Last updated: 17 January 2018

For Listeners

What are your audio specs?

The Unseen Podcast is .mp3 format, in mono, typically 112 kbps (a little higher or lower depending on the server space available), with loudness adjusted to -19 LUFS per the defacto standard. The raw mix is leveled in postproduction so you shouldn't have to fiddle with your volume control.

What is your Theme Music?

It's "Of Water and Ice" by DJ Spooky, featuring soprano Jin Xiang Yu. You can download the whole
Soprano Jin Xiang Yu
Creative Commons album
 from Free Music Archive.

What is this "Pub" thing?

It is a series of YouTube videos we do occasionally in which there are no rules, no agenda, no host, no show notes, and minimal sobriety.  The links to these videos are in the episodes spreadsheet, just click on the "Pub" tab. The audio for these gabfests does not show up in the podcast RSS feed.

The Pub is open participation, as always. If you want to be on, just raise your hand, You can even talk about punching sharks, if you are so inclined.

Does your podcast have a mission statement?

No. Our producer has seen so many mission statements that he couldn't believe anyone would say out loud without choking, that we won't feed into that (hopefully fading) fashion. Of course, we think about our exact purposes all the time, and every time a new participant joins, that purpose slightly transforms. You could be one of those transforming agents if you want.

We can easily say at least some of the things that the Unseen Podcast is not. It is not a soapbox, because that is boring. It is not an education platform, because other people (Phil Plait, Pamela Gay, Steven Novella, …) are already doing that much better than we can. It is not a news show, although we may talk about some items recently reported.

Can I listen to the podcast live?

Yes. At present we are using YouTube Live, but these are closely similar to Google Hangouts on Air. We will post the link to watch the hangout about one week in advance at the Google+ listener's community, and on our Twitter feed.

There is a chat feature on the YouTube live events that we encourage you to use as you watch.

How can I subscribe to your podcast?

Thanks for asking - subscribing is a great idea. It makes listening to the Unseen Podcast effortless.

One way to subscribe is to use the URL of our Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed:

How you use that link will depend on the software you use to listen to podcasts - your podcatcher. For example, in iTunes, this is easy: just go to the File menu, elect "Subscribe to Podcast," and paste in the URL above in the dialog box that appears.

In the mobile podcatcher I use, Pocket Casts, just go to Search, paste in the url, and the Subscribe button will appear. After that, every new episode of the Unseen Podcast will automagically appear within a short time of its publication.

In the iTunes Store, just search for us and hit "subscribe".

You said the Unseen Podcast is a spinoff of the Wow! Signal. How do I listen to the Wow! Signal?

Just go to wowsignalpodcast.com and click on the "Threads" tab for the full length episodes, or the "Bursts" tab for the short episodes. Once you are at the blog entry for your episode of choice, just click the "play" button to listen. You can also subscribe using your software of choice on Android, iOS, or desktop machine.

What if I have a Question or Comment?

You can leave it here on this blog as a comment, or e-mail: unseenpodcast@gmail.com. we're looking forward to hearing from you. If your question is about one of the episodes, guests, or topics, we'll try to answer it on air. We also have a G+ community for listeners.

What Does Creative Commons mean?

We use the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-alike license. That means you can freely redistribute the podcast audio in whole or in part, but you have to give us attribution, and you can't copyright it.

Should I consider joining the panel pool?

Yes. If you are a decent sort, and you have at least some Friday nights (if you live in North or South America) available, and you enjoy the friendly but spirited conversation we have and think you could contribute to it in some way. You don't have to be an expert in anything we cover, just have good questions. Very few of our panelists are practicing scientists, and that's OK.

Where can I find links to past episodes? How about downlink stats?

Start on this page. All the downlink stats are maintained here. Stats are updated about one per week for recent episodes, and less frequently for older episodes. Please share past episodes that you like, preferably with a link to the show notes, which contain all the other links you need.

For Participants

How do I get my name in the panel pool?

Essentially, just join the G+ participant community. Since we have turned on "Ask to Join" to combat spam,  it may take a day or so before you are in, bu then you will then be added to the panel pool. We prefer you use your real name, unless it's really unsafe for you to do so.

Once in the panel pool, you should stop by G+ at least once a week to see what's going on and to check your notifications. It doesn't hurt, we promise. We are a civil community.

What is the ideal panel size?

Ideally 3, or maybe 4 in some cases. Larger than that, and participation becomes uneven. The maximum panel size is 8 or 9 (depending on whether we have a guest or not), but that really is too large for us. Our most popular episode yet had only 1 panelist and a host.

