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Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Brains On! Science podcast for kids

Brains On!® is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from American Public Media. Each week, a different kid co-host joins Molly Bloom to find answers to fascinating questions about the world sent in by listeners. Like, do dogs know they?re dogs? Or, why do feet stink? Plus, we have mystery sounds for you to guess, songs for you to dance to, and lots of facts -- all checked by experts.


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Squirrelsperience: Trying out squirrel skills

In many places, tree squirrels are extra busy these days. It?s time for them to collect nuts to prepare for winter! So we?re heading to a squirrel-themed adventure course and practicing a few of the skills they use to survive: gathering nuts, traveling in trees, and speaking like a squirrel. We?ll also learn about how squirrels evolved, and hear about some of their surprising relatives.

Plus, a mystery sound and a moment of um: what chemical in apples mixes with oxygen to turn brown?

You can support the show at or check out our merch (including the Brains On book) at

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The heroes we need to defeat the coronavirus

Eighteen months into our fight with this coronavirus, it may feel frustrating that we're still in this battle, but there are many reasons to feel hopeful. One reason is that we know a lot about this virus now and have plenty of tools to fight it. We meet the superheroes prepared to help us defeat the coronavirus: Sgt. Socially Distanced, the Masked Mentor, the Testmaster and the Vaxinator! Plus: Gilly, one half of the hit podcast Going Viral with Kara and Gilly, and a special guest explain what a virus variant is and how the delta variant is different from the original coronavirus. Also, journalist Sarah Zhang helps us understand how the pandemic could end.

All that, plus a new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question "How do skunks spray their stink?"

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How to conquer Garbage Mountain

After getting a firsthand look at the history of trash, we?re having visions from garbage?s present and future this week. Producer Kunsang Dorjee visits a landfill to see what happens to our trash after we throw it away, and producer Ruby Guthrie shows us how we can make less trash and dispose the trash we do make in ways that are better for the planet. Plus: we hear from a kid who helped her class produce almost no waste during the school year. And our Moment of Um answers the question: if ants like sweet things, why don?t they attack beehives?

This episode was sponsored by:

Mathnasium (

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The invention of trash

A pair of ghost shoes visit Molly with a message: it's time to think about garbage. They predict that Molly will be visited by three visions of garbage, one from the past, one from the present and one from the future.

Today, Producer Sanden Totten takes us on a time traveling journey to see how we started making all this trash in the first place. Plus: the Moment of Um answers the question: Are yawns contagious to animals?

Next week, we'll be back with a look at the present and future of garbage.

This episode was sponsored by:

Mathnasium (

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Take a deep breath: How does breathing work?

Breathing is a really cool thing. We breathe automatically without thinking about it, but we can also control our breath and play with it. We'll learn how our lungs work and why our bodies need this air in the first place. We'll also hear from a singer and a free diver about how they've trained their breath to do remarkable things -- and how you can too! And we'll talk to a doctor about how deep breathing can help you feel less stressed and she'll teach us an exercise you can do whenever anxiety starts to creep up. Plus: Our Moment of Um answers the question: what is the smallest unit of measurement?

This episode was sponsored by

Mathnasium (

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What does the giraffe say? Our animal mystery sound extravaganza!

When one of our listeners wrote in with an animal sound mystery (What sound does a giraffe make?) we set out to find an answer. We came back with lots of other fascinating animal sounds, so we decided it was time for an all-animal mystery sound extravaganza! Open up your ears and get ready to play!

Plus, our Moment of Um answers the question: Why do daddy long legs have such long legs?

Our sponsors:

Indeed (

KiwiCo (

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Why do we lose teeth?

Today we?re looking at a phenomenon that happens to all of us: losing our baby teeth and getting new ones! So how do our teeth grow in and what makes them fall out? Naturally, a group of wandering teeth helps us explain. We'll also find out why we have two sets of teeth in the first place. A chatty tooth travel agent will introduce us to all the different ways to send our baby teeth off in style and we'll play a game that will test your knowledge of animal teeth. Plus, the Moment of Um answers the question "Why do bees make a buzzing sound?"

You can support Brains On at ? there you can donate, join our free fan club, check out our merch or buy our book!

