Looking for some sneaky sound puzzles to solve? Tune in to our all-new mystery sound extravaganza! Join co-host Maggie as she listens to recordings of sounds from Brains On listeners – and tries to figure out what they are. You’ll hear Maggie and her brother Sam go head-to-head in a sibling mystery sound battle and listen to podcast producers Nichole Hill and Yowei Shaw struggle to solve some sonic stumpers. Get your listening ears ready for this one!

Featured experts: Nichole Hill is a showrunner, creative producer, and host. She’s produced podcasts for adults like The Secret Adventures of Black People, I Am America with Traci Ellis Ross, and Tonya Mosley’s She Has A Name. Read more about her work at www.nicholelhill.com

Yowei Shaw is a podcast producer, host, and editor. A former producer and host for NPR’s Invisibilia, she’s now making a podcast called Proxy, where she answers niche emotional questions by connecting guests with an expert or stranger with a shared experience. Read more about Yowei’s work at www.yoweishaw.com.

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MAGGIE: You're listening to Brains On, where we're serious about being curious.

CHILD: Brains On is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

NARRATOR: In just a few minutes, Molly, Marc, and Sanden will be here to perform Brains On live!


MARC SANCHEZ: You got this, Marc. You're a professional. You're not nervous. Nope, nope. You're definitely not nervous.

MOLLY BLOOM: Marc, are you ready to go on?

MARC SANCHEZ: Oh, one-- one sec. I just got to stop by the mystery sound storeroom.

MOLLY BLOOM: But we picked mystery sounds for the show already.

MARC SANCHEZ: I need one for me, Molly.





The room where we keep all our mystery sounds, my happy place. So many jars filled with so many mysterious sounds. Now I just need to find a relaxing one.



Ugh, not what I was looking for.


No, nope, nope, nope. Nope, nope, nope. Good dog. Good dog. Nope. Oh, maybe this one will help me relax?


I give up.

MOLLY BLOOM: Marc, the show is about to start.

MARC SANCHEZ: I know, Molly, but I need a relaxing sound to calm me down. Let me just try one more jar.





MOLLY BLOOM: Oh, put a lid on it.

MARC SANCHEZ: Do you think that was a whoopee cushion or a true fart?

MOLLY BLOOM: Hard to say, but I'm going to go with true fart.

MARC SANCHEZ: Whew, that was not what I thought I needed. But wow, laughing really makes me feel super chill. Molly, I'm ready for showtime.

MOLLY BLOOM: Awesome. Let's go.


You're listening to Brains On from APM Studios. I'm Molly Bloom, and my co-host today is Maggie from St. Paul, Minnesota. Hi, Maggie.

MAGGIE: Hi, Molly.

MOLLY BLOOM: Today we have a special treat for you. We're spending the whole show guessing mystery sounds and celebrating the art of listening. We'll hear a bunch of mystery sounds recorded by Brains On fans and a couple from special guests. Brains On fans already know what mystery sounds are, but if you're listening for the first time, here's the scoop.

We'll play you a sound, and you'll listen closely to try to guess what it is. Maggie, you sent us a mystery sound just a few weeks ago. Should we take a listen to it?


MOLLY BLOOM: OK, here it is.




So, that was the sound of your cat Boo eating, right? So what's the story behind that sound?

MAGGIE: So I went into the cabinet and got a tube of cat yogurt. So I fed him that while holding mom's phone near him so that it could hear him purring. Boo is a cat that loves to purr really loudly, and he does it a lot. Pika has been purring more recently, but her purr is a bit more quiet.

Pika and Boo are about six months old kitten siblings that we got the day after Thanksgiving of 2023, which was literally last year, if you think about it.

MOLLY BLOOM: True. This is good instruction for kids who want to know how to record their own mystery sound. Everything makes sounds, and it's fun when the sounds show what your life is like. Like in this case, we got to meet your cat. So your brother Sam and you love to guess mystery sounds together. And so lucky for us, Sam is in the studio today. Hello, Sam.

