Brains On! Science podcast for kids

100 EpisodesProduced by American Public Media

Brains On!® is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from American Public Media. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us. @Brains… read more

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The how's and why's of hair

April 16th, 2019

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 …

Why are smartphones so hard to put down?

April 9th, 2019

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 …

Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2019

April 2nd, 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 …

Carnivores: Plants and animals that bite back

March 26th, 2019

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 …

Flush! Where does our poo and pee go?

March 20th, 2019

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 …

Black Holes, Wormholes and Donut Holes

March 12th, 2019

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 …

Walking on walls: How ants and spiders do it

March 5th, 2019

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 …

My air came from where?! How oxygen gets around

February 26th, 2019

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 …

How do airplanes fly?

February 19th, 2019

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 …

Memory and deja vu

February 12th, 2019

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 …

Are we still evolving?

February 5th, 2019

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 …

Brains On: Behind the scenes

January 30th, 2019

This is a special fundraising episode, where we peek behind the curtain of Brains On!

Earthrise: The picture of our planet that changed the world

December 25th, 2018


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 …

Soil: Can you dig it?

December 18th, 2018


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 …

Dreams: The science of a sleeping brain

December 11th, 2018


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 …

Voices: How do we make sound?

December 4th, 2018


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 …

Roller coasters: from dream to extreme

November 27th, 2018


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 …

Finding your way without a map

November 20th, 2018


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 …

Video Games: A Tale of Two Pongs

November 13th, 2018


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 …

Do dogs know they're dogs?

November 6th, 2018


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 …

Body Bonanza: Yawns, hiccups, goosebumps and more!

October 30th, 2018


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, …

How to find the facts (Prove It: Part 4)

October 23rd, 2018


Today information is everywhere, but what should you trust? Can you spot the difference between well researched articles and stories full of opinion, …

The scoop on journalism (Prove It: Part 3)

October 16th, 2018


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 …

Science under the microscope (Prove It: Part 2)

October 9th, 2018


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 …

A Brief History of Facts (Prove It: Part 1)

October 2nd, 2018


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 …

Brains On! + The Story Pirates: What makes fun things fun?

August 28th, 2018


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 …

What makes gross things gross?

August 21st, 2018


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? …

Keeping water healthy, one clue at a time

August 14th, 2018


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 …

Burning rivers of fire

August 7th, 2018


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 …

How does GPS know where you are?

July 31st, 2018


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 …

Salty snack science: Popcorn, nachos and the origins of salt

July 24th, 2018


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? …

Wanna see Mars' close approach? Just look up!

July 17th, 2018


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 …

Smash Boom Best: Books vs Movies

July 10th, 2018


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 …

How to cook for an alien

July 3rd, 2018


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 …

Mix: The science cooking, pt. 4

June 26th, 2018


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 …

Chop: The science of cooking, pt. 3

June 19th, 2018


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 …

Chill: The science of cooking, pt. 2

June 12th, 2018


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 …

Heat: The science of cooking pt. 1

June 5th, 2018


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 …

Boogers and sun sneezes: Know your nose

May 29th, 2018


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 …

The wonderful weirdness of water

May 22nd, 2018


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 …

Smash Boom Best: Bats vs. Owls (new show alert!)

May 15th, 2018


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 …

What was the first robot? And more from Robotstravaganza

May 8th, 2018


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 …

What's in your water?

May 1st, 2018


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 …

What makes paint stick?

April 24th, 2018


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 …

Allergy Attack: How our bodies can overreact

April 9th, 2018


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 …

Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2018

April 3rd, 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 …

How do animals breathe underwater?

March 26th, 2018


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 …

'The Rice Cakes and the Oni': A story from Circle Round

March 20th, 2018


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 …

Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human

March 13th, 2018


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 …

From 8-bit to orchestras: How does video game music affect you?

March 5th, 2018


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 …

The tick-tock of our circadian clock

February 27th, 2018


The near 24-hour-cycle that keeps us on track is conducted by the suprachiasmatic nucleus. It’s a tiny part of our brains, but it’s super, super important.

‘Is it opposite day?’ and other mind-bending paradoxes

February 20th, 2018


Think about it: the answer to the question “Is it opposite day?” will always be no. So how do you figure out if it is, in fact, opposite day?

Our 100th episode! What's the big deal?

February 13th, 2018


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 …

Meet Sandy, the left-handed mutant snail

February 6th, 2018


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 …

Dolphins vs. Octopuses: Showdown in the sea!

January 30th, 2018


Two of our planet’s most amazing animals go head to head in our latest debate.

Dogs: What's the secret of their sense of smell?

January 23rd, 2018


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 …

Mary Shelley and the science of Frankenstein

January 16th, 2018


As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication, we look at how Mary Shelley was inspired by science and how the lessons of the book still resonate with the scientific world today.

Super-size-asaurus: How did dinosaurs get so big?

January 9th, 2018


  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 …

Mysteries of the universe: Expansion and gravity

January 2nd, 2018


In this episode we ponder some big questions from Brains On listeners about the vastness of space.

