My regular podcasts* have not been able to fill all my listening needs during this trailer-renovation project, so I’ve been trying out some new ones. The two that I am most excited about are After Words from booktv.org and This Week in Microbiology from microbeworld.org. They are both at least an hour per episode and have a considerable back-catalog, so I should have plenty of excellent listening and learning for the rest of my project.

In each After Words episode, the author of a recent scholarly book is interviewed by another expert in/about their field. For example, Jack Abramoff was interviewed by CQ Roll Call’s lobbying reporter Eliza Newlin Carney about his book Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist. Sam Donaldson from ABC interviewed Chris Matthews about his book, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. Yale psychiatrist Sally Satel interviewed cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga about Who’s In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain. I’ve listened to 13 episodes so far, biographies, histories, ethics, law, science, and every one has been excellent. After each one I’m spinning on new ideas and new depth of understanding. If you are a nerdy eclectic, I think you will like it.

In This Week in Microbiology, Vincent RacanielloMichael Schmidt, and Elio Schaechter present and discuss new articles and ideas from the world of microbe scholarship. Now you might think that pretty boring way to spend an hour and twenty minutes each week, but you’d be wrong. Did you know that the more variety of microbes that live on your skin the less mosquitos are attracted to you? That hydrogen sulphide (the gas farts are made of) is toxic to the skin of your intestines? That there is evidence of a significant difference in the bacteria in the guts of autistic vs. neurotypical children with gastrointestinal distress? That many bacteria navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic field? With my strictly-200-level organic chemistry and biology education, I do get lost in some of the discussions of specific substrates and protein types, but the hosts consistently bring the conversation back to the bigger ideas: What could this mean for us? For science? What do we still not know? What are the next steps? It’s fascinating. They also produce podcasts called This Week in Virology and This Week in Parasitism (and are threatening great-sounding shows like This Week in Micology (fungus) and This Week in Immunology), which is a problem–the problem of every modern-aspiring renaissance man: You can’t keep up with science anymore. Oh well, it’s still fun to try!

*In alphabetical order: Freakonomics, Left Right and Center, Planet Money, Radiolab, Seminars About Long-Term Thinking, Sound Opinions, This American Life.

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