Moment of Um

American Public Media

Moment of Um is your daily answer to those questions that pop up out of nowhere and make you go… ummmmmmm. Brought to you by your friends at Brains On at APM Studios.

  • 5 minutes 21 seconds
    When were tattoos first invented?

    Tattoos are a type of art that’s added permanently to a person’s skin using special inks and needles. It’s a way of decorating the body that has been around for a long time. But how long? When were the earliest tattoos?  We asked sociologist David Lane to help us find the answer.


    Got a question that’s really needling you? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll poke around until we find the answer!

    17 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 6 minutes 1 second
    How did the days of the week get their names?

    It’s super helpful that each day of the week has its own name!  Without these names, it’d be really hard to keep track of our calendars – and there’d be no such thing as #MotivationMonday or #TacoTuesday! But why do the days of the week have the names that they do?  We asked language expert Amelia Tseng to help us find the answer.


    Got a question that’s making you #WonderWednesday? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll help #FindoutFriday!

    16 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 7 minutes 15 seconds
    When were movies first made?

    Movies are everywhere. They’re on our tablets, phones, and projected onto giant screens. But it hasn’t always been that way! So… when were movies first made? We asked cinema and media historian Laura Isabel Serna about it – and she helped us find the answer!


    Got a question flickering in your mind’s eye? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll produce an animated answer!

    15 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 6 minutes 36 seconds
    When were sewing machines first invented?

    We may not think much about sewing machines, but there are so many things we wouldn’t have without them! Think about how many things are sewn together in our everyday lives. Your shirts, pants, hats, pillows, backpack, even parts of your car seats! There’s no doubt that sewing machines were a revolutionary invention. But when exactly were the first ones made? We asked Articles of Interest host Avery Trufelman to help us find the answer.


    Got a question that’s got you in stitches? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll help thread the needle!

    14 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 5 minutes 20 seconds
    When did people start having pets?

    People have all different kinds of animals as pets: dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, pigs, you name it. The famous artist Salvador Dalí even had a pet lobster that he took for walks on a leash! But when did humans first start craving animal companionship? We asked anthropologist David Ian Howe to help us find the answer.


    Got a question that you want to ask right meow? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll unleash the answer.

    13 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 6 minutes 33 seconds
    How do drums work?

    Drums are the backbone of rock’n’roll…and most other kinds of music, too! Where would we be without a big bass drum leading a parade, or a jazzy ba-dum-CH after a well-told joke? But how do drums actually make their sounds? We asked drum maker Liz Aponte to help us find the answer.

    Are you ensnared by a question? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we won’t miss a beat in finding the answer!

    10 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 3 minutes 58 seconds
    Why are bees black and yellow?

    Bees are incredible! There are 20,000 species, and so much to learn about them. But have you ever wondered why they are black and yellow? Such a specific color palette, right? We asked Entomologist Dan Cariveau to help us find the answer.


    Got a Moment of Um question that’s buzzing around in your brain? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll help you BEE informed.

    9 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 5 minutes 28 seconds
    Why does your breath smell worse in the morning?

    Good morning! Rise and shine! Time to stretch and yawn and…blech! What is that taste? What is that smell?? Morning breath can be especially stinky, even if you brush your teeth the night before. What’s up with that? We asked Dr. Michael Eggert, who teaches in the dental school at the University of Alberta to help us find the answer.


    Got a question that’s really stinkin’ good? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll sniff out an answer. 

    8 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 4 minutes 59 seconds
    Why does hot sauce make your nose run?

    If you’re an adventurous eater you might have tried spicy cuisine, or maybe added hot sauce to your meals. Did your eyes water? Did your nose run? If so, that’s a totally normal response, and  Otolaryngologist Erich P. Voigt is here to help us understand why that is.


    Got a burning Moment of Um question for us? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll help you find the answer.

    7 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 5 minutes 17 seconds
    Why is bird poop white?

    Have you ever looked at a bird turd? Like, really looked at it? If so, you might’ve noticed there’s a lot of white in there. But what is that white stuff?  We asked bird expert Amanda Bender to help us find the answer.


    Got a question that’s poo-sitively great? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll help find an answer that doesn’t stink!




    6 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 5 minutes 34 seconds
    How do you become a NASA astronaut?

    Astronauts have such cool jobs!  They get to blast off in rockets, experience micro-gravity, and see Earth from a whole new perspective.  But how does someone become a NASA astronaut?  We asked spacesuit designer Pablo de Leon to help us find the answer!


    Got a question that’s out of this world? Send it to us at BrainsOn.org/contact, and we’ll launch an investigation.

    3 May 2024, 8:00 am
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