Monday, April 03, 2006

The Podcritical Review: The Science Show

This is the second in my open-ended series of informal podcast reviews. I've given myself a highfalutin name, but hopefully, the reviews will remain unpretentious. You'll find the archives here.

In the short history of podcasting, public broadcasters have been among the leaders in the field. While Canada's CBC only has a few podcasts currently available (though they are working on more, apparently), NPR in the US, along with the BBC and Australia's ABC, offer quite a number of podcasts. In fact, ABC offers over 80 podcasts for the avid listener to choose from. And while this is nowhere near NPR's 293, it is a mine that I have yet to properly explore. However, one show in particular has caught my ear: ABC Radio National's The Science Show.

Topic: Science (general)
Length: approx. 45 minutes

The Science Show is a weekly science program broadcast by the ABC. Like most broadcast radio podcasts, the audio quality is generally quite high, as is the overall production value, so the podcast is easy on the ears. The program differs from many other science podcasts, such as the one offered by the journal Nature, in that it's not just a rundown of the week's science stories. The show covers stories that often don't make the science headlines and offers in-depth analysis of stories you probably wouldn't otherwise be aware of. For instance, the most recent program, for April 1, had a fascinating 20-minute segment on fish oil and brain development. But the show also has a quirky side, as evidenced by last week's mock-serious segment on the study of the disappearing teaspoons (no, really, it was quite funny). Occasionally, the program invites contributors to present a paper, or that's how it seems, which is a somewhat unusual format.

Not surprisingly, The Science Show has a perspective that seems more focused on Asia-Pacific stories rather than on North American or European science, though that may just be my impression since I've only been listening for a little over a month. But this is a good thing, to my mind; the Internet and podcasting are all about making the world a little smaller and seeing past our own back yards.

Host Robyn Williams is just funny enough (though he's no Robin Williams) to give the program some real personality without going over the top. I've come to enjoy it just as much as the CBC's Quirks & Quarks, another excellent Science podcast I may review down the road.

Podcritical rating: 5 stars.

If you know of a podcast you think I should review, drop me a line or leave a comment.

Ecto update: Halleluia. The Atom API bug appears to be fixed. Ecto, all is forgiven. Isn't love fickle?

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