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Great Mysteries of Physics: Grappling with abstract concepts

Great Mysteries of Physics podcast from The Conversation


Great Mysteries of Physics: Grappling with abstract concepts

Have You Heard? is where the Pod Bible team meet the people behind the podcasts you may not have heard of yet. Today we’re profiling a brand new podcast from physicist Miriam Frankel and the team behind The Conversation. Great Mysteries of Physics delves into some of the great mysteries still puzzling the world’s top physicists. Always ready to learn more, we asked Miriam all about it…

When did you get involved in Great Mysteries of Physics and what drew you to this project?

At university I studied philosophy, hoping to glean answers to the big questions. But I soon discovered that the types of explanations I was looking for existed more in the realm of physics. After reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, I was hooked and eventually ended up embarking on a PhD in physics. While working in a lab wasn’t for me in the end, I still held a deep fascination with the more fundamental aspects of physics, which often intersect with philosophy. Having noticed that many of The Conversation’s readers also seem keen on this topic, I created the idea for this podcast last year. I am lucky to have very bright and supportive colleagues at The Conversation, with far superior podcasting skills to me, who are helping me make it happen.

Why is podcasting the right medium for this project?

Each mystery in the series is very broad and fluid, with lots of competing ideas. It can be hard to convert that into a specific article with a strict word count. I thought it would work better in conversational form, with some sound effects to help steer the mind when grappling with abstract concepts.

What was the first podcast you ever listened to?

I came to podcasts quite late – I think it was Hidden Brain. It’s brilliantly fun and accessible.

Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?

One of my favourite podcasts is called Flashback Forever, it is Swedish. It involves three female comedians going through threads of the forum Flashback, essentially the Swedish version of Reddit. The curious, friendly and non-judgmental atmosphere they create is something I think all podcast hosts should aspire to. I also like Sean Carrol’s Mindscape. These days, specialisation is at the heart of pretty much everything so I find the broadness and boldness of this show refreshing and rare – it certainly doesn’t shy away from complex topics.

Can you give us an interesting snippet of science you’ve learnt from making Great Mysteries in Physics?

That we shouldn’t write off an idea as completely unscientific just because we don’t yet have any evidence for it. The theory of atoms is ancient, but it took millenia before we actually had evidence for it. Oh, and that studying bubble formation at ultra-cold temperatures might teach us something about how universes form in a multiverse.

Where can readers find out more about you?

I recently wrote a book with Matt Warren about thinking, which has lots of information about me. It’s called Are You Thinking Clearly? 29 reasons you aren’t and what to do about it and was published by Hodder Studio last year. It looks at various factors that affect how you think, from genetics and culture to the bacteria in your gut and the signals from your body. I’m also on Twitter as @miriamfrankel.

The Great Mysteries of Physics

Listen to The Great Mysteries of Physics on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other popular podcast apps >>

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