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The 15 best science podcasts

From hard, heavy-hitting science news to comedy shows with a cerebral edge, here are the best science podcasts

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski

There are a lot of science podcasts out there, from easily accessible shows for curious kids to heavy shows for boffin-y adults and all points in between. In fact, ‘science’ really does cover an awful lot of stuff, be it nature, tech, space, or just asking scientists questions about their jobs. What unites this list is a common belief in bringing the wonders of science to a wider audience and – to a lesser extent – being paid for by the British taxpayer: there’s little denying that a lot of the best science podcasts are either made by the BBC, or by venerable British science journals. To which we say: thanks, the BBC, and enjoy!

🗞 The best news podcasts
🕰 The best history podcasts
The best political podcasts
😂 The best comedy podcasts
📖 The best fiction podcasts

Best science podcasts, ranked

Nobody does a nature documentary like the BBC, and the British broadcasting giant’s flagship nature podcast is inevitably a stunner too. Trading spectacular visuals for lushly immersive sound recordings, the magazine show-style episodes revolve around a rotating group of world-class experts presenting a slot each in the half-hour ish shows. As you’d imagine, budget is effectively no limit on these lavish (*by science podcast standards) shows - the flipside of that is that they’re not churned out every week but made in relatively concise seasons. But the entire back catalogue is a joy to explore while waiting for new stuff.

The granddaddy of US scientific and philosophical podcasts, WNYC’s ‘Radiolab’ has been running for two decades, albeit in limited annual seasons. For most of its history, it was hosted by its founders Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich - the two are still synonymous with the show, though it’s now presented by Latif Nasser and Lulu Miller. The idea is still the same; clever scientific and philosophical conundrums posed and answered over a stylishly composed hour.


Yet another one more from the BBC, the World Service's flagship tech programme is a weekly must-listen for anyone interested in the latest practical developments and debates in technology. While there are certain engagements with the big global headlines - inevitably, there are episodes devoted to Elon Musk’s latest shenanigans - what is particularly great is that it brings together stories from around the globe. You’re as likely to happen across an episode on Afrofuturism or Tonga’s recent internet woes (if you’re not aware, it’s a long story) as the latest Western developments.

Wendy Zukerman’s crusading podcast uses the sword of science to test, fact check and often dispel popular cultural myths and misconceptions. It was particularly busy during the height of the pandemic, and Zukerman has been very punchy about criticising Spotify - for whom ‘Science Vs’ is currently made exclusively - over disinformation spread by Joe Rogan and his ilk, at one point declaring that her show would switch to functioning purely as a fact check show for other Spotify shows. That spat is resolved, for now, leaving the show to get back to its more traditional wide-ranging, gently humorous form,


There are a lot of scientists talking about science on these podcasts - but not very many where the scientists talk about themselves. Well, that’s just what the BBC’s ‘The Life Scientific’ does. Hosted by Jim Al-Khalili, each week’s episode profiles a different living scientist and their work. Considering the number of shows offering interviews with authors, entrepreneurs and the like, it’s a strangely radical idea to put scientists centre stage, but the results are always compelling.

Each week on ‘Ologies’, host Alie Ward really does interview a different person with ‘ologist’ at the end of their job title… and it turns out there there are a lot of them. As you’ve probably gathered, it’s a fairly tongue-in-cheek affair, and part of Ward’s shtick is throwing wilfully dumb slash facetious questions at her interviewees. Nonetheless, the silliness is just a spoonful of sugar to help some fascinating profiles of those who don’t often end up in the spotlight go down.


Another BBC show - the British taxpayer would seem to underwrite at least 10 percent of the world’s science podcasts - ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’ is a kind of experimental hybrid of science and comedy. It is, in fact, quite heavy on the science, being hosted by actual scientist Brian Cox plus cerebral comic Robin Ince. But they bring a nicely absurdist eye to the universe’s big questions, while the show’s chief ‘gimmick’ of throwing a comedian in alongside the week’s two scientist guests.

There’s a rich world of science podcasts for kids out there, of which we’ll just include this fine one from NPR here. Given that ‘Brains On!’ is full of information and facts that adults won’t know either, there’s absolutely no reason all ages can’t enjoy - but if you’re looking for something improving for the young ones, ‘kids podcast’ means relatively short, accessible episodes that tend to focus more on quirky/charming nature-related subjects each week rather than screaming existential threats.


If you’re looking for something overtly fun, look no further than British podcast ‘Science(ish)’, in which host Rick Edwards and his scientific foil Dr Michael Brooks take a look under the bumper of various cultural icons and see how they might be scientifically possible. We’re largely talking sci-fi, from ‘The Invisible Man’ to ‘Deadpool’, and the show does a great job of walking the line between pointing out the improbability of concepts like, say, The Force while informatively exploring what relative parallels might exist with real life. A relatively short new season tends to show up at the end of every year, but the back catalogue is great.

NASA’s in-house podcast deserves to be on this list for that name alone. Don’t expect the banter levels to quite match the title, but if you’re at all interested in the science of space and space travel, then ‘Houston, We Have A Podcast’ – which draws upon the many experts who work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – is for you. It’s been running weekly for years, and the subject matter is inevitably wildly diverse, from interviews with astronauts to descriptions of the latest experiments being conducted on the International Space Station.


Probably the best science ‘news’ podcast there is, New Scientist magazine’s flagship podcast sees a rotating weekly panel discussing three of the biggest science headlines of the week. The podcast is usually a mix of actively massive global news stuff (say, women’s reproductive rights in the US, or Covid developments) and more niche but still interesting stories. If you’re a layperson looking to ‘keep up’ with scientific developments and thinking, this is the podcast for you.

This long-running New England-based show - it’s the official podcast of the New England Skeptics Society! - rounds up recent scientific developments in an accessible way for non-PhD audiences and also – as the title suggests – brings a healthy dose of scepticism to bear, with each episode featuring time set aside to tackle conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. It’s a rather quirky show, made on a relative shoestring, which is all part of the appeal.


The weekly podcast of the extremely long-running British scientific journal is essentially a digest, putting the best of the week’s stories up in audio form, usually twice a week. If you’re unfamiliar with Nature the journal, then it covers the gamut of modern science and is pretty darn highbrow, and it can probably help most people to have a spoken word version. Articles chosen do tend to be from the more fun and accessible end of the (broad) spectrum, and there are regular ’CoronaPods’ gathering up the latest thinking on the ongoing pandemic.

Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick’s podcast is focused on stuff to make you go ‘whoa’: wild natural phenomena, unbelievably scientific developments and spine-tingling existential questions. In fact, it’s actually focused on quite a lot of things: ‘Stuff to Blow Your Mind’ runs daily through the week and contains (amongst other things) sci-fi cinema strands and regular discussions of monsters in pop culture. Take the whole thing in, or simply tune in for the science bits.


Okay, the episodes are generally closer to six minutes. But you get the impression: Scientific American’s mini-podcast is extremely snappy stuff, breaking down the week’s big scientific stories and developments into extremely manageable short-form shows that hit all the essential notes without blinding you with science. If it leaves you hankering for something more substantial, dive into Scientific American’s longer form show ‘Science Talk’.


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