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Unexplainable
Unexplainable
Vox

Unexplainable takes listeners right up to the edge of what we know ... and then keeps right on going. This Vox podcast... more

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Episodes

A universal virus-killer?

Airborne diseases kill millions of people a year, despite available antibiotics and vaccines. But scientists think there might be another... more

21 Feb 2024 · 24 minutes
Why do we cry?

Humans seem to be the only animals that cry from emotion. This Valentine’s Day, we’re wondering: What makes our tears... more

14 Feb 2024 · 24 minutes
Should you quit Diet Coke?

Safety questions have haunted aspartame — the no-calorie sweetener used in many diet soft drinks and other low-calorie products —... more

07 Feb 2024 · 25 minutes
The case for cursing

Can swearing make you stronger? For more, go to http://vox.com/unexplainable It’s a great place to view show transcripts and read more about... more

31 Jan 2024 · 27 minutes
The math problem that could break the internet

Today's internet is built on a series of locks and keys that protect your private information as it travels through... more

24 Jan 2024 · 38 minutes
Garbage patch kids

Scientists didn’t think it was possible for life to thrive in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Then, they found some... more

17 Jan 2024 · 20 minutes
A stethoscope for the rainforest

Researchers planted microphones in a forest and walked away. Listening back could help heal rainforest ecosystems. For show transcripts, go to... more

10 Jan 2024 · 26 minutes
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

What’s up with the weird golden egg at the bottom of the ocean? How do eggs actually choose sperm? Hit... more

03 Jan 2024 · 30 minutes
Something weird near the beginning of time

The James Webb Space Telescope launched two years ago, giving scientists a new view into the early universe. Now, it's... more

20 Dec 2023 · 21 minutes
The tallest mountains on Earth are ... underground?

An expedition to Antarctica. Strange seismic readings. Clues to uncover a hidden part of our planet. For show transcripts, go to... more

13 Dec 2023 · 19 minutes
Weaponizing uncertainty

Our show celebrates uncertainty. But as environmental reporter Amy Westervelt explains, the concept also has a dark side. For show transcripts,... more

06 Dec 2023 · 25 minutes
Can we live in space?

NASA is planning for humans to live on the moon by 2040. But how much space can the human body... more

29 Nov 2023 · 32 minutes
The ice cream effect

Decades of studies suggest that eating ice cream reduces diabetes risk. Could ice cream be ... good for you? And... more

15 Nov 2023 · 29 minutes
The data vigilantes

Data sleuths are working outside the system to keep science honest. But is there a better way to prevent scientific... more

08 Nov 2023 · 31 minutes
Trouble on Pickles Reef

Coral reefs are an essential ecosystem undeniably threatened by climate change. Can scientists breed a stronger coral for the future? For... more

01 Nov 2023 · 26 minutes
Redefining death

This Halloween, we look at how technology is forcing us to ask: When is someone actually dead? And we look... more

25 Oct 2023 · 33 minutes
The Orcanizing

Over the last few years, orcas have been targeting boats, often leaving them stranded at sea. Are these orcas trying... more

18 Oct 2023 · 22 minutes
Unexplainable or Not with Wyatt Cenac

Our game show is back! This time, comedian Wyatt Cenac is in the hot seat in front of a live... more

04 Oct 2023 · 34 minutes
Rogue waves

Towering walls of water sometimes appear in the ocean without warning or apparent cause. What drives their terrifying power? For more,... more

27 Sep 2023 · 28 minutes
Does garlic break magnets?

What would an episode of Unexplainable have sounded like if it had been made in 100 CE? For more, go to... more

20 Sep 2023 · 30 minutes
How to decode a thought

Can researchers decipher what people are thinking about just by looking at brain scans? With AI, they're getting closer. How... more

13 Sep 2023 · 31 minutes
It’s getting harder to see

Something about modern life is leading to higher rates of nearsightedness across the world. What is it? To buy tickets to... more

