Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Brains On! Science podcast for kids

www.brainson.org
Brains On!® is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from American Public Media. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us. @Brains_On
Video Games: A Tale of Two Pongs
Nov 13 • 33 min
Introducing our brand new history show, Forever Ago! Join host Joy Dolo and kid co-host Kai on an epic quest through history to figure out how video games began. With help from intrepid reporter Cari Spivack, they’ll visit the age of dinosaur computers,…
Do dogs know they’re dogs?
Nov 6 • 29 min
We treat dogs like they’re part of the family. But do they know they are a different species, or do they think they’re just short, four-legged people? In this episode, canine cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz helps us puzzle out this question. We’ll…
Body Bonanza: Yawns, hiccups, goosebumps and more!
Oct 30 • 43 min
Brains On listeners have LOTS of questions about the human body so we’ve decided to answer nine – count em NINE – of these questions in one go. The terrific topics tackled: Hiccups, yawns, getting dizzy, goosebumps, fingerprints, limbs falling asleep,…
How to find the facts (Prove It: Part 4)
Oct 23 • 28 min
Today information is everywhere, but what should you trust? Can you spot the difference between well researched articles and stories full of opinion, errors or even lies? In our final chapter of “Prove It: How to find the facts,” we’ll find out how to…
The scoop on journalism (Prove It: Part 3)
Oct 16 • 35 min
Fair and fact-based news helps people make good decisions. That’s why journalists work hard to get their facts straight. In the third installment of our series “Prove It: How to find the facts,” we’ll hear how one daring reporter got herself locked in a…
Science under the microscope (Prove It: Part 2)
Oct 9 • 28 min
Science is a powerful fact-finding tool — but how does it work? In this second installment in our series “Prove It: How to find the facts,” we look to the past for answers. We find out how a snake heart helped get rid of an old idea about blood and how…
A Brief History of Facts (Prove It: Part 1)
Oct 2 • 28 min
We’d be nothing without facts. They ground us in reality, help us make new discoveries and allowed us to build the modern world. In this episode we explain how we developed two of our most powerful fact finding tools: science and journalism! Plus, we’ll…
Brains On! + The Story Pirates: What makes fun things fun?
Aug 28 • 33 min
We’re teaming up with our pals The Story Pirates to learn about the science of having fun! Our experts tell us what makes something fun and why we’re so geared toward seeking a good time. Plus, the Story Pirates share their song “Pizza Revenge.” We’ve…
What makes gross things gross?
Aug 21 • 36 min
Fair warning: Today we’re gonna get gross! We’re talking sounds, smells, and tastes that some people might find repulsive. But we’re asking: why? What’s the purpose of disgust? Is it something we’re born knowing or do we learn to dislike things? When will…
Keeping water healthy, one clue at a time
Aug 14 • 22 min
Last week, we heard about the tale of the Cuyahoga River — a river in Ohio that caught on fire multiple times because it was so polluted. The river is now doing much better, but beyond the fact that it’s not on currently fire — how do we actually know…
Burning rivers of fire
Aug 7 • 25 min
Rivers are known for being wet. So how did a river in Ohio suddenly catch fire, not once, but several times last century? In part three of our water series, we’ll explore the shocking tale of the Cuyahoga River. We’ll look at how pollution led to this…
How does GPS know where you are?
Jul 31 • 24 min
Without GPS, we’d be lost. Literally. Thanks to these radio transmissions from space though, we’re able to pinpoint our location and find our way home. Join us as we learn all about satellites, how the robot voice of GPS is created and how atomic clocks…
Salty snack science: Popcorn, nachos and the origins of salt
Jul 24 • 33 min
We’re having a snack attack in this episode and we’re using it as an excuse to delve into the facts and history of some of our favorite snacks. How does popcorn pop? Who invented nachos? And where does salt come from? Plus, our Moment of Um tells us all…
Wanna see Mars’ close approach? Just look up!
Jul 17 • 28 min
The Red Planet is putting on a show this July. It’ll be closer to Earth than it’s been in 15 years and that means at night it’ll appear bigger and brighter than average. In fact, you should be able to see it easily without a telescope! In this episode…
Smash Boom Best: Books vs Movies
Jul 10 • 33 min
Today, we’re sharing another epic showdown from our brand new debate show, Smash Boom Best. Each episode, we pit our favorite things against each other, like bats versus owls! Or pizza versus tacos! And we ask you to decide who won.