This episode was sponsored by:

Indeed (

Bobby Wonder podcast ( or subscribe to Bobby Wonder on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts)

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What causes wildfires?

A fire can be super useful or cozy or even magical. But it can also be dangerous -- and in the case of wildfires, if they burn long and hot enough, they can destroy ecosystems and send lots of harmful smoke into the air.

In this episode, we're going to find out why wildfires are getting bigger and why wildfire season is lasting longer now. We'll learn how the tribes who've lived in what is now called Northern California managed the forests and kept fire in check for thousands of years, and how those practices are being used today.

We'll hear from a friendly house about how to stay safe from smoke inside and find out how firefighters work to contain fires once they've started.

Plus, our Moment of Um answers the question: Is the name of a letter considered a word?

This episode is sponsored by Bobby Wonder, a podcast from GoKidGo. You can support Brains On at ? there you can donate, join our free fan club, check out our merch or buy our book!

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Million Bazillion answers your questions about money

Today we?re sharing an episode with you from our friends at Million Bazillion, the podcast that answers the questions kids have about money. They help dollars make more sense and they?re back for a whole new season! 

 In today?s episode, hosts Jed and Bridget answer a question from two curious listeners who want to know why we pay taxes. In answering the question, they come across the legendary Robin Hood, known for his hatred of taxes. Back in his day, tax-collecting sheriffs forced people to pay money to a king, who decided how those taxes were spent. These days our tax system works a bit differently. We get to vote for people who?ll spend that money on things we care about ? like schools and libraries, health care for elderly people, police, parks, sewers and so on. With the help of a rambling troubadour and a tax policy expert, Jed and Bridget teach Robin Hood that the way tax dollars are spent today reflects what we prioritize as a society. Plus, we?ll ask random kids some not-so-random questions.

Million Bazillion is a collaboration between Brains On and Marketplace. It?s hosted by Jed Kim and Bridget Bodnar. You can listen to more episodes here, or subscribe at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.


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Why do mosquitoes bite? Scratching that itch

In this episode, we're tackling all the mosquito questions that have been bugging our listeners. Why do they bite? Why do the bites itch? Is scratching them a good idea? Why do some people seem to be more delicious to mosquitoes? How can we keep them away from us? And are mosquitoes good for the world? The Hoax Hunters make an appearance plus the Moment of Um answers the question, "What is a solar flare?"

This episode was sponsored by:

Indeed (

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Why do songs get stuck in our heads?

You know that feeling where you get a snippet of a song stuck in your head and it loops over and over? Those hard to shake songs are also known as earworms, and in this episode Molly has a particularly sticky one in her brain.

We'll find out why some songs are catchier than others and, most importantly, scientifically-proven ways to get rid of them.

Plus, we'll hear a mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: "Do spiders have bones?"

Today?s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and you can listen to Million Bazillion wherever you get your podcasts.

You can support Brains On at ? there you can check out our merch, join our free fan club, donate or buy our book!

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Vaccines for kids and silver linings: Our second COVID summer

Adults around the world are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, and now, in a handful of countries (including the U.S.) kids over 12 can get vaccinated too.

We hear from a 13-year-old who participated in a clinical trial for a vaccine and get tips for how to navigate the world when only some people in your family are able to be vaccinated. Plus, Kara and Gilly share expert advice on how to handle big feelings as the world starts to open back up.

And a new Moment of Um answers the question: What are eye boogers?

Find out more about how mRNA vaccines and clinical trials work in our previous episodes:

A super special shot: All about coronavirus vaccines:
What?s in the COVID vaccine?:

Find all our coronavirus coverage right here:

Today?s episode is sponsored by the podcast "Avatar: Braving the Elements?

You can support our show at

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Do dogs know they're dogs?

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 researcher 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.

All that, plus a brand new Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: ?Why does the moon follow us??

Today?s episode is sponsored by Hooked On Phonics ( You can support the show at

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Our 200th episode is SUN-sational!

There?s no better way to celebrate our 200th episode than with our own shining star: the sun! In this episode we speak with Dr. Nicola Fox, who leads a team of NASA scientists that sent a probe to collect data and zoom by the sun. We also hear some great listener suggestions on what new planet could be added to our solar system. We even get a chance to check in with The Sun and her weekly broadcast, That?s Hot.

