Astronomy Cast

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I came to a startling (for me, anyway) realization a few weeks ago.  It was this: of all the entertainment channels available to me in this media-saturated world, the one that I actually spend most time being entertained by is podcasts.  Yes, I spend more time listening to podcasts than I do reading, watching TV, whatever.

The reason’s pretty obvious, when you think about it.  Audio is the one form of entertainment you can slot into a multi-tasking arrangement, so I can consume podcasts while driving, walking, shopping, picking my nose etc.  Now I could do the same thing with radio, of course – and to some extent I do – but being a podcast junkie is like having in my pocket a constantly available radio station wherein every single bit of content has been personally selected by me to conform to my eclectic tastes.  Awesome, in short.  I’ve thought for a long time that podcasting is one of the more under-rated wonders that the internet has delivered to us.

So, I thought I’d embark on an occasional series of posts here highlighting podcast episodes I’ve listened to and enjoyed recently.

To kick things off, I offer up for your consideration Astronomy Cast #246.

My favourite recent edition of an often interesting podcast, in which knowledgeable folks discuss a question of interest to armchair astronomers, science fiction fans and writers alike: What If Something Was Different?  By which they mean, what would be the implications for Earth, life and everything if some of the circumstances surrounding our planet’s location, evolution or condition had been different.  They address all sorts of stuff from the cosmic – what if the Earth’s Sun had been one of those formed in the very, very early stages of the Universe’s life? – to the more local – what if Earth had a different number of moons?

It’s mind-expanding stuff, not only in making you think about seriously big picture stuff and providing a bit of pretty accessible cosmological education, but also in marvelling at the capacity of the human species to ask, and at least partially answer, questions like this.  If you feel your mind could do with a bit of expansion today, do go give it a listen.

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I have, on occasion in the past, produced a miscellanies of assorted nonsense here in honour of the festive season.  I do like to keep a tradition going, so here we are.  This time around, just a randomish concoction of audio-visual amusements.

Audio first.

In the science category, the Astronomy Cast is a relatively new discovery for me, and I commend to you a recent special edition they did concentrating on Strange Stuff in Spaaaaace.  Lots of their episodes are fun and informative too, so give them a browse.

In the fiction category, not one but two Christmas stories (this year and last) from Tim Pratt (one of my favourite short fiction writers) and Heather Shaw, courtesy of Podcastle: the 2011 one is The Ghost of Christmas Possible, that from a year ago (probably my favourite) is a bonkers romp entitled The Christmas Mummy.

And in the ‘Writers Talking’ category, here’s a properly substantial interview with Steven Erikson, creator of the properly enormous Malazan series that began with Gardens of the Moon.  I found it extremely interesting, for all sorts of reasons which can perhaps best be summed up under the single heading of: ‘here’s a writer of epic fantasy who has thought deeply and seriously about what he’s doing’.  It’s an education in how much can be going on in an author’s head, and why their books turn out the way they do.  Also, it sounds like I’ve been mentally mispronouncing ‘Malazan’ all this time.  Who knew?

Books.  Kind of.

The book trailer is finally starting to come of age, I think.  Good ones are still extremely rare, but in recent weeks I’ve noticed a few pretty enticing ones showing up here and there.  I’ve absolutely no idea whether these things actually make a difference to sales, mind you; someone must think they might, though, or they wouldn’t exist.

Both of at those achieved at least this much: I’m curious about the books.  (Although I have to admit, I was already curious about the second one).

Clips, clips, clips

The last issue of SciFiNow I read had a loooong list of funny/interesting geeky clips that have appeared on the internet over the years.  I shamelessly (and lazily) harvested their suggestions to bring to you the following, which I offer without further comment. (And apologies for any irritating ads that may precede the start of the stuff that’s potentially funny or interesting).

Okay, suspending the no further comment thing for a moment, this next one’s an amazing thing to find buried in a list of geeky clips: the legendary Fritz Lang, creator of Metropolis, talks about his encounter with the Nazi propaganda machine. Did I say this is amazing?

And that’s it for now. See you in 2012.

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