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5 podcasts to tech up your holidays

December 21, 2016
As Australasian audiophiles head into summer in the golden age of digital audio, it’s time to load up your device with a feast of podcasts and audiobooks. (Remember the bad-back old days when you had to haul books and boom boxes to your holiday hideout?)
Of course, GE Reports recommends that you download its Decoding Genius series (if you haven’t already!). And here’s a list of some of our favourite science and tech podcasts from last year—we continue to listen to all these recommendations. And of course, you shouldn’t miss The Message and Life After, the two excellent sci-fi drama series made in the USA by GE Podcast Theater.

Research shows that our brains are truly benefiting from the podcast revolution. A recent study by researchers at University of California, Berkeley, used MRIs to map people’s brains during podcast listening, and showed how the neural networks are switched on by the aural journey. As The New York Times described it: “… for each word and concept as it is added to the narrative flow, as the brain adds and alters layers of networks: a living internal reality takes over the brain.”

Check out this fascinating brain viewer, built for the study, and explore where certain words triggered different parts of the brain as the research subjects listened to The Moth Radio Hour.

We’ve curated a list of deep dives into subject matter that matters, for the grey matter of the GE Reports audience. We’ve chosen podcasts for their excellent material, not for amazing production values—most of these are simply talking heads. But what fascinating heads they are!

white headphones on top of computer tablet.

The value proposition: Straight talk about the world’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables with energy expert Chris Nelder, an analyst and consultant who has written about energy and investing for more than a decade.

Our download: A must for anyone interested in this critical, difficult-to-navigate subject. Nelder interviews experts from across the energy landscape and together they discuss issues and opportunities. He gives enough context to enable those with an interest, rather than expertise, to learn from the discussions. It’s fascinating and surprisingly lively for such a complex subject. And don’t miss the show notes on the website, for lots of links to reports and papers, more research background and a geek rating for each episode.

Sample this: The Future of Wind, Nov. 16, 2016

The value proposition: The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming our lives, and this weekly podcast helps you stay on top of the juggernaut, with the latest news, plus deeper dives into IoT-enabling tech, interviews with people driving the IoT, mobile health, privacy and other societal implications, and more. Hosted by Andreea Borcea and Charles Wiltgen.

Our download: Farstuff drops episodes much less frequently than they promise (and certainly not weekly), but there’s a library of past episodes to explore and, together with new ones, it’s a great audio guide to the evolving IoT. Detailed discussions traverse everything from aviation to healthcare as industry becomes more and more connected. The show notes include more useful info. Also in Farstuff’s back catalogue is a four-episode series on GE’s Industrial Internet initiatives, which ran in early 2015. Episode one is here and features GE Global Research Center scientist Stephan Biller.

Sample this: When a Smart Jet is your Co-Pilot, September 26, 2016

The value proposition: Recognised worldwide by listeners and industry experts as one of the best programs on astronomy and space science.

Our download: The latest news on space in one handy capsule, SpaceTime is the new home for ABC Science’s StarStuff podcast; Stuart Gary set up with independent podcast company when the ABC axed his show in 2015. His shows are also broadcast in the US on Science360 Radio by the National Science Foundation (where you’ll find a mother lode of fabulous science programs if you want more). Gary bridges deep academic information with his conversational style and newsy approach. Queue up and play a bunch of these on road trips, especially if you have space-nut kids.

Sample this: Mystery of the sun’s strange spin solved!, December 17, 2016

The value proposition: Threatpost writers Mike Mimoso and Chris Brook discuss security threats, attacks, vulnerability research and trends with a variety of industry executives, researchers and experts.

Our download: This excellent weekly (more or less) podcast is an offshoot of Threatpost, the Kaspersky Lab Security news site, a cybersecurity go-to for businesses around the world. The podcast wraps up the news (for example: Yahoo hacks, IoT hearings, patch releases) via in-depth discussions between the two journalists, after they’ve thoroughly researched the stories and written about them for the website. Their chat about it together is frank, knowledgeable and detailed enough to engage cybersecurity experts, yet mostly comprehensible for generalists.

Sample this: Threatpost News Wrap, on the US energy and commerce committee hearing on the IoT, November 18, 2016

The value proposition: Weekly conversations with some of the most interesting and influential people in healthcare, hosted by Politico Pulse author Dan Diamond.

Our download: Host Diamond spends a lot of time probing US healthcare policy, but inside and outside of that coverage are many cutting-edge interviews on universally relevant topics, including patient data and the hot topics of healthcare data and IoT.

Sample this: Aneesh Chopra on why healthcare’s data revolution has finally arrived, September 16, 2016