How to cook for an alien
Jul 3 • 33 min
The aliens are coming to dinner! In this episode we wonder what food aliens might eat and talk to real scientists who’ve thought long and hard about this question. Plus, our friends at America’s Test Kitchen show us how to whip up a delicious beef and…
Mix: The science cooking, pt. 4
Jun 26 • 29 min
Are you ready to mix it up? In this episode, we find out why oil and vinegar are like bickering siblings in the back seat of a car, what delicious food inspired the invention of the blender, and the most effective whisking technique (spoiler alert: it’s…
Chop: The science of cooking, pt. 3
Jun 19 • 31 min
Our knives are drawn and ready to mince and dice our way through the science of chopping. In this episode we’ll find out what happens to that carrot you’re chopping on a molecular level (spoiler alert: the knife never actually touches it!). We also visit…
Chill: The science of cooking, pt. 2
Jun 12 • 29 min
From ice cubes to ice cream, cold things are a crucial part of cuisine. How do we use chill to our advantage? This is part two of our series on the science of cooking, a collaboration with the brilliant foodies at America’s Test Kitchen Kids. This episode…
Heat: The science of cooking pt. 1
Jun 5 • 31 min
We’ve teamed up with America’s Test Kitchen Kids to delve into the scrumptious science of cooking. You’ve sent in so many great cooking questions that we had to spread the answers over four episodes. This is our first installment: HEAT. What crazy…
Boogers and sun sneezes: Know your nose
May 29 • 20 min
In this encore mash-up episode, we revisit some fascinating facts that will help you get to know your nose. Why does the sun make some people sneeze? And where do boogers come from anyway? Plus: A brand new moment of um answers the question: “Why do…
The wonderful weirdness of water
May 22 • 29 min
One of the weirdest substances in the universe is right under your nose. No, not boogers. Water! Water seems ordinary, almost boring, but take a closer look and you’ll find a wonderfully weird molecule that behaves like nothing else in the universe. It…
Smash Boom Best: Bats vs. Owls (new show alert!)
May 15 • 27 min
For the past few months, we’ve been working on a top secret project and we’re so excited we finally get to share it with you! It’s a new show called Smash Boom Best and it’s nothing but debates. Sort of like the ones you’ve heard on Brains On, but with a…
What was the first robot? And more from Robotstravaganza
May 8 • 31 min
What was the first robot? What is artificial intelligence? How do robots “learn?” In this special episode, we have pieces from our live Robotstravaganza show in Boston. We meet some awesome robots (including one that’s very cuddly), debate whether robots…
What’s in your water?
May 1 • 26 min
What’s in your water, and how did it get there? Clean water is a must, but modern living can put a lot of bad stuff in it. Road salt, fertilizer, dog doo-doo, heavy metals - how do these things get in our water? Why should we care? And how can we tell if…
What makes paint stick?
Apr 24 • 26 min
Paint goes on wet, then it dries — and it’s stuck there. But how does it stick? We’re going to zoom way in to find out. We’ll visit a forensic chemist, a painter who makes his own paint and a party happening at the molecular level.
Allergy Attack: How our bodies can overreact
Apr 9 • 26 min
Pollen, peanuts, dust mites. These things aren’t poisonous - so why do some people’s bodies act like they are? In this episode, we’ll find out what happens during an allergic reaction, explore why only some people have allergies and hear about new…
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2018
Apr 3 • 30 min
Sounds abound all around. Do you think your ears are up to the task? We have an episode chock full of nothing but mystery sounds to challenge and stretch your listening powers. Also, did you hear that the Brains On store is open? We couldn’t be happier…
How do animals breathe underwater?
