Brain Food

The Best Podcasts to Make You Smarter (2019)

One of the best reasons to listen to podcasts is to learn something new. We've gathered the very best podcasts that will add a little bit of knowledge to every day. Listen on Alexa to "Learn Something Radio" or to the "Brain Food" station in the Scout FM apps to listen to all of these and find your new favorite.

Curated by Cara Meverden

Fan of podcasts, movies, TV, and random pieces of trivia. Dog lover and software maker.

1. Hidden Brain

Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.

Oct 14, 2019
The Lonely American Man
Boys get the message at a young age: don't show your feelings. Don't rely on anyone.
2. Freakonomics Radio

Oct 17, 2019
Can Britain Get Its “Great” Back?
Britain used to be a global capital of innovation, invention, and exploration. Now it’s best known for its messy European divorce.
3. The Science of Happiness

Learn research-tested strategies for a happier, more meaningful life, drawing on the science of compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, and awe.

Oct 10, 2019
Finding Beauty in the Everyday
A tree next to a bus stop, a flower poking through the sidewalk. Awe and wonder can be found anywhere.
4. How I Built This

Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.

Oct 14, 2019
Milk Bar: Christina Tosi
For Christina Tosi, baking wasn't just a delicious childhood hobby – it was a daily creative outlet and a way to blow off steam.
5. Part-Time Genius

Will and Mango have lots of questions. Will we ever live without sleep? How do rats keep outsmarting humans? Where are the sunniest tax havens to hide your money? Join these Part-Time Geniuses as they dive into ridiculous topics.

Oct 16, 2019
Who Invented the Dunce Cap?
Why is there a bull on the Elmer's glue bottle? What did kids use to carry their books around before they had backpacks?
6. Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

Oct 15, 2019
How Project Blue Book Worked, Part 1
In June of 1947, a flying saucer was sighted by a pilot in Washington.
7. TED Talks Daily

Oct 16, 2019
A circular economy for salt that keeps rivers clean
During the winter of 2018-2019, one million tons of salt were applied to icy roads in the state of Pennsylvania alone.
8. Throughline

The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Oct 17, 2019
A Borrowed Time
Over the past six months, demonstrations in Hong Kong have increasingly become more violent and more determined.
9. 1619

In August of 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the British colony of Virginia. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began.

Oct 5, 2019
The Land of Our Fathers, Part 1
A century and a half after the promise of 40 acres and a mule, the story of black land ownership remains one of loss and dispossession.
10. Short Wave

New discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. It's science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Join host Maddie Sofia for science on a different wavelength.

Oct 17, 2019
The Squishy Science Behind ASMR
The science is nascent and a little squishy, but researchers are trying to better understand ASMR.
11. 99% Invisible

Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture.

Oct 15, 2019
Unsure Footing
Soccer players used to run out the clock by passing to the goalkeeper, who would pick it up and wait before throwing it back into play.
12. Revisionist History

Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell's journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time.

Sep 19, 2019
Malcolm Gladwell on Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations
Malcolm Gladwell speaks with Oprah Winfrey about his new book Talking to Strangers.
13. Science Vs

There are a lot of fads, blogs and strong opinions, but then there’s SCIENCE. Science Vs is the show from Gimlet Media that finds out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between.

Oct 11, 2019
If a pandemic ripped across the world, how bad would it really get?
14. Constitutional

With the writing of the Constitution in 1787, the framers set out a young nation’s highest ideals. And ever since, we’ve been fighting over it — what is in it and what was left out. At the heart of these arguments is the story of America.

15. Radiolab

A two-time Peabody Award-winner, Radiolab is an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea. In the Radiolab world, information sounds like music and science and culture collide. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the show is designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder.

Oct 16, 2019
Dolly Parton's America
In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why?
16. Invisibilia

Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.

Sep 20, 2019
The Profile
A mysterious profile pops up on a dating app - leading to a bubble of chaos and confusion.
17. TED Radio Hour

Guy Raz explores the emotions, insights, and discoveries that make us human. The TED Radio Hour is a narrative journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, and new ways to think and create.

Oct 11, 2019
Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it.
18. Planet Money

Oct 16, 2019
Blockchain Gang
Charlie Shrem went from living in his parents' basement, to bitcoin millionaire, to federal prison in just a few years.
19. Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

Oct 7, 2019
Bart Simpson Mania
In the early 1990's Bart Simpson became a breakout star while also becoming a target in the culture war.
20. Fresh Air

Fresh Air from WHYY, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate conversations with today's biggest luminaries.

