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Podcast Picks

2 min read

The Naked Scientists

This weekly BBC radio show, masterminded by scientists at the University of Cambridge, covers the gamut of science, including space, nuclear power, and other physical things—so refreshing in a media world that devotes most so-called science coverage to matters of diet and health. The Web site that accompanies the audio show outlines ”kitchen experiments” for kids, including hot-air balloons and sugar that glows when crushed by pliers.

This Week in Amateur Radio Podcast

This meaty, one- to two-hour broadcast for amateur radio operators, or hams, has our favorite tone of voice. Its talking heads speak easily of the Doppler effect, voice and packet downlinks, and split-frequency transmission; even the advertisements appeal to a techie’s sense of humor. Hams tune in for news on everything from solar weather to regulatory issues. Recent scoops included an account of how British marines used Morse code to communicate with one another while held as prisoners in Iran and how an Australian ham saved two stranded sailors.

Talking Robots

World-class roboticists talk with host Markus Waibel, a Ph.D. candidate at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, part of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland. The technical and business aspects of the field both get attention, but science gets top billing. Recent shows covered swarming robots, a salamander-like swimming and crawling robot, and robots as models of living organisms in general.

The Math Factor

If you need a 5- to 10-minute bite of math to get the day started, consider this podcast, always presented as a dialogue between University of Arkansas mathematician Chaim Goodman-Strauss and KUAF 91.3 FM reporter Kyle Kellams. One recent piquant topic was Graham’s Number, sometimes described as the biggest number ever seriously used in a mathematical proof.


Christopher Frederick, a mathematics graduate student at Colorado State University, clearly explains potentially thorny questions, notably the Monty Hall Problem, a quiz-show scenario that famously stumped some tenured professors of statistics when it was published in a magazine column some years ago. The shows come out irregularly, and it can be months before a new one is posted, but the issues are timeless and the archives are well worth a close listen.

You can download all these podcasts from their Web sites or from the iTunes Music Store. Don’t forget Spectrum Radio, IEEE Spectrum’s own regular podcast. If you have a suggestion for Podcast Picks, mail it to . Be sure to include ”Podcast Picks” in the subject line.

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