SpaceX Audio Stuff

After months of talking about “doing something with audio,” we finally used the SpaceX post as an excuse to actually try something. A few days ago, I asked readers on Facebook what kind of audio they’d like to hear regarding the SpaceX post. There were two clear answers:

1) People who hadn’t read the post yet wanted an audiobook-esque verbatim audio version of the post.

2) People who had read the post preferred to hear a podcast-esque discussion about the post and about the topic.

So we decided to try both. We’re not starting an official podcast yet—just using this as an opportunity to get a couple audio experiments under our belt and hear some feedback from readers about them. Here’s what we tried:

1) An audio version of the SpaceX post, painstakingly read by me.

I have a new respect for audiobooks. It turns out that narrating a piece of writing is grueling as fuck. But simultaneously kind of fun. The post is 40,000 words, and the recording ended up clocking in at 3 hours and 43 minutes. I split it up into five parts that mirror the five pages of the written post. I also created a merged version for anyone who just wants to deal with one file.

This is for people who haven’t read the post yet and would prefer to consume it by audio, or for people who read the post and liked it enough to get into it twice.

It’s a totally unabridged verbatim version, other than the blue circle footnotes, which I left out, and the images, which I described in my own words when they were critical for understanding the post and left out otherwise.

Word of warning: I spend a solid 12 minutes at the beginning of this rambling through a bunch of preliminary stuff about the recording and reading the pre-post note that’s part of the written post—if that sounds uninteresting and you want to jump straight to the beginning of the actual post, start at 11:57.

Here’s the whole thing as one file:


And here it is in parts:

1) Part 1: The Story of Humans and Space

2) Part 2: Musk’s Mission

3) Part 3: Colonize Mars—Phase 1

4) Part 3: Colonize Mars—Phase 2

5) Part 3: Colonize Mars—Phase 3


2) Andrew interviewing me about the SpaceX post.

As Andrew and I discussed what would be best to do here, we decided that Andrew interviewing me would be a good way to draw out some of the interesting behind-the-scenes info from the SpaceX post. In what turned into a 90-minute discussion, we get into a lot of topics, including the process of researching and writing the SpaceX post, the experience of working with Elon Musk through the process, a bunch of stuff about Mars and how colonization actually might work, the SpaceX internet satellite project, mass extinction events and why they suck, the best toys to take to the International Space Station, why I think it’s fine never to exercise.

It’s kind of an interview, kind of a discussion, kind of me going on long monologues, kind of on topic but kind of not. Yeah.

The bad news about doing all of this is that procrastinating on doing it took time, and then actually doing it took time, and coupled with me moving apartments last week, it has delayed the next post, which I’m starting working on now. The good news is that doing these made audio seem a lot less icky/daunting and paved the road for more of it to come.

If you listen to either or both of these things, we’d love to hear what you think.

Also, in case you missed it, you can buy a fancy PDF of the SpaceX post here.

  • Delly

    Love it! 🙂 I’m really glad you guys are dabbling in different mediums. Kudos to you

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  • great, do you plan to create podcast channel (for itunes and stuff)?

    • Tim Urban

      At some point, yes. Not sure exactly when it’ll start.

      • looking forward to it. keep doing the great job of awesome.

      • Lera

        I will pay money for this. I will go through the excruciating step of creating yet ANOTHER new account just for the sole purpose of sponsoring you on Patreon. Gawd I’m sick of creating so many splintered off accounts to do miniscule things that are going to get hacked by all of the account holders who aren’t secure and then I have to worry about my entire life getting stolen all so I can donate a few lousy bucks to someone.

        But I will DO THAT for you if you make a podcast channel that I can subscribe to that delivers to me such as iTunes, who already has my account and has already taken care of allowing me to be hacked at least once.

        • Wuuu

          Use strong passphrases, don’t use your real name, never repeat a passphrase and you will be orders of magnitude safer than you might be now. Worst case scenario someone steals one of your accounts and all you do is create another or change the password; not that big a deal.

          But it is not that likely to happen anyways.

        • Case

          http://www.lastpass.com or other Master Password Programs do the trick for me. You do really need one super strong password that you can remember, but as long as you do, you can safely store all your (very strong because randomized because you don’t need to remember ’em by head) passwords.

  • Pepperice

    Oh wow, I love this! I will let you know what I think of it when my kid goes back to school, since I won’t get a chance to listen uninterrupted until then.

  • Reluctant_Crusader

    Great job with the 4 part series. I read the released parts recently and was hugely impressed.
    Keep up the good work. Looking forward to listening to the podcasts whenever i am free.

  • AnnaB

    I am a teacher, and one of my students was really encouraging me to read your posts. I used to read much more, but after becoming a teacher I don’t have nearly as much time. Please, please continue the audio work! I would love to hear more of what you have to say and this makes it possible!

  • Las10

    This is amazing! I am sending an email with my feedback and a few thoughts about the podcast and the topic in general. Just commenting this out, just in case it goes to your spam.

  • 2timesT

    Loved the discussion/interview think especially the insight on elon musk and the cooperation. Hope you guys will start a podcast.

  • Akash

    1.You never told us you had a girlfriend….:(
    2.How did you sponsor your travel series?
    3.NEVER stop writing.
    4.Answer me pleeease.

  • Max

    This is awesome! Yes please! I would definitely like an audio version or a podcast. I don’t get a lot of time to sit down and read. Your articles are usually so long that I don’t get time to read them. But I love audio! I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. The thing is, I can listen to them while doing other things that don’t require a lot of attention. I listen to them during commute, while doing my laundry, doing my dishes, cooking or any other household chores. Yes please! A podcast sounds fantastic!

