Some podcasts, videos, and links to kickstart a full year of learning

Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from January 8, 2017. It’s a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.


After a nice break for the holidays and some reflection, I’m super excited to experiment this year- checking out new shows, learning new things, and exploring how exciting the online learning landscape is in general.

Best fact: The iPhone relies on 12 major technologies in order to work (GPS, Cell Towers, touch screen, Siri, etc). All 12 of them started as heavily funded technologies from governments (mostly US, mostly military). – From iPhone episode of 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy


I listened to tons of things outside my normal “listen to learn things” mentality. I’ve traditionally avoided audio dramas but I finally checked out Homecoming with my wife and we were both big fans of the first season. This led to checking out The Bright Sessions, which I also highly recommend. The best way to describe it is X-Files meets HBO’s In Treatment, which is high praise. OK, on to nerd stuff!

The Men Who Started a Thinking Revolution, Freakonomics, 35 minutes
Here’s something weird. The last two books I’ve read are Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and for no other reason than it was a gift, Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. Loved both of them. Now Freakonomics’ newest episode happens to feature Michael Lewis, where he discusses his new book, which is ABOUT Daniel Kahneman. Needless to say I knew I’d love this episode before I even listened to it. It will give you a great feel for the ground breaking psychology research that Kahneman and his academic partner, Amos Tversky did, and the amazing ability of Michael Lewis to weave a narrative out what could be a snooze fest in less capable hands.

Syndesmica, Random Article, 25 minutes
Host May Jasper hits the random article button on Wikipedia and explores whatever pops up. I can’t imagine the excitement Jasper had the first time she hit the button to get the official first topic. I also can’t imagine the utter disappointment she felt to get “Syndesmica”, which is a type of obscure moth which had hardly anything written about it. Maybe the more obscure the Wikipedia entry the better, because I found the journey of figuring out what the deal is with this moth pretty fascinating.

On the Origin of Bad Science, Science for the People, 60 minutes
If you think science is the best tool we have for understanding how the world works but you also can’t quite put a finger on why it bothers you so much when people blindly follow anything science says, this episode is for you. It’s the clearest explanation I’ve heard of all the ways science is slowly self correcting major issues, like gaming the statistics of research and the replication crisis.

# 599 (Year End Review), The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, 86 minutes
The best thing about the year end wrap up of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is that it reminded me of all the great things that happened over the course of the year. Listen to the first 20 minutes if you want to hear some positive stuff that happened in 2016 for a change.

All Episodes, 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy
I’ve enjoyed every single episode so far. They are short, well written, and always interesting. Just add it to your queue and follow along for an excellent weekly 9 minute mini-documentary from the BBC.

Quick learnings from other podcasts:

  • Olympic Badminton has had bizarre situations where teams try their very best to strategically lose. In other news, I’ve been saying Badminton wrong my whole life. – Radiolab’s Lose, Lose
  • Providence, RI was the third largest mafia city in the US, behind NYC and Chicago. – Crimetown’s Divine Providence
  • That between 2008-2011, China poured more concrete than the US did in all of the 20th century. – Concrete episode of 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy.

All episodes, 100 days
If you want to be healthier in 2017 but you know it’ll last only until there’s an open bag of potato chips staring you down, why not instead put the pressure on famous author/YouTuber John Green and his best friend who committed to having a healthy mid life crisis. Every few days they break down how they are changing their life for the long term and how they are failing. John Green has a great sense of humor which has made the whole thing worthwhile so far.

The Absurdity of Detecting Gravitational Waves, Veritasium, 9 minutes 
There’s a good chance you’ve heard snippets in the news with something around gravitational waves and how it’s a big deal. This episode has a fantastic explanation of what they are and how crazy it is that we are even able to study them at all. It required the smallest measurement ever made, using the smoothest mirror ever made, decades of preparation, and of course, lots of luck.

+ For more from one of the researchers, check out Veritasium’s second channel, 2Veritasium. They discuss how not only was the measurement absurd, but the luck they had was absurd too. They discovered the signal within an hour of turning on the machine and it was pretty much the perfect size signal in the sweet spot of the machines measurement range.

+ The last segment of 99% Invisible’s Mini-Stories involves what this gravitational wave actually sounded like, which is amazing.


Monetization over Massiveness: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2016, Class Central
Class Central
is the best one stop shop to see all the free online courses universities make available across all platforms (Coursera, edX, etc). There’s been a lot of changes in the world of MOOC’s over the past year and the above link contains all of their thoughts.

From Reddit:
My New Years Resolution is to find some great podcasts. What do you suggest?
Some great recommendations contained in this thread. Also, many people linked to lists they made within Pocket Casts, which I had no idea you could do.


That’s all for this week!

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