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Moment of Um

100 EpisodesProduced by American Public MediaWebsite

Moment of Um is your daily answer to those questions that pop up out of nowhere and make you go… ummmmmmm. Brought to you by your friends at Brains On at APM Studios.

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Why is salmon meat pink?

December 1st, 2023


Salmon meat can make a delicious meal and, since it has plenty of vitamins and minerals, can be a great part of a nutritious diet. What really makes …

Why is milk white?

November 30th, 2023


Milk! It’s a cookie’s best friend. It’s a key part of a creamy cup of hot chocolate. And it’s delicious, whether it comes from a cow, a goat, an oat, …

Are there clouds in space?

November 29th, 2023


Quick, look up at the sky! Do you see any fluffy puffy cotton candy clouds? Or maybe long, wispy ones? What about dark storm clouds? There are so many different types of clouds on Earth. But what about space? Are there …

Are the galaxies in Star Wars based on real science?

November 28th, 2023


Star Wars famously starts with “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” And boy are there some amazing galaxies in Star Wars. But a planet with two suns is just the stuff of science fiction, right? Maybe not! We …

Why are the primary colors different from the colors of light?

November 27th, 2023


You may have learned that the colors red, yellow, and blue are called primary colors. It’s sometimes said you can use those three to make all the …

How do people freeze-dry food?

November 24th, 2023


Freeze-dried food seems like something that was invented for space travel, but this technique for preserving food is actually more than a hundred …

Why does cotton candy dissolve in your mouth?

November 23rd, 2023


Today’s question was sent in by a curious listener who wondered why fluffy, sugary-sweet cotton candy dissolves on your tongue. We asked food …

How does popcorn pop?

November 22nd, 2023


If you’re a movie lover, a snack lover, or just a lover of things that go “POP!”, you might be wondering what makes a kernel of corn pop. We asked food scientist Dave Dominguez for the deets on this tasty treat.

Got a …

How does cheese get its color?

November 21st, 2023


Happy Food Week! We’re excited to bring you a whole week of delicious Moment of Yums leading up to Thanksgiving. First up: cheese! Cheese is …

If you took enough vitamins everyday, could you live without food?

November 20th, 2023


Many people take vitamins along with the normal food they eat in a day. But what if you ate ONLY vitamins? Could you survive? We asked Craig Sherwin …

Is the sun the hottest thing in the universe?

November 17th, 2023


What do curling irons, campfires, and cups of hot cocoa have in common?  They’re all hot!  But nothing is as hot as the sun – at least not in our

Why are so many planets named after Roman gods?

November 16th, 2023


All of the planets in our solar system, and plenty of the moons, are named after gods or other figures from ancient Roman mythology. Have you ever …

Why do grown-ups give more attention to babies than kids?

November 15th, 2023


When you’re an only child, it might feel nice to have all the attention for a few years until – DUN DUN DUN! – a little sibling comes along. Sometimes it feels like babies get all the attention. Why is that? To help us …

What are planets made of?

November 14th, 2023


We spend a lot of time on top of our planet, but we don’t spend much time inside it. So it makes sense you might wonder what our planet is made of, deep deep down. Is it more rocks? Is it lava? Is it a gooey caramel …

How do snails make their shells?

November 13th, 2023


Have you ever seen a snail sliming along, eyestalks a-waving, carrying its whole house on its back? What are snail shells made of, anyway? And how do …

What is inside a cactus?

November 10th, 2023


Many cactuses are covered in spikes - making them terrible to hug. But what about inside a cactus? Is it also spiky? Or is it soft and cuddly? And is it true you can find water hidden in these desert-dwellers?  We asked …

How are red, yellow, and blue made for paint?

November 9th, 2023


What does painting the most splendid sunset and the most radiant rainbow have in common? They both require lots of beautiful paint colors! We can …

Why do we like shiny things?

November 8th, 2023


Ever find yourself staring at a shiny jewel? Or wowed by the glistening paint on a freshly washed car? Or inexplicably drawn to a magazine with a glossy cover? You are not alone. Humans love shiny things. But why is …

How many planets are in space?

November 7th, 2023


When you look up at the night sky, what do you see?  A few stars, or a satellite, maybe even one of the seven other planets in our solar system?  But …

How do animals become endangered?

