In Germany, we have a saying: “Mir fällt die Decke auf den Kopf,” which loosely translates to “the ceiling is falling on my head.” It describes feeling stir-crazy that results from spending too much time in the same place while also being worried and stressed.
It’s a valid feeling right now during the COVID-19 pandemic as our new normal means being indoors, often away from loved ones, because we understand how vital social distancing is to help flatten the curve and — most importantly — save lives. We’re all in this together.
As dire as the situation is and as much attention it requires, especially from life scientists and first responders around the globe, it’s also important to focus on your personal wellness as our daily lives are upended (and to remember there’s no one right way to cope). For some, that could mean allowing yourself a little time to relax and think about something entirely different.
Here at NanoTemper, many of us are passionate podcast aficionados and follow podcasts as a leisure activity to be entertained, to learn something new, and to generally let our minds wander. With that in mind, we want to share our favorite podcasts with you, many of them of course with a science-focus. We hope they’ll give you some food for thought and help you relax when you feel that the ceiling is falling on your head.
Let this also be a shoutout to all the creators of these wonderful listening experiences. Thank you for always teaching us something new, while entertaining us at the same time.
1. The Dropout
Follow the suspenseful story of Elizabeth Holmes, a once-celebrated Biotech visionary, who is allegedly responsible for one of the most scandalous cases of fraud the industry has seen so far. The Podcast documents the investigation of Rebecca Jarvis from ABC Radio who manages to tell an interesting story about a daring science and biotechnology enterprise, while making it as suspenseful as a great true-crime podcast. Listen here.
The BBC has created a wonderful documentary about the crucial 13 minutes that passed for the Apollo 11 astronauts who started their descent from the lunar orbit to land on the moon. The podcast not only describes in fantastic detail what happened to Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin but also explores the hardship and incredible effort invested by so many scientists and engineers to get them there safely. Listen here.
Here’s another wonderful BBC experience and a classic at this point. The podcast follows Neil McGregor, director of the British Museum, on a tour through his workplace while describing 100 objects he finds laying out the history of human development from hand axes and early pottery to the credit card and solar lamp. Listen here.
4. The Habitat
Have the shelter-at-home orders been frustrating enough to make you think that being an astronaut on Mars would be easy? Well, think twice. Six volunteers are secluded on a remote mountain in Hawaii…that’s supposed to imitate Mars. They’re working as astronauts for a year so NASA can better plan for when the real blast off comes along. Follow this experiment with host Lynn Levy, who has been communicating with the team through audio diaries, learning about their discoveries, frustrations, and up-and-down relationships with each other. Listen here.
Do you ever see inflatable men at used car lots and think, “How did they become a fixture?” Probably not. But 99% Invisible, created and hosted by Roman Mars, dives into the architecture and design we may not ponder yet still help shape our world, like where fortune cookies come from and why Sigmund Freud chose a couch and not an armchair. Listen here.
Since 2002, Radiolab has been devoted to investigating “a strange world.” Radiolab has won Peabody Awards and a National Academies Communication Award “for their investigative use of radio to make science accessible to broad audiences.” The show has an archive of hundreds of episodes and has toured in sold-out shows in the US. Listen here.
Cancer will directly affect more than one in three people in their lifetime, but nobody can avoid the effects it has on our society as a whole. So why do we seem so afraid to talk about it? Rachael Bland, Deborah James, and Lauren Mahon candidly discuss everything that comes with one of the most pressing medical issues of our time, from the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis, undergoing treatment, and coming to terms with an encroaching end of life, in a way that is funny, honest, and powerful. Listen here.
8. In Our Time
This BBC podcast has a diverse variety of episodes that each follow the “history of an idea.” Make sure to check out the episode on Venus. It’s an interesting planet: it rotates backward at walking speed and has a day that’s longer than its year. That’s just the beginning of what makes it fascinating. Learn why Venus has been called Earth’s twin and what Venus may tell us about our own planet. Listen here.