Behind the scenes of Radiolab, the federal budget in one drawing, and the racket of academic journals

Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from July 9, 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.


Mini-playlist: Radiolab behind the scenes
1) The Radio Lab. A recent Radiolab episode celebrating 15 years, with plenty of clips from the early days.
2) Bob Garfield interviews Jad Abumrad. If you have an Amazon Prime membership or an Audible account, check out this great interview through Audible’s exclusive “Genius Dialogues” interview show (or stream for free with link).
3) How Jad and Robert met. A super short video about their serendipitous meeting (and it’s always fun being way off on how you picture radio people looking).
4) Robert Krulwich’s Wikipedia. The guy has seriously done some stuff. Radiolab is like a throwaway last line of his bio.
5) Robert Krulwich draws. It makes me quite happy that he draws when he writes.


Planet Money: Budget Time 15 minutes
Ok, maybe I recommend this show almost every week. It’s hard not to when it explains the world so well. This is a ten minute explanation of the federal budget, with the time spent on each part corresponding to the percent of the budget. You’ll learn that “the federal government is basically a big insurance company backed by a large standing army.”

Twenty Thousand Hertz: Evolution of Accents 25 minutes
It’s huge fun to listen to an expert walking through different accents. Learn about why the American accent is more of a British accent than the British accent.

99 Percent Invisible: The Pool and the Stream 32 minutes
Skateboarding would not exist today if not for the kidney shaped pools that were drained in the 1970’s California drought. This is the fascinating story from producer Avery Trufleman on how that pool design became a thing. As always, it’s worth looking through the pictures on the website.

Civics 101: Autocracies & Oligarchies & Democracies, Oh My!13 minutes
Some of the best bits I took away: Autocracy is rule by one, oligarchy is rule by the few, and democracy is rule by the many. An “ocracy” is a form of government, and an “ism” is an ideology or governing philosophy. So socialist democracies and capitalist democracies can both exist. Also, the US can accurately be defined as a constitutional democracy, a democratic republic, AND a federation (or oligarchy as some would argue).

The Guardian Audio Long Reads: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? 45 minutes
An audio version of this article. I knew that scientific journals ran what can be considered a racket (government funds studies, scientists give article to journal for free, other scientists peer review for free, and institutional libraries pay exorbitant fees to access the journals), but I had no idea the true amount of control they had and how it got that way.  Pretty fascinating and terrifying stuff on why this is a “middleman” industry the internet just can’t kill.



TED-ED: The Philosophy of Stoicism 5 minutes
A storyline missing from Gladiator: the dead guy you see above was not only the emperor, but also a deep thinker whose private thoughts were published into one of the most popular philosophy books today. This great TED-ED video explains the worldview of Marcus Aurelius and other stoics.

Domain of Science: Various maps of science
If you like hand drawn maps that give context to large, complicated subjects, you’ll love these videos. I never found school to provide this big picture view that I now crave. Perk of the internet: we can now choose our teachers.
1) Map of Physics 8 minutes
2) Map of Mathematics 11 minutes
3) Map of Chemistry 13 minutes+ Game of Thrones is upon us next weekend, and the above videos remind me of the amazing explainers and recaps from the Alt Shift X Youtube channel. If you are a fan, get yourself up to speed with the fantastic season 7 trailer explainer.


The Washington Post: Therapy animals are everywhere. Proof that they help is not.
Great article on the process of science.
“It was a classic case of conflating correlation and causation, which Herzog says is common.”
“The number of papers I see that start out, ‘It is now well-established that there are health benefits from owning pets’ — that drives me crazy,” Herzog said. “Yes, there’s literature that supports that. But there’s also literature that doesn’t find that.”

Check out:
Seth Godin’s daily blog: Some see him as a marketing guy, but really if you are trying to make things in any sort of creative fashion, the short, daily emails are motivating and sometimes thought provoking. My favorite recent post.


That’s all for this week!


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