Ever wonder how roller coasters are built, why dogs love to sniff or what causes thunder? Each episode of Brains On! will answer some of your most burning questions. Satisfy your curiosity one topic at a time!
We find out all about the common cold and, more importantly, why we get sneezy, coughy and achy. Achoo!
If you love video games, you may have noticed how important the music is to the game. We explore what would happen if there wasn't any special effects sounds or music in your favorite game.
If you’ve ever seen a dog, you know they like to sniff — the ground, people, each other’s butts. Find out why in this episode about that famous dog nose!
Have you ever wondered how your favorite roller coast was built and why it is so much fun? We'll talk to a real roller coaster creator to find out how they do it, and more importantly, why we sometimes feel dizzy from riding them!
We'll explore some serious questions about the universe and space. How big is the universe and what does it mean that it's expanding?
Dive into all things volcanoes in this explosive episode. Travel to the center of the Earth and meet a NASA robot whose mission it is to find out how a volcano erupts.
Fish, jellyfish, shrimp and other animals can breath under water, but why can't we? Explore what makes them different and allows them to survive under water.
GPS is what allows us to pinpoint exactly where we are and can help us get from one location to another without getting lost. In this episode, find out exactly how GPS works.
We talk about all things CATS! From why their eyes look the way they do to what their purrs really mean–we have all the answers you've been looking for.
Find the answer to how thunderstorms and tornadoes made. Plus, do you know what the mystery sound is?
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.
Nasal mucus is very important to our health – and actually kind of magical. There’s a lot going on in our noses all the time that we don’t appreciate.
What’s really going on under that scab? What superpowers does our skin have to repair itself? We’re going under the skin for this one.
Rain, sun, wind, snow… you name it, somewhere in the world it’s happening. We’ll find out how scientists collect data on weather and turn it into a forecast. We’ll also test our ears with the mystery sound!
Can you tell the difference playful barks and warning barks? How about decoding the meaning behind a cat’s meow? Get ready to test your dog and cat language skills.
Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? If so, we want to change your mind about our eight-legged buddies!
The International Space Station sits 250 miles above Earth, but how did it get there? Astronaut Don Pettit tells us about what it’s like to live on the ISS.
Why do humans have hair and not fur? How does hair grow? How does hair become curly or straight? The hair on our heads is on our minds.
How do planes stay in the air? We’ll find out about the invention of airplanes, plus an aviation-inspired mystery sound and paper airplane tips!
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 and hear about new treatments.
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 – one very experienced and one just starting out – offer their tips for growing venus fly traps.
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 this is a natural reaction to cute and why we’re so easily distracted by cute things.
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 Dr. Robert Marc from the University of Utah about this mystery and go ringside to find out how rods and cones help us see.
We have a lot to learn from ants. This episode digs into the hierarchy of ant colonies (spoiler alert: there is none) and why they walk in a straight line (spoiler alert: they don’t).
Scientists are also studying how ants spread out and search. This work is teaching us about how cancer spreads, how the internet can be improved, and could even give us new ways to explore Mars.
If you’ve ever been in the ocean, you’ve tasted that salt. But where does it come from? And why aren’t lakes and rivers salty too? A sea shanty is probably the best way to explain, right? Plus: we learn about the weird and wonderful world of deep ocean hot springs.
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.
Homemade slime is sticky, gooey and all the rage, but what is it?
Slime magic starts when you add something called sodium borate to water. In laundry detergent these are already mixed, but some slime makers do it themselves.
There is so much happening in your brain when you read. From recognizing shapes as letters to discovering empathy, our brains really get a workout when we read books.
In this episode, Ben Bergen from the Language and Cognition Lab at UC San Diego drops by to shed some light on how our brains process the meaning of words. We also learn how printing books has evolved and how the invention of the printing press brought worldwide change. And recent Newberry Award-winning author Kelly Barnhill shares a little of what’s going on in HER brain as she’s writing a story.
To help us understand sunburns, we’re going deep into the skin to look at cells, molecules and electrons. We also 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?
In this episode, we follow the path of the animal fart database. We’ll hear about snakes, birds, manatees, and an insect that gives new meaning to silent but deadly. Farts can be funny, but they’re also really important. They’re a vital function of life, and animals use them for a variety of amazing reasons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 for answers. We also tackle some other questions, like what color were dinosaurs and how were the first ones discovered? Speaking of which, listen for an introduction to one of the most important fossil finders of the 19th century, Mary Anning. All this plus a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um answering why the sun is so hot.
Think about it: the answer to the question “Is it opposite day?” will always be no. It’s a head-scratcher. So how do you figure out if it is, in fact, opposite day?
We talk to two philosophers who walk us through how questions like these can bend and twist the truth — and our minds. We learn about the sinister-sounding “Liar Paradox.” And we find out that it’s not only our brains that use logic, it’s used by the machines all around us too.
Plus: A brand new mystery sound and an answer to the question: How do erasers erase?
Rivers are known for being wet. So how did a river in Ohio suddenly catch fire, not once, but several times last century? In part three of our water series, we'll explore the shocking tale of the Cuyahoga River. We'll look at how pollution led to this environmental tragedy and what's been done to address the problem. Plus, our Moment of Um explains why we say "ow!" when we're hurt.
Fair warning: Today we’re gonna get gross! We’re talking sounds, smells, and tastes that some people might find repulsive. But we're asking: why? What's the purpose of disgust? Is it something we're born knowing or do we learn to dislike things? When will entomophagy (the eating of insects) catch on everywhere?
Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers the question "Why do worms come out when it rains?
We treat dogs like they're part of the family. But do they know they are a different species, or do they think they're just short, four-legged people?
In this episode, canine cognition scientist Alexandra Horowitz helps us puzzle out this question. We’ll also find out what happens (or doesn’t) when a dog looks in the mirror. Dogs are always dozing, and we’ll check in to see if they are dreaming too. And, we take a quick trip around the world in the language of barks.