I love Radiolab, even though Robert Krulwich can sometimes be a jerk. I've often used their stories either directly or indirectly in my 4th grade class. Here is a list of the best:
Apocalyptical: The most awesome theory of dinosaur extinction ever. Don't watch the live performance though. The cheesy dinosaur ruins it.
Kill 'Em All: A podcast about eradicating mosquitos.
The Golden Rule: The Prisoner's Dilemma beautifully illustrated in the game show "Golden Balls."
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Fritz Haber?: Did you know that ammonia might be the biggest innovation in history?
Patient Zero: Uncovering the origins of Typhoid and AIDS
Oops: Amazing accidents that had huge impact.
Innate Numbers: Babies think logarithmically.
Genghis Khan: The effects of his empire are still genetically imprinted on millions of people today.
#2 The Cracked Podcast
After a rough start, the Cracked Podcast has found its groove. There are too many audio edits, but aside from that its become a really interesting podcast. They're all pretty good, if you stay away from the first couple of podcasts where they don't know what they are doing. How can you tell if an episode is worth listening to? Michael Swaim doesn't try to simultaneously make fun of his sponsor and plug their product during an advertising break.
#3 99% Invisible
It's a great podcast, and none are over 30 minutes. I've just started listening to it, but here are a few of my favorites:
Breaking the Bank: What's the right way to rob a bank?
Ten Thousand Years: How can you design something that will last that long?
Song Exploder (Which is another interesting podcast): What goes into designing a song?
Trading Places With Planet Money: What happens at the end of the film Trading Places?
This is another new podcast for me, so I'll just link the episode that hooked me: In Deep Guano.
#5 TED Radio Hour
TED Talks Audio is simply the audio stripped of the video of TED talks. And they are terrible! There are so many TED talks that I don't care about at all.
But TED Radio Hour? My God, its good. Each episode is a theme, and incorporates the relevant portion of the relevant TED talks to support that theme. In that way it's like "This American Life." But they are also really good at sound editing and spend some time with soundscapes. In that way it's like Radiolab. Here's a great one to get you started (and one I plan to talk about in a future blog post):
What is original?
The Long Shadow of Forrest Carter, which was recently redone by This American Life in the episode 180 degrees.
When I was student teaching, my cooperating teacher read The Education of Little Tree to his fifth grade class. I really enjoyed it, and so did the kids. The next year I was researching the book while seeing if it fit into my 5th grade class curriculum. I found out about that the author, Forest Carter, was a white supremacist named Asa Earl Carter, and chose to read aloud The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 instead. What I didn't know was that Asa wrote for Governor Wallace, specifically the famous line, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." I also didn't know that Wallace was reelected as the govenor of Alabama well into the 80s. Those facts blew me away.
#7 Stuff You Should Know
How Beer Works
How Natural Selection Works & How Charles Darwin Worked
Why You Should Never Scare A Vulture
What's The Deal With Rasputin's Death?
How The Papacy Works
What Will Happen When We Reach The Singularity?
How Ramadan Works
What Is The Future Of Earth?
#8 Tech Stuff
I really liked their podcast on Heartbleed, but as with Stuff You Should Know, they cover a range of topics to fit a lot of different interests.
#9 This American Life
part 1 and part 2 blew me away.
#10 TLDR (Too Long, Didn't Read)
TLDR is a podcast about the Internet. It looks at the nooks, crannies, fads, and trends of this opaque medium. To get started, listen to their episode, #31 Race Swap. It's an interesting look at not only how the Internet is different for different people, but how anonymity breeds sexism and racism. Not a new revelation to be sure, but it's such a poignant and personal example, you can't help but think, "what if..."