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Soil: Can you dig it?

University of Minnesota's Jay Bell examines a soil sample with a student in Vadnais Heights, Minn. Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News)
University of Minnesota's Jay Bell examines a soil sample with a student in Vadnais Heights, Minn. Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News)

We’re ready to get our hands dirty as we explore the stuff beneath our feet. Clay, sand, mud — soil is everywhere. And it’s alive! We’ll find out how it helps plants grow and learn about all the little organisms that are invaluable in the process (hint: it involves something called the “poop loop”). The […]

Water, water everywhere — but how does it get there?

The Minneapolis water treatment plant (Photo by Molly Bloom)
The Minneapolis water treatment plant (Photo by Molly Bloom)

It’s easy to take water for granted. After all, you just turn a faucet and it pours right out. But how does it get to our faucet? We’ll explore the water cycle from rain to your drain. And did you know that space is full of water? It’s one of the most common features of the universe. We’ll also look at all the important things our bodies do with water — and how that’s a cycle too. Caution: this episode may make you very thirsty.

How do you catch a cold?

Image of a rhinovirus from Jean-Yves Sgro of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Image of a rhinovirus from Jean-Yves Sgro of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We’ve been catching colds for millennia – but it wasn’t until fairly recently that we actually understood how and why we get sneezy, coughy, and achy. In this episode, we find out more about the common cold: Does standing outside in the cold actually make it easier to get sick? Is there a cure that really works? Could there be a benefit to catching the rhinovirus? Listen for all the answers + the mystery sound!

Is there life on other planets?

Simulated view from Europa’s surface (Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech )
Simulated view from Europa’s surface (Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech )

Is there anybody out there? Like, WAAAAY out there? In this episode we hear from astronomer Laura Danly about the search for life on other planets. We’ll also learn what that search has in common with a fairy tale.

Numbers!

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The questions we have about numbers are uncountable. But here are a few of them: Where does zero come from? How is there more than one kind of infinity? What is it like to do math when numbers have different colors — and personalities?

Secrets!

MJ Hatfield in her home lab. (Photo by Jess Mador)
MJ Hatfield in her home lab. (Photo by Jess Mador)

If you look a little closer, listen a little harder, you’ll notice the secret life of things all around you. Want to know about the secret lives of bees, crickets, coral — and your own backyard? Give a listen!

Extinction!

Kristi Curry Rogers on a dig in Madagascar in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Kristi Curry Rogers)
Kristi Curry Rogers on a dig in Madagascar in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Kristi Curry Rogers)

Did Dinosaurs have feathers? Can you bring back species that have gone extinct? Find out here.

Sleeping!

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We have some questions about sleep: It’s ok to stay up late, right? Is it possible to control your dreams? Do all animals sleep? Why do we need to sleep anyway?

Music!

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The questions asked and answered in this episode include: What is harmony exactly? What does it take to be a great rapper? How does sound travel?

Growing!

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https://soundcloud.com/brains-on/brains-on-growing

Among the questions answered in this episode: Is it better to be taller or shorter? Do animals grow the same way that humans do? What superpowers does your brain have before it’s done growing?