November 6th, 2023


There are hundreds of different plants and animals on Earth that are endangered. That means they’re at risk of going extinct if they’re not protected. Lots of people and organizations all over the world are trying to …

Do snails pee, poop, or fart?

November 3rd, 2023


Snails are some of the world’s coolest creatures.  They’ve been around since the dinosaurs walked the Earth – and they carry their houses on their …

What would happen to Earth if the moon disappeared?

November 2nd, 2023


To us Earthlings, the moon is the ultimate cosmic chameleon. It’s always changing! Some nights it’s waxing, some nights waning, one day it’s full, …

Why do we like screen time so much?

November 1st, 2023


Do you ever have trouble putting away your tablet or turning off the TV? Us, too! Lots of people end hours every day using screens – but why do we like them so much? And why is it so hard to turn them off? We asked …

How many colors can we see?

October 31st, 2023


It’s a colorful world out there! When light from the sun hits surfaces on Earth, those surfaces reflect different wavelengths of light. Our eyes …

Why are apples different colors?

October 30th, 2023


Fall is finally here!  For much of the world, that means falling leaves, cozy sweaters, and lots and lots of apples!  There are over 7,000 species of apples grown worldwide, and they’re all unique!  But how are they …

What would happen if the Earth were flat?

October 27th, 2023


Throughout history, people all over the world have pictured our planet in different ways, including as a flat disc. It can be hard to see the Earth’s curve when you’re standing on the ground, but mathematical …

How do fish handle pressure at the bottom of the ocean?

October 26th, 2023


The ocean has multiple layers, like a big, watery, salty cake. The deeper underwater you go, the more water above you – and the weight of all that …

Do you control your emotions or do your emotions control you?

October 25th, 2023


When was the last time you laughed so hard your stomach hurt? Or cried so hard you couldn’t breathe? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if our emotions are …

Could a bird or fish live on the International Space Station?

October 24th, 2023


The International Space Station is the largest structure that humans have ever launched into space. Hundreds of people have visited the space station …

Why do apples turn brown after we cut them?

October 23rd, 2023


Have you ever put a bag of delicious crunchy apple slices in your backpack, only to discover they’ve turned brown by lunchtime? What’s up with that? We asked fruit tree expert and Washington State University associate …

What is the universe made of?

October 20th, 2023


The universe can be a very mysterious place. It’s so big! And so full of incredible things! But what’s it made of? We asked astronomy professor Chris …

What causes growing pains?

October 19th, 2023


Have you ever felt a little twinge or ache in your body, but you’re not sure where it came from? It might have been a growing pain! Just like a plant stretches toward the sun, your body might stretch too as you grow …

What determines the type of vitamins in each food?

October 18th, 2023


We eat food to power our bodies and keep us healthy. After all, food is full of the vitamins we need to survive. If you need vitamin C, try an …

Why do we get cranky when we get tired?

October 17th, 2023


It’s pretty easy to tell when someone didn’t get enough sleep and you may have even felt the warning signs yourself. Simple things might feel …

Do flies get itchy?

October 16th, 2023


Lots of animals feel itchy sometimes! Bears rub their backs on rough tree trunks, dogs love a good belly scratch and birds itch themselves with their feet. But what about flies? Do they get itchy, too? We asked Johns …

Can we visit the farthest parts of our solar system?

October 13th, 2023


Our solar system is full of incredible things, from rocky asteroids to Saturn’s spectacular rings. But most of these things are millions or even …

What type of fuel powers rockets?

October 12th, 2023


Rocket engines have to push REALLY hard against Earth’s gravity to get up off the ground. The rockets that NASA sends into space weigh over a million pounds! That is a LOT to try to lift into the air! So what kind of …

How do rockets fly?

October 11th, 2023


3…2…1… Blast off! Rockets launch things into space, which is no easy task. They have to push off from the Earth and zoom at great speeds to break free from gravity. But how do they do it? What makes them different from …

Is hyperdrive possible?

October 10th, 2023


In movies and TV shows spaceships can often travel faster than the speed of light. It’s an idea often called a hyperdrive or warp speed, and it would …

How do planes fly?

October 9th, 2023


Have you ever watched a plane take off? It rolls down the runway, picks up speed and then suddenly – it’s in the air! But how exactly do planes fly? …

Why did snakes lose their legs?

