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Podcast Profile: Brains On! Science podcast for kids

podcast imageTwitter: @Brains_On
324 episodes
2013 to present
Average episode: 28 minutes
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Categories: Broadcast Radio Programs • Kids • Story-Style

Podcaster's summary: Brains On!® is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from American Public Media. Each week, a different kid co-host joins Molly Bloom to find answers to fascinating questions about the world sent in by listeners. Like, do dogs know they’re dogs? Or, why do feet stink? Plus, we have mystery sounds for you to guess, songs for you to dance to, and lots of facts -- all checked by experts.

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-14 06:46 UTC. Episodes: 324. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2024-Apr-09 • 24 minutes
How does ibuprofen help stop pain?
Ouch! If you’ve ever stubbed your toe, gotten a paper cut or fallen off your bike, you know that getting hurt is no fun. Sometimes we can take medicine to help feel better, like ibuprofen. But how does that medicine know where to go in our bodies to stop the pain? In this episode, Molly and kid co-host Skylar explore where pain comes from and chat with expert Dr. Amanda C de C Williams about why it’s useful. Then they’ll eavesdrop on an ibuprofen pill on its first day of work to find out how it does its job...
2024-Apr-05 • 1 minutes
Smarty Pass Sneak Peek: Mystery Sound Investigation
Oh no! It looks like Brains On host Molly Bloom and producer Marc Sanchez are in some deep trouble, and the only way to get out of it is with an extra special game of Mystery Sound. Will either of them be able to guess the right sound? Grab your Smarty Pass to find out!
2024-Apr-02 • 26 minutes
Everything you need to know before the 2024 solar eclipse
On April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible on a path that crosses North America, from the west coast of Mexico to the east coast of Canada. In this episode, Molly and co-host Aminah cover all your eclipse essentials: What causes an eclipse? What’s it like to experience one? How do you watch one safely? (Spoiler alert: Don’t stare at the sun without special eyewear. Really. Please. Don’t do it.) Plus, indigenous science educator Nancy Maryboy tells us about Navajo and Cherokee traditions during an ecl...
2024-Mar-26 • 37 minutes
Are UFOs real?
We love a good mystery, and UFOs are magnificently mysterious! But are they real? In this episode, Marc and Sanden take over the Brains On feed with a new episode of their radio show, Hoax Hunters. They’ll look into the myths and hoaxes surrounding UFOs (which stands for unidentified flying objects). Plus, they’ll talk about what kinds of things often get mistaken for UFOs and how you can stay smart and skeptical when hearing shocking information. And of course, an episode about mystery will have an all-new...
2024-Mar-19 • 1 minutes
Join us for Brains On live in April!
Hello friends! We're so excited to announce that Brains On is coming to the east coast! We’re doing three live shows -- in Washington DC, Princeton, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York!Our live show is a super fun journey through the brain, featuring magic tricks, a game show, mystery sounds and even dancing! You can get tickets at, after each show, we're having a VIP party, where you can meet and play games with me, Marc and Sanden.And -- if you're not able to make it to our live show...
2024-Mar-12 • 34 minutes
Why do we laugh?
Laughter is like a language and humans are really good at understanding it. In this episode, Molly and co-host Milla decode different kinds of laughs, from uncontrollable goofy laughter to chuckles that make others feel good. They’ll meet laugh experts Sophie Scott and Adrienne Wood and test their knowledge in three rounds of the game show: Laugh Attack! Plus, a new mystery sound for you to guess!Come see Brains On live in Washington, DC, Princeton, NJ, and Brooklyn, NY! Get tickets here:
2024-Mar-05 • 25 minutes
How do satellites work?
Satellites are like robots in the sky: they monitor the weather, make GPS possible, and take stunning pictures of outer space! But how exactly do they work? When a satellite named Meep Moop gets delivered to Brains On HQ by mistake, Molly and co-hosts Tessa and Fallyn learn all about satellite solar panels, thrusters, and radio waves! Then, they chat with Dr. Moriba Jah about satellite space junk and the importance of keeping space pristine. Plus, a stumper of a mystery sound!Featured expert:Dr. Moriba Jah,...
2024-Mar-01 • 2 minutes
Tooth or Dare: A Smarty Pass Sneak Peek
What’s that alluring flute music and what does it have to do with Molly Bloom’s biting new game? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Grab your Smarty Pass to hear Anna and Rosie play Molly’s latest game: Tooth or Dare!
2024-Feb-27 • 26 minutes
How does a match make fire?
Have you ever seen someone strike a match? The match rubs against a scratchy strip and a split second later – poof! It makes fire! But how does a match work, anyway?Join Molly and co-host Maxwell as they get all fired up about matches! They’ll explore the three things a fire needs to ignite and learn how lighting a match is just a super fast chemical reaction that sometimes smells like farts. Plus, we’ll hear your hot new names for matches and of course, a new mystery sound!Do you have your Smarty Pass yet?...
2024-Feb-20 • 25 minutes
How deep does the sand go on the beach?
Sand! We use it to make all kinds of things, from spectacular sandcastles to roads and bridges. But where does it come from? And why is the sand on so many beaches disappearing?In this episode, Molly and co-host Leon head to the beach to explore the secrets of sand. They run into the ultimate sand STAN Sanden Totten and discover what it's made of. Then, they chat with producer Nico Gonzalez Wisler about why beaches are running out of sand. All that, plus a stumper of a new mystery sound!Do you have your Sma...
2024-Feb-13 • 30 minutes
Is hypnosis real?
Hypnosis. You’ve seen it in movies, cartoons, and maybe even on stage! But is it real? And if so, what is it? Join Molly and co-host Jasmine as they uncover the truth about hypnosis and its power to heal. They’ll hear from pediatrician and hypnosis expert, Dr. Daniel Kohen, about what it is and isn’t. (Spoiler alert – it isn’t mind control!) They’ll also chat with 13-year-old Joshua who uses hypnosis to overcome anxiety! Plus, a special appearance from the ghost of Franz Mesmer, a famous practitioner and th...
2024-Feb-06 • 30 minutes
Why do we get cavities?
Your teeth are like a squad of superheroes inside your mouth. They help you crunch on carrot sticks, nibble popcorn and chew bubblegum. You’ve probably heard it’s important to brush your teeth to prevent cavities. But what is a cavity? And how do dentists fix them?Join Molly and cohost Aya on a terrifically toothy adventure, as they explore what causes these pesky little holes in our teeth. They’ll meet a group of rowdy, party-loving bacteria and find out how sometimes, troublemaker bacteria in our mouths c...
2024-Feb-02 • 2 minutes
Baby Mystery Sound: A Smarty Pass Sneak Peek
Producers Rosie duPont and Aron Woldeslassie are at the Brains On petting zoo checking out some of the cutest baby animals in the world. It’s there that Rosie realizes that they should play a round of Baby Mystery Sounds! It’s the classic Brains On game Mystery Sound with an adorable twist!
2024-Jan-30 • 30 minutes
How did ferns survive the dinosaur extinction?
Listener Gideon sent in this brilliant question: “How did ferns survive the dinosaur extinction and are they the same ferns we see now?” Our search for the answer will introduce us to James Frond, international fern of mystery, and take us flying through the air on an airplane’s wing. We’ll also meet a scientist who’s trying to understand how ferns are such strong survivors — by recreating the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs! All that, plus a fern-tastic new mystery sound!Do you have your Smar...
2024-Jan-23 • 30 minutes
What happened to the Neanderthals?
Dig in with Molly and co-host Audrey as they learn about our extinct ancient relatives, the Neanderthals! With archaeologist and Brains On producer Anna Goldfield as their guide, they’ll learn how Neanderthals were once misunderstood, and how scientists are learning more about them. Explore the wondrous NeanderHALL at Brains On HQ and unearth the truth about these prehistoric humans with Anna and her talkative NeanderDOLL, Paul! Plus, discover the origins of a tricky new mystery soundDo you have your Smarty...
2024-Jan-19 • 2 minutes
Taxonomic Ticklers: A Smarty Pass sneak peek
Sparklemuffin, turdus maximus, and sarcastic fringehead. These are the names of some of Marc’s favorite animals! Will Molly be able to guess what kind of animals they are?
2024-Jan-16 • 33 minutes
Where does lightning come from?
Grab your raincoat, and join Molly and co-host Lily as they float into the clouds to learn about lightning! They’ll explore how lightning is made and what it takes to stay safe during thunderstorms. To close with a bang, Molly will slip on her Thunderpants and host an electrifying lightning-themed game show. But don’t bolt too soon. We’ve got a mystery sound reveal that promises to shock!Do you have your Smarty Pass yet?? Get yours today for just $4/month (or $36/year) and get bonus episodes every month, an...
2023-Dec-05 • 14 minutes
Brains On presents Forever Ago - Superman: An immigrant's story
The Brains On crew is hard at work on our next batch of episodes, and we'll be back in your feed on January 16, with an electrifying episode about lightning.Until then, check out our history show: Forever Ago. It's hosted by our friend Joy Dolo, and it looks into the fascinating past of things we take for granted.In this episode, Joy invites Molly on to the show to share the origin story of Superman that you've probably never heard. Take a listen!To hear the entire episode, search for “Forever Ago” wherever...
2023-Nov-07 • 29 minutes
Why do our bodies take so long to grow?
Join Molly Bloom and co-host Ishalo as they learn about the ingredients we need to grow – and why sometimes the growing seems slow! They’ll chat with Dr. Diva de León Crutchlow about sleep and hormones and help Sanden take care of Dwayne the 5-year-old brain. Is your excitement growing by the minute? Ours too! And we’ve got another tricky mystery sound, just for you.This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Claim your $75 sponsored job credit to upgrade your job post. Terms and conditions a...
2023-Oct-31 • 31 minutes
How and why do chameleons change color?
Join Molly and co-host Arjun on a reptilian romp, where they learn all about chameleons’ color-changing abilities, powerful eyes, and super sticky saliva. Along the way, they’ll be joined by a pair of chatty chameleon cabaret performers — Kiki and Paul — and chameleon expert Chris Anderson! Color yourself excited for this awesome creature feature, and an all-new mystery sound!If you want to learn more about chameleons, check out co-host Arjun’s own podcast, Animals Rule! He has an episode all about these lo...
2023-Oct-24 • 29 minutes
Why are we afraid of the dark?
Explore the dark with Molly and co-host Sasha! They’ll chat with psychologist Dr. Sandy Pimentel about why it’s totally normal to be afraid of the dark and hear from Mr. Bonejangles about why it’s the bone-a-fide best! To round out their adventure, producer Nico Gonzalez-Wisler will whisk them off on a starry, overnight field trip. The light at the end of the tunnel? An all-new mystery sound!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Claim your $75 sponsored job credit to upgrade your job po...
2023-Oct-17 • 28 minutes
Why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?
Pluto is tiny, icy, and used to be the ninth planet in the solar system. Used to be. So why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?Join Molly and co-host Momo as they learn Pluto’s history, talk to planetary scientist Kelsi Singer about NASA’s New Horizons mission, and even hear from the planet itself. All that plus a nifty new mystery sound!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Claim your $75 sponsored job credit to upgrade your job post. Terms and conditions apply.Factor (
2023-Oct-10 • 32 minutes
What is ADHD?
Millions of kids and adults across the world have ADHD, which stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, though. Some people might have trouble focusing, while others might get really fidgety or take risks without thinking about them. But what is ADHD and what is happening in the brain of someone with ADHD?In this episode, Molly and cohost Julianne (who also has ADHD) learn from Dr. Julie Schweitzer of the MIND Institute at UC Davis about how a brain w...
2023-Oct-03 • 29 minutes
Going Viral: What is a Computer Virus?
Ah-CHOO! We know viruses make us sick, but what happens when a virus infects your computer? This episode, go digital with Molly and co-host Chloe as they track down a pesky computer virus infecting Brains On Headquarters. Catch our special guests, podcasting viruses Kara and Gilly, and meet a mysterious hacker named Shark Manchez. Plus, a brand new mystery sound!This episode is sponsored by:Indeed ( - Claim your $75 sponsored job credit to upgrade your job post. Terms and conditions apply....
2023-Sep-26 • 38 minutes
Ancient beasts: A prehistoric game show!
Prehistoric animals rock! How much do you know about these unusual beasts? Join Brains On! host Molly Bloom as she tests the prehistoric animal knowledge of co-hosts Samaya, Roscoe, Zana, and Arjun! The games begin in the Permian Era, almost 300 million years ago, when giant dragonflies buzzed through the skies. Play along and you’ll wind up in the most recent Ice Age, when saber-toothed cats prowled the California coasts! Plus, you’ll get to hear prehistoric animal haikus and a not-so-prehistoric mystery s...
2023-Sep-19 • 29 minutes
How do animals build their homes?
People are really good at building homes out of everything from wood and concrete to mud and ice. But when it comes to animal homes, creatures can be more inventive than humans!In this creatively constructed episode, Molly and cohost Marama renovate Brains On HQ with the help of some clever critter contractors. They talk to animal experts and navigate demolition disasters to build a delicious new food hall for Brains On. Plus, a super spiffy Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed (
2023-Sep-12 • 31 minutes
How do apples grow?
