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Brains On! Science podcast for kids - Raaga.com - A World of Music
Brains On! Science podcast for kids

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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
169 Episodes Play All Episodes
access_time3 days ago
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!
access_time10 days ago
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.
access_time17 days ago
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.
access_time24 days ago
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!
access_time1 month ago
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.
access_time1 month ago
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
access_time1 month ago
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!
access_time1 month ago
Narwhals are whales, and super cool ones at that. But that cool thing coming out of their heads is a tusk, not a horn. Which means it's a tooth! And it's the only known spiral tooth to boot! 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). Plus our Moment of Um explores whether or not water has a taste.
access_time2 months ago
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 went on a very special volcano mission. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers how ballet dancers stand on their toes and we read the latest list of names to be added to the Brains Honor Roll.
access_time2 months ago
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 why onions make us cry (and how to stop it), and hear about the eye-protecting trio of tears that makes Eyetropolis a safer place. Plus: Our Moment of Um explores why we sweat when we're nervous.
access_time2 months ago
If you've ever heard an old recording of a NASA space mission, then you've heard a Quindar tone. Those are the beeps that we hear behind the voices of mission control and astronauts orbiting space. Today we find out why these tones exist and how they've inspired a couple modern-day musicians. This episode is the inaugural Brains On Curio - a shorter episode that we're adding to our weekly feed. Today's Curio features Mikael Jorgensen and James Merle Thomas, of the band Quindar. Listen in as they embrace some lesser-known historical NASA audio and turn it into music. Plus: a story from space that shows just how smart spiders are. For more information about Quindar (the band), check out their website quindar.net.
access_time2 months ago
Would you like retire to Mars? It may be possible in the not-so-distant future. Mars is more Earth-like than any other planet in our solar system. In fact, billions of years ago it was warmer and wetter and life may have developed there. Scientists are trying to figure out why it changed and if we could change it back so humans could live there. In this episode you'll learn about Mars' ancient past, you'll meet an architect hoping to build cities there and you'll hear from Mars itself, thanks to the planet's video blog, of course. Plus: In our Moment of Um we answer this question: "Why is money valuable? It's just paper.
access_time3 months ago
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. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um will tackle the question, "How do zippers work?
access_time3 months ago
Just like humans, most animals have to fart. Some use their gas as a warning to predators, while others use it to dive in the water. And beware, there is a real-life killer fart out there. It gives a whole new meaning to silent but deadly. With help from zoologists Dani Raibiotti and Nick Caruso, who have compiled the "Does it Fart" database, we'll explore the hows, whys and why-nots of animal farts. And we've got a brand new song from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band all about, you guessed it, animal farts. This episode is truly a gas!
access_time3 months ago
We're taking a look at skin cells, and molecules and electrons to understand how the sun causes our skin to burn. And we explore the different ways to prevent burning in the first place. Plus, in our "moment of um" we tackle this question: What is the farthest that a human can see?
access_time4 months ago
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. Please don't. Really. Nope. Don't do it. All that plus a mystery sound and our Moment of Um: Why are bugs attracted to light?
access_time4 months ago
It's time for the next Brains On debate! Our listeners sent in over 100 possible matchups and we whittled the list down to ten. You voted and chose this intense matchup from the depths of darkness, under the water and beyond our earth's atmosphere. Who will prevail? This epic episode includes three rounds of heated debate, two mystery sounds, and one winner. Make your own scorecard and then share your opinion with us at brainson.org.
access_time4 months ago
It's time for the next Brains On debate! Our listeners sent in over 100 possible matchups and we whittled the list down to ten. You voted and chose this intense matchup from the depths of darkness, under the water and beyond our earth's atmosphere. Who will prevail? This epic episode includes three rounds of heated debate, two mystery sounds, and one winner. Make your own scorecard and then share your opinion with us at brainson.org.
access_time5 months ago
Just in time for fireworks, we're bringing back one of our most-requested episodes. It's a blast from the past encore show. Enjoy! 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 - plus the mystery sound (it's not what you thing)!
access_time5 months ago
In the final leg of our road trip, we explore what happens to our bodies when we travel in cars. Why do some people feel queasy during the ride? Why do cars far away look like they're moving slower than they actually are? Why do roller coasters feel faster than cars? And how do seat belts keep us safe? Bob and Sanden take an epic drive in search for answers and popsicle sticks.
access_time5 months ago
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. We learn how far back in history traffic jams were happening (spoiler: very far) and how "phantom jams" occur. We visit a room deep underground Los Angeles, the traffic capital of the US, where engineers are trying to ease the city's traffic woes by synchronizing traffic lights. Finally, we explore how, if ever, we can make traffic jams disappear. Are self-driving cars the answer?
