Podcasts, videos, and links to make you think
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Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain newsletter! Here are some of the best podcasts and other stuff I came across that will make you think.
Radiolab's (awesome) parade of plants
Podcasts are my favorite way to learn about science because actually hearing someone excited about a discovery is extremely contagious, in a way that is hard to replicate in text form. And when it comes to excitement around science, I still think nobody does it better than Radiolab co-host Robert Krulwich. The man sometimes gets downright giddy, and to me it almost doesn't even matter what he's talking about, I'm on board.

In Smarty Plants, Jad Abumrad ribs Krulwich for his excitement around his constant pitching of stories about the plant world, calling it his "parade of plants". But when you combine the ideas of this episode with those of From Tree to Shining Tree, Krulwich has helped reshape the public's understanding of how truly amazing boring ol regular trees and plants can be. 

Here are some of the main ideas:

First, it has been discovered that there is a whole nutrition based internet for trees, or "Wood Wide Web" (scientists love their puns). Tiny strands of fungi called mycorrhiza "are found on the roots of almost all land plants, and provide phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for carbon-based sugars.” This recent finding has completely reshaped what we know about how forests work.
Next, it's been found that trees have the uncanny ability to find water, even when the water is in completely sealed pipes.
Scientists have even tried Pavlovian conditioning on pea plants, to see if the leaves will associate the blowing of a fan with getting light. 
Amazingly, just like the famous example of a dog salivating at the sound of a dinner bell, it seems when properly conditioned, pea plants will bend towards a fan in a completely dark room, expecting light to be there too.
Lastly, there is the really cool example of the Mimosa plant, which will move its leave inwards if it feels threatened. (short video showing this). In a normal setting, if you gently drop the plant, it will do its defensive response.
But a scientist found that if she does this drop over and over, in the right conditions, the Mimosa plant seems to remember that falling won't hurt it, and it will stay open. So, can plants learn? 
So all in all, some really cool findings that scientists look forward to trying to replicate and explore. Check out the episode to get Krulwich's full contagious enthusiasm about it.


-Ministry of Ideas is a good encapsulation of the type of show I try to find and recommend in this newsletter. Each episode plays around with ideas that shape our world and will either challenge your own beliefs about that idea or give you something new to chew on. Check out the last three of the season, which I felt were also the strongest: Secular Salvations, Demeritocracy, and Enlightened Cynicism

-Last newsletter I recommended author John Green's new podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed, and I have to do so again. You'll like it. Well if the idea of John Green reading interesting/informative/funny essays he wrote about various aspects of our strange human world sounds appealing, then you'll like it. This time it's Halley's Comet and Cholera that are reviewed on a 5 star scale. Spoiler: one gets a five star and one gets a one star.

-There's really no one who comes even close to making nature documentaries as well as the BBC. Blue Planet 2, which has finally been airing in the US, is stunning. BBC Radio has a podcast that goes along with it, hosted by the very charming duo of Emily Knight and Becky Ripley. They are great mini-documentaries in their own right. If you have been watching, definitely check these episodes out. 


-I really like the idea of podcast networks, but I've never really felt like any one in particular had a niche that I was excited about. Hub & Spoke has changed that for me, being a collective that explicitly includes story driven podcasts that focus on ideas. They have four shows so far: Ministry of Ideas (mentioned above), Hi-Phi Nation (philosophy), The Lonely Palette (art), and Soonish (technology). I hope to see much more from them. 

-Hank Green (Sci Show, Crash Course, John Green's brother) tweeted about using the Sleep With Me podcast for sleep research (it's a guy that drones on about boring stuff to help you sleep). My wife tried it last week and it knocked her right out. 

-McDonald's has a new branded podcast called The Sauce, about the relaunch of their Szechuan Sauce and the huge fiasco of their initial launch (explained further in this Nerdist article). The show is OK, but it really drove me crazy that they didn't mention Rick and Morty by name, which set this entire chain of events in motion. Here is the clip of the show that started it.

-I have really disliked homeopathy since buying homeopathy teething tablets a few years ago for my newborn son. I thought it was just some herbal remedy or something, but then I did research on what homeopathy actually is and was livid. The YouTube channel Kurzgesagt just released a thorough and fair 8 minute video explaining exactly what it is

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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