Our 200th episode wouldn?t be complete without a visit from some of our favorite pals: Bob, Gungador, Harvey and Elevator! Of course there?s a new Mystery Sound too. And the Moment of Um comes just in time for mosquito season, because it answers the question: Why do we itch?

Thank you so much for helping us make 200 episodes! We could never have done it without your questions and encouragement, and we can?t wait to make 200 more!

This episode was sponsored by:

ID Tech (

Sakara (

GoHenry ( promo code: brainson)

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How far can a cloud travel?

We?ve all played the ?what does that cloud look like? game. Maybe you saw a bunny? or an airplane? or a unicorn. What if that same cloud could also be seen by someone in a far off continent? That?s what a listener in Minnesota wondered. He wanted to know if the same cloud he saw in a park near his house could also be seen in Africa.

We talk to Deanna Hence, one of our favorite weather experts, and she tells us about how clouds travel. We also dust off the Zoom Ray to learn about what is inside of a cloud. And have you ever noticed the similarities between cloud types, like cumulonimbus, and magic spells from Harry Potter? Well, we have, and we made a game out of it!

We also have a brand new Mystery Sound for your guessing pleasure and a Moment of Um that answers the question: Why do pugs have such scrunchy faces?

This episode was sponsored by: (

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Totally Slothsome: All about sloths

There?s more to sloths than slowness. They?re great at saving energy, hanging upside down, and swimming! In this episode, Sloth Appreciation Society founder Lucy Cooke stops by to tell us all about these amazing animals. We also get into a sloth mystery: The Case of the Perilous Poop Journey. Luckily, there?s a sloth sleuth on the case. And sloths aren?t the only animals who aren?t in a hurry ? a few others show off their slowest skills.

There?s also a Mystery Sound for you to guess, and a Moment of Um: Why do ostriches stick their heads in the ground?

This episode was sponsored by:

Mathnasium (

KiwiCo ( Promo code: BRAINSON)

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How do computers store so much info in such a tiny space?

If you translate ?Hello! How are you?? to binary code, it looks like this: 01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100001 00100000 01001000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00111111

This episode takes a look at how computers can do so much with such tiny parts. But computers weren't always small -- so we take a look at where computers came from. We visit Ada Lovelace, whose love of math and weaving paved the way for modern-day computers. And we hear about the material that let computers shrink from the size of a room to something that fits in our pockets. There?s also a visit from a yak and a ram, but you?re just going to have to listen to find out why.

All that plus a new Mystery Sound and Moment of Um that answers the question: what is the flavor of root beer?

This episode is sponsored by

Mathnasium ( and Sun Basket ( promo code: brains on)

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How does taste work? We react to our very first episode!

 Brains On has a very special milestone coming up -- it?s almost our 200th episode! To celebrate, we're re-listening to our very first episode which was all about eating. We'll play the episode and chime in with commentary to give you some behind the scenes glimpses and backstories along the way. We?ll also hear an update from our very first co-host ever -- Ian Roberts, who is now a college student and an adult. Plus a brand new Moment of Um answers the question: Why do we have birthmarks?

This episode is sponsored by:

Mathnasium (

GoHenry ( promo code brainson)

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Like bread and cheese? Thank fungus!

That fuzzy sandwich in your fridge? Yeah, don't eat that kind of fungus. But the mushrooms in your stir fry? Or the yeast in your bread? Or the rind on your brie? Or the miso in your soup? All of those delicious foods are possible thanks to fungus!

In this episode, we'll learn about how our ancestors first figured it out some mushrooms were safe to eat, we'll learn about the microbes that make cheese possible, and we'll meet some fungal chefs who are key to cooking up some of our favorite foods. Plus a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: "How does rubbing two sticks together make fire?"

This episode was sponsored by:

Mathnasium (

Sakara (

Indeed (

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Is mold alive? A look at fascinating fungus

Fungus deserves a party because it?s everywhere and super important to life on this planet. The kingdom of fungus includes mushrooms and molds, but also yeasts, like the kinds that help make bread. So today, we?re embracing the ick, we?re snuggling up to the slimy, we?re making friends with mold and mushrooms? It?s a full on Fung-o-Rama! We'll learn about a day in the life of mold, a fungus that turns ants into zombies, and how fungi will help us in the fight against climate change. All that, plus a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: "How does air fry?"

