Thoughts on Improving Podcasts 

Thoughts on Podcasts I’ve listened to.

The rules are: listening is something incidental to doing something else. There is no ability to refer to any written or A/V materials. To what extent can I get an understanding of the general concepts. Also, many of these “podcasts” are entire lecture series (ie 20-40 lectures) so these are just general overall impressions.

Feb 08 – Herbert Dreyfus (UCB) From gods to God and Back Again (Lecturer’s unofficial title) (given April 07)

***** STAR LECTURE SERIES would readily listen to other works by this author.

  • Section on Melville
    • references to the horse as one of the simple pleasures – I assume Melville’s reference to horses is to travel;
    • I can’t get away from the feeling that Melville’s universal receptiveness is itself one of absolutism.

    Section on Dante

    • There probably was something, but I’ve forgotten.
  • Section on the Gospel of John – Characterises “God the Father” as the past. However, hard to see how this is consistent with other uses of “God the Father” – eg the father will send the holy spirit. Suggests that Roman adoption of Christianity might have been a response to Christianity’s concern with embodying god in contrast to the previously prevalent Roman pietas.
  • Section on Virgil was quite short…
  • Section on Aeschylus is “amazing”. Truly engaging. Attention to detail is impressive.
    • “light not of the sun” – this must refer to an artificial source of light. If the light is artificial then either the persons in it are underground or it is night time.
    • furies attending to guests – once the furies become objectively perceptible to the whole of the society, it would be a contradiction for them to remain bound to single family units. The logical analogy seems to be that society in general becomes the family.
    • I would describe the types of justice as vigilante (ie Fury) justice and institutional (ie Apollonian) justice. Happy with use of venegence/vengeful justice, but use of retributive justice to describe the Apollonian sort does not sit well for me.
    • A problem for Aeschylus is the source of law. How can Orestes make a rational judgment on whether what Clytemnestra has done is wrong if he has no laws against which to judge the action. Perhaps this is resolved later in the books?
  • thesis on Homer is that ancient Greeks associated gods with “moods” or “worlds”, that going with the mood was no cause for judgment, that the exercise of free will brings judgment with it, that they were accepting that multiple moods or worlds could coexist without the need to cmopare or rank any two or more of them.
  • somewhat stream of consciousness lecturing style – manages to give the impression both of having a deeply thought out and integrated understanding of the works and yet at the same time that he’s just working it out as he goes. Audio on earlier podcasts not that crash hot – some lectures are only fragments. Later audio much better.
  • lecturer clearly interested in subject matter.

Feb 08 – LSE Lectures Hasok Cheng Inventing Temperature and Harvey Brown 100 Years of Relativity

  • The LSE lectures can be a little annoying because they can spend 10 minutes introducing a 30 or 40 minute speech.
  • Hasok Cheng’s lecture was particularly interesting because it describe problems with understanding temperature – giving the example of the linearity of mercury across a temperature range (apparently a mercury thermometer at 50 degrees is not at the mid point between the 0 mark and the 100 mark). Notes that scientific knowledge is refined iteratively. Notes that the boiling point of water is determined by the substance of the pot in which it is boiled and the amount of air dissolved in it.
  • Harvey Brown gives an overview of contributions to Relativity over the past 100 years or so, explaining the philosophical role played by the luminiferous ether in the science of light (apparently quite minor), emphasising that length contraction at relativistic speeds is an actual occurrence, not a mere perception and explaining some of the philosophical basis for general relativity (eg what does it mean for a body which is isolated to move?)

Feb 08 -Professor James Como Speech 101 – Oral Communication in Contemporary Society

  • Very engaging style, good speaker. As he says he was 12 when he began lecturing in the early 70s he must therefore be at least 50…
  • Lecture 7 – identifying essential elements of “court” – would also seem appropriate to determine whether the essential elements do not also define something other than “court”. Although he does say that the definition should be tested with examples.
  • gives a pronounciation of Timbre (“tambre”)
  • lectures comprise an X course, where X is that word which has the relation to anecdote that epistolary has to epistle. His extensive use of anecdotes makes the key factors in the lectures memorable. I am concerned however that by focussing on the anecdotes I haven’t had an integrated understanding of his points.
  • I found personalisation of the anecdotes too confronting. I would have found the lectures more comfortable if he anonymised his anecdotes, or at least the negative ones. Particularly so for Raymond, although this was presumably the point.

Jan 08 – Paul Duguid UC Berkeley C103 History of Information

  • notable for the lecturer’s correct use of “grok” as a verb (1st or 2nd lecture)
  • not much known about Gutenberg
  • Koreans had printing press w. moveable metal type at least 10 years before Gutenberg
  • criticise technological deterministic accounts of printing (Elizabeth Eisenstein)
  • sound levels in the recordings vary from v good to quite dodgy
  • used the example of the Periodic Table as apolitical – is this justified? – Californium? Berkelium? Americium? Darmstadtium? Europium? Erbium?
  • Apparently English started the year later than Jan 1, so dates from around 1700 are all dependent on what month the thing occurred.
  • Prof. Nunberg’s voice is mellifluous. He should think about becoming a shock jock.
  • the IP lecture, while I don’t necessarily disagree with the content, was not presented as forcefully as they could have been.
  • Thought criticisms of Wikipedia could have been phrased differently – ie there are two issues – stylistic problems with entries, and how to judge credibility. The discussion about the date of the Statute of Anne was interesting – although I have vague suspicion that legislation is normally dated from the time it passes parliament, not the date of assent, but I’d need to check.