Apples are a delicious treat! These crispy crunchy sweet snacks are everywhere: in our school lunches, at the farmers market, even covered in caramel at the fair. But as Molly and cohosts Jack and Penelope find out, growing an apple is a lot harder than it sounds. In this episode, we’ll learn how bears and horses helped the first wild apples grow (in their poop!) and meet the world’s biggest apple fan, Johnny Appleseed. Plus, even an apple a day can’t keep a brand new Mystery Sound away!This episode was spo...
2023-Sep-05 • 30 minutes
Where does all our energy come from?
Everything in our world is powered by energy. We need it to drive our cars, bake cupcakes and even jump up and down on the bed! All of this energy comes from different sources, like gasoline and wind power. Even the food that powers our bodies is a source of energy. But almost all of the energy on Earth first came from the same place: the sun!In this episode, we’ll find out how the sun powers so much of our lives. Plus, we’ll learn how the amount of energy in the universe has stayed the same since the very ...
2023-Aug-22 • 38 minutes
What is artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence has been all over the news lately — but how does it even work? In this episode, Molly and co-host Sydney explore the how and why of A.I. with researcher Avital Balwit. Together, they imagine possible futures with A.I. and talk about how we might use these powerful tools in thoughtful ways. As a bonus, you’ll get a tricky new mystery sound and a hot track from Sanden’s band, Loudly With A Chance of Screamballs! _______Don’t miss our next virtual events! In September, your favorite hos...
2023-Aug-15 • 30 minutes
How do our eyes, skin and hair get their colors?
All the different colors in our eyes, hair and skin are made by a super special substance called melanin! In this episode, we’ll meet a melanocyte, the artistic cell that makes melanin. Plus, Molly and cohost Jeremy talk with Dr. Tina Lasisi to learn why humans have so many different colors of skin in the first place. And a scientist goes undercover to try to solve the many mysteries surrounding melanin. All that, plus a brand new mystery sound!This episode was sponsored by:Didn’t I Just Feed You (Didntijus...
2023-Aug-08 • 30 minutes
How much can your brain hold?
Your brain does so much stuff! It makes sure your heart is always pumping and your lungs are breathing — plus it stores all kinds of important information, like your best friend’s birthday or your pet’s favorite kind of treat. But could your brain ever run out of storage space?In this episode, Molly and cohosts Corinne and Suriya learn all about our mighty memories. They crack the code on brain storage and figure out the science of forgetting! Plus, an unforgettable new mystery sound.This episode was spons...
2023-Aug-01 • 31 minutes
Can boredom be good for you?
Boredom is something we all feel sometimes, when nothing seems fun or interesting. But have you ever wondered what’s actually going on in your brain when you feel that way? Can it ever be good for you to be bored? Molly and co-host Maisie explore how boredom can lead to creativity, and how our brain can work past that blah feeling. Plus, a boredom-blasting brain workout from Sanden and his pal Pete the wombat, and a brand new Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by:Didn’t I Just Feed You (Didntijustfeed...
2023-Jul-25 • 34 minutes
What’s inside a jellyfish?
Jellyfish are some of the most unique creatures on the planet. They’ve been around longer than the dinosaurs. They don’t have brains, bones or blood. And they’re not even fish! So what are they?Float along with Molly and cohost Rosie as they learn about the different parts of a jellyfish, hear from a jellyfish superhero, and talk to scientist Dr. Rebecca Helm about how jellyfish have babies. Plus, a tantalizing new Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by: Buy a Toyota ( - To explore Toyota...
2023-Jul-18 • 38 minutes
Hip hip hooray! Why are parties so fun?
Happy birthday to us! Brains On is celebrating its tenth birthday and we’re throwing a big party. Molly is putting up decorations, Sanden has made his special Super Salty Party Punch and Gungador is ready to dance his pants off! But why is Marc hiding out in a closet?Join Molly and co-host Olive as they explore what makes parties so fun – and why they make some of us nervous sometimes. Plus a snazzy new Mystery Sound! This episode was sponsored by:Buy a Toyota ( - To explore Toyota SUVs.)Indee...
2023-Jun-27 • 2 minutes
Smarty Pass Bonus: Gungador Hosts a Dinner Party!
Hey, Smarty Pal, want more Brains On? Check out this sneak peek of Gungador Hosts a Dinner Party! Gungador is having a party at Brains On! HQ, and everyone’s invited! He’s whipping up special dishes for all of his guests: a tater tot hot dish, caramel coated honey gummies, even a cheese board! But he forgot to call Barbara Toddes from the Philadelphia Zoo before he started prepping meals for his animal friends... and some of his assumptions about what animals eat aren’t exactly right. Will Gungador pull off...
2023-Jun-02 • 1 minutes
Come see Brains On live!!!
Molly, Marc and Sanden are hitting the road to perform the show Your Brain is Magic in Portland on June 17th and Seattle on June 18th. Plus, we'll be in Pasadena on June 25th celebrating our 10th birthday. Tickets for all events are at - hope to see you there!
2023-May-16 • 26 minutes
How do birds communicate?
Chirp chirp, y’all! Ever wondered what birds mean when they’re singing their little birdy hearts out? This week, Molly and cohost Bessie explore the kinds of sounds birds can make, and how those sounds are used. Birdsong researcher Kristin Brunk breaks down some sweet tweet science, and we learn how human noise has affected our feathery friends. Plus, a groovy new Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by:Liquid I.V. ( - Use code BRAINS at checkout to receive 20% off anything you order when yo...
2023-May-09 • 32 minutes
How would life evolve in space?
Humans and every other living thing on Earth are perfectly suited to our wonderful planet. There’s life everywhere, from boiling-hot ocean vents to chilly mountain peaks. But what would life look like in other parts of the galaxy, or beyond? What would happen to our bodies if we lived in space?In an out-of-this-world episode, Molly and cohost Jaxson moonwalk through the possibilities of life in outer space. They learn what scientists look for when they want to know if a planet or moon could support life. An...
2023-May-02 • 28 minutes
Do video games really rot your brain?
Video games are fun, challenging and sometimes hard to put down. But are they good for you? Or do they rot your brain, like some people say? In this episode, Molly and cohost Colden (along with sassy alien hero Fuzzbutt Picklestar) explore how video games affect your brain, for better or worse. Plus, we look at other technologies that adults used to think were bad for kids, like novels and radio. And an extra mysterious Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by:Liquid I.V. ( - Use code BRAINS ...
2023-Apr-25 • 29 minutes
Flies on a bus, space elevators, and other brain benders!
If you love big thoughts, this is the episode for you. We’ll ponder what would happen if a fly flew into the window of a moving bus. Would it have to keep flying forward to avoid crashing into the back window? Or could it just hover inside the bus? Plus we’ll unpack one of the most important ideas in science, the Theory of General Relativity. You’ll learn how creative thinking helped Albert Einstein change the world and get a little creative yourself guessing an all-new Mystery Sound!This episode was sponso...
2023-Apr-18 • 32 minutes
Why do we like some foods, but not others?
Do you have a favorite food that your friend doesn't like at all? Do you look at what your parents are eating and say, "No, thank you!" Well, you’re not alone! Lots of people have different food preferences. But why do some people like certain foods and others don’t? And what’s a supertaster? In this tasty treat of an episode, Molly and cohost Nishka visit a cooking class for kids and talk with food expert Jennifer Anderson from Kids Eat in Color ( to learn how to make ...
2023-Apr-11 • 36 minutes
How do we learn to read - and why is it hard?
Reading is your one-way ticket to adventure! You can ride fire-breathing dragons, explore outer space, or even save the world – all within the pages of a book. But have you ever wondered how we learn to read? And why it can sometimes feel hard to do? Molly and co-host Anna talk to American Public Media reporter Emily Hanford, host of the podcast Sold a Story ( about how some teaching techniques make it harder to learn how to read. Plus tips on how to become a rockst...
2023-Apr-07 • 25 minutes
Million Bazillion: Why are there so many of the same stores?
We’re super-jazzed to share this episode of Million Bazillion, a podcast for kids and families that helps you understand money.In this episode, hosts Bridget and Ryan get a question from Will in Ohio and are taking a cross-country road trip to answer it. Will wants to know why there are so many of the same stores. From Starbucks to Home Depot and all the McDonald’s in between, we’ll break down the reason why.
2023-Apr-04 • 34 minutes
The Trash Trail: Why is there so much plastic in the ocean?
We use plastic for all kinds of things, from shampoo bottles to glitter. It’s useful but also a danger, because a lot of plastic is ending up in our oceans, where it’s sucked into swirly twirly whirlpools of garbage. The biggest of these is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Hop into the ExPLORERR with Molly and cohost Ana-Victoria to learn more about this plasticy problem and find out what you can do to help solve it! Plus a brand new mystery sound!This episode was sponsored by:Liquid I.V. (LiquidIV.c...
2023-Mar-28 • 35 minutes
Why do we need bugs?
Insects can live almost anywhere: backyards, mountaintops, scorching hot deserts, underwater, even on Antarctica! There are more than a million different species out there, from speedy dragonflies that zip through the air as fast as a car to rainbow-colored beetles living in tropical rainforests. Plus, scientists are discovering new ones all the time! But why does the world need bugs? And why do they make us feel a little icky sometimes? In this super buggy episode, Molly and co-host Lorna meet bug scientis...
2023-Mar-21 • 30 minutes
Why do dogs wag their tails?
Have you heard the expression “dogs are people’s best friend”? Where did it come from? And why are dogs and humans such great pals? Molly and co-host Kha-ai jump back in time to learn how dogs became humans’ best friends, and answer the question why do dogs wag their tails? Plus, we’ll also explore how dogs help humans and even other animals like cheetahs. And keep your ears perked for a brand new Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Terms and conditions apply. Cost per ap...
2023-Mar-14 • 34 minutes
Why do we have friends?
Friendship rules! Friends help us work through problems, keep us company and bring joy to our lives. Making friends might have also helped our prehistoric ancestors survive and thrive! Still, friendship can be tough sometimes. In this episode, we’ll answer your friendship questions with Eileen Kennedy-Moore (a.k.a Dr. Friendtastic!) and hear some advice from a filmmaker with autism about making friends. Plus an all-new Mystery Sound!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Terms and conditi...
2023-Mar-07 • 29 minutes
Do plants sleep?
Humans need sleep to survive, but do plants doze off too? In this episode, we’ll look into how plants rest. Turns out humans and plants aren’t all that different! We’ll hear about how we share a common ancestor, way, way back in history. We’ll also learn how plants and people have little built-in clocks that tell us when it’s day and night! Oh, and Sanden parties with his plant pals and we guess an all-new Mystery Sound.This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Terms and conditions apply. Co...
2023-Feb-28 • 31 minutes
How heavy is the sky?
Our big, beautiful sky stretches all the way from the ground beneath our feet to about sixty miles above the Earth. It’s made up of countless air molecules, pinging around like tiny, invisible pinballs. And even though we can’t feel the weight of each individual air molecule, all together they weigh a lot! But how much does the sky actually weigh? (spoiler alert: it involves lots and lots of farting cats…) Molly and co-host Felix learn more by talking with a band of singing walruses and a pretty wacky weath...
2023-Feb-21 • 33 minutes
Glow for it! How do creatures make light?
Lots of creatures are able to glow, like fish, mushrooms, fireflies and even some bacteria! This special ability is called bioluminescence and it looks like magic, but it’s actually chemistry. In this episode, we’ll travel to the bottom of the ocean in the ExPLORERR to meet some super spectacular, bioluminescent friends and find out why so many animals make their own light. And we’ll hear from a scientist who uses bioluminescence in cancer research. Plus a brand new mystery sound!This episode is sponsored b...
2023-Feb-14 • 39 minutes
How do hearing aids work?
Xuan June’s hearing aids have kept her company for pretty much her entire life. They go with her to school, tag along for a ride while she skateboards and sit snugly while she draws and dreams up goth-cute fashion designs.In this episode, Xuan June is getting fitted for a new pair of hearing aids — and she’s invited Molly to come with her! Together they learn all about how these cool superpowered devices work. Plus, we find out how sound travels and get a chance to guess TWO mystery sounds.This episode was ...
2023-Feb-07 • 35 minutes
Do scientists have superpowers?
It's just a normal day at Brains On headquarters, until Molly and co-host Aaliyah find Forever Ago host Joy Dolo in the midst of a full-blown stress attack. She has a lot on her agenda: it's her birthday month and Black History Month, she's producing a one-woman show, she's got episodes to host, parades to plan and a self-portrait made entirely out of found objects due for her art class! Joy isn't sure which way is up, if tacos are sandwiches and if she should re-think her entire life. Luckily, there are al...
2022-Dec-27 • 38 minutes
Is it possible to clone yourself?
Imagine an exact copy of you, someone with the same hair, eyes and DNA. That’s a clone. Scientists have been able to make clones of some animals. In this episode, we’ll hear the story of Dolly the sheep, the most famous clone ever! We’ll also talk about why people think it would be ethically wrong to clone humans. But natural human clones DO exist! They’re called identical twins and even though they share the same DNA, they can be quite different. We’ll meet two identical twins to talk about their differenc...
2022-Dec-13 • 27 minutes
How is concrete made? And why does it matter?
Concrete is so much more than just a sidewalk. We use it to build playgrounds and skateparks and even musical instruments! But how does it go from a powder to a sludge to the strong building material that we use all over the world? And can we come up with new recipes that are better for the environment? To celebrate this superlative substance, Molly and cohost Mark are joined by special guest Concreature, a being from the concrete dimension! Tune in for a dose of history, some magnificent moss, and some hot...
