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Brains On! Science podcast for kids
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Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Author: American Public Media

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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_On
258 Episodes
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How do pianos work?

How do pianos work?

2019-12-0300:29:081

Behind every piano’s polished exterior are thousands of parts. From keys to strings, they work together to produce a sound. In this episode, we take a field trip to a piano shop, peek behind the walls at a world-famous piano factory and have an EPIC FIGHTING BATTLE to discover how sound travels. And the Moment of Um answers this question: “Can you really hear the ocean in a seashell?”This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brains), Quip (getquip.com/brainson) and the Good Kids podcast. You can support the show and get access to a bonus Mystery Sound extravaganza episode at brainson.org/donate
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 (stitchfix.com/kids/brains), and KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brains).
What was the first lifeform like? What was the first fish or mammal? Is it even possible to know? In this episode, we look to the fossil record to help us trace our roots back to the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Paleontologist Neil Shubin joins us to talk about discovering a remarkably cool fossil that helped us understand how life evolved over billions of years. We also take a field trip to the Hall of Ancestors and examine a few branches on the tree of life. And we learn why figuring out how life began on earth could help us as we find life elsewhere in the universe.This episode is sponsored by Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brains) and Quip (getquip.com/brainson). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
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 (idtech.com/brains). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
There is so much happening in your brain when you read. From recognizing shapes as letters to discovering empathy, our brains really get a workout when we read books.In this episode, Ben Bergen from the Language and Cognition Lab at UC San Diego drops by to shed some light on how our brains process the meaning of words. We also learn how printing books has evolved and how the invention of the printing press brought worldwide change. And Newberry Award-winning author Kelly Barnhill shares a little of what’s going on in HER brain as she’s writing a story.This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brains), Quip (getquip.com/brainson) and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. You can support the show at brainson.org/donate.
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?"Spoiler alert! To learn more about the mystery sound, click here.This episode is sponsored by Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner (bona.com/brainson), Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, and MEL Science (text BRAINS to 64-000).
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 (bona.com/brainson), Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Quip (getquip.com/brainson) and Stitch Fix Kids (StitchFix.com/KIDS/brains).
In this episode, we find out how a system of cables around the globe (and deep in our oceans) brings websites, songs, videos and podcasts to our phones and computers, almost at the speed of light. The internet can seem vast and intangible but there’s a very physical system of cables, servers and exchange points across the globe (and yes, even under the oceans). We’ll find out how a video shows up nearly instantly on our screens and about insanely thin, clear glass tubes are the key to our digital communication.You can join the Brains On Fan Club at brainson.org/fanclub. This episode is sponsored by America’s Test Kitchen Kids (atkkids.com/brainson and promo code ATKKIDS10), Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner (bona.com/brainson), Hello Products (helloproducts.com and promo code HELLOBRAIN), and KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brains). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate.
How do flu vaccines work?

How do flu vaccines work?

2019-10-0800:36:153

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 (atkkids.com/brainson and promo code ATKKIDS10), Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner (bona.com/brainson) and Quip (getquip.com/brainson). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
Why do we lie?

Why do we lie?

2019-10-0100:35:5511

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 (kiwico.com/brainson), Hello Products (helloproducts.com and promo code HELLOBRAIN) and America’s Test Kitchen Kids Young Chef’s Club (atkkids.com/brainson and promo code atkkids10).
Never explore the final frontier without your trusty, white, puffy space suit! But why is it puffy and white? And why do astronauts need them? Turns out space is super dangerous and these suits can save your life. We’ll give you a tour of all the features of NASA’s iconic EMU suit and explain why it looks like a squishy marshmallow. Plus, we’ll interview an engineer working on the next generation of space suits and hear a funky new space jam by singer Jamie Lidell. Add in a mystery sound, a Moment of Um looking at knuckle cracking and some rad ideas for super suits of the future and you’ve got an action packed episode of Brains On.This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (KiwiCo.com/brainson), Panama City Beach (VisitPanamaCityBeach.com), The Great Courses Plus (TheGreatCoursesPlus.com/brainson) and Quip (GetQuip.com/brainson). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
Have you heard the word dyslexia before? It's a term used to describe when people have a hard time learning to read. It's actually very common because reading is a fairly new skill that humans have developed.In this episode we do a deep dive on dyslexia. We'll look at how our brains have cobbled together the ability to read by re-purposing parts of the brain that evolved for other functions. And we’ll learn what scientists think might be going on in the brains of people with dyslexia when they learn to read. We also talk to Ann Bancroft, a Polar explorer and educator who also has dyslexia, about why getting lost can be fun.Plus we’ll hear a new Mystery Sound and find out if mice actually do love cheese in our Moment of Um.This episode is sponsored by Sun Basket (sunbasket.com/brains), Old El Paso, and Panama City Beach (VisitPanamaCityBeach.com). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
How do elevators work?

