My favourite podcasts #2

April 14, 2017

In 2008 I did a page listing my favourite podcasts, which I subsequently updated. Now though, there are just so many podcasts that I have decided to a new page. Here are my new choices:

99% Invisible

99% Invisible is a Radiotopia production, which looks at unseen and overlooked aspects of design, architecture, and activity in the world. Presenter Roman Mars goes into the things that you don’t normally think about such as McMansions, Ouija boards, Freud’s couch, barcodes and revolving doors. The length of the shows is kind of on the short side, especially with ads and credits, but I suppose it’s better to be left wanting more.

All in the Mind

ABC Radio Australia’s All in the Mind examines the mind, brain and behaviour, and the fascinating connections between them. The presenter, Lynne Malcolm looks into such topics as dreaming, depression, addiction and the psychology of conspiracy theories. If you find the workings of the human mind fascinating, this is the podcast for you.

Freakonomics Radio

If you want a show just focussed on economics, then I recommend Planet Money. Freakonomics has become more wide-ranging, but I do enjoy it. The economist, Steve Levitt now appears rarely, so it is Steve Dubner, who features mainly. Some of my favourite episodes have been Bad Medicine, In Praise of Maintenance, Why Uber Is an Economist’s Dream, and The Economics of Sleep.

 Hidden Brain

In The Hidden Brain Shankar Vedantam uses psychology and storytelling to look at the unconscious biases that shape human behaviour.  Topics have included boredom, slanguage, losing face, the perils of power and the science of deception.

Moral Maze

The panel take a current news issue and look at the moral background to the question. Topics have included selfie culture, political discourse, virtue signalling and fake news. Host Michael Buerk does a great job.

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

This show’s host, Christopher Lydon, is credited with creating the first podcast ever recorded in July 2003. I can’t remember when I first started listening to Lydon’s program The Connection, but I used to love Lydon’s interviewing style. He then got involved in a contract dispute and he left. I did rather lose touch with his career but recently I have started listening again. His interviews deal with the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour is a lively look at books, comics, films, music television podcasts etc. The panellists delve into pop culture themes and topics such as Oscar documentaries, Justin Timberlake, the S-Town podcast, memes and the TV show, The Americans.

Social Science Bites

Social Science Bites is a podcast by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton, who are also behind the Philosophy Bites podcast. For the last five years social scientists have been presenting their perspectives on humans and society. Each 20-minute podcast includes a downloadable written transcript of the conversation. Topics have included: race, violence, the happiness industry and behavioural economics. They have some very prestigious and insightful speakers such as Steven Pinker, Paul Seabright, Danny Dorling and Robert Schiller. With its March 2017 Gary King Big Data Analysis podcast, Social Science Bites reached its 50th episode.

The Allusionist

This is the perfect podcast for word nerds. This is another Radiotopia production. Programmes have included features about romantic novels, the political lexicon and puns.

The Food Chain

I am not particularly into food podcasts, but I like the BBC’s Food Chain which looks into the economics, science and culture of what we eat. It has looked at such topics as vegetarianism, bottled water, junk food and food fads.

The Human Zoo

The Human Zoo is a BBC podcast Michael Blastland, the man behind the More or Less podcast, and Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick University and looks at the fascinating area of psychological research, especially those hidden human biases. If you like Daniel Kahneman, this is the podcast for you.

The Long View

This programme, which is presented by Jonathan Freedland, uses history to compare to current, showing that there is nothing new under the sun. For example, a medieval blood libel is compared to fake news, Donald Trump’s border wall to the 1840s Great Hedge of India and modern military drones to the Nazi V1 and V2 weapons.

The Philosopher’s Arms

The conceit of the Philosopher’s Arms is to look at philosophical conundrums in front of a live audience in a pub. The term “pub philosopher” may have a derogatory connotation, but I have become a fan of the abovementioned drinking establishment and its much-loved landlady, Gladys. Host Matthew Sweet and guest philosophers look at the prisoner’s dilemma, moral disgust, free will and more importantly, is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit.  But remember: think responsibly.

Word of Mouth

I love language podcasts and this BBC podcast, which was created by the Irish writer and broadcaster, Frank Delaney. It is now presented by children’s novelist and poet, Michael Rosen. Topics have included Roald Dahl’s language, taking turns in conversation, inventing brand names and PR – How Not To Do It.

There are many more I could have mentioned – Serial, S-Town, and You Must Remember This spring to mind but I didn’t want to make the list too long. Indeed while researching this week I discovered that the satirical magazine Private Eye also has a podcast, Page 94. Where will I find the time?

My favourite links #44

October 4, 2015

This week I’m going to recommend the You Must Remember This podcast. The series deals with the history of Hollywood in its first 100 years, with each 30-40 minute episode meticulously researched and full of juicy anecdotes. They had a wonderful 12-part special on Charles Manson and now they are doing another on the MGM studio. The show is presented by film historian Karina Longworth – I love the way she tells her stories and I could listen to her voice all day. She holds three degrees in film and was chief critic for the LA Weekly. She resigned because she was forced to have opinions on films she didn’t care about. This podcast is a much better fit for her talents. Each episode begins an eerie, remix of Dooley Wilson’s vocals and Karina’s trademark invitation: “Join us, won’t you?” If, like me, you love Hollywood history do think you should join Karina.

