My ten best technology/science podcasts

Last Christmas, I was given an iPod by one of the younger and, presumably, more hip members of my family.

By Jeff Bairstow

Last Christmas, I was given an iPod by one of the younger and, presumably, more hip members of my family. I should note that iPods, made by the Apple Computer folks, are tiny gadgets that permit the user to record vast numbers of songs of their choice, downloaded from a personal ­computer. I tried listening to music on my new iPod, but I much prefer to have the Duke and his musicians booming out of my conventional home stereo.

Then I discovered “podcasts”­-a nifty way of broadcasting audio and video shows over the Internet. Podcasts range from the totally amateur to the highly professional, from the highly useful to the completely useless, and from the distinctly entertaining to the absolutely appalling.

So, as my gift to you this month, I hereby give you Bairstow’s Top Ten Technology/Science Podcasts. I fully expect to be bombarded with e-mails for my sins of omission and commission but I stand by my little list.

Number 10 on my list is “Quantum Information/Bose-Einstein Condensates,” from NIST (the National Institute of Science and Technology). This is heavy-duty doozy of a podcast for those who are into quantum mechanics. You’ll have to pay to access the papers (and why not?)-the only pay-podcast I’m listing here.

At number 9 is National Public Radio’s “Science Friday,” expertly hosted by Ira Flatow. This highly professional podcast is always a pleasure.

My No. 8 pick is “This Week in Science,” or TWIS. Described by the producers as a “kickass” weekly science radio show, TWIS takes an irreverent look at cutting-edge science topics. Despite the irreverence, there’s some genuine content here.

Coming in at No. 7 is “NerdTV,” an unfortunately named but always interesting PBS show consisting of interviews by technology writer Robert Cringely of technology leaders.

My No. 6 choice is the video podcast “­Diggnation,” a very idiosyncratic but highly amusing ­technology show based on a Web site ( run by two computer-magazine contributors from California. Don’t let the beer-drinking antics of these two clowns put you off-they have some original commentary.

The No. 5. slot is ably filled by the weekly “Nature Podcast,” from the British journal of the same name. Scientists report on their work in a way that is often more understandable than the papers in Nature.

Another British podcast comes in at No. 4. with yet another unfortunate title, “The Naked Scientists Radio Show.” Produced by a Cambridge University lecturer under the auspices of the BBC, this is a very professional show despite the sophomoric theatrics of the overenthusiastic anchor.

The second and third rankings are both very good but in widely different ways. I gave the No. 3 spot to “NPR Technology,” a new podcast compiled from NPR shows. Once again, this is a very professional production but it does not have the depth of a ­Nature podcast or the Naked Scientists.

That gave the No. 2. position to the AAAS’s “­Science Update,” one of the shorter podcasts in my list. In fact, this podcast is a compilation of five of the 60-second radio spots that have been produced by the AAAS for several years. Despite the brevity, these clips are timely and the podcast is very informative.

And so we come to the leader, “TWIT” or “This Week in Technology.” One of the oldest podcasts, TWIT is an informed discussion between leading commentators of events in the world of ­technology.Hosted by Leo Laporte, TWIT covers a wide range of topics. The expert commentators often add inside knowledge that would be difficult to find elsewhere.

Just how do you subscribe to any of these podcasts? It’s really quite simple. Begin by loading the Apple iTunes software onto the hard drive on your computer (Apple or Wintel) and click on “Podcast Directory,” at the bottom left of your screen. Now choose your podcasts and hit subscribe to establish your podcasts in your local library. Making your own podcasts is also relatively simple. Just follow the instructions in this Apple series of podcasts.

Excuse me, now I have to download my daily dose of podcasts. Happy listening and successful podcasting to you all, and please don’t forget to tell me about the sites I’ve missed.

Jeffrey Baristow
Contributing Editor

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