Science is not only a very fascinating activity to do, but also to listen to, watch and read about. Also the past academic year, we discovered quite a number of podcast, book and video gems.
Ideal for during your commute, when you’re walking the dog or when you have trouble falling sleep at night. Of course, we’d also like to hear what you discovered this past year!
Some of the gems are only available in Dutch, but because we have a great deal of native Dutch speakers who read our English blog posts, we have also included them in this English list
De Man en de Maan (NL)
Superb eight-part podcast from NPO1 about Dutch astronomer Marc Klein Wolt who wants to send his Dutch radio telescope to the back of the moon on a Chinese space mission. 100% really happened and with every plot twist you are on the edge of your seat. (No. I’m not going to reveal whether he succeeded or not. Do yourself a favor as well and don’t try to find out beforehand)
A Problem Squared (ENG)
With great pleasure this year we stepped into the crazy world of A Problem Squared, a podcast hosted by mathematician Matt Parker and comedian Beck Hill. Any problem thrown in their direction they try to solve with a combination of creativity and math.
From “How much pizza is too much pizza?” or “Can you make shadow figures on the moon if your light bulb is strong enough?”, to “A down jacket insulates. From what temperature does it keep you cool instead of warm?’
Very enjoyable nonsense. Appears once a month.
99% Invisible (ENG)
A gem of a podcast where the creators go in search of the stories behind things you don’t normally think about.
For example, one of the last episodes starts with the arguments that often arise in planes between passengers who put their seats in reclining mode and as a result disturb the person behind them. The question is who gets to call themselves the rightful owner of that space. The podcast makers explore the concept of ‘ownership’ and how it has evolved over time.
Applied science, full of wow factors.
Brief episodes (10-15min) made for children by the audio artists of Het Geluidshuis. But secretly also very enjoyable as an adult. Each episode features a different expert. You will find out the answers to questions such as:
- What poison was in Snow White’s apple?
- Can you turn paper back into a tree?
- Is thunder a collision of clouds?
- Will Belgium be flooded in a few years?
Tree Story – Valerie Trouet (Also available in NL: Wat bomen ons vertellen)
Dendrochronology is the science that determines the age of trees through their annual rings. Dendrochonology. The word alone is enough to put the book aside. And yet: dendrochronologist Valerie Trouet takes you through her book into her wildly fascinating world of research. From blazing hot Arizona to the radioactive forests of Russia. And from Dzengis Khan to pirates.
Really: by the end, you’ll wish you had become a dendrochonologist yourself. An extra reason to read it: it was awarded the 2020 Jan Wolkers Prize.
Packing for Mars – Mary Roach (Also available in NL: Ik ga naar Mars en neem mee)
The subtitle of the book is ‘the Curious Science of Life in the Void’. Mary Roach wants to explore space from Earth and gives an anthology of space research (crazy or not) that happens to get people into space. After all, how do people deal with having to go such a long time without privacy? Or having to eat unusual space food? How do you deal with space sickness?
She deepens everything well, but goes plenty far in popularizing it with her anecdotes and cheerful observations.
The space anecdote I will never forget? That male astronauts have to put on a condom during the flight to catch their pee. It’s best to put it on as tightly as possible. To avoid male astronauts lying about the size of condom they need, NASA renamed the Small condom to Large. Only L, XL, XXL, … at NASA.
De schaduw van Tambora – Philip Dröge (NL)
In April 1815 the largest volcanic eruption ever took place on the island of Soembawa, the former Dutch East Indies. It was to become the greatest natural disaster in living memory. Philip Dröge tackles the subject and examines it from all possible angles. From the eruption itself to – above all – the consequences afterwards. Famine, the invention of the bicycle, a shaky colonial system or hail on Sri Lanka: they all pass in review.
The research Philip Dröge did for this book is impressive and Dröge understands like no other the art of pouring all that work into an enjoyable book. Fun, relaxing and you will learn plenty. That’s how we like our books.
Weg van Water (NL)
A shameless plug, because this book was written by our very own Toon Verlinden together with water researcher Marjolein Vanoppen. With the recent floods and drought of the past few years, it is wildly topical. Readers call it a “pageturner” and “surprising and enlightening”.
In the book, Toon and Marjolein travel through Belgium to find answers to the question, “Where does the water in your tap come from, where does it go, and how long will it continue to flow? They set out with divers swimming in sewers and farmers squeezing the last drops of water out of manure. They travel to Mars, dig a sand castle in Ostend and drink a very special glass of water in Kuurne.
And they discover how the increasingly extreme climate of droughts and floods is turning our water system black and blue.
We watched hundreds of videos, documentaries and presentations this year. You may as well. The must-see list on Netflix and the like is way too long. That’s why we’re only giving you one you may not already know: the YouTube videos of OceanX.
OceanX is a large research vessel that maps the deep sea. However, in addition to the usual researchers, they also have a film crew and editing studio on board. They work with James Cameron, director of Titanic and Avatar, among others, and did footage for the series Blue Planet. In other words, their movies look good.
They also filmed the giant squid. For me, this short clip best captures the enthusiasm of the researcher:
You can find their complete YouTube channel here.
Only two more
Also highly recommended is the second season of Team Scheire. A wonderful program where a team of creators try to solve problems of people with disabilities. From a paralyzed person who wants to make a piece of graffiti art to a person in a wheelchair who is looking for a way to stay dry when it rains. Still available to watch again on vrt.nu.
Finally, there’s the brand new season of Scheire en de Schepping currently airing on GoPlay.
Still hungry for more?
Then check out similar posts we wrote in recent years:
Of course, we would love to to hear your tips. What do you think should definitely be included on this list? Let us know via Twitter (we’re @Floorisyours) or send us an email!
Translation: Leslie Van Ael