SAM: Hi.

MOLLY BLOOM: So glad that you're here. So since Sam and Maggie like to guess mystery sounds as a family, we're going to start with a super special sibling mystery sound round for this segment. Sam and Maggie have both picked mystery sounds to try to stump each other. Are you guys ready?

MAGGIE: For the battle of the mystery sound!

SAM: Yeah, battle of the mystery sound.

MOLLY BLOOM: Fantastic. So listeners at home, we want you to play along, too. Feel free to pause after each sound, to talk it over, write down your guesses, see if you're right. OK, Maggie, you're up first. Let's hear the sound you've brought to stump Sam.





MOLLY BLOOM: What do you think, Sam?

SAM: It's someone clinking keys because they're putting them down. I think they're clicking keys.

MOLLY BLOOM: So your guess is clinking keys?

SAM: Yeah.

MOLLY BLOOM: Great. Maggie, can you give Sam a hint?

MAGGIE: This is a sound we might find when we're playing outside.

MOLLY BLOOM: Where was this sound recorded, do you remember?

MAGGIE: In the backyard.

MOLLY BLOOM: This sound was recorded in your backyard. Does that help you? Want to hear it again?

SAM: Yeah.

MOLLY BLOOM: So let's hear the sound one more time.




So what could possibly make this sound in your backyard?

SAM: Someone picking up some trash and putting them in a trash bin.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, someone picking up some trash and putting it in a trash bin, very good guess. Maggie, can you reveal the answer now?

MAGGIE: That was the sound of the chains on our swing set clinking together as I swung on the swings.

MOLLY BLOOM: So, Sam, now that the answer, can you picture that?

SAM: Yeah.

MOLLY BLOOM: Have you swung on those swings before?

SAM: I have.

MOLLY BLOOM: Nice. So now, it is Sam's turn. Let's hear the sound that you brought for Maggie to guess.





MAGGIE: I think it might be running water. Maybe it's a waterfall. Maybe it's the sink.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, so something involving water. Do you want to hear it again?


MOLLY BLOOM: OK, here you go.




MAGGIE: I think it may have been rain falling on the roof.

MOLLY BLOOM: Rain on the roof?

MAGGIE: Yeah, I think that's going to be my final guess.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, so, Sam, can you reveal what the answer is?

SAM: Stream in Vermont.

MOLLY BLOOM: So that's the sound of a stream you recorded in Vermont?

SAM: Yeah.

MOLLY BLOOM: Very good job, both of you. Well, Sam, thank you so much for coming in and playing the mystery sound game with us.

SAM: Thank you.

MAGGIE: Thanks, Sam.

SAM: You're welcome.

MAGGIE: This is actually really fun, even though neither of us got it.

MOLLY BLOOM: [LAUGHS] Mystery sounds are fun, even if you get them wrong.


MOLLY BLOOM: Maggie, we have a lot of mystery sounds to get through. Are you ready for the next mystery sound?

MAGGIE: Yeah, who knows? It could be anything. Maybe one of them is a toilet flushing.

MOLLY BLOOM: Great. Let's hear it.





MAGGIE: Honestly, that sounds like a dishwasher.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, let's hear it again.





MAGGIE: So far, the only guess I've really come up with is still dishwasher.

MOLLY BLOOM: All right, here's the answer.

WAYLEN: Hey, I'm Waylen. I live in Bethany, Missouri. That was the sound of the X-ray beam. I recorded this sound at the hospital my mommy works at.

MOLLY BLOOM: So cool. So that was the sound of an X-ray. X-rays are powerful waves of energy that can pass through most objects, including our bodies.

MAGGIE: Which is so cool.

MOLLY BLOOM: When you get an X-ray, energy waves zip through the softer parts of your body, like your skin and muscles. But the hard parts of your body, like your bones, absorb the energy waves. Doctors can use special paper to capture a picture of the X-rays that go through your body. And when it's developed, the soft parts of your body appear black, and the hard parts look white.

