Science Podcasts

I got a new iPod Touch from Sigma-Aldrich for Christmas this year (no, really).  Probably the best part is the wi-fi capabilities.  I tried keeping up with podcasts before on other iPods, but it was too much work to plug the iPod into the computer, transfer over the new episodes, and repeat.  Now I can grab the new episodes directly from the iTouch, and it’s awesome.  (btw, does anyone know how to subscribe to the podcasts so the iPod will update itself with new episodes automatically?)

Anyway, I’ve been surveying the chemistry podcasts over the past few weeks.  They’re great to listen to while running a column or doing other tasks that don’t require a lot of mental energy.  Most of the major journals have a podcast, as do most news outlets and some other random sites.  I’ll tell you about some of the ones I liked below the jump if you’re interested in giving some of them a listen.


American Chemical Society

acsscielemFirst, can we talk for a second about how demoralizing it is that is an online dating service.  It’s really upseting to my soul.  The ACS really dropped the ball on that one.  The ACS publishes three podcasts (underlined links take you to actual podcasts).  However, Science Elements highlights some of the papers published in some of the lesser read ACS journals (although they also include papers from JACS occasionally, too).  The shortest of the major publishers’ podcasts, you can get through a Science Elements podcast in about 10 minutes.  It’s published every Monday.

Royal Society of Chemistry

rscchemworldThe RSC publishes a podcast on their Chemistry World magazine.  It runs about 30-40 minutes and includes interviews about the stories.  It is only published monthly.  They also published a sweet series of 5-minute podcasts talking about the isolation and discovery of a number of elements.  It appears the series has concluded and they are not publishing new episodes, but I recommend the Chemistry in its Element series for a fun journey through chemical history.


natureAdam Rutherford and Kerri Smith host the weekly half-hour Nature Podcast.  It highlights some of the stories in the current week’s issue of Nature.  They also dabble in the public policy domain.  In one episode they talk about the use of social networking sites in times of crisis and emergency.  If you need one last fix of Bush Bashing, make sure you go back and listen to the 15 January episode to hear how the interviewee contends that former President Bush failed science, and how President Obama will bring Hope back to the science horizon.


aaasscipodEvery Friday, AAAS publishes the Science Podcast covering topics from Science magazine and ScienceNow.  As with the Nature Podcast and the Scientific American one to come, the podcast doesn’t stick to just chemistry, but more science in general.  I guess that’s OK sometimes…  They had an interesting episode on technology and education a few weeks ago.  Hitting the S, T, and E of the STEM fields.  And it has cool interlude music.

Scientific American

sciamscitalkSteve Mirsky hosts Science Talk from Scientific American.  I like his interviews, because he often interviews speakers at conferences… while they’re still at the conference.  He’ll be in the audience (and sometimes play a clip of the talk) and then conduct the interview immediately afterward.  Scientific American also publishes a few other podcasts.  If you really can’t be bothered to sit through a half hour podcast, check out their “60-Second” podcasts.  They have a few 1-minute podcasts on Science, Psychology, and the environment.  Science Talk runs between 25-45 minutes and is published on Wednesdays, and the 60-Second podcasts are published at a rate of essentially one every other day.


Other major news outlets also have a podcast to their name.  As the outlets are aimed at the general audience, there’s not a lot of hard science with a lot of technical details. A few follow.


nprscifriNPR publishes over 600 podcasts from their various shows and segments.  The two I found myself listening to are Hmmm…  Krulwich on Science and Science Friday.  Krulwich’s show is sometime silly and runs about 5 minutes.  It’s supposed to update every Monday, but I haven’t seen a new episode since Jan 4.  Science Friday is a 2-hour show that seems to be fairly popular; although, I never really got into it.  (To be honest, I’ve never really gotten into NPR ever in my life…)  The 2-hour show is split into a handful of shorter podcasts by topic if you can’t devote 2 hours at a time.


pbsnovaLike NPR, PBS publishes a number of podcasts.  The only real science one is their NOVA series.  The podcasts usually cover a topic with a corresponding show on TV, or a topic with an upcoming show on PBS.  The episodes run approximately 5 minutes in length and are published biweekly. (And yes, funding is provided by Viewers Like You)

The New York Times

nytscitimesEvery Tuesday, the New York Times publishes Science Times.  They run about 20 minutes and cover a variety of topics.  Recently (1/20/09), they discussed women in science – a topic I know we’ve covered here.


