Totally Spiced Out! What in the world makes chili peppers hot? How in the world do we measure their spiciness? And where in the world are kids least likely to get spiced out? Get ready to be SPICED OUT with Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz in our hottest episode of Wow in the World yet!
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Totally Spiced Out!

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Totally Spiced Out!

Totally Spiced Out!

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Hey, Wowzer fams, before we start the show, we have some exciting announcements to make, so you better sit down.


First up - just in time for gift giving, parents, we now have an online store. It's located at And there you can find tons of WOW IN THE WORLD goodies and gear.

THOMAS: We've got WOW WITH THE WORLD T-shirts. We've got adventure journals. We've got buttons for backpacks, stickers, water bottles, magnets. You name it, we got it. It's bonkerballs (ph).

RAZ: And in even bigger news - drumroll, please.

THOMAS: Ooh, hang on. Let me find my drum.


THOMAS: Found it.


RAZ: OK, OK, that's enough of that, Mindy. Were excited to announce that we've officially formed the World Organization of Wowzers.

THOMAS: Yes, the World Organization of Wowzers is for curious kids with wild imaginations and a keen sense of adventure.

RAZ: And there are some pretty big perks to joining the WOW, like an exclusive, members-only T-shirt.

THOMAS: ...WOW-defying magnifying goggles and autographed pictures of us. I don't even have one of those.

RAZ: ...And lots more pretty cool stuff to share with the other curious and creative kids in your world.

THOMAS: Grown-ups, to learn more about the World Organization of Wowzers or to check out our new online store, visit That's

RAZ: Reggie's been hard at work getting it up and running, and we think you're going to really love what you find.

THOMAS: And thank you so much for continuing to spread the WOW all year long.


THE POP UPS: Stay seated. Three, two one - ignition.

Get ready for an adventure of magnificent proportion.

(Singing) I don't know what you've been told, but we're in a golden age - so many discoveries that are jumping off the page. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

With Guy and Mindy.

We're on our way, Houston.


RAZ: Hang on, I'll be right there.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, hurry up. We're going to be late for the Super Bowl of Spice Smackdown.

RAZ: Oh, oh, hi, Min...

THOMAS: Are you ready yet?

RAZ: Whoa, Mindy, what are you wearing?

THOMAS: Oh, isn't it awesome? It's my Red Hot Silly Peppers T-shirt, and I made it just for this occasion.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: Oh, and here. I made one for you, too, only yours says - ta-da.

RAZ: Spice spice baby - Mindy, I'm not...

THOMAS: And I got us both a pair of shiny spandex tights that will make our legs look like a bunch of banana peppers.

RAZ: Uh, no.

THOMAS: And last but not least, try this baby on for size.

RAZ: A hat shaped like a giant chili pepper?

THOMAS: Come on, where's your spicy spirit, man?

RAZ: OK, but just be careful with my hair. I had to wax it down extra tight this morning.

THOMAS: Just going to shove your head into this hat here. Man, it's a tight squeeze. There. That's never coming up because I glued it.

RAZ: What?

THOMAS: Now you look like a party pepper.

RAZ: I think it's squeezing my brain.

THOMAS: Oh, that's OK. It'll bounce back.

RAZ: What?

THOMAS: (Yelling) Reggie.


THOMAS: Reggie, we need you to take us to the Super Bowl of Spice Smackdown.

RAZ: You know, on second thought, why don't we just hang out here and organize my collection of...

THOMAS: Hold on to your hot tamales, Guy Raz, because here we go.


RAZ: Whoa, did you see that?

THOMAS: Man...

RAZ: There were actual flames coming out of Reggie's talons.

THOMAS: Reggie bringing the heat - think that means he landed us in the right place.


RAZ: Where are we?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, look over there.

RAZ: Wow. What's that? It looks like a giant, stadium-sized bowl of chili with steam coming off the top.

THOMAS: Oh, that's because it is a giant, stadium-sized bowl of chili with steam coming off the top.

RAZ: What in the...

THOMAS: Guy Raz, welcome to the Super Bowl of Spice Smackdown World Championship Faceoff. You know, my Grandma G-Force (ph) used to take me here when I was a baby. In fact, she was once crowned world champion. But then she burned her tongue, and she never competed again.

RAZ: Oh, well, that's kind of sad, I guess. So what exactly is this thing?

THOMAS: Oh, so it's when all of the hottest peppers from all over the world come together and try to spice out human opponents.

RAZ: So kind of like a professional wrestling match except with peppers.

THOMAS: Well, yeah, sort of - I mean, peppers and people. Come on, let's go inside so you can see for yourself.



