Brains On! Science podcast for kids

By American Public Media

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Subscribers: 2996
Reviews: 13

 Aug 13, 2020

 May 27, 2020

 May 19, 2020
I love it!!!!!

 May 17, 2020
it's funny and educational! 🙆🙆🙆🙆🙆🙆🙆🙆

 Apr 9, 2020


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

Episode Date
Bones from the inside out

Bones! They’re spooky. They’re creepy. They’re utterly fascinating!

This episode we dig up the science behind skeletons. We’ll look at how our bones grow, what happens when we break a bone and why bones last so long. Plus, we’ll meet a talking skeleton who will help us bone up on bone trivia!

And we have a mystery sound to tickle your auditory ossicles and a Moment of Um that answers the question: Why does time fly when you're having fun?

We’re taking a break after this episode and will be back with new episodes on Jan. 5th. Until then, we’d love for you to go check out our sister show Smash Boom Best (

We’re also going to be doing a live virtual hangout in November where you can ask Molly, Marc, Sanden and Menaka all your questions. Anything you want to ask, we’ll answer! If you want to join us, the first step is to sign up for our totally free fan club ( In November we’ll send an email out to the fan club with more details about this free, virtual hang out. So keep an eye out for that!

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Ancestry (, Purple (, Guardian Bikes (, and Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls (

You can support the show and help us keep making new episodes at

Oct 27, 2020
Why do siblings annoy each other?

Having a sibling is a special thing -- but, wow, can they be annoying! In this episode we’ll look at why our brothers and sisters are so good at pushing our buttons. Plus, is there any truth to the idea that oldest kids are the most mature and the youngest ones are the most charming? We’ll look at the science of personality and birth order. We also visit a sibling drive-thru, get quizzed about animal relationships and answer this question in our Moment of Um: why does rain come in small droplets?

This episode is sponsored by:

KiwiCo (

Ancestry (

White Hat Jr. (

General Mills Pillsbury (

If you want to find out more about how to stop bullying, please go to Stop Bullying Speak Up:

Oct 20, 2020
How do flu vaccines work?
The flu shot changes every year. But why is the flu special, if other illnesses have much longer-lasting vaccines? This episode takes us into the world of viruses and immunity. A friendly lymphocyte fills us in on how flu shots work, and science journalist Anna Rothschild shares how vaccines started around the world. We'll hear from some virus-busting detectives to see how scientists solve the case of how to make next year’s flu shot as effective as possible. Author Maryn McKenna will stop by and drop some flu knowledge, too! Get your ears ready for a good, thumping mystery sound, and a new Moment of Um: how do straws work? This episode is sponsored by America’s Test Kitchen Kids ( and promo code ATKKIDS10), Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner ( and Quip ( You can support the show at
Oct 13, 2020
Past, present and future: Using time to understand this pandemic

If time feels weird to you lately, you’re not alone. The pandemic has changed the pace of life for people around the world. We’ll talk to a psychologist about how our sense of time works. We’ll look back into the past to see how a similar pandemic played out 100 years ago. Plus, we’ll ask experts to tell us what they think life will be like six months from now.

Oh yeah, and virus podcasters Kara and Gilly are back to tell you how you can be a part of history! Warning: Boogers are involved. Our Moment of Um answers the question: why do your arms move when you walk?

This episode is sponsored by:

Stop Bullying Speak Up (

KiwiCo (

Laurel Springs Online School (

AncestryHealth (

Daily Harvest (

General Mills Pillsbury (

Oct 06, 2020
Smash: When continents collide!
Sep 29, 2020
Behind the scenes: See how we make the show

A listener asked how making  Brains On is different during the pandemic. So with this episode we're giving you a peek into how we're making the show while staying safe. Spoiler alert: we're doing it all from our homes!

What's the best way to record crystal clear sound at home? (Hint: Lots of soft surfaces!) How do we make sound effects? How do we get all the animals, humans and machines in our homes to keep it down while we tape? Plus: We asked our co-hosts to share what it was like for them to record and episode from home. All that, plus a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: how do rocks form?

This episode is sponsored by: ( Promo code: brainson10)

Daily Harvest ( Promo code: brainson)

PayPal - you can download the PayPal app at

Sep 22, 2020
The buzz on bees, pt. 2

In this second episode on bees (a bee-quel, you might say!) we’re taking a look at pollination: the many pollination talents of different bees, why pollination is so important, and what you can do to help wild bees! 

The tables are turned in the Mystery Sound department: our beekeeping cohosts have a sound for Menaka and Sanden to guess! And the Moment of Um answers an age-old stumper: how are alligators and crocodiles different?

Want to hear more about bees? Listen to The buzz about bees, pt. 1 (

This episode is sponsored by: (, General Mills Pillsbury ( and Varsity Tutors (

Sep 15, 2020
The buzz on bees, pt. 1

We’re making a big buzz about bees! Our pollen-collecting friends get so much done, and we’re taking a look at how they live. We’ll bust some bee myths and meet some honeybees for a look at life inside the hive. 
Our mystery sound is from a listener (here’s a hint: they recorded the sound in Alaska!), and our Moment of Um answers a buzzworthy question: Why do beehives look like hexagons? 
And! One episode on bees just isn’t enough. We’ll be back next week with more buzz on pollination.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Native ( | Promo code: brainson), Laurel Springs ( and Daily Harvest ( Promo code: brainson)

Sep 08, 2020
Stars: Twinkling, glowing, giant balls of gas

Those tiny pinpoints of light glittering in the night sky are actually incredibly distant, giant, churning balls of gas. They produce huge quantities of light and heat. In this episode, Mars interviews the biggest star in his eyes: the sun! We also ask astronomer Moiya McTier to help us count all the stars in the universe. And we'll hear a couple of the stories that people here on earth tell about the stars. Plus, a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: how do whales drink?

