Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Brains On! Science podcast for kids
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

Introducing: Julie’s Library
May 26 • 18 min
We’re very excited to share an episode of a brand new podcast we’ve been working on called Julie’s Library. It’s hosted by the legendary, the one and only, Julie Andrews. Every week, she and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton read from their favorite…
Coronavirus: How to be a helper from home
May 19 • 38 min
We’re all doing our best to stay safe from coronavirus, but is there anything we can do for others as well? In this episode we look at some ways you can help from home, like by making masks, donating to food banks or writing letters. Two stars of the…
Thinking ink: The scoop on this colorful stuff!
May 5 • 38 min
Ink is amazing. It helps us captures our thoughts, comes in many colors and some of it is even made by animals! In this episode we explore the history of this special substance. We’ll also talk squid ink with biologist Sarah McAnulty and explain how…
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2020
Apr 28 • 39 min
You don’t have to search far to find amazing Mystery Sounds. If you listen, you can find them in every room of your house. Today’s episode is chock full of these audible wonders. They are cotton candy for the ears! They are the notes to make your tympanic…
Can you dig to the center of the Earth?
Apr 21 • 34 min
Like an onion, the Earth has layers. In this episode we’ll see if you can dig through those layers to get to the center of the planet. We’ll also hear about the Danish scientist who discovered more about Earth’s core by studying earthquakes. Plus, we…
Joy Overload! The science of tickles and cuteness
Apr 14 • 38 min
Get ready for some smiles! We’re looking at the science of two things that bring us joy: tickles and cuteness. We’ll explain why tickles make us giggle and why you can’t tickle yourself. Then we’ll talk about what makes cute things cute and why sometimes…
Virus Busters: How scientists are working to stop the coronavirus
Apr 7 • 35 min
Scientists around the world are working fast to fight the new coronavirus. They’re developing medicines to help people who are sick. They’re also working on vaccines to stop the virus from spreading. In this episode we’ll explain how these treatments work…
Do plants have feelings?
Mar 31 • 33 min
There’s more to plants than meets the eye. They detect sounds, they defend themselves against insect attacks and they can even send each other secret messages through the wind! Our leafy, green friends sense and interact with the world in their own,…
Nervous: All about feelings, pt. 4
Mar 27 • 34 min
This is a special re-release of an episode from our series on emotions. It’s all about how to handle big feelings like anxiety, nervousness and fear. There have been so many unexpected changes in all of our lives and a lot of us have big feelings right…
Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus
Mar 24 • 33 min
Lots of schools are closed and people are staying home. In this episode we’ll explain how all of this could help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. We’ll explain some terms you’re probably hearing too, like “social distancing” and “flattening the…
Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?
Mar 17 • 27 min
Narwhals are whales, and super cool ones at that. But that cool thing coming out of their heads is a tusk, not a horn. Which means it’s a tooth! And it’s the only known spiral tooth to boot! In this episode, we learn all about narwhals (what that tusk is…
Understanding coronavirus and how germs spread
Mar 10 • 32 min
It’s impossible to miss the news about coronavirus, but you probably still have lots of questions. What exactly is it? How does it spread? Can I protect myself? In this episode we’ll breakdown what we know about this new virus and tell you how to stay…
Weather Watching: The birth of forecasts
Mar 3 • 29 min
Humans have been predicting weather for a long time - way before modern technology. So how did they do it? We’ll meet the man who invented the word “forecast” and brought weather reports to the newspaper. Plus, we’ll tell you how to watch for signs of…
The secret world of dust
Feb 25 • 26 min
Dust looks gray and boring to us, but it’s full of secrets! Like did you know that up close, dust is colorful? And there are creatures living in your dust? And some dust comes from outer space? We’ll take you on a tour of the dust universe and show you…
For crying out loud: All about tears
Feb 18 • 32 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…
Canine club: From wolves to dogs!
