Brains On! Science podcast for kids

American Public Media


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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262 episodes

What happens at zoos after dark?

In this episode we check out three different zoos after visitors leave and the gates are locked. We’ll hear about some adventurous penguins, learn how chimps tuck themselves in and find out why it’s important to smell a gorilla first thing in the morning. Oh, and did you know sometimes zoo animals need a ride from the airport? All this and a brand new mystery sound! This episode is sponsored by: __ __

Sep 27
Where does your imagination come from?

Picture this: a pickle with a cowboy hat. It has cute little arms and legs -- let’s make them orange. And this pickle is riding a horse on the beach as the sun sets. #PickleLife, am I right? Now think about this: you just imagined that whole scene in your head!   Imagination can engage every one of our senses. It sprouts from the things we’ve experienced in life, then collages itself into new thoughts… like a pickle on a horse. This episode goes into the far reaches of the brain and examines how imagination works and what role it plays in our lives. If you want a fun game to play with friends, try an Imagine Off. That’s when you take turns trying to come up with something that nobody else can imagine. We’ll also meet some of our listeners’ imaginary friends and learn why some people have these companions. U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón also stops by and tells us how she puts her imagination to use. Plus, there’s a brand new Mystery Sound to guess.   We always love hearing from you. Keep sending in your questions, drawings and Mystery Sounds. We’re currently looking for your best jingle about space. If you have an out-of-this-world tune about space, record it and send it to us at This episode is sponsored by: __ __

Sep 20
Where do accents come from?

Today we're looking at why there are so many different ways to pronounce the same words and where our accents come from. How did British and American accents become different? Why do some kids have different accents than their parents? We're going to answer these questions and find out how our accents tell the stories of our communities and our ancestors. Plus: A brand new mystery sound! This episode is sponsored by: __ __

Sep 13
Get a whiff of that: Why you smell like you

Have you ever noticed that different people have different scents? Go on, sniff your friend, we’ll wait. Today’s episode dives nose-first into what makes up our personal scents. With the help of Candace, a one-of-a-kind candle maker interested in making podcast-scented candles, we get the lowdown on body odor. We’ll also hear about super-sniffing animals and some other creatures that thrive on stink. And there’s a new Mystery Sound -- this one is definitely not a stinker! This episode is sponsored by: __ __

Sep 06
Why is glass see through?

Glass is a magic thing that is both solid as a wall and clear as the air. It starts out as sand and with tons of heat, and a few key ingredients, it becomes the super useful material we know and love. In this episode we look at how glass is made, why it's clear and how nature  makes glass too. Plus, hear about Sanden's latest invention and guess the all new Mystery Sound. This episode is sponsored by __ __

Aug 30
Body Bonanza 2.0 - Your body questions answered

Today’s episode has something for everyBODY. It's the Body Bonanza where we answer a ton of your questions about our human bodies! This time around, we’ll hear from some of our favorite body parts: the heart beats, the stomach rumbles, the appendix writes a poem. The ear brings us a new Mystery Sound, a foot gives us the lowdown on how it falls asleep, the tongue sings a song… and there’s even an appearance from the “anti-mouth.” Wow! This episode was sponsored by: __ __ __ __

Aug 23
Can stress be helpful?

We've all had to deal with stress. It can feel bad and overwhelming, but it’s actually really important. In this episode, we'll hear why our bodies evolved to deal with danger in this way and how it still affects us today. We'll climb a metaphorical mountain to find out how stress can help us sometimes. Oh, and there are lots of monsters that suddenly showed up a Brains On headquarters and maybe they were released by an ancient artifact and no one can find the instruction manual and ohmigoodness the monsters have gotten into the kitchen and what is that smell and oh no what just crashed and why isn't anyone helping deal with these monsters???? This episode was sponsored by: __ __

Aug 16
Underwater volcanoes and lots of salt: A deep dive into the ocean

The ocean is huge and full of wonders, so it's no surprise our listeners have lots of question about it. In this episode we'll travel to the bottom of the ocean to find out what the ocean floor is made of, and learn how geologist Marie Tharp helped us understand how amazing it is. We'll also delve into why the ocean is salty but lakes and rivers aren't, and sing along with the Salty Sea Shanty. Plus a brand new mystery sound! * * BrainsOnSaltySeaShanty * Our Salty Sea Shanty complete with sea creature drawings sent in by our listeners! This episode was sponsored by: __ Shopify ( - for a free 14-day trial and full access to Shopify's entire suite of features) __

Aug 09
Why can't we remember when we were babies?

