Brains On! Science podcast for kids

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


  • Chop: The science of cooking, pt. 3

    Jun 19 2018

    Our knives are drawn and ready to mince and dice our way through the science of chopping. In this episode we'll find out what happens to that carrot you're chopping on a molecular level (spoiler alert: the knife never actually touches it!). We also visit a knifemaker's studio and talk to Splendid Table host Francis Lam to get his chopping tips. This is the third in a five part series on the science of cooking, made in collaboration with America's Test Kitchen Kids. For more recipes and informati...more

  • Chill: The science of cooking, pt. 2

    Jun 12 2018

    From ice cubes to ice cream, cold things are a crucial part of cuisine. How do we use chill to our advantage? This is part two of our series on the science of cooking, a collaboration with the brilliant foodies at America's Test Kitchen Kids. This episode is (literally) super cool. We're figuring out how refrigerators work and why some of their parts are hot. We're traveling back in time to find out how selling ice became a very big business (for a while anyway). And we'll learn why ice cream ma...more

  • Heat: The science of cooking pt. 1

    Jun 06 2018

    We’ve teamed up with America’s Test Kitchen Kids to delve into the scrumptious science of cooking. You’ve sent in so many great cooking questions that we had to spread the answers over four episodes. This is our first installment: HEAT. What crazy chemical reactions does heat trigger in food? How do microwave ovens work -- and why can’t you put metal in them when they’re lined with metal? We’ll answer those questions, find out how feeding squirrels helped profoundly change how we prepare food an...more

  • Boogers and sun sneezes: Know your nose

    May 29 2018

    In this encore mash-up episode, we revisit some fascinating facts that will help you get to know your nose. Why does the sun make some people sneeze? And where do boogers come from anyway? Plus: A brand new moment of um answers the question: "Why do sloths move so slow?"

  • The wonderful weirdness of water

    May 22 2018

    One of the weirdest substances in the universe is right under your nose. No, not boogers. Water! Water seems ordinary, almost boring, but take a closer look and you’ll find a wonderfully weird molecule that behaves like nothing else in the universe. It can move up against gravity. It can absorb lots of heat energy without getting super hot. It can dissolve almost anything. It carves canyons and quenches our thirst. Why is water so weird, and why does that matter? Listen to find out! Today’s epi...more

  • Smash Boom Best: Bats vs. Owls (new show alert!)

    May 15 2018

    For the past few months, we’ve been working on a top secret project and we’re so excited we finally get to share it with you! It’s a new show called Smash Boom Best and it’s nothing but debates. Sort of like the ones you’ve heard on Brains On, but with a few new twists. It’s a little faster paced, a little sillier and we hope you’ll think it’s a lot of fun. Today: Wings out, eyes wide -- we’re swooping in on a battle between a perfect pair of creatures of the night. Which is cooler: Bats? Or ow...more

  • What was the first robot? And more from Robotstravaganza

    May 08 2018

    What was the first robot? What is artificial intelligence? How do robots "learn?" In this special episode, we have pieces from our live Robotstravaganza show in Boston. We meet some awesome robots (including one that's very cuddly), debate whether robots are good for humanity or bad, and find out what robots can learn from nature. Plus a mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question, "How do oysters make pearls?"

  • What's in your water?

    May 01 2018

    What’s in your water, and how did it get there? Clean water is a must, but modern living can put a lot of bad stuff in it. Road salt, fertilizer, dog doo-doo, heavy metals - how do these things get in our water? Why should we care? And how can we tell if our water is healthy? In this episode we hitch a ride on the water cycle with a pair of water drops. We learn about what caused the Flint water crisis. And we hear about one young girl’s award-winning idea for a faster way to test lead in water ...more

  • What makes paint stick?

    Apr 24 2018

    Paint goes on wet, then it dries — and it’s stuck there. But how does it stick? We’re going to zoom way in to find out. We’ll visit a forensic chemist, a painter who makes his own paint and a party happening at the molecular level.

  • Allergy Attack: How our bodies can overreact

    Apr 09 2018

    Pollen, peanuts, dust mites. These things aren't poisonous - so why do some people's bodies act like they are? In this episode, we'll find out what happens during an allergic reaction, explore why only some people have allergies and hear about new treatments. Plus: a brand new Moment of Um answers the question "Why do sunsets have so many colors?" and we'll read a new group of listeners to be added to the Brains Honor Roll! Brains On is sponsored today by Acer Swift 5 (visit acer.com, click on "...more

  • Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2018

    Apr 03 2018

    Sounds abound all around. Do you think your ears are up to the task? We have an episode chock full of nothing but mystery sounds to challenge and stretch your listening powers. Also, did you hear that the Brains On store is open? We couldn't be happier with the t-shirts and other goodies we have to offer. Have a look! brainson.org/shop Brains On is sponsored today by ButcherBox. Go to butcherbox.com/brainson and enter "BRAINSON" at checkout squarespace.com enter offer code BRAINSON

  • How do animals breathe underwater?

