Cover art for podcast Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Brains On! Science podcast for kids

188 EpisodesProduced by American Public MediaWebsite

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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Introducing: Million Bazillion

August 4th, 2020

21:53

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 …

Masks and mouth mist: What we know about the coronavirus now

July 28th, 2020

34:47

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. …

The world of tiny robots

July 14th, 2020

24:41

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 …

Why do kids have more energy than adults?

June 30th, 2020

39:49

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 …

Why does green mean go? And other color conundrums

June 16th, 2020

36:40

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 …

Injustice and Anger: Understanding your emotions

June 3rd, 2020

29:37

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 …

Introducing: Julie's Library

May 26th, 2020

18:34

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 …

Coronavirus: How to be a helper from home

May 19th, 2020

38:11

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 …

Thinking ink: The scoop on this colorful stuff!

May 5th, 2020

38:44

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 …

Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2020

April 28th, 2020

39:30

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 …

Can you dig to the center of the Earth?

April 21st, 2020

34:34

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 …

Joy Overload! The science of tickles and cuteness

April 14th, 2020

38:08

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 …

Virus Busters: How scientists are working to stop the coronavirus

April 7th, 2020

35:36

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 …

Do plants have feelings?

March 31st, 2020

33:15

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 …

Nervous: All about feelings, pt. 4

March 27th, 2020

34:16

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 …

Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus

March 24th, 2020

33:09

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 …

Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?

March 17th, 2020

27:21

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 …

Understanding coronavirus and how germs spread

March 10th, 2020

32:07

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 …

Weather Watching: The birth of forecasts

March 3rd, 2020

29:28

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 …

The secret world of dust

February 25th, 2020

26:24

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 …

For crying out loud: All about tears

February 18th, 2020

32:10

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? …

Canine club: From wolves to dogs!

February 11th, 2020

34:04

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 …

Mirrors, sequins and glitter: what makes them shine?

February 4th, 2020

28:13

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) …

Aliens and UFOs: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 4

December 31st, 2019

31:05

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 …

Mermaids, Kraken and the Loch Ness Monster: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 3

December 24th, 2019

30:23

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 …

Lost Cities: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 2

December 17th, 2019

30:23

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 …

Bigfoot, Unicorns and Dragons: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 1

December 10th, 2019

29:59

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 …

How do pianos work?

December 3rd, 2019

25:25

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 …

Flavor facts: Why food is so delicious

November 26th, 2019

35:51

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 …

What was the first life on earth?

November 20th, 2019

32:24

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. …

Ask-A-Scientist: Bird Bonanza!

November 12th, 2019

27:57

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 …

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

November 5th, 2019

31:52

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 …

Why do we like getting scared?

October 29th, 2019

30:24

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 …

Wonderful Wool: The secrets of this amazing fluff

October 22nd, 2019

33:09

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 …

How does the internet get to us?

October 15th, 2019

29:03

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 …

How do flu vaccines work?

October 8th, 2019

32:06

The flu shot changes every year. But why is the flu special, if other illnesses have much longer-lasting vaccines? This episode takes us into the world of viruses and immunity.

A friendly lymphocyte fills us in on how …

Why do we lie?

October 1st, 2019

32:02

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 …

The secrets of the spectacular spacesuit

August 27th, 2019

37:10

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.

What is dyslexia? And how do our brains read?

August 20th, 2019

36:11

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 …

How do elevators work?

August 13th, 2019

39:25

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 …

Hey, where did you get those genes?!?

August 6th, 2019

31:18

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. …

Plastic: Why it's everywhere

July 30th, 2019

40:16

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 …

Ants: Who's in charge here?

July 23rd, 2019

37:26

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 …

Tree, Myself and I: All about our leafy green friends

July 16th, 2019

33:18

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 …

Do insects see the world in slow motion? Looking through animal eyes

July 9th, 2019

30:35

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 …

Going underground at Wind Cave National Park

July 2nd, 2019

30:19

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 …

Angry: All about feelings, pt. 3

June 18th, 2019

38:02

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 …

Sad: All about feelings, pt. 2

June 11th, 2019

37:12

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 …

Happy: All about feelings, pt. 1

June 4th, 2019

35:49

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 …

Thinkin stinkin: Why we smell

April 30th, 2019

28:19

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 …

Forever echo: Can a sound wave go on forever?

April 23rd, 2019

36:54

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 …

The hows and whys of hair

April 16th, 2019

30:27

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

36:03

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

31:54

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

25:04

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

33:59

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

37:34

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

29:02

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

28:00

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

28:35

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 …

Memory and deja vu

February 12th, 2019

33:54

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

33:08

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

39:25

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

34:49

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

28:07

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

37:33

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

36:10

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

26:27

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

39:14

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

33:04

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

29:19

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 …

Body Bonanza: Yawns, hiccups, goosebumps and more!

October 30th, 2018

43:32

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

28:19

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

35:09

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

28:34

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

28:38

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

33:03

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

36:16

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

22:36

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

25:59

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

24:30

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

33:22

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

28:07

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

33:28

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

33:17

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

29:18

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

31:51

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

29:01

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 6th, 2018

31:36

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

20:49

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

29:14

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

27:40

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 …

Robots take over (the show)! Live from Robotstravaganza

May 8th, 2018

31:55

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

26:17

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

26:28

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

26:31

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

30:34

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

27:44

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

16:09

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

27:36

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

27:25

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

43:40

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

25:26

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

41:27

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

10:52

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

54:36

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, …

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

January 23rd, 2018

25:13

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

7:02

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

34:09

  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

24:36

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

25:25

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

30:43

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

35:45

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

28:42

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

29:13

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 …

Smash: When continents collide!

