In the decades since he made a name for himself in the popular comedy drama MASH, Alan Alda has developed a successful parallel career as a science communicator – and he’s behind two longstanding popular science podcasts. There is Clear + lively, about the power of communication and Science Clear + Vivid, on the power of scientific research.
As someone who was “not easily aroused by protons,” I was in no hurry to listen to them, Daisy Dunn said in The Spectator. But recently I got immersed and five hours later “Alda is still in my ears and I’m buzzing like an electron”. Alda, now 85, is passionate about his subject, highly intelligent and at the same time charmingly reserved.
The “depth of his understanding of really quite complex science is evident in his questions and his clear reformulation of ideas that the experts he speaks to sometimes put at an angle”. And even in hundreds of episodes, his enthusiasm is unbroken. For a podcast of this kind he is certainly the “perfect host”.
If you are listening to curious, smart people talking to experts on various subjects, I highly recommend it Insult my intelligencesaid James Marriott in The Times. The host is Guardian columnist Tim Dowling, a writer I have a “special preference” for. In his columns about his everyday life, he elevates the uneventful to an art form and his podcast is wonderfully self-deprecating.
The best episode yet revolves around dogs, a topic that is “very dowling.” Meanwhile the “big” In our time with Melvyn Bragg – the original and still the best in the genre – is back on the radio (and there’s a huge back catalog to download online). I particularly enjoyed a recent episode about crocodiles – which contained the nugget that their ancestors once walked on their hind legs. “Evolution, so often red in teeth and claws, can also be irresistibly bizarre.”
Podcasting is inundated with shows that “do a great job of breaking taboos about mental health while covering the same topics and formats,” like many others, Fiona Sturges told the FT. But trust me when I say that Why do i feel is a cut up – and more than worth your time.
The host is Nathan Filer, a psychiatric nurse and writer who has “shades of the writer and journalist Jon Ronson” in his thoughtful, engaging, and slightly awkward interview style. In each episode, he examines a single emotion – such as anger, guilt, or envy – while sharing personal stories with interviewees and inviting experts to interfere.
Filer’s particular ability is to balance some “seriously dark stories with moments of ease, usually through jokes at your own expense”. Listening to the podcast is a bit like having “heart to heart with a slightly anxious but emotionally articulate friend”. And it’s very much more.