What in the heck is a podcast? For the longest time I had heard ‘podcast’ thrown around without having a clue what they were myself. I moved to Seattle about four years ago, and when I did, I left television behind me. Honestly I watched way more TV than was necessary for a healthy existence, so living without it was certainly an adjustment. For a while I got along well digging into the depths of Netflix on my laptop, and eventually I tuned into the waves of public radio broadcasts. But then, from the shadows of these entertainment behemoths, I was introduced to podcasts.

Podcasts are basically radio shows, typically structured in the way that TV shows are, with episodes and seasons. The range of what a podcast can be and it’s length (10 minutes to 2 hours) is astounding; from talk show interviews, fictional stories, education, comedy, and random rants and raves. They are free to download on either your computer, or mobile device, and anybody with a microphone, a recorder and a computer can create one, that means there’s is a lot of, let’s say…underdeveloped… content out there available to download.

Since learning about podcasts, I have delved deep into the tangled mass of free downloadable shows, and have surfaced to tell of many tales. Fear not readers! With persistence you can find a variety of shows to expand your mind, discover mysteries of the body, and warm your spirit; and I bring you suggestions of where to start.

May I propose that you begin with my personal favorite podcast, Radiolab. What I love about Radiolab is how it makes what could be a mundane science lecture into a unique and captivating program that makes one more curious about ourselves and the world around us. One of the two hosts, Robert Krulwich, sums up the premise of the show, and my particular interest in an episode titled “Tell Me a Story”, where Robert speaks at a commencement ceremony for the California Institute of Technology. While this is a great episode that really gets at “what” Radiolab is, it is maybe not the best place to start for your foray into the podcast experience. Instead, I suggest you start with season 7, episode 3, “Limits”. This episode tells the tales of humans toeing the edge of physical and mental endurance, before completely jumping from that edge to find that solid ground is closer than one thinks.

What is nice about Radiolab, is that in between full episodes, they will put out “shorts” which are mini episodes, usually around 15 minutes long. I enjoy these for when I am doing dishes and need something to listen to. Anyways, one episode in particular I will point out is called “Wake Up and Dream”. It’s about a man who has a recurring nightmare through most of his life. Determined to overcome this, he seeks professional help from Dr. Stephen LaBerge, who has done much research in lucid dreaming. Using techniques described by Dr. LaBerge’s assistant, this man attempts to confront his nightmare. What I enjoy about this episode in particular is its look into a part of humanity that seems under studied. Why do we dream? What causes the dreams we have? And why, if dreams are so common, are they so elusive? It is refreshing to hear some professionals in the world taking a chance at studying them more closely.

The next article I recommend is titled “The Universe Knows My Name”. This episode examines our perceived role of what the universe is, and even what our universe perceives of us. A sort of philosophical episode that looks at coincidences or “rhyming events” in people’s lives, as well as a lively discussion of Looney Tunes. Once again this is a “short”, so it is just long enough to get your brain tingling with thoughts before ending and leaving you craving more Radiolab!

Finally, I will leave you with one last episode. Episode 13 season 10 “Colors”. Honestly, I just love this episode for no good reason other than it is interesting and told very well. Mantis shrimp may well be one of the most interesting creatures on this planet, and I had not heard of them until this episode.

Seriously, check it out.

By Joel Simler 

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