Mar 26 • 27 min
Our lungs are great at getting oxygen out of the air, but if we needed to do that underwater, we’d be sunk. So how do fish, shrimp, jellyfish and other marine animals breathe underwater? And what happens when there is no oxygen in the water for them to…
‘The Rice Cakes and the Oni’: A story from Circle Round
Mar 20 • 16 min
Sometimes we’re in the mood for a good story, so we’re turning our show over to Circle Round this week. It’s a podcast produced by WBUR in Boston that tells folktales from around the world. These stories are funny, surprising, suspenseful and downright…
Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human
Mar 13 • 27 min
Circadian rhythms keep our bodies on schedule. But what about the rest of the animal and plant world? Turns out, most living things run on similar cycles. In this episode we take a look at why some animals hibernate. There’s also an interview with a…
From 8-bit to orchestras: How does video game music affect you?
Mar 5 • 27 min
If you’ve ever played a video game, you know how important music can be when it comes to gaming. But what if you choose to play without music? How does that affect your playing? We’re going to dig into the psychology of video game music, explain how the…
The tick-tock of our circadian clock
Feb 27 • 43 min
The near 24-hour-cycle that keeps us on track is conducted by the suprachiasmatic nucleus. It’s a tiny part of our brains, but it’s super, super important.
‘Is it opposite day?’ and other mind-bending paradoxes
Feb 20 • 25 min
Think about it: the answer to the question “Is it opposite day?” will always be no. So how do you figure out if it is, in fact, opposite day?
Our 100th episode! What’s the big deal?
Feb 13 • 41 min
In this milestone of an episode, we ask why people seem to love the number 100 so much. We also learn some amazing tricks involving the number 100 and fan favorite Gungador goes from Most Epic Fighting Battle Realm to a much more challenging setting: high…
Meet Sandy, the left-handed mutant snail
Feb 6 • 10 min
For humans, being left-handed or right-handed can definitely affect the way we experience life. Usually, that mismatch is just a minor nuisance — but sometimes, sidedness can change the future of an entire species, as is the case for Sandy.
Dolphins vs. Octopuses: Showdown in the sea!
Jan 30 • 54 min
Two of our planet’s most amazing animals go head to head in our latest debate.
Dogs: What’s the secret of their sense of smell?
Jan 23 • 25 min
If you’ve ever seen a dog, you know they like to sniff — the ground, people, each other’s butts. They like to smell just about everything. But why? We’re digging into the science of smell and how dogs are able to decode things we can’t even begin to…
Mary Shelley and the science of Frankenstein
Jan 16 • 7 min
As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication, we look at how Mary Shelley was inspired by science and how the lessons of the book still resonate with the scientific world today.
Super-size-asaurus: How did dinosaurs get so big?
Jan 9 • 34 min
Ancient dinosaurs were some of the biggest creatures to ever stomp the Earth. But how and why did they get so giant? Was there more food to help them grow? Was the planet itself somehow different, allowing them to reach epic proportions? In this episode…
Mysteries of the universe: Expansion and gravity
Jan 2 • 24 min
In this episode we ponder some big questions from Brains On listeners about the vastness of space.
The nerve! Electricity in our bodies
Dec 26, 2017 • 25 min
Your body is making and using electricity all the time — but how do we do it? We’ll take a look at how bioelectricity helps our brain sends signals and our hearts pump blood. And we’ll learn about some amazing animals that use electricity in weird and…
Charged up! The science of batteries
Dec 19, 2017 • 30 min
Batteries are everywhere — they’re in our phones, our computers, our cars, our toys. But how do they work? To find out, we talk to a scientist who’s making really big batteries to store renewable energy, another who’s working on really small ones to power…
High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet
Dec 12, 2017 • 35 min
We use electricity all the time, but where exactly does it come from? How does it get to our homes? It’s a fascinating journey that can start hundreds of miles from your outlet.
Shocking! The science of static (Electricity series pt. 1)
Dec 5, 2017 • 28 min
What makes your hair stand on end? Why does your skirt stick your tights? Why do you get zapped by electric shocks when you go to touch a doorknob?
Where did language come from?
Nov 27, 2017 • 29 min
Is it possible to know about the origin of language without traveling back in time? And how do babies learn to speak?
Smash: When continents collide!
Nov 21, 2017 • 30 min
How are mountains made? What causes an earthquake? How does hot lava come bubbling up? The answer in each case is…tectonic plates!