Feb 11 • 34 min
How did wolves go from wild, untamed animals to the friendly furballs we know as dogs? In this episode we’ll learn about how our canine companions evolved. Plus, we’ll get a howling lesson, meet a pack of Alaskan wolves that moved to the Minnesota Zoo and…
Mirrors, sequins and glitter: what makes them shine?
Feb 4 • 28 min
Have you ever entered the mirror-verse and heard yourself talking back? Well, that’s what happens in today’s episode. We take a look (pun intended) at how mirrors work and talk to a scientist to find out what color they are. And in a history of sequins,…
Aliens and UFOs: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 4
Dec 31, 2019 • 31 min
In the final episode of our series about myths and legends, we’re launching our imaginations into outer space! Monster expert Emily Zarka tells us about her favorite alien and why aliens fascinate so many people. In the Hoax Hunters season finale, Marc…
Mermaids, Kraken and the Loch Ness Monster: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 3
Dec 24, 2019 • 30 min
What’s lurking in the depths of the ocean? Or your local loch? We’re diving deep into the world of water-dwelling mythical creatures in part three of our series on myths. We’ll talk with monster expert Emily Zarka and learn about the very real creature…
Lost Cities: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 2
Dec 17, 2019 • 30 min
Was Atlantis a real city? If not, why have so many people gone looking for it? In part two of our series on modern myths and legends, we’re searching for lost cities. We’ll trace the origins of El Dorado, and head to the ruins of an actual lost city in…
Bigfoot, Unicorns and Dragons: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 1
Dec 10, 2019 • 29 min
Where do stories of unicorns, mermaids and Bigfoot come from? And do they have any truth to them? In this four-part series, we’re tackling listeners’ biggest questions about modern myths and legends. Today’s episode is about mythical creatures that live…
How do pianos work?
Dec 3, 2019 • 25 min
Behind every piano’s polished exterior are thousands of parts. From keys to strings, they work together to produce a sound. 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…
Flavor facts: Why food is so delicious
Nov 26, 2019 • 35 min
You might think flavor is what happens on your tongue – and it is. But it’s also so much more. Flavor is influenced by all the senses. How food looks, smells and feels can make a difference. Even the sounds you hear while eating can impact how you…
What was the first life on earth?
Nov 19, 2019 • 32 min
What was the first lifeform like? What was the first fish or mammal? Is it even possible to know? In this episode, we look to the fossil record to help us trace our roots back to the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Paleontologist Neil Shubin joins us to…
Ask-A-Scientist: Bird Bonanza!
Nov 12, 2019 • 27 min
In this special episode, we’ve asked two rock star ornithologists to answer a flock of listener questions about birds. Drew Lanham and Corina Newsome talk flying, feathers, eggs, poop and how we humans can help birds. Plus: we test their ears with the…
Books: How they’re made and how your brain reads them
Nov 5, 2019 • 31 min
There is so much happening in your brain when you read. From recognizing shapes as letters to discovering empathy, our brains really get a workout when we read books. In this episode, Ben Bergen from the Language and Cognition Lab at UC San Diego drops by…
Why do we like getting scared?
Oct 29, 2019 • 30 min
Spooky stuff may make you cover your eyes in fright, but many of us find ourselves peeking through our fingers to get another glimpse. Why are we drawn to things that make us jump? In this episode, we’ll find out how fear can actually be fun. We visit a…
Wonderful Wool: The secrets of this amazing fluff
Oct 22, 2019 • 33 min
Wool is warm, absorbs water and odors, plus it’s flame resistant. In short, wool is amazing! In this episode we explore how wool is different from hair. We go on a sheep safari at Cuyama Lamb in California, meet expert wool weaver Zefren Anderson and…
How does the internet get to us?
Oct 15, 2019 • 29 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. The internet can seem vast and intangible but there’s a…
How do flu vaccines work?
Oct 8, 2019 • 32 min
The flu shot changes every year. But why is the flu special, if other illnesses have much longer-lasting vaccines? This episode takes us into the world of viruses and immunity. A friendly lymphocyte fills us in on how flu shots work, and science…
Why do we lie?
