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11 Of Our Favourite Books and Podcasts About Health, Science, and Everything Else

Posted on 16 April 2021

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Podcasts and books are some of the best ways to learn about virtually any subject. Thanks to the wonders of audiobooks and podcasts, you can fill your head with knowledge at any time, anywhere. Here is a collection of some of our favorites.

1: Cautionary Tales (Tim Harford)

Catching a Killer Doctor | Cautionary Tales With Tim Harford - YouTube

No one likes to make mistakes, but mistakes are a necessary part of learning. Thankfully, we aren’t limited to learning from our own fumbles: humans have been making mistakes for all of recorded history. In this podcast, economist Tim Harford brings us the tales of these mistakes with masterful storytelling, and most importantly asks the question: what can we learn from them?

Suggested Episodes:

2: The Infinite Monkey Cage (Brian Cox and Robin Ince)

BBC Radio 4 - The Infinite Monkey Cage - Downloads

A monkey pressing random keys at a typewriter might eventually write an award-winning comedy or the plans for a particle accelerator, though it would probably take many orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe. Thankfully, the Infinite Monkey Cage is a podcast that needs no infinite monkeys, as it already has better, highly advanced monkeys in the form of physicist Professor Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince. It’s an awesome blend of science and comedy in which they and their guests explore topics ranging from the human brain to black holes. We also suspect Brian Cox may have cracked the ageing process.

Suggested Episodes:

3: The Life Scientific (Jim Al-Khalili)

BBC - Radio 4 - Science Explorer: Jim Al-Khalili featured in The Life  Scientific

We frequently hear about the ground-breaking discoveries taking place across all fields of science, but less often do we get to learn about the scientists themselves. In this podcast, Professor of physics Jim Al-Khalili interviews leading scientists about their lives, discoveries, and the motivations that drive them.

Suggested Episodes:

4: Bio Eats World (Hanne Winarsky and Lauren Richardson)

Bio Eats World: The Biology of Aging - Andreessen Horowitz

Just as computing revolutionised the world in ways we couldn’t have previously imagined, biotechnology may be about to fundamentally transform how we view health. In this bi-weekly podcast, Hanne Winarsky and Lauren Richardson examine how life sciences, healthcare and technology come together to help us live longer, healthier lives. In their journal club episodes, they cover breakthrough scientific research and how that research can be taken from paper to practice.

Suggested Episodes:

5: Hardcore History (Dan Carlin)

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History Podcast | Free Listening on Podbean App

You may wonder what a podcast about history is doing in a list full of science and technology entries. Yet much of history is the story of science and technology, how humans have tried to adapt, and how society is transformed time and time again. Dan Carlin has been called ”one of the greatest storytellers in the world”, and for good reason. His ability to weave deep questions into the stories of the past, and to link them to the problems we are facing today, easily earns this podcast a place on this list.

Suggested Episodes:

6: Risky Talk (David Spiegelhalter)

Winton Centre Cambridge

Being alive is a risky business. Crossing the road is a risk, boarding a plane is a risk, and yes, taking a vaccine can be a risk, though nowhere near as risky as not taking one. Yet despite how often we have to make these risk calculations in our day to day lives, most of us are not as good at it as we think we are. In this podcast, David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, discusses risk in the context of today’s most pressing issues, and how they can be best communicated.

Suggested Episodes:

7: The Drive (Peter Attia)

The Drive Interview with Peter Attia | Sam Harris

Peter Attia is a physician who focusses on the science of longevity. His ability to translate cutting edge science into something the average individual can use makes this podcast a great source of information for those interested in living longer. He’s also not afraid to dive deep into the details, making The Drive perfect for those who want to harness the full potential of what gerontology is teaching us.

Suggested Episodes:

8: More or Less (Tim Harford)

BBC Radio 4 - More or Less: Behind the Stats - Downloads

Someone, though we still aren’t certain who, once famously said that there were ‘lies, damn lies, and statistics’. Have you ever heard an extreme, shocking number presented in the news or thown around by politicians to support their points, and thought to yourself: ‘can that figure really be true?’ If so, there’s a pretty good chance that More or Less have scrutinised it. In this podcast, Tim Harford and friends explain and, where necessary, debunk the numbers in the news and in everyday life.

Suggested Episodes:

9: Bad Science (Ben Goldacre)

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre: You Must Read It - Explorative Approach

Despite the overwhelming weight of scientific studies showing that they have no greater effect than a placebo treatment, countless educated individuals still believe that homeopathy, detox, and other forms of alternative medicine work. Even those who don’t may still fall victim to nutritional fads, vaccine scares, and anti wrinkle creams packed with chemicals that have nothing to do with the product’s advertised effect. Why are we so bad at telling real science from pseudoscience? In each chapter of his book, Ben Goldacre covers a different aspect of bad science, explaining concepts that are essential for recognising shoddy research. He also explores some of the cognitive biases that can can make us fall for pseudoscience, and who is primarily to blame for how medical misinformation is spread.

Suggested chapters:

  • Why clever people believe stupid things

10: A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

A Short History of Nearly Everything Audiobook by Bill Bryson -  9781407083667 | Rakuten Kobo Australia

According to the Big Bang theory, space began to expand around 13.8 billion years ago, carrying with it all of the energy and matter in the universe. Around 90 years ago, a portion of that matter named Georges Lemaître proposed the Big Bang theory. Bill Bryson’s book largely concerns everything that took place between these two events. Motivated by dissatisfaction with his own level of scientific knowledge, he takes you on a tour through billions of years, telling the fascinating stories behind such diverse fields as particle physics, paleontology, archaeology, geology and biology.

Suggested chapters:

  • Einstein’s universe
  • The rise of life

11: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Oliver Sacks)

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat | Oliver Sacks, M.D. | Author,  Neurologist | On The Move, Hallucinations, Musicophilia, Awakenings, The Man  Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

We trust that everything we see, hear, smell, taste or touch forms a real and accurate representation of the world around us. Yet when it comes to our perception of reality, we are at the mercy of our brains, and nowhere is this made more evident than in the case of neurological diseases. In this book, neurologist Oliver Sacks describes the fascinating (and sometimes mind-bending) case histories of his patients, from the eponymous man who mistook his wife for a hat, to the woman who no longer recognises the concept of ‘left’.

Suggested Chapters:

  • The man who mistook his wife for a hat
  • Eyes right!
  • The man who fell out of bed

That concludes this list for now, but we’ll be sure to update it with more in the future. In the meantime, get listening (or reading) – there’s no excuse, and you won’t regret it!

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