Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

What Tech is Listening to.

Thank Us for podcasts.

I have to admit, when it comes to internet things, I tend to be slow. If its a gadget or a new technology, I am usually quite familiar with it pretty fast. So the latest in physics, biology, communication, etc etc I tend to stay on top of.

But things like social networking, blogging, and podcasts I have been quite slow on the uptake. I had what would now be called a blog post when I was a professor at a local college, but it was just plain text that was more like a diary, and it only had 2 entries.

Social Networking is still something I don't use although I have a facebook page, and I'm part of Linked In. I have yet to use either of those for anything useful (although I did manage to find a long lost friend on facebook once). I have yet to use Linked In for anything useful (have you?).

Twitter just seems like a pain in the ass to me and I have a hard time believing anyone cares. Maybe if I was Brad Pitt, people would want tweets, but lets be serious, who wants to write little blurbs all day? Not me.

Anyway, 2008 was the year I got into podcasts. These are awesome. iTunes does a pretty good job of letting me find them and stay subscribed to them so I am always getting the latest as they become available. I listen to them while walking the dog, assembling stuff at work, driving, whatever. I have truly increased my rate of learning due to them, and I am so happy these came into existence, even bad ones.

So I thought I would post a list of what I am listening to, and hope you join in and suggest some more. Even though I am subscribed to 23 podcasts, it is still not enough to listen to every day. This is because of the frequency the long shows are put out and also due to the fact that the daily shows are usually quite short.

I doubt you'll be surprised with most of these. I put a (5) next to my 5 most favorite. In alphabetical order: What Tech is Listening to....

The Amazing Show starring James Randi
I haven't heard many of these as I only recently subscribed. Its pretty much as you would expect. Randi talks about some of his experiences and interview someone related to the field of science or skepticism.

APM: Future Tense
This is a quick podcast, usually less than 10 minutes. But it has some nice overviews of recent computer or IT related news or technology.

Atheists Talk
This is just a recording of the Radio Show that is on AirAmerica. Its generally an interview with someone prominent in atheism or science. Its put together pretty well, but I gotta tell ya. I am pretty sick of those idiotic Cucumber's commercials. Even if I went to Minnesota, I would not go to the buffet.

Bad Astronomy
Well to be fair, I just subscribed (as I was writing this post). But I am quite familiar with Phil Plaits blog and recent work. I have no doubt that this will be a good podcast.
[Edit: LOL! The first Podcast I listened to was Phil telling me that he wasn't going to be doing podcasts for a while!]

Digital Bits Skeptic
This is another short podcast. The host, Andy Kaiser, reads an article submitted to him (or one that he wrote) on one subject or another. I found this podcast to be hit or miss. The latest entry drove me nuts, but the entry on classic fairy tales was truly interesting.

Discovery News
This is a short podcast and presents a short blurb on two or three new things in the world of science. Its actually a video podcast, but I have found that just listening to it works just fine. Its very short, one or two minutes.

Discovery Health Channel
Virtually the same thing as above but longer and focus on health and medicine subjects.

Free thought Radio
I'm a bit mixed on this one. Podcasts are good when they are focused, but perhaps this one is too focused on a subject that I like, but do not particularly interested in. Its mostly discussing the latest things that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is responding to. I donate to these guys and I think they do good work, but I'm not that interested in the details of their work. They do also interview prominent atheists and agnostics.

The Infidel Guy
I'm sure you can guess. It more interviews with prominent atheists or skeptics. The interviews are better than in other places.

Make Podcast
Hey, I'm an engineer and tinkerer. I like to hear and read about fun and funny stuff that people are making. I have some fun ideas, but other people often have cooler ones. Sometimes these are ridiculously easy and far below my skill level, but often there's a goody in there. Web Guns, Home built Electric Cars, and so forth.

The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio
Its similar to Car Talk, except with home repair (and these guys aren't as funny or ridiculous). I just started this one, so I don't have much input on it. I have 2 buildings that I have renovated and built a house, so there has not been too much new stuff for me here. But they have been accurate with good advice

Pat Condells Godless Comedy
Well I heard of this guy via Pharyngula. He's a good listen, even though its updated so infrequently (once or twice a month, much like this blog!). I enjoy is bluntness and sarcasm.