Oct 16, 2019
Novelist Attica Locke
Attica Locke says her new novel, 'Heaven, My Home,' "was about place before it was about a character."
21. Retropod

Retropod is a show for history lovers, featuring stories about the past, rediscovered. Host Mike Rosenwald introduces you to history’s most colorful characters - forgotten heroes, overlooked villains, dreamers, explorers, world changers.

Oct 16, 2019
America and warfare were never the same after World War I
The "Great War" generated memorable literature, geopolitical upheaval, disillusion, the Russian Revolution and the seeds of World War II.
22. Brain Stuff

Whether the topic is popcorn or particle physics, you can count on BrainStuff to explore -- and explain -- the everyday science in the world around us.

Oct 17, 2019
How Does Photosynthesis Power Life on Earth?
Plants turn sunlight into food via photosynthesis, which is pretty amazing.
23. WSJ’s The Future of Everything

24. The Indicator from Planet Money

A little show about big ideas. From the people who make Planet Money, The Indicator helps you make sense of what's happening today. It's a quick hit of insight into work, business, the economy, and everything else. Listen weekday afternoons.

Oct 16, 2019
How Stories Shape The Economy
Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller talks about his new book, which looks at how narratives drive economic change.
25. Endless Thread

The front page of the Internet--also known as Reddit--is making noise. Hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson dig into the site's vast and curious ecosystem of online communities.

Oct 10, 2019
Snacktime: Endless Dread
Tales about a frightening curse and a memorable first date.
26. This Podcast Will Kill You

This podcast might not actually kill you, but it covers so many things that can. Each episode tackles a different disease, from its history, to its biology, and finally, how scared you need to be.

Sep 3, 2019
Lyme Disease: I'd like to check you for ticks
For our last episode of this season, we’re going out with a bang, or should we say bite?
27. Ologies

Take away a pocket full of science knowledge and charming, bizarre stories about what fuels these professional -ologists' obsessions.

Oct 15, 2019
Invisible but stronger than steel. Architectural marvels. Things that stick to your face. Spiderwebs are more than just Halloween decor.
28. Thinking Allowed

New research on how society works.

Oct 16, 2019
Serial killers
A look at the media and cultural responses to the child murders committed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley two decades ago.
29. Stupid Genius

Stupid Genius is the brainchild of YouTuber, Emma Chamberlain. In every episode she takes a puzzling question, like "Why do onions make us cry?," and is given three guesses to try to solve it. Will she be able to do it?

Oct 17, 2019
How Do Tornadoes Start?
Emma has experienced a plethora of earthquakes, but thankfully, she's never seen a tornado.
30. Against the Rules

Journalist and bestselling author Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker, Moneyball) takes a searing look at what’s happened to fairness—in financial markets, newsrooms, basketball games, courts of law, and much more.

May 21, 2019
Malcolm Gladwell and Conversational Delight
Malcolm Gladwell discusses podcasting, referees, and the magic of “conversational delight.”
31. Invention

From agriculture to the X-ray machine, Stuff to Blow Your Mind hosts Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the inventions we created, and how they created us.

Oct 7, 2019
Casket-a-go-go, Part 1
Sure, caskets and coffins are essentially just containers for the dead, but we stash far more than our corpses inside them.
32. Ephemeral

The best source on our cultural identity is not the official, historical record — ask any anthropologist, it’s the town dump. Ephemera — those things that were just barely saved, and in some cases not saved at all.

Sep 30, 2019
Handmade Records
Why put music on plastic in 2019?
33. Adam Ruins Everything

First, on the Adam Ruins Everything TV show, Adam Conover broke down widespread misconceptions about everything we take for granted. Now, join Adam as he sits down with the experts and stars from the show to go into even more detail.

Mar 8, 2018
The Value of Preserving Classic 'Girl' Video Games
Do you remember all of those video games that were made for girls back in the 90s? They aren't being archived properly. Why not?
34. Stuff They Don't Want You To Know

From UFOs to psychic powers and government conspiracies, history is riddled with unexplained events. You can turn back now or learn the Stuff They Don't Want You To Know.

Oct 16, 2019
Smart Devices and Surveillance
If you're like more than ninety percent of Americans, you own a cellphone of some kind.
35. Baby Geniuses

Baby Geniuses is a show for people who know stuff and people who don't know stuff, but would like to.