October 6th, 2023


Happy Snake Week! Every episode this week explores a different question about our slithery friends. Here’s a mind blower for you: did you know the ancestors of snakes used to have legs?   Somewhere along the zigzag path …

Why do we blush?

October 5th, 2023


Do you ever blush? Most of us do! Maybe it happens when you’re excited, or angry or embarrassed. But what causes our cheeks to turn pink, and why do we do it? We talked to pediatrician Kathryn Less to get the answer!

Got …

Do whales drink and if so, how?

October 4th, 2023


We know that whales swim in the water. They eat  underwater. But do they…drink water? We got this fantastic question from a listener, so we reached …

Why are video games addictive?

October 3rd, 2023


Aliens! Zombies! Tiny guys with big mustaches who can jump super high! Video games let you immerse yourself in new and fantastic worlds. But why is it so hard to stop playing, once you’ve started? We asked science …

What is a supervolcano?

October 2nd, 2023


A volcano is a break in the crust of Earth that allows hot lava, ash and gas to escape. But what’s a supervolcano? Is it a really, really big …

Why do cupcakes have wrapping on the bottom?

September 29th, 2023


Cupcakes are delicious! From their light and spongy texture to their creamy frosting to their funky clothes, also known as wrappers, they are one of the most fun treats out there. Why do cupcakes have a wrapper anyway? …

Why do we burp?

September 28th, 2023


Most people burp regularly. There are small burps and big burps, loud burps and stinky burps. But have you ever stopped and wondered why we burp? We …

Is a train engine stronger than a plane engine?

September 27th, 2023


Airplanes and trains use powerful engines to get around – but is one stronger than the other? Which would win in an epic engine showdown? We asked …

How does an engine work?

September 26th, 2023


An engine is the power source for many types of vehicles and machines, and there are many cool-looking pieces that make it work. But how do they all …

Do flies get eaten by anything besides frogs?

September 25th, 2023


Frogs love snacking on flies. The frog’s sticky tongue shoots out – quick as a flash! – grabs the fly and pulls it into its mouth. But what about …

Why do we sneeze when it's sunny?

September 22nd, 2023


A-choo! Does being outside on a sunny day ever make you sneeze? You’re not alone! But what causes these sunshine sneeze attacks? We asked scientist Dr. Kira Bacal to help us find the answer. 

Got a question that you’re a-

Why are there so many shapes of pasta?

September 21st, 2023


Quick, how many pasta shapes can you name?! Spaghetti, rigatoni, tortellini, macaroni, penne, bucatini…whew! There are a plethora of pastas to choose from. But have you ever thought about why this simple food comes in …

Why are willow trees leaves so long and floppy?

September 20th, 2023


Have you ever seen a willow tree? They sometimes have long branches that hang down to the ground and make them look like green, leafy waterfalls.  But why do they have this unusual shape?  We asked botanist Brandi …

How do jumbo jets fly when they’re so heavy?

September 19th, 2023


Have you ever taken a trip in an airplane? When you’re in the air, it feels like you’re sitting still, but you’re actually flying super fast! Some airplanes, called jumbo jets, can weigh about one million pounds at …

Do bugs poop?

September 18th, 2023


Everyone poops! It’s how a body gets rid of the waste left over after it digests food.  Animals poop on the ground. Fish poop in water. Birds can poop while flying. But what about bugs? Do they poop? We asked Johns …

Do sharks have tongues?

September 15th, 2023


Tongues do all different kinds of things for us. They help us taste our food and swallow it – plus they’re really important for talking and singing! Lots of other animals have tongues, like woodpeckers, cheetahs and …

Do flies blink?

September 14th, 2023


Blinking our eyes helps keep them from drying out and clears away tiny pieces of gunk that can irritate them, like dust and dirt. But what about flies? Do they blink their eyes, too? We asked graduate student Abel …

Are musicians smarter than others?

September 13th, 2023


People are smart in so many different ways. Some are book smart, while others are  good with people, great at solving puzzles, or skilled at drawing. …

How did colors get their names?

September 12th, 2023


Colors have so many different names! Even just one color, like pink, might have a few dozen names. There’s coral pink, fuschia, salmon, rose, mauve, …

Why are people scared of sharks?

