Linky and the Brain: Podcast Edition

Linky and the Brain

Sometimes, doing science is mind-numbingly boring. Slicing your 20th acute brain slice. Re-sectioning your 5th visual cortex. Counting your millionth cfos-positive neuron.

Last week, I started listening to podcasts while patching neurons. In the process I rediscovered a science-themed delight, that I'd like to share with you all.

(Warning: the podcast I am about to recommend may preclude the fine motor control required to successfully patch a 10 um diameter neuron.)


From BBC Radio 4, The Infinite Monkey Cage is a panel show about science featuring the talented and charming duo of Professor Brian Cox (physicist, nature program host), and Robin Ince (comedian). These hosts are joined by a rotating panel of diverse guests, including both scientists and comedians.

The episode that inspired me to type this post, "What is Death?", features comedian Katy Brand (who has a degree in theology from Oxford), biochemist Nick Lane and forensic anthropologist Sue Black. As a preview of the witty banter you can expect from an episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage, here is some dialogue I have transcribed from that first episode.

During a prolonged discussion regarding what is the definition of "alive", and in reference to an even longer discussion of whether strawberries are alive or dead:

Nick Lane: If you put a plastic bag over your head, you’ll be dead in about a minute and a half.

Brian Cox: But I put strawberries in bags all the time.

During a discussion on reproductive fitness:

Are pandas living in a Beckett play?

Introducing an upcoming episode, recorded at the Glastonbury Festival:

Robin Ince: We are going to be discussing quantum theory on the Many Worlds stage to an audience who will already be approaching a point of questioning their own existence, so therefore we will be using, in front of their cider-drenched eyes, imaginary numbers in an infinite dimensional phase space, and question the possibility of free will in a probabilistic universe. And that’s before we lead them into the Mexican Wave.

Brian Cox: Or the Mexican Particle.

Currently, series eight of The Infinite Monkey Cage is ongoing. Episodes from the current and previous series can be downloaded from iTunes, or can be listened to via web browser at the BBC Radio 4 website.

As of this moment, 42 episodes are available. Episode titles/subjects include: "Does Size Matter", "Oceans: The Last Great Unexplored Frontier", "Science Mavericks", "Is Cosmology Really a Science", "So You Want to Be An Astronaut", and "I'm a Chemist Get Me Out of Here".

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Astra Bryant

Astra Bryant is a graduate of the Stanford Neuroscience PhD program in the labs of Drs. Eric Knudsen and John Huguenard. She used in vitro slice electrophysiology to study the cellular and synaptic mechanisms linking cholinergic signaling and gamma oscillations – two processes critical for the control of gaze and attention, which are disrupted in many psychiatric disorders. She is a senior editor and the webmaster of the NeuWrite West Neuroblog