A Scientist Walks into a Bar . . . Okay, you had me at ‘scientist’

Web Log: This new podcast by Science on Tap draws the listener in with accessible talks

I’m always on the lookout for science-themed podcasts that go beyond the standard news reportage or interview with an expert. Science cafes have been a great way to get science out into the public by having everyone from anthropologists to zoologists give entertaining, accessible talks on topics of their choice in an informal setting – usually a café or pub.

Science on Tap is a collective based in Oregon and Washington that has made the smart choice to turn their talks into a podcast called A Scientist Walks into a Bar. These live recordings benefit from good sound production, and the biggest advantage is they capture the kind of storytelling that happens before an audience outside the confines of a lecture theatre.

In episode 16 Dr Michael Morgan, professor of psychology at Washington State University Vancouver, talks about the neuroscience of pain. It begins with his story of body surfing gone wrong: he catches a big wave that collapses beneath him, leaving him tumbling towards death but narrowly escaping with a dislocated shoulder and broken ribs.

He goes on to address the audience: “Each one of you has your own pain story.” At this point the listener is drawn in and wants to hear more science.