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  1. Radiolab

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Stories! Sarcasm! SCIENCE!

    This podcast comes highly recommended to people who have:

    If you don't fall into the above categories but enjoy interesting stories that focus on scientific research and discoveries, than you'll probably like it too.

    Relevant Links:
    Main Site
    Wikipedia Page
    FAQ Page

    Episode Length: Full episodes average about an hours, while the "Shorts" are about fifteen to twenty minutes.

    I'm going to separate this review into two parts.

    First: The Content

    Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich lead a narrative focused on a single theme. One or several stories might be used to illustrate various viewpoints. If Radiolab were an section in your newspaper it would be that "wacky world" section filled with stories about goldfishes that save their owners from house fires. Here's a list of five randomly chosen topics from my episode list:

    1 Famous Tumors
    2 Stochasticity
    3 Musical Language
    4 Yellow Fluff and Other Curious Encounters
    5 Sperm

    See? Thoroughly variated through subject matter, and it features a decent back catalog of episodes for listeners of any taste to browse. The wikipedia page uses the phrase "thought experiment" describe this podcast, and I feel that's accurate. The subject is pulled and kneaded like clay, bending here for an interview, there for a research article, until the listener can shape it into something recognizable, or continue beyond the podcast with their own work. Fact finders and myth hunters would probably like this series a lot. The episodes provide good explanations for those who just want to listen and great jumping-off points for those who love to search out more information.

    Content Rating: Clean. You will, as with so many things, have to decide if the subject matter is within your comfort limits. But y'know, no potty mouthings, so it should be safe for kids or students.

    Second: The Production

    The blips, squeals, murmurs and honks that permeate every episode provide nothing more than distraction from the main story being told. I understand that these sound effects are intended as emphasis, but they are so overdone that I have been forced to turn off episodes and leave them unfinished. Without fail each episode will have a streak of droning, nonsensical noise that have me digging my nails into my desk within seconds. In the episode Deception (rebroadcast on 6/1/2010) there is over a minute long stretch of disjointed electric guitar in the middle of the episode!

    I'm not kidding. Go listen here from minute 46:11 to 47:14.

    What purpose does that serve? I would prefer silence compared to the aural claustrophobia their producers are determined to make me experience. This podcast hits my interests, I want to listen, but because of these sound effects I feel the constant urge to abandon Radiolab for anything else.

    Drinking Game: Take a drink every time one host speaks the other host's name.

    Release Schedule: A new podcast is released every two weeks, according to the main site.

    Unintentionally Good Part: Oh I am fond of inter-host bickering, and this podcast supplies it in delightful bushels.

    Unintentionally Bad Part: Please see above review about the bleeps and boops.

    I know I just took all the time to write thing here thing, but please, please disregard what I dislike about the Radiolab podcast and check it out for yourself. This is a really brilliant work, and even if I have issues with it, you need to experience it for yourself before you can really decide whether you like it or not. If I find the background effects annoying then that is my personal opinion, and not a flaw of the podcast. You might like 'em! You might like 'em up and down! And there's no risk trying it out! No payments, you can delete if you don't like it, you can keep it if you don't! SO GET TO IT!

    Unrelated Rating: Three and One Half Nye per cubic meter of Science Guy.

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