Brains On!

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.

Circadian rhythm pt. 2: Beyond human (3/2018)

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) (3/2018)

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 question, "How do cheetahs run so fast?"

The tick-tock of our circadian clock (2/2018)

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 out how light from these screens might affect circadian rhythms and what you can do about it. What if every 24 hours, you saw the sun rise and set 16 times? That's what happens to astronauts orbiting the earth. Doug Wheelock (@Astro_Wheels) gives a first-hand account. Throughout history, cycles of light and dark have been celebrated, revered and commemorated. Archeoastronomer Anthony Aveni guides us through a few of these events. All that plus a listener-submitted Mystery Sound from down under. This episode is the first of a two-parter looking at circadian rhythm. The second part will look at how these cycles affect plants and animals too!

'Is it opposite day?' and other mind-bending paradoxes (2/2018)

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 the question: How do erasers erase?

Our 100th episode! What's the big deal? (2/2018)

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 (2/2018)

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! (1/2018)

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 flamingos are pink... featuring Flora Lichtman from Gimlet Media's Every Little Thing.

Dogs: What's the secret of their sense of smell? (Encore) (1/2018)

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 (1/2018)

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? (1/2018)

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 most important fossil finders of the 19th century, Mary Anning. All this plus a Mystery Sound and a Moment of Um answering why the sun is so hot.