I’m Pretty Sure Scientists are the Only People Who Listen to Podcasts Regularly

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April 15, 2016

12:20 AM

Buckle up; I’m about to tell you what every scientist does not want you to know: we spend about 65% of our lives on autopilot. Any scientist who genuinely believes otherwise is, simply put, inexperienced. A newb, if you will.

We spend about 65% of our lives on autopilot.

Scientists don’t want you to know this because so much of our sex appeal comes from the perceived mental gymnastics we’re assumed to practice every minute while on the job. It is one of a scant few (arguably the only) domains of sex appeal all scientists can claim, so, dammit, we flaunt our intellectual endurance to make up for it.

We aren’t lying, to be sure, almost all scientific endeavors are the product of considerable brainpower and focus. Being creative in science, experimental strategy, empirical argument and a number of other active scientific processes result in a fried noggin. But these activities are only part of a scientist’s entire exploratory process.

The other portion, the secret 65%, taxes one’s patience and fine motor skills, but not one’s mental capacities. These are the hours and hours and hours of benchwork that go into falsifying a hypothesis on a physical level.

(Experimentation)

This is the stuff you picture when you imagine a “stock photo” scientist at work. Mixing reagents, dissecting creatures, peering into microscopes… quintessential science. It is boring as hell.

Sure, lots of things are fun the first few times you do them. So it is with new experimental protocols. But in order to conduct “good science” one has to duplicate results, ideally, ad infinitum. The workflow of an experimental trial usually becomes instinctual before one reaches n = ∞, so typically experiments that were once engaging mental puzzles devolve into routine zombie-choreography.

In order to conduct “good science” one has to duplicate results, ideally, ad infinitum.

I thank the lab gods above for granting me the privilege of being a scientist in the age of ear buds and podcasts, for they have augmented my patience in a crucial way for continuing my scientific pursuit through the secret 65%. A four-hour tissue culture becomes an opportunity to learn about Terror Management Theory and/or Existentialism and/or the Kanye/Kardashian/Blac Chyna/Wiz Khalifa/Amber Rose Debacle: 2015-2016.

I have spent enough time at the lab bench to confidently consider myself a connoisseur of podcasts, so here is an index of the proper series to explore based on your choice of two classifications: scientific procedure, or the broader criterion, mental availability. Let me explain the “mental availability” category further: the designation refers to the scientific task at hand. For example: I would suggest listening to a nuanced, complicated podcast while performing a “low mental rigor” activity, because this task is menial enough to leave you with the extra mental capacity that you can redirect to paying attention to a more challenging podcast.

By Procedure:

Microdissection (or any new dissection that you’re still slow at)

(These are more cerebral, to balance out this sometimes monotonous, drawn-out activity)

  • Alice Isn’t Dead
  • Mystery Show
  • Lore
  • Tanis
  • Philosophize This!
  • This American Life
  • Radiolab
  • Serial
  • Imaginary Worlds
  • Flash Forward
  • Myths and Legends
  • MSNBC, Rachel Maddow
  • Freakonomics
  • The Dollop

 

Bacterial Transformation:

(These you can tune in and out to)

  • My Brother, My Brother and Me
  • Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
  • Savage Lovecast
  • Call Your Girlfriend
  • Lady to Lady
  • Fresh Air
  • The Judge John Hodgeman
  • All Songs Considered

 

Confocal imaging:

(These are very visual, soothing podcasts for a very chill and pretty activity)

  • The Memory Palace
  • 99% Invisible
  • Reply All
  • This American Life
  • Radio Lab
  • Invisibilia
  • Flash Forward
  • Myths and Legends
  • TED Radio Hour

 

Tissue Culturing

(These are the long-ish, because while keeping in sterile technique you can’t adjust your phone very often without wasting a ton of gloves)

  • Fresh Air
  • TED Radio Hour
  • Freakonomics
  • Tanis
  • Astonishing Legends
  • Esquire Classic Podcast
  • Call Your Girlfriend
  • This American Life

 

qRT-PCR

  • Just… Don’t.
  • Take those earbuds out; those enzymes are expensive, you fool.
  • Counting to three is hard enough

 

For everything else:

For High Mental Rigor Tasks

(Quick, Easy, Anecdotal; you can tune in and tune out)

  • My Brother, My Brother and Me
  • Wait Wait.. Don’t Tell Me!
  • This Week Had Me Like
  • Savage Lovecast
  • Call Your Girlfriend
  • Lady to Lady
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • Fresh Air
  • The Judge John Hodgeman
  • All Songs Considered

 

For Medium Mental Rigor Tasks:

(Still anecdotal, but these require focus through the entire show)

  • Imaginary Worlds
  • Flash Forward
  • Myths and Legends
  • MSNBC, Rachel Maddow
  • TED Radio Hour
  • Freakonomics
  • The Dollop

 

For Low Mental Rigor Tasks

(Challenging, Plot-Driven, Nuanced…)

  • Alice Isn’t Dead
  • The Memory Palace
  • 99% Invisible
  • Esquire Classic Podcast
  • Mystery Show
  • Lore
  • Tanis
  • Astonishing Legends
  • Reply All
  • Philosophize This!
  • This American Life
  • Radio Lab
  • Serial
  • Invisibilia

 

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  • Carly Martin