THOMAS: Whoa...

RAZ: What in the...

THOMAS: Check it out.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, we have the 2013 Guinness World Record winner, the Carolina Reaper.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) And in this corner, the self-proclaimed world's hottest - Grandma G-Force.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As Grandma G-Force) Hot and then spicy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, get up, Grandmama (ph).

THOMAS: Whoa, is that...

RAZ: Mindy, Mindy, that's your Grandma G-Force.

THOMAS: I guess her tongue must have finally healed after all these years.

RAZ: Years?

THOMAS: (Yelling) Go Grandma G-Force. You show that Carolina Reaper who's boss.


RAZ: Mindy, look. She's circling that pepper like she's about to go in for the kill.

THOMAS: Oh, man, Guy Raz. You know, just a few years ago, the Carolina Reaper, a cross between a ghost pepper and a Red Savina habanero, was the hottest chili pepper in the whole world, coming in at a peak of 2.2 million SHU.

RAZ: Wait, SHU, 2.2 million - what are you talking about?

THOMAS: Oh, so SHU stands for Scoville heat units.

RAZ: Ah, of course, named after Wilbur Scoville, the American pharmacist who came up with the Scoville heat scale.

THOMAS: Wait, you know about the Scoville heat scale?

RAZ: Well, would I be wearing a spice spice baby T-shirt with elbow patches if I didn't?

THOMAS: Elbow patches on your T-shirt - wait...

RAZ: Mindy, Wilbur Scoville created the Scoville scale as a way to measure the heat or spiciness of a hot chili pepper.

THOMAS: Right. And speaking of hot peppers, did you know that peppers are actually a fruit?

RAZ: I have always thought of them as vegetables.

THOMAS: Well, not all fruits are sweet, Guy Raz. There are a bunch of fruits that we normally think of as veggies, like tomatoes, and eggplants and even cucumbers.

RAZ: Wait, cucumbers are fruits too?

THOMAS: Technically and botanically speaking, yes.

RAZ: Of course, it's the seeds.

THOMAS: Well, yeah, that and the fact that they all come from flowering plants.

RAZ: Huh. You know, as strange as it seems, Mindy, it makes total sense. I guess I just tend to think of fruits as more sweet than spicy.

THOMAS: So you're saying that you would not dump slices of jalapeno peppers on your oatmeal in the morning.

RAZ: No.

THOMAS: You sure? It'd give you a little kick to start your day.

RAZ: I'm pretty sure, Mindy.

THOMAS: Man...

RAZ: So you were saying about the Scoville scale...

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. So as you were saying, the Scoville scale is a measure of the hotness of a pepper and other spicy foods, and it ranges from zero to 16 million Scoville heat units.

RAZ: But how exactly does it work?

THOMAS: Well, first, I should start by saying that chili peppers contain something called capsaicin, and capsaicin is this colorless, odorless, oil-like chemical compound.

RAZ: Interesting.

THOMAS: I mean, basically, capsaicin is the stuff in the pepper that makes your mouth feel like it's on fire after you eat a really hot one.

RAZ: And so I'm guessing that to figure out where a pepper falls on the Scoville heat scale, a scientist would have to squeeze out some of that oil-like capsaicin from a pepper.

THOMAS: Yup. And back in the day, scientists would mix that capsaicin with a little bit of sugar water, and then they would hand it to a professional taste tester to take a sip to see if it still had its hotness. And if it did, they would keep adding more and more sugar water until the taste tester could no longer taste the heat.

RAZ: So they would water down the capsaicin, or the stuff that makes peppers hot, until it was no longer detectable.

THOMAS: Exacto-ritos (ph), Guy Raz. It's called diluting, which is a scientific term that means watering something down, kind of like what you do to my orange juice when you pour me a tiny bit and fill the rest of the glass with water when you think I'm not looking.

RAZ: Mindy, I dilute your orange juice with water because there's so much sugar in a 24-ounce glass of just orange juice.

THOMAS: I know there is, Guy Raz. That's what makes it so delicious.

RAZ: OK, back to the Scoville scale.

THOMAS: Right. So the amount of dilution, or the amount of sugar water it takes to snuff out the heat of a pepper's capsaicin, is what gives the pepper its rating or measure on the Scoville heat scale. So for example, if a taste tester can no longer taste the heat after one cup, it might be a pretty mild pepper. But if it took, say, 100 cups of sugar water to kill the heat, then you might be dealing with a crazy-hot pepper.

RAZ: Yeah, and about those professional taste testers you mentioned...