2022-Nov-29 • 36 minutes
How were people mummified?
Ancient Egyptians did lots of amazing things, from building pyramids to inventing a form of writing called hieroglyphics. They also mummified important people after they died. In this episode, we’ll explain how that process was done and why. We’ll also meet a museum curator who thinks it might be time to rethink how we study mummified people. Plus, we’ll find out why so many things from ancient Egypt are still around, meet a biker club that loves respecting other cultures and hear an all new Mystery Sound. ...
2022-Nov-22 • 24 minutes
Do insects see the world in slow motion? Looking through animal eyes
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 scientists are observing predatory insects to find out how their brains work, we'll drop in on the Eyes Open Wider support group for animals, and give you a catchy melody that will help you remember the electromagnetic spectrum -- that's all the light that's both...
2022-Nov-15 • 35 minutes
Space: The ultimate intergalactic game show
Do you like games? Do you like space? Then this is the episode for you! We’ve got five space-inspired games for you: Cosmic Couplets, Infini-Trivia, First Things First, Stars in Space or Pasta Shapes and, of course, Mystery Sounds! Plus we’ll hear some of the super catchy, dance-your-pants-off space jingles you’ve been sending to us! Get your astronaut gear on, gaze up at the cosmos and get ready to play along!This episode was sponsored by:Elfster ( - Set up a free Secret Santa gift excha...
2022-Nov-08 • 32 minutes
Flush! Where does our poo and pee go?
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 flush." We'll also hear about ancient sewers, a "fatberg" under London and a toilet that cleans waste on site. Plus, our Moment of Um answers why you can feel your heart beating in your neck of all places.This episode was sponsored ...
2022-Nov-01 • 25 minutes
Why are we so sweaty?
When most bodies get hot, sweat starts pouring out. Why? In this episode, we'll hop in the Amazing Truck of Minimization (ATOM) to see how sweat glands work from the inside out, take a peek back in time to figure out how we evolved to be so sweaty, and we'll find out if there are any other animals as sweaty as we are. All that plus a brand new mystery sound!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - For a $100 sponsored job credit Terms and conditions apply. Offer good for a limited time.)Sho...
2022-Oct-28 • 4 minutes
Introducing Smarty Pass: Your ticket to the Brains On! Universe
Become a Smarty Pass subscriber today to access bonus episodes and ad-free episodes of Brains On!, Smash Boom Best, Moment of Um, and Forever Ago -- all right here in your favorite podcast player.Visit to get your Smarty Pass! It's $4/month or $36/year (a three-month discount!)Don't worry: This feed will stay free and we’ll be posting new episodes just like we always have.Whether you choose to subscribe, or keep listening in our free feeds, we so appreciate you listening to our shows...
2022-Oct-25 • 34 minutes
Moon Myths: Why are there so many scary stories about the full moon?
The full moon is bright, beautiful, and reappears in the sky like clockwork. Many cultures use the full moon to mark the passing of time and organize calendars around the moon’s cycle. So why does the full moon also have a reputation for causing mischief and mayhem? In this episode, we’ll learn where some of these beliefs come from and investigate whether the full moon actually does affect humans and our behavior. We’ll also hear about folklore tied to the full moon and examine how the moon’s phases work. A...
2022-Oct-18 • 33 minutes
AHH! How music can make scary movies even scarier
We listen to music with our ears – and that amazing electric meatball between our ears: our brain! But why do our brains find some music scary?We’re born with some fears baked into our brains, because our ancestors thought they were scary too! That’s why sudden loud noises startle us sometimes. But there’s another reason certain sounds freak us out – we’ve been taught to find them scary.We’ll hear how composer Heather McIntosh uses these fears to write scary film scores, and we’ll explore some of the ways s...
2022-Oct-11 • 33 minutes
Blood: The superhighway of the body
This episode was sponsored by:Mathnasium ( - contact Mathnasium for a free in-center or online consultation)Indeed ( - For a $100 sponsored job credit Terms and conditions apply. Offer good for a limited time.)Shopify ( - for a free 14-day trial and full access to Shopify's entire suite of features)Outschool ( - save $15 on your child's first class)Bombas ( - get 20% off your first purchase)
2022-Oct-04 • 32 minutes
Did the Brontosaurus really exist?
Today’s episode is all about one of the most dynamite dinosaurs, the Brontosaurus! This long-necked icon has been featured in books, cartoons, movies, and even logos. But did the Brontosaurus really exist in the first place? We’ll dig into that question and uncover the history of Brontosaurus with science writer and bronto-enthusiast Riley Black. We’ll also learn about taxonomy from a ghost and catch up with Mr. Bone Jangles. Plus, a new mystery sound to discover!Don’t forget to check out Forever Ago, where...
2022-Sep-27 • 33 minutes
What happens at zoos after dark?
In this episode we check out three different zoos after visitors leave and the gates are locked. We’ll hear about some adventurous penguins, learn how chimps tuck themselves in and find out why it’s important to smell a gorilla first thing in the morning. Oh, and did you know sometimes zoo animals need a ride from the airport? All this and a brand new mystery sound!This episode is sponsored by:Indeed ( - to start hiring now. Terms and conditions apply. Cost per application pricing not ava...
2022-Sep-20 • 37 minutes
Where does your imagination come from?
Picture this: a pickle with a cowboy hat. It has cute little arms and legs -- let’s make them orange. And this pickle is riding a horse on the beach as the sun sets. #PickleLife, am I right? Now think about this: you just imagined that whole scene in your head! Imagination can engage every one of our senses. It sprouts from the things we’ve experienced in life, then collages itself into new thoughts… like a pickle on a horse. This episode goes into the far reaches of the brain and examines how imagination w...
2022-Sep-13 • 30 minutes
Where do accents come from?
Today we're looking at why there are so many different ways to pronounce the same words and where our accents come from. How did British and American accents become different? Why do some kids have different accents than their parents? We're going to answer these questions and find out how our accents tell the stories of our communities and our ancestors. Plus: A brand new mystery sound!This episode is sponsored by:Indeed ( - to start hiring now. Terms and conditions apply. Cost per appli...
2022-Sep-06 • 27 minutes
Get a whiff of that: Why you smell like you
Have you ever noticed that different people have different scents? Go on, sniff your friend, we’ll wait. Today’s episode dives nose-first into what makes up our personal scents. With the help of Candace, a one-of-a-kind candle maker interested in making podcast-scented candles, we get the lowdown on body odor. We’ll also hear about super-sniffing animals and some other creatures that thrive on stink. And there’s a new Mystery Sound -- this one is definitely not a stinker!This episode is sponsored by:Indeed ...
2022-Aug-30 • 28 minutes
Why is glass see-through?
Glass is a magic thing that is both solid as a wall and clear as the air. It starts out as sand and with tons of heat, and a few key ingredients, it becomes the super useful material we know and love. In this episode we look at how glass is made, why it's clear and how nature makes glass too. Plus, hear about Sanden's latest invention and guess the all new Mystery Sound.This episode is sponsored byIndeed ( - to start hiring now. Terms and conditions apply. Cost per application pricing no...
2022-Aug-23 • 26 minutes
Body Bonanza 2.0 - Your body questions answered
Today’s episode has something for everyBODY. It's the Body Bonanza where we answer a ton of your questions about our human bodies! This time around, we’ll hear from some of our favorite body parts: the heart beats, the stomach rumbles, the appendix writes a poem. The ear brings us a new Mystery Sound, a foot gives us the lowdown on how it falls asleep, the tongue sings a song… and there’s even an appearance from the “anti-mouth.” Wow!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - to receive a $...
2022-Aug-16 • 29 minutes
Can stress be helpful?
We've all had to deal with stress. It can feel bad and overwhelming, but it’s actually really important. In this episode, we'll hear why our bodies evolved to deal with danger in this way and how it still affects us today. We'll climb a metaphorical mountain to find out how stress can help us sometimes. Oh, and there are lots of monsters that suddenly showed up a Brains On headquarters and maybe they were released by an ancient artifact and no one can find the instruction manual and ohmigoodness the monster...
2022-Aug-09 • 33 minutes
Underwater volcanoes and lots of salt: A deep dive into the ocean
The ocean is huge and full of wonders, so it's no surprise our listeners have lots of question about it. In this episode we'll travel to the bottom of the ocean to find out what the ocean floor is made of, and learn how geologist Marie Tharp helped us understand how amazing it is. We'll also delve into why the ocean is salty but lakes and rivers aren't, and sing along with the Salty Sea Shanty. Plus a brand new mystery sound! BrainsOnSaltySeaShanty Our Salty Sea Shanty complete with ...
2022-Aug-02 • 27 minutes
Why can't we remember when we were babies?
You've probably seen photos from your first birthday. Or maybe you heard about the time you got spaghetti sauce all over the walls when you were two. The grown ups around you remember these things, so why can't you? In this episode, we'll find out how our brains store memories and why we can't hang on to those early ones. Plus: a brand new mystery sound and a preview of everyone's favorite soap opera, The Young and the Toothless.This episode was sponsored by:Indeed ( - Receive a $75 spon...
2022-Jul-21 • 27 minutes
Million Bazillion: How do big video platforms make money?
We’re thrilled to share an episode from our pals at Million Bazillion. Take a peek at the fascinating world of online video makers and the role money plays.A listener wants to know how the creators of his favorite online videos get paid. It’s a surprisingly complicated question, and Ryan and Bridget have to go viral themselves to find out the answer. Accompanied by their new dog and a bunch of influencers, we’ll learn all about the wild economics of online videos. Put on your tap-dancing shoes, we’re making...
2022-May-24 • 38 minutes
The Mosties!
Raise a curtain. Cue the lights. It’s the most most-tacular night. It’s The Mosties! The Brains Brains On favorites, Bob, Gungador, Elevator and HARVEY have all made it out to celebrate superlatives.The Mosties is an awards show of the extreme. Tonight’s categories include: Biggest Plant, Fastest Organism, Strongest Glue, Oldest Animal and Oldest Music. And don’t forget to stick around for a Mystery Mostie (aka Mystery Sound). And the winner is… ???This is our last episode of this season but we’ll be back i...
2022-May-20 • 2 minutes
Forever Ago is back June 1!
We are so excited to share that our podcast, Forever Ago, is returning for a brand new season! If you didn’t get a chance to hear the first season, Forever Ago is a history show for the whole family hosted by Joy Dolo - where every episode looks into the surprising and fascinating history of things we think are ordinary but they’re not - like ice cream flavors, video games, baths and umbrellas. We think you’ll really like it and we have the trailer of the new season for you to check out! Make sure to subscr...
2022-May-17 • 36 minutes
Dreams: The science of a sleeping brain
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 make us more creative. Plus: a new mystery sound and a Moment of Um answers the question "How do octopuses make ink?" Today’s episode is sponsored – for a free 14 day trial and full access to Shopify’s entire...
2022-May-10 • 32 minutes
Tongue twisters: Terribly terrific and truly tantalizing
Why is it so hard to say sentences like: she sells sea shells at the sea shore? This episode cracks the code of tongue twisters. Check out the role mouth shapes and vocal folds play in tongue twisters. Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel will share her research into tongue twisters and how she came up with some of the hardest sentences for people to say. We also have a report on “the late eight,” a group of sounds that can be tough to say — and quite confounding when combined.Also, be sure to check out our listener-...
2022-May-03 • 26 minutes
How does a caterpillar become a butterfly?
Caterpillars go through a striking transformation from a crawly, tube-like creature into a soaring, beautifully-winged butterfly. This process is called metamorphosis and it’s no wonder our listeners have lots of questions about it. We’ll find out exactly how a caterpillar transforms (spoiler alert: it doesn’t just grow a pair of wings), and we’ll go on a house-hunting journey with two caterpillars searching for their pupation stations. Plus, a pretty tricky mystery sound for you to guess!This episode was s...
2022-Apr-26 • 29 minutes
What makes tiny tardigrades tick?
You can find micro-animals just about everywhere. They’re on your face and in your hair. They’re in puddles and in soil. One of the most famous of these microscopic creatures is the tardigrade.This episode zooms in on these adorable little animals, also known as moss piglets and water bears. The biggest tardigrade is about the size of the tip of a sharpened pencil, but most are smaller. More like the width of a hair. They’re kinda like a squishy pillow with eight legs, four on each side, with finger-like li...
2022-Apr-19 • 33 minutes
Into the eye of a storm: How hurricanes form
How do hurricanes form? This episode dives into the eye of the hurricane to track down that answer and so much more. We also talk to hurricane hunter Major Joyce Hirai, who flies airplanes into hurricanes as part of the Air Force’s Weather Reconnaissance team. Also, we learn how humans have figured out how to be resilient in the face of increasing hurricanes (and hear from our friend Manuel the Mangrove). And get your dancing shoes on, because we’ve got a catchy tune that explains how hurricanes are named. ...
2022-Apr-12 • 31 minutes
Is mind-reading real?
Can people actually read minds? Can we move objects with our brains like in the movies? We're exploring the history of shady psychics, sketchy seances, and secret superpower studies. Plus, hear from a scientist who is helping people regain the ability to pick up and move objects through the combined power of their brains and a special computer!You can support our show by donating, buying our book or telling your friends about us! Head to brainson.orgIf you’re in Los Angeles or the Twin Cities and want to se...