Oct 1, 2019 • 32 min
Most of us think we’re good at detecting lies, but it turns out humans only get it right about half the time. And why do we do it anyway? What makes us want to deceive other people? In this episode we get to the truth about lying. We take a look at when…
The secrets of the spectacular spacesuit
Aug 27, 2019 • 37 min
Never explore the final frontier without your trusty, white, puffy space suit! But why is it puffy and white? And why do astronauts need them? Turns out space is super dangerous and these suits can save your life. We’ll give you a tour of all the features…
What is dyslexia? And how do our brains read?
Aug 20, 2019 • 36 min
Have you heard the word dyslexia before? It’s a term used to describe when people have a hard time learning to read. It’s actually very common because reading is a fairly new skill that humans have developed. In this episode we do a deep dive on dyslexia.…
How do elevators work?
Aug 13, 2019 • 39 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. In this episode we explain how elevators work and we talk about…
Hey, where did you get those genes?!?
Aug 6, 2019 • 31 min
Today we’re talking genes - the recipe for you! We’ll go microscopic and check out how traits like hair color are passed down through your family. We’ll also hear the story of genetics pioneer Nettie Stevens and find out how current-day geneticist Janina…
Plastic: Why it’s everywhere
Jul 30, 2019 • 40 min
Human-made plastics are super useful — they’re lightweight, can be molded into anything, and they don’t break down. And because plastic is so versatile, we humans have found lots of uses for it. But the fact that it last forever means we find ourselves…
Ants: Who’s in charge here?
Jul 23, 2019 • 37 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). We’ll also find out about epic ant battles and how the study of ants is…
Tree, Myself and I: All about our leafy green friends
Jul 16, 2019 • 33 min
Trees are the strong, silent type but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. In this episode we’ll explore how trees send each other messages above ground and below. Plus we’ll learn how a seed goes from a tiny sapling to a towering plant. We find out…
Do insects see the world in slow motion? Looking through animal eyes
Jul 9, 2019 • 30 min
Do insects see the world in slow motion? Do animals see the same rainbow we do? How do eagles see so far away? Our listeners have a lot of questions about the way animals see the world, and this episode tackles lots of them. We’ll visit a lab where…
Going underground at Wind Cave National Park
Jul 2, 2019 • 30 min
What wonders are hiding underground? Producer Marc Sanchez finds out what it’s like to explore one of the biggest networks of caves in the world — and scientists are still discovering unmapped branches. Marc will show us the wonders hidden underground at…
Angry: All about feelings, pt. 3
Jun 18, 2019 • 38 min
This is the third of our four-part series on feelings. Today we’re learning why we all get angry and what to do with that emotion. We’ll get in touch with our inner Super You Person and learn what physical reactions anger can trigger in our bodies. We’ll…
Sad: All about feelings, pt. 2
Jun 11, 2019 • 37 min
This is the second episode in our four-part series on feelings! In this episode, we’re covering the small and big parts of sadness. Because this episode touches on some heavy pieces of sadness — we recommend kids listening along with an adult, so you can…
Happy: All about feelings, pt. 1
Jun 4, 2019 • 35 min
Where do feelings come from? And why do we have them? In this four-part series, we’re digging deep into our emotions. In this first episode, we’re getting happy! We’ll get a play-by-play of the chemicals in our brain that trigger joyful feelings, and use…
Thinkin stinkin: Why we smell
Apr 30, 2019 • 28 min
You may have noticed some strong smells coming from your feet, your friend’s breath, or your brother’s armpit. Where do these body odors come from? We’ll meet the microscopic organisms responsible and visit the kingdom of Footsteros. We’ll also find out…
Forever echo: Can a sound wave go on forever?
Apr 23, 2019 • 36 min
Today we shout out our love for the ECHO! (echo echo) Discover how these curious callbacks happen and why we hear them in some places but not others. We’ll also play you the longest echo in the world and take you to an echo-proof room. Plus, an actual…
The hows and whys of hair
Apr 16, 2019 • 30 min
The hair on our heads is on our minds. We have fun with follicles and learn about how they make hair. Our experts help us decipher what makes hair black or brown, blonde or red, and even why it turns gray. From eye lashes to ear and nose hair, this…
Why are smartphones so hard to put down?