This episode is sponsored by:

Purple( promo code brainson10)

KiwiCo ( promo code brainson)

ID Tech ( code brainson)

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Is time travel possible?

Will we ever get to rewind time, or fast forward through it? Sanden stops by to tell us all about how time works. He also has a couple ideas about how we might make time travel a reality! But one tricky thing about time travel is that it?s full of paradoxes ? so we look into those, too. And science fiction expert Lisa Yaszek swings by to tell us just how long humans have been thinking about time travel (hint: a really long time).

Listen closely for the mystery sound, and the moment of um: how do clothes get dirty even though you can?t see it?

Today?s episode is sponsored by: Mathnasium: ( and Sun Basket ( - promo code: brains on)

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Mystery Sound Extravaganza 2021

What's that you hear? That's right, It's an episode of nothing but mystery sounds! Are your ears up to the challenge? Plus, we'll hear an answer to the question: "How do squirrels find their nuts after they bury them?"

If you'd like to submit a mystery sound, you can share it with us here:

And, you can support the show at

Or, you can also buy our book, complete with Mystery Photos, at or at your favorite local bookstore.

Today?s episode was sponsored by:

Sitka Salmon Shares (

Purple (

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Why are smartphones so hard to put down?

Screens are everywhere these days! We?re taking a look at why smartphones are so addictive, and how our devices affect us. Our co-hosts took on a bold challenge for this episode: they went a week without phones or tablets. We?ll hear how their experiment went, then Sanden will fill us in on the brain chemical that trains us to love our screens. We'll also learn why the predictability of messages and alerts on smartphones makes them extra hard to put down. Plus, we?ll get a few tips from Catherine Price, the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. And! A our Moment of Um answers: why are bruises blue, and how do we get them?

This episode is sponsored by Wondery?s Little Stories Everywhere ( and the FDA (

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What did dinosaurs sound like?

Did dinosaurs roar? Or meow? And how do we know? Paleontologist Julia Clarke stops by to talk about sounds T-Rex might?ve made. We know a bit more about other dino sounds, and dinosaur expert Riley Black fills us in on those. Plus, a game about dinosaur names, and a look at how dinos might?ve moved with paleontologist Jingmai O?Connor.

Stick around for the mystery sound, and a Moment of Um that answers this head-scratcher: How does hair dye work?

This episode was sponsored by:

Sun Basket ( promo code: brainson)

Mathnasium (


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Dino Edition: How do we know what dinosaurs looked like?

20 years ago, we pictured dinosaurs as green, scaly animals. But times have changed! Now, we know some dinosaurs had feathers. And who knows ? maybe some even had stripes.

This episode looks at how we figure out what color dinosaurs might?ve been. We talk to Jingmai O?Connor, who studies fossil reptiles, about finding color pigment in fossils. And paleoartist Emily Willoughby talks to a ?museum? about how her dino-depictions have changed over the years. 

Our co-host, Elyana, also brought us this important question: If dinosaurs evolved from birds and birds don?t fart, did dinosaurs fart? Wha-wha-what!?! Look no further than this episode for an extensive investigation.

Remember to keep your ears open for the brand new Mystery Sound. And break out your kilns, because today?s Moment of Um answers this question: How do you make clay for pottery?

There?s so much dino-tastic information that we decided to make a second dinosaur episode. So if you haven?t had enough (and who has?), make sure to check out next week?s show about what dinosaurs might have sounded like.

This episode is sponsored by:

Mathnasium (

KiwiCo ( checkout code: BRAINSON)

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What's in the COVID vaccine?

In this episode, we're using our zoom ray to zoom way in and answer your questions about the COVID vaccine. What's in the COVID vaccine? How does it work? And how do they make it? We'll also look at how our fight against the new coronavirus has had a huge impact on another virus: influenza. And, we'll head to a stadium to learn what 95% effective means for a vaccine. (Warning: There are seagulls overhead!)

Plus, we'll have a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: what do scientists eat in Antarctica?