  • Gal Green

    The “3D = Zero G” kinda actually makes sense – if you think about the fact you can move in full 3D when you’re in zero G, whereas when there’s gravity you can only “fully” move in 2 dimensions and only jump / fall in the 3rd dimension.

  • fbooker

    As a 77 year-old journalism student, I’m learning about podcasts and recording. Your concern about recording quality is justified, but you’ve done well enough that you can relax on that account. Your voice and delivery is fine–informal and easy to listen to. You’re right about it being hard as f**k. We don’t see the edits, re-recording and other things that make an hour long recording take two or three hours to produce. I have a simple recording studio at home, as well as a state of the art studio available to me at the University of Maine. I offer my services on a volunteer basis should you need someone to record other long posts. I just signed up for your newsletter and enjoy it immensely. By the way, do you ever entertain guest blogs? I’ve just started a science blog at sciorfi.blogspot.com. I plan on at least a blog a week on that subject. I find that trying to keep up with science is hard. While I write about a cutting edge discovery or concept it’s eclipsed as I type. Elon Musk is my hero, although I think he’s wrong about hydrogen. This is too long, so so long,

  • marisheba

    Moving is totally the worst! Glad you’ve got that over with and can move back on to the fun stuff.

  • gatorallin

    I liked the Tim and Andrew Discuss the SpaceX Post best…. but I had already read the written form of all the others so for me this was the only new material. My favorite line… “everything… it is like making a sausage, it’s not pretty when you are making it…” ….”most of the time I am so buried in the weeds and I have this blind faith this will end up good…”. Yes, we are open with you experimenting and trust you to figure this out once you get there (happy to be along for the ride.. that is the adventure for us all).

    Also…. I do like the fevered pitch and /speed of the ideas/discussion and bouncing through multiple ideas/directions (ADHD flavored)

  • Chunger

    Really liked the conversation. I would definitely subscribe to the podcast, where you could just talk about the posts or general stuff of interest.
    Personally I’m not that interested in the audio version of the post, because especially in your posts I feel like there’s much more to it than just the text. The images really help to visualize the things you talk about, and maybe more importantly I love the side notes (blue circle footnotes) and the different links you give to interviews, articles and such. I was reading the SpaceX post and suddenly found myself in a rabbit hole watching a 20 minute tour of the ISS, reading about it and looking when I can see it from where I live. That’s why I feel these long Wait But Why posts are an experience, and not just short books.
    But of course it’s great that there’s the option to also listen to the post.

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  • Ri Ri

    Nice job Tim and Andrew on your first podcast!!! Please do a discussion like this every 2 weeks!

    • Ru Ru

      it’s not a podcast, but they should make this moree often

  • PastaZombie

    Really enjoyed listening to the discussion about the post podcast. Was interesting to hear about the writing process and more details about the meetings with Musk. You’re both really easy and entertaining to listen to. In the second half though, while still interesting, I think a lot of Andrew’s questions ended up being a retelling/slight expansion/tangents of the topics covered in the post. I wonder if responding to questions and comments from the comments section of the post could be good too and perhaps give it some more variety.

    Also for audio quality, while Skype is fine, if you want to improve things a bit I would suggest recording on each end of the conversation and then syncing up.

    • Las10

      Yes, answering comments would be a great addition, and a content generator for these not-podcasts. The more (ideas), the merrier!

  • slo_mystery

    I just love it . It was great suprise for Sunday . I first listened 2nd part ( Andrew Interviewing … ) and it was realy interesing . I alredy read your post about SpaceX, bust it will be nice to listening agen . Great work again.

  • Vivid

    Coming up with discussion podcast for every long post (even the older ones – procrastination, The fermi paradox, etc.) wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  • First of all, thank you for putting it up in an audio form. I know how hard creating audio content can be (I run a podcast) so kudos to you. One bit of constructive criticism is that Soundcloud is a difficult way to listen to the audio because it requires an internet connection at the point of listening. I’d recommend using something like https://simplecast.fm which provides everything you need (and in your case, unlimited bandwidth) for a negligible price.

  • SeriaPonderosa

    (More?) podcasts pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! 😀

  • matt restivo

    It would be awesome if you could publish these podcasts to the itunes store so we can subscribe!

  • Alex Servirog

    Would be nice to have the links to that written parts in this post so it’s easy to find blue boxes and diagrams while listening.

  • Tense9

    The conversation with Andrew was very interesting, but is anyone else not completely enthralled with SoundCloud?

    I’m playing it on my iphone, and every time the app closes it loses its place, so the next time I open it I have to scan through to see where I left off.

    Podcast apps (and Netflix) remembers where it left off, so why can’t SoundCloud? Or is this a feature which completely flew over my head?

  • lucas

    I really loved the audio. It was great idea and hope you continue doing it with future posts. Thank you for existing !

  • lucas

    Hello I wrote a post few days ago, but I havent realized how great this audio recording was for me. I am a person who reads very slowly and dont have too much time to read, but I spend too much time in a bus. So this audio was great and I listened to all of them (full version and conversation with Andrew) during this time in the bus. I encourage you to continue doing this recordings and I also congratulate you for how incredible this articles are. I really enjoy reading / listening all of your posts for all the contents and how amazingly you describe everything, it just makes it really clear and I can really get the total picture in my head. Also all your drawings are funny and very ilustrative. Once again thank you for existing ! 🙂

  • darryl

    Thanks for doing the follow up conversation about SpaceX. The insight was very interesting. I’d love something similar for Tesla and the AI pieces.

    -d

  • Sandra S

    Thank you so much for doing the audio!! Now I can multi task at work instead of full on procrastinate.
    Tim I had a question – did Elon Musk ever say why he was dubious of Mars One?

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