If you love “13 Minutes to the Moon”

13 Minutes to the Moon is a BBC podcast telling the story of the first Moon landing and all that led up to it and it’s gripping listening featuring recordings from the time, great music and great story telling.

However, if you want to dig deeper I would recommend the Omega Tau podcast episodes about the Apollo missions. I already blogged about them but it’s worth repeating since there’s probably a whole new audience that will want to hear more!

Episode 83 is an interview with W. David Woods about his book How Apollo Flew to the Moon:

… where he describes in great length all the detail a geek wants to know about how the Apollo spacecraft and the flights to the Moon worked. In the episode, we basically go through an Apollo mission and discuss aspects such as the mission structure, the workshare between the crew and mission control, communication and telemetry, guidance and navigation, approach, landing and re-launch on the Moon as well as re-entry and landing on earth.

In episode 97 he returned to talk about exploring the Moon!

This is the long-awaited follow-up to the first Apollo episode, once again with W. David Woods, author of How Apollo Flew to the Moon. In this episode we cover that part that we omitted in the first episode: the time on the moon. We talk about life support, the various scientific instruments and experiments as well as the technology and use of the lunar rover (about which David is actually writing another book).

If you’re really interested in the Apollo Guidance Computer you’ll love episode 167.

This episode is a mix between computer architecture, programming and (historic) space flight. We cover the ins and outs of the Apollo Guidance Computer. Our guest is Frank O’Brien, who wrote an incredibly detailed book about this machine. In the episode we cover the hardware architecture, the instruction set, the various layers (native, executive and interpreter) as well as some mission programs.

Follow those interviews up with episode 218, A Life in Apollo where Markus interviews George Knudsen about the Saturn 5 launch vehicle and Apollo.

George Knudsen started working in 1958 on the Redstone missile, and moved on to working on the Atlas ICBM. Later he worked on the Saturn 5 launch vehicle, where he was responsible for the fuel tanks. He was on the launch team at Cape Canaveral for various Apollo missions. In this episode with talk with George about his work in this fascinating period of science and engineering history.

The Omega Tau podcast has been going for many years and they have episodes on all sorts of engineering and scientific topics. For other episodes related to Apollo have a look at this search on his blog listing many more episodes.

The Antarctic Whale Hunters

Photo: A whale on the flensing plan at Grytviken, South Georgia, 1914-17 (Photo by Frank Hurley/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images)

One of my favourite podcasts is Witness by the BBC World Service. In each episode they talk to people who were there at moments in history. There are some amazing stories in their archive. Each episode is an easy to digest twelve to fourteen minutes long.

In the latest episode Gibbie Fraser talks about his time on a whale catcher in the Antarctic in the 1950s and 60s.

Other episodes that stand out for me:

There are 2348 episodes in their archive, so something for all tastes.

The Supernova in the East

The latest episode of Hardcore History is another amazing audio tour through history, even if Dan Carlin himself says he is unqualified and it might not be completely accurate. He’s a great story teller. This one covers the rise of Japan in the early twentieth century and beyond.

Dan’s coverage of the Manchurian Incident reminded me I have to re-read the Tintin story, “The Blue Lotus“. Hergé definitely applied his imagination when recounting how the train track was blown up but I’d never have known about that period of time if I had never read that book.

And similarly, I wouldn’t have known the railway track was barely damaged if I hadn’t listened to Hardcore History!

Go Listen to Ezra Klein

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When I find myself stopping a podcast a minute or so before the end because I want to be reminded to share it, I know I’ve found something that others will enjoy.

When I find that it happens more than once I know I should just write a blog post about the podcast and encourage anyone reading to go subscribe.

This happened recently with The Ezra Klein Show. I loved his interviews with Andrew Sullivan on his Catholic faith, why he gave up blogging and Donald Trump. There’s also the one with Arianna Huffington who talked about sleep, death and social media.

There was also the one a while back with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, that did not turn out the way I thought it would.

Go listen, you (hopefully) won’t regret it!

Sounds of the Irish Smoking Ban

The Irish Smoking Ban

It’s hard to believe that smoking was banned in the workplace in Ireland in 2004. It was a huge change but very welcome (by most) and the best thing a Fianna Fail government ever did.

Listen to this Witness podcast on the subject here to be brought back eleven years.

Since the ban it became clear that a bunch of dancing sweaty people consuming alcohol are a smelly lot but the increased ventilation that some nightclubs have installed has helped. 🙂

Samy is my Hero

Samy Kamkar

I started listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast after Matt Mullenweg was interviewed by him and I’ve been hooked since.
Tim’s interview with Samy Kamkar is really interesting as he’s the guy who launched the Samy computer worm that infected MySpace back in 2005. It was a little chunk of Javascript code that added itself to MySpace profiles, added Samy as a friend and added him as a hero of the visitor. They took down MySpace to clean it out!

Since then he’s had a really interesting life and the interview covers many subjects like hacking online dating and opening locked cars by hacking their key fobs. Nice to see he’s a Vim user too! 🙂

Check it out here.

Is it better to be fearful or fearless?

“It seems like such an odd bargain. If you have no fear, more terrible things will happen to you, but you don’t personally experience them as terrible. If you have a lot of fear, fewer bad things are likely to happen, but it’s very probable that your life is more painful to you. So is it better to be fearful or fearless? Which side of the continuum do you choose?”

Invisibilia

From NPR’s new podcast, Invisibilia, Fearless. A transcript is also available.

NPR’s Serial podcast was the hottest thing last year in the podcast world. People started listening to podcasts who had never done so before to follow the story. I hated it. They dragged things out and I got bored and unsubscribed after 3 or 4 episodes. Invisibilia is NPR back on form. It’ll blow your mind. Great show.

What’s Bill Gates up to now?

It’s still weird to me that Bill Gates is one of the good guys now. As head of Microsoft he was a ruthless business man who ran a monopoly that every Linux user despised. Since then Microsoft has faltered, or at least the computing arena has changed since the nineties and they’re still catching up.

Anyway, he and his wife now head the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that do amazing work combating disease and helping projects all over the world. For a taste of what they do here are two podcasts worth listening to:

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  • Bill Gates on the Nerdist Podcast. I loved hearing his anecdotes from the early days of computing but what was more interesting was hearing about the fight against polio.
  • Scientific American have a two part show here and here that I’m listening to now.