No matter how much time you spend listening to podcasts, there is always more to discover. The medium has become a gold mine of engaging, artfully crafted audio programs on thousands of topics. Here are five ORBITER-recommended podcasts sure to challenge your thinking on what it means to be human in this world.
1. On Being with Krista Tippett
After a decade of hosting the award-winning Speaking of Faith on public radio, Tippett changed the show’s name and emphasis and launched an independent production company. On Being explores the basic but profound question, “What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?” Tippett’s guests include a wide range of authors, scientists, philosophers, and public figures.
Start here: Carlo Rovelli, author of the global bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, and one of the world’s leading quantum physicists, on why “all of reality is interaction.” Listen Now: All Reality is Interaction with Carlo Rovelli
2. Star Talk Radio
Best-selling author, astrophysicist, planetarium director, TV presenter and podcaster — as much as any contemporary figure, polymath Neil DeGrasse Tyson embodies the pursuit of greater understanding about our place in the universe. While he is best known for his role as host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Tyson brings his characteristic passion, humor, and expertise to his podcast, Star Talk Radio.
Start here: The Power of Science Fiction with legendary actor William Shatner
3. Philosophy Bites
David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton have accomplished what many might think impossible: in each bite-size episode of their popular podcast, Philosophy Bites, they make philosophy accessible and entertaining. 400-plus episodes to date have covered everything from time to the body to forgiveness. The knowledgeable hosts (who are also prolific authors) and their guests demonstrate the love of wisdom that lies at the discipline’s core.
Start here: Ethicist Julian Savulescu on “Designer Babies”
4. Stuff to Blow Your Mind
The goal of STBYM is an ambitious one — “to lead you on a scientific journey to the very limits of human understanding.” The three hosts succeed at doing precisely that. History, science, mystery, and curiosity collide in the most unexpected and interesting ways in this spin-off of the equally popular podcast How Stuff Works.
Start here: Ghouls: Myth, Fiction, and… Evolutionary Heritage?
Veteran public radio figures Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad are the hosts of Radiolab, one of the most popular and influential audio shows on the planet. Radiolab is driven by a deep curiosity about how things work — whether it’s the science of parasites or the evolution of human emotion.
Start here: What does blame do for us?
… And 3 Lesser-Known Podcasts You Should Be Listening To
1. Philosophy Talk
Co-hosted by philosophers Ken Taylor and John Perry, both professors at Stanford University, Philosophy Talk “celebrates the value of the examined life” by discussing a variety of issues from pop culture to deeply-held beliefs about science, morality, and the human condition.
Start here: Intellectual Humility: Knowing What We Know – And What We Don’t
Originally developed in 2002 by Robert Wright, MeaningofLife.tv has now evolved into six programs on its website, hosting video discourse between journalists, authors, and scholars on questions relating to philosophy, science, religion, and spirituality.
Start here: Daniel Kaufman & Massimo Pigliucci on Massimo’s new book How to be a Stoic
3. Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley
Hosted by Justin Brierley, this UK-based podcast tackles the fundamental and baffling questions on Christianity—from science to atheism to LBGTQ issues—promoting open dialogue between Christians and non-Christians.
Start here: Buddhism, Christianity, Nirvana & Salvation – Alex Crowe & Ken Samples
Do you know of more fantastic, even under-the-radar, podcasts dealing with life’s Big Questions? Send us a note with your favorites.