Completely Optional Knowledge

0 Likes     0 Followers     1 Subscribers

Sign up / Log in to like, follow, recommend and subscribe!

The podcast where we answer the questions you never knew you had. Produced by Andrew Norton with music by Breakmaster Cylinder.
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2018-01-02 14:06
last episode published
2018-01-02 14:06
publication frequency
24.87 days
Andrew Norton author  
#CompletelyOptional owner  
Number of Episodes
Detail page
Science & Medicine



Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

An Update & Exciting News!

An update on the podcast and some exciting news. Spoiler - the exciting news is a new podcast. Subscribe Now
Andrew Norton author

Why Do Frozen Lakes and Rivers Sound So Creepy?

Brigitta Green from the perennial winter wonderland of Minnesota has a fitting question for us about ice. After a mysterious, late night howling sound caused “mass slight curiosity” on the streets of St. Paul last winter, she wants to know how it is th...
Andrew Norton author

What's The Coolest Species Name?

What's the coolest or weirdest official name for a species of plant or animal? And how do they get those funny sounding Latin names anyway?
Andrew Norton author

Why Distinguish Between Fruits and Vegetables?

Is a watermelon a vegetable? Biologically it’s logical, but does the answer depend where you live?
Andrew Norton author

Why Do Animals See Color Differently?

Zookeeper Rick asks why why animals see color differently? Dr. Jay Neitz of the University of Washington Department of Ophthalmology says there is more than one factor that accounts for how animals perceive color. Some plants and animals present vibra...
Andrew Norton author

Do Animals Have Rituals Around Death?

Listener Ross Wintle, driving past a cemetery near his home, wonders if animals other than humans have rituals around death? Barbara J King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary and the author of How Animals Grieve repor...
Andrew Norton author

Why Do We Laugh At Pain?

Listener Matthew Hollingshead, a skateboard enthusiast, asks why it’s so funny to watch people get hurt. We’re not necessarily talking about critical injuries, more like America’s Funniest Home Videos style failures, pain, and embarrassment. Caleb Warr...
Andrew Norton author

Do Animals Have Eating Contests?

Hilah Johnson hosts a show about cooking (and, naturally, eating)and she came to us with a very on-brand question. Do animals have eating contests? We spoke to biologist Elise Huchard to get the answer. Check out Hilah's cooking show! Find her on Twi...
Andrew Norton author

What's Quantum Teleportation?

Listening to Shohini Ghose talk about what would happen if a human reached light speed in Episode 16, Fred Papon of Australia wanted to know more about her research into quantum teleportation. Ghose reveals that teleportation has already happened, but ...
Andrew Norton author

How Do Animal Taste Buds Work?

Dallas College professor Patrick Moore, seeing his dog Abbey eating her own poo and swallowing dirty socks, wonders how animal tastebuds work. Danielle Reed, associate director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, takes a break from feeding her cat Di...
Andrew Norton author

Why Do Siblings Have Rivalries?

Molly and John Knefel, sister and brother co-hosts of the daily podcast “Radio Dispatch” wonder why siblings become rivals. Naomi White, PhD, of Cambridge University, explores the evolutionary and cultural roots of sibling conflict and finds that work...
Andrew Norton author

What Does the Sun Sound Like? [rerun]

Inspired by freeze-dried ice cream at Space Camp, podcast producer of 99% Invisible Avery Trufelman wonders what the sun really sounds like setting aside the hokey furnace effect shown in movies. Knowing that no sound waves can travel in the vacuum of ...
Andrew Norton author

Can Music Make You Hungry?

Breakmaster Cylinder, creator of the Completely Optional Knowledge theme music, wonders if music can be used to trigger specific responses in people. Jessica Grahn of the Music and Neuroscience Lab at Western University explores ways that music can inf...
Andrew Norton author

What Is Wind?

Lauren Ober is the host of WAMU's The Big Listen. She wanted to know the answer to a relatively simple question - what is wind? With help from UCLA mathematician Marcus Roper, she got an answer plus something unexpected: the fascinating way mushrooms c...
Andrew Norton author

How Do You Take Great Photos From Space?

Jonathan Mehring has photographed all over the world, but there’s one place he hasn’t been yet that he’s dying to learn about: outer space. So we talked to someone who’s spent a whole year in space and taken thousands of photos while he was out there, ...
Andrew Norton author

Are There Lazy Ants?

Have you ever seen an ant just … hanging out? Completely Optional Knowledge listener Bryan Fox hasn’t, and it’s getting under his skin. To get Bryan the scoop on whether ants’ seemingly steadfast work ethic is just a facade, we called up biologist Anna...
Andrew Norton author

Who Governs Space?

Who makes the rules in outer space? That’s what Completely Optional Knowledge listener Tim Burberich called in to find out. So we got in touch with space lawyer Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz (dream job alert) who walks us through highly political processes ...
Andrew Norton author

What's the Most Surprising Partnership Between Species?