Curio: Flies on the bus
Nov 14, 2017 • 8 min
A few weeks ago, we got two emails that were so similar and so intriguing we had no choice but to investigate.
What’s smaller than an electron?
Nov 7, 2017 • 23 min
The natural world can be broken down into atoms. And those atoms can be broken down even further. Will the discovery of smaller and smaller particles ever stop?
Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration
Oct 30, 2017 • 26 min
What superpowers does our skin have to repair itself? And what about other animals like salamanders that can do some pretty extreme healing? We’re going under the skin for this one.
What is Down syndrome?
Oct 24, 2017 • 27 min
You may have heard of Down syndrome, but what is it exactly? In this episode, we’ll break down the science of chromosomes and how having an extra one leads to this fairly common condition. Plus, we’ll learn some tips for making friends with someone who…
Bonus: Kidcast sampler
Oct 22, 2017 • 21 min
Looking for more awesome podcasts to listen to? We’re bringing you a special bonus episode today to let you know about some of the other podcasts that you might want to check out. And if you want to find lots of other podcasts for kids you can always head…
Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes
Oct 17, 2017 • 10 min
The sea lamprey, with its concentric rows of sharp teeth, is part vampire and part alien invader. Would you let it suction to your arm? Reporter Dan Kraker did. Find out if he lived to tell about it.
Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?
Oct 10, 2017 • 28 min
In this episode, we learn all about narwhals (what that tusk is for and how they’re connected to the myth of the unicorn) and the evolution of teeth (from scale-like nubbins to the versatile chompers we have today).
How do volcanoes erupt?
Oct 2, 2017 • 26 min
There are all kinds of volcanoes all over the world, but how are they formed? And how do they erupt? To find out, we’ll travel to the center of the Earth, and we’ll meet a NASA robot that’s going on a very special volcano mission.
For crying out loud: All about tears
Sep 26, 2017 • 33 min
It’s something so natural that we take it for granted — but when you think about it, it’s a little strange. Why does water come out of our eyes? And why does it happen when we’re happy? Or sad? Or scared? Or exhausted? In this episode we dive into our…
Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space
Sep 19, 2017 • 11 min
You know those beeps in old NASA recordings? They’re called Quindar tones. This episode explains them and talks to a couple musicians who incorporate archival, NASA recordings into their songs.
Mars: Our next home planet?
Sep 12, 2017 • 30 min
In this episode we learn about Mars’ ancient past, meet an architect hoping to build cities there and we hear from Mars itself, thanks to the planet’s video blog, of course.
Thunder, lightning and tornadoes: Where do they come from?
Sep 4, 2017 • 17 min
There are some basic ingredients to make thunderstorms and tornadoes. We’ll find out what they are – and how to observe these powerful and amazing storms safely.
Animal farts: A mighty wind
Aug 29, 2017 • 34 min
Most animals fart. And some animals put those farts to work.
Sunburns: The why behind the ouch (and how to avoid them)
Aug 15, 2017 • 22 min
To help us understand sunburns, we’re going deep into the skin to look at cells, molecules and electrons.
Everything you need to know before the solar eclipse
Aug 1, 2017 • 27 min
On Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible on a path that crosses the U.S., from Oregon on the west coast to South Carolina on the east coast. In this episode, we cover all your eclipse essentials: What causes an eclipse? What happens…
Deep Sea vs. Outer Space
Jul 18, 2017 • 57 min
It’s time for the next Brains On debate! This intense matchup brings us to the depths of darkness, under the water and beyond our earth’s atmosphere. Who will prevail?
Fart Smarts: Understanding the gas we pass
Jul 4, 2017 • 29 min
Is farting good for us? Where do farts come from? Why do only some make sounds? And what’s up with the smell? We tackle your questions about the gas we all pass in this episode.
Riding in the car: Motion sickness and optical illusions (Road trip pt. 5)
Jun 30, 2017 • 21 min
Hosts Molly and Gabriella are locked out. No worries: Sanden and Bob to the rescue. While the duo drives a spare set of keys to our beloved hosts, they pass the time discussing science you might see (or feel) in a car.
Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road trip pt. 4)
Jun 23, 2017 • 24 min
On the fourth leg of our road trip, we figure out where traffic comes from and what it would take to make it finally go away.
