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 to make you think.

There are lots of great educational podcasts from the last several weeks that I can't wait to share with you below. But first, if you are like me and have wanted to dip your toes into audio dramas (scripted podcasts), be sure to check out Wolverine: The Long Night (which is finally free, and great so far) and Girl in Space. Perfect for people who grew up on Marvel comics or are into sci-fi.

ICONography: Terry Pratchett's Discworld (42 min). A podcast about what makes an icon and ICON. My knowledge around Terry Prachett went from not being sure if Terry was a he or she, to being very interested into checking out at least a few of his world famous Discworld books. If you’ve ever asked, “what’s the deal with Terry Pratchett?”, this will bring you completely up to speed in an engaging way.

Stuff You Should Know: What are think tanks all about? (47 min). A nice history of what the heck think tanks are and how they weren't always so unabashedly partisan. The current state of affairs is they give politicians ready made, well researched policy positions. The trend is to omit things that don't align with an agenda, which as they argue in the podcast, should cause think tanks to lose their tax-free status.

Podship Earth: Gone Fishing. Jared Blumenfeld, an Obama appointed regional administrator for the EPA, does some excellent environmental journalism for this show. This episode takes a look at the contentious relationship between big agriculture and groups who fish/rely on healthy Salmon populations on the west coast. “As they say in the west, ‘whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.’" A fact mentioned that blew my mind is that it takes a full gallon of water to grow one single almond nut. 

The Secret History of the Future: The Box That A.I. Lives In (38 min). A new show from Slate that digs into tech history to illuminate the present. “There is something screwy going on here, which I hope you can see immediately. Which is they’re saying ‘our AI’s are going to put you out of work but we need to steal your data in order to make that happen.’ “

Undiscovered: The Holdout (32 min). One of my favorite science shows is back with a second season and each episode so far maintains their high bar of excellence. This episode gives an overview of how we came to know that a meteor impact killed the dinosaurs and introduces to us an interesting character who has been fighting this narrative for decades (and why she may start getting some credit). 

Science Vs: Essential Oils (29 min). Bottom line: Essential oils work when you expect them to work, and there is no compelling evidence to show a difference from placebo for any kind of specific treatment (besides one, just for GI issues and only if ingested). 

Radiolab: Infective Heredity (27 min). The big idea: evolution can happen in an instant from horizontal gene transfer via viruses. The scientist who discovered this was quite the cantankerous genius who saw himself as more important to biology than Darwin. The ability of mammals to form an amniotic sac (and therefore exist) is directly thanks to genes given to us from a virus. 
(Where I make a visual out of something cool I learned from a podcast from the past few weeks).

The Dream (mini-series). A critical look at pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing. This so far has confirmed that 99% of multi-level marketers don't make money, but also gives surprising insight into why people do it. The first episode details an insane pyramid scheme from the early 80's I had never heard of, called "The Airplane Game". Red = the people who get screwed in this sort of thing. 


License Plate Tectonics. If you kept covering your car's old registration sticker with a new one, how big would the stack be if you started when the Earth was formed 4.5 billions years ago? A little thought experiment from the guy who created the tediously accurate If the Moon Were 1 Pixel.

Why does science not give people a cure for cancer? An excellent Quora answer from an expert.

Absolute Success is Luck. Relative Success is Hard Work. A great article from James Clear. "So what it is? What determines success? Hard work or good fortune? Effort or randomness? I think we all understand both factors play a role, but I'd like to give you a better answer than 'It depends.'"

In honor of #InternationalPodcastDay, I started a Twitter thread of all my favorite educational podcasts.

If you like the shows mentioned in the above Twitter thread, or love educational podcasts in general, don't forget to check out Sound Education, a podcast conference Nov 1-3 right at Harvard. Lots of your favorite shows will be there. And me. Come say hello.

If my mention of Wolverine: The Long Night intrigued you at the top, check out a review from Elena Fernández-Collins, my go to source for all things audio dramas.

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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