access_time5 months ago
From the headlights to door locks, cars are obsessively designed. But that hasn't always been the case. Find out about innovations like windshield wipers, rearview mirrors and fancy paint. Ralph Gilles knows a thing or two about the look and feel of cars. He's the head of design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Designing for cars off the road brings us two guests: Rosalee Ramer and Jay Shuster. Rosalee started professionally driving her monster truck at age 14 -- she's 20 now, and has added a full load of mechanical engineering classes to her monster truck schedule. Jay Shuster has imagined some of the most iconic cars ever. Too bad we'll never get to ride in them. He's the production designer for Pixar's "Cars 3," and he gives us some insight into designing a universe of talking cars.
access_time5 months ago
In this episode, we're answering a question from listener Katelynn: "Why is car exhaust bad for the planet?" Our planet NEEDS some carbon dioxide, but cars are pumping more into the atmosphere than our carbon cycle can handle. We'll explore what all this carbon means for our planet. And we talk to Anne Co, a scientist who is working to change how we fuel our cars, so we can cut back on all this carbon dioxide. She explains how fuel cells and batteries work to power electric cars. Anne's vision for the future of cars can be summed up in one word: electric.
access_time6 months ago
On the first leg of our road trip, we'll explore the history of engines and how they work, with a little help from Car Talk's Ray Magliozzi. The fundamentals of the internal combustion (or exploding) engine, haven't really changed since it was first invented in the 1800s. We'll find out how tiny explosions power our cars and hear how gas-powered cars came to dominate over electric and steam-powered engines.
access_time6 months ago
Regular listeners of Brains On know all about our mystery sounds. Every episode we test your ears with some puzzling noise and give you a chance to guess what it is. There are so many great mystery sounds in the world -- and many, many of them have been sent to us by our listeners. So many, in fact, that we decided to devote an entire episode to these magical, magnificent, mellifluous mystery sounds. There are a whopping 10 sounds for you to guess in this episode. Are your ears up to the challenge? If you're the kind of person that likes a little friendly competition, make a score sheet with your answers. We'd love to see which ones you got and, better yet, what you guessed for the ones you got wrong. Upload pics of your scoresheet with #BrainsOn. Happy guessing!
access_time6 months ago
What happens in your head when you read? Short answer: A LOT. From recognizing shapes as letters and words to discovery of empathy and new worlds, our brains really get a workout when we read books. Ben Bergen drops by to shed some light on how our brain processes the meaning of words. He runs the Language and Cognition Lab at UC San Diego. We're also take a trip back to see how printing books has evolved and how the invention of the printing press brought worldwide change. And Author Kelly Barnhill shares a little of what's going on in her brain as she's writing a story. All this and one of the best Mystery Sounds we've had to date.
access_time7 months ago
Homemade slime is sticky, gooey and all the rage, but what is it? When you combine ingredients like glue and laundry detergent you get a strange, flubbery substance. We'll explain what's happening on a molecular level to make this stuff. We'll also hear theories on why so many of us are obsessed with slime. Plus, a brand new slime rap, a mystery sound and some cool facts about snakes.
access_time7 months ago
What was the first lifeform like? What was very first 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.
access_time8 months ago
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.
access_time8 months ago
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!
access_time9 months ago
What if the color that you call blue and the color I call blue don't look the same at all? When our brains see color, we're really just seeing waves of light. Sure, we may be seeing the same waves when we look at the color blue, but do we know if our brains are interpreting those waves in the same way? Maybe my blue is your orange! We talk to a scientist about this mystery and go ringside to find out how rods and cones help us see.
access_time10 months ago
Why do cat eyes look the way they do? Can cats really see in the dark? And what are they trying to tell us with that purr (you know the one)? We've got the answers -- cat behavior expert Mikel Delgado help us decode cat quirks and producer Sanden Totten teaches us what's behind cats' glowing eyes. Plus: We learn about other cool powers that animal eyes have, that ours don't.
access_time10 months ago
Fossil dating is a lot like eating a delicious ice cream cake. Well, sort of. We find out how scientists look at the rock and elements AROUND a fossil to figure out its age. Plus: We talk to a scientist who studied one of the coolest fossils discovered recently: a dinosaur tail trapped in amber, complete with feathers!
access_time11 months ago
We don't know much about the long life of a sea turtle, since it's mostly spent in the ocean. When they do come ashore to lay their eggs, we know the babies use the moon and stars to guide them back to sea. But what happens when hotels and houses and streetlights compete for their attention? A citizen science group at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola, Florida helps map the night sky in order to keep these mysterious creatures on the right path.