30 Aug 2023 · 20 minutes
Jumping the gun

At last year’s World Athletics Championships, sprinter TyNia Gaither was disqualified for false starting... after the gun went off. Officials... more

23 Aug 2023 · 33 minutes
Can we talk to animals?

Two scientists explain how AI might help us translate animal communication, and what we might learn from their squawks, chirps,... more

16 Aug 2023 · 34 minutes
Unexplainable or Not: Beach day!

Sam Sanders, host of Vulture’s Into It podcast, is in the hot seat for a new episode of our game... more

09 Aug 2023 · 29 minutes
Who let the wolves in?

Dogs were the first domesticated animal in history, emerging from wolves some 20,000 years ago. But how did wolves become... more

02 Aug 2023 · 24 minutes
Why do we have a moon?

In all our searching of the universe, we’ve never seen another moon like ours. It's big, it's weird, and it... more

26 Jul 2023 · 27 minutes
The Black Box: In AI we trust?

AI can often solve problems in unexpected, undesirable ways. So how can we make sure it does what we want,... more

19 Jul 2023 · 30 minutes
The Black Box: Even AI’s creators don’t understand it

AI has the potential to impact our society in dramatic ways, but researchers can’t explain precisely how it works or... more

12 Jul 2023 · 34 minutes
Do animals grieve?

A dog on its owner’s grave. A killer whale carrying around its dead calf. A goose that isolates when its... more

28 Jun 2023 · 26 minutes
Why do we dream?

Dreams are weird, but can they be a scientific tool? Can they teach us anything about humanity? About ourselves? This episode... more

21 Jun 2023 · 23 minutes
Cracking the Indus code

The Indus Valley civilization was one of the largest, most advanced civilizations in the ancient world. But we barely know... more

14 Jun 2023 · 24 minutes
Awestruck

Awe is what takes our breath away when we face a sky full of stars or listen to a moving... more

07 Jun 2023 · 24 minutes
Expecting: Weed and pregnancy

Many states have extremely punitive policies around cannabis and pregnancy. But researchers don't actually have great data on cannabis's harms. For... more

24 May 2023 · 30 minutes
Expecting: Baby brain

Caring for a child seems to change parents’ brains. But what does that actually mean for how parents think and... more

17 May 2023 · 27 minutes
Expecting: Pregnancy souvenirs

Fetuses leave cells behind in their parents' bodies, where they braid themselves into tissues, and remain, for years. What are... more

10 May 2023 · 36 minutes
The tornado problem

2023 has been a record-setting year for tornadoes, and these storms came with barely any warning. So to better understand... more

03 May 2023 · 24 minutes
How to resurrect a mammoth

Scientists are hard at work trying to bring back woolly mammoths (and dodos). But should they? And what would they... more

26 Apr 2023 · 32 minutes
Live show, dead dinosaurs

We did a live show! We talked about how one of our favorite episodes came together and how we went... more

19 Apr 2023 · 37 minutes
Talking trees

Studies suggesting trees communicate through an elaborate underground fungal network have captured imaginations. It’s a beautiful idea, but the fantasy... more

12 Apr 2023 · 23 minutes
Your questions, unexplained

This week, we tackle three listener questions — on sleepwalking, deja vu, and Earth’s magnetic field. Next time, we could... more

05 Apr 2023 · 28 minutes
What's so funny?

Scientists are digging into what makes something funny. We compare their notes with comedians — including Atsuko Okatsuka, Josh Johnson,... more

22 Mar 2023 · 20 minutes
Origins: The meaning of “life”

For every definition of life, there’s a creature that sends us right back to the drawing board. This is the third... more

15 Mar 2023 · 26 minutes
Origins: The first living thing

How did life on Earth start? To help answer that, researchers are trying to create some life for themselves. This is... more

08 Mar 2023 · 29 minutes
Origins: How did Earth get its water?

Life as we know it needs water, but scientists can’t figure out where Earth’s water came from. Answering that question... more

