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

Brains On!

From MPR News

A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.

Most Recent Episodes

What happens if you drop a feather in space?

In space, will a feather stay still? Fall down? Float away? Turns out, the answer depends on where you are! But one thing affects your feather no matter what: gravity! So Galileo is joining us all the way from the 1500s to fill us in on his theory about gravity. Then, we're heading to space, and dropping a feather in a few different places to see what happens. Listen closely for a listener-submitted mystery sound, and a moment of um that answers this question: If you pick a flower, fruit or vegetable, is it still alive or is it dead? This episode is sponsored by Flip and Mozi's Guide to How to be an Earthling. To support the show, head to Brainson.org/donate

The innies and outies of belly buttons

Today's episode is all about your belly button aka navel aka umbilicus. And not just your belly button — every single person you can think of has one. This means our listeners have LOTS of questions about them. We're going to tackle several of these fascinating navel-gazing questions like: is your belly button connected to your insides? Where does belly button fuzz come from? Why do some belly buttons stick out? And do cats and dogs have belly buttons? Plus, we have a tricky mystery sound for you to guess and a Moment of Um that answers the question: How do carrots grow if they don't have seeds? This episode was sponsored by: Indeed (indeed.com/brainson)

A guide to getting your COVID shot

Kids over 5 can now get a COVID vaccine in the U.S. We know a lot of you have been waiting for this day and lots of you have sent us questions about the vaccine since the pandemic started: like what's in the COVID vaccine? How does it work? How do scientists know it's safe? And even if the vaccine isn't available to you where you live yet, this episode will answer those questions — and there are some fun games you can play along with us! If you have more questions about how COVID, the vaccines or anything else, you can send them to us here. Plus we've got some tips for how to distract yourself if you're feeling nervous, and an original song designed to help you shake that arm after the shot so it doesn't get as sore. Dance those ouchies away! Also: Three (3!) mystery sounds and a Moment of Um that answers the question: How does concrete harden? Find the rest of our episodes about the coronavirus and COVID vaccines here. How do the mRNA vaccines work? And you can learn more about the vaccine trials for kids in this episode: Vaccines for kids and silver linings: Our second COVID summer by How effective are the COVID vaccines?

Shark teeth: The sharp bits of a squishy animal

In this episode, we're asking sharks to say "aaaah", and taking a close look at their chompers. We'll see how shark teeth grow, and what those teeth can teach us about sharks of the past. We'll also play a game of Jaws Jeopardy, and find out how sharks help keep the ocean helping with their super snacking. Stick around for a listener-submitted mystery sound and a Moment of Um: why does steam rise in the air? This episode was sponsored by: Shopify (shopify.com/brainson)

Spooky superstitions! Why we think 13 is bad luck

Just in time for spooky season, it's an episode all about superstitions! Do you avoid the number 13? Or maybe it's your lucky number, like Taylor Swift? In this episode we'll look at why we have such strong feelings toward 13, and we'll hear about other unlucky and lucky numbers around the world. Plus, Marc and Sanden will explain why our brains latch on to superstitions in the first place. Oh, and our favorite talking skeleton, Mr. Bonejangles, is back with a spine-tingling quiz! All that and a Moment of Um that answers the question: do cockroaches have hearts? This episode was sponsored by The Who, When, Wow! podcast (Who, When, Wow!)

Crystals: More than just shiny rocks

This episode shines a light on crystals, and they're sparkling right back at us! We'll zoom way in on a diamond to understand the structure that makes crystals special, and hear about some unexpected crystals, too (hint: chocolate chip cookies contain a few different crystals!). Then, we take a look at how crystals form and get their cool colors. Plus, Marc and Sanden hunt down a hoax about Mesoamerican crystal skulls. And! A mystery sound and a moment of um: why does sugar taste sweet? This episode was sponsored by: Indeed (indeed.com/brainson)

Squirrelsperience: Trying out squirrel skills

In many places, tree squirrels are extra busy these days. It's time for them to collect nuts to prepare for winter! So we're heading to a squirrel-themed adventure course and practicing a few of the skills they use to survive: gathering nuts, traveling in trees, and speaking like a squirrel. We'll also learn about how squirrels evolved, and hear about some of their surprising relatives. Plus, a mystery sound and a moment of um: what chemical in apples mixes with oxygen to turn brown? You can support the show at brainson.org/donate or check out our merch (including the Brains On book) at brainson.org/shop

The heroes we need to defeat the coronavirus

Eighteen months into our fight with this coronavirus, it may feel frustrating that we're still in this battle, but there are many reasons to feel hopeful. One reason is that we know a lot about this virus now and have plenty of tools to fight it. We meet the superheroes prepared to help us defeat the coronavirus: Sgt. Socially Distanced, the Masked Mentor, the Testmaster and the Vaxinator! Plus: Gilly, one half of the hit podcast Going Viral with Kara and Gilly, and a special guest explain what a virus variant is and how the delta variant is different from the original coronavirus. Also, journalist Sarah Zhang helps us understand how the pandemic could end. All that, plus a new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question "How do skunks spray their stink?"

How to conquer Garbage Mountain

After getting a firsthand look at the history of trash, we're having visions from garbage's present and future this week. Producer Kunsang Dorjee visits a landfill to see what happens to our trash after we throw it away, and producer Ruby Guthrie shows us how we can make less trash and dispose the trash we do make in ways that are better for the planet. Plus: we hear from a kid who helped her class produce almost no waste during the school year. And our Moment of Um answers the question: if ants like sweet things, why don't they attack beehives? This episode was sponsored by: Mathnasium (mathnasium.com)

The invention of trash

A pair of ghost shoes visit Molly with a message: it's time to think about garbage. They predict that Molly will be visited by three visions of garbage, one from the past, one from the present and one from the future. Today, Producer Sanden Totten takes us on a time traveling journey to see how we started making all this trash in the first place. Plus: the Moment of Um answers the question: Are yawns contagious to animals? Next week, we'll be back with a look at the present and future of garbage. This episode was sponsored by: Mathnasium (Mathnasium.com)