Speaking Science on the Pod Delusion

26 April 2013 by Alex Brown, posted in blogging, speaking science

Given the title of this blog, you might not be too surprised to learn that I (very) occasionally do a bit of speaking. Generally, these occurrences are on topics that interest me (and hopefully you, too!), including science and science communication. My newest piece is an audio adaptation of my recent post about jargon, which the lovely, award-winning folk at the Pod Delusion podcast were kind of enough to include in their latest episode, which is out today.

pod delusion episode 184 logo

This episode also features primatology. Credit: Pod Delusion

Here's the link to the episode's page: http://poddelusion.co.uk/blog/2013/04/25/episode-184-26th-april-2013/ It's free to listen to the show, either on the website, or by downloading the mp3, or by going through iTunes. On the other hand, a lot of work goes into producing the show, so you might consider making a donation (though it's important to note that none of that money goes to contributors, the whole affair as I understand it is not-for-profit and very much a work of passion and spare time).

My piece starts at 55 minutes in, though I recommend listening to the whole thing. Aside from mine, there are plenty of other, more interesting segments in this week's episode. I particularly like Dean Burnett's item on nervous breakdowns, which is also an audio partner to a recent blog post of his. While it turns out that the term isn't very well-defined, there is nonetheless a real phenomenon, or at least a set of phenomena, behind it. I'm fascinated by how we use words to describe mental states, so this was right up my street.

I have my doubts about whether my ramblings add anything to the written version, or whether it constitutes anything but disappointing "filler" in an otherwise routinely excellent show. This is one of the very first times I've done anything like this (previous talks include a couple of live sets in pubs and an interview with me last year for the Token Skeptic podcast), so I didn't really know what I was doing. Although I've been considering submitting something to the Pod Delusion for a while, to actually contribute this week was quite a last-minute idea. I was learning to use the recording software as I went along, while trying to work out how best to adapt my written piece for audio. I don't know much about radio production in the first place, either. For all I know, it's completely terrible (though if it was totally abysmal, I guess it would not have been included in the show...).

Despite how talkative I can be in the real world, I don't actually love the sound of my own voice all that much. So, please let me know what you think in the comments below. On the whole, I enjoyed making the piece and I will very likely do it again, so any advice you have would be very valuable to me.

Finally, I will award ten bonus points if you can spot the Easter egg I accidentally included (Hint: it's related to a certain scientific anniversary that happened this week).


Over to you:

  • What do you think of my speaking? Is it too fast, too slow, too monotonous? What was good, what could be improved?
  • Have you ever contributed to the Pod Delusion? What was your first time like?
  • Did you find the Easter egg?
  • Is this the kind of thing you'd like to see/hear me do more of?
  • Are there any other podcast items out there dealing with jargon?

4 Responses to “Speaking Science on the Pod Delusion”

  1. Marianne Reply | Permalink

    I will listen when I have some time, now I have some internet that's a good start!

    I love doing Pod Delusion pieces, and I should do them more often. I've only submitted a handful, and helped other people with the odd sound bite.

    I don't love the sound of my voice either, the way I pronounce a few things gets on my nerves (Kentish twang). But I suppose I'm used to it.

    Being a bit older than you :P one of the playtime things I used to do with one of my friends at primary school was record ourselves on audio cassette tape. I probably still have some somewhere, very embarrassing stuff - fake news reports, adverts, stories about 'potato land' (no, me neither).

    Then a couple of years back, Rhys and I did the Super Duper Woo-Fighting Duo podcast for a while, which was surprisingly well-received given it was largely silly ramble and taking the mick out of Jim Humble.

    I prefer saying words I've already planned to say and having the opportunity to re-record it if I mess it up. My 'announcement voice' isn't too bad and the microphone means I don't have to repeat myself or talk louder than I'd like, as I generally have to in conversation because I'm too quiet.

    I might have some feedback for you when I get around to listening ;)

  2. Marianne Reply | Permalink

    OK, yis, talk much faster than that - listeners not stupid, sounds like you're doing the English Person Speaking To Foreigner thing ;)

    And if you're going to have an example of a Thing You Won't Understand Because It's Too Complicated (Deliberately), don't put it right at the start when you should be catching people's attention - it will do the opposite! It was a bit long too (but might have been a symptom of the talking slowly thing).

    Otherwise I think it's different enough from the post to merit a report :)

    Hey, angiogenesis! Woo. That's my jargon that is.

  3. elkement Reply | Permalink

    I tend to agree to Marianne - even a non-native speaker as myself could be exposed to faster talking ;-) But take it with a grain of salt - I had been forever accused of speaking much too fast - both in German and in English.
    But: Well done overall!!
    As for the content ... I am still pondering on your previous post as well. You have spotted the subtle jargon correctly. I believe jargon that cannot be recognized as such gives rise to many theories in .... uhm .... "alternative science" as theories can be "expressed" in such a deceptively simple way using such simple terms. But here is the predicament: Don't we actually need that type of jargon when explaining to the public?
    If particle physicists say the Higgs field gives the particle mass they have some equations in mind - nevertheless words like this might trigger all kinds of wrong associations. Even if you find a clever analog (remember the epic Dalai Lama metaphor for the temperatures below zero) such an explanation is long-winded still. Jargon - obvious or subtle - is always a neat shortcut. If you would explain anything you would end up in a tangle of narrative levels.

  4. Alex Brown Reply | Permalink

    Thanks both. Speaking too slowly seems to have been the result of trying to compensate for the opposite problem, which I sometimes run into live. I'll certainly try to be more natural in future.

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