Monster trucks and car design (Road trip pt. 3)
Jun 20, 2017 • 28 min
At the third stop on our road trip series, we coast in for a pit stop and check out car design. We find out how monster trucks are different than cars, how culture influences car design and what it’s like to make car into animated, talking movie stars.
The future of fuel, and the problem with exhaust (Road trip pt. 2)
Jun 16, 2017 • 17 min
Our planet needs some carbon dioxide, but cars are pumping more into the atmosphere than our carbon cycle can handle. We’ll explore what all this carbon means for our planet. And we talk to a scientist who is working to change how we fuel our cars, so we…
How do engines work? (Road trip pt. 1)
Jun 9, 2017 • 21 min
On the first leg of our road trip, we’re exploring the history of engines and how they work, with a little help from Car Talk’s Ray Magliozzi.
Mystery sound extravaganza!
Jun 6, 2017 • 32 min
There are a whopping 10 sounds for you to guess in this episode. Are your ears up to the challenge?
Books: How they’re made and how your brain reads them
May 23, 2017 • 33 min
What happens in your brain when you read? What goes into the writing of the words? And what about the making of the books themselves, the physical objects?
The science of slime: What is it and why are we so obsessed
May 9, 2017 • 20 min
Homemade slime is sticky, gooey and all the rage, but what is it? When you combine ingredients like glue and laundry detergent you get a strange, flubbery substance. We’ll explain what’s happening on a molecular level to make this stuff.
What was the first life on earth?
Apr 25, 2017 • 32 min
What was the very first lifeform like? What was the first fish or mammal? Is it even possible to know?
How do pianos work?
Apr 11, 2017 • 25 min
In this episode, we take a field trip to a piano shop, peek behind the walls at a world-famous piano factory and have an EPIC FIGHTING BATTLE to discover how sound travels.
How do elevators work?
Mar 28, 2017 • 37 min
Elevators are like magic. You walk in, the door shuts and when it opens again, you are suddenly someplace new! Ta da! But it’s not magic that does this trick, it’s science and engineering.
Why is the ocean salty?
Mar 14, 2017 • 16 min
If you’ve ever been the ocean, you’ve tasted that salt. But where does it come from? And why aren’t lakes and rivers salty too? A sea shanty is probably the best way to explain, right?
Ants: Who’s in charge here?
Feb 28, 2017 • 30 min
We have a lot to learn from ants. This episode digs into the hierarchy of ant colonies (spoiler alert: there is none) and why they walk in a straight line (spoiler alert: they don’t).
Do we all see the same colors?
Feb 14, 2017 • 15 min
What if the color that you call blue and the color I call blue don’t look the same at all? When our brains see color, we’re really just seeing waves of light. Sure, we may be seeing the same waves when we look at the color blue, but do we know if our…
Cats: Glowing eyes, puffy tails and secret purrs
Jan 31, 2017 • 25 min
Why do cat eyes look the way they do? Can cats really see in the dark? And what are they trying to tell us with that purr (you know the one)?
Dinosaur bones: How do we know their age?
Jan 17, 2017 • 18 min
Fossil dating is a lot like eating a delicious ice cream cake. Well, sort of. We find out how scientists look at the rock and elements AROUND a fossil to figure out its age. Plus: We talk to a scientist who studied one of the coolest fossils discovered…
Lighting the way for sea turtles at Gulf Islands National Seashore
Dec 30, 2016 • 15 min
We don’t know much about the long life of a sea turtle, since it’s mostly spent in the ocean. When they do come ashore to lay their eggs, we know the babies use the moon and stars to guide them back to sea. But what happens when hotels and houses and…
Surviving the desert at Joshua Tree National Park
Dec 29, 2016 • 18 min
The desert is hot, dry and deadly. But plenty of plants and animals thrive there. How do they do it? We’ll learn the tricks trees, bats and roadrunners use to make it in Joshua Tree National Park in California.
Making the sands sing at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Dec 28, 2016 • 14 min
When an avalanche happens at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, it sounds like the sand is singing. Huh? How? Why? We learn about the special sand and the specific conditions that make this acoustic phenomenon possible.
