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The best new podcasts for the week of July 12: American Hysteria and more

The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Washing dishes, going for a run, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s simply impossible to keep up. There are new ones debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.

Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t put down. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your two into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about things you might need to be afraid of; things you should definitely be afraid of (earthquakes); Andy Richter; and the past, present, and future of tech.

Culture podcast 

American Hysteria 

American Hysteria Podcast

Why should I listen? You enjoy urban legends, especially when they’re debunked.             

How many episodes are there and how long are they? In the second season, there are three episodes so far, each about half an hour. The bonus episodes are about 15 minutes each.       

Describe it in one word: Demystifying.   

When I was a kid, the father of one of my trick-or-treating companions was a state trooper, so we always felt reasonably sure our peanut butter cups were free of nefarious objects. He would dutifully check for razor blades before we were allowed to reclaim our plastic pumpkins.

American Hysteria is a podcast about the way in which events get blown out of proportion or take on a life of their own. Season one explored exactly what spurred the poisoned-candy scare, and there were also episodes about stranger danger and the Satanic panic. Now back for a second season, host Chelsey Weber-Smith tackles the paranormal in an episode about talking to the dead, the Goopy in an episode about quacks, and cleanliness in an episode about germs. Each show takes a deep look at a widespread belief and tracks down its origins and influences. 

Science podcast

The Big One

The Big One Podcast

Why should I listen? Because for a considerable portion of the world, earthquakes aren’t a matter of if but when.              

How many episodes are there and how long are they? It’s a nine-episode series, and each is between 30 to 40 minutes.        

Describe it in one word: Shaking.   

I’d always heard animals can sense earthquakes, but when Seattle started to tremble this week, I found my cat blithely sitting in the same spot he’d been minutes before. Seattle is overdue for an earthquake, and I was newly motivated to put together an emergency kit. 

California has its own shifting faultline, and that’s what host Jacob Margolis and producer Misha Euceph explore in The Big One. The show features a range of experts, including a seismologist, and outlines exactly what would happen during and directly after the quake. But it also spools out further to explore how the economy and city of Los Angeles will recover from the devastation. They also speak with people who’ve been affected by other earthquakes. In one particularly emotional episode, Dr. Sara McBride discusses why she got her Ph.D. in communication after finding the brochures and other material she helped work on didn’t convince enough New Zealanders to prepare for disaster. 

Culture podcast 

Three Questions with Andy Richter 

Three Questions with Andy Richter Podcast

Why should I listen? You’ve always wondered what talk show hosts and guests chat about when they cut to commercial.              

How many episodes are there and how long are they? There’s one episode so far, but each will be around an hour.        

Describe it in one word: Inquisitive.  

Where do you come from? Where are you going? What have you learned?

Those are the titular three questions Andy Richter asks his guests on his new podcast. These are the questions, Richter says, he liked to ask guests during the commercial break on Conan. In the first episode, at least, he doesn’t do so verbatim. Instead, he asks Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) about where she grew up and her extracurricular activities. But with those three queries as a guiding structure, Richter elicits an interesting conversation. Jacobson has an adorable anecdote about getting recognized, but it’s the “where are you going” question that reveals a lot of information about her upcoming A League of Their Own TV series. Upcoming episodes will feature Richter getting to know Natasha Lyonne, Amy Sedaris, and Mayim Bialik. 

Tech podcast

The Secret History of the Future

Secret History of the Future Podcast

Why should I listen? You like your history with a side of tech, or your tech with a side of history.               

How many episodes are there and how long are they? The first two episodes of the second season are between 32 and 43 minutes.         

Describe it in one word: Techcentric.  

What do John Philip Sousa, De La Soul, and A.I. have in common? It’s not a riddle. It’s the first episode of season two of The Secret History of the Future

In the podcast, Tom Standage of The Economist and Seth Stevenson of Slate look to technology’s past to try and explain what’s happening now and what might occur in the future. Of course, if Sousa’s essay “The Menace of Mechanical Music” is any indication, prognosticating can lead to serious errors. The famous composer thought the new innovation, the phonograph, would spell the end of people making their own music. The truth was, he just didn’t want others making recordings of his music without getting paid. Standage and Stevenson then jump ahead a few decades to De La Soul, who created new music from samples of other songs, which leads directly to neural networks like MuseNet learning to write melodies based on other work. Copyright definitely hasn’t caught up yet. 

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