Apr 9, 2019 • 36 min
Screens are everywhere these days! We’re taking a look at why smartphones are so addictive, and how our devices affect us. Our co-hosts took on a bold challenge for this episode: they went a week without phones or tablets. We’ll hear how their experiment…
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2019
Apr 2, 2019 • 31 min
This episode is an ear-tickler! Guess your way through eleven mystery sounds — one from a scientist, and ten from listeners like you! Plus, another mystery: what’s making Marc and Sanden dance to the sounds of a door jamb and a printer? Stick around for…
Carnivores: Plants and animals that bite back
Mar 26, 2019 • 25 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. Plus:…
Flush! Where does our poo and pee go?
Mar 20, 2019 • 33 min
Every time you flush, your poo and pee start an epic journey. From the toilet, to the sewers, to a treatment plant, our waste travels quite a distance only to end up cleaner by the end. We’ll hear from a “PooTube” star about her experience with “the…
Black Holes, Wormholes and Donut Holes
Mar 12, 2019 • 37 min
Black holes happen when you have a super huge, mega-giant amount of stuff —- crammed into a super-tiny, infinitely-small amount of space. AND THEY ARE SUPER COOL! In this episode, we learn all about what black holes are and how we found out they were…
Walking on walls: How ants and spiders do it
Mar 5, 2019 • 29 min
Ants and spiders are able to defy gravity — but how do they do it? We’ll learn about how awesome their feet are and how one predator takes advantage of these powers. Plus: A very challenging mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question, “How…
My air came from where?! How oxygen gets around
Feb 26, 2019 • 28 min
Oxygen is quite the savvy traveler. We explore how this gas travels all around the world and ends up pretty much everywhere for us to breathe. Plus we’ll look at how plants and others make the stuff. And we learn how oxygen ended up on Earth in the first…
How do airplanes fly?
Feb 19, 2019 • 28 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? We’ll find out about the invention of airplanes and our co-hosts will share the frustrations and joys of being…
Memory and deja vu
Feb 12, 2019 • 33 min
In this episode, we take a trip down memory lane. We visit a campus full of hippos to learn how memories are stored, and drop in on a badger trainer to see how she recalls “the great badger blunder.” We also explore how many memories can our brains store.…
Are we still evolving?
Feb 5, 2019 • 33 min
In this episode, we climb up, down and all around our evolutionary family tree. When did we branch off from our more ape-like ancestors? And will we evolve one day into a different species altogether? We’ll meet a bearded scientist from 160 years ago (no,…
Brains On: Behind the scenes
Jan 30, 2019 • 39 min
This is a special fundraising episode, where we peek behind the curtain of Brains On!
Earthrise: The picture of our planet that changed the world
Dec 25, 2018 • 34 min
50 years ago NASA astronauts took a picture that changed the world. It was a full color photo of planet Earth as seen from space. This image inspired many to think differently about our home. In this episode we’ll tell the tale of that epic snapshot. Plus…
Soil: Can you dig it?
Dec 18, 2018 • 28 min
We’re ready to get our hands dirty as we explore the stuff beneath our feet. Clay, sand, mud — soil is everywhere. And it’s alive! We’ll find out how it helps plants grow and learn about all the little organisms that are invaluable in the process (hint:…
Dreams: The science of a sleeping brain
Dec 11, 2018 • 37 min
You dream every night, even if you don’t remember them. But why? We’ll hop on a wild ride to go inside the brain and see which parts help create these often fantastical images and storylines. We’ll also learn how to take control of our dreams and how they…
Voices: How do we make sound?