RAZ: Well, it seems like what might be spicy to one person might not be so spicy to another. I mean, how do you get an accurate rating if all human tongues taste things differently?

THOMAS: Yeah, so that was actually one problem with the original Scoville scale. So ever since the 1980s, scientists have left the spice measuring to a fancy machine instead of relying on other people's tongues.

RAZ: OK, so just to get an idea of where a pepper would fall on the Scoville scale, let's take sweet pepper, for instance.

THOMAS: OK, so a sweet pepper, hence the name, contains almost no capsaicin at all, which means that it rates in a big, fat zero on the Scoville scale. Here, watch me take a bite.


THOMAS: See? No heat at all.

RAZ: And what about a jalapeno pepper? I mean, those are pretty hot.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, jalapeno peppers, which I dump all over my nachos and pancakes, rates in at 2,500-8,000 Scoville heat units.

RAZ: Ah.

THOMAS: Here, watch me take a bite.

RAZ: Wait.


THOMAS: Hot - hand me the milk. Hand me the milk. (Gagging). I'm breathing fire.


RAZ: OK, so if a sweet pepper is a wimpy zero and a jalapeno pepper can reach up to 8,000, what about something that's record-breaking hot, like, say, the Carolina Reaper that your Grandma G-Force is about to take on in the wrestling ring?

THOMAS: Oh, man. Look at her. She's circling the pepper. She's got her milk ready. It's not going to be long now before she makes her move.

RAZ: Mindy, you mentioned earlier that this pepper had a rating of up to 2.2 million Scoville heat units.

THOMAS: Yup. Oh, man, it would take a lot of sugar water to dilute all of that capsaicin heat. What we're looking at right now is one of the hottest peppers in the universe.

RAZ: That's a menacing-looking pepper. It's bright red and wrinkly textured - pointy little stingerlike tail...

THOMAS: I know. I'm getting kind of worried that maybe Grandma G-Force has finally met her match.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) And now Grandma G-Force, 1949 Super Bowl Spice Smackdown world champion, has pulled out her knife and fork.


RAZ: I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous.

THOMAS: Guy Raz, Guy Raz, Guy Raz, calm down. The Carolina Reaper is a hot pepper, but Grandma G-Force - she's a tough cookie.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) She's putting on her bib. She's going for it. Her knife is hitting the pepper. She's cutting its head off.

RAZ: It has a head?

THOMAS: I think he means the stem.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) She stabs it with her fork.

RAZ: Poor little Carolina Reaper.

THOMAS: What? It's food, Guy Raz. You're supposed to stab it with a fork.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) She brings the pepper up to her mouth.

RAZ: Did your grandma have her teeth sharpened for this?

THOMAS: Nah, those vampire fangs run in our family. See? (Hissing).

RAZ: (Yelling).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) And it's in. It's in. G-force chews up the Carolina Reaper and spits it out.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As Grandma G-Force) Boo-yeah (ph).

RAZ: I can't look. I can't look. Mindy, what's happening?

THOMAS: Yes, Grandma G-Force, I knew you could do it - the original spice girl, woo (ph).

RAZ: Is it over?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) The referees are handing her antacids, and she is refusing. I've never seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As Grandma G-Force) Did I win a million dollars?

THOMAS: Oh, man, I am so spiced out right now, Guy Raz. I can't believe she did it.

RAZ: Wow, your Grandma G-Force is really incredible, Mindy.

THOMAS: I know, right? Oh, man, that was intense. OK, you ready for round two?

RAZ: Wait, there's more?


RAZ: Is she going to shoot herself from a cannon or something?

THOMAS: What? No. They don't do that until they crown a new champion at the end.

RAZ: Oh, right.

THOMAS: And the reigning world champion is up now. His name is Peter Piper.

RAZ: Huh. Why do I think I know that name?

THOMAS: Well, the rumor is that Peter Piper once picked a peck of pickled peppers.

RAZ: Yeah, yeah, I know the back story. Wait, he's here?

THOMAS: In the flesh. Oh, look, he's coming out of the ring now.

RAZ: Wow. He's so much bigger than Mother Goose made him out to be.

THOMAS: Wait, shh, listen. He's up.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) Next up - reigning world champion Peter Piper will pick a peck of Pepper X.

THOMAS: Wait, did he just say Pepper X?

RAZ: Yeah, it says right here on the program - a peck of Pepper X Peter Piper pick...

THOMAS: Guy Raz, do you know anything about Pepper X?

RAZ: That it's a pepper looking for a name?

THOMAS: Pepper X is a brand-new pepper developed by a guy named Smokin' Ed Currie.

RAZ: Wait...