access_time11 months ago
The desert is hot, dry and deadly. But plenty of plants and animals thrive there. How do they do it? We'll learn the tricks trees, bats and roadrunners use to make it in Joshua Tree National Park.
access_time11 months ago
When an avalanche happens at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, it sounds like the sand is singing. Huh? How? Why? We learn about the special sand and the specific conditions that make this acoustic phenomenon possible. This is the third of five episodes looking at some of the coolest science happening at our National Parks.
access_time11 months ago
The wild horses at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland are very popular, but they're also an invasive species. We find out how park rangers are giving people a chance to see the horses while also protecting the native plants and animals FROM the horses. This is the second of five episodes looking at some of the coolest science happening at our National Parks.
access_time11 months ago
Producer Marc Sanchez finds out what it's like to explore one of the biggest networks of caves in the world -- and new branches are still being discovered. Marc will show us the wonders hidden underground and how tricky it can be to go to uncharted territory with only a headlamp to light the way. This is the first of five episodes on some of the coolest science happening at our National Parks.
access_time11 months ago
This podcast comes to you thanks to the internet. But how does it get to us? And where is it coming from? We'll 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.
access_time12 months ago
Think of the cutest puppy, kitten or baby you've ever seen. Now what sound did you just make? Was it an "Awwwww?" Or did you want to pinch, bite or squeeze it? In this episode, we'll find out why these are natural reactions to cuteness and why we're so easily distracted by cute things.
access_time1 year ago
Time for our next debate: fire vs lasers! Listeners sent us over 100 topics to choose from, they voted and this was the winning showdown. Fire and lasers are both cool -- but which is COOLER? Producer Marc Sanchez has tricks up his sleeve for team fire and Sanden Totten gives his all for team laser. Plus: Two mystery sounds that play a pivotal role in the debate.
access_time1 year ago
The sounds whales make underwater are super cool, and also very important for them to locate prey, navigate and communicate with each other. We find out how they make those sounds and what scientists think they mean. We also learn how a blowhole is like a human nose. A human nose that talks.
access_time1 year ago
The sounds whales make underwater are super cool, and also very important for them to locate prey, navigate and communicate with each other. We find out how they make those sounds and what scientists think they mean. We also learn how a blowhole is like a human nose. A human nose that talks.
access_time1 year ago
Brains On listeners have LOTS of questions about the human body so we've decided to answer nine - count em NINE - of these questions in one go. The terrific topics tackled: Hiccups, yawns, getting dizzy, goosebumps, fingerprints, limbs falling asleep, brain freeze, chattering teeth and why your voice sounds different when it's recorded. Plus: A mystery sound that only a detective could solve!
access_time1 year ago
Brains On listeners have LOTS of questions about the human body so we've decided to answer nine - count em NINE - of these questions in one go. The terrific topics tackled: Hiccups, yawns, getting dizzy, goosebumps, fingerprints, limbs falling asleep, brain freeze, chattering teeth and why your voice sounds different when it's recorded. Plus: A mystery sound that only a detective could solve!
access_time1 year ago
If you filled a lake with lemonade, would it rain lemonade? This delicious head-scratcher does not have a straightforward answer, so we asked atmospheric scientist Deanna Hence to help out with this thought experiment. It's one-part water cycle, one-part delicious drink and if we're lucky, one-part lemonade rain. All that rain and a delicious mystery sound from Australia. And in the big, BIG news department: we have a debate topic. Listen to find out what our November battle royale will be about
access_time1 year ago
If you filled a lake with lemonade, would it rain lemonade? This delicious head-scratcher does not have a straightforward answer, so we asked atmospheric scientist Deanna Hence to help out with this thought experiment. It's one-part water cycle, one-part delicious drink and if we're lucky, one-part lemonade rain. All that rain and a delicious mystery sound from Australia. And in the big, BIG news department: we have a debate topic. Listen to find out what our November battle royale will be about
access_time1 year ago
X-rays, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, help doctors see our bones -- but they also help scientists understand the very smallest particles and the most massive black holes. We'll follow the electrons, wind up at a synchrotron, get frozen in crystal and travel to the edges of the universe.
access_time1 year ago
X-rays, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, help doctors see our bones -- but they also help scientists understand the very smallest particles and the most massive black holes. We'll follow the electrons, wind up at a synchrotron, get frozen in crystal and travel to the edges of the universe.
access_time1 year ago
Most plants get the energy and nutrients they need from water, sunlight, air and soil. But carnivorous plants get key nutrients from a different source: bugs.

We'll find out how they do it and talk about the mystery of how venus fly traps snap shut.

Plus: Two gardeners â€" one very experienced and one just starting out â€" offer their tips for growing venus fly traps.
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