5 Podcasts for Nerds

If you’re like me, you might have found that, as you delve deeper into your academic career, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find the time to nerd out by watching documentaries, reading random books, or going down a Wikipedia rabbithole. As someone who finds great joy in collecting random hoards of information that have no use whatsoever other than quenching a thirst for knowledge, finding out about the world of podcasts has been (not to be dramatic here) life-changing. 

Podcasts have slowly but surely become one of my favourite ways to fulfill said thirst. They’re an easy way to keep you entertained without the feeling of guilt you might get when watching a two-hour documentary about the Chinese Boxer Rebellion instead of taking care of the ever-increasing list of chores. Although the list below is nowhere near exhaustive and will definitely require a second part as I explore what's out there (stay tuned!), here are five podcasts that are perfect for nerds. Best part is, they’re all free on Spotify!

  1. I wanted to kickstart the list with a podcast series that filled me with utter joy upon discovery, as it has exactly the kind of content that I longed for. I've always loved learning about history because it feels like a story, a narrative thread that appears in parts of the contemporary world. Hardcore History recreates that detailed, story-like feeling and immerses the listener in the historical accounts that Carlin shares. 

    This quality is only amplified by the fact that each episode ranges from four hours to six hours. Such a length seems completely absurd at first glance, but it makes sense once you play the content. I personally have sat through hours of this podcast before realizing that I listened to an entire episode uninterrupted. (I would recommend setting the playback speed to 1.25x, as Carlin’s narrations are full of suspenseful pauses). I’ve also listened to an episode over the course of a couple of days, which is a nice way to have something to look forward to while doing chores.

  2. Philosophize This! is another podcast that is near and dear to my little nerd heart. Philosophy was always a subject that drew me in but never seemed accessible enough for me to actually get into. I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to read an entry from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and had my eyes glaze over a couple paragraphs in. Enter Philosophize This!; an educational podcast made specifically for beginners interested in philosophical and political theory. Each episode is a brief exploration of a specific philosophy or philosopher. Debuted in 2013, the podcast is produced in a chronological order, going from pre-Socratic philosophy to late 20th century philosophers, giving listeners the option to build up their knowledge based on the previous episode. Plus, unlike Hardcore History, each episode is about 20 minutes, making them perfectly sized brain bites.

  3. The title of this podcast is relatively self-explanatory. This series explores a wide variety of myths, folklore, and legends from all over the world and spans centuries. The reason I prefer this podcast over others is that it offers an incredibly varied selection of stories. Oftentimes myth-related podcasts center on Greek and Roman mythology, but this podcast tackles Norse, Celtic, and Japanese stories, among others. Plus, the narrator often contextualizes the stories in the time, place, and culture from which these stories came to be, turning the episodes into mini history lessons.

  4. I’m pretty sure any self-respecting, nerd-identifying individual has heard of this podcast by now. It’s an incredibly popular series that delivers exactly what the title promises. Every episode discusses a very random and very specific topic. These topics include the printing press, beavers, champagne, Satanism, white-collar crime, and sneezing. What I love about it is that the episode lengths vary greatly, from 12 minutes to an hour, which means that they are fit for many occasions. Regardless of length, each episode is bound to make you feel a lot smarter than before you started it.

  5. This one is for my fellow science nerds! Future Ecologies is particularly wonderful because it is based in Vancouver, BC, and thus is not only locally produced but is also a discussion on local issues. The first episode features a territorial acknowledgement of the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations upon which the producers worked on as well as an interview with an Indigenous ‘plant-diva’ to explore the foundational role of Indigenous voices and presence in discussions about nature and earth sciences. 

    Throughout the series, the podcasters explore so much more than natural science facts. They contextualize the natural world in the socio-historical context in which it exists. It’s also a high production aural show with in-depth interviews, open conversations and discussions, and exploratory storytelling. This is a nice break from the typical “two people speak into a mic” format of most podcasts.

I hope these recommendations inspire you to try to give these podcasts a listen!