The revival of the art of the podcast is a splendid thing. All human life in in there, with the (relatively) low-tech delivery of the high falutin’. And for the user, it’s an effortless way to receive wisdom from some of the finer minds in a variety of disciplines, academic and otherwise.
So you really can listen yourself smarter, and this little selection can help more than most. Subscribe to this bunch, and get your students to do the same, and you’ll be a better, conversationalist and you’ll be a downright polymath.
So get up to date with these and feel you mind expand.
Of course, with Google, you don’t need to know much, you can just find it when you need it, but that doesn’t make you very interesting. So imbibe it this way, via this outlet from the excellent How Stuff Works website. So if you need to know how Bitcoin, crack cocaine or almost anything actually happens, this is the one for you.
An award-winning journalistic radio show which looks at Big Ideas, and does so very well. They might look at human attempts to communicate with dolphins to the social experiments undertaken by Facebook, but they’ll always leave you enlightened.
The (then) head of the British Museum has exactly the kind of voice you’d expect him to have (it’s an acquired tastes, therefore), but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything which teaches you more of what you don’t know about our collective history. From stone tools to lava lamps, this examines the objects which changed the way our world operates.
An erudite and entertaining ramble around old books. Well-read greybeards John Mitchinson and Andy Miller (Leavis and Butthead) take an amiable and amusing look at a neglected classic every fortnight, giving a greater depth to your reading while passing the best part of an hour in a very amiable way.
You’ll know the Freakonomics phenomenon (oh we really hope so), and this will take you on familiar journeys of unfamiliar connections and behavioural economics. You won’t fail to view the world in a different way each time.
Arguably the most intellectual take on this page on all sorts of books, ideas, arts and politics. Not exactly over-produced, but that adds to the humour and charm. A whiff of the banter of a university lecturers’ common room.
Brought to you via the British Humanist Association and with obvious references to Richard Dawkins, this is a determinedly rationalist approach to issues like daylight saving or NASA’s predictions of doom.
Good design, like a good referee in sport, is often best when not noticed, hence the title of this exploration of product design, fashion, tech and architecture. As vivid a guide to the visual than the audible can deliver.
The Memory Palace
If you want your coffee break to be a more enlightening experience, then these pithy little vignettes are great. Covering allsorts – from spy cats to the advent of the Sony Walkman, The Memory Palace is part short story, part audio poem and part oral history time capsule. There’s just not enough.
A very straightforward set of biographies from the daddy of such information, the UK’s Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Each episode gives a strictly factual account of one Briton’s life, with a strong sense of time and place. From Freddy Mercury to Piltdown Man, there’s instant familiarity here.