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Brains On!

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!

Season 2

1 - Fart Smarts Encore: Understanding the Gas We Pass (26 min)

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.

2 - Your Booger Questions Answered (18 min)

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.

3 - Healing Skin and Regrowing Limbs: The Science of Regeneration (23 min)

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.

4 - How Do Meteorologists Predict the Weather? (21 min)

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!

5 - Barks, Growls, Meows and Purrs: Translating Cats & Dogs (13 min)

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.

6 - Spider Sense: The Amazing World of Spiders (23 min)

Do spiders give you the heebie-jeebies? If so, we want to change your mind about our eight-legged buddies!

7 - Living Large With the International Space Station (26 min)

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.

8 - The Hows and Whys of Hair (24 min)

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.

9 - How Do Airplanes Fly? (24 min)

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!

10 - Allergy Attack: How Our Bodies Can Overreact (22 min)

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.

Season 3

1 - Carnivorous Plants: How They Lure, Trap and Digest (10 min)

Most plants get their nutrients from water, sunlight, air and soil. But carnivorous plants get key nutrients from a different source: bugs. Find out how they do it.

2 - What Makes Cute Things Cute? (12 min)

Think of the cutest puppy, kitten or baby you’ve ever seen. Now what sound did you just make? Was it an “Awwwww?” We’ll find out why this is a natural reaction to cute and why we’re so easily distracted by cute things.

3 - Do We All See The Same Color? (14 min)

What if the color that you call blue and the color I call blue don’t look the same at all? 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.

4 - Ants: Who's in Charge Here? (26 min)

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).

5 - Why is the Ocean Salty? (13 min)

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? Plus: we learn about the weird and wonderful world of deep ocean hot springs.

6 - How Do Elevators Work? (35 min)

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.

7 - The Science of Slime: What Is It and Why Are We So Obsessed? (17 min)

Homemade slime is sticky, gooey and all the rage, but what is it? Slime magic starts when you add sodium borate to water. In laundry detergent these are already mixed, but some slime makers do it themselves.

8 - Books: How they're made and how your brain reads them (29 min)

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. Ben Bergen drops by to shed some light on how our brains process the meaning of words.

9 - Sunburns: The Why Behind the Ouch (And How to Avoid Them) (20 min)

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.

10 - Animal Farts: A Mighty Wind (31 min)

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 are a vital function of life, and animals use them for a variety of amazing reasons.

Season 4

1 - Mars: Our Next Home Planet? (25 min)

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.

2 - For crying out loud: All about tears (29 min)

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? In this episode we dive into our mysterious tears.

3 - Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea? (24 min)

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).

4 - What's smaller than an electron? (20 min)

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.

5 - Smash: When Continents Collide! (28 min)

How are mountains made? What causes an earthquake? How does hot lava come bubbling up? The answer in each case is…tectonic plates! When they slide past or smash into each other it shakes the planet. But, they also helped shape the land we live on.

6 - Super-Size-Asaurus: How Did Dinosaurs Get So Big? (30 min)

Ancient dinosaurs were some of the biggest creatures to ever stomp the Earth. But how and why did they get so giant? In this episode we talk to dino-experts Femke Holwerda and Brian Switek for answers.

7 - ‘Is it opposite day?’ and other mind-bending paradoxes (23 min)

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.

8 - Burning Rivers of Fire (23 min)

Rivers are known for being wet. So how did a river in Ohio suddenly catch fire, not once, but several times last century? We'll explore the shocking tale of the Cuyahoga River.

9 - What Makes Gross Things Gross? (34 min)

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?

10 - Do Dogs Know They're Dogs? (24 min)

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.