Unexplainable

Unexplainable takes listeners right up to the edge of what we know ... and then keeps right on going. This Vox podcast explores scientific mysteries, unanswered questions, and all the things we learn by diving into the unknown. New episodes every Wednesday.

Science
Life Sciences
Natural Sciences
1
We booped an asteroid
Last fall, a NASA spacecraft slammed into an asteroid to test a way to avert a disaster on Earth. So are we safe now?
20 min
2
Your creepy, crawly roommates
Our houses are homes to hidden worlds of bugs.
24 min
3
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 to measure distances to faraway stars.
29 min
4
Plants with eyes?
In the temperate rainforests of Chile, there is a vine that can shapeshift to copy the look of other plants.
24 min
5
Unexplainable or Not: Bikes, planes, ice skates
Our game show is back!
27 min
6
Your gut's feelings
How we feel emotionally may be influenced by unseen troves of microbial life that live inside us. Is it possible to harness this gut power?
26 min
7
Nuclear fusion breaks through
Back in January, we spoke to a scientist at the National Ignition Facility about how close they were to achieving what’s been called “one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century.”
28 min
8
Basic instinct
How do animals know how to do things like spin a web or build a dam? A neuroscientist argues it's not “instinct.” Something bigger is going on.
26 min
9
Why we cry
Humans seem to be the only animals that cry from emotion. What makes our tears so special?
21 min
10
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 beyond.
29 min
11
Holding on to power
A mountain, a tower, a thermos full of molten salt: These are the batteries that could power our renewable future.
28 min
12
Redefining death
Death used to be fairly self-evident, but new technologies have forced us to ask: When is someone actually dead?
30 min
13
Talking to ghosts
Why do so many people think they can see and hear ghosts, and what does that say about our conscious experience of the world?
29 min
14
Why is everyone getting food allergies?
In the past few decades, the rate of food allergies in both children and adults has dramatically increased.
23 min
15
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 the limits of both politics and science.
54 min
16
Let’s play Unexplainable or Not
For the first time, we get some answers.
26 min
17
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 cyberspace. But could all these locks be broken?
35 min
18
Jumping the gun
At the 2022 World Athletics Championships, sprinter TyNia Gaither was disqualified for false starting ... after the gun went off.
30 min
19
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.
34 min
20
Salamander search party
One of the world’s most biodiverse aquifers is full of strange, blind creatures that have evolved in isolation for millions of years. But one is missing.
24 min
21
What did dinosaurs sound like?
They probably didn’t roar like lions.
36 min
22
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 them.
26 min
23
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 them reproduce in the wild.
44 min
24
Yawn baby yawn
People yawn when they’re bored, right?
34 min
25
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 ever built is ready to reveal many mysteries of the cosmos.
46 min
26
Vitamin X
Millions of Americans take dietary supplements — everything from vitamins and minerals to weight loss pills and probiotics.
31 min
27
Lost Worlds: What killed Venus?
Venus is the hottest, scariest place in the solar system, but billions of years ago it may have been a lot like Earth, complete with an ocean of water.
25 min
28
Lost Worlds: Life on Mars?
Mars was once a very different planet, with rivers, lakes, and — potentially — life.
27 min
29
Lost Worlds: Why do we have a moon?
In all our searching of the universe, we’ve never seen another moon like ours.
24 min
30
Lost Worlds: Aliens from Earth?
Was there a technologically advanced species living on Earth long before humans?
24 min
31
Dropping like flies
Insect populations are shrinking all over the world
24 min
32
Is telepathy real?
A groundbreaking study claims to have found a way for a fully paralyzed person to communicate entirely via thought. Today, Explained breaks down the science and asks: Is it too good to be true?
23 min
33
Why do we dream?
Dreams are weird, but can they be a scientific tool?
20 min
34
Should I take a DNA ancestry test?
What are the scientific, family, and privacy implications?
25 min
35
My octopus friend?
Octopuses are largely solitary animals, but there have been rare times — notably in the movie My Octopus Teacher — where they seem to have become comfortable around humans
22 min
36
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.
28 min
37
When reality broke
In the 1920s, the scientist Werner Heisenberg came up with a wild idea that broke reality as Western science knew it.
23 min
38
Making Sense: The sixth sense
Why stop at five senses?
24 min
39
Making Sense: Sight unseen
Close your eyes and try to imagine an apple. Can you see anything?
22 min
40
Making Sense: The Umami Mama
For thousands of years, there have been four basic tastes recognized across cultures.
34 min
41
Making Sense: No one nose
26 min
42
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 simple as a parent’s loving touch.
25 min
43
Making Sense: How sound becomes hearing
In the same way optical illusions trick our eyes, audio illusions can trick our ears.
37 min
44
The methane hunters
Methane traps more than 80 times as much heat as CO2 over the short term.
20 min
45
What is love?
Can science help us predict whether a relationship will succeed? Or is it all just chaos?
30 min
46
A sonic tour of the solar system
What does it sound like on Mars? On Jupiter? Titan?
19 min
47
Finding asteroids before they find us
Scientists are constantly searching for asteroids that could crash into Earth.
28 min
48
Skeleton Lake
When scientists examined the DNA of ancient bones found near a Himalayan lake, they were forced to confront a seemingly impossible conclusion.
