Graphic by Andrija Klaric/The Gazelle
As a form of entertainment or a source of news, podcasts are often passed over in favor of TV shows or the more easily skimmable news site. But shows like Serial and This American Life, which have barged onto pop culture consciousness with wildfire popularity rates, may be hinting at a podcast renaissance.
Below is a list of the shows students on campus are listening to, and why they like them so much.
Self-described as a show about curiosity, Radiolab
is a podcast heavyweight, already boasting a vast archive of episodes that span 13 seasons. The show mingles science with philosophy in discussions that center on a chosen topic and then work to tease out all its implications.
“Almost every episode is an attempt at getting towards some sort of universal statement about the human condition based on the science that they look at,” said senior Ben Leb.
An episode about blood will include everything from how Shakespeare employed the symbolism of blood to how Hollywood concocts its fake corn syrup equivalent. Though episodes are released on a sporadic basis, they come with intriguing titles like Morality or Things.
“They’re the core classes you wish you took at NYU Abu Dhabi,” added Leb.
The Memory Palace
Hosted by NPR veteran Nate DiMeo, The Memory Palace takes the quirks and eccentricities of history and smoothes them out into taut, elegant episodes that are sometimes as short as three minutes.
“There’s something about the way that Memory Place is done that’s really poetic,” said Leb. “It focuses on the kind of history you never learn in school, but instead of facts and figures, dates and numbers, it’s more about the actual story and the sheer enjoyment of listening to it.”
The Memory Palace has profiled people like Harriet Quimby, the first woman to earn a pilot’s license, Charlie Hatfield, an American “rainmaker” and William James Sidis, who claimed to have the highest IQ score in the history of the test.
If you’re looking to dabble but don’t know where to start, the podcast’s website has a list of DiMeo’s own favorite episodes to choose from here
If you’ve ever wondered about the ideology behind a revolving door, or why a stiletto shoe looks the way it does, 99% Invisible
can explain. The show examines the design of everyday objects and architecture in an attempt to understand the impetus behind their creation.
“They take a really broad definition of design, which I think is what the word deserves,” said Leb. “One episode talked about how innovations in the shape and function of shipping containers enable the global economy to function the way it does today.”
The show does not limit itself to an audience solely interested in design aesthetics; it does its best to weave in elements of history, politics and culture in order to show how these forces mold the objects around us.
For those who want to feel productive about their podcasts, Development Drums
takes big names from the U.S. State Department, the World Bank and other institutions and brings them together under the simple, straight-faced tagline of being “a podcast about development.” Guests speak about their latest books and research, which can include anything from behavioral economics to China’s investment in Africa. One recent episode featured former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who spoke about the U.K.’s attitudes towards international development.
“Instead of swallowing 300 pages of the book Why Nations Fail, I can just listen to the authors speak for an hour on my way to work,” said senior Nino Cricco.
Intelligence Squared is a series that invites guests to debate some of the latest issues in current events and global politics, offering a great alternative to Room of Requirement Facebook squabbles.
“One of the recent ones I listened to was about whether or not Iran should have its own nuclear program,” said senior Brandon Wahba. “There are other more provocative ones, like one [about] whether liberals are stifling intellectual discourse.” Their latest weekly podcast can be found online here
With titles like The Science of Story Time and Is Deep-Sea Exploration Worth It?, Science Friday is a series of podcasts that wrestles with some of the more obscure, interesting questions of science. The episodes are usually short and punchy — around five minutes long — but big feature episodes can sometimes stretch on to 45 minutes.
“It can be anything from explaining what’s going on with bees to explaining the Higgs-Boson,” said Wahba.
One recent episode, Science and Diplomacy, invited former U.S. congressman and plasma physicist Rush Holt to explain how scientists can have a role in influencing international relations. The podcast also features brief roundups of the latest and most pressing news in science and technology. A list of episodes can be found here