September 11th, 2023


Sharks are usually shown in movies and TV shows as huge, scary monster fish. But it’s actually really rare for a human to get bitten by a shark. And they are incredible creatures that deserve to be LOVED! So why are …

Join us at the Big Dig!

September 8th, 2023


Wow, wow wow have we got some big news! Brains On!, Smash Boom Best and Forever Ago are coming together for the Big Dig - an archeological, …

Is stuff that is microscopic to us also microscopic to bees?

September 8th, 2023


Happy Bee Week! Each episode this week gives you the buzz on our powerful, pollinating friends. What does the world look like to bees? When they land …

Why do bees sting?

September 7th, 2023


Happy Bee Week! Each episode this week gives you the buzz on our powerful, pollinating friends. Bees spend their lives flitting from blossom to …

If there is a queen bee, why isn’t there a king bee?

September 6th, 2023


Happy Bee Week! Each episode this week gives you the buzz on our powerful, pollinating friends. You’ve probably heard of queen bees, right? Her …

Do bees have noses?

September 5th, 2023


Happy Bee Week! Each episode this week gives you the buzz on our powerful, pollinating friends. Bees have two sets of beautiful wings, cute little …

What is a bee's favorite flower?

September 4th, 2023


Happy Bee Week! Each episode this week gives you the buzz on our powerful, pollinating friends. Bees spread pollen from one flower to another, which …

Why does my voice sound different on a recording?

August 18th, 2023


Have you ever noticed that your voice on a video or audio recording sounds totally different from when you’re just speaking? Maybe you’ve recorded yourself talking or singing, and when you play it back…it sounds like a …

What’s the difference between mice and rats?

August 17th, 2023


Mice and rats are some of the most common critters around. You may see them out in your yard, on the street, or even sometimes in your house! It can be hard to tell them apart because they look similar, with twitchy …

If a bug fell, would it hurt them?

August 16th, 2023


Insects are incredible climbers. Flies, ants, grasshoppers and many others can climb straight up walls using teeny tiny claws on their feet. But what …

How do fireflies glow?

August 15th, 2023


Fireflies are nature’s fireworks! Depending on where you live, you might see their blue-green lights twinkling in forests, parks, or even your backyard! But how do they make light? We asked Johns Hopkins graduate …

How do our voices get louder?

August 14th, 2023


Not only can people make all kinds of sounds with our voices, we can make those sounds loud or soft depending on what we’re doing. When we’re out on the playground, we can YELL TO A FRIEND, but in the library, we

How do sharks smell blood?

August 11th, 2023


Sharks are truly amazing creatures. They can find prey using electricity. Their skin is made up of tiny teeth that act like scales. And they don’t …

Why don't ducks have teeth?

August 10th, 2023


Lots of animals have teeth: walruses, baboons, and of course – humans! Teeth help cut and grind up food into smaller pieces so it’s safe to swallow. But why don’t ducks and other birds have teeth? We asked animal …

Where does food go after you swallow it?

August 9th, 2023


Munch, crunch, sluuuurp! Eating is one of the great joys of life! We all know that food goes in one way and eventually out the other, right? But what journey does it take after you swallow it?? We asked dietitian Eva …

Why do stars twinkle?

August 8th, 2023


There are lots of stellar songs about the night sky, but one of the most popular is this one: Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you …

Do all animals sleep?

August 7th, 2023


Humans need sleep! It helps recharge our brains and keeps our bodies running. But what about other animals – do they all sleep?? Do narwhals nap? Do spiders snooze? Do donkeys doze? We asked Philadelphia Zoo animal …

When you plug your nose, can you still smell?

August 4th, 2023


It’s Breathe Week – a whole week of episodes about one of the most important things our bodies do to keep us alive and healthy! Do you ever plug your …

How do people breathe in the desert?

August 3rd, 2023


It’s Breathe Week - a whole week of episodes about one of the most important things our bodies do to keep us alive and healthy. If we need oxygen to …

‍Why can’t we breathe underwater?

August 2nd, 2023


It’s Breathe Week - a whole week of episodes about one of the most important things our bodies do to keep us alive and healthy. Humans love to swim …

How do we breathe out carbon dioxide?