Tracking wild horses at Assategue Island National Seashore
Dec 27, 2016 • 24 min
The wild horses at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland are very popular, but they’re also an invasive species. We find out how park rangers are giving people a chance to see the horses while also protecting the native plants and animals FROM…
Going underground and Wind Cave National Park
Dec 26, 2016 • 24 min
Producer Marc Sanchez shows us the wonders hidden underground at this national park in South Dakota and how tricky it can be to explore uncharted territory with only a headlamp to light the way.
How does the internet get to us?
Dec 20, 2016 • 26 min
In this episode, we find out how a system of cables around the globe (and deep in our oceans) brings websites, songs, videos and podcasts to our phones and computers, almost at the speed of light.
What makes cute things cute?
Dec 6, 2016 • 13 min
Think of the cutest puppy, kitten or baby you’ve ever seen. Now what sound did you just make? Was it an “Awwwww?” Or did you want to pinch, bite or squeeze it? In this episode, we’ll find out why this is a natural reaction to cute and why we’re so easily…
Fire vs. Lasers!
Nov 22, 2016 • 40 min
Fire and lasers are both super cool — but which is COOLER? Producer Marc Sanchez has tricks up his sleeve for team fire and Sanden Totten gives his all for team laser.
How do whales communicate?
Nov 8, 2016 • 13 min
The sounds whales make underwater are super cool, and also very important for them to locate prey, navigate and communicate with each other. We find out how they make those sounds and what scientists think they mean.
Could it rain lemonade?
Oct 11, 2016 • 16 min
If you filled a lake with lemonade, would it rain lemonade? This delicious head-scratcher does not have a straightforward answer. It’s one-part water cycle, one-part delicious drink and if we’re lucky, one-part lemonade rain.
How do invisible x-rays help us see?
Sep 27, 2016 • 28 min
X-rays, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, help doctors see our bones — but they also help scientists understand the very smallest particles and the most massive black holes.
Carnivorous plants: How they lure, trap and digest
Sep 16, 2016 • 12 min
Most plants get the energy and nutrients they need from water, sunlight, air and soil. But carnivorous plants get key nutrients from a different source: bugs. We’ll find out how they do it and talk about the mystery of how venus fly traps snap shut.
What’s behind the waves and tides?
Aug 30, 2016 • 26 min
How does the moon control the tides? Where do waves come from? And what’s it like to live in a tide pool?
How is glass made?
Aug 11, 2016 • 14 min
The process that turns sand into glass is very cool – or rather, we should say very hot. Very, very, very hot as it turns out. Humans have been turning minerals from the earth’s crust into glass for 3,500 years. Find out how it’s done and how it’s evolved…
Mosquitoes: What are they good for?
Jul 15, 2016 • 12 min
How and why do mosquitoes suck our blood? Why do their bites itch ALL the time? Why do some people get bitten more than others? And do these pesky and possibly dangerous insects serve any kind of useful purpose?
How do airplanes fly?
Jun 28, 2016 • 26 min
How do planes stay in the air? And how did humans figure out that it wasn’t enough to just strap wings to our arms and flap them like birds?
Big universe, big questions
Jun 14, 2016 • 16 min
Have you ever wondered about what’s beyond the edge of the universe? Or maybe a better question: is there even an edge of the universe? And what does it mean that the universe is expanding? Nine-year-old Thea talks with astrophysicist Katie Mack to find…
The how’s and why’s of hair
May 31, 2016 • 27 min
Why do humans have hair and not fur? How does hair grow? Why does it turn gray? How does hair become curly or straight? Black, brown, blonde or red?
Why don’t carnivores need to eat their vegetables?
May 17, 2016 • 12 min
We’re back with new episodes! Carnivores are animals that only eat other animals – so how do they get the vitamins, minerals and fiber that we humans get from eating plants? We take a trip to a salad bar with some animal pals to find out.
How do you catch a cold?
Apr 22, 2016 • 23 min
We’ve been catching colds for millennia – but it wasn’t until fairly recently that we actually understood how and why we get sneezy, coughy, and achy. In this episode, we find out more about the common cold: Does standing outside in the cold actually make…