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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Science Pods

Stephen King tells would-be writers to read widely, read everything. Kay Ryan reads philosophy to get started writing. Reading outside of one's genre can be as important as reading within it (and I do believe that reading poetry is an extremely important part of writing poetry, but so is reading other stuff).

I've found that reading popular science helps me write poems. It provides me with images and vocabulary, and with just plain wonder that stimulates creativity.

In the past couple of years, I've started listening to science podcasts in addition to my reading regimen. Reading is still better, but since I walk for a couple of hours a day, this is a way to make the time productive and enjoyable. And since I miss hearing the English of native speakers at an adult level, podcasts also comfort me.

So today, I want to share some of my favorite science podcasts. (All of these are available in iTunes, by the way, as well as at their links.)

1) My absolute favorite is Radiolab, but I've blogged about it already, so I will just link to my old post and leave it at that for now. Sadly new episodes come out only twice a month.

2) Another good one is Science Friday with Ira Flatow. For two hours every Friday, Ira Flatow podcasts about diverse topics in science and technology, interviewing all the people in the know regarding timely science topics. For example, this week's podcast has Ira discussing World Toilet Day and interviewing engineers about the grants being given for revolutionary toilet designs that might bring the technology to the 1/3 of the earth's inhabitants without flush toilets or healthy sanitation. Flatow also learns the secrets of keeping the floats afloat in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade by sending his video editor to interview the "balloonatics". He also investigates the costs of embryonic stem cell research. And more!

And here's a hint. If instead of subscribing to the Science Friday podcast, you instead subscribe to the NPR Topics: Science podcast, you will get all science-related podcasts aired by NPR sent to you, including Science Friday in individual story units instead of a 2-hour block, so you can skip ones you aren't interested in.

3) Stuff You Should Know podcast, hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, covers topics in science and any other field that suits the fancy of the hosts. Diverse subjects covered in the past include: the chemistry of Silly Putty, sweating colored sweat, the physics of roller coasters, how fossils are formed, etc. This podcast is twice a week, but as I said, while not all topics covered are science-related, they are all more or less fascinating.

4) NPR's Hmmm.....Krulwich on Science is one of my favorite science podcasts, but it comes out too infrequently, not even once a month and not on any schedule I can fathom. It's an insightful look into the history of science as well as science stories that cause you to marvel (this being Krulwich's specialty), and I envy you because you can now enjoy the few in the archives for your first time. Happily, Krulwich's blog, Krulwich Wonders, comes out more regularly.

5) Story Collider is a cross between The Moth and a conversation with your chemistry lab partner. It's people telling stories about how science has affected their lives, and many of the stories are hilarious, especially to scientists and PhD program dropouts. This is a fun podcast, with some talented storytelling, and some less so, but it's worth wading through them all to find the absolute gems.

6) Finally, TED Talks, which you undoubtedly already know about. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design, so you will hear plenty of science-related pieces if you listen. Pretty much everything discussed at TED is interesting, science-based or not.

So, enjoy!

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