This episode is sponsored by ( and School Mask Pack ( You can support the show at Find out more about our book at and our book events at

Sep 01, 2020
What makes gross things gross?
Aug 25, 2020
Poop Party: Answers to your poo questions

Warning! This episode is all about the fascinating and gross world of doo doo.

We know you have a lot of poo questions because you’ve sent many, many of them to us. So we’re finally bringing you the poo answers! It’s a poop party!

We’ve invited scientists to tell us about weird animal feces. (It’s true! Wombats have cube-shaped poop!)

We tune into a news channel all about dookie (see the Bristol Stool Chart here:

We hear from our favorite “poo-tuber” Taylor the Turd about how some poops are helping fight serious illnesses. (Remember Taylor? Here’s her first appearance:

Plus, a sorta stinky Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um answering a question: why is pee yellow?

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Laurel Springs ( Fill out a quick survey to tell us more about yourself:

Aug 12, 2020
Introducing: Million Bazillion

We’re thrilled to share a brand new show with you. It’s called Million Bazillion and it’s all about money -- how we earn it, how we save it and how we spend it.

In the first episode you’ll travel back thousands of years to learn the ways people got what they needed before money was invented. Back then some people traded goods, others made pacts to share what they had. We’ll also meet the king who came up with the idea for coins. Plus, Kristen Bell designs her own money!

This show is a collaboration between Brains On and Marketplace. It’s hosted by Jed Kim with Bridget Bodnar. You can listen to more episodes here, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Aug 04, 2020
Masks and mouth mist: What we know about the coronavirus now

Since the world first learned about this new coronavirus at the end of 2019, we’ve been watching science happen in real time. Scientists all over the world are studying this virus and learning how to protect us from it. As they learn new things, we learn new things too.

One thing they’ve learned is how this virus spreads. The primary culprit is droplets from our noses and mouths. That’s why masking up is so important to protect our communities.

We’ve also been hearing from a lot of listeners wanting to know about the future: when will the vaccine be ready? what will it be like at school? when will things go back to normal? We're going to do our best to answer some of these questions in our next coronavirus episode. But they don’t have concrete answers right now.

Right now, trying to look a month, or a year into the future is hard. We call this feeling of not knowing what will happen -- uncertainty. And it’s hard to deal with.

Our brains likes being able to predict what’s going to happen because it makes us feel safe. When we feel unsafe, that’s when anxiety kicks in. 

One way to deal with this anxiety is to focus on the present -- what’s happening right now. 

It’s also important to let yourself feel your feelings and know you’re not alone in them. It’s normal right now to feel frustrated, or angry, or sad, or all of them at the same time. But also try to think about the moments you have that are fun, and the times you feel contentment and happiness.

If you’re having trouble staying focused on the present there are some tricks you can try:

  • Look around you and make a list in your head of everything you see that is green.

  • Try to think of all the character’s names in your favorite book or tv show

  • Take deep breaths -- inhale for four counts, hold that breath for four, and then exhale for four

  • Distract yourself by going outside, or watching a movie or reading a book. 

If you’re still having trouble keeping your mind off the “what ifs” it’s great to talk to your parents or another adult you trust.

There are always people who want to help you. If you need help and aren’t sure who to talk to, you can call 800 273-8255. It's a free phone call, and people are there all the time, ready to listen and help.

MORE: The Child Mind Institute has a lot of resources for families about how to deal with this uncertain time. (

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Native ( - use promo code: BRAINSON at checkout.

