an amazing listen.
Radiolab has actually been around since 2002, and it has managed such a long run for a reason. The hosts have a talent for finding the hook that draws audiences into recent science stories and make them interesting and relatable. In recent years they have branched out into some non-science subjects, but curiosity and the desire to know how things work is always the order of the day.
Science for the People
Science for the People takes a closer look at how science is presented to the public, and the way that the presentation of new scientific findings have impacted on history, politics and pop culture – not that we are conspiracy theorists. They also look at new scientific discoveries, how they are being reported (or mis-reported) in the news, and the likely impact they will have on our day to day lives.
Science Vs is a relatively new podcast that takes a look at the science behind some of the biggest fads, such as organic food, e-cigarettes and female orgasms. Australian host Wendy Zukerman has a light-hearted take on the serious issues that still makes listeners face some uncomfortable truths with a smile, but you will definitely walk away asking some interesting questions.
Stuff to Blow Your Mind
Stuff to Blow Your Mind takes a detailed looked at weird topics that you would never have thought to research. Ever heard of the Chinese practice of ghost marriage, thought about GMO mosquito factories or wondered about the mysteries of Saturn’s rings? Hosts Robert Lamb, Joe McCormick and Christian Sager will give you the answers to all the questions that you didn’t even know you needed to ask.
Star Talk is hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chuck Nice and looks at the intersection between science and pop culture, with particular attention paid to what is happening beyond the planet. The duo address ‘Cosmic Queries’ from listeners and interview special guests from the science community.
Science Friday is the grandfather of podcasts, initially launching as a radio show in 1991. This is now an entire science education platform including web articles, digital videos and, of course, an excellent podcast. Hosted by Ira Flatow, he provides an overview of the science this week, and then tackles a few topics in depth.
Bad Science puts our favourite movies under the microscope. Host Ethan Edenburg looks at the science of the big screen and everything that the films get wrong! In the first episode Reggie Watts and a NASA System Engineer dissect Star Wars, while episode two looks at the physics of Back to the Future. So, is time travel really possible at 88 miles per hour?
Invisibilia examines the hidden forces that influence human behaviour. It is a fascinating look at the science of psychology. It looks at topics such as people who can’t feel fear, people who have such strong empathy that they believe that they physically experience that things that they see, and blind people who believe that they can see. Ever wondered if there is a scientific explanation for your crazy?
Brains On aims to take you back to the wonder of childhood and help you explore the world of science with the kind of wonder and enthusiasm that only children seem to possess. On the show, kids ask the questions, and scientists provide answers that kids, and therefore hopefully all of us, can really understand.