Doctors use X-rays to take a peek inside our bodies, like if they think we might have a broken bone. When I've gotten my X-rays at the dentist, I have a bunch of earrings in my ears. And so when I get the X-ray, you can see my teeth, and then you can see my earrings because the X-ray can't go through those either.

MAGGIE: That is so funny.

MOLLY BLOOM: I know. It's pretty cool. So, do you think you would want to be able to have X-ray vision?

MAGGIE: I'd rather not have X-ray vision because then, in hide and seek, it would be no challenge finding people.

MOLLY BLOOM: Good point.

MAGGIE: It would be so easy.

MOLLY BLOOM: So you want the challenge?


MOLLY BLOOM: You want to be-- OK, so Waylen, the kid who sent in that sound, thought it would be awesome to have X-ray vision. And here's what she said.

WAYLEN: I would look through the cabinet that Mom hides her treats in.



MOLLY BLOOM: Very sneaky, Waylen. I love it.


All right, Maggie, it's time for another mystery sound. This one comes from our friend Nicole Hill. So Nicole is a podcast producer, which means she listens to lots of sounds for her job. She's produced podcasts for adults, like the Secret Adventures of Black People and She Has A Name. So we asked Nicole to share a sound with us. And here's what she shared.




What do you think that was?

MAGGIE: I heard something that sounded like someone was panting, like-- [BREATHING HEAVILY]

MOLLY BLOOM: Mm-hmm, yeah.

MAGGIE: Like what might happen if you're doing the mile run.


MAGGIE: If anyone here is in elementary school, they probably know what the mile run is. It's one of the fitness tests and the worst one ever.

MOLLY BLOOM: [LAUGHS] I agree with you. OK, so you're thinking someone panting after running a mile. You are very close. This was someone breathing. They're not running, though. So let's find out what the answer is from Nicole.

NICOLE HILL: That is the sound of me doing something called shadow boxing, which is a thing that boxer's do to warm up their body. You basically just pretend to be boxing. And you punch, and you move around, and you just imitate a fight to get your mind and body ready for the real thing.

MOLLY BLOOM: Incredible. So you were right. She was breathing, but instead of running, she was punching the air to practice boxing. Let's hear what Nicole says about boxing.

NICOLE HILL: When I was very young, I loved Xena, Warrior Princess and The Power Rangers and any show that was about fighting and kicking and punching. I thought it was really cool. But then, when I got older, there was no avenue to do that. And then I heard about boxing, and I get to be Xena, Warrior Princess whenever I'm in class. So, I just loved it, and I had so much fun. It's just fun to play. I think of boxing as playing.

MOLLY BLOOM: So, do you ever play pretend and imagine that you're a princess, a warrior, a cat? Do you play make-believe games?

MAGGIE: I love to. I like to pretend to be a dragon or a dragon rider, like a warrior, sometimes like dragon-human hybrids.

MOLLY BLOOM: Incredible. So you have a great imagination. So we've got another mystery sound on deck. We asked Nicole to answer this one, too. So, we'll see if her expert audio ears can help us get closer to the answer. You ready to hear the sound?


MOLLY BLOOM: Here it is.




What do you think it is?

MAGGIE: I think that it's like peeling tape.

MOLLY BLOOM: I think you're pretty close. Let's hear Nicole's guess.

NICOLE HILL: It sounds like somebody's opening a tent.

MOLLY BLOOM: Hmm. So, does Nicole's answer make you think differently at all?

MAGGIE: It does kind of sound like that. Maybe there's a tent, but the door is taped shut. Maybe it's a mix of the two things.

MOLLY BLOOM: I love that idea. Should we hear the answer?


SOPHIE: Hello, my name is Sophie from Arlington, Massachusetts. And the sound that you just heard was my mom using scissors to make curly ribbon bows.

MAGGIE: Oh, I've done that before. That is so fun.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yeah, it is, but that's--

MAGGIE: It makes them all like, woop.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yeah, exactly. You take, like--

MAGGIE: Like these little loop to loop.