Jul 28, 2020
The world of tiny robots
We’re talking all about teeny, tiny robots in today’s episode. You know, the ones that are as light as a postage stamp and as look like insects? They may be small, but these robots can still take in information and make decisions on their own. Find out how bees and cockroaches are teaching us about the future of small robots and what big tasks they might take on. There’s also a new Mystery Sound to rattle your ears. Plus a moment of Um that answers the question: Why does the sun stay in one place? This episode was sponsored by KiwiCo (
Jul 14, 2020
Why do kids have more energy than adults?
We’re taking on an age-old question today: Do kids have more energy than adults? Breakfast tacos, caffeine, an energized DJ and an epic battle between a girl and her parents. This episode has all that and then some. Discover how we turn food into energy at an awesome taco party. Then pump up the jams with DJ Thyroid. Speaking of music, get ready for a song from Lake Street Dive’s Mike Olson. And just when you think the show might be out of energy, we engage in an out-of breath competition between a kid and her parents. Plus, there’s a brand new Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um about why we lose our voices sometimes. This episode is sponsored by Laurel Springs Online School ( and KiwiCo (
Jun 30, 2020
Why does green mean go? And other color conundrums
The world is full of color, but how do our eyes see it? In this episode we’ll explain how color vision works, complete with a journey to a jazz club in the back of your eye. We’ll also look at the cultural meanings of the color red, we’ll find out about a new type of blue, and we’ll find out why stoplights use green to mean go. Our Moment of Um tackles the question, “why are bees black and yellow?” This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Nurture Life (use code: BRAINS at checkout).
Jun 16, 2020
Injustice and Anger: Understanding your emotions
A lot of us are angry right now, with good reason. We’re seeing people treated unfairly because of racism -- that’s when people don’t like someone’s race or the color of their skin.In this episode we’ll talk about how anger can be a useful emotion and can be used to push for change. We’ll also revisit parts of our 2019 series on emotions, including an explanation of the hormones behind anger, why some of us are quicker to anger than others and what we can do when we feel overwhelmed by our feelings. Plus, our Moment of Um tackles the question, “What happens when lightning strikes water?” If you want to talk to your kids about race but don’t know where to start, we suggest reading this article ( by pediatricians Dr. Jacqueline Dougé, & Dr. Ashaunta Anderson or Talking to Kids About Race by Heather Greenwood Davis ( are great books to help your family start a conversation about race. Here's a list from Embrace Race ( Or try Brown Bookshelf's Generations Book Club ( episode is sponsored by Laurel Springs ( and KiwiCo ( You can support Brains On at
Jun 03, 2020
Introducing: Julie's Library
We're very excited to share an episode of a brand new podcast we've been working on called Julie's Library. It’s hosted by the legendary, the one and only, Julie Andrews. Every week, she and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton read from their favorite children’s books. The featured book in this episode is Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, and illustrated by Matt Phelan. You can listen to more episodes and subscribe at Apple Podcasts (, Spotify (, Google Podcasts (, or wherever you usually listen. Find out more at
May 26, 2020
Coronavirus: How to be a helper from home
We’re all doing our best to stay safe from coronavirus, but is there anything we can do for others as well? In this episode we look at some ways you can help from home, like by making masks, donating to food banks or writing letters. Two stars of the World Handwashing Federation stop by to explain the science of how water actually dries out our hands. Plus, Kara and Gilly interview science journalist Carl Zimmer on the weird world of viruses, including some viruses that help people! There’s a listener-submitted mystery sound and this week’s Moment of Um tackles the question: how do seashells get their shape? This episode is sponsored by Betty Crocker and promo code: BRAINS
May 19, 2020
Thinking ink: The scoop on this colorful stuff!
Ink is amazing. It helps us captures our thoughts, comes in many colors and some of it is even made by animals! In this episode we explore the history of this special substance. We’ll also talk squid ink with biologist Sarah McAnulty and explain how tattoos work. Plus, your poems about ink! Obviously there’s also a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: what happens if salt is poured on snails? This episode is sponsored in part by Betty Crocker - and Laurel Springs School -
May 05, 2020
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2020
You don’t have to search far to find amazing Mystery Sounds. If you listen, you can find them in every room of your house. Today’s episode is chock full of these audible wonders. They are cotton candy for the ears! They are the notes to make your tympanic membrane sing! It’s time for the Mystery Sound Extravaganza! An episode made up of nothing but Mystery Sounds, most of them recorded by our amazing listeners.Plus, today's Moment of Um answers this stumper: when your eyes are closed, are your pupils big or small? Today’s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (
Apr 28, 2020
Can you dig to the center of the Earth?
Like an onion, the Earth has layers. In this episode we’ll see if you can dig through those layers to get to the center of the planet. We’ll also hear about the Danish scientist who discovered more about Earth’s core by studying earthquakes. Plus, we investigate the phrase “dig a hole to China.” Children’s book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers stops by to talk about the Earth’s crust. “Here We Are,” his book about our vast and wonderful planet, was just turned into a movie (you can find it on Apple TV+). And our Moment of Um answers the question: do fish have tongues? All that and a Mystery Sound in this very layered episode! This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Skylight Frame ( You can support the show at
Apr 21, 2020
Joy Overload! The science of tickles and cuteness
