So in my traditional spirit of discovering things months, if not years, after everyone else I have finally discovered the joy of podcasts. I’d always been put off them by a percieved amateurness of most people doing them and the realisation that like any new internet ‘medium’ it would be rapidly filled with advertising content or start flirting with ‘pay-per-listen’ business models. Both of which to be fair, became true.
It was realising though that I don’t really pick up magazines like I used to – sure I have my subscription to The Chap for light relief and to BBC’s Sky at Night magazine to assuage my lust for catadioptrics. But I don’t really read Nature or Science or New Scientist much anymore, when they were quite a feature of my coffee breaks at least. Maybe this is becuase I have people to talk to now or something.. or I don’t actually have time at work to sit around reading magazines, or for that matter making blog posts (ahem).
Anyway I fired up iTunes to see what I could find. Purposely avoiding the overrated Ricky Gervais and his contributions to podcasting and the innane ramblings of the so-called DJ Chris Moyles which seem to be all the rage to listen to in certain demographics, I came across the following which I now get to listen to in the morning on the way to work, or on the way home.
Slacker Astronomy is the only astronomy podcast I listen to, and I love it. It’s exceedingly brief 8-10 minutes and weekly. Presented in a very informal chit chat fashion between two presenters it has a great light hearted style in which the banter can descend quite rapidly into detailed enough discussion about an astronomical phenomenon with enough technical detail to hold my interest every time.
The New Scientist Podcast and Scientific American podcast are pretty much what you would expect. The New Scientist podcast has a news round up and 3 8-10 minute slots for coverage of bigger stories – however you are likely to get coverage again of things you may well have heard in the Nature or Science podcasts. Scientific American however seems to focus on a story per podcast, and I’m not sure this is a great idea. They had a fantastically well done one on net neutrality a couple of weeks ago, then followed it up with what can only be described as a podcast on birdwatching in Central Park with very little scientific content at all. I did however learn that American birdwatchers are called ‘birders’ and not ‘twitchers’. Quite why people can’t just call themselves ‘bird-watchers’ or ‘ornithologists’ however is completely beyond me. Oh and the ‘totally bogus’ section of the SciAm podcast where you have to guess the bogus science story from 4 that you are offered.. it needs to go, degrading the listener and the show in one simple segment.
The Nature and Science podcasts however are uniformly excellent. Although I like the split UK/USA nature of the Nature podcasts, the Science interviewers just seem to have the edge however although it is completely US based. Both feature limited advertising, which is not partuicularly intrusive, and at 25 minutes are perfect listening for a trip into work. Coverage of different strands of science is the strength of these two journals anyway, and it is reflected in their audio output.
Obviously these aren’t any substitute for picking up the magazines but at least I’m more informed than I was a couple of weeks ago… Timeshifting has arrived into my organisational lexicon!
The real noticable thing on the podcast scene is that there isn’t a bioinformatics focused podcast – this seems a little remiss to me, given the prevalence of bioinformatics resources. If only I had the time or inclination to start one ;)