Sat. Jan 28th, 2023
Your personal astrophysicist.
Enlarge / Your personal astrophysicist.

Star Talk radio

Podcasts are all the rage. In 2006, only 11 percent of Americans age 12 or older said they’d ever listened to a podcast, but that number grew to 36 percent from last year, according to data from Edison Research. This increase is due in part to the rise of brilliant investigative podcasts, such as Serial of In the Dark, as well as mainstream media podcasts such as The Daily at The New York Times.

At Ars, we love podcasts (we even have one; it’s a podcast on TV). And as the format has become more popular, more people have been inspired to start shows, leading to a lot of specialization, even in my area of ​​interest: space. I’ve listened to many podcasts about astronomy and spaceflight over the past decade, and today I’m sharing some of my favorites to help others with similar interests. Note: This is far from a complete list. I’m sure there are many more excellent ones; the following shows are simply shows that I regularly listen to and enjoy.

Of all the podcasts on this list, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk Radio is probably the one most readers know (it ranks 44th on the list of the best iTunes podcasts). The show is an amalgamation of interviews and discussions with celebrity guests (e.g., Bill Nye) about science, as well as shows in which deGrasse Tyson—who calls himself “your personal astrophysicist”—answers astronomy questions directly from listeners. DeGrasse Tyson is an extremely gifted science communicator, and since he often pairs himself with a comic strip, the show often features great humor as well. If there’s a downside, it’s that our personal astrophysicist is a little too enamored with his own genius, and if you’re listening with kids, watch out for the occasional digressions about sex or off-color humor.

Produced by two British space enthusiasts, Matthew Russell and Jamie Franklin, the basic format sees the two hosts rampage in space news all week. They describe their show as putting the “ace” in space, and this gives you a good sense of the pair’s sense of humor, which is often quite good. The show also features guest interviews, both from experts in the field and some people out of left field, including a recent two-part series where they invited a lunar hoaxer to present his evidence that NASA is faking the moon landings. The resulting shows were interesting because they exposed the absolute lack of evidence for this, even from an “expert” in the field. This show is a lot of fun.

Place the ace in space.
Enlarge / Place the ace in space.

Interplanetary Podcast

If Star Talk Radio is all about attracting famous scientists to talk about popular science, Spacepod is much more aimed at people who are more interested in science. The format of the podcast, hosted by California Institute of Technology asteroid scientist Carrie Nugent, is simple: Nugent introduces her guest astronomer, they share a drink of what is often a standard drink, and then spend the next half hour or so discussing the orbiter’s research. guest. For example, you can spend 30 minutes learning all about Cepheid variable stars and why they are important to astronomers. This podcast is highly recommended for those interested in astronomy and the frontlines of modern research.

Of all my interests in space, one of the biggest lies is space policy: the politics that underpin the rockets and spacecraft that are built, and how NASA and the private sector plan to use them. It’s a messy, complicated, but endlessly fascinating subject. It’s also one that deftly handles Anthony Colangelo’s Main Engine Cut Off podcast. Anthony’s show is a mix of host monologues, occasional interviews and news ratings. He focuses a lot on space hardware and the politics behind spaceflight, and I often pick up ideas or insights that I hadn’t thought of before. I also like the fact that Colangelo is realistic about spaceflight, and he looks at hypes from both government and industry with skepticism. (Disclaimer: I have appeared on this podcast once).

This is a specialized podcast, as you might imagine, focusing on the exploration of Mars, both by robots and eventually by humans. Hosted by Jake Robins, a Mars enthusiast, the show often features interviews with scientists studying various aspects of Mars, from missions already on the red planet (such as the Curiosity rover) to the types of habitats humans might live in there ( ice house, anyone?) While I’m personally skeptical that people will visit Mars anytime soon, I wholeheartedly support the kind of thoughtful discussions about how to get there, what we might do there, and the psychology of living on another world .

A promo for the We Martians podcast.
Enlarge / A promo for the We Martians podcast.

We Martians

The Space Show has been around so long – it started in 2001 – that it predates the advent of “podcasting” by several years. Dr. Originally a radio show also streamed over the internet, David Livingston has now produced over 2,900 episodes, featuring a number of high profile guests including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Freeman Dyson, Pete Worden, STS-135 astronaut Sandy Magnus and many more. These are long shows, often lasting two hours, allowing for in-depth discussion of the issues and answering questions from guests listening in real time. (Disclaimer: I have appeared on this show twice).

By akfire1

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