Read Katherine Wu?s article about what?s happening with the flu this year:

Find the rest of our episodes about coronavirus here, including episodes on the vaccine, maskssocial distancing, and how we?re processing this historic time:

This episode is sponsored by: Sitka Salmon Shares ( and ( promo code: brainson10)

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What's behind the waves and tides?

In this encore episode, we answer the questions: How does the moon control the tides? Where do waves come from? And what?s it like to live in a tide pool?

Sir Isaac Newton drops by and drops some knowledge. He helps explain why the tides ebb and flow. Then, an oceanographer/surfer tells us where waves come from and how they get their shape ? cowabunga! Plus we hear about what it?s like for marine life that move to a new neighborhood once or twice a day. Sometimes it?s underwater, sometimes it?s not. Plus a brand new Moment of Um answers the question: Why don?t our ears have bones? And there?s a new group of listeners to be added to the Brains Honor Roll.

This episode was originally published on Aug. 30, 2016.

This episode is sponsored by Sun Basket ( and promo code BRAINSON)

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Why do we have crushes?

When you've got a crush on someone, it can feel a bit overwhelming. All of a sudden, you might have butterflies in your stomach! And maybe you find yourself acting differently than you normally would. Why does our brain do this to us anyway? In this episode, we'll answer a slew of your crush-related questions: Why do we get crushes? Why do they make you feel so many feelings? How do you decide who you have a crush on? Plus, how do you navigate all the tricky parts of crushes -- like your crush finding out you like them?

We tackle all these questions. Stick around for a Moment of Um that answers: "What would happened if it rained oobleck?"

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Let's go bananas!

HARVEY, our omnipresent virtual voice assistant, gets a software update that makes him go bananas for bananas. And if we talk about anything except bananas, he turns the microphones off! We talk to geneticist Dr. Janina Jeff about how much DNA we share with a banana, find out why bananas make other fruits ripen, how bananas grow, and where that slipping on a banana peel joke came from. Speaking of jokes, we'll hear a bunch of banana jokes from listeners too! Plus: The Moment of Um answers the question: "Why are peaches fuzzy?"

You can hear more from Dr. Jeff on her podcast In Those Genes.

Silent film expert Lea Stans has a wonderful blog post about the history of the banana peel joke that you can read right here. You can see some of those early comics that featured the joke!

Today?s episode is sponsored by:

KiwiCo ( code: BRAINSON)

Purple ( promo code BRAINSON10)

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A super special shot: All about coronavirus vaccines

In December, people started getting vaccinated against COVID-19. This is a huge scientific accomplishment and important step in making it safe for us to hang out in person again. So how did scientists develop these vaccines so fast? And how did they test the vaccines to make sure they?re safe? And how do these mRNA vaccines work?

We have answers to all your questions, plus New York Times science journalist Apoorva Mandavilli explains what scientists have found out about how long immunity lasts to this new coronavirus. And Kara and Gilly are back with a cow-side chat about herd immunity. Plus: A new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question, "What would happen if the moon fell down onto earth?"

Today?s episode is sponsored by Sitka Salmon Shares (

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Meet Gitanjali Rao, Time Magazine's first-ever Kid of the Year

Today we have a special episode featuring an old friend of ours -- scientist and inventor Gitanjali Rao. Time Magazine recently named her the first-ever Kid of the Year!

We first met Gitanjali back in 2018, when she was the co-host for a series of episodes we did all about water. Back then, she was a 12 year old who had recently won 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Now, she's a very busy 15 year-old who is an inventor, STEM advocate and author. Molly and Gitanjali chat about how kids can turn their ideas into reality, and why kids shouldn't be afraid to share their viewpoints and skills with the world -- we need them!

Gitanjali has also written a book, which you can check out here.

Also, you can hear Gitanjali judge a very science-y Smash Boom Debate: Helium vs Neon!

Check out the water series that Gitanjali co-hosted:

What?s in your water?

The wonderful weirdness of water

Keeping water healthy, one clue at a time

Burning rivers of fire

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How do synthesizers work?

Synthesizers are a very recent invention, especially when you compare them to acoustic instruments, like pianos and guitars. In this episode, we learn how these machines with keys, knobs, switches, buttons and sliders actually make sound. We?ll also travel back to the 1960?s and hear how synth pioneers like Bob Moog helped bring these sound making devices into the mainstream. Plus, we?ll check in with Suzanne Ciani, who has been using her synthesizer to create iconic sounds for movies, television and video games for over 50 years! All that plus a striking Mystery Sound and Moment of Um that answers the question: Do airplanes have a speed limit?

