The old cliche, “You learn something new every day” is usually so true, and often so commonplace that you don’t even realize it. I’m definitely learning new things all the time, but there are also moments when I feel like there’s so much that I don’t have a CLUE about.
Thank goodness for podcasts. Podcasts let me learn new things in digestible and entertaining chunks while I drive to the grocery store, do the dishes, or walk in the park. I learn so much new information from podcasts every day that I can’t even capture it all (I could write a whole other blog just on that.)
No, I can’t do math better than before (that may never happen), and I don’t listen to any physics-related podcasts (I know my own limits). But I can honestly say that, because of podcasts, I’m smarter and sharper than I was a few years ago.
Looking for some knowledge? Want to win next week’s trivia night? Here are 5 podcasts that will make you smarter just for listening.
5 Fun Podcasts for Learning New Things
1. Brain Training Podcast
Although my math skills are still pretty limited, my brain does get a daily numbers workout whenever I listen to the Brain Training Podcast. This daily podcast offers quick, 5-minute brain games to help you keep your brain sharp.
The computerized voice can be a little hard to understand sometimes, but I kind of like it because I think I do a better job of focusing when my mind thinks that I’m learning from “a computer”.
The Brain Training Podcast is suitable for listeners of all ages, and would probably be fun to listen to with kids.
2. Stuff You Missed In History Class
Experienced podcast peeps will not be surprised to see this podcast at the top of the list. SYMIHC is a long-running podcast; it started in 2008 and has over 800 episodes that run the gamut of topics that you were always curious about, and topics you didn’t even know existed.
Early episodes are just 5 minutes long, but over the years episodes have become more thorough and average 30 minutes. Each episode focuses on a particular event, period in time, or person. The hosts do extensive research (way beyond a basic Wikipedia search) and present the details in an entertaining format.
One of my all-time favorite episodes of SYMIHC is The Princess who Swallowed a Glass Piano, about a real-life 19th century German princess who suffered from the delusion that she had swallowed a piano made of glass. Apparently this was a common delusion at the time – especially among royalty – which I had never heard of!
Each episode of Stuff You Missed In History Class is different in terms of suitability for kids. If there is a topic or event that might be not be suitable for younger listeners, the hosts will mention it at the beginning of the episode.
3. Freakonomics Radio
The Freakonomics Radio podcast has taught me a lot over the past few years. The podcast is hosted by Stephen Dubner, one of the authors of the Freakonomics book series. His co-author, Steve Levitt, contributes to many episodes.
Similar to their books, each episode of the podcast explores the interesting and sometimes confusing intersection of life and the economy. Dubner interviews professors, scientists, and business people to better understand what’s happening and why.
Some episode titles include: Why are we still using cash?; Please steal my car; and There’s cake in the breakroom! If you think you know what those episodes are going to uncover, you’re probably wrong. My husband and I are always surprised by the ideas, facts, and figures that we learn from a Freakonomics podcast, and it makes for great conversation starters.
The Freakonomics Radio podcast is suitable for teen and adult listeners.
4. 60-Second Science
You don’t have to be a science nerd to enjoy this brief, daily podcast about the latest and greatest scientific discoveries. Produced by Scientific American, the 60-Second Science podcast is just what it says it is: one minute of straight up info. No advertising, no credits, no nonsense.
This is another podcast that provides great conversation starters. My dad and I often get into “Did you know?” conversations. Like, “Did you know that stars give off a huge amount of UV radiation?” (which was posed after listening to an episode of 60-Second Science).
60-Second Science is suitable for listeners of all ages.
5. Planet Money
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t re-play some part of a Planet Money podcast for my husband to hear. New episodes are released twice a week, and are usually 20ish minutes of entertaining stories related to money, the economy, and everyday life. If the Freakonomics podcasts are too long or heavy for you, definitely try Planet Money.
I’m always fascinated at the ideas that the team at Planet Money think up. Which is not to say that they come up with topics out of thin air; the majority of the episodes are super timely and relate to current events. Some of my favorite episodes are about government loopholes or international relations, like the episode called The Chicken Tax.
The Planet Money podcast is suitable for listeners of all ages. Occasionally a guest may use strong language, but the hosts will warn you about it at the beginning of the episode.
Which podcasts do you recommend for learning new stuff? Leave a comment below to share your favorite shows.