September 24, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Our reviews editor Fatima talks to some of our colleagues about some of their favourite lockdown podcasts.

Fatima Sheriff
23rd April 2021

As we take a breather for Easter, I have once again collated more podcast recommendations for you to enjoy. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here, we talked about activism, meditation and the dizzying world of studies of… Onto the sequel!

Ruth – Reasons to Be Cheerful 

From the ashes of political defeat, a glorious podcast rises. Labour’s Ed Miliband lost the 2015 general election to David Cameron and subsequently resigned as party leader. Two years later radio presenter Geoff Lloyd approached him with an idea for a podcast. In 2017 the political scene seemed bleak in the wake of the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s presidential win. Reasons To Be Cheerful was created to discuss exciting new ideas with expert guides, from academics to activists, and solve the problems of our age.   

Despite the hosts being two middle-aged, middle-class, white men, which they often admit to and apologise for, the episodes are open-minded and progressive conversations. I enjoy the genuine banter between the two as Geoff often teases Ed about his lack of any pop-culture knowledge after the 1980s. This year when all seemed dark and dull, this podcast has lived up to its name! I come away from every episode having learnt something new but unlike other documentary-style podcasts, it does not feel like extra reading for my degree. 

My favourite episode this year was “140. Mobilising a zero-carbon army: green jobs for young people”, though I may be biased as an environmentalist and a young person who wants a job (cry)! The episode started off with a historian talking about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s civilian conservation corps which was a solution to unemployment following the great depression. They followed up, speaking to campaigners about our similar state of affairs now due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and the pressing need to respond to the climate crisis. 

I recommend Reasons To Be Cheerful to those who are interested in politics and society but are frustrated with the depressing coverage that fills the news. The episodes are an hour long so perfect for a commute or your daily allowed exercise in lockdown.   

Ed and Geoff recording their 100th episode. Reasons to be Cheerful can be found on their website and wherever you get your podcasts – https://www.cheerfulpodcast.com/ 

Lily – You’re Dead to Me 

“A history podcast for people who don’t like history – or at least people who forgot to learn any at school”. Hosted by Horrible Histories’ “chief nerd” Greg Jenner, You’re Dead To Me spans roughly 400,000 years of human history; from our hominid cousins the Neanderthals, to the history of chocolate, witches to LGBTQ history, there’s an episode for everyone.   

Joined by an expert in the topic and a curious comedian, Greg steers the conversation to cover the basics, the weird, the wonderful, and the downright disturbing, with a mini quiz at the end! Comedian guests have included Tim Minchin, Phil Wang, Shappi Khorsandi, and Athena Kugblenu. Sadly, no professors from my beloved University of Reading’s archaeology department have been featured, nor anyone from Imperial College London… yet! Though I have no favourite episode, the history of chocolate sticks out in my mind, but that might just be because I love food history and juicy scandals!   

I came across this podcast as an aspiring Greg Jenner 2.0 myself. Since graduating from my undergraduate degree in archaeology I felt incredibly disheartened to know that the field I love so deeply is massively underfunded, with the main career paths being an academic, digging in the cold rain for minimum wage or council planning. 

You’re Dead To Me and the televised love of my live Horrible Histories reminded me that there are more ways to engage in archaeology and helped motivate me to take the step of applying for this course! Like most of us, I have no idea what I’ll be doing come the end of this masters but knowing that this series exists gives me something to aim towards and hope that I’ll be able to find work I’ll enjoy (especially in a pandemic-induced recession – I need all the hope I can find).  

So, if you find yourself asking ‘where did Mary Shelley first have sex?’, ‘how accurate is Total War’s depiction of the Mongol Empire?’, or ‘which was the first pre-modern culture to have universal education?’, then oh gosh will you have your questions answered! 

You’re Dead to Me is a BBC Radio 4 podcast that can be found on the BBC Sounds app and wherever you get your podcasts.  

Fatima – Miss Information: A Trivia Podcast

In vain I struggled to find a recommendation that our readers would enjoy but probably wouldn’t have heard of, I’m sure No Such Thing as A Fish and Off Menu can handle themselves. But in February, as I studied hard for quizzing, I tried out a lot of densely informative podcasts like History of Literature and In Our Time. Both were helpful, but too dry to casually listen or binge several episodes in a row. Then I came across Miss Information on Spotify and got addicted to the great personalities and dedication to puns. 

Hosted by Lauren and Julia, who work in museum curation in the state of New York, they take turns covering a different trivia topic. Sometimes this leans into their specialisms, like Lauren’s art history series on “What Are You Some Kind of Rembrandt?” and in others they delve into topics outside their comfort zone like Julia’s episodes on biology. At the end there is a fun quiz, which may or may not be tangentially related to the topic at hand. For instance, after an episode on prolific speculative fiction author Octavia Butler, the quiz that followed was called ‘The Butler Did It’, describing fictional butlers and asking for their story of origin, very entertaining!

I have no particular episode to recommend, it all depends on your interests and there’s over 190 episodes to choose from. In keeping with the title of the podcast, they’ve covered a lot of brilliant women, like Dorothy Parker to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Some that I thought useful for quiz were episode 99 – It’s Element-ary, a concise overview of the periodic table and their word origins and 159 – Once Upon a Time, on opening lines of novels, which both come up a lot! But whatever they cover, they are utterly delightful and you can be sure to learn something entertaining for your next zoom quiz!

Miss Information can be found wherever you find your podcasts and on their website https://www.missinfopod.com/


Fatima Sheriff is a freelance film critic, academic quizzer and part-time Science Communication student. She can be found on Twitter @sheriffscience and a compilation of her other good words can be found at http://fatimasheriff.contently.com