Podcasts, videos, and links to make you think
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Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain newsletter, a collection of podcasts and links that make you think.

I kind of feel bad that even on summer road trips I haven’t listened to a single audiobook since I’ve gotten into podcasts. But what chance do they have competing against the unlimited world of excellent, thought provoking shows such as the ones listed below? 
Revisionist History: Puzzle Rush and The Tortoise and the Hare. Malcolm Gladwell's podcast is back for a fourth season and I am not ashamed to admit this is a listen-as-soon-as-it-comes-out show for me. The season starts off with a two-parter about how the arbitrarily chosen time constraints of standardized tests like the LSAT can have profound implications.

Soonish: The Art that Launched a Thousand Rockets. Chesley Bonestell and Arthur Radebaugh are two hugely influential illustrators who sparked the imagination of all the people who went on to actually get us into space and exploring the solar system.
  • I LOVE me some good space art, and I am particularly happy this episode introduced me to Chesley Bonestell. This is a favorite image of mine from 1952 after checking out his website.
  • “I didn’t know what other worlds looked like until I saw Bonestell’s paintings of the solar system.” Said by none other than Carl Sagan. 
  • A similar story of art inspiring reality in a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts is detailed in Dino Explosion from Sum of All Parts. It’s about how Jurassic Park had a huge impact on the amount of people going into paleontology and legit led to a renaissance of dino discoveries.

Radiolab: The Miseducation of Larry P and Problem Space. These are the first two episodes of a five-part series on IQ. Modern Radiolab is sometimes hit or miss with me, but I really like the way this series has been put together so far. The context of where IQ tests came from and how they have been abused is a fascinating history I had never heard before. 

The Constant: Seeing is Believing. The story of N-rays is such a perfect storm of scientific folly and such a delicious example of motivated reasoning. It's also the perfect story for The Constant to tell, which is a show that tells these sorts of stories about human overconfidence better than anyone else. 

An Arm and a Leg: Why are drug prices so high? Meet Mr PBM. This show does some seriously good journalism about healthcare in a perfect balance between informative and entertaining. And this particular episode does a better job of explaining pharmacy benefit managers—the biggest, richest, middlemen nobody knows exist—than anything else I've seen on the topic. Also, they have a great newsletter you should check out if you dig this show. 
Athrabeth: On Fairy Stories. If you love Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or if you kind of always wished you had read The Silmarillion, and if you are a generous listener towards the first episodes of passion projects, you should check out this show. It's an exploration of the full Tolkien legendarium (a new favorite term). Besides learning a ton, I actually laughed out loud a few times and enjoyed the chemistry between the hosts Jude and Stef. 
  • This first episode explains the meaning behind one of Tolkien's most well known lectures/essays, which serves as a grand argument for his whole framework on literary fantasy.
  • "The Hobbit was Tolkien doing fairy tale fan fiction."

Favorite podcast quote: "I don't like crowds, but I like this crowd, because I'm in an 'us' that doesn't require a 'them'." John Green on the Indy 500.


The Venn is a new podcast recommendation newsletter that focuses on politics in a non-partisan way. A recent issue had a cheat sheet before the democratic debates and a nice list of podcasts featuring many of the prominent candidates. Subscribe here.

Lifehacker ran a story featuring a collection of podcast newsletters to subscribe to (including Hurt Your Brain!) along with tips to find better podcasts. Big thanks for Caroline Crampton for the shout out and you should definitely check out her daily recommendations that she does in addition to Hot Pod with Nick Quah.

I watch a lot of YouTube and the algorithm has gotten better at surfacing unexpected older videos. This 15 minute video is fascinating and worth a watch: Magnificent Storyteller Soldier Reveals What He Saw In Vietnam.

In Defense of Dabbling. This article forms quite a nice trilogy with In Praise of Mediocrity and The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles for how to approach these things we do in our free time.

Per a recommendation in author Austin Kleon's newsletter, I bought On a Sunbeam and blasted through it. Great story and great illustrations.

Happy listening everyone. What have you learned from a podcast lately?

That's all for this week!

Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!

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