You've probably seen photos from your first birthday. Or maybe you heard about the time you got spaghetti sauce all over the walls when you were two. The grown ups around you remember these things, so why can't you? In this episode, we'll find out how our brains store memories and why we can't hang on to those early ones. Plus: a brand new mystery sound and a preview of everyone's favorite soap opera, The Young and the Toothless. This episode was sponsored by: __ __

Aug 02
Million Bazillion: How do big video platforms make money?

A listener wants to know how the creators of his favorite online videos get paid. It’s a surprisingly complicated question, and Ryan and Bridget have to go viral themselves to find out the answer. Accompanied by their new dog and a bunch of influencers, we’ll learn all about the wild economics of online videos. Put on your tap-dancing shoes, we’re making ! img * What role do you play in getting video makers paid?

Jul 21
The Mosties!

Raise a curtain. Cue the lights. It’s the most most-tacular night. It’s The Mosties! The Brains Brains On favorites, Bob, Gungador, Elevator and HARVEY have all made it out to celebrate superlatives. The Mosties is an awards show of the extreme. Tonight’s categories include: Biggest Plant, Fastest Organism, Strongest Glue, Oldest Animal and Oldest Music. And don’t forget to stick around for a Mystery Mostie (aka Mystery Sound). And the winner is… ??? This is our last episode of this season but we’ll be back in August with more new episodes. Until then, Forever Ago is coming back June 1st and Smash Boom Best will be back July 7th. Remember, you can listen to Moment of Um every weekday too! Plus, the Brains On books are always around to keep you company -- you can buy them at This episode was sponsored by: Outschool ( for $15 off your child’s first class) Insect Lore ( Shopify ( for a 14 day free trial) Galileo Camps ( promo code: FUNSUMMER2022 for $100 off camp) Pinna ( promo code: BRAINSON for 50% off your first payment of full access) Mathnasium (

May 24
Forever Ago is back June 1!

We are so excited to share that our podcast,  is returning for a brand new season! If you didn’t get a chance to hear the first season,  is a history show for the whole family hosted by Joy Dolo - where every episode looks into the surprising and fascinating history of things we think are ordinary but they’re not - like ice cream flavors, video games, baths and umbrellas. We think you’ll really like it and we have the trailer of the new season for you to check out! Make sure to subscribe to Forever Ago wherever you get your podcasts and listen to all the episodes from season 1 to get ready. New episodes come out on June 1st! 

May 20
Tongue twisters: Terribly terrific and truly tantalizing

Why is it so hard to say sentences like: ? This episode cracks the code of tongue twisters. Check out the role mouth shapes and vocal folds play in tongue twisters. Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel will share her research into tongue twisters and how she came up with some of the hardest sentences for people to say. We also have a report on “the late eight,” a group of sounds that can be tough to say — and quite confounding when combined. Also, be sure to check out our listener-submitted tongue twisters — some you may have heard before, others are brand new to the world! Stick around for a stumper of a Mystery Sound too! This episode was sponsored by: Insect Lore ( Shopify ( for a free 14 day trial) Galileo Camps ( promo code: FUNSUMMER2022 for $100 off camp) Pinna ( promo code: BRAINSON for 50% off your first full-access payment)

May 10
How does a caterpillar become a butterfly?

