Monday, April 26, 2010

Podcast with pictures - Europe from its origins

Podcasts that contain visuals present me with a problem. The most of my listening time goes without the possibility to glance at a screen. So, I always try to figure out how much you can do without the visuals a usually I will be glad if I can. This is how I started the series Europe from its origins (feed). The conclusion remains you can follow without the pictures, but personally I cannot resist them.

For this podcast I will sit down and watch. Still, you do not absolutely have to see the pictures (apart from the occasional map), but they are just too good to miss out on. Also, my curiosity is roused all the time. Every couple of seconds the slide changes and I just want to know what depiction has been chosen when a certain figure or concept was discussed. Many of the images are reconstructions, or indicators, but still they liven up the experience. At some point, the images also have begun to serve as mental anchors in the story. The same picture for feudal knights, the same picture for Pope Innocent III and so on.

The maker of this series, Joseph Hogarty, has taken upon himself a huge project, not only because of the multimedia aspect of the podcast (in addition to the numerous images there is video and very fitting music incorporated). The task of telling the history of Europe from its origins (in 3rd century Rome ) until modern times is an enormous task. There have been 16 episodes up until now. Hogarty has improved on all aspects, but with each era he seems to be needing more time and the last episodes run beyond 60 minutes. We have just reached the 13th century and so there is at least 600 years of history ahead of us. An amazing achievement so far and I hope passionately, he will continue likewise.

I have not yet said all that impresses me about this series. As the speaker of five languages, I am especially sensitive to what podcasters do with names, words and sentences that are not in English. Hogarty makes in this respect an outstanding performance, which I find unparalleled in the podcasting world. To my ears he is impeccable in German, French, Spanish and Italian. In addition he is very convincing with Arabic. As to Greek and the Slavic languages, I have a limited power of evaluation, but with his prowess in the other languages, I trust him also beyond - something I never do with any other English speaker.

More Europe from its origins:
A history of Europe.

Baboons teach us about stress - Healthy Living (Stanford)

Thanks to a question at the Podcast Parlor I went to look for the answer to the question 'What do baboons tell us about stress?' Apart from a commercial podcast called MedPod101 (feed) which had a short introduction on the subject, with a promise to more I did not find anything. However, the MedPod101 issue about stress (download) referred to Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky as the source and this made me go search iTunesU.

On iTunesU I found Stanford's series Healthy Living in which Robert Sapolsky himself gives two lectures on stress. One telling why Zebras do not get ulcers and one relating what baboons teach us about stress. Sapolsky studied baboons in the field in Kenya for decades and his research on these primates taught him about stress among the apes many things that can be paralleled to humans. Not only do Baboons live under stress, they actually show stress related health problems that we know so well: high cholesterol, ulcers, heart disease and diabetes.

Here is how it works in a nut shell. Since baboons live in a strict hierarchy, being higher up is better for stress. When however, the hierarchy is threatened, the stress on top is just as bad. So, apart from being on top, it is best for a baboon to also have a good capacity to cope with stress. That is, to recognize stressful situation, react right and have an outlet. Sapolsky describes in detail what this means for baboons, but the bottom-line, that the more sociable ones are better at coping with stress, is easily translated to human society. As I would paraphrase Sapolsky: for your health it is best, first of all, not to be born poor, but beyond the poor line, you'd better be well socialized, have a good relationship, have friends and be around kids.

Check out the Healthy Living feed for many more interesting lectures on various subjects in medicine. (feed)

More Stanford:
Historical Jesus,
Global Geopolitics,
History of the International System,
Stem Cells - policy and ethics.