The nerve! Electricity in our bodies

December 26th, 2017


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 …

Charged up! The science of batteries

December 19th, 2017


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 …

High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet

December 12th, 2017


We use electricity all the time, but where exactly does it come from? How does it get to our homes? It’s a fascinating journey that can start hundreds of miles from your outlet.

Shocking! The science of static (Electricity series pt. 1)

December 5th, 2017


What makes your hair stand on end? Why does your skirt stick your tights? Why do you get zapped by electric shocks when you go to touch a doorknob?

Where did language come from?

November 27th, 2017

Is it possible to know about the origin of language without traveling back in time? And how do babies learn to speak?

Smash: When continents collide!

November 21st, 2017


How are mountains made? What causes an earthquake? How does hot lava come bubbling up? The answer in each case is…tectonic plates!

Curio: Flies on the bus

November 14th, 2017


A few weeks ago, we got two emails that were so similar and so intriguing we had no choice but to investigate.

What's smaller than an electron?

November 7th, 2017


The natural world can be broken down into atoms. And those atoms can be broken down even further. Will the discovery of smaller and smaller particles ever stop?

Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration

October 30th, 2017


What superpowers does our skin have to repair itself? And what about other animals like salamanders that can do some pretty extreme healing? We’re going under the skin for this one.

What is Down syndrome?

October 24th, 2017


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 …

Bonus: Kidcast sampler

October 22nd, 2017


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 …

Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes

October 17th, 2017


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 …

Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?

October 10th, 2017


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 …

How do volcanoes erupt?

October 2nd, 2017


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 …

For crying out loud: All about tears

September 26th, 2017


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? …

Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space

September 19th, 2017


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 …

Mars: Our next home planet?

September 12th, 2017


In this episode we learn about Mars’ ancient past, meet an architect hoping to build cities there and we hear from Mars itself, thanks to the planet’s video blog, of course.

Thunder, lightning and tornadoes: Where do they come from?

September 4th, 2017


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 …

Animal farts: A mighty wind

August 29th, 2017


Most animals fart. And some animals put those farts to work.

Sunburns: The why behind the ouch (and how to avoid them)

August 15th, 2017


To help us understand sunburns, we’re going deep into the skin to look at cells, molecules and electrons.

Everything you need to know before the solar eclipse

August 1st, 2017


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 …

Deep Sea vs. Outer Space

July 18th, 2017


It’s time for the next Brains On debate! This intense matchup brings us to the depths of darkness, under the water and beyond our earth’s atmosphere. Who will prevail?

Fart Smarts: Understanding the gas we pass

July 4th, 2017


Is farting good for us? Where do farts come from? Why do only some make sounds? And what’s up with the smell? We tackle your questions about the gas we all pass in this episode.

Riding in the car: Motion sickness and optical illusions (Road trip pt. 5)

June 30th, 2017


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, …

Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road trip pt. 4)

June 23rd, 2017


On the fourth leg of our road trip, we figure out where traffic comes from and what it would take to make it finally go away.

Monster trucks and car design (Road trip pt. 3)

June 20th, 2017


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 …

The future of fuel, and the problem with exhaust (Road trip pt. 2)

June 16th, 2017


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 …

How do engines work? (Road trip pt. 1)

June 9th, 2017


On the first leg of our road trip, we’re exploring the history of engines and how they work, with a little help from Car Talk’s Ray Magliozzi.

Mystery sound extravaganza!

June 6th, 2017


There are a whopping 10 sounds for you to guess in this episode. Are your ears up to the challenge?

Books: How they're made and how your brain reads them

May 23rd, 2017


What happens in your brain when you read? What goes into the writing of the words? And what about the making of the books themselves, the physical objects?

The science of slime: What is it and why are we so obsessed

May 9th, 2017


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, …

What was the first life on earth?

April 25th, 2017


What was the very first lifeform like? What was the first fish or mammal? Is it even possible to know?

How do pianos work?

April 11th, 2017


In this episode, we take a field trip to a piano shop, peek behind the walls at a world-famous piano factory and have an EPIC FIGHTING BATTLE to discover how sound travels.

How do elevators work?

March 28th, 2017


Elevators are like magic. You walk in, the door shuts and when it opens again, you are suddenly someplace new! Ta da! But it’s not magic that does this trick, it’s science and engineering.

Why is the ocean salty?

March 14th, 2017


If you’ve ever been the ocean, you’ve tasted that salt. But where does it come from? And why aren’t lakes and rivers salty too? A sea shanty is probably the best way to explain, right?

Ants: Who's in charge here?

February 28th, 2017


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 …

Do we all see the same colors?

February 14th, 2017


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 …

Cats: Glowing eyes, puffy tails and secret purrs

January 31st, 2017


Why do cat eyes look the way they do? Can cats really see in the dark? And what are they trying to tell us with that purr (you know the one)?

Dinosaur bones: How do we know their age?

January 17th, 2017


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 …

Lighting the way for sea turtles at Gulf Islands National Seashore

December 30th, 2016


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 …

Surviving the desert at Joshua Tree National Park

December 29th, 2016


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.

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