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. These learning playlists are hopefully a useful antidote to doom-scrolling. 

Some recommendations I'm excited to share with you. One question first, if you don't mind. Do you ever take notes while listening to podcasts? What shows? I used to do so a lot more, and found myself doing so again with one of the shows below. 

Ok let's get to that good internet brain food.
Educational audio 2.0?
I’m excited about all the different experiments that continue around educational audio. Podcasts are an absolutely amazing boon for life-long learning, but I increasingly appreciate short-run series that are somewhat self-contained in topic and duration. Below are two examples I’d like to highlight that I’ve found to work particularly well. Isn't there just a feeling in the air that more and more interesting things are happening for bridging podcasts together with other areas of organized learning? Or is it just me?
Planet Money Summer School
Every Wednesday until Labor Day, Planet Money will be releasing episodes that serve as an Econ 101 “summer school”. It’s an attempt to organize in one spot the basic tools and language that economists use. The format of clips from past shows and new commentary from economists really works for me. It’s a good sign when I am motivated to take out a notebook, which I did! Planet Money will probably go on forever, but I am really drawn to this idea of an organized mini-course.

Note: I do realize this is isn't an entirely novel idea, there is a whole show on public radio called Civics 101 after all. I just think it's particularly well-done in content and format. I truly would have preferred this to the dreadful economics course I took in college. 

My Gothic Dissertation
Please just listen to the 17-minute prologue to this first-ever podcast dissertation. I know the word “dissertation” doesn’t elicit excitement, but it’s definitely not a dry academic experience as a listener. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the premise and execution of this intro and the series so far (two additional episodes as of this writing) are fascinating. The topic is gothic fiction, but the meta-narrative around how academia itself is a version of a real-life gothic tale is truly creative and satisfying. Parts of this that critique the higher-ed system might serve as therapy for anyone in a PhD program. Plus, there were automatic major bonus points when the ghost house music of Super Mario World was casually weaved in.


Unconscious thought, free will, and punishment
These three podcasts all complemented each other quite nicely. You’ll find excellent discussions around the sources of your actions, what neuroscience can (or can’t) tell us about free will, how free will factors into the criminal system, and how unconscious bias works. Here is also a primer for understanding the overall argument against free will.

Hi-Phi Nation: Justice and Retribution. The final episode of a whole season about crime and punishment. This serves as an excellent grounding on the practical and very real world implications on how the criminal system views our agency.

Short Wave: Understanding Unconscious Bias. “The human brain can process 11 million bits of information every second. But our conscious minds can handle only 40 to 50 bits of information a second.” Learn how this disparity leads to the unconscious biases that plague our thinking every day. 

Matter of the Mind: The Source of Your Actions. You are likely to rationalize any decision you make with seamless after-the-fact reasoning, even if you don’t know why you actually make it or even if someone else made the decision for you without you realizing it. Learn the neuroscience behind how decisions are made and if we’ll ever be able to scientifically prove or disprove the idea of free will. This episode gives credence to a thought I return to frequently. Our number one superpower as humans is the ability to turn into story-telling machines. You give us any input, and we'll happily and easily rationalize the output, no matter what happens in the black box in-between.

Queen Mary History of Emotions: The Sound of Anger
  • This show came to my attention while browsing the winners of the 2020 British Podcast Awards.
  • This series lives in a feed that explores other emotions as well, but questions at the heart of these episodes are around what anger is and what is it good for. 
  • There are two episodes that are mini audio dramas that feature Charles Darwin in one and Seneca in the other that I haven't gotten to yet (but on my list).

Inside Podcasting: Exploring an Icon’s Humanity - Producer Shima Oliaee on Making Dolly Parton’s America
  • A must listen if you enjoyed Dolly Parton's America.
  • My biggest take-away is how amazing good producers are! They do so much work behind the scenes and can tremendously shape the narrative of a show. 
  • There is a meta bonus episode where host Skye Pillsbury is interviewed on what it was like to interview Shima Oliaee.
  • The episode (and bonus episode) with Ear Hustle is also really good.
  • And of course, if you don't already, subscribe to the Inside Podcasting newsletter for industry news and exclusives.


Behind the Content of Hurt Your Brain [Listory]. Wait a minute, hey that's me! The fine folks at Listory interviewed me and turned it into this little peak behind the curtains. 

Books like "Surely you're joking Mr Feyman" and more books on Science and History with a bit of humour. [Reddit thread].

The 100 Most Popular Sci-Fi Books on Goodreads [Goodreads].

Carl Sagan debunks flat Earthers using nothing more than a piece of cardboard. [r/videos].

For fun: I legit didn't know wolves were this big.

And as always, a Listory list of all the links from this email. 

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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