Podcasts for the Curious Mind

Podcasts are a great way to unwind after a long day, or to listen to while doing homework, folding the laundry, cooking and other everyday tasks college students must do. They are fun and informative while being (relatively) easy to multitask to – which is a win-win in my book. Without further ado, here are my five favorite podcasts for the curious mind:

1. Criminal

As you’ve probably guessed from the title, the podcast Criminal deals with all sorts of crimes, from selling the elusive Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon, robbing banks and flipping off cops to kidnapping and murder. Each 30-minute episode (or two) stands alone, which means you won’t be hooked onto listening for hours and hours at a time and neglecting the rest of your life (been there – done that). What I love about Criminal is anyone can enjoy listening to it because of the wide range of topics they cover, from historical mayhem to modern social issues and injustices. Even if you’re not into murder mysteries (my go-to), I promise Criminal will have something that will pique your interest.

Try this one out: American Dream

2. 99% Invisible

This show is about the ‘invisible’, or in other words, the things that happened and/or are happening now that we don’t think about, or know about. The episodes are usually thirty minutes long but may vary in length. The episodes cover some unusual topics and although they can be quite serious, they always remain pleasant and interesting to listen to. And as a bonus, its host, Roman Mars, has a very smoothing voice. I also love the mysteriousness of the titles of their episodes. Some of them I wouldn’t have known what they were about at all, just from the name. Like the episode The Blue Yarn, or A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream – what on earth could these be about? Well you’ll just have to listen and find out!

Check it out here: 99% Invisible 

3. The Infinite Monkey Cage

Why do we sleep? What truly defines the difference between male and female? Are humans uniquely unique? The Infinite Monkey Cage tries to answer these questions in a conversation-format with its hosts, Brian Cox and Robin Ince, some scientists and likely a comedian too, in these 30-minute episodes. They interlace science with comedy to keep it engaging. The scientific concepts themselves are not spoken about in-depth but the topics that are presented are fascinating – and you’ll definitely learn something new and have a bit of fun.

Try this one out: The Secret Life of Birds

4. 15 Minute History

This podcast explores different interesting bits of history, like the teatro negro movement in Brazil after World War II, French child ambassadors to the Ottoman Empire, the Affair of the Poisons in France during the reign of King Louis XIV, and more. Each episode is basically a recorded interview with a knowledgeable person from the Department of History of UT Austin or from other universities. The show is a blend of more well-known and lesser-known events, conditions or people, revisited in a new way or with a different perspective. Unlike some podcasts, it is mostly not scripted and the conversation flows organically. This podcast gives listeners a chance to learn about what historians are currently researching, which means you get to listen to stories and perspectives you’ve never heard of before.

Episodes available at: 15 Minute History 

5. Get Mortified

Ok, this podcast may seem a bit out of place but it is a podcast for the curious mind – just in another way.  Get Mortified is a lot lighter hearted and unlike the other podcasts on this list, is not about learning the realities and mysteries of our world, but rather about exploring the sometimes cringy, ridiculous and awkward phases and moments teenagers go through, particularly when there is romance involved. In this podcast, adults read their old diary entries out loud to a live audience and then talk to the podcast host about their thoughts and feelings at that point in their lives. Personally, I like that these podcasts give a glimpse into the lives of different kids living in different places, and because I am still a teenager, it’s interesting to compare their lives and views to mine. Even though you may become mortified listening to this podcast, you’ll also laugh uncontrollably (or at least chuckle) listening to these kids’ bizarre stories.

Listen to this one here: Get Mortified