Friday, September 28, 2007

How to always be right

I came across this in a post on Dr Steven Novella's blog about the nonexistent connection between Thimerosal in the MMR vaccine and autism:

Everyone likes being right, and sometimes this desire clouds our judgment. I have learned, therefore, how to cheat, which is to say how to always be right. All you have to do is say that your position is based upon the existing data, but is contingent upon the results of future studies. In other words, the “right” position is to change your final answer to accommodate new evidence as it comes in. Therefore the only “wrong” answer is to stick to your original position despite new evidence that contradicts it.

I suppose I'd better review his podcast soon as well. Good stuff.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Podcast Review – The Onion Radio News

The Onion, America’s Finest News Source, offers this daily podcast as a supplement to the online newspaper and the Onion News Network video news segments.

As we would expect from this venerable institution of news-gathering, the Radio News is a stellar example of hard-hitting and relevant journalism, essential to those wishing to stay in the know.

Veteran reporter, Doyle Redland, brings an air of authority to recent stories such as “Plenty Of Soda Still Available Across Nation”, “Scientists Dissect Coworker To Learn More About Scientists” and “Hamster Thrown From Remote-Control Monster Truck”.

Being written and presented for brevity, the Onion Radio News is one of the few podcasts suitable for dialup access. It’s usually less than a minute long, under a megabyte in size and unbelievably accurate.

RSS Feed: (right-click on the link below and select “Copy Shortcut”, then paste it into your podcatcher or feed reader):

The Onion Radio News

Friday, September 14, 2007

Podcast Review – Scientific American

Strictly speaking, Scientific American offers three separate podcasts:
  1. 60 Second Science: the daily science podcast;
  2. Science Talk: the weekly science podcast;
  3. 60 Second Psych: the weekly psychology podcast.

I’ve only recently discovered 60 Second Psych, so I’m not really able to comment on it yet, but if the other two are anything to go by, it should be pretty good.

60 Second Science is one of two daily podcasts I subscribe to. As the name suggests, it’s a short program that usually deals with the most interesting science headline of the day. It’s a brief and light-hearted examination of the subject, long enough to give you a basic understanding of the subject, but short enough to make you want to read more. It’s professionally produced and well written. A brief ray of scientific sunshine.

Science Talk is equally well produced and written. The usual host, Scientific American editor Steve Mersky, is a talented host. The show is roughly 20 minutes long, and tends to have a theme from week to week. Mersky explores some relevant science headlines and interviews well-selected guests. The subject matter appears to be as varied as the content of the magazine itself. Although tending towards a somewhat liberal bias, the SciAm podcasts are generally well-reasoned and thoroughly enjoyable.

If you’re looking for a podcast to get you started, these are some good ones.

RSS Feeds (right-click on the link below and select “Copy Shortcut”, then paste it into your podcatcher or feed reader):

  1. 60 Second Science
  2. Science Talk
  3. 60 Second Psych

Podcast Review – Introduction

My ever-loyal reader (I don’t know if there is still more than one of you. If there are more, let me know!). I may have mentioned a few times before that I have become enamoured with the phenomenon of podcasting. In the past few months I have discovered and subscribed to a number of podcasts on a variety of topics that interest me. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably interested in at least some of those topics as well.

So, as a service to you, I’m going to begin a series of posts dedicated to reviewing the podcasts I listen to. I only listen to podcasts I enjoy, so if a particular show is reviewed, it’s already passed that test. If I’m critical of a podcast, it is in comparison to the other ones I listen to. So even if I’m harsh, it shouldn’t be taken too negatively.

In case you don’t already know what a podcast is, I’m going to use this introduction to explain the basics of podcasting.

A podcast is essentially a radio show that can be downloaded from the Internet and listened to at your leisure. Some podcasts are recordings of actual radio shows that can be listened to later (in case you missed the live show), but it seems that most of them are recorded specifically for distribution as a podcast.

Most podcasts are downloaded as an MP3 audio file, which can be consumed either straight on your PC, or with the aid of your portable MP3 player (such as an iPod… hence the name). If you’re savvy enough to handle an MP3 file, you’ll know what other ways it can be used. I leave that to you.

In order to obtain the podcast file, you will usually be able to download it directly from the podcast’s website. This is a little cumbersome, as it means you have to go back to the site regularly to look for updates. If you have an iPod, you’ll be able to download many podcasts through iTunes. If you’re not an Apple fan, there are other options: you’ll need some sort of “podcatching” software.

Podcatchers are programs that allow you to subscribe to an RSS feed (which most podcast sites use). The software will usually automatically download any new podcasts that are published. If you already use an RSS feed reader (like Google Reader), you can use that for your podcast feeds as well. Feed readers usually don’t download the file automatically, but some people (like me) prefer it that way.

When I start reviewing individual podcasts, I’ll give you the RSS feed URL so you can subscribe to it with your reader or podcatcher of choice and give it a listen for yourself.

Right, now you know what I’m talking about. Let’s get started!