2022-Apr-05 • 27 minutes
Owl about Owls
We’re headed off to an owl sanctuary to meet up with Nolan the know-it-owl for a special night owl Tour. We hear the sound of owl wings and check out some super-tubular owl eye facts. Find out how owls can swivel their heads 270 degrees and why their ears are at uneven spots on their heads. We’ll meet a poetry-loving barn owl named Olive, who fills us in on why owls are considered wise. Fun fact: owls are sometimes classified by their sounds -- bigger owls are hooters and smaller owls are tooters!Special Th...
2022-Mar-29 • 27 minutes
How are we related to stars?
Forget those fancy awards shows. This episode of Brains On is exploding with the stars. Find out how each of us is related to these beautifully bright beacons. Plus, we’ll consider what happens when gravity weighs down on a star over millions, and even billions, of years. We’ll also meet a star detective, who was able to witness an exploding star (aka supernova). All that and a stellar, new Mystery Sound to tickle your ears. Now, let’s blast off!!!This episode was sponsored by:Indeed (
2022-Mar-22 • 32 minutes
Why are butts and poop so funny?
This episode is a real stinker, but it had to happen. We go behind the scenes on what makes butts and poop so funny. Why does the mere mention of them make us laugh?We all have butts and we all poop. Those are the facts. But human butts are different than almost any other animal. We look into the evolution of butts, and find out how our senses of humor develop when we're kids. And we hear from comic Tim Platt on why he thinks butts and poop will always be funny. Plus, we’ll check in with Channel 2’s Bowel A...
2022-Mar-15 • 34 minutes
Inside the immune system: Bad robots and friendly monsters
The immune system is so cool and so important but it largely goes about its business without us knowing it. In this episode you'll get a front row seat as our immune cells (aka friendly monsters) fight off bacteria and viruses (aka bad robots). We'll also find out how vaccines provide important training for our immune cells. Plus, co-host Colin quizzes Molly on immune system facts and there's a brand new mystery sound!This episode was brought to you by Indeed ( Center for the ...
2022-Mar-08 • 25 minutes
What's up with worms?
What’s up with worms? How do they sleep? Why are they slimy? How do they move? Here at Brains On, the only way to find out is to embark on an EPIC QUEST! Join co-host Ezra and the worm adventurer extraordinaire Sir Wormus on a journey to find the Golden Worm, a magical artifact! On the way, they’ll learn all about the noble earthworm from the Tome of Worms, a magic book containing all the knowledge of worm expert Emma Sherlock from the Natural History Museum in London! Will our heroes find the Golden Worm? ...
2022-Mar-01 • 34 minutes
Mountain life: How's the air up there?
The ExPLORERR was built to go everywhere. That’s why this vehicle’s full name is: the Extremely Practical Land and Ocean Rover Exploring Remote Realms. And guess what? It has a recording studio built on-board! Good thing, because this episode was recorded while traveling up, up, up a mountain!We discover some wildlife that lives at great heights as well as a rhyming ice cream salesman. Our pal and atmospheric scientist, Dr. Deanna Hence checks in to answer a popular question: if hot air rises, why is it so ...
2022-Feb-22 • 30 minutes
Chilling out with snow
There are many different types of snow. From the fluffy to the slushy, this slippery frozen stuff comes in all different shapes and sizes. From a distance, snowflakes may all look the same, but they are not. In fact, there are lots of different shapes of snowflakes — not just those classic shapes you might try to replicate with paper cut-outs.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? A...
2022-Feb-15 • 33 minutes
Could you walk around the world?
It might sound impossible, but you can walk around the world! Rosie Swale-Pope has done it, and we get a chance to hear about her adventures in this episode. She tells us how she survives, and remains upbeat, on the road. Guess how many shoes she went through on her trip? Listen and find out.We also hear from D’Wayne Edwards, who helped design some of the most iconic shoes ever (Air Jordan anyone?). And see if you can guess the Mystery Sound. It’s a doozy! Plus, Molly, Marc and Sanden begin their own journe...
2022-Feb-08 • 27 minutes
Why do we like sugar so much?
Marshmallows, lollipops, gummi bears -- we want them all! But we’ve all heard that eating a lot of sugar isn’t that healthy for us. So what’s the deal? Why do we like sugar so much in the first place? We’ll find out why our bodies evolved to seek out sweet things, and how clever humans invented a way to make food even sweeter. And we’ll get to the bottom of a confectionary conundrum from our co-host Zoe: are sugar rushes a real thing? Plus: Sanden cooks up some very sweet schemes and we have a new mystery s...
2022-Feb-01 • 38 minutes
Do we live in a multiverse?
Get ready to learn the science behind the multiverse! That’s the idea that our universe isn’t the only universe out there. What if there were other, different universes existing alongside our own? Ones with different laws of physics, different planets and stars… or maybe even different versions of us! In this episode we explain a few different theories behind this popular idea. Plus, we’ll learn some quantum mechanics, hear about string theory and meet many different versions of Sanden. All that and a brand...
2022-Jan-25 • 5 minutes
Why are giraffe tongues blue? - A Moment of Um extra
Wow, wow, wow! Our new Moment of Um podcast is finally here. Check out this sample episode, and subscribe to Moment of Um in your podcast player. There are already five episodes just waiting for you to listen, and there’s a new one every weekday.Do you have a head-scratcher that you think would make a great Moment of Um episode? Head over to to let us know about it.
2022-Jan-18 • 2 minutes
Introducing Moment of Um!
We're super excited for you to hear our newest podcast: Moment of Um!What’s that? You’ve already heard of Moment of Um featured on Brains On! You’re correct, congratulations! Moment of Um has been answering head scratchers for years on Brains On. Since our listeners send in so many Moment of Um questions, we thought it was time to give it a podcast of its own.Bitesized episodes drop every weekday, starting January 24th. Follow on your favorite podcast app or YouTube.
2021-Nov-23 • 33 minutes
What happens if you drop a feather in space?
In space, will a feather stay still? Fall down? Float away? Turns out, the answer depends on where you are! But one thing affects your feather no matter what: gravity! So Galileo is joining us all the way from the 1500s to fill us in on his theory about gravity. Then, we’re heading to space, and dropping a feather in a few different places to see what happens. Listen closely for a listener-submitted mystery sound, and a moment of um that answers this question: If you pick a flower, fruit or vegetable, is it...
2021-Nov-16 • 29 minutes
The innies and outies of belly buttons
Today’s episode is all about your belly button aka navel aka umbilicus. And not just your belly button -- every single person you can think of has one. This means our listeners have LOTS of questions about them. We're going to tackle several of these fascinating navel-gazing questions like: is your belly button connected to your insides? Where does belly button fuzz come from? Why do some belly buttons stick out? And do cats and dogs have belly buttons? Plus, we have a tricky mystery sound for you to guess ...
2021-Nov-09 • 36 minutes
A guide to getting your COVID shot
Kids over 5 can now get a COVID vaccine in the U.S. We know a lot of you have been waiting for this day and lots of you have sent us questions about the vaccine since the pandemic started: like what's in the COVID vaccine? How does it work? How do scientists know it's safe? And even if the vaccine isn’t available to you where you live yet, this episode will answer those questions -- and there are some fun games you can play along with us! If you have more questions about how COVID, the vaccines or anything ...
2021-Nov-02 • 33 minutes
Shark teeth: The sharp bits of a squishy animal
In this episode, we’re asking sharks to say “aaaah”, and taking a close look at their chompers. We’ll see how shark teeth grow, and what those teeth can teach us about sharks of the past. We’ll also play a game of Jaws Jeopardy, and find out how sharks help keep the ocean helping with their super snacking. Stick around for a listener-submitted mystery sound and a Moment of Um: why does steam rise in the air?This episode was sponsored by:Shopify (
2021-Oct-26 • 39 minutes
Spooky superstitions! Why we think 13 is bad luck
Just in time for spooky season, it’s an episode all about superstitions! Do you avoid the number 13? Or maybe it’s your lucky number, like Taylor Swift? In this episode we’ll look at why we have such strong feelings toward 13, and we’ll hear about other unlucky and lucky numbers around the world. Plus, Marc and Sanden will explain why our brains latch on to superstitions in the first place. Oh, and our favorite talking skeleton, Mr. Bonejangles, is back with a spine-tingling quiz! All that and a Moment of U...
2021-Oct-19 • 35 minutes
Crystals: More than just shiny rocks
This episode shines a light on crystals, and they’re sparkling right back at us! We’ll zoom way in on a diamond to understand the structure that makes crystals special, and hear about some unexpected crystals, too (hint: chocolate chip cookies contain a few different crystals!). Then, we take a look at how crystals form and get their cool colors. Plus, Marc and Sanden hunt down a hoax about Mesoamerican crystal skulls. And! A mystery sound and a moment of um: why does sugar taste sweet?This episode was spon...
2021-Oct-12 • 31 minutes
Squirrelsperience: Trying out squirrel skills
In many places, tree squirrels are extra busy these days. It’s time for them to collect nuts to prepare for winter! So we’re heading to a squirrel-themed adventure course and practicing a few of the skills they use to survive: gathering nuts, traveling in trees, and speaking like a squirrel. We’ll also learn about how squirrels evolved, and hear about some of their surprising relatives.Plus, a mystery sound and a moment of um: what chemical in apples mixes with oxygen to turn brown?You can support the show ...
2021-Oct-05 • 39 minutes
The heroes we need to defeat the coronavirus
Eighteen months into our fight with this coronavirus, it may feel frustrating that we're still in this battle, but there are many reasons to feel hopeful. One reason is that we know a lot about this virus now and have plenty of tools to fight it. We meet the superheroes prepared to help us defeat the coronavirus: Sgt. Socially Distanced, the Masked Mentor, the Testmaster and the Vaxinator! Plus: Gilly, one half of the hit podcast Going Viral with Kara and Gilly, and a special guest explain what a virus vari...
2021-Sep-28 • 36 minutes
How to conquer Garbage Mountain
After getting a firsthand look at the history of trash, we’re having visions from garbage’s present and future this week. Producer Kunsang Dorjee visits a landfill to see what happens to our trash after we throw it away, and producer Ruby Guthrie shows us how we can make less trash and dispose the trash we do make in ways that are better for the planet. Plus: we hear from a kid who helped her class produce almost no waste during the school year. And our Moment of Um answers the question: if ants like sweet ...
2021-Sep-21 • 36 minutes
The invention of trash
A pair of ghost shoes visit Molly with a message: it's time to think about garbage. They predict that Molly will be visited by three visions of garbage, one from the past, one from the present and one from the future.Today, Producer Sanden Totten takes us on a time traveling journey to see how we started making all this trash in the first place. Plus: the Moment of Um answers the question: Are yawns contagious to animals? Next week, we'll be back with a look at the present and future of garbage.This episode...
2021-Sep-14 • 33 minutes
Take a deep breath: How does breathing work?
Breathing is a really cool thing. We breathe automatically without thinking about it, but we can also control our breath and play with it. We'll learn how our lungs work and why our bodies need this air in the first place. We'll also hear from a singer and a free diver about how they've trained their breath to do remarkable things -- and how you can too! And we'll talk to a doctor about how deep breathing can help you feel less stressed and she'll teach us an exercise you can do whenever anxiety starts to c...
2021-Sep-07 • 44 minutes
What does the giraffe say? Our animal mystery sound extravaganza!
When one of our listeners wrote in with an animal sound mystery (What sound does a giraffe make?) we set out to find an answer. We came back with lots of other fascinating animal sounds, so we decided it was time for an all-animal mystery sound extravaganza! Open up your ears and get ready to play! Plus, our Moment of Um answers the question: Why do daddy long legs have such long legs?Our sponsors:Indeed ( (
2021-Jul-27 • 38 minutes
Why do we lose teeth?
Today we’re looking at a phenomenon that happens to all of us: losing our baby teeth and getting new ones! So how do our teeth grow in and what makes them fall out? Naturally, a group of wandering teeth helps us explain. We'll also find out why we have two sets of teeth in the first place. A chatty tooth travel agent will introduce us to all the different ways to send our baby teeth off in style and we'll play a game that will test your knowledge of animal teeth. Plus, the Moment of Um answers the question ...
2021-Jul-20 • 36 minutes
What causes wildfires?
A fire can be super useful or cozy or even magical. But it can also be dangerous -- and in the case of wildfires, if they burn long and hot enough, they can destroy ecosystems and send lots of harmful smoke into the air. In this episode, we're going to find out why wildfires are getting bigger and why wildfire season is lasting longer now. We'll learn how the tribes who've lived in what is now called Northern California managed the forests and kept fire in check for thousands of years, and how those practic...
2021-Jul-15 • 20 minutes
Million Bazillion answers your questions about money
Today we’re sharing an episode with you from our friends at Million Bazillion, the podcast that answers the questions kids have about money. They help dollars make more sense and they’re back for a whole new season! In today’s episode, hosts Jed and Bridget answer a question from two curious listeners who want to know why we pay taxes. In answering the question, they come across the legendary Robin Hood, known for his hatred of taxes. Back in his day, tax-collecting sheriffs forced people to pay money to a...