Get ready for some smiles! We’re looking at the science of two things that bring us joy: tickles and cuteness. We’ll explain why tickles make us giggle and why you can’t tickle yourself. Then we’ll talk about what makes cute things cute and why sometimes we want to eat or smoosh cute things. Plus, a super cute Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um answering the question: “Can a moon have a moon?” This episode is sponsored by iD Tech ( You can support the show at
Apr 14, 2020
Virus Busters: How scientists are working to stop the coronavirus
Scientists around the world are working fast to fight the new coronavirus. They’re developing medicines to help people who are sick. They’re also working on vaccines to stop the virus from spreading. In this episode we’ll explain how these treatments work and we’ll give you some tips on keeping six feet from other people while taking a stroll outside. Oh, and Kara and Gilly stop by to drop some epic virus facts. Plus a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that looks at whether or not worms sleep. Today’s episode is sponsored by Laurel Springs ( You can support this non-profit public radio podcast at Please note that this episode was released on April 7, 2020. For the most up-to-date information, please head to trusted sources like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To learn more about how viruses spread, you can listen to our first episode about this new coronavirus: Understanding coronavirus and how germs spread: And to learn about why it’s important to stay home, listen to our second episode: Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus: For more on how our immune system fights viruses, check out our episode: How do flu vaccines work? For more on how to know which sources of information are trustworthy, you can check out our four-part series Prove It:Part one: A brief history of facts: two: Science under the microscope: three: The scoop on journalism: four: How to find the facts:
Apr 07, 2020
Do plants have feelings?
There’s more to plants than meets the eye. They detect sounds, they defend themselves against insect attacks and they can even send each other secret messages through the wind! Our leafy, green friends sense and interact with the world in their own, planty way. We’ll learn all about it in this episode, plus we’ll find out why some plants like to grow in spots where other plants have died. We’ve also got a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: why do bats sleep upside down? This episode is sponsored by Khan Academy (
Mar 31, 2020
Nervous: All about feelings, pt. 4
Mar 27, 2020
Staying home: How social distancing helps fight coronavirus
Lots of schools are closed and people are staying home. In this episode we’ll explain how all of this could help slow the spread of the new coronavirus. We’ll explain some terms you’re probably hearing too, like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve.” Plus, we talk with a doctor who is on the front lines helping people get better, and two virus podcasters help answer your coronavirus questions like, “How did this virus start?” and “Can our pets get sick too?” And of course there’s a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um looking at why our tongues stick to ice. Please note that this episode was released on March 24, 2020. For the most up-to-date information, please head to trusted sources like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To learn more about how viruses spread, you can listen to our first episode about this new coronavirus: Understanding coronavirus and how germs spread For more on how our immune system fights viruses, check out our episode: How do flu vaccines work? For more on how to know which sources of information are trustworthy, you can check out our four-part series Prove It:Part one: A brief history of factsPart two: Science under the microscopePart three: The scoop on journalismPart four: How to find the facts Please note that this episode was released on March 24, 2020. For the most up-to-date information, please head to trusted sources like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This episode is sponsored by Perfect Snacks ( Brains On is a non-profit public radio podcast. You can support the show at
Mar 24, 2020
Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?
Mar 17, 2020
Understanding coronavirus and how germs spread
It’s impossible to miss the news about coronavirus, but you probably still have lots of questions. What exactly is it? How does it spread? Can I protect myself? In this episode we’ll breakdown what we know about this new virus and tell you how to stay safe. Plus, we’ll listen to a podcast hosted by two chatty viruses to learn how these germs spread (and how our bodies fight back). We’ve also got a special message from some super tough hand washers. Plus a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that looks at why shoelaces come untied. Please note that this episode was released on March 10, 2020. For the most up-to-date information, please head to trusted sources like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more on how our immune system fights viruses, check out our episode How do flu vaccines work? Our friends at NPR made a really excellent comic about the new coronavirus, and you can read it here. For more on how to know which sources of information are trustworthy, you can check out our four-part series Prove It:Part one: A brief history of factsPart two: Science under the microscopePart three: The scoop on journalismPart four: How to find the facts This episode is sponsored by Blinkist ( and Laurel Springs Online School (
Mar 10, 2020
Weather Watching: The birth of forecasts
Humans have been predicting weather for a long time - way before modern technology. So how did they do it? We’ll meet the man who invented the word “forecast” and brought weather reports to the newspaper. Plus, we'll tell you how to watch for signs of rain and we'll learn about the field of phenology. Oh, and we’ve got a Mystery Sound, Moment of Um and a weather lore game show. So grab an umbrella and tune in because this episode has a 100% chance of being super interesting. Today’s episode is sponsored by Khan Academy Kids ( and Perfect Kids ( You can support Brains On at And you can find information about our live shows in Boston, Washington DC and New York at
Mar 03, 2020
The secret world of dust
Dust looks gray and boring to us, but it’s full of secrets! Like did you know that up close, dust is colorful? And there are creatures living in your dust? And some dust comes from outer space? We’ll take you on a tour of the dust universe and show you how dust can help solve crimes. Plus, we learn about the tiny critters living all over your skin! And of course there’s a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: why do we jump when we’re scared? This episode is sponsored by Care ( and KiwiCo (