Oct 14, 2019
Groom of the Stool
Everyone still working on their Halloween costumes? No? Just us?
36. Sidedoor

More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults, but where public view ends, Sidedoor begins. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists, hear stories that can’t be found anywhere else.

Oct 16, 2019
This Episode Smells
Smell connects us to memories of the people and the places of our lives.
37. Reveal

From prisons to protests, immigration to the environment, Peabody Award-winning Reveal goes deep into the pressing issues of our times.

Oct 12, 2019
Losing ground
In 1996, Eddie Wise, the son of a sharecropper, purchased a farm. Twenty years later, the USDA foreclosed.
38. The Impact

In Washington, the story often ends when Congress passes a law. For The Impact, that’s where the story begins. Each season, Sarah Kliff investigates the way policy shapes people’s lives.

Dec 14, 2018
Denmarks paternity leave problem
Denmark gives new parents nearly a year off work after they have a baby. But dads take barely any time at all.
39. Every Little Thing

ELT is here to answer your burning questions. Especially if they are ridiculous. Or stupid. Or inconsequential.

Oct 14, 2019
Grand Theft Water Lily
Why would a garden-gloved thief lift a water lily from a botanical garden in London?
40. To the Best of Our Knowledge

To The Best Of Our Knowledge is a nationally-syndicated, Peabody award-winning public radio show that dives headlong into the deeper end of ideas.

Oct 12, 2019
The Power Of Pleasure and Joy
What if the most unselfish thing you could do was to pursue pleasure and joy?
41. Switched On Pop

What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.

Oct 15, 2019
A Brief History of Men Singing Really High
Men singing high is so ubiquitous in modern pop that we might take it granted, never pausing to ask: has it always been this way?
42. Reply All

Reply All is a podcast about the internet. But it's also about humanity, culture, relationships, art, and, well, just about everything else.

Oct 10, 2019
30-50 Feral Hogs
A legit question from a rural American.
43. Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood, “Make Me Smart with Kai & Molly” is a weekly podcast about the economy, technology and culture. In a time when the world is moving faster than ever, this podcast is where we unpack complex topics, together.

44. Drawn: The Story of Animation

Jul 10, 2018
The Villains
What makes the perfect villain in animation, and why do we love them so much?
45. 30 For 30 Podcasts

Original audio documentaries from the makers of the acclaimed 30 for 30 film series, featuring stories from the world of sports and beyond. 30 for 30 offers captivating storytelling for sports fans and general interest listeners alike.

46. The Allusionist

Linguistic adventures with Helen Zaltzman.

Oct 9, 2019
Late 2019 will see the biggest apple launch of our lifetimes.
47. Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. These grammar, punctuation, style, and business tips will make you a better and more successful writer. Grammar Girl is a Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast.

Oct 14, 2019
Compound Possession
How do you make a string of nouns possessive?
48. The Savvy Psychologist

Using a sympathetic ear and evidence-based research, she explains the ‘why’ behind emotions like joy, anger, fear, trust, and anxiety, and helps you better understand the relationships you form with your friends, family, coworkers, and yourself. The Savvy Psychologist is a Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast.

Oct 11, 2019
How to Politely Tune Out the Office Chatterbox
Is the office chatterbox driving you to distraction? We talk about how to tune them out.
49. Note to Self

Is your phone watching you? Can texting make you smarter? Are your kids real?

Oct 14, 2019
How to Create Good Digital Citizens
Right from wrong. We teach our kids what this means in the classroom and at home. But what about online?
50. Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI, is a smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts.

Oct 15, 2019
‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush
This Woman’s Work is a series of stories highlighting classic albums by female artists who have made a lasting impact on music and culture.
51. You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart is a show about psychology that celebrates science and self delusion. In each episode, we explore what we've learned so far about reasoning, biases, judgments, and decision-making.

Oct 7, 2019
Meetings are only bad if we make them bad, and since they are crucial to the cohesion of any institution, let's make them better.
52. The Organist

Take a weird, thoughtful and pleasurable journey into literature, music, art, philosophy, the internet, language, and history with McSweeney's and KCRW.

53. You're Wrong About...

Mike and Sarah are journalists obsessed with the past. Every week they reconsider an event, person or phenomenon that's been miscast in the public imagination.

Oct 3, 2019
Nicole Brown Simpson, Part 1
You think you know about Nicole Brown Simpson. But you're so wrong.
54. Simblified

A  fortnightly podcast that explains things in the news to help you appear smarter, to an audience that knows no less. Basically, we take topics and attempt to deconstruct them.

