Unexplainable

Unexplainable is a science show about everything we don’t know. Host Noam Hassenfeld is joined by an array of experts and Vox reporters each week to look at the most fascinating unanswered questions in science and the mind-bending ways scientists are trying to answer them. New episodes drop every Wednesday starting March 10. From Vox and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Science
Life Sciences
Natural Sciences
1
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
2
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
3
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
4
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
5
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
6
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
7
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
8
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
9
Mind readers
Will scientists ever fully understand the human brain?
29 min
10
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
11
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
12
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
13
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
14
Nobel Prize 2.0
The Nobel Prize has rewarded some amazing discoveries.
23 min
15
The James Webb Time Machine
To look into deep space is to look back in time.
26 min
16
The James Webb Space Telescope
After decades of planning, NASA is finally (finally!) set to launch the successor to the Hubble.
23 min
17
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
18
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
19
Getting to the bottom of butts
Once upon a time, there were no anuses.
23 min
20
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
21
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
22
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
23
The tornado problem
8 minutes, 24 seconds.
21 min
24
Moon poop
Astronauts left something on the moon that could help unlock the origins of life itself.
21 min
25
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
26
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
27
How do animals know where to go?
25 min
28
Invasion of the jumping worms
These worms are fast, they’re mysterious, and they’re quickly changing North American ecosystems.
23 min
29
The many heights of Mount Everest
How tall is the world’s tallest mountain?
26 min
30
Unexplainable Flying Objects
UFOs are real, but that doesn’t mean they’re aliens.
29 min
31
The hunt for a new Pluto
Something strange is going on at the outer reaches of the solar system.
30 min
32
Cloudy with a chance of chaos
It’s surprisingly hard to predict how clouds form, move, and change.
25 min
33
A new force of nature?
Last month, physicists at Fermilab in Illinois found that tiny subatomic particles called muons were wobbling strangely.
22 min
34
Placebos work. Why?
For decades, scientists thought that placebos only worked if patients didn’t know they were taking them.
23 min
35
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
36
The Twilight Zone of the ocean
A dive into its mysterious depths
24 min
37
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
38
Is a ton of psychology just ... wrong?
Psych!
27 min
39
It’s ball lightning!
A perfect sphere of crackling light
23 min
40
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
41
Journey Toward the Center of the Earth
What lies beneath our feet?
25 min
42
No one nose
Believe it or not, scientists still don't know how the sense of smell works.
26 min
43
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
44
Introducing Unexplainable
2 min