Enlarge /. Podcasts with your interests – and your attention span – in mind.
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The beauty of the podcast format is sometimes its curse: any episode length. Finding a new podcast to love can be daunting when episodes regularly top the hour mark. If you're struggling to make podcasts on topics like history and science, don't fret: we have recommendations for great series that usually contain full episodes under half an hour.
Sometimes the best way to recover from stress is to focus on learning something new. Science Diction helps by presenting the etymologies of well-known scientific terms along with bite-sized usage stories of how people deal with science. The episode on "Meme", for example, tells the story of the coinage of the word as a parallel to "Gen" to show how ideas spread in a culture. Science Diction talks about the proliferation of "memes" themselves, sometimes called memes, until it became one of the most common ways of referring to pictures and jokes that were circulated on the internet. An episode titled "Vaccine" teaches us what happens when the public is afraid of new science and describes antivax propaganda that is almost as old as the first vaccines themselves.
Science Diction publishes episodes monthly and didn't start until this year. Many episodes are about concepts related to COVID-19. Even if you are tired of the subject, I recommend this podcast as a refreshing historical overview of similar stories told in a relaxed way.
Chemistry in its element
What science diction does with scientific terms, chemistry does in its element with scientific materials. Originally a show about the history and uses of chemical elements, CE branched out at the end of the periodic table. Now the show offers accessible discussions of more complex chemicals. While many of their episodes focus on chemicals related to current events, like potential COVID-19 cures, they also discuss everyday chemicals like china and 2AP (which gives buttered popcorn its distinctive smell). Some episodes even delve into intriguing science fiction compounds like hexasilabenzene that could make the life of silicon-based aliens possible. It's a wonderful way to learn how chemistry relates to our lives.
If history is more your thing, spend your brain breaks on Witness History, a BBC podcast that tells the stories of historical events from the perspective of people who were actually there. This podcast spends more time on serious topics than the others on this list, but its miniseries on black history and the fall of the Berlin Wall is worth listening to. And if you're willing to poke around their archives, there's plenty of hope in the BBC's retelling of the story, from the story of Jewish women given the right to pray at the Western Wall to the story of Friendship Train ", which operates between India and Bangladesh, for an interview with the first astronauts to board the International Space Station.
If you're tired of talking to you all day and wish you could just spend your lunch break at home with your cat – or if you don't have a cat and you want to – you might want to give Purrcast one a listen . Each episode takes about five minutes for a cat to purr. That's it. There are no advertisements other than the occasional cat rescue call recording the episodes. There is no background music or pictures of someone else's cat to distract you from the camaraderie of your ideal feline friend.
Purrcast is possibly the most relaxing podcast on this list – and it might make sense, with hindsight, to switch between some of the shows on this list. My advice: play the podcast through your phone's speakers and place your device on your lap or chest so you can pretend the cat is on top of you while it purrs. It's all the fear-melting goodness of cat ownership without a litter box.
If you're looking specifically for a reason to laugh, I recommend QWERPline, a semi-improvised narrative podcast by Canadian comedy troupe LoadingReadyRun that takes the form of a morning radio broadcast from a downside-down town. Think a Prairie Home Companion meets the Firesign Theater, which is supposed to make its own cast laugh. The show's hosts, Graham and Alex, act as relatively decent slides for the hilarious Nsburg residents, from the ever-clueless radio station intern Derek to traffic correspondent Judge Hammockslam, who does everything but reporting the traffic to Lorna Schlitzwhistle, a regular Caller and deliverer of New Age nonsense. I recommend starting with the Harvest Festival episode to better understand the bizarre logic of Nsburg and the dramatic vocal ranges of the five cast members on QWERPline.
This one is a little longer than the other shows on this list, but the episodes usually still last less than half an hour. You can also find them on YouTube, accompanied by images that immerse you in Nsburg's bizarre culture and illustrate some of the more intricate jokes. LoadingReadyRun also ran a number of Noncanon episodes as part of its annual Desert Bus for Hope fundraiser (this playlist also includes the Desert Bus for Hope segments that inspired QWERPline).
An FYI: This podcast contains curses and innuendos that you may not want to explain to a younger audience.
Some of my favorite podcasts that I recommended in previous summaries are also less than half an hour. The Encyclopedia Womannica and Chemistry Cayk, in particular, have adorable, bite-sized brain breaks that allow you to relax while learning new and interesting things at the same time. If you have other shows to try before the soup ends on the stove, let us know in the comments what short podcasts you look forward to!