Beyond the “mainstream” sources, a few random sites also publish a podcast.

How Stuff Works

hswbrainstuffProbably my favorite podcast that I’ve come across is Brain Stuff from  A short podcast, the founder of (a cool site in and of itself) answers listeners’ emails about all sorts of topics from how internet cookies work to how uranium works.  All sorts of fun and interesting information in this awesome podcast.  Updates just about every other day.

The Naked Scientists

nakedqotwDon’t worry… this isn’t a video podcast.  I’ve been listening to the Question of the Week podcast from the Naked Scientists.  Although, in foraging for links for this post, I see they have a number of podcasts.  I think I’ll have to check them out, too.  Again, this falls under the more general science category, talking about the origins of laughter and petrified wood.  They take a question from a listener each week and answer it in a 2-4 minute episode.


skeptoidOk, really straying from the realm of science for this one.  This is a fun, podcast-only site that looks to expose pseudoscience and other urban legends using a rational, reasoned approach.  Skeptoid takes a firm stance against they myth of vaccine-induced autism (a personal pet peeve of mine), and for that he is a must-read (uh, must-listen?) in my book.


whyforkidsI couldn’t really find many science podcasts directed toward children.  One I did find is Why? The Science Show for Kids.  It’s a short, cute show taking questions from children, generally with single-digit ages, and answering them in about five minutes.  The only problem is that the show only has six episodes since March 2008.

Science Theater

drcarlscitheatDr. Carlson is a high-school physics/chemistry teacher in Indiana.  He publishes a video podcast demonstrating some of the principles of science and physics.  The videos get a bit goofy, but through his goofiness he actually attempts to teach Schrodinger’s Cat and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  Which reminds me of my favorite chemistry joke:  so Dr. Heisenberg is driving down the road when a police officer pulls him over.  The officer says, “Excuse me, Dr. Heisenberg, but do you know how fast you were going?”  “… No… but I can tell you exactly where I am right now.”


Some of the podcasts above have little “news quizzes” in their episodes where they summarize 4 stories and you have to guess which one is false, or you have to guess the answer to some question related to a recent story.  Not surprisingly, several of the podcasts think the same information is newsworthy, so often the same story will be covered in several podcasts.  For example, back in December, I heard several times that the producers of the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still had broadcast a copy of the movie towards Alpha Centauri.  It will get there in a few years, and a few years after that they will be listening intently to see if any response is broadcast our way.   Not kidding.

daveramseyWell, that’s about it from the science world… at least those are the ones I found and liked over the past month or so.  I’m sure there are dozens others, and please share your favorites in the comments.  If I can offer one non-science podcast for you to check out, it would be the Dave Ramsey podcast.  He’s a radio talk show host, and his show focuses on personal finance and how to successfully manage your money and live debt free.  As a graduate student about to enter the “Real World,” I find his tips very interesting and useful.  I recommend it to everyone.

I’ll leave you with these two sites which are lists of science-related podcasts if you want a longer list of podcasts from which to choose.  One from k12podcasts and one from openculture.


  1. You left out one of my personal favorites: Radiolab, from WNYC. It’s an NPR show and takes one particular topic and dissects it from all angles. It comes out weekly, but it goes on vacation pretty often.

    • I’m giving it a listen now. The heavy editing and finishing each others sentences is a bit distracting. But I’m working on the diagnosis one right now. Pretty neat. I got the man and his son one right very quickly.

      link: Radiolab

  2. The Chemistry World Podcast owns. I’ve been known to answer a chemical conundrum correctly on occasion.

    • I got the most recent one right… but I confess I had to look it up.

      It’s kinda annoying that they only publish 1x per month compared to the weekly versions for the other journal publishers. Take what you get, I guess.

  3. actually, Nature has an occasional dedicated chemistry podcast as well as the weekly general show…

  4. The Chemistry in its element podcast series hasn’t finished – it just took an extended break over Christmas.

  5. Pingback: Nature Podcast | kcomplexities

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