    Mar 26 2018

    Our lungs are great at getting oxygen out of the air, but if we needed to do that underwater, we'd be sunk. So how do fish, shrimp, jellyfish and other marine animals breathe underwater? And what happens when there is no oxygen in the water for them to breathe? We answer those questions plus a brand new Moment of Um tackles this sticky one: "Why do we have earwax?" And a new group of listeners gets inducted into the Brains Honor Roll! Give a listen! Today Brains On is sponsored by: • Acer Swift...more

  • 'The Rice Cakes and the Oni': A story from Circle Round

    Mar 20 2018

    Sometimes we're in the mood for a good story, so we're turning our show over to Circle Round this week. It's a podcast produced by WBUR in Boston that tells folktales from around the world. These stories are funny, surprising, suspenseful and downright charming. Here's one we think you'll dig. It stars a kid who loves making jokes, so you know it's up our alley. In the meantime, we're hard at work on some exciting new episodes -- including a brand new show. We'll be able to tell you more about i...more

  • Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human

    Mar 13 2018

    Circadian rhythms keep our bodies on schedule. But what about the rest of the animal and plant world? Turns out, most living things run on similar cycles. In this episode we take a look at why some animals hibernate. There’s also an interview with a plant. Wait, what?!? You read that right: A PLANT!!! All that and a trip back to pre-history, to see how staying up late might have helped mammals survive all those dinosaurs. Three-word hint: nocturnal bottleneck hypothesis.

  • From 8-bit to orchestras: How does video game music affect you?

    Mar 05 2018

    If you’ve ever played a video game, you know how important music can be when it comes to gaming. But what if you choose to play without music? How does that affect your playing? We’re going to dig into the psychology of video game music, explain how the interactivity of video game music works and figure out what “8-bit” means.

  • The tick-tock of our circadian clock

    Feb 27 2018

    The near 24-hour-cycle that keeps us on track is conducted by the suprachiasmatic nucleus. It’s a tiny part of our brains, but it’s super, super important.

  • ‘Is it opposite day?’ and other mind-bending paradoxes

    Feb 20 2018

    Think about it: the answer to the question “Is it opposite day?” will always be no. So how do you figure out if it is, in fact, opposite day?

  • Our 100th episode! What's the big deal?

    Feb 13 2018

    In this milestone of an episode, we ask why people seem to love the number 100 so much. We also learn some amazing tricks involving the number 100 and fan favorite Gungador goes from Most Epic Fighting Battle Realm to a much more challenging setting: high school.

  • Meet Sandy, the left-handed mutant snail

    Feb 06 2018

    For humans, being left-handed or right-handed can definitely affect the way we experience life. Usually, that mismatch is just a minor nuisance — but sometimes, sidedness can change the future of an entire species, as is the case for Sandy.

  • Dolphins vs. Octopuses: Showdown in the sea!

    Jan 30 2018

    Two of our planet’s most amazing animals go head to head in our latest debate.

  • Dogs: What's the secret of their sense of smell?

    Jan 23 2018

    If you’ve ever seen a dog, you know they like to sniff — the ground, people, each other’s butts. They like to smell just about everything. But why? We’re digging into the science of smell and how dogs are able to decode things we can’t even begin to imagine.

  • Mary Shelley and the science of Frankenstein

    Jan 16 2018

    As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication, we look at how Mary Shelley was inspired by science and how the lessons of the book still resonate with the scientific world today.

  • Super-size-asaurus: How did dinosaurs get so big?

    Jan 09 2018

    Ancient dinosaurs were some of the biggest creatures to ever stomp the Earth. But how and why did they get so giant? Was there more food to help them grow? Was the planet itself somehow different, allowing them to reach epic proportions? In this episode we talk to dino-experts Femke Holwerda and Brian Switek…

  • Mysteries of the universe: Expansion and gravity

    Jan 02 2018

    In this episode we ponder some big questions from Brains On listeners about the vastness of space.

  • The nerve! Electricity in our bodies

    Dec 26 2017

    Your body is making and using electricity all the time — but how do we do it? We’ll take a look at how bioelectricity helps our brain sends signals and our hearts pump blood. And we’ll learn about some amazing animals that use electricity in weird and wild ways.