55. The Minefield - ABC RN

In a world marked by wicked social problems, The Minefield helps you negotiate the ethical dilemmas, contradictory claims and unacknowledged complicities of modern life.

56. All in the Mind

What are the limits, and the potential, of the human mind?

57. Mythology

Myths endure for a reason. This episodic audio drama brings ancient myths to life for the modern audience. Each episode presents exciting stories and analysis of each myth's history and origins, giving insight into how our ancestors saw the universe.

58. Weird Studies

Professor Phil Ford and writer/filmmaker J. F. Martel host a series of conversations on art and philosophy, dwelling on ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call "reality."

59. Getting Curious

A weekly exploration of all the things Jonathan Van Ness (Queer Eye, Gay of Thrones) is curious about. Come on a journey with Jonathan and experts in their respective fields as they get curious about anything and everything under the sun.

60. In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas.

61. Alternative Talk Seattle

Alternative Talk 1150AM is unlike any other talk radio format in Seattle. Topics include natural health, personal and financial growth, pet wellness, the psychic realm, issues important to today’s busy woman, and even foreign language programming

62. Civics 101

Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College? How do congressional investigations work? What does the minority whip actually do? Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.

63. Colin's Last Stand: Fireside Chats

Fireside Chats is an eclectic interview podcast that endeavors to expose the world to a litany of unique and interesting people. Each Wednesday, a new episode goes live chatting with a different person about a different subject.

64. Common Sense with Dan Carlin

Common Sense with Dan Carlin is an independent look at politics and current events from popular New Media personality Dan Carlin.

65. Perception Gaps

This 10-part series explores different topics in which people's perception, or what they think is true, doesn't actually line up with reality. We call that a perception gap, and our goal is to help highlight areas where this happens.

66. The Eastern Border

A podcast about the politics and the history of the eastern Europe - including, but not limited to the current state of Russia, politics of the EU, history of the USSR and the region in general.

67. The Forum

Discover world history, culture and ideas with today’s leading experts.

68. Things That Go Boom

Things That Go Boom takes an unconventional look at critical global and national security issues — so grab a beer and buckle up. It gets bumpy.

69. The Uncertain Hour

In “The Uncertain Hour” podcast, host Krissy Clark dives into one controversial topic each season to reveal the surprising origin stories of our economy. Because the things we fight the most about are the things we know the least about.

70. Philosophize This!

Beginner friendly if listened to in order! For anyone interested in an educational podcast about philosophy where you don't need to be a graduate-level philosopher to understand it.

71. The Oxymorons

Welcome to the OXYMORONS: A conversation where we share a different viewpoint with you, that you may not have thought of before. We are dedicated to helping you think about Life's contradictions.

72. Breaking Math

Breaking Math is a podcast that aims to make math accessible to everyone, and make it enjoyable. Every other week, topics such as chaos theory, forbidden formulas, and more will be covered in detail.

73. The Shakespeare Sessions

Is he the world’s greatest playwright? Make up your own mind with these original, innovative productions & casts that would sell out the West End in minutes. Lend them your ears.

74. Articles of Interest

Articles of Interest is a show about what we wear. It's a six-part series from 99% Invisible, looking at clothing. Produced and Hosted by Avery Trufelman

75. Far From Fact

Far From Fact is designed to cater to your basic need for ignorance. Catch the lads, as they fake-solve real problems on a weekly basis.

76. Risky Conversations

Interesting people discussing complex topics in easy to understand terms.

77. CrowdScience

We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

78. The Why Factor

The extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions

79. Solvable

Solvable showcases the world’s most innovative thinkers and their proposed solutions to the world’s most daunting problems.

80. Rough Translation

How are the things we're talking about being talked about somewhere else in the world? Gregory Warner tells stories that follow familiar conversations into unfamiliar territory.

81. Land of the Giants

Each season, we’ll dive into one corporation and examine the ways it’s changed our lives – for better and for worse.

82. Sleepwalkers

With secret labs and expert guests, Sleepwalkers explores the thrill of the AI revolution hands-on, to see how we can stay in control of our future.

83. How To With Charles Duhigg

What if Dear Abby was an investigative reporter? Each week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts.

84. This Is Uncomfortable

This is a show about life and how money messes with it. Each week, Reema Khrais digs in with stories about the unanticipated ways money affects relationships, shapes identities and often defines what it means to be an adult.

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