Thursday, June 23, 2011

Social Science for the Masses

I try to listen to podcasts fairly regularly, because I love the medium. They tend to be short, snappy, and can fill previously unused time with rewarding intellectual stimulation. I also get a lot of my book recommendations from podcasts: many non-fiction authors will do radio shows as part of their publicity process. It's fun to hear thinkers engage in verbal thrust and parry as well; too often writing is the only means of communicating information for academics and public intellectuals.

Recently I've discovered a fantastic new podcast: EconTalk hosted by Russ Roberts, an economist at George Mason University. Episodes consist of incredibly substantive interviews of scholars discussing social science topics. The podcast manages to snag lots of eminent thinkers (past guests include Gary Becker, Cass Sunstein, Nassim Taleb, and William Easterly) as well as more obscure researchers who have lots to say but access to few popular communications mediums (besides perhaps blogging). The quality of the interviews is probably the best I've ever heard (sorry Tom Ashbrook), and despite the host's strong libertarian leaning, the intellectual discourse is fair and sincere.

Archives on iTunes go back several years, and they're definitely worth combing through to pick out topics of particular interest. Philosophy Bites, a similar podcast dealing with philosophical questions, is also a fascinating way to hear academics share their insights.

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