Caterpillars go through a striking transformation from a crawly, tube-like creature into a soaring, beautifully-winged butterfly. This process is called metamorphosis and it’s no wonder our listeners have lots of questions about it. We’ll find out exactly how a caterpillar transforms (spoiler alert: it doesn’t just grow a pair of wings), and we’ll go on a house-hunting journey with two caterpillars searching for their pupation stations. Plus, a pretty tricky mystery sound for you to guess! This episode was sponsored by: Insect Lore ( Shopify ( for a 14 day trial) Galileo Camps ( - promo code: FUNSUMMER2022 for $100 off camp) Pinna ( https://PINNA.FM/BRAINSON - promo code: BRAINSON for 50% off your first payment when you sign up for Pinna full access)

May 03
What makes tiny tardigrades tick?

You can find micro-animals just about everywhere. They’re on your face and in your hair. They’re in puddles and in soil. One of the most famous of these microscopic creatures is the tardigrade. This episode zooms in on these adorable little animals, also known as moss piglets and water bears. The biggest tardigrade is about the size of the tip of a sharpened pencil, but most are smaller. More like the width of a hair. They’re kinda like a squishy pillow with eight legs, four on each side, with finger-like little claws at the end of each leg. And a round, snout-like opening on its face. Jasmine Nirody tells us what she’s learned about these cuties through her research. She’s watched hundreds of hours of tardigrade videos. Way better than YouTube, right? We’ll also hear about where you can find tardigrades, how they live and why we’ve sent them to space. Don’t forget to check out the brand new Mystery Sound too. If you’re near Los Angeles or St. Paul, you still have time to check out Brains On Live: Your Brain Is Magic. Molly, Marc and Sanden will wow you with magic, jokes and dancing. Ticket info is at This episode was sponsored by:   Indeed ( Novo ( Insect Lore ( Shopify ( Galileo Camps ( – promo code: FUNSUMMER2022 for $100 off camp) Little Passports ( – 20% off for new customers) Pinna ( - promo code BRAINSON)

Apr 26
Into the eye of a storm: How hurricanes form

How do hurricanes form? This episode dives into the eye of the hurricane to track down that answer and so much more. We also talk to hurricane hunter Major Joyce Hirai, who flies airplanes into hurricanes as part of the Air Force’s Weather Reconnaissance team. Also, we learn how humans have figured out how to be resilient in the face of increasing hurricanes (and hear from our friend Manuel the Mangrove). And get your dancing shoes on, because we’ve got a catchy tune that explains how hurricanes are named. All that plus a new Mystery Sound to tickle your ears. Don’t forget to record your favorite tongue twister for an upcoming episode. Upload it to our contact page by May 1, 2022 for a chance to be included in the episode. Sponsors for this episode include: Insect Lore ( Shopify ( Galileo Camps ( promo code: FUNSUMMER2022)

Apr 19
Is mind-reading real?

Can people actually read minds? Can we move objects with our brains like in the movies? We're exploring the history of shady psychics, sketchy seances, and secret superpower studies. Plus, hear from a scientist who is helping people regain the ability to pick up and move objects through the combined power of their brains and a special computer! You can support our show by donating, buying our book or telling your friends about us! Head to If you’re in Los Angeles or the Twin Cities and want to see us live, you can get tickets here: Today’s episode was sponsored by: Indeed ( – to claim $75 dollar sponsored job credit before April 30th Little Passports ( Insect Lore ( Shopify (

Apr 12
Owl about Owls

We’re headed off to an owl sanctuary to meet up with Nolan the know-it-owl for a special night owl Tour. We hear the sound of owl wings and check out some super-tubular owl eye facts. Find out how owls can swivel their heads 270 degrees and why their ears are at uneven spots on their heads. We’ll meet a poetry-loving barn owl named Olive, who fills us in on why owls are considered wise. Fun fact: owls are sometimes classified by their sounds -- bigger owls are and smaller owls are ! Special Thanks to the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the owl sounds used in this episode: Jian Diego Fernández / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML420855751) Paul Marvin / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML97928071) Bob McGuire / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML188805) Wil Hershberger / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML100707) Gerrit Vyn / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML140258) Thomas G. Sander / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML125346) William R. Fish / Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML22874) This episode was sponsored by: Insect Lore ( Shopify (

Apr 05
How are we related to stars?