Ideally, we'd have a pool of about 50-100 panelists, and each person would be on about 2-4 times per year. The real distribution is so far not that smooth.

How is the Panel selected?

The panel is selected primarily from those who reply "Yes" to the call for panelist using these criteria, in descending order of importance are:
  1. Engagement in the topics thread for that episode.
  2. People how have not been on before or have not been on recently or frequently have preference, given equal participation and engagement.
  3. replying to the Call for Panelists at least one week before the recording.
  4. helping out in other ways, such as promotion or securing good guests for the show.
It's up to the host to determine who the panelists will be, based upon these considerations. If there are no-shows, then the host may invite "Maybe" respondents as well onto the panel.

But, what is the topic for this episode? I don't know if I want to participate.

What do you think the topic should be? The topics are not dictated by the producer or host, except every 3-5 episodes when we have a special guest lined up (we'll announce that in advance). The panelists and the community are responsible for defining the topics, and need to converge on this in the topics thread for that episode.

If you find yourself in this situation, then reply "Maybe" and then go jump on the topics thread early and often.

Do I need headphones?

The short answer is yes. That's also the long answer. 

If you absolutely MUST use speakers, then turn them down as much as possible and mute your mic when not talking (a good practice in any event). There are some good webcams with microphones built in that don't pick up much feedback - but let's do a technical rehearsal first.

I don't live in a good time zone for your recording sessions. How can I participate?

We love having international panels and do what we can to accommodate everyone. Occasionally, we will have panels at special times so that people in distant time zones can more easily participate. Let us know where you are (relative to GMT), and what times work best for you.

Do I need to Be An Atheist/Skeptic/Science Nerd, or whatever to be on the panel?

No, there is no ideological litmus test for panelists. All panelists should be prepared to defend whatever their views are in a friendly, good natured, spirited conversation. 

We won't disrespect you, but your ideas might be up for some criticism. We all have blind spots, delusions, misconceptions, biases, and bounds to our knowledge, no matter what tribe we claim membership in. Maybe we can help each other out. 

Here are some thoughts on how we should handle controversy on the podcast.

What's all this about the "Topics" thread?

As soon as the call for panelists goes out for the Episode, a topics thread for the episode will be started. Everyone should feel free to contribute to the thread, and if you are invited and plan to be on the panel for that episode, then you really should contribute. Engagement in the topics thread well before the recording date for a given episode is a requirement for being on the panel.

What would you like to talk about? What questions do you have? Should we see if we can get a special guest? To find the topics threads more easily, just click on "Topics" in the community.

Who can host?

Anyone who is so inclined, and you are encouraged to try your hand at it. No audio engineering skill is required. It's also not about subject matter expertise, but rather being able to start a conversation and keep it rolling and more or less on course. You should do a little reading to brush up on the topics for the show, and have participated in at least 1 podcast as a member of the panel before. There are some detailed instructions you will have to follow, but if you take them in order, they's not too hard.

What's going on with the invitations?

The first invitation goes out at 4 weeks before the recording date, and is a "call for panelists" to see who is interested in recording that episode. Everyone invited should respond within 3 weeks, even if the answer is "No."  You should receive a G+ notification and an e-mail that you have been invited.

The primary panelists will be selected from the "yes" respondents. If there are no-shows or not enough "yes" respondents, then we will go to the "maybe" respondents - aka "the bench." The panel will typically be listed in the episode planning sheet 2-4 days before recording, so please make sure your status is as up to date as you can get it.

We are still in flux on this, but there may be a second invitation if you are selected for the panel. We used to use Google Hangouts on Air, but that has changed. Stay tuned.

How can I see all the future episodes I'm invited to?


We recommend using a Google Calendar, which you can link to other calendar apps if you like.

I am worried about the technical end of being on a podcast. What can I do?

If you want to schedule a technical rehearsal, we can do that. 15-20 minutes is usually all we need to knock the kinks out.

Do I need to record anything on my end?

No. To keep the workflow simple, we are recording the audio plus (optionally) the host's local audio only. 

Do I need an expensive microphone?

No. We can make several recommendations for very modestly priced microphones you can use, but please use a real dynamic microphone, not that crappy little thing built into your laptop. Also, please avoid condenser mics unless you have a real studio or sound booth. If you spend much more than $70 on a mic, stand, shock mount and pop filter, you have probably spent too much, and you can probably get a decent mic used (there are many abandoned mics out there that just need a good home) for well less than $40. You can get good USB mics that you plug right into your computer so you won't need a preamp, mixer or USB interface.