My favourite links #43

February 8, 2015

Radiotopia is a new podcast network from PRX, where they’ve assembled a number of the most successful and promising podcasters around. I fist came across this network through their 99% Invisible podcast (“design, architecture, and the 99 percent invisible activity that shapes our world”), which is fronted by Roman Mars. Apart from 99% Invisible you can hear many other podcasts. They tend to be between 15 and 20 minutes in duration. So far apart from the Roman Mars show, I have tried The Allusionist and Criminal. I plan to check out more over the next few weeks.

My favourite links #42

March 30, 2014

Fans of QI will be pleased to hear that the Elves, the researchers behind the TV show, have a new podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish, in which they bring you the most interesting facts they’ve unearthed during the week. The podcast are released every Friday afternoon; there have been four so far.


My favourite links #41

February 16, 2014

To promote his new book, The News: A User’s Manual, philosopher Alain de Botton has created The Philosophers’ Mail, an alternative version of The Daily Mail written by philosophers. The idea isn’t to so much to report about the high-brow things that the Daily Mail doesn’t feature, but instead to cover the typically Mail stories in an entirely different way. Under the headings Perspective, Tragedy, Disaster, Virtues, Capitalism, Relationships, Shopping Utopia, Hierarchy and What This Is All About De Botton goes about reinventing the Mail.

Take a staple of Mail stories – crime. De Botton argues that there is nothing wrong with crime stories. Western Literature is full of them. Sophocles believed that we should look at the mother who has chopped up her children and not just gawp but wonder what the lessons can be learned.

Here is a sample of the type of stories you can find on the website:

Exclusive Interview with the soul of David Beckham

Important news: Anne Hathaway takes her chocolate labrador Esmeralda for a walk

Man finds tuna on his plate and tries to discover where it came from

Death still without cure after vitamin D shock trial results

A colourful seductive church in southern Germany offers Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot a lesson

Simon Cowell, on holiday in Barbados, proves that suffering is part of the human condition

I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but it’s worth checking out. Alas I fear it will not have the million hits the Mail Online website apparently receives every minute.

The Philosophers’ Mail

My favourite online videos

April 3, 2011

My favourite online videos

Internet is famous is for those videos of skateboarding cats. Fortunately you can find some really interesting videos. This week Ted had this video from the Swedish economist Hans Rosling extolling the virtues of the washing machine. If you go to the RSA Animate site, you will also find some excellent stuff. I also try to include links in my blog. Here are a few of my favourites from the last three years:

Fear the Boom and Bust. This is a rap video created by Russ Roberts and John Papola which compares the Keynesian and Austrian approaches to business cycles. It sounds dry but you can actually learn a lot.

The Rational Optimist. Everybody is working for everybody else. Matt Ridley gives his positive take on human progress.

Killer Chic: Hollywood’s Sick Love Affair With Che Guevara. had short video about Hollywood’s romanticisation of Guevara.

How I built a toaster — from scratch. The TED website features this talk given by Thomas Thwaites, a designer who is trying to build a toaster from scratch. This may seem simple but it is an incredibly complex operation involving mining the raw

We are the web. A video about emergent order and the web.

Mob (a near-future science fiction story) by Tom Scott. Vimeo has this video about a high tech dystopia.

Disastrous Economic Fallacies – Terror as Stimulus? Tom Palmer, attacks the broken window fallacy. The parable of the broken window was created by Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas (That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen) to show the hidden costs associated with destroying property of others. Thus some economists argue that destruction can be good for boosting the economy.

My favourite links #40

March 12, 2011

I have just discovered this blog by chance, but it looks really interesting. The Paleofuture blog, which was started by Matt Novak in January of 2007, is about the future as envisioned from the past. The material – newspaper articles, photos, videos etc. – provides a fascinating insight into we have perceived the future. You can browse all this material by the decade in which it was published. If, like me, you are into retro-futurism, this websites looks like an absolute gem.

My favourite links #39

February 6, 2011

While researching this week’s blog I came across this blog Dollars and Sex. It is written by Marina Adshade an economics professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She actually teaches a course called Economics of Sex and Love which looks at dating and marriage, promiscuity, infidelity, risky sexual behavior, the relation between sex and happiness, and markets for sex such as prostitution, pornography, and lap dancing. The blog covers similar material. As it says on the homepage of her blog: Economic theory suggests that sex makes people happy. Marina finds that economics plus sex is also very satisfying.  May this blog be as good for you as it is for her.

My favourite links #38

May 8, 2010

I am really into sceptical websites and while researching this article I discovered this website, Point of Inquiry, which is run for the Center for Inquiry. They have three areas of investigation: pseudoscience and the paranormal, alternative medicine and religion, humanism, and secularism. The programmes feature thought-provoking interviews and commentary. Here is the link:

My favourite links #37

February 28, 2010

While researching my piece on self-help a couple of weeks ago I came across this excellent sceptical website, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe. They do a weekly podcast about sceptical issues. They look at paranormal, fringe science, and controversial claims from a scientific point of view. I particularly enjoy their archive, which has more than 240 past podcasts. They have interviews with leading Sceptics such as:

James Randi. He has a prize of one million dollars for anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal effect under proper scientific controls; nobody has claimed the prize yet.

Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell. He has investigated such phenomena as the Turin Shroud.

Michael Shermer. He is one of my favourite sceptical authors.

I hope you enjoy it.