Podcasting

Why Podcasting is AWESOME

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Level Up Human recording at the Blue dot festival. Holly Shiels, Sarah Jones, Simon Watt and me!

I just want to take a second to talk about podcasting. I launched a podcast called Level Up Human with Wellcome Trust funding in 2015, and 5 years later, we’re still going strong.

It’s my opportunity to learn about evolutionary biology, to talk to an audience of loyal fans, and to hang out with my buddy, Simon Watt.

Level Up Human is a podcast panel show on a mission to redesign the human body.

Here’s our latest episode.

So today I want to talk about why, if you don’t listen to podcasts, you should!

Why Podcasts are AWESOME

The best thing about podcasts, in my view, is that they are great for busy people.

You can listen to podcasts whilst you commute (when that’s a thing again), whilst you do housework, when you’re driving, jogging, cycling, or even swimming if you get yourself some snazzy active headphones*.

This review by Robin Capper, one of our listeners from New Zealand

There are podcasts of all kinds of different lengths. I love Tim Ferriss’s loooong form podasts, and some with much shorter episodes like Meg Cusack’s Courage Makers podcast.

If you’ve never listened to podcasts, here’s how to start.

And if you’re a creator, podcasting is BRILLIANT. Here’s why.

Why podcast?

If you’re a creator, chances are you either write, podcast, or make videos. Here’s why podcasting is one of the greatest creation platforms ever.

Low start-up costs

Podcast start-up costs can be absolutely minimal. You can record on your phone, you can use free editing software like GarageBand or Audacity, a free podcast hosting service like PodBean, and you’re away.

The danger, of course, like all things, is that once you get into it, you will want to upgrade your gear. I trained in sound editing using Adobe Audition, and I absolutely love it. Mostly because it’s familiar.

You can spend thousands on fancy microphones, computer hardware and home studios, but at least to get into it, you can keep the costs absolutely minimal.

Edit anywhere

Once you’ve recorded your audio, you can take your laptop to a cafe, or the park or the beach to do your editing.

You don’t need a team of people to make it work. It is very nearly as easy as blogging.

Build a connection with your audience

The written word is great, and everything, but there is an extra level of intimacy in speaking directly into your listeners’ ears.

You can talk to them about all kinds of things, even things you mightn’t discuss with your best friends, because it’s essentially a private conversation.

Communicate science!

I work with science podcasters, and one of the best things about podcasts is that it allows researchers to speak directly to the public who fund their work.

They get to explain how their research is going, what they hope to discover, and how this will change lives. Without the need for a camera crew, or loads of expensive equipment.

During the lockdown I’m offering free podcast training and help, so if you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a little while, get in touch.

 

 

BBC Sounds Podcast Radio Hour: Hitchhiker Special

Me and Anne-Marie Luff looking hoopy af

42 years ago tomorrow (Wednesday, 8th March, 1978), a radio series called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was launched on BBC Radio 4 at 10.30pm. The author, Douglas Adams, was disappointed with the timing of the broadcast, as the timeslot was guaranteed to turn the programme into a ‘cult’ with a small but dedicated audience.

Happily, the programme gained a very large mainstream audience, and spawned books, a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth radio series, a TV show and two films to date.

This week I was delighted to join Anne-Marie Luff at Radio 4 Extra to record a special ‘Podcast Radio Hour’ tribute to Hitchhiker’s at 42. Do give it a listen! We recommend a raft of wonderful audio fiction podcasts, including Diary of a Space Archivist, We Fix Space Junk and The Strange Case of Starship Iris. Anne-Marie and I also chatted to Mark Steadman, creator and host of Beware of the Leopard.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000fx18

Level Up Human: Live at the Barbican

Earlier this year, Simon Watt and I recorded an episode of our podcast, Level Up Human, live at the Barbican in association with The Physiological Society. This episode was recorded with expert guests, marine biologist, writer and documentary maker, Helen Scales and KCL professor of developmental neurobiology, Robert Hindges.

Episode summary

First we look at human enhancements from around the world. Helen brings news of a man with an exo-skeleton allowing him to walk.

Robert tells us about developments in prosthetics which allow users to experience feedback from artificial limbs. And Rach has evidence that thumbs are getting faster.

Next: pitches from our guest experts, the studio audience and Mother Nature herself.

Robert wants a higher flicker frequency in the human eye. Helen suggests we all become extreme free divers with the breath holding abilities of the sperm whale.

The audience want improved cooling systems, reduced urination, lego wrists and multi-sensory anaesthesia. Simon pitches the arsenic resistant qualities of the Mono lake nematodes.

Which will make it onto the shortlist? And which will win? Have a listen to find out.

