Marshall Brain

Marshall Brain

HowStuffWorks' Founder and Contributing Writer

Marshall Brain is the founder of HowStuffWorks. He started the site as a hobby in 1998. He also hosted the show "Factory Floor with Marshall Brain," which appeared on the National Geographic channel. He holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master's degree in computer science from North Carolina State University. Before founding HowStuffWorks, Marshall taught in the computer science department at NCSU and ran a software training and consulting company. Learn more about him at his site.

Recent Contributions

Adding a chemical called tetraethyl to fuel can significantly improve the gasoline's octane rating. But what is octane? And how does it improve the gasoline we buy? Read on to explore this fascinating molecule.

By Marshall Brain

What does that funny "H" pattern on my car's gear shift have to do with my transmission? How does it make the car change gears? And when I mess up and hear that horrible grinding sound, what is actually grinding?

By Marshall Brain, Cherise Threewitt & Sascha Bos

Is the air feeling a little too dry in your home? A humidifier can help make things more comfortable -- and even save a little wear and tear on your house. But what does a humidifier do, exactly?

By Marshall Brain & Karim Nice

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You see gears in just about anything that has spinning parts — car engines, transmissions, electric toothbrushes... Learn what these gears are doing and get to the bottom of the "gear ratio" concept!

By Marshall Brain

Carbon-14 dating is something that you hear about in the news all the time. Everything from mastodons to the Shroud of Turin has been dated using this technique! Learn about how carbon-14 dating works and why it is so accurate!

By Marshall Brain

If you were to touch dry ice, it wouldn't be anything like touching water ice. So what's it like? Is it hot or cold? And would it leave a mark?

By Marshall Brain & Austin Henderson

Whether the circle is as big as planet Mars or as small as a tennis ball, the ratio of its circumference divided by its diameter will always equal pi (3.14). But why?

By Marshall Brain, Dave Roos & Austin Henderson

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Guns permeate society -- police officers carry them, wars are fought with them, normal citizens own them. These articles will show you how different types of guns function from trigger to barrel.

By Marshall Brain

Radar is used to track storms, planes, and weapons and also to create topographic maps. Learn about radar, radar technology and Doppler shift.

By Marshall Brain

Of course we want to go to Mars. Until we figure it out though, roving robots with names like Spirit, Opportunity, Sojourner and Curiosity are our best bet for digging up dirt on our nearest planetary neighbor. Want to go along for the ride?

By Marshall Brain & Kate Kershner

A tornado is one of those amazing, awesome acts of nature that simply leaves you dumbfounded -- a huge, swirling, 200-mph beast of a storm that appears to have a mind of its own.

By Marshall Brain, Robert Lamb & Yara Simón

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Did you know that airplanes and space shuttles use the utterly low-tech gyroscope for navigation? Discover the secret behind gyroscopic motion!

By Marshall Brain & Desiree Bowie

If you've ever been to an aerial fireworks show, then you know that fireworks have a magic all their own. Ever wonder how they make such incredible colors and designs? Learn all about these pyrotechnics!

By Marshall Brain & Austin Henderson

Nuclear radiation can be extremely beneficial or extremely harmful -- it all depends on how it's used. Learn what nuclear radiation is all about.

By Marshall Brain & Desiree Bowie

Every animal sleeps -- some more than others -- but why they do it is a mystery to scientists. Is sleep more than just beauty rest? Could skimping on it kill you? And how much do you really need?

By Marshall Brain

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The polar ice caps have been in the news recently because of their alleged shrinking due to global warming. How much would the oceans rise if the ice caps melted completely?

By Marshall Brain & Sascha Bos

Gear ratios are what allow a car to reach a high rate of speed or climb a steep hill. Learn about gear ratios, gear trains and planetary gear systems.

By Marshall Brain

Steam engines powered all early locomotives, steam boats and factories -- they fueled the Industrial Revolution. Learn how the steam engine produces power!

By Marshall Brain & Yara Simón

Batteries power all sorts of things — they're in our cars, our PCs, our cameras, our cell phones. How do these tiny cans of chemicals provide power for so many of our daily conveniences?

By Marshall Brain, Charles W. Bryant, Clint Pumphrey & Yara Simón

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Telephones are one of the greatest technological advances of our time. Do you know how your call gets to its destination? Learn all about how the telephone works in this article.

By Marshall Brain & Yara Simón

Whether they're sorting out scrap metal or helping us unlock the secrets of the universe, electromagnets are pretty nifty devices. What's so great about magnetism on demand? We'll electrify you with the details.

By Marshall Brain, Chris Pollette & Yara Simón

How can six hours of video fit on a $2 tape? What happens after you slide that tape into the slot? The VCR may be yesterday’s tech, but it's still a mechanical marvel. Take a look inside!

By Marshall Brain

Believe it or not, the hardest part of space exploration is getting a spaceship off the ground. Explore the basics of propulsion and learn about both solid-fuel and liquid-fuel rocket engines.

By Marshall Brain

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Radio waves are the backbone of nearly all modern media technology, from TV to smartphones and wireless internet. Yet, they're actually a simple technology.

By Marshall Brain & Talon Homer

Helium balloons tend to fascinate adults and children alike (and it's not just the Donald Duck voice thing, though that is a big draw). Learn all about helium and why it floats!

By Marshall Brain