Feb 25, 2020
For crying out loud: All about tears
Feb 18, 2020
Canine club: From wolves to dogs!
How did wolves go from wild, untamed animals to the friendly furballs we know as dogs? In this episode we’ll learn about how our canine companions evolved. Plus, we’ll get a howling lesson, meet a pack of Alaskan wolves that moved to the Minnesota Zoo and hear what wolves mean to members of the Anishinabe Nation. And don’t forget: an action packed Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um about chapped lips. This episode is sponsored by Perfect Snacks ( and Blinkist (
Feb 11, 2020
Mirrors, sequins and glitter: what makes them shine?
Have you ever entered the mirror-verse and heard yourself talking back? Well, that’s what happens in today’s episode. We take a look (pun intended) at how mirrors work and talk to a scientist to find out what color they are. And in a history of sequins, we learn why, for a long time, rain was a disaster for glittery gowns. Not only can you make today’s Mystery Sound, but you can use it to spiff up your crafts. All that, plus a Moment of Um about why words start sounding funny funny funny funny funny when you repeat them. This episode is sponsored by: KiwiCo (, Laurel Springs Online School (, and the MacMillan Kids book, “Astronauts: Women on the final frontier” (
Feb 04, 2020
Aliens and UFOs: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 4
In the final episode of our series about myths and legends, we’re launching our imaginations into outer space! Monster expert Emily Zarka tells us about her favorite alien and why aliens fascinate so many people. In the Hoax Hunters season finale, Marc and Sanden bring us a UFO spoof. Plus, scientists give us the lowdown on the real quest for extraterrestrial life — we haven’t found any... yet. And, planets and moons compete for the title of ‘most likely to have life’. A new moment of um keeps us outside the atmosphere: why does space look so dark if the sun is so bright? Today’s episode is sponsored by The American Dental Association ( You can support Brains On at and get a bonus Mystery Sound Extravaganza episode in January!
Dec 31, 2019
Mermaids, Kraken and the Loch Ness Monster: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 3
What’s lurking in the depths of the ocean? Or your local loch? We’re diving deep into the world of water-dwelling mythical creatures in part three of our series on myths. We’ll talk with monster expert Emily Zarka and learn about the very real creature that may have inspired the tale of the Kraken. We’ll also hear from a frustrated manatee and dugong, and get caught up on all the latest deep sea trends. Marc and Sanden are back with a Hoax Hunters about the Loch Ness Monster. Plus, a Moment of Um about our physical reaction to fear.Today’s episode is sponsored by Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. You can support Brains On at and get a bonus Mystery Sound Extravaganza episode this January!
Dec 24, 2019
Lost Cities: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 2
Was Atlantis a real city? If not, why have so many people gone looking for it? In part two of our series on modern myths and legends, we’re searching for lost cities. We’ll trace the origins of El Dorado, and head to the ruins of an actual lost city in Egypt. We'll find out how mangrove trees could help prevent cities from being lost to climate change, and Sanden and Marc are back with another edition of Hoax Hunters. Plus, a Moment of Um about how tattoos stay put. Today’s episode is sponsored by Quip (, KiwiCo (, American Dental Association ( and Stitch Fix Kids ( You can support Brains On at and get a bonus Mystery Sound Extravaganza episode this January!
Dec 17, 2019
Bigfoot, Unicorns and Dragons: Making Sense of Myths, pt. 1
Where do stories of unicorns, mermaids and Bigfoot come from? And do they have any truth to them? In this four-part series, we're tackling listeners' biggest questions about modern myths and legends. Today's episode is about mythical creatures that live on land. We'll hear the story of El Chupacabras, learn about the search for Bigfoot, and hear from some animals once mistaken for unicorns. Marc and Sanden have a new project to share, and Gungador has an urgent announcement. Plus, a Moment of Um about how sloths snooze upside down. If you want to learn more about the history, facts and lore behind dragons and unicorns, check out this fascinating episode of Smash Boom Best: UNICORNS VS DRAGONS! This episode is sponsored by Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, iD Tech (, and KiwiCo ( You can support Brains On at All supporters of the show will get a bonus mystery sound extravaganza episode this January!
Dec 10, 2019
How do pianos work?
Dec 03, 2019
Flavor facts: Why food is so delicious
You might think flavor is what happens on your tongue – and it is. But it’s also so much more. Flavor is influenced by all the senses. How food looks, smells and feels can make a difference. Even the sounds you hear while eating can impact how you perceive taste. We’ll visit a tastebud beauty salon, talk with a chef researcher and do some experiments provided by our friends at America’s Test Kitchen Kids. Plus: a three-part Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: “What makes spicy food spicy?” Note: If you want to do the experiments along with us, congratulations, you can! You’ll need jellybeans, a blindfold and two pieces of dark chocolate. Listen, eat and yum! This episode is a collaboration with our friends at America’s Test Kitchen Kids! They’re sharing access to their “The Nose Knows” experiment with Brains On listeners! Check out the whole activity right here. This episode is sponsored by Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Stitch Fix Kids (, and KiwiCo (
Nov 26, 2019
What was the first life on earth?
Nov 20, 2019
Ask-A-Scientist: Bird Bonanza!
In this special episode, we've asked two rock star ornithologists to answer a flock of listener questions about birds. Drew Lanham and Corina Newsome talk flying, feathers, eggs, poop and how we humans can help birds. Plus: we test their ears with the Mystery Sound and their obscure bird knowledge with a game called Real Birds or Just Words. And many, many thanks to The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for providing the bird sounds you hear in this episode. This episode is sponsored by Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and iD Tech ( You can support the show at