25 min
49
Are humans running out of sperm?
In 2017, researchers published an explosive finding: Sperm counts may be declining in some countries around the world.
25 min
50
The quest to build a star
Scientists are closer than ever to harnessing fusion power — the same process that powers the sun — by essentially making a small star here on Earth.
25 min
51
BONUS: The 2021 song
Noam wrote an end-of-year song with Today, Explained host Sean Rameswaram, so we thought to drop it here as a little end-of-year surprise.
5 min
52
The building blocks of the universe
Most of the matter in the universe is dark matter, an invisible, untouchable, mysterious substance. Scientists don’t know what exactly dark matter is, despite decades of searching. But recently, they got a new clue in the form of an extremely tiny dancer.
51 min
53
99% of ocean plastic is missing
How can we solve the problem of ocean plastic if we don’t know where most of the plastic is?
27 min
54
How medicine mansplained women’s health
Until 1993, many researchers excluded women from clinical drug trials, leaving doctors in the dark about how new treatments work in more than half the population.
23 min
55
How Venus went to hell
Venus is the hottest, scariest place in the solar system, but billions of years ago it may have been a lot like Earth, complete with an ocean of water.
24 min
56
Mind readers
Will scientists ever fully understand the human brain?
29 min
57
A brainless yellow goo that does math
Slime molds can navigate mazes, control robots, and make complicated decisions, all without a central nervous system.
22 min
58
Why whales get beached
Every year, thousands of marine mammals end up trapped on beaches, but it’s often hard to figure out why.
19 min
59
Talking to ghosts
Why do so many people think they can see and hear ghosts, and what does that say about our conscious experience of the world?
29 min
60
Honey, we shrunk the birds
A recent study of tens of thousands of birds has shown that birds are growing smaller over time.
24 min
61
Nobel Prize 2.0
The Nobel Prize has rewarded some amazing discoveries.
23 min
62
The James Webb Time Machine
To look into deep space is to look back in time.
26 min
63
The James Webb Space Telescope
After decades of planning, NASA is finally (finally!) set to launch the successor to the Hubble.
23 min
64
What causes Alzheimer’s?
For decades, Alzheimer’s researchers have been stubbornly pursuing a single theory, but they’re starting to wonder: is this narrow focus the reason we still don’t have a cure?
27 min
65
Havana syndrome
Several years after US diplomats in Cuba claimed they were attacked by an invisible weapon, similar incidents continue to be reported around the world.
25 min
66
Getting to the bottom of butts
Once upon a time, there were no anuses.
23 min
67
The mysteries of endometriosis
This common chronic condition — where tissue that normally grows in the uterus grows elsewhere in the body — is barely understood.
27 min
68
A 150-year-old human
Two scientists. A billion-dollar wager. One unanswered question: Is the first human who will live to 150 already alive?
27 min
69
How low can you go?
Earlier this year, Nicole Yamase explored the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest place in the ocean, where few people have ever been.
25 min
70
The tornado problem
8 minutes, 24 seconds.
21 min
71
Moon poop
Astronauts left something on the moon that could help unlock the origins of life itself.
21 min
72
Hot pink flying squirrels
An accidental discovery on a nighttime walk led one scientist and his team to wonder: How many mammals glow under ultraviolet light?
27 min
73
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 to measure distances to faraway stars.
28 min
74
How do animals know where to go?
25 min
75
Invasion of the jumping worms
These worms are fast, they’re mysterious, and they’re quickly changing North American ecosystems.
23 min
76
The many heights of Mount Everest
How tall is the world’s tallest mountain?
26 min
77
Unexplainable Flying Objects
UFOs are real, but that doesn’t mean they’re aliens.
29 min
78
The hunt for a new Pluto
Something strange is going on at the outer reaches of the solar system.
30 min
79
Cloudy with a chance of chaos
It’s surprisingly hard to predict how clouds form, move, and change.
25 min
80
A new force of nature?
Last month, physicists at Fermilab in Illinois found that tiny subatomic particles called muons were wobbling strangely.
22 min
81
Placebos work. Why?
For decades, scientists thought that placebos only worked if patients didn’t know they were taking them.
23 min
82
A virus that could heal people
In 2016, the UN declared antibiotic-resistant bacteria the “greatest and most urgent global risk.” Our best hope just might be phages,
21 min
83
The Twilight Zone of the ocean
A dive into its mysterious depths
24 min
84
The viral ghosts of long Covid
Scientists don’t understand why so many people suffer from Covid-19 symptoms for months, long after they stop testing positive.
22 min
85
Is a ton of psychology just ... wrong?
Psych!
27 min
86
It’s ball lightning!
A perfect sphere of crackling light
23 min
87
Skeleton Lake
When scientists examined the DNA of ancient bones found near a Himalayan lake, they were forced to confront a seemingly impossible conclusion.
25 min
88
Journey Toward the Center of the Earth
What lies beneath our feet?
25 min
89
No one nose
Believe it or not, scientists still don't know how the sense of smell works.
26 min
90
Most of the universe is missing
Scientists all over the world are searching for dark matter: an invisible, untouchable substance that holds our universe together.
30 min
91
Introducing Unexplainable
2 min