Want to take a deeper dive into the world of synthesizers? Check out Francis Preve?s digital book, AudioKit Synth One: The Ultimate Guid?e?. It?s free!

Today?s episode is sponsored by Sun Basket ( promo code: brainson)

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Why is it so hard to break a habit?

If habits are really stuck, we don't think much about them -- we just do them! Some habits are good (like brushing your teeth in the morning) and others are not as good (like biting your nails).

Today we find out what parts of our brains help us form habits and why it's actually super useful to not have to think so hard about everything. Gungador tries to break a bad habit, and we find out the best tips for ditching habits we want to leave behind.

Plus: A brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: "How do 3D glasses work?

If you want to join the Brains On fan club and get a mailing of awesome temporary tattoos, have an adult sign up or update your mailing address at

Today?s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and promo code BRAINSON) and Purple ( and promo code BRAINSON10).

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Smash Boom Best: Flowers vs Rainbows

We?ll be back with new episodes in January. But we wanted to share another show with you that we?ve been working on: Smash Boom Best!

It?s a debate show where we take two cool things, smash them together and let you decide which one is best. Today we?re sharing with you an excerpt from a debate featuring our very own Sanden Totten: Flowers vs Rainbows

Sanden is repping team flowers and our good friend Joy Dolo, host of Forever Ago, is arguing for team rainbows.

To hear the rest of the debate, find Smash Boom Best wherever you listen to podcasts. There are over 30 debates ready for your binge listening this holiday season! Play along at home by yourself -- or with your family! You can find score sheets and other fun stuff at

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Bones from the inside out

Bones! They?re spooky. They?re creepy. They?re utterly fascinating!

This episode we dig up the science behind skeletons. We?ll look at how our bones grow, what happens when we break a bone and why bones last so long. Plus, we?ll meet a talking skeleton who will help us bone up on bone trivia!

And we have a mystery sound to tickle your auditory ossicles and a Moment of Um that answers the question: Why does time fly when you're having fun?

We?re taking a break after this episode and will be back with new episodes on Jan. 5th. Until then, we?d love for you to go check out our sister show Smash Boom Best (

We?re also going to be doing a live virtual hangout in November where you can ask Molly, Marc, Sanden and Menaka all your questions. Anything you want to ask, we?ll answer! If you want to join us, the first step is to sign up for our totally free fan club ( In November we?ll send an email out to the fan club with more details about this free, virtual hang out. So keep an eye out for that!

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Ancestry (, Purple (, Guardian Bikes (, and Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls (

You can support the show and help us keep making new episodes at

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Why do siblings annoy each other?

Having a sibling is a special thing -- but, wow, can they be annoying! In this episode we?ll look at why our brothers and sisters are so good at pushing our buttons. Plus, is there any truth to the idea that oldest kids are the most mature and the youngest ones are the most charming? We?ll look at the science of personality and birth order. We also visit a sibling drive-thru, get quizzed about animal relationships and answer this question in our Moment of Um: why does rain come in small droplets?

This episode is sponsored by:

KiwiCo (

Ancestry (

White Hat Jr. (

General Mills Pillsbury (

If you want to find out more about how to stop bullying, please go to Stop Bullying Speak Up:

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How do flu vaccines work?

The flu shot changes every year. But why is the flu special, if other illnesses have much longer-lasting vaccines? This episode takes us into the world of viruses and immunity.

We released this episode about flu vaccines last year but we wanted to share it with you again since it?s flu vaccine season but also because vaccines are in the news a lot lately. Scientists are testing a bunch of vaccines for the new coronavirus right now. This episode gets into the details of how vaccines work and how they?re made.

A friendly lymphocyte fills us in on how flu shots work, and science journalist Anna Rothschild shares how vaccines started around the world. We'll hear from some virus-busting detectives to see how scientists solve the case of how to make next year?s flu shot as effective as possible. Author Maryn McKenna will stop by and drop some flu knowledge, too!

Get your ears ready for a good, thumping mystery sound, and a new Moment of Um: how do straws work?