Nov 12, 2019
Books: How they're made and how your brain reads them
Nov 05, 2019
Why do we like getting scared?
Spooky stuff may make you cover your eyes in fright, but many of us find ourselves peeking through our fingers to get another glimpse. Why are we drawn to things that make us jump? In this episode, we'll find out how fear can actually be fun. We visit a scientist who helps design haunted houses for ultimate scares, chat with an author who writes ghost stories about how he crafts the creepy crawlies, and play a rousing game of Name That Phobia! Plus we help Gungador get rid of his hiccups and answer the Moment of Um question: "Why do raspberries have little hairs?" This episode is sponsored by Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner (, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, and MEL Science (text BRAINS to 64-000).
Oct 29, 2019
Wonderful Wool: The secrets of this amazing fluff
Wool is warm, absorbs water and odors, plus it’s flame resistant. In short, wool is amazing! In this episode we explore how wool is different from hair. We go on a sheep safari at Cuyama Lamb in California, meet expert wool weaver Zefren Anderson and catch up with our favorite wooly hero Alpaca Jack. Plus a wool-worthy mystery sound and an Moment of Um that answer the question: If Earth had rings like Saturn would we be able to see them through our windows? This episode is sponsored by Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner (, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Quip ( and Stitch Fix Kids (
Oct 22, 2019
How does the internet get to us?
In this episode, we find out how a system of cables around the globe (and deep in our oceans) brings websites, songs, videos and podcasts to our phones and computers, almost at the speed of light.
Oct 15, 2019
Why do we lie?
Most of us think we’re good at detecting lies, but it turns out humans only get it right about half the time. And why do we do it anyway? What makes us want to deceive other people? In this episode we get to the truth about lying. We take a look at when people start lying, and how that helps us in our development as humans. We also hear from A. Lie, who tries to remind us that we might need lies more than we think. Plus, Angela Evans stops by and fills us in on the latest lie detection research. And remember to listen for the Moment of Um at the end of the show. This time we get squishy and find out if sponges are still harvested from the sea. This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Hello Products ( and promo code HELLOBRAIN) and America’s Test Kitchen Kids Young Chef’s Club ( and promo code atkkids10).
Oct 01, 2019
The secrets of the spectacular spacesuit
Aug 27, 2019
What is dyslexia? And how do our brains read?
Aug 20, 2019
How do elevators work?
Aug 13, 2019
Hey, where did you get those genes?!?
Aug 06, 2019
Plastic: Why it's everywhere
Jul 30, 2019
Ants: Who's in charge here?
Jul 23, 2019
Tree, Myself and I: All about our leafy green friends
Jul 16, 2019
Do insects see the world in slow motion? Looking through animal eyes
Jul 09, 2019
Going underground at Wind Cave National Park
Jul 02, 2019
Angry: All about feelings, pt. 3
Jun 18, 2019
Sad: All about feelings, pt. 2
Jun 11, 2019
Happy: All about feelings, pt. 1
Jun 04, 2019
Thinkin stinkin: Why we smell
Apr 30, 2019
Forever echo: Can a sound wave go on forever?
Apr 23, 2019
The hows and whys of hair
Apr 16, 2019
Why are smartphones so hard to put down?
Apr 09, 2019
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2019
Apr 02, 2019
Carnivores: Plants and animals that bite back
Mar 26, 2019
Flush! Where does our poo and pee go?
Mar 20, 2019
Black Holes, Wormholes and Donut Holes
Mar 12, 2019
Walking on walls: How ants and spiders do it
Mar 05, 2019
My air came from where?! How oxygen gets around
Feb 26, 2019
How do airplanes fly?
Feb 19, 2019
Memory and deja vu
Feb 12, 2019
Are we still evolving?
Feb 05, 2019
Brains On: Behind the scenes
Jan 30, 2019
Earthrise: The picture of our planet that changed the world
Dec 25, 2018
Soil: Can you dig it?
Dec 18, 2018
Dreams: The science of a sleeping brain
Dec 11, 2018
Voices: How do we make sound?
Dec 04, 2018
Roller coasters: from dream to extreme
Nov 27, 2018
Finding your way without a map
Nov 20, 2018
Video Games: A Tale of Two Pongs
Nov 13, 2018
Do dogs know they're dogs?
Nov 06, 2018
Body Bonanza: Yawns, hiccups, goosebumps and more!
Oct 30, 2018
How to find the facts (Prove It: Part 4)
Oct 23, 2018
The scoop on journalism (Prove It: Part 3)
Oct 16, 2018
Science under the microscope (Prove It: Part 2)
Oct 09, 2018
A Brief History of Facts (Prove It: Part 1)
Oct 02, 2018
Brains On! + The Story Pirates: What makes fun things fun?
Aug 28, 2018
Keeping water healthy, one clue at a time
Aug 14, 2018
Burning rivers of fire
Aug 07, 2018
How does GPS know where you are?
Jul 31, 2018
Salty snack science: Popcorn, nachos and the origins of salt
Jul 24, 2018
Wanna see Mars' close approach? Just look up!
Jul 17, 2018
Smash Boom Best: Books vs Movies
Jul 10, 2018
How to cook for an alien
Jul 03, 2018
Mix: The science cooking, pt. 4
Jun 26, 2018
Chop: The science of cooking, pt. 3
Jun 19, 2018
Chill: The science of cooking, pt. 2
Jun 12, 2018
Heat: The science of cooking pt. 1
Jun 06, 2018
Boogers and sun sneezes: Know your nose
May 29, 2018
The wonderful weirdness of water
May 22, 2018
Smash Boom Best: Bats vs. Owls (new show alert!)
May 15, 2018
Robots take over (the show)! Live from Robotstravaganza
May 08, 2018
What's in your water?
May 01, 2018
What makes paint stick?
Apr 24, 2018
Allergy Attack: How our bodies can overreact
Apr 09, 2018
Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2018
Apr 03, 2018
How do animals breathe underwater?
Mar 26, 2018
'The Rice Cakes and the Oni': A story from Circle Round
Mar 20, 2018
Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human
Mar 13, 2018
From 8-bit to orchestras: How does video game music affect you?
Mar 05, 2018
The tick-tock of our circadian clock
Feb 27, 2018
‘Is it opposite day?’ and other mind-bending paradoxes
Feb 20, 2018
Our 100th episode! What's the big deal?
Feb 13, 2018
Meet Sandy, the left-handed mutant snail
Feb 06, 2018
Dolphins vs. Octopuses: Showdown in the sea!
Jan 30, 2018
Dogs: What's the secret of their sense of smell?
Jan 23, 2018
Mary Shelley and the science of Frankenstein
Jan 16, 2018
Super-size-asaurus: How did dinosaurs get so big?
Jan 09, 2018
