Brains On!-logo

Brains On!

Minnesota Public Radio

Brains On is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from MPR News and KPCC. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us.

Brains On is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from MPR News and KPCC. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us.
More Information


Minneapolis, MN


Brains On is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from MPR News and KPCC. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us.




'The Rice Cakes and the Oni': A story from Circle Round

Sometimes we're in the mood for a good story, so we're turning our show over to Circle Round this week. It's a podcast produced by WBUR in Boston that tells folktales from around the world. These stories are funny, surprising, suspenseful and downright charming. Here's one we think you'll dig. It stars a kid who loves making jokes, so you know it's up our alley. In the meantime, we're hard at work on some exciting new episodes -- including a brand new show. We'll be able to tell you more...


Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human

Circadian rhythms keep our bodies on schedule. But what about the rest of the animal and plant world? Turns out, most living things run on similar cycles. In this episode we take a look at why some animals hibernate. There's also an interview with a plant. Wait, what?!? You read that right: A PLANT!!! All that and a trip back to pre-history, to see how staying up late might have helped mammals survive all those dinosaurs. Three-word hint: nocturnal bottleneck hypothesis.


Video game music: From 8-bit to orchestras (encore)

You know how important music can be when it comes to gaming. But what if you choose to play without music? Or, what if you replace the music with your own soundtrack? How does that affect your playing? We're going to dig into the psychology of video game music, explain how the interactivity of video game music works and figure out what "8-bit" means. You can find all of that in this episode, plus a new group of names added to the Brains Honor Roll and brand new Moment of Um answers the...


The tick-tock of our circadian clock

Our bodies are filled with tiny clocks. Down to the cellular level, they tick and tock and stay in sync with the light and dark cycles of the sun. These near 24-hour-cycles are known as our circadian rhythm. Do you want to know the best time of day to be productive... or exercise... or do your homework? In this episode, we'll take a look at the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) -- the great conductor of our circadian rhythm. Plus, the number of screens we look at every day keeps growing. Find...


'Is it opposite day?' and other mind-bending paradoxes

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. We learn about the sinister-sounding "Liar Paradox." And we find out that it's not only our brains that use logic, it's used by the machines all around us too. Plus: A brand new mystery sound and an answer to...


Our 100th episode! What's the big deal?

In this milestone of an episode, we ask why people seem to love the number 100 so much. We also learn some amazing tricks involving the number 100 from a mathemagician. And fan favorite Gungador goes from Most Epic Fighting Battle Realm to a much more challenging setting: high school.


Meet Sandy, the left-handed mutant snail

Sandy is a mutant snail whose shell coils to the left instead of the right. For humans, being left-handed or right-handed can definitely affect the way we experience life, though that mismatch is usually just a minor nuisance. But sometimes, sidedness can change the future of an entire species.


Dolphins vs Octopuses: Showdown in the sea!

Two of Earth's most amazing animals go head to head in our latest debate. We're asking you to decide which animal reigns supreme. Is it the eight-armed, three hearted, shape-shifting octopus? Or the speed swimming, echo-locating, super-jumping dolphin? Listen along as Marc argues for #TeamOctopus and Sanden fights for #TeamDolphin. We'll learn amazing facts about both sides along the way. Plus an aquatic Mystery Sound, some deep-sea stand up comedy and a Moment of Um answering why...


Dogs: What's the secret of their sense of smell? (Encore)

If you've ever seen a dog, you know they like to sniff -- the ground, people, each other's butts. They like to smell just about everything. But why? We're digging into the science of smell and how dogs are able to decode things we can't even begin to imagine. Plus a brand new Honor Roll and a new Moment of Um: How do bees make honey?


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.


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...


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!


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)


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.)


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.


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.


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!


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...


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.


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...


Try Premium for 30 days

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