01 Mar 2023 · 27 minutes
What is love?

Can science help us predict whether a relationship will succeed? Or is it all just chaos? This episode originally ran on... more

15 Feb 2023 · 34 minutes
Why we hiccup

Listeners told us that eating baby carrots or telling lies can bring on the hiccups. Burping or kissing can make... more

08 Feb 2023 · 29 minutes
We booped an asteroid

Last fall, a NASA spacecraft slammed into an asteroid to test a way to avert a disaster on Earth. So... more

01 Feb 2023 · 22 minutes
Your creepy, crawly roommates

Our houses are homes to hidden worlds of bugs. And the more ecologists explore those worlds, the more they realize... more

25 Jan 2023 · 27 minutes
Henrietta Leavitt and the end of the universe

In the early 1900s, Henrietta Leavitt made one of the most important discoveries in the history of astronomy: a yardstick... more

18 Jan 2023 · 32 minutes
Plants with eyes?

In the temperate rainforests of Chile, there is a vine that can shapeshift to copy the look of other plants.... more

11 Jan 2023 · 28 minutes
Unexplainable or Not: Bikes, planes, ice skates

Our game show is back! This week, Avery Trufelman, host of the Articles of Interest podcast, tries to guess which... more

04 Jan 2023 · 30 minutes
Your gut's feelings

How we feel emotionally may be influenced by unseen troves of microbial life that live inside us. Is it possible... more

21 Dec 2022 · 28 minutes
Nuclear fusion breaks through

Back in January, we spoke to a scientist at the National Ignition Facility about how close they were to achieving... more

14 Dec 2022 · 30 minutes
Basic instinct

How do animals know how to do things like spin a web or build a dam? A neuroscientist argues it's... more

07 Dec 2022 · 28 minutes
Why we cry

Humans seem to be the only animals that cry from emotion. What makes our tears so special? For more, go to... more

30 Nov 2022 · 24 minutes
Can we live in space?

NASA just launched the Artemis program, a series of missions that will eventually take humans back to the moon, and... more

16 Nov 2022 · 31 minutes
Holding on to power

A mountain, a tower, a thermos full of molten salt: These are the batteries that could power our renewable future. For... more

09 Nov 2022 · 31 minutes
Redefining death

Death used to be fairly self-evident, but new technologies have forced us to ask: When is someone actually dead? And... more

02 Nov 2022 · 34 minutes
Talking to ghosts

Why do so many people think they can see and hear ghosts, and what does that say about our conscious... more

26 Oct 2022 · 31 minutes
Why is everyone getting food allergies?

In the past few decades, the rate of food allergies in both children and adults has dramatically increased. What’s causing... more

19 Oct 2022 · 26 minutes
Introducing The Gray Area

On the first episode of Vox’s new podcast, The Gray Area, host Sean Illing talks with Neil deGrasse Tyson about... more

15 Oct 2022 · 54 minutes
Let’s play Unexplainable or Not

For the first time, we get some answers. For more, go to http://vox.com/unexplainable It’s a great place to view show transcripts and... more

05 Oct 2022 · 30 minutes
The math problem that could break the internet

Today's internet is built on a series of locks and keys that protect your private information as it travels through... more

28 Sep 2022 · 38 minutes
Jumping the gun

At the 2022 World Athletics Championships, sprinter TyNia Gaither was disqualified for false starting ... after the gun went off.... more

21 Sep 2022 · 33 minutes
An Alzheimer's uproar

This past July, a bombshell report in Science magazine suggested that a key Alzheimer’s study might have contained manipulated evidence.... more

14 Sep 2022 · 37 minutes
Salamander search party

One of the world’s most biodiverse aquifers is full of strange, blind creatures that have evolved in isolation for millions... more

31 Aug 2022 · 28 minutes
What did dinosaurs sound like?

They probably didn’t roar like lions. Their real voices were likely much, much weirder. We asked scientists to help us... more

24 Aug 2022 · 39 minutes
Can ovaries make new eggs?

There's an old story scientists tell about human ovaries: that they are ticking clocks that only lose eggs, never gain... more