November 21st, 2017

30:27

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

8:48

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

23:03

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

26:36

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

27:37

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

21:15

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

10:46

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 …

How do volcanoes erupt?

October 2nd, 2017

26:36

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 …

Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space

September 19th, 2017

11:12

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

30:19

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

17:28

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

34:24

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

22:53

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

27:11

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

57:30

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

29:01

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

21:41

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

24:22

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

28:35

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

17:44

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

21:48

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

32:22

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

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

May 9th, 2017

20:36

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, …

Why is the ocean salty?

March 14th, 2017

16:12

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

Do we all see the same colors?

February 14th, 2017

15:41

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

25:49

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

18:32

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

15:37

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

18:36

The desert is hot, dry and deadly. But plenty of plants and animals thrive there. How do they do it? We’ll learn the tricks trees, bats and roadrunners use to make it in Joshua Tree National Park in California.

Making the sands sing at Great Sand Dunes National Park

December 28th, 2016

14:10

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 …

Tracking wild horses at Assategue Island National Seashore

December 27th, 2016

24:42

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 …

What makes cute things cute?

December 6th, 2016

13:57

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 …

Fire vs. Lasers!

November 22nd, 2016

40:16

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 …

How do whales communicate?

November 8th, 2016

13:37

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 …

Could it rain lemonade?

October 11th, 2016

16:01

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 …

How do invisible x-rays help us see?

September 27th, 2016

28:35

X-rays, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, help doctors see our bones — but they also help scientists understand the very smallest particles and …

Carnivorous plants: How they lure, trap and digest

September 16th, 2016

12:17

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 …

What's behind the waves and tides?

August 30th, 2016

26:37

How does the moon control the tides? Where do waves come from? And what’s it like to live in a tide pool?

How is glass made?

August 11th, 2016

14:18

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 …

Mosquitoes: What are they good for?

July 15th, 2016

12:35

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 …

Big universe, big questions

June 14th, 2016

16:17

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 …

Why don't carnivores need to eat their vegetables?

May 17th, 2016

12:23

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 …

How do you catch a cold?

April 22nd, 2016

23:31

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 …

Is there life on other planets?

April 7th, 2016

27:34

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.

Extinction!

March 22nd, 2016

33:26

Did Dinosaurs have feathers? Can you bring back species that have gone extinct? Find out here.

Brains On! Besties

March 8th, 2016

23:45

Meet the Brains On! Besties… kid-friendly audio finds we think you’ll love.

Living Large with the International Space Station

February 21st, 2016

28:42

The International Space Station sits 250 miles above Earth, but how did it get there? And what’s it like to live in space?

Mystery sound extravaganza!

February 10th, 2016

22:41

  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), …

Spider sense

January 26th, 2016

26:19

Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? If so, we want to change your mind about our eight-legged buddies!

Why are no two snowflakes the same?

January 13th, 2016

11:16

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 …

The science of baking

December 22nd, 2015

21:57

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 …

Barks, growls, meows and purrs: Translating cats and dogs

December 8th, 2015

15:19

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 …

How do meteorologists predict the weather?

November 25th, 2015

23:58

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 …

The great cat debate: Evil or misunderstood?

November 18th, 2015

15:04

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, …

Your booger questions, answered

October 21st, 2015

11:24

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 …

Why does tickling make you laugh?

September 15th, 2015

11:57

Can you tickle yourself? Probably not. Almost everybody is ticklish, but what’s happening to us is a bit of a mystery.

Bridges vs. Tunnels

August 26th, 2015

28:50

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 …

Mission to Pluto!

July 10th, 2015

11:21

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: …

Cuttlefish: Ultimate Shapeshifters!

June 9th, 2015

9:05

… and you thought chameleons could hide.


Trees: From seed to shining seed

May 27th, 2015

20:36

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 …

Why does the sun make some people sneeze?

May 12th, 2015

10:00

This question has been a mystery for millennia. Turns out there’s a name for the phenomenon: photic sneeze reflex.

How and why do jellyfish sting?

April 9th, 2015

8:25

All jellyfish sting – but not all jellyfish sting people. In this episode, we learn about how jellyfish sting and how they eat. Plus: stro-bi-la-tion (how jellyfish grow up).

Volcanoes in space!

March 18th, 2015

10:19

The biggest volcano in our solar system is not on Earth -- and its footprint is as big as the entire state of Arizona.

When parasitoids attack!

February 13th, 2015

8:57

After a caterpillar goes into its chrysalis, you would expect a beautiful butterfly to emerge. But when this parasitoid attacks, the results are very …

The mystery of gravity

January 9th, 2015

8:15

Gravity is a very familiar force to us here on Earth. We know how it behaves and how it affects us. But where does it come from? We’ll also talk to a NASA astronaut about what it’s like to experience micro-gravity.

How do monarch butterflies travel so far?

September 9th, 2014

21:34

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 …

Water, water everywhere - but how does it get there?

July 8th, 2014

21:00

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 …

Numbers!

December 6th, 2013

31:14

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 …

Secrets!

October 14th, 2013

24:37

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!

Sleeping!

August 1st, 2013

19:42

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 …

Music!

August 1st, 2013

20:55

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?

Growing!

August 1st, 2013

21:02

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?

Eating!

July 25th, 2013

20:33

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?

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