Emily Schorr Lesnick is the co-host of the SoulGlo podcast, a show about how diversity helps humans thrive. Naturally, she wants to find out if diversity in nature helps animals thrive the same way it helps us. Thinking about unlikely animal partnershi...
Andrew Norton author

Do Invincible Creatures Exist?

Jessica Abel is working on a new book about Mars (Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars - available in November 2016) - which got her wondering about the most amazing creatures here on earth. Dr. Roberto Guidetti gives us the lowdown on the incredible and ne...
Andrew Norton author

What If I Went Light Speed?

Tom Sortodden wants to know what would happen if he went the speed of light. Physicist Shohini Ghose of Wilfrid Laurier University explores the implications of the theory of relativity, abstract art, time and distance and infinite force. Prepare to hav...
Andrew Norton author

What Animal Has the Stinkiest Farts?

Award-winning filmmaker Troy Hale comes to Completely Optional Knowledge to find out which animal has the smelliest farts. Zookeeper Rick of the San Diego Zoo is in the right job to sniff out the answer. He works with 60 different species of animals. “...
Andrew Norton author

What Sounds Can't I Hear?

Annie McEwen has great hearing — but she's still only human — so she's wondering what sounds are out there that she's not able to pick up. To find the answer, we spoke to Milton Garces of the University of Hawaii's Infrasound Laboratory. He tells us ab...
Andrew Norton author

Have Whale Songs Changed Over Time?

Music critic Stacey Anderson has listened to a lot of songs in her time. So many, in fact, that she’s grown a bit bored of human music. Now she’s curious about the famous crooners of the deep blue: whales. We spoke to humpback whale expert Ellen Garlan...
Andrew Norton author

Do Animals in the Wild Get Drunk?

If you give a mouse a vodka tonic, will he even drink it? That’s the question Ben Harrison — host of the Let’s Drink About It podcast — has brought to Completely Optional Knowledge. And who better to give us our answer than Dr. Robert Dudley, UC Berkel...
Andrew Norton author

What Is the Fastest Insect in the World?

Listener Stephen Rang wants to know how fast he would have to run (or drive, as it turns out) to flee the world’s fastest known insect. We go off to the races with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Chris Goforth, who informs us that this p...
Andrew Norton author

How Do Animals Choose Their Leaders?

Election season is upon us, and that means choices. If you’re still on the fence about who to vote for, maybe you’d like to take a cue from ants, whose prospective leaders duel with their antennae. We’ve got biologist Clint Penick, PhD on the show to g...
Andrew Norton author

Can Animals Predict Earthquakes?

If you could have a head start preparing for an earthquake to hit, wouldn’t you take it? That’s all San Francisco resident Terry Worona wants, and he’s looking to the animal kingdom to get it. To find out if his theory holds up, we talked to Dr. Rachel...
Andrew Norton author

How Long Can You Live Underwater?

Swimmer Veronica Simmonds wants to know what happens when you take aquatic adventure to the extreme. So we called up ‘aquanaut’ — that’s like an astronaut but under the sea — Jessica Fain, who holds the record for longest time spent living underwater a...
Andrew Norton author

What Pisses Scientists Off the Most When They Go to the Movies?

Dr. David Kirby, author of "Lab Coats in Hollywood," digs into that fine line between sublime fantasy and falling flat at the movies. So, what irks scientists at the cinema? Comically rapid evolution, the time-space continuum, animal stereotypes, and p...
Andrew Norton author

Why Are Sloths So Cute?

Sloths don't really "do" a lot, and yet they've managed to win our hearts time and again. Admitted sloth enthusiast Brooke Ziebell wants to know what's behind the emotions these cute critters manage to conjure. Yale's Oriana Aragon, an expert on human ...
Andrew Norton author

Why Do Frozen Lakes and Rivers Howl in the Night?

Brigitta Green from the perennial winter wonderland of Minnesota has a fitting question for us about ice. After a mysterious, late night howling sound caused “mass slight curiosity” on the streets of St. Paul last winter, she wants to know how it is th...
Andrew Norton author

What Do Tornadoes Smell Like?

New Yorker Alex Kapelman has never seen a tornado, and he’s curious: what do they smell like? With more than 20 years of storm chasing under his belt, extreme weather documentarian Warren Faidley has our answer. And no—he didn’t have to enter the eye o...
Andrew Norton author

What Does the Sun Sound Like?

Space camp alumnus Avery Trufelman from Oakland, California wants to know what the sun sounds like, and so do we! NASA sound and space expert Robert Alexander has our answer, delivered through the wondrous technology of sonification.
Andrew Norton author

Can It Really Rain Spiders?

Vancouver meteorologist Kristi Gordon had a not so fortunate on-air experience with an arachnid guest descending on her from above, so she asked us to find out where this “raining spider” came from. Australian naturalist Martyn Robinson explains that t...
Andrew Norton author

Why Do Touch-Me-Not Plants Recoil?

On a recent vacation to Costa Rica, Indianapolis, Indiana nurse Amy Gastelum did what we all would if given the chance: she touched a touch-me-not plant. Now, she wants to know why the plant recoiled at her touch. Evolutionary ecologist Monica Galiano ...
Andrew Norton author