How do elevators work?

2019-08-1300:42:437

Elevators are like magic. You walk in, the door shuts and when it opens again, you are suddenly someplace new! Ta da! But it’s not magic that does this trick, it’s science and engineering.In this episode we explain how elevators work and we talk about how they’ve changed over time. For instance, did you know the first elevators had no walls?We also speak with historian Lee Gray about two elevator innovators who both happen to be named Otis. Speaking of Otis, Vijay Jayachandran with the Otis Elevator company, joins us to drop some high level elevator facts. Plus, we hear your ideas for the elevators of the future! And listen to the end to our Moment of Um for an answer to this question: Why do crickets chirp?This episode is sponsored by Old El Paso, Sun Basket (sunbasket.com/brains), Panama City Beach (VisitPanamaCityBeach.com) and The Great Courses Plus (thegreatcoursesplus.com/brainson). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
Plastic: Why it's everywhere

Plastic: Why it's everywhere

2019-07-3000:43:1511

Human-made plastics are super useful -- they're lightweight, can be molded into anything, and they don’t break down. And because plastic is so versatile, we humans have found lots of uses for it. But the fact that it last forever means we find ourselves with a plastic problem. In this episode, we'll learn about the invention of plastic, how it's made and recycled and what you can do to help handle plastic waste. Plus: A very special appearance by Gungador, a tricky mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: "How do glow in the dark things glow?"One thing you can do now to help with plastic pollution is use Jenna Jambeck's Marine Debris Tracker to report where you're finding plastic in the environment.Today’s episode is sponsored by Old El Paso, Panama City Beach (VisitPanamaCityBeach.com) and Madison Reed (madison-reed.com and coupon code BRAINSON). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
Ants: Who's in charge here?

Ants: Who's in charge here?

