There is a new podcast called Living Space in the world of astronomy which is, according to the website,
…a collaboration between Chris Lintott (Oxford University and BBC Sky at Night) and Harriet Scott (Heart FM) to bring you the latest news from the worlds of astronomy and spaceflight.
and as far I can tell this is true. So far so good. The first two episodes of the program have been about half an hour long and they contain a mix of general observing notes and astronomy news as well as a couple of ‘features’, e.g. they interview Piers Sellers, the British born astronaut, in Show 2.
The show is very well made and sounds much like something you would hear on BBC Radio. This is partly due to both the presenters having good vocal presence, but also I assume they are using professional equipment to record the show, which is something many podcasts lack.
My only issue with the podcast is more of a quibble and I hope it will be ironed out as time goes by. Essentially I don’t feel that the show has really found its feet. For one they seem to be rushing through material at times. Particularly the first half of Show 2 felt quite manic. The ‘60 Seconds’ segment seems a tad ill-conceived for an audio medium. I had to pause it and rewind a couple of times to actually process what Harriet was saying. I am assuming of course that I am not just slow this morning.
Another annoyance is the almost American way in which I am told what they are about to talk about next. This is something BBC Breakfast news have begun doing and it irks me no end. “So what about this thingy we’re going to talk about – well we’ll talk about it after we talk about this other thingy”. There’s nothing wrong with giving a beginning and/or end summary for a half hour show. However my attention span is not so short that I need reminding intermittently what is ‘coming up’.
Other than that, there are two great things about Living Space. Firstly it is half an hour long. I love half an hour long things to listen to and watch. Thirty minutes just works for me and so in this respect the show actually beats out the wonderful Jodcast (Although the Jodcast does offer per-segment downloads and feeds). The show is weekly which, again, fits nicely into my listening habits. Secondly, the content is not wasteful. Chris, Harriet and whoever else may be involved in the show, are keeping all parts of the show to a minimum and moving on when its done. This is great and more podcasts generally should take heed.
Finally I wanted to say that with a bit of maturing, this podcast could become a big deal in Astronomy. The sort of thing they are talking about and the depth which they discuss it at is exactly right for a general astronomy audience. A weekly, half-hour show including observing notes, news and a couple of interviews is exactly what the BBC should do with the Sky at Night. I wonder if, with a bit of luck and publicity, this podcast could become what that TV show ought to be. The digital media world we are entering into makes this tantalisingly possible and I wish therm luck on their way.