Ten Podcasts That Will Make You SmarterReading Time: 4 minutes
Give your brain a workout with podcasts that offer sometimes silly but always fascinating trivia.
What causes coincidences? What’s The Gimli Glider? Why do news anchors talk that way? Is ranch dressing secretly incredibly fascinating? Sure, you could google it—or you could listen to podcasts that entertain while they educate. Win trivia night at your local bar, impress someone at a dinner party, or get lost thinking about how your brain predicts reality. These shows are fun but will also make you way more knowledgeable about both smart and silly things.
On Something You Should Know, host Mike Carruthers brings on guests and asks them prodding questions about their field of expertise, and the result is an absorbing, fascinating library of knowledge. You’ll learn about the shocking things you never would have guessed about your grocery store or your blood, to bigger questions like how your brain predicts your reality and what causes coincidences, to great life advice like how to ask for anything and everything. It’s hard not to run through the episode list and want to listen to it all at once.
Each week Alex Schmidt (former Cracked writer, inventor of the bison emoji, and four-time Jeopardy champion) and his co-host Katie Goldin take on a different subject and discover how—despite popular opinion—it’s Secretly Incredibly Fascinating. It’s surprising how these two can spin out entire episodes about CAPTCHAs, the number 150, ranch dressing and chalkboards. This podcast also feels like a hug. Alex and Katie are funny and sweet. SIF will blow your mind, gently.
J. Keith van Straaten and Helen Hong’s quiz show Go Fact Yourself is the place where smart comedians, actors, and musicians test their knowledge about specific and strange things they love. The guests choose the topics and J. Keith and Helen set out to stump them. Real experts are on hand to set the record straight. Lisa Loeb and Reggie Watts on space and sandwiches, Drew Carey and poet Yesika Salgado on dirty dancing and garage rock—you never know who will show up, what they claim to be experts in, or how they’ll perform.
Every week on Baffled, Dan and Conor bring you six amazing facts about things like Coca-Cola, wombats, and Taylor Swift, and decide which ones are worth knowing and which should be kicked to the curb. Dan and Conor are hysterical (they’re friends who engage in light bickering) and their conversations are full of funny tangents. The facts are good; the banter is better.
Did you know that biologically speaking, a salmon is more related to a camel than a hagfish? This is the inspiration for the fact show No Such Thing as a Fish, the show where Dan Schreiber, James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, and Anna Ptaszynski share with each other the best things they’ve learned over the past week. They cover things like brooms, hominids, zip lines, anserines (you’re googling that right now, aren’t you?) and more, in over 400 episodes. (Start catching up now.) ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’ has already won the hearts of the world—it’s racked up more than 400 million listens; has won a ton of awards including the Heinz Oberhummer Award for Science Communication in 2019; and was turned into a BBC2 series, No Such Thing As The News, three bestselling books, and a chart-topping, behind-the-scenes documentary Behind The Gills. Catch them live if you’re in the UK.
On Omnibus, Ken Jennings (we’ve got another Jeopardy champ here) and John Roderick are building the Omnibus, an encyclopedic reference work of strange-but-true stories, and are adding a new entry for every episode. The Sarajevo Haggadah! The Gimli Glider! Crackers! Into the Omnibus you go, so that future generations can understand the weird world we’re living in today. Ken and John are brilliant, and they add interesting twists turns and swerves to these already strange topics. ‘Omnibus’ is an eclectic, brain-nourishing soup.
On Every Little Thing, listeners call in with the questions keeping them up at night, like ‘When did pants become a thing?’ ‘Why do pigeons live in cities?’ or ‘Why do news anchors talk that way?’ and host Flora Lichtman pairs them with experts to get the answers. Each episode is full of things you didn’t know you didn’t know, but you really want to know. You know? ‘Every Little Thing’ isn’t making any more episodes, but some of the world’s biggest puzzles are evergreen.
The news is terrible, but The Good News Podcast brings you tiny (three-minute-ish) episodes full of facts and updates that will make you smile, three times a week. The world is burning but: LEGO braille bricks are getting a wider release! We might be about to re-elect someone in prison but: Teeth might be regrowable! Wall Street just did something evil but: Elephants are helping us fight climate change! These episodes are the antidotes you need to everything you read that makes you want to hide. ‘The Good News Podcast’ doesn’t make the bad stuff go away, but making it part of your routine will put a pep in your step.
Add a wrinkle to your brain every day with Do You Really Know?, the podcast that will teach you why some people attract mosquitos more than others, five foods that will make you happy (and how to best organize them in your fridge) and what the Pygmalion effect really is. In about three minutes, these episodes will give you something to chew on throughout the day, or something to bring up to sound smart at a dinner party, or even in line at the supermarket. Because who doesn’t want to know what their urine color says about their health?
On Curiosityness, Travis DeRose asks dream experts about lucid dreaming, the deans of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School about how to vocalize the ideal ‘ho ho ho,’ and the owner of a ‘talking’ dog about how she took her knowledge as a speech-language pathologist and applied that to her pup Stella. These interviews go deep but feel light and fun, and you’ll meet a diverse group of people who are experts in the strangest fields.
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