Weekly Listens, #6

I listen to a lot of podcasts – a lot! – so I started a series rounding up the most interesting episodes I’ve heard recently. And I’m really enjoying these podcast roundups! This week, I learned about the amazing artistry and customization that went into the music of Seinfeld, one way to get to Mars that everyone’s overlooking, and super creepy Victorian Christmas cards.

In 1991, eight people embarked on a two-year experiment to create a completely enclosed, self-sustaining ecosystem in a domed research facility in Arizona. Inside the dome, there was a man-made savannah. A rainforest. A farm. An ocean with tropical coral reef. And all of these habitats would be populated with life. Things did not go according to plan. But was it a failure? 

Biosphere 2

You guys. I had no idea that back in the early 90s, there was an experiment where 8 volunteers chose to live inside a biodome without coming out for 2 years. Even though the dome was fully functional and supplied with food, animals, and vitamins, the crew still experienced severe lack of food and oxygen at times, as well as ongoing tensions among members. They ate low-calorie, high-nutrient diets and were actually remarkably healthy when they finally emerged into the real world again, their bodies having adapted to their new diets (which included so much sweet potato that their skin turned orange).

There was a second mission shortly after the first one finished, and this one went much more smoothly until the team behind the whole venture ran into a management scandal and had to dramatically cut the mission short, only 7 months in. The dome has been under University of Arizona for research purposes ever since, but I can’t believe the whole experiment was real and what a story this must’ve been back in the day. But one thing’s for sure: you couldn’t pay me enough to live in the dome without coming out for 2 whole years!

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With limited slots and high demand, the NYC Marathon has had to create a clever system to allocate a scarce resource as fairly as possible. Four lessons in fair allocation.

Advanced Fairness at the Marathon

I used to run a lot with the NYRR, the organization that hosts the annual New York Marathon, and I dreamed about how one (very far off day) I’d run in the marathon myself. That day still hasn’t happened (and given how I’ve put up my running shoes for now, isn’t even close 😆), but this episode was especially relevant to me because it was about the four different ways you could get entry into the marathon. You can either get picked via the lottery, quality with fast-enough times in other races, buy your way in via charities and other sponsored spots, or demonstrate enough effort by participating in their 9+1 program – run 9 other NYRR races and volunteer at 1 event during the year for guaranteed entry the next year. Great rundown of how one of the most vaunted races in the world keeps things fair.

An “uncomfortable” conversation with Booker, recorded just before he dropped out.

Why Didn’t Cory Booker Catch On? An Uncomfortable Conversation with the Presidential Candidate

I never paid much attention to Cory Booker and so never knew…well, anything about him, really. This interview of him was pretty enlightening. By most anyone’s standards, he’s the embodiment of passionate, genuine ethics. He leads hunger strikes. He lived in a housing project for years. He’s vegan. He challenges politicians to do better. I really respect him for not being just a “regular” politician, but one who really lives the life he preaches and genuinely wants to see everybody better off.

But while he’s impressive at instituting these policies on himself, something goes missing when he turns them outward – he loses clarity and he’s not so eloquent anymore about how to apply them on a larger scale to millions of people. The interview was really great in getting a sense of the man and his idealism, and why his campaign hasn’t been as successful as expected.

This week — asteroids. Could a space rock really slam into us and destroy the world? And if we did spot one heading straight for us, is there anything we could do to stop it? 

How to Stop a Killer Asteroid!

Man, I love this podcast and think it’s so underrated. The host always chooses interesting scientific topics, and does a great job of picking professors who can explain their field in layman’s terms without dumbing it down entirely.

As for this episode itself, I learned that one way we can destroy a medium asteroid is to deliberately crash a spacecraft into it. Woah! And as for the really giant asteroids – the ones that could take out the entire world – you have to bring in the big guns…literally. You bring out the nukes. Except you don’t nuke the asteroid itself, because the ensuing explosion would be catastrophic in itself, but you’d set off the explosion near the asteroid so that it’ll push it off course enough to not crash into Earth. Super fascinating!

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There’s a reason we call tourists “sightseers”. As a society, we’re totally obsessed with the way things look. But our world is full of beautiful, fascinating and bizarre sounds. Join us on a sonic adventure around the world, as we climb up sand dunes, plunge into the Arctic Ocean, and even travel back in time. When we celebrate these treasures, we become better listeners and the world becomes a richer and more exciting place.

Sonic Wonderland

What an unexpectedly beautiful episode. While I listen to a lot of music and obviously podcasts 😆I never really pay attention to the ambient sounds around me. But this episode picked out a few really unique sounds from nature that actually floored me. My favorites were the singing and burping sand dunes in the Mojave Desert, and the bearded seals’ haunting mating calls. Gave me chills listening to them!

Do you guys listen to any of these? Are there any podcasts you recommend? I’m always looking for more!

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