I am a podcast fan. I listen to podcasts on long journeys, while I’m cooking dinner, while I’m gardening and to help me off to sleep. There is a world of fascinating knowledge and stories out there that I can’t get enough of. The first of these, recommended to me by my son, is the encyclopaedic purveyor of unusual facts, 99% Invisible. Produced in Oakland, California it is part of the Radiotopia network and whilst rooted in the USA, has a truly international outlook. I find it delightful.
If you visit their website, the ‘about’ section tells us that “99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Fascinating enough, but it’s much more than that. To date there are 325 episodes that you can download, beginning in 2010 and carrying on to the present, they have covered what I consider to be everyday wonders of the world. If you haven’t listened to any of them yet, you’re in for a treat. I wish I could start from Episode 1 again – in fact I may well do that because there are many that I would like to hear again.
Each episode begins with an introduction from the velvety voiced Roman Mars, with the inevitable but very important messages from their sponsors (independent means they need the advertising). “I’m Roman Mars……” and proceeds to tell us about some fascinating thing that we’d really never thought about but might just observe now, like the way that large buildings are designed to make people behave in certain ways – in airports for instance in Episode 126: Walk This Way, and Episode 93, which tells us why we should always use the revolving doors.
Then there are my all-time favourites: Episode 160 Perfect Security reveals that “in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key — a chest, a safe, your home — and have complete, unwavering certainty that no intruder could get to it.” The story of Bramah, Chubb and the lock controversy of 1851 unfolds. Episode 164 tells us how the discovery of Bakelite helped to make the awful practice of creating billiard balls from elephant tusks come to an end – did you know that by the mid-19th century, elephants were being slaughtered for their ivory at an alarming rate, just to keep up with the demand for high-end billiard balls – no more than eight balls could be made from a single elephant’s tusks. Closer to home is Episode 316 The Shipping Forecast featuring interviews with that reassuring voice of Peter Jefferson that anyone who listened to his dulcet tones late at night in will appreciate.
Wherever you get your podcasts try listening to 99% Invisible. It’s a whole new world. Check out their website: https://99percentinvisible.org.
By the way, they don’t like Trump, so all is safe in their hands.
Judi Hughes, 22 October 2018