2021-Jul-13 • 28 minutes
Why do mosquitoes bite? Scratching that itch
In this episode, we're tackling all the mosquito questions that have been bugging our listeners. Why do they bite? Why do the bites itch? Is scratching them a good idea? Why do some people seem to be more delicious to mosquitoes? How can we keep them away from us? And are mosquitoes good for the world? The Hoax Hunters make an appearance plus the Moment of Um answers the question, "What is a solar flare?"This episode was sponsored by:Indeed (
2021-Jul-06 • 31 minutes
Why do songs get stuck in our heads?
You know that feeling where you get a snippet of a song stuck in your head and it loops over and over? Those hard to shake songs are also known as earworms, and in this episode Molly has a particularly sticky one in her brain. We'll find out why some songs are catchier than others and, most importantly, scientifically-proven ways to get rid of them. Plus, we'll hear a mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: "Do spiders have bones?"Today’s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (kiwico....
2021-Jun-29 • 34 minutes
Vaccines for kids and silver linings: Our second COVID summer
Adults around the world are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, and now, in a handful of countries (including the U.S.) kids over 12 can get vaccinated too. We hear from a 13-year-old who participated in a clinical trial for a vaccine and get tips for how to navigate the world when only some people in your family are able to be vaccinated. Plus, Kara and Gilly share expert advice on how to handle big feelings as the world starts to open back up. And a new Moment of Um answers the question: What are ...
2021-Jun-22 • 28 minutes
Do dogs know they're dogs?
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 also find out what happens (or doesn’t) when a dog looks in the mirror. Dogs are always dozing, and we’ll check in to see if they are dreaming too. And, we take a quick trip around the world in the language of barks. All that, plus a brand new Mystery Sound...
2021-Jun-15 • 39 minutes
Our 200th episode is SUN-sational!
There’s no better way to celebrate our 200th episode than with our own shining star: the sun! In this episode we speak with Dr. Nicola Fox, who leads a team of NASA scientists that sent a probe to collect data and zoom by the sun. We also hear some great listener suggestions on what new planet could be added to our solar system. We even get a chance to check in with The Sun and her weekly broadcast, That’s Hot.Our 200th episode wouldn’t be complete without a visit from some of our favorite pals: Bob, Gungad...
2021-Jun-08 • 29 minutes
How far can a cloud travel?
We’ve all played the “what does that cloud look like” game. Maybe you saw a bunny… or an airplane… or a unicorn. What if that same cloud could also be seen by someone in a far off continent? That’s what a listener in Minnesota wondered. He wanted to know if the same cloud he saw in a park near his house could also be seen in Africa.We talk to Deanna Hence, one of our favorite weather experts, and she tells us about how clouds travel. We also dust off the Zoom Ray to learn about what is inside of a cloud. An...
2021-Jun-01 • 32 minutes
Totally Slothsome: All about sloths
There’s more to sloths than slowness. They’re great at saving energy, hanging upside down, and swimming! In this episode, Sloth Appreciation Society founder Lucy Cooke stops by to tell us all about these amazing animals. We also get into a sloth mystery: The Case of the Perilous Poop Journey. Luckily, there’s a sloth sleuth on the case. And sloths aren’t the only animals who aren’t in a hurry — a few others show off their slowest skills.There’s also a Mystery Sound for you to guess, and a Moment of Um: Why ...
2021-May-25 • 38 minutes
How do computers store so much info in such a tiny space?
If you translate “Hello! How are you?” to binary code, it looks like this: 01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100001 00100000 01001000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00111111 This episode takes a look at how computers can do so much with such tiny parts. But computers weren't always small -- so we take a look at where computers came from. We visit Ada Lovelace, whose love of math and weaving paved the way for modern-day computers. And we...
2021-May-18 • 39 minutes
How does taste work? We react to our very first episode!
Brains On has a very special milestone coming up -- it’s almost our 200th episode! To celebrate, we're re-listening to our very first episode which was all about eating. We'll play the episode and chime in with commentary to give you some behind the scenes glimpses and backstories along the way. We’ll also hear an update from our very first co-host ever -- Ian Roberts, who is now a college student and an adult. Plus a brand new Moment of Um answers the question: Why do we have birthmarks?This episode is sp...
2021-May-11 • 27 minutes
Like bread and cheese? Thank fungus!
That fuzzy sandwich in your fridge? Yeah, don't eat that kind of fungus. But the mushrooms in your stir fry? Or the yeast in your bread? Or the rind on your brie? Or the miso in your soup? All of those delicious foods are possible thanks to fungus!In this episode, we'll learn about how our ancestors first figured it out some mushrooms were safe to eat, we'll learn about the microbes that make cheese possible, and we'll meet some fungal chefs who are key to cooking up some of our favorite foods. Plus a brand...
2021-May-04 • 32 minutes
Is mold alive? A look at fascinating fungus
Fungus deserves a party because it’s everywhere and super important to life on this planet. The kingdom of fungus includes mushrooms and molds, but also yeasts, like the kinds that help make bread. So today, we’re embracing the ick, we’re snuggling up to the slimy, we’re making friends with mold and mushrooms… It’s a full on Fung-o-Rama! We'll learn about a day in the life of mold, a fungus that turns ants into zombies, and how fungi will help us in the fight against climate change. All that, plus a brand n...
2021-Mar-30 • 35 minutes
Is time travel possible?
Will we ever get to rewind time, or fast forward through it? Sanden stops by to tell us all about how time works. He also has a couple ideas about how we might make time travel a reality! But one tricky thing about time travel is that it’s full of paradoxes — so we look into those, too. And science fiction expert Lisa Yaszek swings by to tell us just how long humans have been thinking about time travel (hint: a really long time).Listen closely for the mystery sound, and the moment of um: how do clothes get ...
2021-Mar-23 • 38 minutes
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2021
What's that you hear? That's right, It's an episode of nothing but mystery sounds! Are your ears up to the challenge? Plus, we'll hear an answer to the question: "How do squirrels find their nuts after they bury them?"If you'd like to submit a mystery sound, you can share it with us here:, you can support the show at, you can also buy our book, complete with Mystery Photos, at or at your favorite local bookstore.Today’s episode was sp...
2021-Mar-16 • 36 minutes
Why are smartphones so hard to put down?
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 went, then Sanden will fill us in on the brain chemical that trains us to love our screens. We'll also learn why the predictability of messages and alerts on smartphones makes them extra hard to put down. Plus, we’ll get a few tips from Catherine Price, the...
2021-Mar-09 • 30 minutes
What did dinosaurs sound like?
Did dinosaurs roar? Or meow? And how do we know? Paleontologist Julia Clarke stops by to talk about sounds T-Rex might’ve made. We know a bit more about other dino sounds, and dinosaur expert Riley Black fills us in on those. Plus, a game about dinosaur names, and a look at how dinos might’ve moved with paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor. Stick around for the mystery sound, and a Moment of Um that answers this head-scratcher: How does hair dye work?This episode was sponsored by:Sun Basket (
2021-Mar-02 • 29 minutes
Dino Edition: How do we know what dinosaurs looked like?
20 years ago, we pictured dinosaurs as green, scaly animals. But times have changed! Now, we know some dinosaurs had feathers. And who knows — maybe some even had stripes.This episode looks at how we figure out what color dinosaurs might’ve been. We talk to Jingmai O’Connor, who studies fossil reptiles, about finding color pigment in fossils. And paleoartist Emily Willoughby talks to a “museum” about how her dino-depictions have changed over the years. Our co-host, Elyana, also brought us this important que...
2021-Feb-23 • 28 minutes
What's in the COVID vaccine?
In this episode, we're using our zoom ray to zoom way in and answer your questions about the COVID vaccine. What's in the COVID vaccine? How does it work? And how do they make it? We'll also look at how our fight against the new coronavirus has had a huge impact on another virus: influenza. And, we'll head to a stadium to learn what 95% effective means for a vaccine. (Warning: There are seagulls overhead!)Plus, we'll have a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: what do scient...
2021-Feb-16 • 28 minutes
What's behind the waves and tides?
In this encore episode, we answer the questions: How does the moon control the tides? Where do waves come from? And what’s it like to live in a tide pool?Sir Isaac Newton drops by and drops some knowledge. He helps explain why the tides ebb and flow. Then, an oceanographer/surfer tells us where waves come from and how they get their shape – cowabunga! Plus we hear about what it’s like for marine life that move to a new neighborhood once or twice a day. Sometimes it’s underwater, sometimes it’s not. Plus a b...
2021-Feb-09 • 35 minutes
Why do we have crushes?
When you've got a crush on someone, it can feel a bit overwhelming. All of a sudden, you might have butterflies in your stomach! And maybe you find yourself acting differently than you normally would. Why does our brain do this to us anyway? In this episode, we'll answer a slew of your crush-related questions: Why do we get crushes? Why do they make you feel so many feelings? How do you decide who you have a crush on? Plus, how do you navigate all the tricky parts of crushes -- like your crush finding out y...
2021-Feb-02 • 36 minutes
Let's go bananas!
HARVEY, our omnipresent virtual voice assistant, gets a software update that makes him go bananas for bananas. And if we talk about anything except bananas, he turns the microphones off! We talk to geneticist Dr. Janina Jeff about how much DNA we share with a banana, find out why bananas make other fruits ripen, how bananas grow, and where that slipping on a banana peel joke came from. Speaking of jokes, we'll hear a bunch of banana jokes from listeners too! Plus: The Moment of Um answers the question: &quo...
2021-Jan-26 • 36 minutes
A super special shot: All about coronavirus vaccines
In December, people started getting vaccinated against COVID-19. This is a huge scientific accomplishment and important step in making it safe for us to hang out in person again. So how did scientists develop these vaccines so fast? And how did they test the vaccines to make sure they’re safe? And how do these mRNA vaccines work?We have answers to all your questions, plus New York Times science journalist Apoorva Mandavilli explains what scientists have found out about how long immunity lasts to this new co...
2021-Jan-19 • 22 minutes
Meet Gitanjali Rao, Time Magazine's first-ever Kid of the Year
Today we have a special episode featuring an old friend of ours -- scientist and inventor Gitanjali Rao. Time Magazine recently named her the first-ever Kid of the Year! We first met Gitanjali back in 2018, when she was the co-host for a series of episodes we did all about water. Back then, she was a 12 year old who had recently won 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Now, she's a very busy 15 year-old who is an inventor, STEM advocate and author. Molly and Gitanjali chat about how kids c...
2021-Jan-12 • 35 minutes
How do synthesizers work?
Synthesizers are a very recent invention, especially when you compare them to acoustic instruments, like pianos and guitars. In this episode, we learn how these machines with keys, knobs, switches, buttons and sliders actually make sound. We’ll also travel back to the 1960’s and hear how synth pioneers like Bob Moog helped bring these sound making devices into the mainstream. Plus, we’ll check in with Suzanne Ciani, who has been using her synthesizer to create iconic sounds for movies, television and video ...
2021-Jan-05 • 30 minutes
Why is it so hard to break a habit?
If habits are really stuck, we don't think much about them -- we just do them! Some habits are good (like brushing your teeth in the morning) and others are not as good (like biting your nails). Today we find out what parts of our brains help us form habits and why it's actually super useful to not have to think so hard about everything. Gungador tries to break a bad habit, and we find out the best tips for ditching habits we want to leave behind. Plus: A brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answ...
2020-Nov-25 • 16 minutes
Smash Boom Best: Flowers vs Rainbows
We’ll be back with new episodes in January. But we wanted to share another show with you that we’ve been working on: Smash Boom Best!It’s a debate show where we take two cool things, smash them together and let you decide which one is best. Today we’re sharing with you an excerpt from a debate featuring our very own Sanden Totten: Flowers vs RainbowsSanden is repping team flowers and our good friend Joy Dolo, host of Forever Ago, is arguing for team rainbows.To hear the rest of the debate, find Smash Boom B...
2020-Oct-27 • 33 minutes
Bones from the inside out
Bones! They’re spooky. They’re creepy. They’re utterly fascinating!This episode we dig up the science behind skeletons. We’ll look at how our bones grow, what happens when we break a bone and why bones last so long. Plus, we’ll meet a talking skeleton who will help us bone up on bone trivia!And we have a mystery sound to tickle your auditory ossicles and a Moment of Um that answers the question: Why does time fly when you're having fun?We’re taking a break after this episode and will be back with new episod...
2020-Oct-20 • 37 minutes
Why do siblings annoy each other?
Having a sibling is a special thing -- but, wow, can they be annoying! In this episode we’ll look at why our brothers and sisters are so good at pushing our buttons. Plus, is there any truth to the idea that oldest kids are the most mature and the youngest ones are the most charming? We’ll look at the science of personality and birth order. We also visit a sibling drive-thru, get quizzed about animal relationships and answer this question in our Moment of Um: why does rain come in small droplets?This episod...
2020-Oct-13 • 33 minutes
How do flu vaccines work?
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.We released this episode about flu vaccines last year but we wanted to share it with you again since it’s flu vaccine season but also because vaccines are in the news a lot lately. Scientists are testing a bunch of vaccines for the new coronavirus right now. This episode gets into the details of how vaccines work and how they’re made....