Mysteries of the universe: Expansion and gravity
Jan 02, 2018
The nerve! Electricity in our bodies
Dec 26, 2017
Charged up! The science of batteries
Dec 19, 2017
High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet
Dec 12, 2017
Shocking! The science of static (Electricity series pt. 1)
Dec 05, 2017
Where did language come from?
Nov 27, 2017
Curio: Flies on the bus
Nov 14, 2017
What's smaller than an electron?
Nov 07, 2017
Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration
Oct 30, 2017
What is Down syndrome?
Oct 24, 2017
Bonus: Kidcast sampler
Oct 22, 2017
Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes
Oct 17, 2017
How do volcanoes erupt?
Oct 02, 2017
Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space
Sep 19, 2017
Mars: Our next home planet?
Sep 12, 2017
Thunder, lightning and tornadoes: Where do they come from?
Sep 04, 2017
Animal farts: A mighty wind
Aug 29, 2017
Sunburns: The why behind the ouch (and how to avoid them)
Aug 15, 2017
Everything you need to know before the solar eclipse
Aug 01, 2017
Deep Sea vs. Outer Space
Jul 18, 2017
Fart Smarts: Understanding the gas we pass
Jul 04, 2017
Riding in the car: Motion sickness and optical illusions (Road trip pt. 5)
Jun 30, 2017
Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road trip pt. 4)
Jun 23, 2017
Monster trucks and car design (Road trip pt. 3)
Jun 20, 2017
The future of fuel, and the problem with exhaust (Road trip pt. 2)
Jun 16, 2017
How do engines work? (Road trip pt. 1)
Jun 09, 2017
Mystery sound extravaganza!
Jun 06, 2017
The science of slime: What is it and why are we so obsessed
May 09, 2017
Why is the ocean salty?
Mar 14, 2017
Do we all see the same colors?
Feb 14, 2017
Cats: Glowing eyes, puffy tails and secret purrs
Jan 31, 2017
Dinosaur bones: How do we know their age?
Jan 17, 2017
Lighting the way for sea turtles at Gulf Islands National Seashore
Dec 30, 2016
Surviving the desert at Joshua Tree National Park
The desert is hot, dry and deadly. But plenty of plants and animals thrive there. How do they do it? We’ll learn the tricks trees, bats and roadrunners use to make it in Joshua Tree National Park in California.
Dec 29, 2016
Making the sands sing at Great Sand Dunes National Park
When an avalanche happens at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, it sounds like the sand is singing. Huh? How? Why? We learn about the special sand and the specific conditions that make this acoustic phenomenon possible.
Dec 28, 2016
Tracking wild horses at Assategue Island National Seashore
The wild horses at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland are very popular, but they’re also an invasive species. We find out how park rangers are giving people a chance to see the horses while also protecting the native plants and animals FROM the horses.
Dec 27, 2016
What makes cute things cute?
Think of the cutest puppy, kitten or baby you’ve ever seen. Now what sound did you just make? Was it an “Awwwww?” Or did you want to pinch, bite or squeeze it? In this episode, we’ll find out why this is a natural reaction to cute and why we’re so easily distracted by cute things.
Dec 06, 2016
Fire vs. Lasers!
Fire and lasers are both super cool — but which is COOLER? Producer Marc Sanchez has tricks up his sleeve for team fire and Sanden Totten gives his all for team laser.
Nov 22, 2016
How do whales communicate?
The sounds whales make underwater are super cool, and also very important for them to locate prey, navigate and communicate with each other. We find out how they make those sounds and what scientists think they mean.
Nov 08, 2016
Could it rain lemonade?
If you filled a lake with lemonade, would it rain lemonade? This delicious head-scratcher does not have a straightforward answer. It’s one-part water cycle, one-part delicious drink and if we’re lucky, one-part lemonade rain.
Oct 11, 2016
How do invisible x-rays help us see?
X-rays, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, help doctors see our bones — but they also help scientists understand the very smallest particles and the most massive black holes.
Sep 27, 2016
Carnivorous plants: How they lure, trap and digest
Most plants get the energy and nutrients they need from water, sunlight, air and soil. But carnivorous plants get key nutrients from a different source: bugs. We’ll find out how they do it and talk about the mystery of how venus fly traps snap shut.
Sep 16, 2016
What's behind the waves and tides?
How does the moon control the tides? Where do waves come from? And what’s it like to live in a tide pool?
Aug 30, 2016
How is glass made?
The process that turns sand into glass is very cool – or rather, we should say very hot. Very, very, very hot as it turns out. Humans have been turning minerals from the earth’s crust into glass for 3,500 years. Find out how it’s done and how it’s evolved – from blowing glass by hand to a factory that makes hundreds of glass bottles every minute. Plus: The mystery sound!
Aug 11, 2016
Mosquitoes: What are they good for?
How and why do mosquitoes suck our blood? Why do their bites itch ALL the time? Why do some people get bitten more than others? And do these pesky and possibly dangerous insects serve any kind of useful purpose?
Jul 15, 2016
Big universe, big questions
Have you ever wondered about what’s beyond the edge of the universe? Or maybe a better question: is there even an edge of the universe? And what does it mean that the universe is expanding? Nine-year-old Thea talks with astrophysicist Katie Mack to find answers to her many questions about the universe.
Jun 14, 2016
Why don't carnivores need to eat their vegetables?
We’re back with new episodes! Carnivores are animals that only eat other animals – so how do they get the vitamins, minerals and fiber that we humans get from eating plants? We take a trip to a salad bar with some animal pals to find out.
May 17, 2016
How do you catch a cold?
We’ve been catching colds for millennia – but it wasn’t until fairly recently that we actually understood how and why we get sneezy, coughy, and achy. In this episode, we find out more about the common cold: Does standing outside in the cold actually make it easier to get sick? Is there a cure that really works? Could there be a benefit to catching the rhinovirus? Listen for all the answers + the mystery sound!
Apr 22, 2016
Is there life on other planets?
Is there anybody out there? Like, WAAAAY out there? In this episode we hear from astronomer Laura Danly about the search for life on other planets. We’ll also learn what that search has in common with a fairy tale.
Apr 07, 2016
