Brains On! A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.
Brains On!

Brains On!

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A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.More from Brains On! »

Most Recent Episodes

High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet

We use electricity all the time, but where exactly does it come from? How does it get to our homes? It's a fascinating journey that can start hundreds of miles from your outlet. We'll trace the path electricity takes from the power plant to your light bulb. We'll also learn what it's like without electricity and we'll hear about the rivalry between two great inventors, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

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

What makes your hair stand on end? Why does your skirt stick your tights? Why do you get zapped by electric shocks when you go to touch a doorknob? We answer those questions as we explore the science of static electricity. We'll also learn about the 18th-century parties where the goal was to shock, very literally, yourself and your loved ones. Plus: The first event in the first-ever Brains On Electric Games! It's a dramatic tennis match between Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Antoine Nollet.

Word don't fossilize: The origins of language (encore)

Where did language come from? Is it possible to know without traveling back in time? And how do babies learn to speak? In this episode we have the answers to those questions and we'll hear how the word "silly" has evolved over the last several hundred years. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers the question, "Why is blood red if it looks blue in your veins?" And you'll hear the latest group to be added to the Brains Honor Roll!

Smash: When continents collide!

How are mountains made? What causes an earthquake? How does hot lava come bubbling up? The answer in each case is... tectonic plates! These are giant, moving slabs of rock covering the Earth's surface. When they slide past or smash into each other it shakes the planet. But, they also helped shape the land we live on. Find out how they work with an extreme cooking demonstration (you'll never see peanut M&Ms the same way). Meet the scientist who thought long ago all the continents were smushed together in a super-continent (spoiler: he was right!). Plus an interview with a USGS scientist about what our planet might look like in a million years. All that plus a mystery sound and a Moment of Um about stinky breath. Listen up and rock on!

Curio: The flies on the bus

A few weeks ago, we got two emails that were so similar and so intriguing we had no choice but to investigate. They both basically asked this: Is a fly on a bus flying as fast as the bus is moving? Or is just hovering? And why doesn't it need a seatbelt? Turns out Einstein wondered about the same kind of things.

Smaller than small

Molecules make up everything around us and they are very, very small. But those molecules are made of atoms, which are even smaller. And then those atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons, which are even smaller. And protons are made up of even smaller particles called quarks. Quarks, like electrons, are fundamental particles, which means they can't be broken down into smaller parts. Or can they? In this episode we parse out the subatomic by talking with a physicist from Fermilab. We also hear how scientists' love for glass tubes aided in the discovery of electrons. Our Moment of Um tackles this puzzler: why is chocolate poisonous to dogs? All that and a smoking hot Mystery Sound.

Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration (Encore)

We all know what happens when you get a cut or scrape. You get a scab, you try not to pick at it, and then after a little while it heals. But what's really going on under that scab? What superpowers does our skin have to repair itself? And what about other animals like salamanders that can do some pretty extreme healing? We're going under the skin for this one. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers this question: "How do frogs' tongues stretch so far?" And listen for a new Brains Honor Roll!

What is Down syndrome?

You may have heard of Down syndrome, but what is it exactly? In this episode, we'll break down the science of chromosomes and how having an extra one leads to this fairly common condition. Plus, we'll learn some tips for making friends with someone who might seem different than you. We'll also swing by a farm staffed by ranchers with Down syndrome. And in our Moment of Um we'll find out why eggs go from clear to white when cooked.

Bonus: Kidcast sampler

Looking for more awesome podcasts to listen to? We're bringing you a special bonus episode today to let you know about some of the other podcasts that you might want to check out. And if you want to find lots of other podcasts for kids you can always head to

Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes

Creepy crawly insects and creatures with big teeth and bigger roars can be scary. In preparation for Halloween, here's a tale of one of the scariest creatures around: the sea lamprey. At about 3-4 feet long, the lamprey slithers through the water like an eel and uses concentric circles of sharp teeth to suction onto its prey. As if that weren't enough, it then pokes its tongue into its victim and sucks the life out of it. Part vampire, part alien invader, the sea lamprey originally thrived in the Atlantic Ocean. In the early 1900s we forged a path for sea lamprey to swim into the Great Lakes (silly humans). Since fish in the Great Lakes did not evolve with the lamprey, they were not prepared for the attacks. Lampreys have annihilated lake trout and other fish in the Great Lakes — one can eat up to 40 pounds during its lifespan. How far would you go to stop this invasive species? How about turning the tables and dining on lamprey and pasta? That is one possible solution and conservationists are working on more. Take a listen!

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