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Stegosaurus

Let's talk podcasts

I've been talking a lot of people lately about podcasts. I guess I wasn't as far behind the curve on this trend as I had thought, as it seems that many people still don't know about them, really get what they are, or listen to them. So, for that reason, I think I'm going blather a bit with my inexpertise on this subject and tell you a little bit about some of my favorite podcasts, as well.

Podcasts (or netcasts, or any of the other less known names) are, essentially, episodic downloadable audio and video content. Most of them take the form, loosely, of talk radio. In fact, some of the best podcasts ARE radio shows, edited down, condensed, and posted to the web. What makes podcasts somewhat interesting is that they are intimately related to RSS feeds, which basically collect and 'broadcast' certain specified information, usually pertaining to website updates. RSS aggregators (and by extension, podcast aggregators) simply go out and automatically check the feeds for updates and collect/organize them for you. In the case of podcasts, they are automatically downloaded by your aggregator (iTunes, in most cases) as the feeds are updated.

What makes podcasts so interesting is that they are a continuation of the culture of media 'on demand' that is largely taking hold now. I think that it's a great thing that our media consumption is no longer tied to timetables and schedules. We can download a show, hold onto it for as long as we like, put it onto our MP3 players, and listen some other time. This allows for a further diversification of media types, and kills head-to-head competition in favor of general popularity. And, of course, the best part is that it doesn't require TOO much time or equipment. They are a quick-turnover, low-risk, low cost media form, and the largest regular cost is bandwidth/upkeep. Combined, these things mean that almost anyone can produce a podcast that could, in theory, become quite popular and successful.

So, with that being said, I'm going to list off some of my favorite podcasts here.



All of these come highly recommended and I think most of you would do well to try ALL or most of them. I also encourage you all to search and find podcasts to suit your own taste on either Podcast Alley or in the iTunes Store.

As for my favorites, in no particular order, they are...


  • Show: Point Of Inquiry
    Length: 30-60 min
    Frequency: Updated weekly (Friday or Saturday)
    Description: Point of Inquiry is a show put on by the Center for Inquiry, or CFI. CFI is an umbrella organization, consisting of several groups dedicated to skeptical, scientific inquiry of the paranormal, alternative/complementary medicine, and religion/faith. The show, also a weekly radio broadcast, generally consists of one or more short editorials or essays, and at least one lengthy interview with an author, scientist, researcher, or investigator in these fields. The host, D.J. Grothe uses a light, devil's advocate style, encouraging guests to explain their ideas. An extremely entertaining, enlightening show.
    Web Site: http://www.pointofinquiry.org

  • Show: This American Life
    Length: 60 min
    Frequency: Weekly (Updates Monday/Tuesday)
    Description:This is another radio show, a production of Chicago Public Radio. Currently among the most popular podcasts, this is a weekly anthology of stories based around themes, like 'Seemed like a good idea the time'. The contributors include journalists, writers, musicians, and other personalities, offering a slice of Americana from a wide variety of perspectives
    Web Site: http://www.thislife.org/

  • Show: Penn Radio
    Length: ~45 min.
    Frequency: Daily, M-F
    Description: From Penn Jillette, the louder, taller half of Penn and Teller, comes this daily radio show also released in podcast form. Penn and co-host Michael Goudeau usually talk about a current news story and espouse Penn's 'nut' point of view: that of an atheistic, skeptical, libertarian magician. People call in to talk to Penn and Michael, often with hilarious or sexy consequences, and monkey stories (formerly concentrated on Monkey Tuesday) are a priority. A great daily laugh.
    Web Site: http://www.pennradio.com

  • Show: TWiT: This Week In Tech
    Length: 60-75 mins
    Frequency: Weekly (updating Sunday/Monday)
    Description: Formerly of TechTV, the channel unfairly gutted in a takeover by the much less interesting G4, Leo Laporte's 'netcast' was a very early adopter of the format. Leo and his guests (from a range of computing/tech sources) discuss topics of interest from the past week, often giving you a range of great and important views on new tech devices such as PCs, MP3 players, game consoles, and more. Informative and engaging.
    Web Site: http://www.twit.tv/TWiT

  • Show: NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!
    Length: 45-60 min
    Frequency: Weekly (Sunday/Monday)
    Description: Another public radio program adapted to the web, 'Wait, Wait' is a weekly call-in current events quiz, with a panel of humorous guests (journalists, humorists, writers) and an extremely funny host. There's a lot of improvisation, odd news, and general hilarity between the games (including a celebrity segment featuring politicians, actors, musicians, and more). One of the funniest shows of the week.
    Web Site: http://www.npr.org/programs/waitwait/

  • Show: The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe
    Length: 60-80 minutes
    Frequency: Weekly (Friday-Saturday)
    Description: From Dr. Steven Novella (of the CT based New England Skeptical Society) and his panel of 'skeptical rogues' (including Skepchick's Rebecca Watson) discuss the week in 'Woo-Woo.' Dr. Novella and co. give you the information you need to know about scams, bad science, and all things skeptical. Segments typically include a lengthy (and sometimes confrontational) interview, a story from James 'The Amazing' Randi, and a game of 'Science or Fiction', where three news stories are presented and you can play along to guess which of the three is BS. Possibly my favorite show, week in and week out.
    Web Site: http://www.theskepticsguide.org/

  • Show: The Onion Radio News
    Length: 60-75 seconds
    Frequency: Daily, incl. weekends
    Description: A very short reading of a story from The Onion, in radio news style, presented by your indomitable host Doyle Redland. A great way to start the day.
    Web Site: http://www.theonion.com/content/radionews

  • Show: AstronomyCast
    Length: 35-30 minutes
    Frequency: Weekly (Mondays/Tuesdays)
    Description: Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay (who has, along with Rebecca Watson, one of the sexiest voices in podcasting...sorry, that's irrelevant) get together to discuss topics of interest in astronomy, astrobiology, and cosmology. They take really complicated ideas and science and make them accessible to even the layest of laymen.
    Web Site: http://www.astronomycast.com/

  • Show: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day
    Length: 1-2 minutes
    Frequency: Daily, incl. weekends
    Description: Another perfect 'morning' podcast, this show offers a short look at the etymology, definition, and usage of a word or phrase. Quite useful for people who write or find themselves wondering about word roots and commonality.
    Web Site: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/mwwod.pl

  • Show: Scientific-American's 60 Second Science
    Length: 60-75 seconds
    Frequency: Daily M-F
    Description: The last 'morning' podcast for me, this is a short look at a piece of science or technology news. Although brief, each episode is quite informative and can be interesting for non-science buffs as well as those more into the subject area.
    Web Site: http://www.sciam.com/podcast/


Honorable Mentions

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