Learning isn’t all about what you pick up during lectures or from textbooks – there are a lot of things about the world around us that formal education doesn’t cover.
Nowadays, if you have some free time while you’re commuting on a bus or train and you’re looking to absorb some quick knowledge, podcasts are the way to go. You can listen to them via an app or download them for some on-the-go education.
Here are some of the best podcasts around today that can teach you a thing or two, from random trivia to full-blown history lessons:
For the uninitiated, Radiolab is one of the best series to dip your toes into the world of podcasts. The show irreverently discusses topics involving science, technology, and philosophy, like questioning what sports would look like if everyone played to lose and the power of music.
Millennial is aimed at 20-somethings looking to navigate this bizarre landscape we call “Life”. The podcast follows stories of people in the same boat, as they deal with money, city life, and all the milestones and speed bumps they come across. With episodes on “Haves and Have-Mores” and “Fake It Until You Make It”, every Millennial is sure to find something that will resonate with them.
Still having trouble telling a verb apart from an adverb? We’ve all been there. Grammar Girl’s podcast helps clear up any confusion you might have regarding the English language and grammar, such as the difference between “affect” and “effect” and how to use “i.e.” or “e.g.”, as well as useful tips on punctuation.
Each episode is around 30 minutes or less, and covers topics on the “invisible” 99 percent of activity that happens around us, focusing on the stories behind the architecture, infrastructure, and design that we tend to overlook, such as how the inflatable mascots with flailing arms came to be.
Billing itself as a podcast that’s “part quiz show and part offbeat news”, this one’s for all you trivia junkies who have the annoying habit of winning pub quizzes and trivia games. Its episodes normally focus on a main topic, though they tend to segue into other random topics, e.g. the episode on spices, which diverted to horse racing and baby camel names.
Brought to you by the folks who run HowStuffWorks.com, the podcast is hosted by Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark, who explore a vast range of topics, from whether you can live without a bank account to how passports came to be.
Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince bring science and comedy together in the most listenable fashion, bringing listeners along on a witty and intellectual scientific ride. The show, which takes its name from the “infinite monkey theorem”, has previously covered topics such as the end of the world and space travel.
If you’re a huge fan of science-y podcasts, here’s another one for you, hosted by one of the most recognizable faces (or should we say voices?) of science: Neil deGrasse Tyson. In this series, he answers all the questions that you’ve wondered about the universe – and even those that have yet to cross your mind! – featuring guests like Bill Nye. “Is our universe a simulation?” We don’t know, you tell us, Neil.
9. Caustic Soda
Hosts Toren Atkinson, Kevin Leeson, and Joe Fulgham dive headfirst into topics some may shy away from, such as bad laws, weird wars, and various disasters, finding the humor in them and making them easy to listen to.
Learn from experts in all sorts of industries, from CEOs to athletes to philosophers, who offer up advice and tips based on their respective experiences. If you love reading non-fiction or self-help books, this podcast provides an audio version of similar topics.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a clown, a personal stylist, a museum curator, or any job that’s totally different from yours, give Working a try. Produced by Slate, each episode gives listeners an in-depth look into the life of a different professional – from barista to jewelry-maker – who share what it’s like to do what they do.
12. Reply All
Launched in 2014, Reply All is a whacky show about the internet “and trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more”. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, the show is downloaded around three million times per month, offering an amusing and enlightening listen.
13. On the Media
If you’re in any way fascinated by the media, On the Media provides thought-provoking views on current issues surrounding the oft-maligned media, from how the media covers Donald Trump to the rise of fake news sites.
Hosted by Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the best-selling Freakonomics books, this podcast follows the same vein as the books, diving into “the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature”. Some of its episodes have covered “How to Become Great at Just About Anything” and “How to Win Games and Beat People” – who wouldn’t want to learn these things?? Sign us up!
15. Hardcore History
Author and radio talk show host Dan Carlin uses his signature style of addressing issues from different angles to make listeners really think about an issue. In Hardcore History, he reads extensively on various turning points in history and unflinchingly jumps straight into the wars and atrocities that shaped our world today, like the Persian Wars and World War II.
16. Planet Money
If you’re an Economics or Finance major, then you’ll definitely find this an interesting show. Even if you’re not, but you’re interested in how economics and finance shape our world, then this NPR-produced podcast is still one to add to your must-listen list. Its episodes explore the world of money, including a focus on behavioral psychology to explain how we spend money and why, such as “Why Is The Milk In The Back Of The Store?” and “Why Textbook Prices Keep Climbing”.
Hosts Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag teach you how to, well … do everything, from how to find a date to how to find water in the desert. You never know when such knowledge will come in handy!
18. TED Radio Hour
If you enjoy watching videos of TED Talks, then this is right up your alley. Each episode boils down the core topic into quick soundbites, using clips from actual TED Talks and one-on-one interviews conducted by the show’s host, Guy Raz. Each episode covers a broad theme, like the secret to happiness and the stigma surrounding mental health.
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