2020-Oct-06 • 40 minutes
Past, present and future: Using time to understand this pandemic
If time feels weird to you lately, you’re not alone. The pandemic has changed the pace of life for people around the world. We’ll talk to a psychologist about how our sense of time works. We’ll look back into the past to see how a similar pandemic played out 100 years ago. Plus, we’ll ask experts to tell us what they think life will be like six months from now. Oh yeah, and virus podcasters Kara and Gilly are back to tell you how you can be a part of history! Warning: Boogers are involved. Our Moment of Um ...
2020-Sep-29 • 31 minutes
Smash: When continents collide!
How are mountains made? What causes an earthquake? How does hot lava come bubbling up? The answer in each case is…tectonic plates!These are giant, moving slabs of rock covering the Earth’s surface. When they slide past or smash into each other it shakes the planet. But, they also helped shape the land we live on.Find out how they work with an extreme cooking demonstration (you’ll never see peanut M&Ms the same way). Meet the scientist who thought long ago all the continents were smushed together in a su...
2020-Sep-22 • 27 minutes
Behind the scenes: See how we make the show
A listener asked how making Brains On is different during the pandemic. So with this episode we're giving you a peek into how we're making the show while staying safe. Spoiler alert: we're doing it all from our homes! What's the best way to record crystal clear sound at home? (Hint: Lots of soft surfaces!) How do we make sound effects? How do we get all the animals, humans and machines in our homes to keep it down while we tape? Plus: We asked our co-hosts to share what it was like for them to record and e...
2020-Sep-15 • 28 minutes
The buzz on bees, pt. 2
In this second episode on bees (a bee-quel, you might say!) we’re taking a look at pollination: the many pollination talents of different bees, why pollination is so important, and what you can do to help wild bees! The tables are turned in the Mystery Sound department: our beekeeping cohosts have a sound for Menaka and Sanden to guess! And the Moment of Um answers an age-old stumper: how are alligators and crocodiles different?Want to hear more about bees? Listen to The buzz about bees, pt. 1 (https://www....
2020-Sep-08 • 29 minutes
The buzz on bees, pt. 1
We’re making a big buzz about bees! Our pollen-collecting friends get so much done, and we’re taking a look at how they live. We’ll bust some bee myths and meet some honeybees for a look at life inside the hive. Our mystery sound is from a listener (here’s a hint: they recorded the sound in Alaska!), and our Moment of Um answers a buzzworthy question: Why do beehives look like hexagons? And! One episode on bees just isn’t enough. We’ll be back next week with more buzz on pollination.Want to hear more about ...
2020-Sep-01 • 34 minutes
Stars: Twinkling, glowing, giant balls of gas
Those tiny pinpoints of light glittering in the night sky are actually incredibly distant, giant, churning balls of gas. They produce huge quantities of light and heat. In this episode, Mars interviews the biggest star in his eyes: the sun! We also ask astronomer Moiya McTier to help us count all the stars in the universe. And we'll hear a couple of the stories that people here on earth tell about the stars. Plus, a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: how do whales drink?Th...
2020-Aug-25 • 35 minutes
What makes gross things gross?
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 entomophagy (the eating of insects) catch on everywhere? Plus: The Moment of Um answers the question "Why do worms come out when it rains?"Today’s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Ancestry ( and How to R...
2020-Aug-12 • 39 minutes
Poop Party: Answers to your poo questions
Warning! This episode is all about the fascinating and gross world of doo doo. We know you have a lot of poo questions because you’ve sent many, many of them to us. So we’re finally bringing you the poo answers! It’s a poop party!We’ve invited scientists to tell us about weird animal feces. (It’s true! Wombats have cube-shaped poop!)We tune into a news channel all about dookie (see the Bristol Stool Chart here: hear from our...
2020-Aug-04 • 22 minutes
Introducing: Million Bazillion
We’re thrilled to share a brand new show with you. It’s called Million Bazillion and it’s all about money -- how we earn it, how we save it and how we spend it.In the first episode you’ll travel back thousands of years to learn the ways people got what they needed before money was invented. Back then some people traded goods, others made pacts to share what they had. We’ll also meet the king who came up with the idea for coins. Plus, Kristen Bell designs her own money!This show is a collaboration between Br...
2020-Jul-28 • 35 minutes
Masks and mouth mist: What we know about the coronavirus now
Since the world first learned about this new coronavirus at the end of 2019, we’ve been watching science happen in real time. Scientists all over the world are studying this virus and learning how to protect us from it. As they learn new things, we learn new things too.One thing they’ve learned is how this virus spreads. The primary culprit is droplets from our noses and mouths. That’s why masking up is so important to protect our communities.We’ve also been hearing from a lot of listeners wanting to know a...
2020-Jul-14 • 25 minutes
The world of tiny robots
We’re talking all about teeny, tiny robots in today’s episode. You know, the ones that are as light as a postage stamp and as look like insects? They may be small, but these robots can still take in information and make decisions on their own. Find out how bees and cockroaches are teaching us about the future of small robots and what big tasks they might take on. There’s also a new Mystery Sound to rattle your ears. Plus a moment of Um that answers the question: Why does the sun stay in one place?This episo...
2020-Jun-30 • 40 minutes
Why do kids have more energy than adults?
We’re taking on an age-old question today: Do kids have more energy than adults? Breakfast tacos, caffeine, an energized DJ and an epic battle between a girl and her parents. This episode has all that and then some. Discover how we turn food into energy at an awesome taco party. Then pump up the jams with DJ Thyroid. Speaking of music, get ready for a song from Lake Street Dive’s Mike Olson. And just when you think the show might be out of energy, we engage in an out-of breath competition between a kid and ...
2020-Jun-16 • 37 minutes
Why does green mean go? And other color conundrums
The world is full of color, but how do our eyes see it? In this episode we’ll explain how color vision works, complete with a journey to a jazz club in the back of your eye. We’ll also look at the cultural meanings of the color red, we’ll find out about a new type of blue, and we’ll find out why stoplights use green to mean go. Our Moment of Um tackles the question, “why are bees black and yellow?”This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Nurture Life (use code: BRAINS at checkout).
2020-Jun-03 • 30 minutes
Injustice and Anger: Understanding your emotions
A lot of us are angry right now, with good reason. We’re seeing people treated unfairly because of racism -- that’s when people don’t like someone’s race or the color of their skin.In this episode we’ll talk about how anger can be a useful emotion and can be used to push for change. We’ll also revisit parts of our 2019 series on emotions, including an explanation of the hormones behind anger, why some of us are quicker to anger than others and what we can do when we feel overwhelmed by our feelings. Plus, o...
2020-May-26 • 19 minutes
Introducing: Julie's Library
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 children’s books. The featured book in this episode is Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, and illustrated by Matt Phelan.You can listen to more episodes and subscribe at Apple Podcasts ( Spotify (https://open.spotify...
2020-May-19 • 38 minutes
Coronavirus: How to be a helper from home
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 World Handwashing Federation stop by to explain the science of how water actually dries out our hands. Plus, Kara and Gilly interview science journalist Carl Zimmer on the weird world of viruses, including some viruses that help people! There’s a listener-submi...
2020-May-05 • 39 minutes
Thinking ink: The scoop on this colorful stuff!
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 tattoos work. Plus, your poems about ink! Obviously there’s also a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: what happens if salt is poured on snails? This episode is sponsored in part by Betty Crocker - and Laurel Springs Scho...
2020-Apr-28 • 40 minutes
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2020
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 membrane sing!It’s time for the Mystery Sound Extravaganza! An episode made up of nothing but Mystery Sounds, most of them recorded by our amazing listeners.Plus, today's Moment of Um answers this stumper: when your eyes are closed, are your pupils big or ...
2020-Apr-21 • 35 minutes
Can you dig to the center of the Earth?
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 investigate the phrase “dig a hole to China.” Children’s book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers stops by to talk about the Earth’s crust. “Here We Are,” his book about our vast and wonderful planet, was just turned into a movie (you can find it on Apple TV+...
2020-Apr-14 • 38 minutes
Joy Overload! The science of tickles and cuteness
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 we want to eat or smoosh cute things. Plus, a super cute Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um answering the question: “Can a moon have a moon?”This episode is sponsored by iD Tech ( You can support the show at
2020-Apr-07 • 36 minutes
Virus Busters: How scientists are working to stop the coronavirus
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 and we’ll give you some tips on keeping six feet from other people while taking a stroll outside. Oh, and Kara and Gilly stop by to drop some epic virus facts. Plus a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that looks at whether or not worms sleep.Today’s episode...
2020-Mar-31 • 33 minutes
Do plants have feelings?
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, planty way. We’ll learn all about it in this episode, plus we’ll find out why some plants like to grow in spots where other plants have died. We’ve also got a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: why do bats sleep upside down?This episode ...
2020-Mar-27 • 34 minutes
Nervous: All about feelings, pt. 4
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 now. And that’s good -- we should feel those feelings. We also think having facts and information can help you feel more in control. This episode should help you with that.(This is the final installment in our series about feelings. Check out the first three i...
2020-Mar-24 • 33 minutes
Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus
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 curve.” Plus, we talk with a doctor who is on the front lines helping people get better, and two virus podcasters help answer your coronavirus questions like, “How did this virus start?” and “Can our pets get sick too?” And of course there’s a Mystery Sound an...
2020-Mar-17 • 27 minutes
Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?
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 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).Plus our Moment of Um explores whether or not water has a taste.Today’s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (kiw...
2020-Mar-10 • 32 minutes
Understanding coronavirus and how germs spread
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 safe. Plus, we’ll listen to a podcast hosted by two chatty viruses to learn how these germs spread (and how our bodies fight back). We’ve also got a special message from some super tough hand washers. Plus a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that looks at why s...
2020-Mar-03 • 29 minutes
Weather Watching: The birth of forecasts
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 rain and we'll learn about the field of phenology. Oh, and we’ve got a Mystery Sound, Moment of Um and a weather lore game show. So grab an umbrella and tune in because this episode has a 100% chance of being super interesting.Today’s episode is sponsored by K...
2020-Feb-25 • 26 minutes
The secret world of dust
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 how dust can help solve crimes. Plus, we learn about the tiny critters living all over your skin! And of course there’s a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: why do we jump when we’re scared?This episode is sponsored by Care (
2020-Feb-18 • 32 minutes
For crying out loud: All about tears
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 mysterious emotional tears, find out […]
2020-Feb-11 • 34 minutes
Canine club: From wolves to dogs!
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 hear what wolves mean to members of the Anishinabe Nation.And don’t forget: an action packed Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um about chapped lips.This episode is sponsored by Perfect Snacks ( and Blinkist (
2020-Feb-04 • 28 minutes
Mirrors, sequins and glitter: what makes them shine?
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, we learn why, for a long time, rain was a disaster for glittery gowns. Not only can you make today’s Mystery Sound, but you can use it to spiff up your crafts. All that, plus a Moment of Um about why words start sounding funny funny funny funny funny when yo...
2019-Dec-31 • 31 minutes
Aliens and UFOs: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 4
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 and Sanden bring us a UFO spoof. Plus, scientists give us the lowdown on the real quest for extraterrestrial life — we haven’t found any... yet. And, planets and moons compete for the title of ‘most likely to have life’. A new moment of um keeps us outside th...
2019-Dec-24 • 30 minutes
Mermaids, Kraken and the Loch Ness Monster: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 3
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 that may have inspired the tale of the Kraken. We’ll also hear from a frustrated manatee and dugong, and get caught up on all the latest deep sea trends. Marc and Sanden are back with a Hoax Hunters about the Loch Ness Monster. Plus, a Moment of Um about our ...
2019-Dec-17 • 30 minutes
Lost Cities: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 2
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 Egypt. We'll find out how mangrove trees could help prevent cities from being lost to climate change, and Sanden and Marc are back with another edition of Hoax Hunters. Plus, a Moment of Um about how tattoos stay put.Today’s episode is sponsored by Quip (getq...
2019-Dec-10 • 30 minutes
Bigfoot, Unicorns and Dragons: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 1
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 on land. We'll hear the story of El Chupacabras, learn about the search for Bigfoot, and hear from some animals once mistaken for unicorns. Marc and Sanden have a new project to share, and Gungador has an urgent announcement. Plus, a Moment of Um about how ...
2019-Dec-03 • 25 minutes
How do pianos work?
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 FIGHTING BATTLE to discover how sound travels. And the Moment of Um answers this question: “Can you really hear the ocean in a seashell?”This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Quip ( and the Good Kids podcast. You can suppo...
2019-Nov-26 • 36 minutes
Flavor facts: Why food is so delicious
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 perceive taste. We’ll visit a tastebud beauty salon, talk with a chef researcher and do some experiments provided by our friends at America’s Test Kitchen Kids. Plus: a three-part Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: “What makes spicy food s...
2019-Nov-20 • 32 minutes
What was the first life on earth?
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 talk about discovering a remarkably cool fossil that helped us understand how life evolved over billions of years. We also take a field trip to the Hall of Ancestors and examine a few branches on the tree of life. And we learn why figuring out how life began...
2019-Nov-12 • 28 minutes
Ask-A-Scientist: Bird Bonanza!
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 Mystery Sound and their obscure bird knowledge with a game called Real Birds or Just Words.And many, many thanks to The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for providing the bird sounds you hear in this episode.This episode is sponsored by Pills...
2019-Nov-05 • 32 minutes
Books: How they're made and how your brain reads them
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 to shed some light on how our brains process the meaning of words. We also learn how printing books has evolved and how the invention of the printing press brought worldwide change. And Newberry Award-winning author Kelly Barnhill shares a little of what’s ...