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls, Guardian Bikes ( and Varsity Tutors ( You can support the show at

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Past, present and future: Using time to understand this pandemic

If time feels weird to you lately, you?re not alone. The pandemic has changed the pace of life for people around the world. We?ll talk to a psychologist about how our sense of time works. We?ll look back into the past to see how a similar pandemic played out 100 years ago. Plus, we?ll ask experts to tell us what they think life will be like six months from now.

Oh yeah, and virus podcasters Kara and Gilly are back to tell you how you can be a part of history! Warning: Boogers are involved. Our Moment of Um answers the question: why do your arms move when you walk?

This episode is sponsored by:

Stop Bullying Speak Up (

KiwiCo (

Laurel Springs Online School (

AncestryHealth (

Daily Harvest (

General Mills Pillsbury (

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Smash: When continents collide!

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!

This episode is sponsored by:

Guardian Bikes (

Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (

Hank the Cowdog podcast (

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Behind the scenes: See how we make the show

A listener asked how making  Brains On is different during the pandemic. So with this episode we're giving you a peek into how we're making the show while staying safe. Spoiler alert: we're doing it all from our homes!

What's the best way to record crystal clear sound at home? (Hint: Lots of soft surfaces!) How do we make sound effects? How do we get all the animals, humans and machines in our homes to keep it down while we tape? Plus: We asked our co-hosts to share what it was like for them to record and episode from home. All that, plus a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: how do rocks form?

This episode is sponsored by: ( Promo code: brainson10)

Daily Harvest ( Promo code: brainson)

PayPal - you can download the PayPal app at

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The buzz on bees, pt. 2

In this second episode on bees (a bee-quel, you might say!) we?re taking a look at pollination: the many pollination talents of different bees, why pollination is so important, and what you can do to help wild bees! 

The tables are turned in the Mystery Sound department: our beekeeping cohosts have a sound for Menaka and Sanden to guess! And the Moment of Um answers an age-old stumper: how are alligators and crocodiles different?

Want to hear more about bees? Listen to The buzz about bees, pt. 1 (

This episode is sponsored by: (, General Mills Pillsbury ( and Varsity Tutors (

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The buzz on bees, pt. 1

We?re making a big buzz about bees! Our pollen-collecting friends get so much done, and we?re taking a look at how they live. We?ll bust some bee myths and meet some honeybees for a look at life inside the hive. 
Our mystery sound is from a listener (here?s a hint: they recorded the sound in Alaska!), and our Moment of Um answers a buzzworthy question: Why do beehives look like hexagons? 
And! One episode on bees just isn?t enough. We?ll be back next week with more buzz on pollination.

Want to hear more about bees? Listen to The buzz about bees pt. 2 (

Today?s episode is sponsored by Native ( | Promo code: brainson), Laurel Springs ( and Daily Harvest ( Promo code: brainson)

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Stars: Twinkling, glowing, giant balls of gas

Those tiny pinpoints of light glittering in the night sky are actually incredibly distant, giant, churning balls of gas. They produce huge quantities of light and heat. In this episode, Mars interviews the biggest star in his eyes: the sun! We also ask astronomer Moiya McTier to help us count all the stars in the universe. And we'll hear a couple of the stories that people here on earth tell about the stars. Plus, a brand new mystery sound and a Moment of Um that answers the question: how do whales drink?

This episode is sponsored by ( and School Mask Pack ( You can support the show at Find out more about our book at and our book events at

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What makes gross things gross?

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: The Moment of Um answers the question "Why do worms come out when it rains?"

Today?s episode is sponsored by KiwiCo (, Ancestry ( and How to Raise Successful People ( You can support Brains On at And find out more about our book at

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Poop Party: Answers to your poo questions

Warning! This episode is all about the fascinating and gross world of doo doo.

We know you have a lot of poo questions because you?ve sent many, many of them to us. So we?re finally bringing you the poo answers! It?s a poop party!

We?ve invited scientists to tell us about weird animal feces. (It?s true! Wombats have cube-shaped poop!)

We tune into a news channel all about dookie (see the Bristol Stool Chart here:

We hear from our favorite ?poo-tuber? Taylor the Turd about how some poops are helping fight serious illnesses. (Remember Taylor? Here?s her first appearance:

Plus, a sorta stinky Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um answering a question: why is pee yellow?

