Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Brains On! Science podcast for kids


A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.


How do pianos pianos work?  

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.

The ups and downs of elevators  

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!

Why is the ocean salty?  

If you've ever been 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.

Ants: Who's in charge here?  

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. GUESTS: Biologist Deborah Gordon has been studying ants for the last 30 years and runs an ant lab at Stanford University. Computer Scientist Melanie Moses has translated the search functions of ants into an algorithm for robots. Want to learn more about ants? Sign up for the Brains On newsletter. In it you'll find questions designed to help go beyond the show, book recommendations, and a cool citizen science project (the same experiment NASA tested with ants in space).

Do we all see the same colors?  

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.

Cats: Glowing eyes, puffy tails and secret purrs (Encore)  

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.

Dinosaur bones: How do we know their age?  

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!

Lighting the way for sea turtles at Gulf Islands National Seashore  

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.

Surviving the desert at Joshua Tree National Park  

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.

Making the sands sing at Great Sand Dunes National Park  

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.

Tracking wild horses at Assateague Island National Seashore  

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.

Going underground at Wind Cave National Park  

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.

How does the internet get to us?  

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.

What makes cute things cute?  

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.

Fire vs. Lasers!  

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.

How do whales communicate?  

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.

Body Bonanza: Yawns, hiccups, goosebumps and more!  

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!

Could it rain lemonade?  

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

How do invisible x-rays help us see?  

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.

Carnivorous plants: How they lure, trap and digest  

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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