Point of Inquiry (5)
This podcast is put on by the Center For Inquiry, another group I sent some money to. DJ Groethe is a very skilled interviewer and what I like about him is that he is pretty good at quickly giving an accurate representation of what a dissenter might think about a topic being discussed. For the most part he has very interesting guests that I don't find on other podcasts. He discusses religion, science, history, pseudoscience and many other topics. All well done.

This is another podcast that I have not been listening to for very long. Mark Crislip does a good job of discussing health related nonsense. He doesn't really have a voice for radio, but I like his humility. He goes pretty in depth on a subject. Can't say more on this one yet.

Real Time with Bill Maher
Look, I know that Bill Maher is an anti-vaccinationist, often sloppy, thinker. But come on, this show is quite funny and has a good format. It really the only opportunity I get to see republicans getting slapped around.

The Reality Check
Well, lets just say these kids are trying. Its by a group called the Ottawa Skeptics. Its nice to hear some folks doing some research on a subject and present and discuss it. The show is low quality (are they using PC microphones over Netmeeting to do the show?), and they are often frustratingly vague or sloppy sometimes. But I like the subject matter and they are clearly making efforts to clean up the show. Its not in my top 5, but with some work, maybe they can get there.

Science Talk (5)
This podcasts is a weekly show hosted by Steve Mirsky. This podcast is an offshoot of scientific American, so you can expect (and receive) a variety of scientific areas of study and good guests who are doing interesting things. My only nit is that they Totally Bogus bit is annoying. Its done better by the folks at SGU.

Secular Nation Podcast
To plagiarize from their website: Produced by Atheist Alliance International, featuring articles and news from Secular Nation Magazine. This is a bit bleh. This is a another podcast where the host reads an article and once in a while interviews someone. I often tune out while listing to this one. I'm not sure whats wrong, its not always boring, just sometimes.

Well To be honest, i was just pissed that they just switched up my name and made a podcast. I have only just subscribed to this one. No impression yet.
[Edit: OK I've listened to two of these. Not bad. I didnt like the first episode where they talked about detecting fake ads. They made up two rules for doing this and then applied them completely non-objectively. But I did find myself googling the topics they were talking about just to see what the scaminess was, so I like it from that end]

Skeptics' Guide 5x5
This is a short podcast that just does a quick blurb on a subject which could be some sort of woo, pseudoscience, denialism, or misunderstanding. Its well done, but the main show is better. I like that they give me a little SGU fix.

Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (5)
To be honest, when I first heard this one, I thought it was garbage. It sounded like a couple of prepubescent dorks cracking Star Trek jokes around a pretty girl who herself didn't have much to say. However, I have really come to appreciate this one. It is hosted by a number of people who are big in the skeptic blogosphere. The subject matter is good, and they take a sharp knife and cut through a lot of woo. They discuss various fallacies to help listeners recognize them. The interviews are good and interesting for the most part (but to be honest I don't enjoy the shows that they do "on location"). The Science or Fiction bit is fun too, but I don't believe that they don't know the right answer up front. The news items they read are usually too available.

Skeptoid (5)
If I am going to pick a #1 podcast I think this is it. Brian Dunning does such a great job of putting this show together. I wish I knew where he got is choice of subject matter from as they are wide ranging and fun. There are no interviews (sometimes he just answers students questions), which I quite like, he just picks a subject and goes for it for 10 to 15 minutes. This may be the only podcast that I go back and listen to old episodes of.

Stuff You Should Know
This comes from I have not listened to many, and so far the hosts aren't completely annoying, but it sure has taken them a while to get to the subject matter, which they do with bizarre segues. Regardless, this is not skeptic reporting, its a little more like a science show, but it not surprisingly talks about how things work. Not just gear and things, but for example the latest one was about OCD. So it is really just an fact download about some subject or another. I am enjoying it so far.

This American Life
This show hosted by Ira Glass is simply great. I may not always like the story, but they are so varies and so well done I look forward to the next installment every week. this show taught me what the heck the Paper Trading collapse was and how it was instrumental in the fall of our economy. But then they have ghost stories or talk about fad dolls. Its funny, insightful, upbeat or depressing. I recommend this to everyone.

