The 24 best podcasts to make you smarter

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Do you have time to kill, but a curiosity that just won’t be tamed? Head to these podcasts that will inform, educate and entertain.

There’s something for everyone in this list, recommended by BBC Future readers and our team. Whether you’re a regular listener or new to podcasts, we’ve set you up with some of the most fascinating audio from around the world. Making you smarter, every episode. 


The Infinite Monkey Cage
Who this is for: Science enthusiasts that want a basic, entertaining low-down of the basics, such as forensic science or quantum physics. Presented by scientist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince, comics and experts are often brought in to get to the bottom of things.   
Episode to try: What is the point of plants?

No Such Thing As A Fish – QI
Who this is for: Fans of British panel game QI, as it’s run by the programme’s genius researchers. For lovers of wacky factoids.
Episode to try: Episode 170: No such thing as a love potion for a vole

The team behind the TV show QI turn their attention to weighty matters such as a vole's love life (Credit: iStock)

The team behind the TV show QI turn their attention to weighty matters such as a vole's love life (Credit: iStock)

Science Vs.
Who this is for
: Sceptics that hear about the latest fads and immediately question their veracity. Science journalist Wendy Zukerman wades through the mass of information so you don’t have to.
Episode to try: Attachment parenting

Who this is for:
People that like to ask the important questions in life like ‘Why is bird poop white?’ and ‘How do one way mirrors work?’.
Episode to try: Can your eyes pop out of your head when you sneeze?


Flash Forward
Who this is for: People intrigued by the amazing possibilities – and downsides – that the future holds. Each month Rose Eveleth imagines a possible future scenario based on current innovations. 
Episode to try: Back to the future: A womb away from home

Main Engine Cut Off
Who this is for: Those who prefer something a little more out of this world. Anthony Colangelo keeps you updated on the latest space missions, astro-strategy and general life outside Planet Earth. 
Episode to try: T+39: Opportunities for private companies within government programs

Future Thinkers Podcast
Who this is for: Futurologists that look at life philosophically. This covers everything from AI to exploring human consciousness.
Episode to try: Cyborg Buddha: James Hughes on transhuman enlightenment

IDEO Futures
Who this is for: Those who care about whether our future looks aesthetically pleasing, and whether it can earn us money. “Where entrepreneurship meets design” – combining art and science to bring cool things to life.
Episode to try:  Episode 41: Submarines and startups


The Making Good Podcast: Ethical Business, Social Enterprise and Making Good Stuff Happen
Who this is for: Ethical individuals that want to be inspired and advised by even more ethical business owners and social entrepreneurs. 
Episode to try: How to be good, and do good with your money

Generation Anthropocene
Who this is for: Those who want to understand how society – as well as the Earth – is responding to mankind’s influence over planetary change.
Episode to try: Carbon footprint of superheroes

The Psychology of Eating might help you work out our planet-friendly your dinner is (Credit: iStock)

The Psychology of Eating might help you work out our planet-friendly your dinner is (Credit: iStock)

The Minimalists Podcast
Who this is for: Well, minimalists, and anyone who is interested in making room for more time, experiences and growth in their lives. The podcast has established an audience of more than 20 million people, so they must be onto something. 
Episode to try: Priorities

Costing the Earth
Who this is for: Those anxious about mankind’s effect on the environment and eager to hear about the progress being made to look after our planet.
Episode to try: Four menus to save the planet


How to Do Everything
Who this is for: Advice-seekers that want to know everything from how to keep their fries crispy to the best way to open Velcro bags quietly.
Episode to try: The sound of silence

The Highly Sensitive Person Podcast
Who this is for: Delicate souls.

BBC podcasts

The World Service produces various mind-expanding podcasts including CrowdScience, 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy, Health Check, People Fixing The World, and The Inquiry.



Meanwhile, on BBC Radio 4, there’s science, future-gazing and much more with The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, Inside Science, More or Less, The Digital Human, FutureProofing, and The Life Scientific, for example.


This podcast demystifies sensitivity, negating any stigma associated with it and encouraging their listeners to be observant, conscientious and appreciate other people’s feelings.
Episode to try: Six hidden benefits of being highly sensitive 

The Art of Charm
Who this is for: Insatiable networkers that want as many love-life, lifestyle and career tips in their arsenal as is humanly possible. 
Episode to try: Shaquille O’Neal | Flat Earth theory

The Tim Ferriss Show
Who this is for: Super-humans. Tim Ferriss, “the world’s best human guinea pig”, deconstructs how billionaires and icons got to where they are – and how you can do it too.
Episode to try: Myers-Briggs, diet mistakes, and immortality


All in the Mind
Who this is for: Those after a broad listening experience covering lots of human quirks – presented by the BBC’s own Claudia Hammond. 
Episode to try: Anxiety and children; First impressions; Mental health manifestos; Insiders’ guide

Hidden Brain
Who this is for: A deeper, longer analysis into individual psychological issues. Psychology-storytelling at its best.
Episode to try: Me, myself and IKEA

Hidden brain looks at issues around psychology - and, in one episode, a certain Swedish furniture giant (Credit: iStock)

Hidden brain looks at issues around psychology - and, in one episode, a certain Swedish furniture giant (Credit: iStock)

The Unbeatable Mind Podcast
Who this is for: Brain-trainers. Presented by Mark Divine, a retired Navy Seal commander, this covers everything from the philosophical and emotional to self-defence, fitness and elite physical performance.
Episode to try: Mapping the brain and peak performance

The Psychology of Eating
Who this is for: Healthy eaters and people that want to change their relationship with food. It’s all about self-care and positive body image – no fat shaming welcome.
Episode to try:When two partners have a different approach to food


Who this is for: People that want a bit of “come again?” from their listening experiences. This is a bi-weekly podcast about mysterious real life events that still evade explanation today.
Episode to try:  Whispers in the trees: Part 1

Lost Origins
Who this is for: People who believe in aliens and alternative history. Or listeners who are fascinated by these kind of beliefs and want to enter a whole new world of weird.  
Episode to try: Evidence of the pyramids in Antarctica      

Were there pyramids in the Antarctic? Lost Origins asks the question (Credit: iStock)

Were there pyramids in the Antarctic? Lost Origins asks the question (Credit: iStock)

Everyone Else
Who this is for: Voyeurs and nosy parkers. This is a fascinating project that asks strangers to say whatever they want for however long they want.
Episode to try: Seen

The Lineup Podcast
Who this is for: Those who want to apply some forensic psychology to their paranormal ponderings.
Episode to try: A murder in London


+ Bonus recommendation! Last year, BBC Future and Radio 4 partnered up on the programme and podcast The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, which uses science to explore everyday mysteries sent by listeners. Episode to try: Kate Bush's sonic weapon

Still not enough? Explore BBC Radio and World Service podcasts for more fantastic podcasts about the world we live in. 

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