2019-Oct-29 • 30 minutes
Why do we like getting scared?
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 scientist who helps design haunted houses for ultimate scares, chat with an author who writes ghost stories about how he crafts the creepy crawlies, and play a rousing game of Name That Phobia! Plus we help Gungador get rid of his hiccups and answer the Mome...
2019-Oct-22 • 33 minutes
Wonderful Wool: The secrets of this amazing fluff
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 catch up with our favorite wooly hero Alpaca Jack. Plus a wool-worthy mystery sound and an Moment of Um that answer the question: If Earth had rings like Saturn would we be able to see them through our windows? This episode is sponsored by Bona Hardwood Floor C...
2019-Oct-15 • 29 minutes
How does the internet get to us?
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 very physical system of cables, servers and exchange points across the globe (and yes, even under the oceans). We’ll find out how a video shows up nearly instantly on our screens and about insanely thin, clear glass tubes are the key to our digital communica...
2019-Oct-01 • 32 minutes
Why do we lie?
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 people start lying, and how that helps us in our development as humans. We also hear from A. Lie, who tries to remind us that we might need lies more than we think. Plus, Angela Evans stops by and fills us in on the latest lie detection research. And remembe...
2019-Aug-27 • 37 minutes
The secrets of the spectacular spacesuit
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 of NASA’s iconic EMU suit and explain why it looks like a squishy marshmallow. Plus, we’ll interview an engineer working on the next generation of space suits and hear a funky new space jam by singer Jamie Lidell. Add in a mystery sound, a Moment of Um loo...
2019-Aug-20 • 36 minutes
What is dyslexia? And how do our brains read?
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. We'll look at how our brains have cobbled together the ability to read by re-purposing parts of the brain that evolved for other functions. And we’ll learn what scientists think might be going on in the brains of people with dyslexia when they learn to read...
2019-Aug-13 • 39 minutes
How do elevators work?
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 how they’ve changed over time. For instance, did you know the first elevators had no walls?We also speak with historian Lee Gray about two elevator innovators who both happen to be named Otis. Speaking of Otis, Vijay Jayachandran with the Otis Elevator company...
2019-Aug-06 • 31 minutes
Hey, where did you get those genes?!?
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 Jeff unlocks the information packed in genes. And if you have ever wondered how two black Labrador retrievers can be the parents of a yellow Lab, you’re not alone. We have the answer to that too. All this and an especially rambunctious Mystery Sound. Don’t ...
2019-Jul-30 • 40 minutes
Plastic: Why it's everywhere
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 with a plastic problem. In this episode, we'll learn about the invention of plastic, how it's made and recycled and what you can do to help handle plastic waste. Plus: A very special appearance by Gungador, a tricky mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answ...
2019-Jul-23 • 37 minutes
Ants: Who's in charge here?
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 teaching us about how cancer spreads, how the internet can be improved, and could even give us new ways to explore Mars. Plus: Our Moment of Um answers the question: Why do the mountains look blue from far away? This episode is sponsored by Old El Paso,...
2019-Jul-16 • 33 minutes
Tree, Myself and I: All about our leafy green friends
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 some fruit facts and hear an all new Mystery Sound. Oh, and our Moment of Um answers the question: why does the moon sometimes change color? This episode is sponsored by Discount Tire ( and Raddish, a cooking club for kids (
2019-Jul-02 • 30 minutes
Going underground at Wind Cave National Park
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 this national park in South Dakota and how tricky it can be to brave uncharted territory with only a headlamp to light the way. This episode is sponsored by Aunt Fannie’s ( and coupon code BRAINS), Raddish ( and...
2019-Jun-18 • 38 minutes
Angry: All about feelings, pt. 3
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 also hear how our listeners describe their anger and talk to NPR reporter Michaeleen Doucleff about the different flavors of anger that people describe around the world. Plus: Mallika Chopra shares another meditation to try when you're feeling mad. For more...
2019-Jun-11 • 37 minutes
Sad: All about feelings, pt. 2
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 talk over any questions that come up. But this episode has plenty of fun stuff, too!We'll learn about how social animals -- from goldfish and penguins, to humans -- all seem to get sad sometimes. We'll talk about some ways to help handle sad feelings (docto...
2019-Jun-04 • 36 minutes
Happy: All about feelings, pt. 1
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 the zoom ray to see what good vibes do for our bodies. We'll also hear about how each of us have different emotional thermostats and why thinking about our feelings can help us figure out what to do with them. At the end of this episode -- and every episode...
2019-Apr-30 • 28 minutes
Thinkin stinkin: Why we smell
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 why we might find these naturally occurring smells so disgusting. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers the question: Why do stink bugs stink? This episode is sponsored by Cloud Control Cat Litter by Arm & Hammer, Bona Premium Spray Mop (
2019-Apr-23 • 37 minutes
Forever echo: Can a sound wave go on forever?
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 echo stops by to share its new podcast and we hear the answer to this Moment Of Um question: why can wild animals drink dirty water when humans need clean water? Today’s episode is sponsored by Loacker (, Goodnight Stories for Re...
2019-Apr-16 • 30 minutes
The hows and whys of hair
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 episode has it all. Why do humans have hair and not fur? Why is there hair on the top of our heads? How does hair grow? How does hair become curly or straight? Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers the question: "Why does my dad get fuzz in his belly button...
2019-Apr-02 • 32 minutes
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2019
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 all these reveals, and the answer to a new Moment of Um: Why is air invisible?This episode of Brains On is sponsored by the Kevin Henkes book, "Sweeping up the Heart,” Panama City Beach (, and Philo ( You can su...
2019-Mar-26 • 25 minutes
Carnivores: Plants and animals that bite back
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: Two gardeners – one very experienced and one just starting out – offer their tips for growing venus fly traps.So that’s plants, but what about animals? Carnivores are animals that only eat other animals – so how do they get the vitamins, minerals and fiber...
2019-Mar-12 • 38 minutes
Black Holes, Wormholes and Donut Holes
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 real. We talk to a black hole hunter who has discovered supermassive black holes. And we find out what a wormhole is and why it might really, be really, really hard to ever find one -- or travel through it. Plus: The Moment of Um answers the question: "Wh...
2019-Mar-05 • 29 minutes
Walking on walls: How ants and spiders do it
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 do bananas ripen other fruit?" Today’s episode is sponsored by: KiwiCo ( ( City Beach ( You can support Brains On at
2019-Feb-26 • 28 minutes
My air came from where?! How oxygen gets around
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 place (hint: it involves super space explosions!). We'll make friends with some molecules, hear about a tiny fart that changed the world and guess an all new mystery sound. Oh, and this week's Moment of Um asks: "if a poisonous snake bit itself, would ...
2019-Feb-19 • 29 minutes
How do airplanes fly?
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 inventors themselves. Plus: An aviation-inspired mystery sound and paper airplane tips! Plus a new Moment of Um answers the question: “What’s the most sour thing in the world?” Today’s episode is sponsored by Madison Reed ( and offer code BRAI...
2019-Feb-12 • 34 minutes
Memory and deja vu
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. Hint: way more than you probably think. You may have heard of deja vu, but did you know there are other vus too? We found a lost game show where these vus are contestants. All this plus a new Mystery Sound and Moment of Um that answers the question: do fis...
2019-Feb-05 • 33 minutes
Are we still evolving?
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, not Charles Darwin) and eat some sundaes (thanks lactase persistence!). Plus a brand new Moment of Um answers the question: Do insects have the same blood as humans? This episode is sponsored by: Calm ( ( The pod...
2019-Jan-30 • 39 minutes
Brains On: Behind the scenes
This is a special fundraising episode, where we peek behind the curtain of Brains On!
2018-Dec-25 • 35 minutes
Earthrise: The picture of our planet that changed the world
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 we'll explain how Earth and our solar system formed in the first place. We'll talk to astrophysicist Lindy Elkins-Tanton about whether there are other planets like Earth in the universe. Plus we have an all new Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers...
2018-Dec-18 • 28 minutes
Soil: Can you dig it?
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: it involves something called the “poop loop”). Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers the question: “What’s inside of a tooth?” Today’s episode is sponsored by the CBC podcast Tai Asks Why and Quip ( You can support Brains On at brai...
2018-Dec-04 • 36 minutes
Voices: How do we make sound?
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 voice market cornered -- what about other animals? We’ll drop in on a few creatures and find out how they make sounds too. All that plus a brand new Mystery Sound and berry delicious Moment of Um. Today’s episode is sponsored by Quip (
2018-Nov-27 • 26 minutes
Roller coasters: from dream to extreme
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? Plus: a tricky mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question, “How do boomerangs come back?” This episode is sponsored by Quip (, Thoughtfully ( and Little Passports (
2018-Nov-20 • 39 minutes
Finding your way without a map
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, we'll meet a navigator who goes on long journeys using only traditional Hawaiian navigational techniques and we'll stop by a pitstop for some amazing animal migrators. All that and a Moment of Um on why diamonds are so rare and so valuable. Today’s episo...
2018-Nov-13 • 33 minutes
Video Games: A Tale of Two Pongs
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, hear the sounds of early arcades and befriend some talking cows. This episode is sponsored by Little Passports (, Thoughtfully ( and Quip ( You can support Brains On and Forever Ago at ...
2018-Oct-30 • 44 minutes
Body Bonanza: Yawns, hiccups, goosebumps and more!
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, brain freeze, chattering teeth and why your voice sounds different when it’s recorded.Plus: Our Moment of Um answers the question: “Why do we have two lungs?”Today’s episode is sponsored by Quip ( and Build-A-Bear Workshop (
2018-Oct-23 • 28 minutes
How to find the facts (Prove It: Part 4)
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 think like a fact checker. Plus we’ll share clues on how to spot warning signs of bogus information. We also look into the claim that coffee stunts your growth and for our Moment of Um we explore the world of freckles. Today’s episode is sponsored by Build-A-B...
2018-Oct-16 • 35 minutes
The scoop on journalism (Prove It: Part 3)
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 mental hospital to uncover injustice. We'll meet an 11-year old publishing her own paper and Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold tell us how he makes sure his stories are accurate. And we'll find out if the claim that fish have no memory hol...
2018-Oct-09 • 29 minutes
Science under the microscope (Prove It: Part 2)
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 failed experiments are just as important as successful ones (bye bye, luminiferous ether). And we'll hear from scientists working today about how curiosity is at the heart of science. All this plus a new Mystery Sound and snail-rific Moment of Um. ...
2018-Oct-02 • 29 minutes
A Brief History of Facts (Prove It: Part 1)
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 fact-check some conventional wisdom about ladybug spots and explain how surgeons operate on fish in our Moment of Um. All that and a Mystery Sound! Today’s episode is sponsored by Build-A-Bear Workshop ( You can support Brains On at brains...
2018-Aug-28 • 33 minutes
Brains On! + The Story Pirates: What makes fun things fun?
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 also got a fun-tastic Mystery Sound and a Moment Of Um all about pirates. How fun is that?Still want more fun? Head over to the Story Pirates to hear more (plus the punchline to a Brains On joke) - Today’s episode is sponsored by Va...
2018-Aug-14 • 23 minutes
Keeping water healthy, one clue at a time
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 it’s healthier today? That’s when being a water detective really comes in handy. Plus: Our Moment of Um answers the question: "Why do dogs wag their tails?" Today’s episode is sponsored by Vamousse Lice ( and Roshambo Baby (rosham...
2018-Aug-07 • 26 minutes
Burning rivers of fire
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 environmental tragedy and what's been done to address the problem. Plus, our Moment of Um explains why we say "ow!" when we're hurt.
2018-Jul-31 • 25 minutes
How does GPS know where you are?
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 hold it all together. Plus a mystery sound and a brand new Moment of Um answers the question: "What is light made of?" Today's episode is sponsored by Kind Snacks (, Vamousse ( and Roshambo Baby (roshambobaby...
2018-Jul-24 • 33 minutes
Salty snack science: Popcorn, nachos and the origins of salt
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 about salt's buddy: pepper! If you want to hear more from our pals at Every Little Thing, you can check them out wherever you listen to podcasts or at And you can find more Ear Snacks on your favorite podcast...
2018-Jul-17 • 28 minutes
Wanna see Mars' close approach? Just look up!
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 we'll tell you how to spot Mars plus, you'll hear the planet itself answer your questions. Plus a mystery sound and, in our Moment of Um, we'll explain why lava moves slowly even though it's a liquid. Brains On is sponsored today by Build-A-Bear Workshop (bu...
2018-Jul-10 • 33 minutes
Smash Boom Best: Books vs Movies
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 for: the printed word or the silver screen? Bibliophiles face off with film buffs everywhere in one of our favorite match-ups of the season. Listen to Team Books and Team Movies argue for their side, and then cast your vote here.If you like the show, there ...
2018-Jul-03 • 33 minutes
How to cook for an alien
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 broccoli dish. We'll lay out the cooking instructions step by step throughout the podcast so you can cook along. When the episode is over, you'll be ready to chow down. Find the recipe here: And for...
2018-Jun-26 • 29 minutes
Mix: The science cooking, pt. 4
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 probably not what you think). We also learn how the way we mix flour makes our baked goods either chewy or fluffy and we'll learn the best way to make brownies. Plus: our Moment of Um answers the question "Are bananas radioactive?" To make a donat...