Well that's it. I am fully aware that this list is kind of homogeneous. That is why I wrote this post. I was hoping for your ideas on some good podcasts (please not more skeptic stuff! I think I have enough). Or perhaps you can use this as a meme, make your own blog post about what you are listening to. I don't care, I just need more to make it through the week!


On 12/5/08, 7:04 AM , Andy Kaiser said...

Hi Techskeptic,

Andy Kaiser here, the admin and editor for Digital Bits Skeptic. Thanks for the good words about DBS - and indeed, the fairy tale article was fun to write and it and its sequel continue to be very popular.

In the interests of constant improvement, what about DBS "drove you nuts"? What article? If it was a difference of opinion by the author, that's understandable. But if this was due to a technical reason - even my reading voice - I'd like to know so I can fix it.

One comment: Your review mentioned that I read articles submitted to me by authors. True. However, these are *paid* articles, and not every submitter gets published. Authors get cash for their submissions. There is a submission process, allowing me to pick and choose to improve overall article quality. I do write articles myself, but those are a minority of the full article list.

Thanks again for taking the time for the review - it's appreciated!

Andy Kaiser

On 12/5/08, 7:36 AM , Techskeptic said...

1) holy crap. I know how many people read this blog. I never expect to receive comments by anyone I talk about.

2) The last podcast droe me nutz due to the fact that you were reading, and not commenting on, one of your submissions.

When I listen to something like Point of Inquiry, I am often impressed with Groethe's ability to represent "the other side". It makes for a satisfying listening experince because as my objections arise, he has a good ability to represent them for me.

As I recall there were a number of areas where I found unaddressed issues. That last entry about the false dichotomy drove me nuts because the article, nor you as possibly commenting on it, addressed the problem experienced in 2000 and 2004 where if many people followed their heart they got the opposite of what they wanted. At least that is what I remember. Forgive me if I missed it or am not remembering it properly.

My suggestion would be to spend a few minutes commenting yourself at the end, on the article, maybe to clear up some of the issues that we missed in the paper or possible objections that your listeners may have. I dont think this would apply to all of them, ike the fairy tale one...what would the skeptical objections be?

Further, and this is my personal preference. Please dont take this the wrong way... Maybe you want to think about modulating your voice a little. Almost every radio DJ does this to make their voices 'smoother'.

well those are my thoughts. I have not been listening that take my comments with a grain of salt.

On 12/9/08, 6:02 AM , Andy Kaiser said...

Hi Techskeptic,

To address a couple of your points:

The last podcast droe me nutz due to the fact that you were reading, and not commenting on, one of your submissions.

But this is what I do for *every* podcast! :)

My suggestion would be to spend a few minutes commenting yourself at the end, on the article, maybe to clear up some of the issues that we missed in the paper or possible objections that your listeners may have.

I'd rather not have to guess what the listeners will miss or object to. In a perfect world, the author creates the article to the best of their ability, I publish it, and if anyone disagrees or is confused by the points made, they can simply leave a comment on the article. This is why I have a handy "article ID" number and have opened up anonymous commenting on all posts: to increase feedback and debate.

I'm not saying my implementation is better than your suggestion, but that's the way it is right now. I've saved your comment in my "to-do list", and may use it when I next improve the site.

Maybe you want to think about modulating your voice a little. Almost every radio DJ does this to make their voices 'smoother'.

So you're saying I have a crappy speaking voice? :) Yep, I'm probably too nasally and have no public speaking experience. I'm learning as I go. I hope I don't have to resort to audio tricks to sound good, but if I don't show improvement over the next year, I'll need a fallback plan!

Thanks very much for the critique. My goal is to keep improving all the time, and your comments will help me to do so.


On 12/9/08, 6:31 AM , Techskeptic said...


I hope you don't mind as I use your response as an wonderful example of how to accept constructive criticism. I am not being sarcastic. Thanks.

On 12/10/08, 7:54 PM , Anonymous said...

Hey, as long as it's *constructive* criticism, I'm open to it! Feel free to use my responses however you'd like.


On 12/22/08, 12:59 AM , wackyvorlon said...

I would like to recommend Astronomy Cast and Systm. Systm is great for projects, even better than MAKE, IMO. The Chemistry World podcast is done monthly by the Royal Society of Chemists and often has very interesting news from the world of chemistry. I enjoy Scam School as well. Oh, and if you have an interest in radio and electronics, then you should listen to soldersmoke.