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Laurel Springs ( Fill out a quick survey to tell us more about yourself:

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Introducing: Million Bazillion

We?re thrilled to share a brand new show with you. It?s called Million Bazillion and it?s all about money -- how we earn it, how we save it and how we spend it.

In the first episode you?ll travel back thousands of years to learn the ways people got what they needed before money was invented. Back then some people traded goods, others made pacts to share what they had. We?ll also meet the king who came up with the idea for coins. Plus, Kristen Bell designs her own money!

This show is a collaboration between Brains On and Marketplace. It?s hosted by Jed Kim with Bridget Bodnar. You can listen to more episodes here, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Masks and mouth mist: What we know about the coronavirus now

Since the world first learned about this new coronavirus at the end of 2019, we?ve been watching science happen in real time. Scientists all over the world are studying this virus and learning how to protect us from it. As they learn new things, we learn new things too.

One thing they?ve learned is how this virus spreads. The primary culprit is droplets from our noses and mouths. That?s why masking up is so important to protect our communities.

We?ve also been hearing from a lot of listeners wanting to know about the future: when will the vaccine be ready? what will it be like at school? when will things go back to normal? We're going to do our best to answer some of these questions in our next coronavirus episode. But they don?t have concrete answers right now.

Right now, trying to look a month, or a year into the future is hard. We call this feeling of not knowing what will happen -- uncertainty. And it?s hard to deal with.

Our brains likes being able to predict what?s going to happen because it makes us feel safe. When we feel unsafe, that?s when anxiety kicks in. 

One way to deal with this anxiety is to focus on the present -- what?s happening right now. 

It?s also important to let yourself feel your feelings and know you?re not alone in them. It?s normal right now to feel frustrated, or angry, or sad, or all of them at the same time. But also try to think about the moments you have that are fun, and the times you feel contentment and happiness.

If you?re having trouble staying focused on the present there are some tricks you can try:

Look around you and make a list in your head of everything you see that is green.

Try to think of all the character?s names in your favorite book or tv show

Take deep breaths -- inhale for four counts, hold that breath for four, and then exhale for four

Distract yourself by going outside, or watching a movie or reading a book. 

If you?re still having trouble keeping your mind off the ?what ifs? it?s great to talk to your parents or another adult you trust.

There are always people who want to help you. If you need help and aren?t sure who to talk to, you can call 800 273-8255. It's a free phone call, and people are there all the time, ready to listen and help.

MORE: The Child Mind Institute has a lot of resources for families about how to deal with this uncertain time. (

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Native ( - use promo code: BRAINSON at checkout.

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The world of tiny robots

We?re talking all about teeny, tiny robots in today?s episode. You know, the ones that are as light as a postage stamp and as look like insects? They may be small, but these robots can still take in information and make decisions on their own. Find out how bees and cockroaches are teaching us about the future of small robots and what big tasks they might take on. There?s also a new Mystery Sound to rattle your ears. Plus a moment of Um that answers the question: Why does the sun stay in one place?

This episode was sponsored by KiwiCo (

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Why do kids have more energy than adults?

We?re taking on an age-old question today: Do kids have more energy than adults? Breakfast tacos, caffeine, an energized DJ and an epic battle between a girl and her parents. This episode has all that and then some. Discover how we turn food into energy at an awesome taco party. Then pump up the jams with DJ Thyroid. Speaking of music, get ready for a song from Lake Street Dive?s Mike Olson. And just when you think the show might be out of energy, we engage in an out-of breath competition between a kid and her parents. Plus, there?s a brand new Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um about why we lose our voices sometimes.

This episode is sponsored by Laurel Springs Online School ( and KiwiCo (

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Why does green mean go? And other color conundrums

The world is full of color, but how do our eyes see it? In this episode we?ll explain how color vision works, complete with a journey to a jazz club in the back of your eye. We?ll also look at the cultural meanings of the color red, we?ll find out about a new type of blue, and we?ll find out why stoplights use green to mean go. Our Moment of Um tackles the question, ?why are bees black and yellow??

This episode is sponsored by KiwiCo ( and Nurture Life (use code: BRAINS at checkout).

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