August 1st, 2023


It’s Breathe Week - a whole week of episodes about one of the most important things our bodies do to keep us alive and healthy. Every time you take a …

Why do we need oxygen to breathe?

July 31st, 2023


It’s Breathe Week – a whole week of episodes about one of the most important things our bodies do to keep us alive and healthy. When you take a big …

How do birds know when it’s time to migrate?

July 28th, 2023


Every year, billions of birds around the world migrate, moving from one place to another for the season! Some, like geese, travel in groups. Others, like hummingbirds, make their journeys alone. But how do these …

Why are red, yellow and blue primary colors?

July 27th, 2023


Red, yellow and blue are primary colors. But they’re not the only primary colors. Exactly what makes colors primary, and what other primary colors …

How did animals get domesticated?

July 26th, 2023


Some animals, like whales and wallabies, are wild. Others, like cats and chickens, are domesticated – which means they’ve been bred over many years to be tame. But how did animals get domesticated? We asked Brains On …

Why does food expire?

July 25th, 2023


Have you ever started to pour milk into your cereal, only to realize it smells sour?! Or forgotten to eat that banana in the bottom of your backpack before it got brown and spotty? Lots of the foods we eat will …

Why do cats like chasing lights?

July 24th, 2023


If you’ve ever played with a cat, you might already know how much they love chasing after lights. Point a flashlight or laser pointer at the ground and your furry friend will probably chase it or even pounce on it! But …

How does hair dye work?

July 21st, 2023


If you could turn your hair any color in the world… what color would you choose?! Sapphire blue, hot pink, lime green, neon orange?? There are dyes …

How do tattoos stay forever?

July 20th, 2023


In the United States, you can’t get a tattoo until you’re 18 years old. If that seems unfair, just think about it - it’s permanent! As in…forever and …

Why do horses need horseshoes?

July 19th, 2023


You don’t see most horses wearing pants, jackets or hats but one thing is for sure - they’re almost always wearing shoes! You know, those u-shaped things attached to their hooves. Why is that? Large animal surgeon …

Why do different flowers have different smells?

July 18th, 2023


For the most part, flowers smell really great, right? They give off scents that are sweet, syrupy, perfumy and fresh. But they don’t all smell the …

How far can an owl turn its head?

July 17th, 2023


Owls are amazing. Most are nocturnal and hunt at night. They have incredible eyesight. And a group of them is called a parliament! One of our listeners was wondering how far they can turn their heads around. We asked …

Do birds get tired of flapping their wings?

July 14th, 2023


Most birds spend a lot of time up in the air. Some travel long distances or fly super fast. Others, like hummingbirds, can even fly backwards! But do their wings ever get tired while they’re flapping through the air? We …

What happens when we get sunburned?

July 13th, 2023


Our big, bright beautiful sun is a wonderful thing…but too much of a good thing can hurt! If you spend too long basking in that warm glow without …

How do hot air balloons fly?

July 12th, 2023


Have you ever seen a hot air balloon flying above you? They look like something out of a storybook, but they’re real! People have been flying in them since the 1700s! But how do they work? We asked hot air balloon pilot …

Why do raccoons like trash?

July 11th, 2023


Masked bandits. City-dwelling pests. Trash pandas. All of these phrases are commonly associated with the resilient, ring-tailed cuties we call RACCOONS! They’ve gotten a pretty bad rap, but they’re brilliant little …

Why don't we like bitter foods?

July 10th, 2023


Our tongues are covered in thousands of taste buds that tell us all about the flavors of different foods. Some of those flavors are more popular than …

Can you have two caterpillars in one chrysalis?

July 7th, 2023


Happy butterfly week! It’s a whole week dedicated to beautiful insects with colorful wings that fly around in gardens and meadows. Butterflies start …

What are butterfly wings made of?

July 6th, 2023


Happy butterfly week! It’s a whole week dedicated to these beautiful insects that fly around in gardens and meadows, showing off their colorful …

What do butterflies do when it rains?

July 5th, 2023


Happy butterfly week! It’s a whole week dedicated to these beautiful insects that fly around in gardens and meadows, showing off their colorful …

What's the difference between a butterfly and a moth?

July 4th, 2023


Picture this: you’re outside with a friend, and you both see a little insect flying around. It’s got a small dark body, some tiny antennae, and big …

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