2018-Jun-19 • 32 minutes
Chop: The science of cooking, pt. 3
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 a knifemaker's studio and talk to Splendid Table host Francis Lam to get his chopping tips. This is the third in a five part series on the science of cooking, made in collaboration with America's Test Kitchen Kids. For more recipes and information for young...
2018-Jun-12 • 29 minutes
Chill: The science of cooking, pt. 2
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 is (literally) super cool. We're figuring out how refrigerators work and why some of their parts are hot. We're traveling back in time to find out how selling ice became a very big business (for a while anyway). And we'll learn why ice cream makes people t...
2018-Jun-06 • 32 minutes
Heat: The science of cooking pt. 1
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 chemical reactions does heat trigger in food? How do microwave ovens work -- and why can’t you put metal in them when they’re lined with metal? We’ll answer those questions, find out how feeding squirrels helped profoundly change how we prepare food and learn the ...
2018-May-29 • 21 minutes
Boogers and sun sneezes: Know your nose
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 sloths move so slow?"
2018-May-22 • 29 minutes
The wonderful weirdness of water
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 can move up against gravity. It can absorb lots of heat energy without getting super hot. It can dissolve almost anything. It carves canyons and quenches our thirst. Why is water so weird, and why does that matter? Listen to find out! Today’s episode is spon...
2018-May-15 • 28 minutes
Smash Boom Best: Bats vs. Owls (new show alert!)
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 few new twists. It’s a little faster paced, a little sillier and we hope you’ll think it’s a lot of fun.Today: Wings out, eyes wide -- we’re swooping in on a battle between a perfect pair of creatures of the night. Which is cooler: Bats? Or owls? We’re goin...
2018-May-08 • 32 minutes
Robots take over (the show)! Live from Robotstravaganza
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 are good for humanity or bad, and find out what robots can learn from nature. Plus a mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question, "How do oysters make pearls?"
2018-May-01 • 26 minutes
What's in your water?
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 our water is healthy? In this episode we hitch a ride on the water cycle with a pair of water drops. We learn about what caused the Flint water crisis. And we hear about one young girl’s award-winning idea for a faster way to test lead in water - spoiler al...
2018-Apr-24 • 26 minutes
What makes paint stick?
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.
2018-Apr-09 • 27 minutes
Allergy Attack: How our bodies can overreact
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 treatments. Plus: a brand new Moment of Um answers the question "Why do sunsets have so many colors?" and we'll read a new group of listeners to be added to the Brains Honor Roll! Brains On is sponsored today by Acer Swift 5 (visit, click on &qu...
2018-Apr-03 • 31 minutes
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2018
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 with the t-shirts and other goodies we have to offer. Have a look! On is sponsored today by ButcherBox. Go to and enter "BRAINSON" at enter offer code BRAINSON
2018-Mar-26 • 28 minutes
How do animals breathe underwater?
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 breathe? We answer those questions plus a brand new Moment of Um tackles this sticky one: "Why do we have earwax?" And a new group of listeners gets inducted into the Brains Honor Roll! Give a listen!Today Brains On is sponsored by:• Acer Swift 5 (a...
2018-Mar-20 • 16 minutes
'The Rice Cakes and the Oni': A story from Circle Round
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 charming. Here's one we think you'll dig. It stars a kid who loves making jokes, so you know it's up our alley. In the meantime, we're hard at work on some exciting new episodes -- including a brand new show. We'll be able to tell you more about in a few week...
2018-Mar-13 • 28 minutes
Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human
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 plant. Wait, what?!? You read that right: A PLANT!!! All that and a trip back to pre-history, to see how staying up late might have helped mammals survive all those dinosaurs. Three-word hint: nocturnal bottleneck hypothesis.
2018-Mar-05 • 27 minutes
From 8-bit to orchestras: How does video game music affect you?
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 interactivity of video game music works and figure out what “8-bit” means.
2018-Feb-27 • 44 minutes
The tick-tock of our circadian clock
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.
2018-Feb-20 • 25 minutes
‘Is it opposite day?’ and other mind-bending paradoxes
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?
2018-Feb-13 • 41 minutes
Our 100th episode! What's the big deal?
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 school.
2018-Feb-06 • 11 minutes
Meet Sandy, the left-handed mutant snail
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.
2018-Jan-30 • 55 minutes
Dolphins vs. Octopuses: Showdown in the sea!
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 dolphin?Listen along as Marc argues for #TeamOctopus and Sanden fights for #TeamDolphin. We’ll learn amazing facts about both sides along the way.Which side are you on? Vote here!Plus an aquatic Mystery Sound, some deep-sea stand up comedy and a Moment of Um answer...
2018-Jan-23 • 25 minutes
Dogs: What's the secret of their sense of smell?
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 imagine.
2018-Jan-16 • 7 minutes
Mary Shelley and the science of Frankenstein
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.
2018-Jan-09 • 34 minutes
Super-size-asaurus: How did dinosaurs get so big?
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 we talk to dino-experts Femke Holwerda and Brian Switek…
2018-Jan-02 • 25 minutes
Mysteries of the universe: Expansion and gravity
In this episode we ponder some big questions from Brains On listeners about the vastness of space.
2017-Dec-26 • 25 minutes
The nerve! Electricity in our bodies
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 wild ways.
2017-Dec-19 • 31 minutes
Charged up! The science of batteries
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 our phones, and we play in a park with a dog.
2017-Dec-12 • 36 minutes
High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet
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.
2017-Dec-05 • 29 minutes
Shocking! The science of static (Electricity series pt. 1)
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?
2017-Nov-27 • 29 minutes
Where did language come from?
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.
2017-Nov-14 • 9 minutes
Curio: Flies on the bus
A few weeks ago, we got two emails that were so similar and so intriguing we had no choice but to investigate.
2017-Nov-07 • 23 minutes
What's smaller than an electron?
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?
2017-Oct-30 • 27 minutes
Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration
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.
2017-Oct-24 • 28 minutes
What is Down syndrome?
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 might seem different than you. We'll also swing by a farm staffed by ranchers with Down syndrome. And in our Moment of Um we'll find out why eggs go from clear to white when cooked.
2017-Oct-22 • 21 minutes
Bonus: Kidcast sampler
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 to
2017-Oct-17 • 11 minutes
Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes
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.
2017-Oct-02 • 27 minutes
How do volcanoes erupt?
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.
2017-Sep-19 • 11 minutes
Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space
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.
2017-Sep-12 • 30 minutes
Mars: Our next home planet?
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.
2017-Sep-04 • 17 minutes
Thunder, lightning and tornadoes: Where do they come from?
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.
2017-Aug-29 • 34 minutes
Animal farts: A mighty wind
Most animals fart. And some animals put those farts to work.
2017-Aug-15 • 23 minutes
Sunburns: The why behind the ouch (and how to avoid them)
To help us understand sunburns, we’re going deep into the skin to look at cells, molecules and electrons.
2017-Aug-01 • 27 minutes
Everything you need to know before the solar eclipse
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 during an eclipse? How do you safely view it? Spoiler alert: Don’t stare at the sun without special eyewear.
2017-Jul-18 • 58 minutes
Deep Sea vs. Outer Space
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?
2017-Jul-04 • 29 minutes
Fart Smarts: Understanding the gas we pass
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.
2017-Jun-30 • 22 minutes
Riding in the car: Motion sickness and optical illusions (Road trip pt. 5)
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.
2017-Jun-23 • 24 minutes
Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road trip pt. 4)
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.
2017-Jun-20 • 29 minutes
Monster trucks and car design (Road trip pt. 3)
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.
2017-Jun-16 • 18 minutes
The future of fuel, and the problem with exhaust (Road trip pt. 2)
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 can cut back on all this carbon dioxide.
2017-Jun-09 • 22 minutes
How do engines work? (Road trip pt. 1)
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.
2017-Jun-06 • 32 minutes
Mystery sound extravaganza!
There are a whopping 10 sounds for you to guess in this episode. Are your ears up to the challenge?
2017-May-09 • 21 minutes
The science of slime: What is it and why are we so obsessed
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.
2017-Mar-14 • 16 minutes
Why is the ocean salty?
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?
2017-Feb-14 • 16 minutes
Do we all see the same colors?
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 brains are interpreting those waves in the same way?
2017-Jan-31 • 26 minutes
Cats: Glowing eyes, puffy tails and secret purrs
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)?
2017-Jan-17 • 19 minutes
Dinosaur bones: How do we know their age?
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 recently: a dinosaur tail trapped in amber, complete with feathers!
2016-Dec-30 • 16 minutes
Lighting the way for sea turtles at Gulf Islands National Seashore
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 streetlights compete for their attention?
2016-Dec-29 • 19 minutes
Surviving the desert at Joshua Tree National Park
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.
2016-Dec-28 • 14 minutes
Making the sands sing at Great Sand Dunes National Park
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.
2016-Dec-27 • 25 minutes
Tracking wild horses at Assategue Island National Seashore
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 the horses.
2016-Dec-06 • 14 minutes
What makes cute things cute?
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 distracted by cute things.
2016-Nov-22 • 40 minutes
Fire vs. Lasers!
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.
2016-Nov-08 • 14 minutes
How do whales communicate?
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.
2016-Oct-11 • 16 minutes
Could it rain lemonade?
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.
2016-Sep-27 • 29 minutes
How do invisible x-rays help us see?
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.
2016-Sep-16 • 12 minutes
Carnivorous plants: How they lure, trap and digest
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.
2016-Aug-11 • 14 minutes
How is glass made?
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 – from blowing glass by hand to a factory that makes hundreds of glass bottles every minute. Plus: The mystery sound!
2016-Jul-15 • 13 minutes
Mosquitoes: What are they good for?
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?
2016-Jun-14 • 16 minutes
Big universe, big questions
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 answers to her many questions about the universe.
2016-May-17 • 12 minutes
Why don't carnivores need to eat their vegetables?
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.
2016-Apr-22 • 24 minutes
How do you catch a cold?
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 it easier to get sick? Is there a cure that really works? Could there be a benefit to catching the rhinovirus? Listen for all the answers + the mystery sound!
2016-Apr-07 • 28 minutes
Is there life on other planets?
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.
2016-Mar-22 • 33 minutes
Did Dinosaurs have feathers? Can you bring back species that have gone extinct? Find out here.
2016-Mar-08 • 24 minutes
Brains On! Besties
Meet the Brains On! Besties… kid-friendly audio finds we think you’ll love.
2016-Feb-21 • 29 minutes
Living Large with the International Space Station
The International Space Station sits 250 miles above Earth, but how did it get there? And what’s it like to live in space?
2016-Feb-10 • 23 minutes
Mystery sound extravaganza!
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. An extra-special audio treat awaits. Shhhhhhhhhh!
2016-Jan-26 • 26 minutes
Spider sense
Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? If so, we want to change your mind about our eight-legged buddies!
2016-Jan-13 • 11 minutes
Why are no two snowflakes the same?
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?
2015-Dec-22 • 22 minutes
The science of baking
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!
2015-Dec-08 • 15 minutes
Barks, growls, meows and purrs: Translating cats and dogs
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?
2015-Nov-25 • 24 minutes
How do meteorologists predict the weather?
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 around the globe and turn it into a forecast.
2015-Nov-18 • 15 minutes
The great cat debate: Evil or misunderstood?
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. Plus: The mystery sound!
2015-Oct-21 • 11 minutes
Your booger questions, answered
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 stuffy when you’re sick?
2015-Sep-15 • 12 minutes
Why does tickling make you laugh?
Can you tickle yourself? Probably not. Almost everybody is ticklish, but what’s happening to us is a bit of a mystery.
2015-Aug-26 • 29 minutes
Bridges vs. Tunnels
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: bridges vs. tunnels!
2015-Jul-10 • 11 minutes
Mission to Pluto!
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 knowledge!
2015-Jun-09 • 9 minutes
Cuttlefish: Ultimate Shapeshifters!
… and you thought chameleons could hide.
2015-May-27 • 21 minutes
Trees: From seed to shining seed
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.
2015-May-12 • 10 minutes
Why does the sun make some people sneeze?
This question has been a mystery for millennia. Turns out there’s a name for the phenomenon: photic sneeze reflex.
2015-Apr-09 • 8 minutes
How and why do jellyfish sting?
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).
2015-Mar-18 • 10 minutes
Volcanoes in space!
The biggest volcano in our solar system is not on Earth -- and its footprint is as big as the entire state of Arizona.
2015-Feb-13 • 9 minutes
When parasitoids attack!
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.
2015-Jan-09 • 8 minutes
The mystery of gravity
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.
2014-Sep-09 • 21 minutes
How do monarch butterflies travel so far?
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 airplane ticket. They just have their two little wings. So we’re asking: How do they do it? How do they migrate thousands of miles? And why?
2014-Jul-08 • 21 minutes
Water, water everywhere - but how does it get there?
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 common features of the universe. We’ll also look at all the important things our bodies do with water — and how that’s a cycle too. Caution: this episode may make you very thirsty.
2013-Dec-06 • 31 minutes
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?
2013-Oct-14 • 25 minutes
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!
2013-Aug-01 • 20 minutes
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?
2013-Aug-01 • 21 minutes
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?
2013-Aug-01 • 21 minutes
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?
2013-Jul-25 • 21 minutes
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?