Dec 4, 2018 • 36 min
We are very vocal about this episode, and that’s because it’s all about voices. We look into how our bodies produce sound and talk to a voice recognition expert. And we find out what’s happening when helium enters the equation. Plus, humans don’t have the…
Roller coasters: from dream to extreme
Nov 27, 2018 • 26 min
How do roller coaster designers go from dream to reality? World-renowned roller coaster designer Alan Schilke tells us how he does it. Also — why do some people feel sick or dizzy after riding them? And how do coasters make you feel like you’re floating?…
Finding your way without a map
Nov 20, 2018 • 39 min
If your GPS suddenly stopped working, would you still be able to find your way? In this episode we’ll teach you tricks and tips to navigate on your own. We’ll explain how compasses work and we’ll tell you who helped move north to the top of the map. Plus,…
Video Games: A Tale of Two Pongs
Nov 13, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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. So who are you rooting…
How to cook for an alien
Jul 3, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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…
Robots take over (the show)! Live from Robotstravaganza
May 8, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 54 min
Two of our planet’s most amazing animals go head to head in our latest debate. We’re asking you to decide which animal reigns supreme. Is it the eight-armed, three hearted, shape-shifting octopus? Or the speed-swimming, echolocating, super-jumping…
Dogs: What’s the secret of their sense of smell?
Jan 23, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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, 2018 • 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
Where did language come from? Is it possible to know without traveling back in time? And how do babies learn to speak? Plus: We’ll hear how the word “silly” has evolved over the last several hundred years.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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…
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?
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…
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…
Is there life on other planets?
Apr 7, 2016 • 27 min
Is there anybody out there? Like, WAAAAY out there? In this episode we hear from astronomer Laura Danly about the search for life on other planets. We’ll also learn what that search has in common with a fairy tale.
Mar 22, 2016 • 33 min
Did Dinosaurs have feathers? Can you bring back species that have gone extinct? Find out here.
Brains On! Besties
Mar 8, 2016 • 23 min
Meet the Brains On! Besties… kid-friendly audio finds we think you’ll love.
Living Large with the International Space Station
Feb 21, 2016 • 28 min
The International Space Station sits 250 miles above Earth, but how did it get there? And what’s it like to live in space?
Mystery sound extravaganza!
Feb 10, 2016 • 22 min
OMG, this is the episode you’ve been waiting for… an all-out, wall-to-wall, super-duper Mystery Sound show. Guess the sounds sent in from listeners and scientists alike. Plus, if you like having fun (and dancing), stick around to the end of the episode.…
Spider sense
Jan 26, 2016 • 26 min
Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? If so, we want to change your mind about our eight-legged buddies!
Why are no two snowflakes the same?
Jan 13, 2016 • 11 min
In this episode, Dr. Ken Libbrecht answers all of our snowflake questions: How are snowflakes made? Why are they different shapes? How is it that they’re all unique? And how does a scientist who lives in southern California study snow?
The science of baking
Dec 22, 2015 • 21 min
Baking can seem kind of magical. You take a bunch of ingredients, mix them all together, put them in the oven, and then a little time passes — and you have cake! Or cookies! Or bread! But there’s no magic wand involved in the process — it’s chemistry!
Barks, growls, meows and purrs: Translating cats and dogs
Dec 8, 2015 • 15 min
This episode brings you a slew of dog and cat mystery sounds to puzzle over. Can you tell the difference playful barks and warning barks? How about decoding the meaning behind a cat’s meow?
How do meteorologists predict the weather?
Nov 25, 2015 • 23 min
There’s all sorts of weather happening right now around the world. Rain, sun, wind, snow… you name it, somewhere it’s happening. It may seem hard to keep track of it all, but scientists have it figured out. We’ll find out how they collect data on weather…
The great cat debate: Evil or misunderstood?
Nov 18, 2015 • 15 min
We’re transporting you to the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul for a segment from a recent live show: Cats vs. Dogs. In this very important debate, producers Marc Sanchez and Sanden Totten try to get the bottom of our feline friends’ mysterious behavior.…
Your booger questions, answered
Oct 21, 2015 • 11 min
Nasal mucus is very important to our health – and actually kind of magical. There’s a lot going on in our noses all the time that we don’t appreciate. Where do boogers come from? Why does your nose run when you’re out in the cold? Why does your nose get…
Why does tickling make you laugh?