What's all this about using my real name?

Why wouldn't you? Some people think their handle is cute or clever, but it's not. Here is more on the rationale for this policy. Exceptions can be made, and have been made.

Dos and Don'ts ?

The following positive behaviors are encouraged.
  • Volunteering to host once in awhile.
  • Respond to the invitations you do get, even if the answer is "No."
  • Reply "Yes" to the hangout invitation and then you actually show up.
  • If you fill in at the last minute when a panelist fails to show.
  • Help out some way with music, art, getting special guests, promotion, show notes, or the website.
  • Engage actively in the topic threads.
  • Participate well in an episode with good preparation and ask really thoughtful questions.
  • Encourage others to speak up and make their views known.
  • Disagreeing in a good natured, civil manner.
  • Provide a good, brief bio for the panelist's page.
  • Showing up for the recording session when you should be asleep in bed.
  • Being funny.
  • Make a sly but geeky reference. Douglas Adams is usually a winner.
The following sorts of things will result in less frequent invitations, or even expulsion from the panel pool:
  • Bullying, mean, insulting, or condescending behavior toward other panelists or guests.
  • Failing to respond in any way to invitations (unless they are last-minute, in which case, much slack is cut).
  • Failing to engage in topic threads.
  • Replying "Yes" and then not showing up (depending on circumstances).
  • Making strongly dogmatic assertions without evidence or citation.
  • Being crazy, but not in a good way.

Are there any restrictions on the topics we explore?

Nothing hard and fast, except that we generally consider other people's private lives off limits, even if they have been dead awhile. Other than that, the rule is simply: keep it to topics that are interesting. You can talk about religion, politics, operating systems or anything else like that, but if we start repeating ourselves and talking past each other, the moderator has to rein it in.

The topics we intend to cover for a particular episode should be discussed well in advance of recording in the G+ community. We actually do intend to have some structure to the discussion, but will let it wander in creative and interesting tangents when that is working.

What can I do about my Room Acoustics?

There are lot so cheap things you can do. Blankets and pillow forts and rugs are great. Maybe just hang an old blanket behind you. Sell the condenser mic and get a dynamic. 

Can I cuss on your podcast?

Yes, but we encourage using transgressive vocabulary for strong emotional emphasis rather than punctuation. One f-bomb, and we have to put an Explicit tag on the episode.

I'm confused about the various roles here: producer, host, panelist, guest, engineer, etc.

The Producer, until further notice, is Paul Carr. The Producer is responsible for overall planning, for postproduction, for recruiting hosts and panelists, and getting the final product before the world in terms of a properly leveled .mp3 file, an updated RSS feed, and a web page. 

The Host is responsible for selecting the panel, initiating the recording session, getting the panelists ready, and hosting the show. After the show, the host may either provide a recording to the Producer (ideal), or the URL of the YouTube video automagically recorded during the hangout (easier). 

A Panelist is someone who appears on the show with burning questions on the topic(s) at hand, and the willingness to talk about them in a good natured manner. To become a panelist, join the panel pool, and respond "Yes" when you get an invitation, engage with the associated topics thread for that episode, then show up at the appointed time. We would also encourage you to submit a headshot and a short bio for our Panelist's Page.

A Guest is someone we have invited to appear on the show and answer the panelist's questions. Usually this is someone who is an expert in a particular area or interest.  We won't have guests every episode, but aim for about one a month or so.

The engineer is whoever is responsible for the technical production of the show. Usually this is also the Producer, but not necessarily.

Can I plug my own book/blog/podcast/cause/whatever ?

Yes. We are also happy to put links to your content in the show notes.

What if I want out of the panel pool?

We encourage people who don't want to actively participate in the podcast to leave the participant's community and join the Listener's community. There you can keep up with what's going on and discuss the subject matter as much as you like.

I feel I should chip in a bit to cover the costs. How can I do that?

The costs are roughly $20 per month, not counting equipment. A very small monthly donation can be made at http://patreon.com/unseenpodcast

Drinking Game? What Drinking Game?

It's Friday night! Just to lighten things up, we sometimes announce a drinking game. It's all for fun, and of course, no one is expected to imbibe who doesn't wish to.


  1. Might make sense to mention your other podcast on this page (for context). YMMV

    I just asked PlayerFM (my favorite podcatcher, Android and awesome on web) to add http://unseenpodcast.libsyn.com/rss