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.

Check below for some Star Wars fun.
Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe: What Are Cosmic Rays? (39 min). A show from Stuff Media that is exactly as it sounds. It's like Stuff You Should Know, but with hosts who are experts on the subject matter. Daniel is a professor in experimental physics and Jorge has a PhD in robotics and is the creator of PHD comics.
  • Cosmic Rays = particles from space.
  • 100 billion neutrinos from the Sun pass through your finger nail every second (not dangerous).
  • The dangerous cosmic rays are the charged particles, like protons, which can cause cancer.
  • The Earth's magnetic field is literally a force field against charged particles. 
  • There are some charged particles that arrive to Earth with so much energy that scientists don't have a good explanation for where they come from. 

The Constant: Mesmerizing (57 min). I've heard before that the origin of "mesmerized" is a reference to a con artist named Franz Mesmer, but the full story as told in this episode is more fascinating than I could have imagined.
  • My favorite part was the dream team of scientists led by none other than Benjamin Franklin who banded together to disprove the "animal magnetism" of Franz Mesmer, and in the process co-created the first example of blinding an experiment to the placebo effect and bias. 
  • This blinding idea was lost to history and wasn't rediscovered until 1954.

Hi-Phi Nation: The Precrime Unit (47 min). This is the start of the third season of Hi-Phi Nation, the first since joining Slate. The show is as thought provoking as ever, and this episode takes a look at the future-is-here state of predictive policing and the inevitable ethical choices and controversial policies.
  • "Actual predictive policing programs show just how unrealistic the movie was. The crimes in The Minority Report were all bourgeois fantasies—murders of cheating spouses, conspirators, and child kidnappers. All of them had affluent white victims and white perpetrators."
  • "In real life, predictive policing technologies target property crime, drug dealing, gun violence associated with gangs. The kinds of things affecting communities of poverty and color." 
  • "It's a hard question for all of us—how much data about ourselves we're willing to give up in the interest of public safety—but the unfortunate reality is some communities have more power than others in settling this question. Government officials, police forces, affluent suburbanites—they generally win fights over how much they get to be surveilled. The actual issue is probably how much the affluent will sacrifice the privacy of the poor to secure their own safety."

The Art of Manliness: How to Tell Better Stories (39 min). The guest Matthew Dicks is a five-time Grandslam storytelling winner and was just bursting with great advice on what makes a good story.
  • A good story usually only happens over the course of five seconds, and has to do with some kind of transformation or realization.
    • Stories that deal with, "I was once one person but now another" or "I once believed one thing but now another" are compelling.
    • A string of crazy events is a fine drinking story, but unless some fundamental change happened it won't be a story that sticks in people's hearts.
  • When thinking of stories, a good place to start is to think through the "first, last, best, or worst" time you did something.
  • I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert's recent story on the Moth about the death of her partner, and it was expertly told and moving. It also exactly fits with everything Matthew Dicks says on what makes a compelling story.


Driving in a Snowstorm After Watching Star Wars. I had a lot of fun with this and wanted to settle something once an for all. If your car really was the Millennium Falcon going full speed through the Milky Way, would it look anything like what you see out of your windshield in a blizzard? C'mon, you know you've thought about this.
Podcast festival alertOutlier Podcast Festival is coming to Austin, TX May 17th-18th. " It provides outliers in the podcasting community an intimate opportunity to collaborate with both Indie talent and industry giants." It looks like a great venue and set of topics. 

7 Episodes I Always Return To. An excellent podcast list from Paul Kondo (apologies for misspelling last time, a real pet peeve of mine!) of Podcast Gumbo. This is where I discovered the above episode about storytelling.

No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime. File this under the "nature is strange and horrifying" drawer. Worth a click just for the picture of a car covered in slime after an accident with a truck full of Hagfish.

Think climbing a tree to get away from a bear is a good strategy? Here is a giant Grizzly climbing 50 feet with ease.

What are you favourite super-specific-nerdy podcasts? A link from Reddit with some good stuff.

Here is a series of videos showing the speed of light in real time, which is something I always wanted to see. All you need to do is wait and the internet will deliver your ideas better than you imagined.
  1. Speed of light circling around the Earth. (super duper fast)
  2. Speed of light between Earth and moon. (wow that is fast)
  3. Speed of light between Earth and Mars. (wow space is BIG)

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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