THOMAS: ...The same guy who developed the Carolina Reaper and took it to Guinness World Record stardom in 2013.

RAZ: And I'm almost afraid to ask, but how hot is Pepper X?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, hold on to your habaneros because this pepper is so hot and spicy, it makes the Carolina Reaper look like baby food.

RAZ: And just to be clear, you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever feed a hot pepper to a baby or to me.

THOMAS: Wait, are you a baby?

RAZ: What?

THOMAS: Never mind. Guy Raz, on the Scoville heat scale, the Carolina Reaper can reach up to 2.2 million units.

RAZ: Yeah.

THOMAS: And another pepper called the "Dragon's Breath" chili, which was accidentally invented earlier this year by a farmer in the country Wales - that pepper came in at 2.5 million units.

RAZ: Whoa.

THOMAS: And now Pepper X, the latest, most blisteringly hot pepper known to man, rates in at...

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: Wait for it.


THOMAS: Wait for it.


THOMAS: Wait for it.

RAZ: OK. I can't wait anymore.

THOMAS: OK - 3.18 million Scoville heat units.

RAZ: (Yelling) Wha - ouch, ow, ow, wow.

THOMAS: What in the - Guy Raz, did you just eat one that I'm not aware of?

RAZ: Wow, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.

THOMAS: What is happening?

RAZ: (Vocalizing).

THOMAS: Guy Raz, are you sweating?

RAZ: No. No. I'm just imagining what that would feel like on my tongue and sliding down my esophagus. Aaahhh (ph).

THOMAS: Well, pull yourself together, man.

RAZ: Mindy, I just don't understand how anyone would eat something that hot and spicy.

THOMAS: OK. So here's the deal. In our mouths and our throats and even our eyes, we all have these teeny, tiny capsaicin-detecting spice detectors, right?

RAZ: Yeah.

THOMAS: And when we eat something spicy, it's their job to send a message up to our brains to let our brains know that we have just been properly spiced out.

RAZ: So this must be why our mouths feel that tingly, burning sensation or our eyes start to water.

THOMAS: Exact-oritos (ph). And some people are born with more or less of these capsaicin receptors than others. They're just born that way.

RAZ: So people with less spice receptors may not experience the hot sensation in spicy foods the way that others, like me, would.

THOMAS: You got it. In fact, some researchers from the University of the Helsinki in Finland conducted an experiment with a bunch of twins. And from that experiment, they were able to figure out that genes play a big role in how much spice we can handle.

RAZ: So genes - we were just talking about that, weren't we? The teeny, microscopic bits inside of us that were passed down from our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents and great-great-great-great-great-grandparents and great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.

THOMAS: Yeah. I think you got it. So basically, if, say, your mom likes spicy food, then you could be more likely to like it, too, as you get older, even if you don't now.

RAZ: But if your mom is easily spiced out by even the wimpiest pepper in the world...

THOMAS: Oh, then there's probably no hope for you. Pack your bags and don't let the door hit you on the way out of this spicy smackdown.

RAZ: Ouch.

THOMAS: Hey, I didn't make up the genetic code, Guy Raz.

RAZ: Well, but what about other countries and cultures? Like, I have a friend from Chile in South America. And even though the country is called Chile, they don't really eat spicy foods. But then I have a friend from India who's been eating hot chilies since he was a little kid. So liking spicy food can't just be about our genes, can it?

THOMAS: Well, yeah. And that's not at all surprising. I mean, in some parts of the world, like India and Mexico, people are used to eating spicy food as a regular part of their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

RAZ: That's fascinating. I mean, that would suggest that people can develop or build a tolerance or the ability to handle very, very spicy food, depending on the kind of foods they ate in their countries.

THOMAS: You got it. Oh, wow. Look. It looks like Peter Piper is up. Man, if he successfully crushes this Pepper X, he'll be crowned the world champion two years in a row.

RAZ: And what happens if he doesn't?

THOMAS: And if he doesn't, well, looks like Grandma G-Force might be toning up for a little victory dance.

RAZ: I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous.

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous.

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous.

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous.

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: Ouch.

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: What?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) Ladies and gentlemen, stepping into the ring is Peter Piper in a faceoff against the one, the only Pepper X, rating in at a whopping 3.18 on the Scoville scale.

RAZ: I can't look.

THOMAS: I can't look away.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) Peter Piper, wearing his pickled pants, circles the infamous Pepper X. He's clearly got his eye on the prize.

RAZ: It is hot in here, or is it just me?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) Peter Piper - he picks up the pepper. He places it into his mouth. He bites down.