17 Aug 2022 · 29 minutes
Will the eel (slim, shady) please have sex?

Where eels come from is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, in large part because scientists have never actually seen... more

10 Aug 2022 · 47 minutes
Yawn baby yawn

People yawn when they’re bored, right? So then why do athletes yawn before races? And why do so many animals... more

27 Jul 2022 · 38 minutes
What’s the James Webb telescope searching for?

A lava planet, life on other worlds, the very first starlight in the universe — the most powerful space telescope... more

20 Jul 2022 · 49 minutes
Vitamin X

Millions of Americans take dietary supplements — everything from vitamins and minerals to weight loss pills and probiotics. But because... more

13 Jul 2022 · 35 minutes
Lost Worlds: What killed Venus?

Venus is the hottest, scariest planet in the solar system, but billions of years ago it may have been a... more

29 Jun 2022 · 29 minutes
Lost Worlds: Life on Mars?

Mars was once a very different planet, with rivers, lakes, and — potentially — life. NASA’s latest Mars rover is... more

22 Jun 2022 · 31 minutes
Lost Worlds: Why do we have a moon?

In all our searching of the universe, we’ve never seen another moon like ours. It's big, it's weird, it's played... more

15 Jun 2022 · 27 minutes
Lost Worlds: Aliens from Earth?

Was there a technologically advanced species living on Earth long before humans? And if one had existed, how would we... more

08 Jun 2022 · 27 minutes
Dropping like flies

Insect populations are shrinking all over the world, and entomologists are buzzing with questions: Why is this happening? How quickly?... more

25 May 2022 · 27 minutes
Is telepathy real?

A groundbreaking study claims to have found a way for a fully paralyzed person to communicate entirely via thought. Today,... more

18 May 2022 · 26 minutes
Why do we dream?

Dreams are weird, but can they be a scientific tool? Can they teach us anything about humanity? About ourselves? For more,... more

11 May 2022 · 24 minutes
Should I take a DNA ancestry test?

What are the scientific, family, and privacy implications? For more, go to http://vox.com/unexplainable It’s a great place to view show transcripts and... more

04 May 2022 · 29 minutes
My octopus friend?

Octopuses are largely solitary animals, but there have been rare times — notably in the movie My Octopus Teacher —... more

27 Apr 2022 · 24 minutes
Glow in the dark ocean

Most deep-water creatures are bioluminescent. Marine biologist Edie Widder has spent the last 40 years trying to figure out why. For... more

20 Apr 2022 · 30 minutes
When reality broke

In the 1920s, the scientist Werner Heisenberg came up with a wild idea that broke reality as Western science knew... more

13 Apr 2022 · 26 minutes
Making Sense: The sixth sense

Why stop at five senses? Just how much of the world can we perceive? And how much is out there... more

06 Apr 2022 · 27 minutes
Making Sense: Sight unseen

Close your eyes and try to imagine an apple. Can you see anything? Aphantasia is the inability to see with... more

30 Mar 2022 · 25 minutes
Making Sense: The Umami Mama

For thousands of years, there have been four basic tastes recognized across cultures. But thanks to Kumiko Ninomiya (a.k.a. the... more

23 Mar 2022 · 38 minutes
Making Sense: No one nose

Dogs can smell cancer, Covid-19, and many other health problems in humans. Now, scientists are trying to duplicate these powers... more

16 Mar 2022 · 30 minutes
Making Sense: The healing power of touch

Doctors can save the lives of premature infants, but the process is often painful. Luckily, a solution might be as... more

09 Mar 2022 · 29 minutes
Making Sense: How sound becomes hearing

In the same way optical illusions trick our eyes, audio illusions can trick our ears. This raises a fundamental question:... more

02 Mar 2022 · 41 minutes
Unexplainable
Making Sense: Sight unseen
Unexplainable
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Description

Close your eyes and try to imagine an apple. Can you see anything? Aphantasia is the inability to see with your mind’s... more