Brains On! Science podcast for kids


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Brains On! Science podcast for kids

MPR News and Southern California Public Radio

Brains On!® is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from American Public Media. 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

1 Jun 23, 2017

Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road Trip pt. 4)

On the fourth leg of our road trip, we figure out where traffic comes from and what it would take to make it finally go away. We learn how far back in history traffic jams were happening (spoiler: very far) and how "phantom jams" occur. We visit a room deep underground Los Angeles, the traffic capital of the US, where engineers are trying to ease the city's traffic woes by synchronizing traffic lights. Finally, we explore how, if ever, we can make traffic jams disappear. Are self-driving cars the answer?
Traffic: Phantom jams and chicken soup (Road Trip pt. 4)
00:24
2 Jun 20, 2017

Monster trucks and car design (Road Trip pt. 3)

From the headlights to door locks, cars are obsessively designed. But that hasn't always been the case. Find out about innovations like windshield wipers, rearview mirrors and fancy paint. Ralph Gilles knows a thing or two about the look and feel of cars. He's the head of design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Designing for cars off the road brings us two guests: Rosalee Ramer and Jay Shuster. Rosalee started professionally driving her monster truck at age 14 -- she's 20 now, and has added a full load of mechanical engineering classes to her monster truck schedule. Jay Shuster has imagined some of the most iconic cars ever. Too bad we'll never get to ride in them. He's the production designer for Pixar's "Cars 3," and he gives us some insight into designing a universe of talking cars.
Monster trucks and car design (Road Trip pt. 3)
00:28
3 Jun 16, 2017

The future of fuel (and the problem with exhaust)

In this episode, we're answering a question from listener Katelynn: "Why is car exhaust bad for the planet?" Our planet NEEDS some carbon dioxide, but cars are pumping more into the atmosphere than our carbon cycle can handle. We'll explore what all this carbon means for our planet. And we talk to Anne Co, a scientist who is working to change how we fuel our cars, so we can cut back on all this carbon dioxide. She explains how fuel cells and batteries work to power electric cars. Anne's vision for the future of cars can be summed up in one word: electric.
The future of fuel (and the problem with exhaust)
00:17
4 Jun 09, 2017

Exploding engines (Road Trip pt. 1)

On the first leg of our road trip, we'll explore the history of engines and how they work, with a little help from Car Talk's Ray Magliozzi. The fundamentals of the internal combustion (or exploding) engine, haven't really changed since it was first invented in the 1800s. We'll find out how tiny explosions power our cars and hear how gas-powered cars came to dominate over electric and steam-powered engines.
Exploding engines (Road Trip pt. 1)
00:21
5 Jun 06, 2017

Mystery sound extravaganza!

Regular listeners of Brains On know all about our mystery sounds. Every episode we test your ears with some puzzling noise and give you a chance to guess what it is. There are so many great mystery sounds in the world -- and many, many of them have been sent to us by our listeners. So many, in fact, that we decided to devote an entire episode to these magical, magnificent, mellifluous mystery sounds. There are a whopping 10 sounds for you to guess in this episode. Are your ears up to the challenge? If you're the kind of person that likes a little friendly competition, make a score sheet with your answers. We'd love to see which ones you got and, better yet, what you guessed for the ones you got wrong. Upload pics of your scoresheet with #BrainsOn. Happy guessing!
Mystery sound extravaganza!
00:32
6 May 23, 2017

Books and the brain

What happens in your head when you read? Short answer: A LOT. From recognizing shapes as letters and words to discovery of empathy and new worlds, our brains really get a workout when we read books. Ben Bergen drops by to shed some light on how our brain processes the meaning of words. He runs the Language and Cognition Lab at UC San Diego. We also take a trip back to see how printing books has evolved and how the invention of the printing press brought worldwide change. And, Author Kelly Barnhill shares a little of what's going on in her brain as she's writing a story. All this and one of the best Mystery Sounds we've had to date.
Books and the brain
00:33
7 May 09, 2017

Slime: What is it and why are we so obsessed?

Homemade slime is sticky, gooey and all the rage, but what is it? When you combine ingredients like glue and laundry detergent you get a strange, flubbery substance. We'll explain what's happening on a molecular level to make this stuff. We'll also hear theories on why so many of us are obsessed with slime. Plus, a brand new slime rap, a mystery sound and some cool facts about snakes.
Slime: What is it and why are we so obsessed?
00:20
8 Apr 25, 2017

What was the first life on Earth?

What was the first lifeform like? What was very first the first fish or mammal? Is it even possible to know? In this episode, we look to the fossil record to help us trace our roots back to the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Paleontologist Neil Shubin joins us to talk about discovering a remarkably cool fossil that helped us understand how life evolved over billions of years. We also take a field trip to the Hall of Ancestors and examine a few branches on the tree of life. And we learn why figuring out how life began on earth could help us as we find life elsewhere in the universe.
What was the first life on Earth?
00:32
9 Apr 11, 2017

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.
How do pianos pianos work?
00:25
10 Mar 28, 2017

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!
The ups and downs of elevators
00:37
11 Mar 14, 2017

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.
Why is the ocean salty?
00:16
12 Feb 28, 2017

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).
Ants: Who's in charge here?
00:30
13 Feb 14, 2017

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.
Do we all see the same colors?
00:15
14 Jan 31, 2017

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.
Cats: Glowing eyes, puffy tails and secret purrs (Encore)
00:25
15 Jan 17, 2017

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!
Dinosaur bones: How do we know their age?
00:18