Did Dinosaurs have feathers? Can you bring back species that have gone extinct? Find out here.
Mar 22, 2016
Brains On! Besties
Meet the Brains On! Besties… kid-friendly audio finds we think you’ll love.
Mar 08, 2016
Living Large with the International Space Station
The International Space Station sits 250 miles above Earth, but how did it get there? And what’s it like to live in space?
Feb 21, 2016
Mystery sound extravaganza!
OMG, this is the episode you’ve been waiting for… an all-out, wall-to-wall, super-duper Mystery Sound show. Guess the sounds sent in from listeners and scientists alike. Plus, if you like having fun (and dancing), stick around to the end of the episode. An extra-special audio treat awaits. Shhhhhhhhhh!
Feb 10, 2016
Spider sense
Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? If so, we want to change your mind about our eight-legged buddies!
Jan 26, 2016
Why are no two snowflakes the same?
In this episode, Dr. Ken Libbrecht answers all of our snowflake questions: How are snowflakes made? Why are they different shapes? How is it that they’re all unique? And how does a scientist who lives in southern California study snow?
Jan 13, 2016
The science of baking
Baking can seem kind of magical. You take a bunch of ingredients, mix them all together, put them in the oven, and then a little time passes — and you have cake! Or cookies! Or bread! But there’s no magic wand involved in the process — it’s chemistry!
Dec 22, 2015
Barks, growls, meows and purrs: Translating cats and dogs
This episode brings you a slew of dog and cat mystery sounds to puzzle over. Can you tell the difference playful barks and warning barks? How about decoding the meaning behind a cat’s meow?
Dec 08, 2015
How do meteorologists predict the weather?
There’s all sorts of weather happening right now around the world. Rain, sun, wind, snow… you name it, somewhere it’s happening. It may seem hard to keep track of it all, but scientists have it figured out. We’ll find out how they collect data on weather around the globe and turn it into a forecast.
Nov 25, 2015
The great cat debate: Evil or misunderstood?
We're transporting you to the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul for a segment from a recent live show: Cats vs. Dogs. In this very important debate, producers Marc Sanchez and Sanden Totten try to get the bottom of our feline friends' mysterious behavior. Plus: The mystery sound!
Nov 18, 2015
Your booger questions, answered
Nasal mucus is very important to our health – and actually kind of magical. There’s a lot going on in our noses all the time that we don’t appreciate. Where do boogers come from? Why does your nose run when you’re out in the cold? Why does your nose get stuffy when you’re sick?
Oct 21, 2015
Why does tickling make you laugh?
Can you tickle yourself? Probably not. Almost everybody is ticklish, but what’s happening to us is a bit of a mystery.
Sep 15, 2015
Bridges vs. Tunnels
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about bridges and tunnels: How do bridges stay up? How are tunnels built? How do they build bridges over water? How do they put tunnels underwater? To answer these questions we’re staging a little friendly competition: bridges vs. tunnels!
Aug 26, 2015
Mission to Pluto!
We talk to Dr. Alan Stern, the leader of NASA’s mission to Pluto – New Horizons. He’s been working on the mission for over 20 years and he’s excited to see the surprises that New Horizons will be sending back. Plus: Take a quiz to test your New Horizons knowledge!
Jul 10, 2015
Cuttlefish: Ultimate Shapeshifters!
… and you thought chameleons could hide.
Jun 09, 2015
Trees: From seed to shining seed
How do trees make oxygen? How do they grow? How do evergreens stay green all year? Why do tree leaves change color? How long can trees live? We’re branching out to tackle all these questions in this episode.
May 27, 2015
Why does the sun make some people sneeze?
This question has been a mystery for millennia. Turns out there’s a name for the phenomenon: photic sneeze reflex.
May 12, 2015
How and why do jellyfish sting?
All jellyfish sting – but not all jellyfish sting people. In this episode, we learn about how jellyfish sting and how they eat. Plus: stro-bi-la-tion (how jellyfish grow up).
Apr 09, 2015
Volcanoes in space!
The biggest volcano in our solar system is not on Earth -- and its footprint is as big as the entire state of Arizona.
Mar 18, 2015
When parasitoids attack!
After a caterpillar goes into its chrysalis, you would expect a beautiful butterfly to emerge. But when this parasitoid attacks, the results are very different.
Feb 13, 2015
The mystery of gravity
Gravity is a very familiar force to us here on Earth. We know how it behaves and how it affects us. But where does it come from? We’ll also talk to a NASA astronaut about what it’s like to experience micro-gravity.
Jan 09, 2015
How do monarch butterflies travel so far?
Monarch butterflies are unique — they’re the only butterfly to travel thousands of miles when the seasons change. They travel from as far north as Canada all the way down to a few very specific mountaintops in central Mexico. They don’t have a car, or an airplane ticket. They just have their two little wings. So we’re asking: How do they do it? How do they migrate thousands of miles? And why?
Sep 09, 2014
Water, water everywhere - but how does it get there?
It’s easy to take water for granted. After all, you just turn a faucet and it pours right out. But how does it get to our faucet? We’ll explore the water cycle from rain to your drain. And did you know that space is full of water? It’s one of the most common features of the universe. We’ll also look at all the important things our bodies do with water — and how that’s a cycle too. Caution: this episode may make you very thirsty.
Jul 08, 2014
The questions we have about numbers are uncountable. But here are a few of them: Where does zero come from? How is there more than one kind of infinity? What is it like to do math when numbers have different colors — and personalities?
Dec 06, 2013
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!
Oct 14, 2013
We have some questions about sleep: It’s ok to stay up late, right? Is it possible to control your dreams? Do all animals sleep? Why do we need to sleep anyway?
Aug 01, 2013
The questions asked and answered in this episode include: What is harmony exactly? What does it take to be a great rapper? How does sound travel?
Aug 01, 2013
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?
Aug 01, 2013
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?
Jul 25, 2013