Mentioned this episode

Robot exo-skeleton: https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/exoskeleton-controlled-by-brain-signals-allows-disabled-man-to-walk/

Prosthetic sensory feedback: https://www.genengnews.com/news/prosthetic-leg-with-neural-sensory-feedback-shows-benefits-for-patients/

Thumbs are getting faster: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/oct/02/ready-text-go-typing-speeds-mobiles-rival-keyboard-users

Obama swats fly during CNBC interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rbUH_iVjYw

The marabou stork which urinates on its legs to cool itself down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5NCubQutpE

Arsenic resistant mono lake nematodes: https://gizmodo.com/scientists-find-three-sex-arsenic-resistant-nematode-i-1838497056

Support us

If you’re enjoying the podcast, you can support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/leveluphuman

Or leave us an iTunes review: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/level-up-human/id1096637285

Follow us

Twitter: twitter.com/leveluphuman

Facebook: facebook.com/leveluphuman

Instagram: instagram.com/leveluphuman

Level Up Human Series 2 with The Physiological Society

Level Up Human is a comedy science podcast asking a simple question: how would you redesign the human body?

My podcast, Level Up Human, is back for a brand new series!

The first series of the podcast was supported by the Wellcome Trust. This time we are working with the Physiological Society. We have a residency at the Barbican in London, and we’ve just launched the first episode of the new series.

Click here to listen

Episode details

Level Up Human is back redesigning the human body! This series we are supported by the Physiological Society. This episode was created with the help of the Society for Endocrinology, a world leading authority on hormones.

This episode was recorded at the Barbican as part of the Life Rewired season. Host Simon Watt and judge Rachel Wheeley are joined by Dr. Miles Levy, consultant endocrinologist and honorary associate professor at University Hospitals of Leicester. And by Dr. Clare Jonas, psychologist and blogger at That Thinking Feeling.

We asked Clare onto the podcast to talk about synaesthesia, a condition in which one sense is perceived as if by one or more additional senses. Clare tells us how she can ‘see’ the calendar, and explains loads more about synaesthesia: what it is, and how it would be great if everyone had it.

Miles is working on ‘liquid biopsies’ which might allow us to detect cancerous tumours via blood test in the future. He has lots to say on the pituitary gland, the ‘conductor of the endocrine-orchestra’ and explains how the condition acromegaly inspired the name of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

If you’d like to see us live, we’re in the middle of a residency at the Barbican in London. Please join us on October 28th and November 7th 2019. You can reserve free tickets at https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/level-up-human

Episode summary

The team have brought news stories from the world of science to share before we kick off the pitches. Clare explains why elephants are basically cancer-proof, Miles sings the praises of the pituitary, and Rach has tardigrade news.

Then we hear pitches for how we should redesign the human body from each of the panellists, the studio audience and Mother Nature herself.

Clare would like every human to have synaesthesia and Miles would like to tone down testosterone. The audience want to eat like termites, recognise faces better and have more control of adrenaline. Simon really wants to make humans stripy. Which suggestions will make it onto Rach’s shortlist?

Mentioned this episode

Synaesthesia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

Acromegaly: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acromegaly

The Hyrax: does this sound like a video recorder rewinding to you?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF3rPvzTPF4

Video recorder, for the under 35s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videocassette_recorder

Tardigrades could hold the key to treating life-threatening injuries: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/01/could-an-extremophile-hold-the-secret-to-treatment-of-devastating-injuries/

Pareidolia (recognising faces in inanimate objects): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia

Prosopagnosia (face blindness): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopagnosia

Extracts

“The pituitary gland is the most under-rated gland in the whole body. It is the size of a pea and it’s the conductor of the endocrine-orchestra (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, ovaries, testes, pancreas and all other glands in the body.) It controls every hormone in the body. It’s the most important, yet the most misunderstood and ignored part of the body.” – Miles Levy

“Everyone should have synaesthesia. It’s a completely harmless, possibly even helpful neurological condition where your senses get mixed up. So you might see colours when you’re listening to music, you might taste words, or in my case, you might see the calendar and numbers and letters of the alphabet all laid out in space in front of you which is hugely useful.” – Clare Jonas

“Mums are better. Actually, Grandmothers are better. Grandparents have the knowledge. They remember the last time there was a famine and we had to eat those weird berries. So old people are basically libraries of the past. They are a repository of knowledge that we have to keep.” – Simon Watt

Support us

If you’re enjoying the podcast, you can support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/leveluphuman

Or leave us an iTunes review: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/level-up-human/id1096637285

Follow us

Twitter: twitter.com/leveluphuman

Facebook: facebook.com/leveluphuman

Instagram: instagram.com/leveluphuman

Coming Up with ‘New’ Ideas

First of all, forget new ideas. There aren’t any. See through toaster? Already exists. Dusting drones? Done. DIY bath milk? What are you even talking about Harriet, that’s not a thing. Oh alright then, it is.

