What I listen to when my hands are busy

Recently I spent a few weeks doing experiments. This means that I do work where my hands are busy and I need to pay attention to what is going on, but often my hands know what they are doing and later during the experiment there are often 1-3 minute breaks where I do not need to do anything. I do not have enough attention left to listen to some sciency stuff or read a paper in those short breaks. Instead, I try and entertain myself by either listening to music, audiobooks and podcasts. It has the nice side effect that I don’t lose patience so quickly when something is not working. And since I came across some pretty cool podcasts, I’d like to tell you about them! Quite a few of the topics are fairly random, but I liked them anyway 🙂

Freakonomics radio is one of the shows i listened in on – they have one on how to get more grit in your life (wouldn’t that be useful? But then as a PhD student you are likely to have that or learn that during the course of your PhD…no?).

Planet money is another cool one – their shows are more bite-sized (about 20 mins). Have you ever wondered why the milk is always at the back of the store? Zoos cannot simply buy and sell their animals, because putting a pricetag on these animals is illegal. So how does the zoo economy work? One episode that I found very impressive and went deep, is the one on the town where it is much more normal than in other places to talk about death, and what should happen when you die. Astonishing fact I learnt there: at least in the US, about 25% of healthcare costs are spent on the last year of life.

Another show I came to like is Invisibilia. Its most recent episode asked whether ‘fake it till you make it’ actually works – can you effect change from the outside in?

I also listened to a few episodes of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, and while I agree with some criticisms that this is not re-writing history, it still contains interesting bits and pieces. I particularly liked the episodes on generous orthodoxy and on how the education system is failing some ridiculously talented children.

And of course I love desert island discs, where a (more or less) famous person is invited to the show, brings along 8 pieces of music that matter to them, and are then virtually cast to the desert island, only with their music, the bible, the complete works of Shakespeare, and a book and luxury of their choice. The presenter always manages to ask pertinent questions that together with the music form a very vivid image of that person.

Finally, if you want to find more science-related podcasts, Anne Urai has a list that is a very good starting point!

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