MOLLY BLOOM: Exactly. So you take the scissors and you run it around the ribbon. And when you do that, it changes the shape of it and makes it all curly.

MAGGIE: Yeah, you take scissors, and you hold them as open as they possibly can.


MAGGIE: And then you put a lot of pressure and pull the ribbon through. And it runs along the blade in a certain way that it makes it be super curly.

MOLLY BLOOM: Exactly. Yeah, so you and Nicole, I'm sorry to say, were both wrong. But it shows that mystery sounds are hard for everybody, even people who spend their days listening to stuff.


All right. So we're going to be back with more special sounds after this short break.

MAGGIE: So keep listening.


MOLLY BLOOM: Listeners, we love getting mail from you. Head to brainson.org/contact to send us your mystery sounds, drawings, and questions.

MAGGIE: Like this one.

EDEN: Hi, my name is Eden, and I live in High Bridge, New Jersey. My question is, how did the days of the week get their names? Thank you. Bye.

MOLLY BLOOM: Find the answers to questions like this on the Moment of Um podcast, a short dose of facts and fun every weekday. Find the Moment of Um and more at brainson.org.

MARC SANCHEZ: Brains On Universe is a family of podcasts for kids and their adults. And since you're a fan of Brains On, we know you'll love the other shows in our universe. Come on, let's explore.

ROBOT: Entering Brains On Universe. Whoa, so many podcasts. Brains On, Smash Boom Best, Forever Ago. Oh, picking up signal. Forever Ago, a history podcast starring Joy Dolo.

JOY DOLO: Flare's gum was so sticky when the bubble popped, it was so hard to get off your skin. You'd have to scrub it off with harsh chemicals.

ROBOT: Me love sticky facts. [BUZZER] Zorp! Signal down. Quick, need Forever Ago now!

MARC SANCHEZ: Search for Forever Ago wherever you get your podcasts.

ALL (SINGING): Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba Brains On.

MOLLY BLOOM: You're listening to Brains On. I'm Molly.

MAGGIE: And I'm Maggie.

MOLLY BLOOM: Today we're diving deep into the world of mystery sounds. One of the fun things about recording mystery sounds is when we start hunting for them, we pay more attention to the sounds around us. Before the break, we heard from podcast producer Nicole Hill, and she shared a bit about how she finds music in the world around her.

NICOLE HILL: As a podcast producer, I pay a lot of attention to sounds. To me, going to a grocery store, just standing in line with my eyes closed sounds a little bit like a symphony. Just all the different sounds coming together.



If I had to give a tip on how to tune into the world around you, I would say close your eyes. That's always a nice place to start. And I would say focus on your breathing, which always helps to just calm you down and help you focus on something, and then just listen.

MOLLY BLOOM: Maggie, let's close our eyes and listen to the world around us right now. Sound good?


MOLLY BLOOM: What do you hear?

MAGGIE: I heard a tiny knock.

MOLLY BLOOM: I think that was us making that sound. Because you know what, we're in this studio, and so the only sounds we can hear are the ones we make in here. Like I can hear my hands and me, but everything else is blocked out because studios are designed to be very quiet places.

So the special walls in here block sounds from the outside and stop our voices from echoing. So to understand how that works, you have to start with the fact that sound is made up of invisible waves that wiggle and move around through the air.

MAGGIE: Oh, yeah, I know about this. Sound waves bounce off of hard surfaces, like stone, metal, and bathroom tile. But they get absorbed by soft materials, like foam and carpet.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yes, the walls, ceilings and floors of recording studios like this one are covered in materials that absorb sound waves like big foam panels.

MAGGIE: So, after the sounds from our mouths get captured by the microphones in front of us, anything extra gets absorbed by the ceiling, floor, and walls? Like they're covered in carpet?

MOLLY BLOOM: Exactly. So if the sound waves bounced around instead, everything would sound echoey and less clear, like this.

(ECHOING) If the sound waves bounced around instead, everything would sound echoey and less clear.

