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Roller coasters: From dream to extreme

The SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. (Molly Bloom / MPR News)
The SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. (Molly Bloom / MPR News)

How do roller coaster designers go from dream to reality? World-renowned roller coaster designer Alan Schilke tells us how he does it. Also — why do some people feel sick or dizzy after riding them? And how do coasters make you feel like you’re floating?

Dogs: What’s the secret of their sense of smell?

Freedom, a beagle trained to sniff out bedbugs, on July 26, 2010 in the Queens borough of New York.  (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Freedom, a beagle trained to sniff out bedbugs, on July 26, 2010 in the Queens borough of New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

From 8-bit to orchestras: How does video game music affect you?

10 year old Melisa Correia is reflected IN a screen as she plays a Space Invaders video game at the Science Museum on October 20, 2006 in London.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
10 year old Melisa Correia is reflected IN a screen as she plays a Space Invaders video game at the Science Museum on October 20, 2006 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

If you’ve ever played a video game, you know how important music can be when it comes to gaming. But what if you choose to play without music? 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.

How do monarch butterflies travel so far?

In this 2010 file photo, a monarch butterfly sits in a flower in Los Angeles. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
In this 2010 file photo, a monarch butterfly sits in a flower in Los Angeles. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Monarch butterflies are unique — they’re the only butterfly to travel thousands of miles when the seasons change. They travel from as far north as Canada all the way down to a few very specific mountaintops in central Mexico.

They don’t have a car, or an airplane ticket. They just have their two little wings. So we’re asking: How do they do it? How do they migrate thousands of miles? And why?

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!