THOMAS: Look at him. His hands are flapping. His face is turning red. He's sweating through his pickled-pepper pants.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) In order for Peter Piper to win this championship, he must hold on to this pepper for three more seconds. Three, two - and he spits out the pepper. Oh. G-Force is officially this year's Super Bowl of Spice world champion.

RAZ: She's won? Your Grandma G-Force won?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As Grandma G-Force) If you can't stand the heat, then give me the pepper.

THOMAS: Oh, no. She's going to bite into the Pepper X.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) And what's this? A turn of events, it seems. G-Force now attempting to take on the blistering hot Pepper X.

RAZ: Mindy, this is crazy.

THOMAS: Oh, my goodness. She's doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Announcer) She chews. She swallows. She breathes fire?

GUY RAZ AND MINDY THOMAS: She's breathing fire?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As Grandma G-Force, laughter). Where's my golden tiara?

RAZ: Wow, Mindy. You know, knowing that your genes were passed down from Grandma G-Force, you know, you might be just like her in the future, accepting the title one day soon.

THOMAS: Wow. I guess I never really even considered it. You think I've really got it in me?

RAZ: Oh, yes, I do. But first, we have to get you on a strict training regime. Start with a simple bell pepper, then work your way up to a...

THOMAS: Oh, boy.

RAZ: Not to be jalapeno business...

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: ...But how do you like your chicken wings?

THOMAS: Guy Raz.

RAZ: Mild, medium or hot?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: WOW IN THE WORLD will be right back. Grown-ups, this message is for you.

That's it. Back to the show.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world.


THOMAS: Thanks for calling WOW IN THE WORLD. After the beep, get ready to record.


ADELAIDE: Hi. My name is Adelaide (ph). And I am from Cleveland, Ohio. And I'm 7 years old. And my wow in the world is that if you don't mow your grass, it can turn into tall grass. It can turn into a whole forest.


AISHA: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name's Aisha (ph). And I am 8 years old. And I love your show. I live in Kenya. And my wow in the world is that the equator passes through Kenya. Bye, Mindy and Guy Raz.


LUCIA: Hello, Mindy. Hello, Guy Raz. My name is Lucia (ph). And I live in Chicago. My wow in the world is that I dug up a sweet potato in my Mimi's garden.


ELLIOT: Hi. My name is Elliot (ph). I'm 8 years old. And I live in Kaukauna, Wis. My wow in the world is cats. No matter how high they jump from, they always land on their feet. Thanks. I love your show.


HARPER: Hi. I'm Harper Thomas (ph). And I'm 7.

MARVA: I'm Marva (ph), and I'm 4.

HARPER: My sister's Marva, and she's 4. Our wow in the world are pangolins. That's pangolins. Their scales are made out of keratin, just like our fingernails. Their scales can cut a lion. And they're endangered. Love your show.


ELLA: Hi. My name is Ella. I'm 8 years old. I live in Florida and my wow in the world is space because I could discover new planets. You never know what's out there. Bye. I love your show.


LILLY: Hi, Mindy, Guy Raz. This is Lilly (ph) from (unintelligible) in America. And my wow in the world is that pandas eat a lot of bamboo in one day. Bye, Mindy and Guy Raz.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: End of messages.

THOMAS: Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this week on WOW IN THE WORLD.

RAZ: And if you want to keep the conversation going, check out some of the questions we've posted on this episode on our website

THOMAS: And grown-ups, there you can find more details on how your kids can become part of the World Organization of Wowzers. Lots of cool perks - exclusive T-shirts, autographed pictures of us and a bunch of other cool stuff -

RAZ: Our show is produced by Jed Anderson...

THOMAS: Say hello, Jed.


RAZ: ...With help from Thomas Van Calkin (ph), Chelsea Ursin and Jessica Bodie (ph). Meredith Halpern-Ranzer is the big boss.

THOMAS: Our theme song was composed and performed by The Pop Ups. You can find more of their awesome, all-ages music at

RAZ: And parents and teachers, If you want to send us an email, our address is

THOMAS: Grown-ups, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @wowintheworld.

RAZ: And if you want to be featured at the end of the show, call us up and tell us your wow in the world.

THOMAS: Our phone number is 1-888-7-WOWWOW. That's 1-888-7-WOWWOW.

RAZ: And parents, if you want to upload any photos or videos or messages to us, please visit and find a link where you can do just that.

THOMAS: And if you haven't already done so please, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or however you get your podcasts. Leave us a few stars and a review and be sure to tell a friend about the show. Until next time, keep on wowing.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: WOW IN THE WORLD was made by Tinkercast and sent to you by NPR.

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