So thank goodness for recording studios. All right, Maggie, you ready for the next mystery sound?


MOLLY BLOOM: All right, let's hear it.




What do you think it is?

MAGGIE: It sounded like somebody hitting some different things, like some maybe plastic cups. And they had two wooden things, like pencils. And then at some point, they were scraping them against each other. And so some of the sounds I heard sounded like this--


MOLLY BLOOM: OK. So, you're really close, actually. Can you think of something like a pencil that you would put in a cup and move it around? Think about that while you listen to it again.




So what is a pencil-like thing that you might put in a cup?

MAGGIE: I think I figured out what it is.


MAGGIE: So I think it might be like stirring up coffee or water with ice in a cup.

MOLLY BLOOM: Great guess. Are you ready for the answer?


MAY: Hi, my name is may, and I'm from Thornton, Colorado. The sound you just heard was me rinsing my paintbrush in a cup of water. I like painting because it's peaceful and relaxing. My favorite brush is a large brush, and my favorite paints are glitter paints. My most recent painting was a cat house that I built out of cardboard boxes.

You need to rinse them so that the paint on them doesn't dry out so you can use them over and over and over again.

MOLLY BLOOM: Good advice from May. So, it was someone rinsing off a paintbrush. So when you said pencil in a cup, that was really close.


MOLLY BLOOM: May said that she painted a cat house. If you were going to make a cat house for your cats Pika and Boo, what would it look like?

MAGGIE: It would be made out of a giant cardboard box, maybe one for a refrigerator. And cats can really only see in blues and greens. So I'd probably put a lot of shades of blues and greens.






OK, it's time to hear from another one of our special audio experts, Yowei Shaw. She was the host and producer of Invisibilia, a science podcast for adults. And she's about to release a new podcast called Proxy. Let's see what kind of mystery sound Yowei recorded for us.








OK, what's your guess, Maggie?

MAGGIE: I think that was definitely like a hungry cat. Maybe the cat was just meowing, but there's definitely a loudly meowing cat in there. Maybe the person is doing the dishes, and the cat is bothering them because the cat's hungry or wants to play or cuddle.


MAGGIE: I could totally see this happening in my house.


MAGGIE: When I heard the meowing, it was like, I might not get the sound exactly right, but I think I might get it pretty close.

MOLLY BLOOM: You are a cat expert. So, here is the answer.

YOWEI SHAW: So I guess the sound is probably straight forward in that it sounds like a cat whimpering while dishes and silverware are being put away.

MOLLY BLOOM: So you were 100% right. Well done.



YOWEI SHAW: But the mystery is more about the story behind it. So basically, a few years ago, I adopted my cat Rakoff from a co-worker at NPR. And when we got home to my house, everything was fine. We had dinner, we loaded up the dishwasher, and then we started putting away our dishes. And then Rakoff started doing the thing.

He started wandering around, whimpering the most pitiful cat meow ever. Then it just kept happening, like clockwork. He doesn't do it with dishes, bowls, glasses or mugs. It's only the tinkling of silverware, the knives, forks and spoons, where Rakoff starts making that noise. My husband and I, we just don't know where this came from. Anyways, this has been a mystery in this household for years.

MOLLY BLOOM: So Yowei is confused about why her cats make this noise when she puts silverware away. So why do you think a cat would make this noise when silverware is being put away?

MAGGIE: Maybe the cat is like, oh, they're putting silverware away. Silverware is the thing that they use to put wet food in my bowl. This is the time of day every day where you just happen to be putting away dishes and I happen to be hungry and wanting attention.

MOLLY BLOOM: Very good. You are an excellent cat translator. So, we have one last mystery sound for you, Maggie. And since Yowei also loves mysteries, we asked her to guess, too. So let's see how she does and how you do. Here it is.




What do you think that is?

MAGGIE: I think there's something spinning, like maybe a propeller. Maybe they're working with a toy drone, or there's a helicopter. I-- this is a tricky one.

MOLLY BLOOM: It is a tricky one. Should we hear what Yowei's guess is?