2019-07-2300:40:418

We have a lot to learn from ants. This episode digs into the hierarchy of ant colonies (spoiler alert: there is none) and why they walk in a straight line (spoiler alert: they don’t). We’ll also find out about epic ant battles and how the study of ants is teaching us about how cancer spreads, how the internet can be improved, and could even give us new ways to explore Mars. Plus: Our Moment of Um answers the question: Why do the mountains look blue from far away? This episode is sponsored by Old El Paso, KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brainson), The Great Courses Plus,(thegreatcoursesplus.com/brainson), and Sun Basket (sunbasket.com/brains). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate.
Trees are the strong, silent type but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. In this episode we’ll explore how trees send each other messages above ground and below. Plus we’ll learn how a seed goes from a tiny sapling to a towering plant. We find out some fruit facts and hear an all new Mystery Sound. Oh, and our Moment of Um answers the question: why does the moon sometimes change color? This episode is sponsored by Discount Tire (discounttire.com) and Raddish, a cooking club for kids (RaddishKids.com/brains and coupon code BRAINS). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate.
Do insects see the world in slow motion? Do animals see the same rainbow we do? How do eagles see so far away? Our listeners have a lot of questions about the way animals see the world, and this episode tackles lots of them. We'll visit a lab where scientists are observing predatory insects to find out how their brains work, we'll drop in on the Eyes Open Wider support group for animals, and give you a catchy melody that will help you remember the electromagnetic spectrum -- that's all the light that's both visible and invisible to us. And our Moment of Um answers the question: Why are we lighter in a pool of water?Today’s episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus (thegreatcoursesplus.com/brainson) and KiwiCo (kiwico.com/BRAINSON). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
What wonders are hiding underground? Producer Marc Sanchez finds out what it’s like to explore one of the biggest networks of caves in the world — and scientists are still discovering unmapped branches. Marc will show us the wonders hidden underground at this national park in South Dakota and how tricky it can be to brave uncharted territory with only a headlamp to light the way. This episode is sponsored by Aunt Fannie’s (auntfannies.com/summer and coupon code BRAINS), Raddish (RaddishKids.com/brains and coupon code BRAINS), and Madison Reed (madison-reed.com and offer code BRAINSON). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
(This is the final installment in our series about feelings. Check out the first three if you haven't yet.) You know that feeling when you have butterflies in your stomach? Or maybe you get sweaty and hot? Or maybe you get fidgety and your heart beats really fast? Yeah, we know those feelings too. Today we're finding out why being anxious can make our bodies feel that way. We'll find out why fear has been really useful to our survival as a species and what you can do if that fear and anxiety is too much to handle. Plus: Mallika Chopra, the author of Just Breathe, shares a meditation to try when you're feeling nervous. And we'll finally get to hear Sanden's debut in the new Alpaca Jack musical, Fleece of Mind! Today’s episode is sponsored by New Cloud Control Cat Litter by Arm & Hammer, Aunt Fannie’s (auntfannies.com/summer and coupon code BRAINS), and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls the Podcast (rebelgirls.co/podcast). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
This is the third of our four-part series on feelings. Today we're learning why we all get angry and what to do with that emotion. We'll get in touch with our inner Super You Person and learn what physical reactions anger can trigger in our bodies. We'll also hear how our listeners describe their anger and talk to NPR reporter Michaeleen Doucleff about the different flavors of anger that people describe around the world. Plus: Mallika Chopra shares another meditation to try when you're feeling mad. For more on meditation and mindfulness, you can check out Mallika Chopra’s book for kids, Just Breathe. Today’s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (kiwico.com/brainson), Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls the Podcast (rebelgirls.co/podcast), New Cloud Control Cat Litter by Arm & Hammer, and Aunt Fannie’s (auntfannies.com/summer and coupon code BRAINS). You can support the show at brainson.org/donate
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Comments (96)

Jamie DeMott

my 5 yr old really enjoyed this episode!

Nov 13th
Reply (1)

Katie Berghoff

You guys hit a home run with this episode. My kids ask for it almost every day and have most of it memorized. They think the white blood cell konmari- ing the virus is so funny!

Nov 5th
Reply (1)

Grace Sharry-English

Love it!🙌

Nov 5th
Reply (1)

unforgettableadventures

Hello brains on I wonder why the sport is called Footeball if they do not use their feet thank you bye ☺️

Nov 4th
Reply

Marissa R.

hai

Nov 3rd
Reply

Rhoda Green

I love your podcast

Oct 31st
Reply

taravat jalalifarahani

could you please record more shows, i love your episodes. 😭

Oct 26th
Reply

Rose Trevino

let me be be on an episode called beatboxing

Oct 21st
Reply (1)

Rose Trevino

let me be on a show called beatboxing

Oct 21st
Reply

taravat jalalifarahani

please record more shows.

Oct 13th
Reply

Makayla Dastillon

Hi

Sep 28th
Reply

taravat jalalifarahani

hello, could you please record more show, I love your episodes, I wish if you had a new episode every day.

Sep 20th
Reply

Grace Sharry-English

Awesome!

Sep 11th
Reply

trisha philippeaux

???

Aug 23rd
Reply

Caitlin Drummond

I ❤ this podcast!!

Aug 7th
Reply

taravat jalalifarahani

hi. I love brains on. i'm not a child, but I always enjoy listening and learning from you. thank you so much!

Jul 18th
Reply (1)

Nolan the noob

🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

Jul 17th
Reply (3)

Hannah Stanford

cooooooooolest science show!

Jul 16th
Reply (1)

Hannah Stanford

coooooooledt

Jul 16th
Reply (1)

Benjamin Nation

you know. out of all the subs. you'd think people would comment more.

Jul 2nd
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