My favourite podcasts

Around four years ago I did a page on listing my favourite podcasts. I had been planning to update the links but I never got round t it. I’ve now decided that I might as well start again and do a new page. Listening to podcasts is one of my guilty pleasures. Here is a selection of some of my favourites. It’s quite an eclectic list and I hope there is something here for everyone.

The Bottom Line with Evan Davis   BBC RADIO 4

This business discussion programme chaired by Evan Davis, features three business leaders in a relaxed conversation exploring the world of business. I always find it fascinating to hear business people talking about what they do and the problems that they face.

Econtalk

EconTalk is a weekly podcast hosted by professor Russ Roberts at George Mason University. Roberts interviews guests—often professional economists—on topics in economics. The show has a Hayekian bent with Roberts particularly interested in spontaneous order and In fact, the topics are incredibly varied and recent themes have included sports and genetics, innovation, education and the placement of milk in supermarkets.

Future Tense     ABC RADIO NATIONAL

Future Tense explores the way new ideas, approaches, and technologies affect our society. Issues covered this year include Wearable tech – the hope, hype and reality, gamification, MOOCs and the rise of micro-labour.

The Infinite Monkey Cage     BBC RADIO 4

The Infinite Monkey Cage is a BBC Radio 4 comedy and popular science chat show, which is hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince, According to The Independent it as a “witty and irreverent look at the world according to science.” And a reviewer in The Observer described it as like In Our Time with the pomposity removed. Each show has a particular topic up for discussion, with previous topics including parallel universes, randomness, probability and chance, and space tourism. There are normally three guests – two scientists, experts in the area in question – and typically another comedian for light relief.

Lexicon Valley   SLATE MAGAZINE

Lexicon Valley is a podcast about language hosted by Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo. Garfield plays the role of the grammar curmudgeon, giving vent to all his pet linguistic peeves and Vuolo is the linguistic descriptivist, who provides a less judgemental perspective. Malapropisms, Ebonics, language anachronisms in Mad Men and whether writing styles are like fingerprints. The show seems to be off-air at the moment, but I’m hoping that they will be back soon. In the meantime you have their extensive archive.

More or Less: Behind the Stats   BBC RADIO 4.

More or Less tries to make sense of the numbers in the news. Tim “The Undercover Economist” Harford shows the reality behind statistics, measurements and quantification of every kind. If you are interested in questions like these:

Is Scotland really home to a fifth of the world’s redheads?

Would it be cheaper to send every Greek rail passenger by taxi instead?

Has the mosquito killed half the people who have ever lived?

The answer is normally no, but the explanation are very informative and entertaining.

Night Waves   BBC RADIO 3

Night Waves is BBC Radio 3’s flagship discussion programme. The features in-depth interviews debates and reviews about the arts, science, politics, society, economics and philosophy. I especially enjoy the interviews by Philip Dodd, which were praised by The Guardian for their “reliably piquant questioning

The Philosopher’s Zone   ABC RADIO NATIONAL

The Philosopher’s Zone is a guide to logic, metaphysics and ethics, examining our world through a philosophical prism. Sadly, the programme’s original host Alan Saunders passed away last year. The show continues though – Saunders’s replacement is Joe Gelonesi.

Planet Money  NPR

Planet Money’s two weekly podcasts seek to demystify the world of economics, a task which is very necessary. It’s clear, accessible, and fun – who could ask for anything more? They now have an archive with over 500 podcasts.

QI podcast

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 podcasts are released every Friday afternoon

Radiolab  NPR

I first heard about this programme on a documentary on Radio Four. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich focus on science and human nature in a highly stylised, unconventional show, which looks at topics such as time, placebos and morality, in a very accessible way. What is most distinctive about the show is the experimental soundscape, which is designed by Abumrad. If you are used to the style of Radio 4, you may find it disconcerting. I love it!

This American Life   NPR

This American Life is a weekly hour-long radio program which focuses on telling stories. For me the key to the programme is host Ira Glass and the engaging stories he and his team unearth.  Produced by WBEZ, each episode, and there have now been over 504 episodes in its 18 years of existence, explores a theme with the use of reportage, essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and old footage. There are usually three or four “acts”, although this format does vary sometimes. The subject matter is extremely eclectic. Stories will often be told as first-person narratives. Here is a flavour of the show from an episode I listened to recently about amusement parks. The prologue and the first act were devoted to Cole Lindbergh, Games Manager at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri.  Lindbergh, who began working at the park at the age of 14, may well be better at what he does than anyone in the country and it is rare to see someone so identified with his job. Such was the impact of the programme, Lindbergh now has his own blog and gives motivational talks. If you like hearing people’s stories, this is the programme for you.

Start The Week  BBC RADIO 4.

The show is presented by Andrew Marr, but the multi-tasking Mr. Marr suffered a stroke earlier this year and has not returned yet. Start The Week is not a programme that follows the news cycle, but rather seeks to look at ideas in art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics. It’s a great way to begin the week.

Thinking Allowed   BBC RADIO 4

Laurie Taylor, that rare breed, a sociologist with a sense of humour, delves into the latest academic research into how society works and discusses current ideas and theories on how we live today.

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This is my list, but if you have any suggestions, you’re welcome to send them in.

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