Review: Crash Course Pods: The Universe

Review: Crash Course Pods: The Universe

I firmly believe that science is only as good as how it is communicated. This seems like a pretty basic idea. Math, equations, and measurements can be daunting. Yet we all know we use them in daily life, or at the very least we use the result of them. You’re reading this on some type of computer connected to the internet, probably not questioning much about how it works because it’s been declared benign, or the benefits of it greatly outweighing the risks of its use. We can see the pieces of the internet, know something about binary code, or at least that it exists. We know cables stretch under land and sea to connect humans from everywhere on this great expanse of the internet. We don’t think about it much. It was communicated to be something fantastic and useful, but the mechanics for the general public are hazy at best. 

Just like we don’t think much about the universe, which honestly we don’t know that much about either. Unlike the internet, there’s no person or group of people who know each and every piece that builds the universe. We know a lot of maybes and a lot of somethings. It’s big questions of math, equations, and also humanity. Which is all beautifully discussed in Crash Course Pods: The Universe. 

I have been a casual fan of the Green brothers since high school. I came of age with the John Green books and watched Hank Green  Crash Course grow from the Youtube channel it was to the powerhouse of learning. I’ve always loved the idea of Crash Course but I am absolutely not someone who sits and watches long form video, even if the “long” is only 20 minutes. The maximum capacity of my Youtube is typically a quick crafting tutorial. At four episodes in, Crash Course Pods: The Universe is giving me everything I needed from the original Crash Course in audio form. 

The important thing to know is that this isn’t a podcast that rips the audio from YouTube and calls it a day. No, I am glad to say that this creation honors that which is the beauty of podcasting. John Green has a conversation with Dr Katie Mack who holds the Hawking Chair in Cosmology and Science Communication at the Perimeter Institute. Before the downfall of Twitter, I followed Dr Mack because I have a healthy love for theoretical physics - or at least the communication of it. I can't do physics. I'm not good enough at math.

Honestly, that’s the point. This podcast is a brilliant work of science communication that touches the clinical of science while reaching across the aisle to the humanity of it all. What’s the point of science to just explain things that we see, if there’s not a why involved as well? We are proud that John Green did wait four episodes to ask about free will - because under discussions of how terrible some aspects of the early universe were named, the question: Why does it matter? 

It feels daunting, and yet this podcast is calming. Each hour episode, released biweekly, is quietly produced. The only backing music is the in and out of baked-in ads. John Green has figured out his podcasting voice through his other work, and it pairs so nicely with someone who has spent a lot of her professional career communicating and teaching complex areas of science. How can we explain something that we can’t necessarily see? We can’t see the universe like we see a flower bloom or the way we can feel a storm roll in. Theoretical physics is the edge of science that somehow this pair has managed to tease this frontier into something beautifully comprehensible. 

I will say, this is a podcast you have to focus on, but it’s not hard to take the time with it. If you’re worried about the existential dread that can come with discussing the universe, here it seems peaceful, rather than daunting. It’s listening to two people who have a genuine interest in communicating, and doing their thing. It is an example of the potential brilliance of the simple audio-only format.

I recommend this podcast for anyone who is even a little bit curious about the universe. I know I am. 

Listen below. 

Crash Course Pods: The Universe
Listen to Crash Course Pods: The Universe wherever you get your podcasts!

A Deeper Thought

There's been a lot of discussion around the celebrity podcast lately, and what are they really talking about? There's this article from The Daily Beast discussing the idea, and the next issue of Good Tape is tackling the idea of the celebrity podcast.

The question is, is this a celebrity podcast? Is John Green famous, or is he a celebrity? Or does the fact that this podcast has an overarching point other than "John Green" keep this out of the "celebrity podcast" sphere? Or is it a different subset we're not talking about because it aligns with podcasts that put podcasting first, rather than using podcasts as a medium for further reach?

I don't have an answer for this. I know I have some podcast friends who will, but consider it when you're picking up a podcast. What's the why? Who's the why?

Let me know your thoughts! Comment below.

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