Whatever you come up with, it won’t be new. New is just old + old smooshed into a ball. All the way back to, “I wonder what happens if I bang these rocks together?”

Think about it. See through toaster = toaster + window. Dusting drones = drone + your Nan. You can work out the bath milk one.

Point is, you’ve got nothing. I’ve got nothing. Nobody’s got anything – every thought has been thought before. The good news is, it doesn’t matter. Smashing old ideas together is a valid way to become Elon Musk/Cardi B/any other entrepreneur you can think of.

How is it done though?

Years ago, this dude J.W.Young wrote a thing about how to come up with fresh stuff. He was in advertising, so we can assume he had to produce every day. He didn’t believe in ‘new’ either.

Here’s his method:

  1. Collect ‘materials’. Both general materials and those specific to what you’re making.
  2. Digest the stuff. Here we have to be like a ‘curious octopus.’ Pick each thing up, feel it all over like a randy, sorry, curious octopus. Feel for the meaning of it. Bring two things together, see how they fit. You’re looking for relationships and ‘synergies’.
  3. This is my favourite part. ‘Make absolutely no effort of a direct nature.’ I read this as: take the afternoon off and go to the pub.
  4. The ‘A-ha’ moment. Yes! This is what we’ve been waiting for. The ‘new’ idea hits us as we soak in a tub full of bath milk. There’s nowhere to write it down so we squirt it as best we can on the wall in Original Source Shower Gel.
  5. Idea meets reality. “The cold, grey dawn of the morning after.” We’ve all been there. See if the thing has legs. Tell people whose thoughts you value for feedback.

The good idea, according to Young, has ‘self-expanding qualities.’ If a friend thinks of things to add, you may be onto something. If they say nothing but nod politely as their eyes glaze gently over, you might want to drop it.

Coming back to his method years later, Young added that pursuing ‘general materials’ for the idea producer’s reservoir is best done as an end in itself, rather than whilst boning up for something.

With thanks to Maria Popova at Brain Pickings for an article about Young and a bunch of other stuff on creativity, productivity and how to be a human in the world.

Do creative projects have a life of their own?

“There are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.

The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.” – George RR Martin

This gave me great hope when I read it a few weeks ago.

“Maybe I’m a gardener!” I thought to myself, watering some tomato plants. Maybe that’s why I’m rubbish at writing long stuff. I get scared by the bigness of a project and dive into a completely alien way of working.

Maybe, I think, if I work out what all the sections of this are, and plan it to the nth degree, then eventually I’ll just fill in the detail in all the little compartments I’ve created and the thing will be finished and beautifully structured.

But I just don’t work like that. Neil Gaiman explains his writing method:

“Your first draft can go way off the rails, your first draft can absolutely go up in flames, it can — you can change the age, gender, number of a character, you can bring somebody dead back to life. Nobody ever needs to know anything that happens in your first draft. It is you telling the story to yourself.

Then, I’ll sit down and type. I’ll put it onto a computer, and as far as I’m concerned, the second draft is where I try and make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.” – Neil Gaiman (The Tim Ferriss Show”)

Another gardener! Write it, allow anything at all to happen, and then pick out the bits that make up an elegant plot in draft 2. He even goes on to say he prefers hand-writing his first drafts because then he can pick out the bits he wants when typing up, rather than having to delete whole pages of work on the computer.

Then I listened to another interview today which suggests that we may not be in control of our creative projects at all.

A true creator knows that you follow the thing to where it’s going, not where you think it ought to go.” – Adam Savage (via Tim Ferriss, again.)

Now that’s really interesting.

Is it that a creative project has a life of its own, and we’re not the master of the thing we came up with at all?

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

It’s all very well for people of extraordinary vision like Michelangelo, but not everything is captured inside a block of marble. And if it is, not everybody can see the statue. Some just see a very difficult and painful afternoon.

I guess if you look at it from outside your own skull and the point in time that you’re at, every creative project has a trajectory and a rate of ‘success’, but we can’t see all of it from the beginning.

So maybe the point is just to set off along the path, and see where we get to.

Level Up Human Live at the Barbican

Life rewired

Level Up Human, the podcast that redesigns the human body, is back at the Barbican!

The Barbican’s Life Rewired season considers what it means to be human when technology is changing everything. Is it enhancing our lives, challenging our identities, or both?

Join evolutionary revolutionary Simon Watt, hormone champion Dr. Miles Levy and me to give the body an almighty overhaul in this brand new episode.

Join us!