Guest post: a survey of mathematical podcasts
This is a guest post by Samuel Hansen, a podcast producer and the director of the ACMEScience podcast network. He spends his spare time listening to podcasts that he did not produce, playing soccer, and hoping more people would pitch him podcast ideas. He isn’t kidding, if you have ideas for a podcast he wants to hear them.
My name is Samuel Hansen and I love podcasts. This might not seem like that crazy of a confession, but I would like you to keep in mind that I am currently subscribed to 97 shows and am caught up on all but 10.
I started listening to them around the time I started my undergraduate studies, so 2005 or so. It might seem odd, but a huge amount of the good things that have happened to me in the past 10 years are because of podcasts. Most of my closest friends I have met because we are all fans of a certain podcasting network, the best working collaboration I have ever had came out of an interview that I did, and I have had the opportunity to travel around the world producing a show.
My journey down the mathematical podcast rabbit hole started when I started to apply to graduate schools. Being a huge fan of podcasts I went looking for a podcast that would help me better understand the world that I was about to enter into, the world of the mathematical graduate student. While there were a couple of shows, none of them were exactly what I was looking for so when I started graduate school I knew it would be up to me to make the show for the next person that went looking.
I will admit that first show was silly, very very silly, and quite vulgar, but I had to start somewhere. Since then I have produced shows featuring interviews with mathematicians, round ups of the week’s mathematical news, and multi-voice stories from the mathematical domain.
I am not the only mathematical podcaster though, there is a whole community of producers out there making great content for us to consume. I have collected all of the mathematical podcasts that I know of here. Not all of them are still running, and some formats will appeal to you more than others, but they are all wonderfully mathematical.
Regularly Released Podcasts
- One of my current favorites is Taking Maths Further from Peter Rowlett and Katie Steckles. Produced for the Further Maths Support Program the show takes a different field from mathematics every episode and features an interview with a mathematician working in that field.
- Wrong, But Useful is the brain child of Colin Beveridge and Dave Gale. New episodes come out around monthly and feature mathematical stories that they came across in the previous month with a bit of focus on the UK and UK mathematical education. Each episode also features a problem of the month.
- Conversational interviews with people who live mathematical lives, at least that is what I always envisioned Strongly Connected Components as being. The second podcast that I created, Strongly Connected Components is only recently relaunched and I am so happy to be producing new episodes and talking to yet more wonderful people from the world of mathematics.
- Math Mutation is a series of quick hit podcasts about the fun and interesting mathematics that is not usually talked about in school.
- Tim Harford, the Financial Time’s Undercover Economist, helms the BBC’s More Or Less , a radio show that does everything it can to examine and interpret numbers and statistics that appear in the news and everyday world. The podcast feed features both the full length Radio Four episodes as well as the shorter BBC World Service episodes which are produced even when the show is between series.
Irregularly Released Podcasts
- I am more proud of this podcast than anything else I have ever done. Relatively Prime is a podcast that features 8 episode series of stories from the mathematical domain. The first series had episodes about Chinook the AI that defeated checkers, my favorite mathematical building La Sagrada Familia, mathematicians favorite numbers, and first hand accounts of working with Paul Erdos. I am in the middle of producing the second Kickstarter funded series and believe me, it is going to be good. You can expect it late spring or early summer of this year.
- Inspired By Math is a podcast by Sol Lederman featuring long form interviews with mathematicians, educators, authors, and other people that are inspired by mathematics.
- Plus Magazine tries to bring the beauty and applications of mathematics to all who read it. Their podcast features interviews with mathematicians talking about their work and their lives.
- Both the AMS and the MAA have podcasts that feature interviews with mathematicians talking about their work.
- From the math blog The Aperiodical, The Aperiodcast features editors Peter Rowlett, Katie Speckles, and Christian Perfect discussing stories they had recently featured on the blog and was as aperiodical as its name would suggest.
- Math/Maths was a show that I co-hosted with Peter Rowlett where we discussed the past week’s news from the world of mathematics. It was very topical and could be odd to go back and listen to now, but there were some non-topical episodes mixed in. The show is sadly no more, but I have heard from a good source, myself, that the people behind it are working to bring it back in a slightly tweaked format.
The following mathematical shows are sadly no longer being produced. That should not stop you from going back and checking them out though, with the exception of my first show, Combinations and Permutations, which I give you free reign to skip.
- There were two podcasts about the history of mathematics and oddly enough both were produced in England. Bite Sized History of Mathematics was produced by Noel-Ann Bradshaw, Tony Mann, and Mark McCartney and was part of a project that was funded by HE Academy MSOR Network. It featured episode, and accompanying pdfs, about important theorems, important numbers, and important mathematicians. The other podcast, Brief History of Mathematics, was a BBC production presented by Marcus du Sautoy and focused on the biggest mathematicians from the past few centuries.
- If you like swearing, bad jokes, pop culture references, and a host that heavily relies on wikipedia during a show then Combinations and Permutations is the math podcast for you. This was the first podcast that I ever produced and featured my fellow graduate students at UNLV and I sitting around trying to be funny about mathematics while sneaking in some real content from time to time. I will readily admit it is not the best show, but it was tons of fun to do and from the feedback I did receive tons of fun to listen to if you are the right person.
- Tom Henderson and Nick Horton hosted the Math for Primates podcast for 14 episodes. It was an entertaining and irreverent look at topics in mathematics that relied heavily on the idiosyncratic viewpoints of the hosts. I looked forward to every episode and was very sad when they stopped coming, because(as the hosts themselves say on their website) talking about math is more fun that throwing poo.
- The Math Factor started in 2004 as a segment on Kyle Kellam’s Sunday Ozark’s at Large radio show on KUAF featuring mathematician Chaim Goodman-Strauss. Featuring a lot of puzzles and problems and other very Gardner-esque content the episodes were short, sweet, and well worth a listen.
- Peter Rowlett’s first podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World was a podcast of interviews with mathematicians talking about their work and episodes about math history and news. Done with the support of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications the podcast really focuses on the cool jobs and interesting work in which mathematics allows people to take part.
There are also more general science shows that often talk about mathematics. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does feature some personal favorites of mine.
- I will clearly expose my biases on this one, Radiolab is my favorite thing. I am actually wearing a Radiolab t-shirt as I type this. I will readily tell anyone who will listen about my favorite episodes and it is Radiolab’s producer and genius, literally the MacArthur Foundation decreed him as such, that is the reason that I even thought making mathematics podcasts might be possible. The show is mostly about big ideas and science, but some episodes do feature very mathematical stories.
- Presented by Melvyn Bragg In Our Time is a long running discussion program from the BBC. Every episode features a topic and a panel of experts, usually academics, to discuss the topic. While not a math show a quick google search shows that they often cover the subject.
- The BBC also has an irreverent panel show presented by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince called The Infinite Monkey Cage. They have had episodes about Randomness, Six Degrees of Separation, and Symmetry amongst many other sciency topics.
- Keith Devlin has been NPR’s Math Guy for many years and has contributed many different stories to the show Weekend Edition. Thankfully Keith has gathered all the episode for us.
- Science Friday has been a US public radio stand by for more than two decades. While primarily covering other scientific topics, they also feature mathematics at times.
- My podcast about fights from the history of science, Science Sparring Society, has featured stories about Newton Vs. Leibniz and Cantor Vs. Kronecker
Finally, I interviewed Mathbabe the other day and put it up on my podcast here: