Enlarge /. Ars & # 39; creative director Aurich Lawson describes this image as: "good vibes, friends and listening to the range of space." We like to think that this fits well with our latest podcast recommendations.
In a way, podcasts are currently one of the quarantine-safe forms of entertainment. Some larger hosts may have had to take their microphones and wall pads to a home office, or may be hiding in closets to get better sound quality (but not as a fearful response to frightening and confusing headlines).
However, that doesn't mean that all podcasts currently in production are a perfect fit for a nerd's listening diet, be it because they're too funky or too dark. At least in my case, I'm looking for a mix of emotional support, comfort and normality in my regular podcast library. So I recommend the following five podcasts as my favorites if you are looking for the much needed connection to the outside world. (These are in addition to other podcasts that I previously recommended on Ars.)
My latest selections tell uplifting stories; They show friends who talk about things they love. and while they had to adjust to protect their hosts from COVID-19, they held on to the joy and optimism that drew me to them in the first place. All of these podcasts have new, regularly updated episodes in common, and they are all about research and science.
A path with words
Let's start with a podcast that literally helps me get out of bed. A Way with Words is an optimistic call-in show about how people use language. The moderators Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette answer questions from listeners from all over North America about strange words and phrases. Callers can be anyone from a variety of backgrounds, from recent immigrants who want to better understand the nuances of English prepositions to children who think about the distinction between "barely" and "almost" and people from one country, who just moved to another, and discovered that no one in their new hometown knows a sentence that they grew up with. "They looked at me like I had two heads," is a general feeling among the callers from A Way with Words, but Grant and Martha dispel this feeling of alienation with good humor and meticulously researched facts about the regional distribution of words.
Grant and Martha exchange funny language facts between callers that they recently learned. This includes a current story about popular Hungarian humor about "aggressive piglet joke" and a conversation about what members of hobby groups call themselves, including "AFoL" for an adult Lego fan. They also review books, occasionally give advice on writing, and solve brain teasers presented by co-moderator John Chaneski. A walk with words is overflowing with morning radio energy to get up and wake up on Monday morning with a new episode (or a repetition from the extensive archive) on my phone that accompanies me through my day is always a pleasure.
Like A Way with Words, Lexitecture is full of deep insight into the complicated story and phrase stories, albeit with a more focused approach. The hosts, longtime friends Ryan and Amy, each present one word per episode that they have been busy with, along with what they have learned about it from the Oxford English Dictionary, Etymonline, and more specialized language resources. They follow their chosen words on meandering historical journeys and puzzling stories about how the meanings of the words have changed since their introduction to English.
The best moments in Lexitecture are when Amy and Ryan discover that their words are distant etymological cousins, or when they find out how their own linguistic experiences (Ryan is Canadian; Amy is Scottish) meet their expectations of a story Word impact or how the juxtaposition wonders from two independently selected words creates a perfect episode title. These include the recent episodes "Inertia Device" (in which we learn that a "device" was originally invented) and "Swear Method" (which, in addition to the fascinating story of how "Swear" developed, give us a funny title from a word associated with the promise to a word associated with taboo words).
Lexitecture invites fans to take a very serious look at the hosts by inviting them to respond to episodes on social media or asking them to suggest new words for the occasional listener, Wordstravaganza. I appreciate this bold attitude towards their relationship with the fans, especially at the moment.
99% Invisible is a longstanding Radiotopia podcast on the design of everyday things and cultural artifacts, from the history of toilet paper and mannequins of department stores to the architecture of the shadow and the economy of chili peppers. The presenter Roman Mars and a changing cast of writers and producers examine the subtle details of the design decisions that listeners may have never noticed before, as well as the historical motivations and social implications of those decisions. This is occasionally a heavier podcast that addresses issues of social and economic inequality related to design, as in your recent episode on the impact of COVID-19 on urban homeless communities. But on the whole, it's a great listening experience for moments when you need something to focus on.
The recent 99% Invisible episodes have addressed pandemic issues, but the podcast has just started a second season of its Articles of Interest miniseries, in which producer Avery Trufelman examines the history of fashion design. The show also has a new book, The 99% Invisible City, that can be pre-ordered.
Are news from Earth depressing? Instead, let's learn about cool things in space. (You know if you don't read or view Ars Technica's own coverage of the topic.)
Science journalist Izzie Clarke and Oxford astrophysicist Becky Smethurst discuss astronomical issues related to weather in space (including the planets alongside the Earth) Aurors) on accessible explanations of Einstein's theory of relativity. In between, they interview other space scientists about their research and inform viewers in the northern hemisphere about exciting things they can see in their own night sky, including the recent Lyrid meteor shower. This month's story is about exoplanets.
If you want to get away from everyday life that doesn't quite reach into space, try the Smithsonian Institution's Sidedoor. Presenter Lizzie Peabody takes the audience behind the scenes at the Smithsonian Museums, uses exhibits and interviews curators to tell exciting stories about science and history. Outstanding episodes cover the history of American home-brewed beer, the Apollo 12 mission (released for Apollo 12's 50th anniversary) and the impressive migration of monarch butterflies. If you like science and history podcasts, you will fall in love with Sidedoor.
Podcasts are a wonderful way to stay motivated and socialize in a scary and frustrating world. We'd love to hear what your favorite episodes of these podcasts are and which other podcasts will help you keep going.