MOLLY BLOOM: Here's her guess.

YOWEI SHAW: I think it's some kind of tool where you press a button and then there's a thing that goes-- [IMITATES WHIRRING SOUND] I think it's some kind of mini chainsaw.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, so you and Yowei are on the same page. You both think there's a motor, propeller, a chainsaw. Like, those are very similar guesses. Do you want to hear what the answer is?

MAGGIE: I have one more guess.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, let's hear your other guess.

MAGGIE: I think there's also a possibility that it's a drill. I've heard my dad use drills before. My dad is really good at fixing things. Shout out to Dad.



Just like this whirring sound.

MOLLY BLOOM: You and Yowei are in agreement. Should we see if you guys are both right?

MAGGIE: Yep, I think it might be a power tool.

REMY: Hi, I'm Remy from Boulder, Colorado. And that was the sound of the last bit of honey being squeezed out of its container. I started drinking tea with honey in it. And I really like it because it sweetens up the flavor and makes the tea taste better. I think it's cool how honey never expires.

MOLLY BLOOM: What do you think of that, honey coming out of a bottle when it's almost empty?

MAGGIE: That, I had no idea that it was that.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yeah, that's really tricky. Let's hear if Yowei was also surprised.

YOWEI SHAW: Oh, my gosh. My jaw is on the floor. What? That's-- so that's the opposite of a mini chainsaw. That's a sweet, gooey liquid. That's hilarious. I don't know if I've ever been this wrong in my entire life.

MOLLY BLOOM: I agree. I think honey is probably the opposite of a mini chainsaw.


So, it turns out mystery sounds are super tricky to guess. Even professional audiomakers are stumped by the amazing mystery sounds we get from Brains On listeners. So, Maggie, you did an amazing job guessing today. Give yourself a high five. So for everyone listening, we want to hear your mystery sounds. Turn on your ears and pay close attention to the sounds around you.

You can send your recordings and mystery sound reveals to brainson.org/contact. Again, that's brainson.org/contact. We can't wait to hear what's tickling your ears.


That's it for this episode of Brains On.

MAGGIE: This episode was written and produced by--



RUBY GUTHRIE: Ruby Guthrie.

MAGGIE: With editing by--

MOLLY BLOOM: Molly Bloom.

SHAHLA FARZAN: Shahla Farzan.


SANDEN TOTTEN: Sanden Totten.

MAGGIE: Fact checking by--

KATIE RUTHER: Katie Ruther.

MOLLY BLOOM: We had engineering help from Derek Ramirez with sound design by--


MOLLY BLOOM: Original theme music by--

MARC SANCHEZ: Marc Sanchez.

MAGGIE: We had production help from the rest of the Brains On Universe team.

ANNA GOLDFIELD: Anna Goldfield.

NICO GONZALEZ WISLER: Nico Gonzalez Wisler.

LAUREN HUMPERT: Lauren Humpert.

JOSHUA RAY: Joshua Ray.

MARC SANCHEZ: Marc Sanchez.

CHARLOTTE TRAVER: Charlotte Traver.

ANNA WEGGEL: Anna Weggel.


ARON WELDESELASSIE: Aron Weldeselassie.

MOLLY BLOOM: Beth Perlman is our executive producer, and the executives in charge of APM Studios are Chandra Kavati and Joanne Griffith. Special thanks to Sam, Tom, and Michelle Anderson.

MAGGIE: Brains On is a non-profit public radio program.

MOLLY BLOOM: There are lots of ways to support the show. Subscribe to Brains On Universe on YouTube, where you can watch animated versions of some of your favorite episodes or head to brainson.org.

MAGGIE: While you're there, you can send us mystery sounds, drawings, and questions.

MOLLY BLOOM: Now it's time for the Brains Honor Roll. These are the incredible kids who keep the show going with their questions, ideas, mystery sounds, drawings and high fives.



(SINGING) Brains On, high five

We'll be back next week with an episode all about body temperature.

MAGGIE: Thanks for listening.

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