Jan 08 Some Individual lectures

Jessica Litman – Copyright Liberties

Criticism: The problem is whether there is any point in identifying problems to the legislature, since they could seem to care less. It is probably more fruitful to support free market mechanisms eg open source licensing and encouraging (eg libraries) preference for open licensed content in acquisitions in order to promote copyright liberty.

James Bessen. The Empirical Evidence on Patents: Do they work like property?

Criticism: Bessen identifies problems with patents including that the scope of patents are fuzzy (he states that the evidence is that the cost of owning a patent has gone from net positive 20 years ago to net negative now). He proposes administrative procedures for determining the scope of a patent. The constitutional problem with this is that a judicial power is being vested in an administrative body. Further, the scope of patents is necessarily fuzzy, otherwise they can be easily implemented around.

Norman Lebrecht – Sydney Symphony Stuart Challender Lecture 2007

Embraces the fall of the sound recording industry (at least in respect of classical music).

Individual Lectures in 07

Some others from LSE including Paul Krugman and an inspiring speaker on the Hydrogen Economy.

Dec 07 Heino Nitche Chem 1A Introduction to Chemistry

  • Middle of the course hard to follow (lecturer often refers to slides on screen without explaining contents).
  • Use of “chem quizzes” in the lectures difficult as relies on seeing the presentation slides. Chem quizzes took up a lot of time (roughly 4 minutes per question excluding the explanation)
  • Would be improved if lecturer read out/repeated the questions and each of the answers and any other information that was necessary.
  • might be an idea to listen to the course as given by a different presenter.

Nov 07 Jennifer Burns History 7B American History from Civil War to the Present

  • Interesting. Learnt about annexation of Hawaii.
  • analysis of Wizard of Oz interesting
  • fails to mention – Morgenthau plan – relevant for approach to capitalist democracy in Germany
  • note that both Germany and Japan are buffer states against communism. In the interest of the west for them to not only succeed but to be paragons of western values.
  • disappointed at failure to mention Australia as a US ally in the Pacific Theatre (according to wikipedia the HMAS Australia was the first Allied ship to be struck by a kamikaze)
  • issue with bomb not necessarily the number of people killed but that the “survivors” faced a lingering death.
  • truman’s integration has parallels with clinton’s don’t ask don’t tell

Nov 07 Alex Filippenko Astro C10 Introduction to General Astronomy

***** STAR LECTURE SERIES would readily listen to other works by this author.

  • Excellent presentation, easy to follow, engaging lecturer.
  • Makes me want to go see a total solar eclipse.
  • Lecturer spent too much time justifying himself to the flat earthers when talking about evolution and the Big Bang and how they’re consistent with religious belief.

History 5 Thomas Laquer European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present

  • engaging style, enthusiastic lectures
  • excellent use of cameo appearances by other lecturers (who come in as a certain character and the lecturer conducts a dialogue [sic] with the character)

Steven Wood Econ 100B Economic Analysis–Macro

  • Interesting to learn about exogenous growth models and effects of fiscal etc stimuli.
  • hard to follow in some places as reliant on graphs and does not explain the characteristics of the graph (eg this line starts here crosses here and ends up here). However, there are only a handful of graphs which are used repeatedly so a little time on the web can clear things up.

Nancy Amy NS 10 Introduction to Human Nutrition

  • Lots of useful practical information. Everyone should listen to a course of this type. The textbook (which I asked for and got for Christmas) is very comprehensive.

Howard Ruttenberg Philosophy 211 – Ancient Philosophy

  • Interesting. A little hard to follow without reading the readings. Made me read the Euthyphro and get annoyed with it (arguing a social contract against a death sentence aggrieves me). Also made me buy a collected works of Plato. Nevertheless after having read The Open Society and its Enemies I remain deeply suspicious of him.
  • References to Parmenides is a common theme which at first I found annoying, but through the course found more intriguing.
  • The course is delivered in a chatty style (only a handful of people in the course in a small room) can induce a feeling of intimacy.

Harry Kreisler IAS 180 US Foreign Policy After 9/11

***** STAR LECTURE SERIES would readily listen to other works by this author.

  • Course with invited speakers presenting each week
  • All speakers and speeches of high calibre [sic].
  • Highly recommended.

David Lieberman Legal Studies 103 Theories of Law and Society

  • Interesting presentation of a succession of ideas, with each new wave of ideas rendering its predecessor irrelevant. Interesting discussion of Marx.

    2 Responses to “Podcast Stuff”


    1. 1 Christian Conrad 15 February 2008 at 1:41 am

      Not so political elements:

      I’m not sure about Europium or Americium, but as far as I know Berkelium is named for where it was discovered, at the University of California at Berkely. That could be the case with Californium, too, and perhaps Darmstadtium as well.

      Erbium, like Yttrium, was definitely named for Ytterby (outside Uppsala), where they were discovered.

    2. 2 brendanscott 15 February 2008 at 7:56 am

      If you listen to the Berkeley Chemistry podcasts (it also turns up elsewhere) you will note they make much of the fact that they discovered all these elements (largely thanks to Prof Glenn Seaborg). Not that that’s unjustified, but is it politically neutral?


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