Sep 15, 2015 • 11 min
Can you tickle yourself? Probably not. Almost everybody is ticklish, but what’s happening to us is a bit of a mystery.
Bridges vs. Tunnels
Aug 26, 2015 • 28 min
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about bridges and tunnels: How do bridges stay up? How are tunnels built? How do they build bridges over water? How do they put tunnels underwater? To answer these questions we’re staging a little friendly competition:…
Mission to Pluto!
Jul 10, 2015 • 11 min
We talk to Dr. Alan Stern, the leader of NASA’s mission to Pluto – New Horizons. He’s been working on the mission for over 20 years and he’s excited to see the surprises that New Horizons will be sending back. Plus: Take a quiz to test your New Horizons…
Cuttlefish: Ultimate Shapeshifters!
Jun 9, 2015 • 9 min
… and you thought chameleons could hide.
Trees: From seed to shining seed
May 27, 2015 • 20 min
How do trees make oxygen? How do they grow? How do evergreens stay green all year? Why do tree leaves change color? How long can trees live? We’re branching out to tackle all these questions in this episode.
Why does the sun make some people sneeze?
May 12, 2015 • 10 min
This question has been a mystery for millennia. Turns out there’s a name for the phenomenon: photic sneeze reflex.
How and why do jellyfish sting?
Apr 9, 2015 • 8 min
All jellyfish sting – but not all jellyfish sting people. In this episode, we learn about how jellyfish sting and how they eat. Plus: stro-bi-la-tion (how jellyfish grow up).
Volcanoes in space!
Mar 18, 2015 • 10 min
The biggest volcano in our solar system is not on Earth — and its footprint is as big as the entire state of Arizona.
When parasitoids attack!
Feb 13, 2015 • 8 min
After a caterpillar goes into its chrysalis, you would expect a beautiful butterfly to emerge. But when this parasitoid attacks, the results are very different.
The mystery of gravity
Jan 9, 2015 • 8 min
Gravity is a very familiar force to us here on Earth. We know how it behaves and how it affects us. But where does it come from? We’ll also talk to a NASA astronaut about what it’s like to experience micro-gravity.
How do monarch butterflies travel so far?
Sep 9, 2014 • 21 min
Monarch butterflies are unique — they’re the only butterfly to travel thousands of miles when the seasons change. They travel from as far north as Canada all the way down to a few very specific mountaintops in central Mexico. They don’t have a car, or an…
Water, water everywhere - but how does it get there?
Jul 8, 2014 • 21 min
It’s easy to take water for granted. After all, you just turn a faucet and it pours right out. But how does it get to our faucet? We’ll explore the water cycle from rain to your drain. And did you know that space is full of water? It’s one of the most…
Dec 6, 2013 • 31 min
The questions we have about numbers are uncountable. But here are a few of them: Where does zero come from? How is there more than one kind of infinity? What is it like to do math when numbers have different colors — and personalities?
Oct 14, 2013 • 24 min
If you look a little closer, listen a little harder, you’ll notice the secret life of things all around you. Want to know about the secret lives of bees, crickets, coral — and your own backyard? Give a listen!
Aug 1, 2013 • 19 min
We have some questions about sleep: It’s ok to stay up late, right? Is it possible to control your dreams? Do all animals sleep? Why do we need to sleep anyway?
Aug 1, 2013 • 20 min
The questions asked and answered in this episode include: What is harmony exactly? What does it take to be a great rapper? How does sound travel?
Aug 1, 2013 • 21 min
Among the questions answered in this episode: Is it better to be taller or shorter? Do animals grow the same way that humans do? What superpowers does your brain have before it’s done growing?
Jul 25, 2013 • 20 min
In this episode, we ask: Why do some foods taste better to adults than kids? And what happens to food once you’re done tasting it?