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Podcasting about: The Joy of x podcast

In this series of posts, we’ll be featuring mathematical podcasts from all over the internet, by speaking to the creators of the podcast and asking them about what they do.

We spoke to John Rennie, deputy editor of Quanta Magazine, about Steven Strogatz’ new podcast which debuted in January 2020, called The Joy of x.

The Joy of x podcast logo

Podcast title: The Joy of x
Website: quantamagazine.org/tag/the-joy-of-x
Links: AppleStitcherSpotifyPlayer.fmSubscribe on AndroidTuneInGoogle Play
Average episode length: ~55 minutes
Recommended episode: Episode 2: Alex Kontorovich on the Absolute Truth of Pure Math

What is your podcast about?

The Joy of x podcast opens a window into the inner worlds of top-tier scientists and mathematicians while shining light on universal themes like creativity, collaboration and navigating professional challenges. In each episode, the acclaimed mathematician and popular author Steven Strogatz holds intimate, lively conversations with top scientists about their discoveries and the inspirations, frustrations and pleasures along the way.

Strogatz shares with listeners his passion for scientific inquiry — as one scientist genuinely interested in the inner world of another. The topics of conversation range from the beginning of time, the power of black holes, the evolution of brains and behaviors, the mathematics of rigged elections, the nature of scientific evidence and how a former NFL player ended up pushing the boundaries of graph theory.

The Joy of x is for anyone with diverse interests in science and mathematics who would also like to know more about the sources of scientific creativity.

Where is your podcast hosted?

The podcast is made and hosted by Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent science journalism publication sponsored by the nonprofit Simons Foundation. Quanta focuses on developments in mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science and the basic life sciences.

In consultation with Quanta’s editors, episodes are produced by Story Mechanics, a production company specializing in podcasts, live show tours, scoring and sound design.

Steven Strogatz (photo by Heather Ainsworth for Quanta Magazine)
Cornell Math Professor, Steven Strogatz, the host of the podcast, pictured at his home in Ithaca, NY, Thursday, January 9, 2020. (Heather Ainsworth for Quanta Magazine)

What is a typical episode like?

Each episode consists of a one-on-one edited conversation in which Steven Strogatz speaks with a top-tier scientist or mathematician about their work, but also about their personal history and the passions that inspire their dedication to that research. New episodes are released weekly.

What are some highlights of the podcast so far?

One highlight came in Episode 2, in conversation with mathematician Alex Kontorovich, when he was describing what it was like to work with one of the greatest mathematicians of the recent past, Jean Bourgain. Alex described Bourgain as a superstar among superstars, a sort of Michael Jordan of mathematics. Even other Fields medalists looked up to Bourgain as a giant. So what was it like for Alex, as a young postdoc, to work side by side with him? His answer was so humble and natural, it made Steve Strogatz laugh.

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