Forget those fancy awards shows. This episode of Brains On is exploding with the stars. Find out how each of us is related to these beautifully bright beacons. Plus, we’ll consider what happens when gravity weighs down on a star over millions, and even billions, of years. We’ll also meet a star detective, who was able to witness an exploding star (aka supernova). All that and a stellar, new Mystery Sound to tickle your ears. Now, let’s blast off!!! This episode was sponsored by: Indeed ( Interlochen Center for the Arts ( Promo code: SAVE10) Staples ( Insect Lore ( Shopify (

Mar 29
Why are butts and poop so funny?

This episode is a real stinker,  it had to happen. We go  the scenes on what makes butts and poop so funny. Why does the mere mention of them make us laugh? We all have butts and we all poop. Those are the facts. But human butts are different than almost any other animal. We look into the evolution of butts, and find out how our senses of humor develop when we're kids. And we hear from comic Tim Platt on why he thinks butts and poop will always be funny. Plus, we’ll check in with Channel 2’s Bowel Action News team for some fast feces facts. Don’t forget to tune up your ears with the Mystery Sound. One more thing… who farted? This episode is sponsored by: Indeed ( BRAINSON Interlochen Center for the Arts ( promo code: SAVE10) Staples ( Little Passports ( Novo business banking ( Insect Lore (

Mar 22
Inside the immune system: Bad robots and friendly monsters

The immune system is so cool and so important but it largely goes about its business without us knowing it. In this episode you'll get a front row seat as our immune cells (aka friendly monsters) fight off bacteria and viruses (aka bad robots). We'll also find out how vaccines provide important training for our immune cells. Plus, co-host Colin quizzes Molly on immune system facts and there's a brand new mystery sound! This episode was brought to you by Indeed ( Interlochen Center for the Arts ( Code: SAVE10) Staples Connect ( Little Passports (

Mar 15
What's up with worms?

What’s up with worms? How do they sleep? Why are they slimy? How do they move? Here at Brains On, the only way to find out is to embark on an EPIC QUEST! Join co-host Ezra and the worm adventurer extraordinaire Sir Wormus on a journey to find the Golden Worm, a magical artifact! On the way, they’ll learn all about the noble earthworm from the Tome of Worms, a magic book containing all the knowledge of worm expert Emma Sherlock from the Natural History Museum in London! Will our heroes find the Golden Worm? Will they select a squirrel’s perfect snack? Will they solve the riddle of the Mystery Sound? There’s only one way to find out. Come on, friends, it’s time to go a-questing! You can support our show by donating (, buying our books (, or telling your friends about the show! This episode was sponsored by: Interlochen Center for the Arts ( Code: Save10) Staples (

Mar 08
Mountain life: How's the air up there?

The ExPLORERR was built to go everywhere. That’s why this vehicle’s full name is: the Extremely Practical Land and Ocean Rover Exploring Remote Realms. And guess what? It has a recording studio built on-board! Good thing, because this episode was recorded while traveling up, up, up a mountain! We discover some wildlife that lives at great heights as well as a rhyming ice cream salesman. Our pal and atmospheric scientist, Dr. Deanna Hence checks in to answer a popular question: if hot air rises, why is it so cold in the mountains? BRRRR! We also hear from NASA’s Dr. Dalia Kirschbaum, who has mountains of information about how mountains form. Of course, there’s a fun Mystery Sound for you’re ears to explore! And lastly, but not leastly, our two new books came out today. Head to our books page to find out more about and This episode was sponsored by: Interlochen Center for the Arts ( Staples (