  • Charged up! The science of batteries

    Dec 19 2017

    Batteries are everywhere — they’re in our phones, our computers, our cars, our toys. But how do they work? To find out, we talk to a scientist who’s making really big batteries to store renewable energy, another who’s working on really small ones to power our phones, and we play in a park with a dog.

  • High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet

    Dec 12 2017

    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.

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

    Dec 05 2017

    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?

  • Where did language come from?

    Nov 27 2017

    Is it possible to know about the origin of language without traveling back in time? And how do babies learn to speak?

  • Smash: When continents collide!

    Nov 21 2017

    How are mountains made? What causes an earthquake? How does hot lava come bubbling up? The answer in each case is…tectonic plates!

  • Curio: Flies on the bus

    Nov 14 2017

    A few weeks ago, we got two emails that were so similar and so intriguing we had no choice but to investigate.

  • What's smaller than an electron?

    Nov 07 2017

    The natural world can be broken down into atoms. And those atoms can be broken down even further. Will the discovery of smaller and smaller particles ever stop?

  • Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration

    Oct 30 2017

    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.

  • What is Down-syndrome?

    Oct 24 2017

    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.

  • Bonus: Kidcast sampler

    Oct 22 2017

    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 applepodcasts.com/kids

  • Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes

    Oct 17 2017

    The sea lamprey, with its concentric rows of sharp teeth, is part vampire and part alien invader. Would you let it suction to your arm? Reporter Dan Kraker did. Find out if he lived to tell about it.

  • Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?

    Oct 10 2017

    In this episode, we learn all about narwhals (what that tusk is for and how they’re connected to the myth of the unicorn) and the evolution of teeth (from scale-like nubbins to the versatile chompers we have today).

  • How do volcanoes erupt?

    Oct 02 2017

    There are all kinds of volcanoes all over the world, but how are they formed? And how do they erupt? To find out, we’ll travel to the center of the Earth, and we’ll meet a NASA robot that’s going on a very special volcano mission.

  • For crying out loud: All about tears

    Sep 26 2017

    It’s something so natural that we take it for granted — but when you think about it, it’s a little strange. Why does water come out of our eyes? And why does it happen when we’re happy? Or sad? Or scared? Or exhausted? In this episode we dive into our mysterious emotional tears, find out […]

  • Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space

    Sep 19 2017

    You know those beeps in old NASA recordings? They’re called Quindar tones. This episode explains them and talks to a couple musicians who incorporate archival, NASA recordings into their songs.

  • Mars: Our next home planet?

    Sep 12 2017

    In this episode we learn about Mars’ ancient past, meet an architect hoping to build cities there and we hear from Mars itself, thanks to the planet’s video blog, of course.

  • Thunder, lightning and tornadoes: Where do they come from?

    Sep 04 2017

    There are some basic ingredients to make thunderstorms and tornadoes. We’ll find out what they are – and how to observe these powerful and amazing storms safely.

  • Animal farts: A mighty wind

    Aug 29 2017

    Most animals fart. And some animals put those farts to work.

  • Sunburns: The why behind the ouch (and how to avoid them)

    Aug 15 2017

    To help us understand sunburns, we’re going deep into the skin to look at cells, molecules and electrons.

  • Everything you need to know before the solar eclipse

    Aug 01 2017

    On Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible on a path that crosses the U.S., from Oregon on the west coast to South Carolina on the east coast. In this episode, we cover all your eclipse essentials: What causes an eclipse? What happens during an eclipse? How do you safely view it? Spoiler alert: Don’t stare at the sun without special eyewear.

  • Deep Sea vs. Outer Space

    Jul 18 2017

    It’s time for the next Brains On debate! This intense matchup brings us to the depths of darkness, under the water and beyond our earth’s atmosphere. Who will prevail?

  • Fart Smarts: Understanding the gas we pass

    Jul 04 2017

    Is farting good for us? Where do farts come from? Why do only some make sounds? And what’s up with the smell? We tackle your questions about the gas we all pass in this episode.

  • Riding in the car: Motion sickness and optical illusions (Road trip pt. 5)

    Jun 30 2017

    Hosts Molly and Gabriella are locked out. No worries: Sanden and Bob to the rescue. While the duo drives a spare set of keys to our beloved hosts, they pass the time discussing science you might see (or feel) in a car.

  • Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road trip pt. 4)

    Jun 23 2017

    On the fourth leg of our road trip, we figure out where traffic comes from and what it would take to make it finally go away.

  • Monster trucks and car design (Road trip pt. 3)

    Jun 20 2017

    At the third stop on our road trip series, we coast in for a pit stop and check out car design. We find out how monster trucks are different than cars, how culture influences car design and what it’s like to make car into animated, talking movie stars.