Try Premium for 30 days

Live games for all NFL, MLB, NBA, & NHL teams
Commercial-Free Music
No Display Ads
Brains On!-logo

Brains On!

American Public Media

A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.

A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.
More Information


United States


A podcast featuring science for kids and curious adults.






American Public Media 480 Cedar Street St. Paul, Minn. 55101 1-800-228-7123


Mary Shelley and the science of Frankenstein

Frankenstein has become a pop culture mainstay and it all started off as a novel written by an 18-year-old woman written in the early 1800s. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel's publication, we look at how Mary Shelley was inspired by science and how the lessons of the book still resonate with the scientific world today. And for more on electricity, check out our four-part series from December.

Duration: 00:07:18

Super-size-asaurus: How did dinosaurs get so big?

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...

Duration: 00:35:56

Mysteries of the universe: Expansion and gravity (Encore)

Have you ever wondered what's beyond the edge of the universe? Or better yet: IS there an edge of the universe? And what does it mean that the universe is expanding? In this episode we ponder some big questions from Brains On listeners about the vastness of space. We also cover what we know and don't know about gravity. All that plus a brand new mystery sound, Moment of Um (do we get taller when we jump?) and honor roll!

Duration: 00:25:51

The nerve! Electricity in our bodies (Electricity Series pt. 4)

Your body is making and using electricity all the time -- but how do we do it? We'll take a look at how bioelectricity helps our brain sends signals and our hearts pump blood. And we'll learn about some amazing animals that use electricity in weird and wild ways. (This is the fourth of a four-part series)

Duration: 00:25:08

Charged up! The science of batteries (Electricity Series pt. 3)

Batteries are everywhere -- they're in our phones, our computers, our cars, our toys. But how do they work? To find out, we talk to a scientist who's making really big batteries to store renewable energy, another who's working on really small ones to power our phones, and we play in a park with a dog. All that, plus the mystery sound! (This is the third episode in a four part series.)

Duration: 00:32:56

High voltage! How electric power reaches your outlet

We use electricity all the time, but where exactly does it come from? How does it get to our homes? It's a fascinating journey that can start hundreds of miles from your outlet. We'll trace the path electricity takes from the power plant to your light bulb. We'll also learn what it's like without electricity and we'll hear about the rivalry between two great inventors, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

Duration: 00:37:28

Shocking! The science of static (Electricity Series pt. 1)

What makes your hair stand on end? Why does your skirt stick your tights? Why do you get zapped by electric shocks when you go to touch a doorknob? We answer those questions as we explore the science of static electricity. We'll also learn about the 18th-century parties where the goal was to shock, very literally, yourself and your loved ones. Plus: The first event in the first-ever Brains On Electric Games! It's a dramatic tennis match between Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Antoine Nollet.

Duration: 00:31:14

Word don't fossilize: The origins of language (encore)

Where did language come from? Is it possible to know without traveling back in time? And how do babies learn to speak? In this episode we have the answers to those questions and we'll hear how the word "silly" has evolved over the last several hundred years. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers the question, "Why is blood red if it looks blue in your veins?" And you'll hear the latest group to be added to the Brains Honor Roll!

Duration: 00:31:30

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...

Duration: 00:30:44

Curio: The flies on the bus

A few weeks ago, we got two emails that were so similar and so intriguing we had no choice but to investigate. They both basically asked this: Is a fly on a bus flying as fast as the bus is moving? Or is just hovering? And why doesn't it need a seatbelt? Turns out Einstein wondered about the same kind of things.

Duration: 00:09:05

Smaller than small

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...

Duration: 00:24:57

Healing skin and regrowing limbs: The science of regeneration (Encore)

We all know what happens when you get a cut or scrape. You get a scab, you try not to pick at it, and then after a little while it heals. But what's really going on under that scab? What superpowers does our skin have to repair itself? And what about other animals like salamanders that can do some pretty extreme healing? We're going under the skin for this one. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers this question: "How do frogs' tongues stretch so far?" And listen for a new Brains Honor Roll!

Duration: 00:28:42

What is Down syndrome?

You may have heard of Down syndrome, but what is it exactly? In this episode, we'll break down the science of chromosomes and how having an extra one leads to this fairly common condition. Plus, we'll learn some tips for making friends with someone who might seem different than you. We'll also swing by a farm staffed by ranchers with Down syndrome. And in our Moment of Um we'll find out why eggs go from clear to white when cooked.

Duration: 00:28:21

Bonus: Kidcast sampler

Looking for more awesome podcasts to listen to? We're bringing you a special bonus episode today to let you know about some of the other podcasts that you might want to check out. And if you want to find lots of other podcasts for kids you can always head to

Duration: 00:21:15

Curio: Vampire of the Great Lakes

Creepy crawly insects and creatures with big teeth and bigger roars can be scary. In preparation for Halloween, here's a tale of one of the scariest creatures around: the sea lamprey. At about 3-4 feet long, the lamprey slithers through the water like an eel and uses concentric circles of sharp teeth to suction onto its prey. As if that weren't enough, it then pokes its tongue into its victim and sucks the life out of it. Part vampire, part alien invader, the sea lamprey originally thrived...

Duration: 00:10:46

Narwhals: Unicorns of the sea?

Narwhals are whales, and super cool ones at that. But that cool thing coming out of their heads is a tusk, not a horn. Which means it's a tooth! And it's the only known spiral tooth to boot! 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.

Duration: 00:28:26

How do volcanoes erupt? (Encore)

There are all kinds of volcanoes all over the world, but how are they formed? And how do they erupt? To find out, we'll travel to the center of the Earth, and we'll meet a NASA robot that went on a very special volcano mission. Plus: A brand new Moment of Um answers how ballet dancers stand on their toes and we read the latest list of names to be added to the Brains Honor Roll.

Duration: 00:27:38

For crying out loud: All about tears

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. Plus: Our Moment of Um explores why we sweat when we're nervous.

Duration: 00:36:02

Curio: Quindar tones and talking in space

If you've ever heard an old recording of a NASA space mission, then you've heard a Quindar tone. Those are the beeps that we hear behind the voices of mission control and astronauts orbiting space. Today we find out why these tones exist and how they've inspired a couple modern-day musicians. This episode is the inaugural Brains On Curio - a shorter episode that we're adding to our weekly feed. Today's Curio features Mikael Jorgensen and James Merle Thomas, of the band Quindar. Listen in...

Duration: 00:11:12

Mars: Our next home planet?

Would you like retire to Mars? It may be possible in the not-so-distant future. Mars is more Earth-like than any other planet in our solar system. In fact, billions of years ago it was warmer and wetter and life may have developed there. Scientists are trying to figure out why it changed and if we could change it back so humans could live there. In this episode you'll learn about Mars' ancient past, you'll meet an architect hoping to build cities there and you'll hear from Mars itself,...

Duration: 00:32:31

See More