Mar 01
Chilling out with snow

There are many different types of snow. From the fluffy to the slushy, this slippery frozen stuff comes in all different shapes and sizes.  From a distance, snowflakes may all look the same, but they are not. In fact, there are lots of different shapes of snowflakes — not just those classic shapes you might try to replicate with paper cut-outs. In this episode, Dr. Ken Libbrecht answers all of our snowflake questions: How are snowflakes made? Why are they different shapes? How is it that they’re all unique? And how does a scientist who lives in southern California study snow? And, he also lets us in on his brush with a couple Arendelle princesses. Plus our pal Ruby Guthrie pays her local ski slope to visit a snow-making machine called “Kevin.” And of course, there’s a new Mystery Sound to warm your ears. If you’re looking for some fun snowflake activities to do at home, Ken’s provided this great list — and you don’t need to live in a cold climate for all of them. This episode was sponsored by: Shopify ( Indeed ( Interlochen Center for the Arts (

Feb 22
Could you walk around the world?

It might sound impossible, but you can walk around the world! Rosie Swale-Pope has done it, and we get a chance to hear about her adventures in this episode. She tells us how she survives, and remains upbeat, on the road. Guess how many shoes she went through on her trip? Listen and find out. We also hear from D’Wayne Edwards, who helped design some of the most iconic shoes ever (Air Jordan anyone?). And see if you can guess the Mystery Sound. It’s a doozy! Plus, Molly, Marc and Sanden begin their own journey as they travel through the planet for their new book Road Trip Earth! Pre-order the Brains On books at This episode was sponsored by: Mathnasium ( Truebill ( Interlochen Center for the Arts (

Feb 15
Why do we like sugar so much?

Marshmallows, lollipops, gummi bears -- we want them all! But we’ve all heard that eating a lot of sugar isn’t that healthy for us. So what’s the deal? Why do we like sugar so much in the first place? We’ll find out why our bodies evolved to seek out sweet things, and how clever humans invented a way to make food even sweeter. And we’ll get to the bottom of a confectionary conundrum from our co-host Zoe: are sugar rushes a real thing? Plus: Sanden cooks up some very sweet schemes and we have a new mystery sound for you to guess! This episode is sponsored by: Mathnasium ( Indeed (

Feb 08
Do we live in a multiverse?

Get ready to learn the science behind the multiverse! That’s the idea that our universe isn’t the only universe out there. What if there were other, different universes existing alongside our own? Ones with different laws of physics, different planets and stars… or maybe even different versions of us! In this episode we explain a few different theories behind this popular idea. Plus, we’ll learn some quantum mechanics, hear about string theory and meet many different versions of Sanden. All that and a brand new Mystery Sound! Today’s episode is sponsored by Truebill ( and Shopify ( You can support the show by donating at or pre-order our books at Tell us about the place you’d like to make sure you see during your trip around the world at

Feb 01
Why are giraffe tongues blue? - A Moment of Um extra

Wow, wow, wow! Our new Moment of Um podcast is finally here. Check out this sample episode, and subscribe to Moment of Um in your podcast player. There are already five episodes just waiting for you to listen, and there’s a new one every weekday. Do you have a head-scratcher that you think would make a great Moment of Um episode? Head over to to let us know about it.

Jan 25
Introducing Moment of Um!

We're super excited for you to hear our newest podcast: Moment of Um! What’s that? You’ve already heard of Moment of Um featured on Brains On! You’re correct, congratulations! Moment of Um has been answering head scratchers for years on Brains On. Since our listeners send in so many Moment of Um questions, we thought it was time to give it a podcast of its own. Bitesized episodes drop every weekday, starting January 24th. Follow on your favorite podcast app or YouTube

Jan 18
What happens if you drop a feather in space?

In space, will a feather stay still? Fall down? Float away? Turns out, the answer depends on where you are! But one thing affects your feather no matter what: gravity! So Galileo is joining us all the way from the 1500s to fill us in on his theory about gravity. Then, we’re heading to space, and dropping a feather in a few different places to see what happens. Listen closely for a listener-submitted mystery sound, and a moment of um that answers this question: If you pick a flower, fruit or vegetable, is it still alive or is it dead? This episode is sponsored by Flip and Mozi's Guide to How to be an Earthling. To support the show, head to

Nov 23, 2021