You're tired of listening to the same terrible radio show every morning in your car. You've heard that new song so many times through your headphones this week that you've decided you don't like it, after all. How many times can you sing along to "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the way to work before you realize, horrified, that you're just not as talented as Freddy Mercury?
The internet is brimming with podcasts that are diverse, packed with information and ready to cure your commute. But instead of killing time with an episode of Serial or listening to the same stats you've already watched on EPSN with breakfast, try learning something new. Podcasts are like reading articles and essays—even books—without taking your eyes off of the road or carrying an extra stack of paper in your bag. In this article, find some of the best podcasts to feed your brain.
Let the hosts of WNYC's Radiolab guide you through stories and investigations about everything in the world, from truth to CRISPR to Alzheimer's. Weekly 45-minute episodes explore a theme through interviews, stories and jokes that make serious news fun and turn history into fascinating narratives. This is your general knowledge story series where you can learn about anything from some people who simply enjoy talking about it.
Every week on The Inquiry, a BBC World Service podcast, the hosts talk to "expert witnesses" about thoughtful, relevant issues. "Who Gets to Have Their Own Country," the team asked after Catalan's announcement that the region would hold a referendum for independence from Spain. Other recent episodes include "Are Videogames a Waste of Time?" and "What Can We Do With Our Dead?" For a concise but deeply investigated lesson on the context and implications of current events, and for a great alternative to the rapid fire daily news headlines, The Inquiry is your perfect morning fix.
NPR's Planet Money will keep you informed on the economy and all of its trends, developments and historical context. Hear from Tom Burrell and learn about his industry-changing work in advertising. Discover the similarities between fake news stories in Ukraine and the U.S. In under thirty minutes, you'll discover something you probably didn't know through fascinating interviews with experts in the field and the people who were there.
Further quench your thirst for first-hand knowledge with the TED Talks Daily Podcast that features a new talk every weekday.
More or Less: Behind the Stats
The weekly BBC Radio 4 podcast, More or Less, digs into a current event and the statistics being reported about it. Their most recent episode cleared up the confusion surrounding so-called 500-year storms and how they can happen twice in a decade, or even twice in a year. They've explored fantasy football, the gender ratio in Sweden and, of course, election numbers. Tim Harford hosts this math-based show that takes listeners far away from scary math and into discussions about the real-world implications of these numbers.
Neil deGrasse Tyson answers the biggest questions in the universe and also tackles practical science innovations in his weekly podcast, StarTalk Radio. From dark matter to NFL training and nutrition, Tyson and his frequent cohost, Chuck Nice, have a lot of fun talking about modern science with scientists, actors, comedians, musicians and various other guests. Learn about hip hop with Logic or basketball with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
For more guest appearances by Bill Nye, check out the StarTalk All-Stars companion podcast.
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
Admit it: you only say you don't like history because you resented all of the name and date memorization in high school. But real history isn't about a list of events; it's about the stories. Enter Hardcore History, an epic history podcast hosted by Dan Carlin. The shows come out every few months but they're often closer to six hours than three, so you'll have plenty to listen to before you're stuck waiting for the next episode (plus, if you're starting now, you already have sixty episodes to catch up on). This is the dramatic storytelling you've been waiting for in a history class.
If your business (or your passion) is music, Song Exploder is the deepest dive into new music available. Instead of listening to that song again, listen to its artist break it down part by part, track by track as they tell the story of its creation. In close to a half hour, you'll discover the process and inspiration behind one song and hear its isolated vocals or that one sound effect near the middle that came to the songwriter in a dream or whatever its story is. Previous artists include U2, St. Vincent, Gorillaz, Metallica, Joey Bada$ and Weezer, whom Hrishikesh Hirway interviews before editing out his parts. What's left is the story of a song told by its artist directly to their fans.