But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

But Why is a show led by kids. They ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there. On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world. Know a kid with a question? Record it with a smartphone. Be sure to include your kid's first name, age, and town and send the recording to questions@butwhykids.org!

Episodes

May 17, 2024 23 mins

Where is the border between sky and space? That's what 5-year-old Matthias of Durham, New Hampshire wants to know. Alesandra, 3 of Bella Vista, Arkansas wants to know why we can't hold air. In this episode from 2020, we’re joined by anthropologist Hugh Raffles, a professor at The New School, and by astronomer John O'Meara, chief scientist at the Keck Observatory. And we have special scoring by cellist Zoë Keating.

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That’s a question a lot of people have, honestly. But a kid named Rosie was bold enough to ask us to investigate why. So, in the latest episode, we dig in on why cockroaches get such a bad rap and why you might want to reconsider if you’re not a fan.

Only two percent of the world’s cockroaches are considered pests. Those are the ones that can live in houses and potentially make us sick. But the vast majority of cockroaches ...

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April 19, 2024 32 mins

Why do lizards have scales? Why are reptiles cold-blooded? Why do lizards have long tongues? How do lizards grow their tails back? Are crocodiles dinosaurs? What’s the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? Why do crocodile eyes look like they have mirrors in the back? How do crocodiles chomp? Why do crocodile teeth stay sharp? Why are crocodiles green? Why do crocodiles swim? Answers to all of your crocodile and alligato...

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April 5, 2024 18 mins

Why do people dance? Where did ballet come from? How do you make pointe shoes for ballet? How does practice make you better at things? But Why visited Dance Theatre of Harlem to get answers to these questions with company artists Derek Brockington and Lindsey Donnell.

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March 22, 2024 29 mins

A solar eclipse is coming to North America on April 8, 2024. The moon will line up perfectly between the Earth and the sun, blocking out the sun’s light and casting a shadow that will pass over parts of Mexico, the United States and Canada. People in the path of totality will experience a few minutes of darkness during the day as the moon perfectly covers the sun. Those not in the path of totality in those countries will still expe...

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March 8, 2024 28 mins

Why are there Burmese pythons and chameleons in the Florida Everglades? We might not know how those animals arrived but they are causing damage to the natural ecosystem. An invasive species out competes native plants and animals in an ecosystem. So how does this happen? But Why travels to the Everglades to learn more about how and why species end up in places they shouldn’t. Plus, why are we sometimes told to kill invasive insects ...

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February 23, 2024 32 mins

How is snow made and what’s it made out of?  Why is it white and sparkly?  Why do snowflakes look different? Can snowstorms have thunder? Why do some places, like mountains, get more snow than others? Answers to all of your questions about snow, with Seth Linden, who works for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Plus we hear what it’s like to live at the top of Mount Washington, famous for its extreme...

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February 9, 2024 26 mins

How do glasses work? Why do some people need glasses and other people don’t? Why do we have different eye colors? We answer your questions about glasses and eyes in the second of two episodes with Dr. Sujata Singh, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. And we hear from Maggie, a kid with low vision, about what it’s like to need glasses. 


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What shape are our eyes? What are they made of? How do they work? What’s the point of having two eyes if we only see one image? Why do we blink? What’s the point of tears and why are they salty? We answer your questions about eyes in the first of two episodes with Dr. Sujata Singh, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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We’ve collaborated with our podcast friends at What If World to bring you the first (and only) episode of…But Why If World! In this episode we jointly answer some “what if” questions. What if cereal could talk to us? What if dinosaurs didn’t lay eggs? What if the world started spinning backwards? Take a listen to this curious collaboration.

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December 29, 2023 53 mins

For our last episode of each year, we often like to ask our listeners around the world to send us something fun. This year, we wanted you to tell us what makes you happy and you had a lot to share on that topic! Our listeners find happiness in spending time with friends, family, and pets and in doing activities they love: playing with friends, toys, arts and crafts, participating in sports, watching movies, and riding bikes. Two pe...

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December 15, 2023 34 mins

Almost half the people in the world speak at least two languages. And, it turns out, that includes a lot of But Why listeners! In this episode we talk about what it’s like to speak multiple languages and kids from around the world share phrases in many different languages so we can all learn something new! Plus, linguist and professor Anna Babel answers questions we’ve gotten about languages, including: What does it mean to be bili...

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December 1, 2023 24 mins

How are electric guitars made? How are guitar strings made? And how, exactly, do guitars work? We’re answering questions about electric guitars with local luthier (guitarmaker) Lea in Burlington, Vermont. Creston gave us a tour of his studio–including his custom glitter room, to help us understand what goes into making an electric guitar.

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November 17, 2023 25 mins

For the past 50 years, visitors to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. were able to see giant pandas. But recently, China asked for those pandas back. (Technically, all pandas in the United States are considered “on loan” from China.) With pandas in the news, we’re bringing back the episode from our 2022 field trip to the zoo. Zookeeper Mariel Lally answered all of your panda questions. Among the questions we tackled: ...

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November 3, 2023 17 mins

Why do we celebrate birthdays? Why do we have birthday cakes? Why do we blow out candles on our birthdays? Why are our birthdays on the same date but a different day of the week each year? This episode has answers to all of your birthday questions - plus we hear about unique birthday traditions sent in by our listeners! 

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October 20, 2023 25 mins

Why do some people like haunted houses and scary movies? What is fear? Why do humans have fear! Why do we get goosebumps, blink a lot and scream when we’re scared? Why are some of us afraid of what’s in our closet or under the bed at night?

We look at fear, and the fun side of fear with Marc Andersen, who co-directs the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University in Denmark. He studied fear and play and how they intersect. Turns ou...

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October 6, 2023 20 mins

How is meat made in a lab? That’s what 10-year-old Nate in New Jersey wants to know! Scientists have figured out how to grow meat in laboratories. Some hope lab-grown meat will be able to help address issues like global food insecurity, agricultural pollution and animal cruelty. But 5-year-old Lorenzo in California wants to know why people have to eat meat anyway? But Why visits scientist Rachael Floreani of the Engineered Biomater...

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September 22, 2023 26 mins

Younger people have lots of questions about older people, like: Why do we age? Why do people get gray or white hair? Why do older people have wrinkles? Why do older people have veins that stick up? Why are older people more tired? Why do some people get shorter as they get older? Dr. Suvi Neukam, a geriatrician at Oregon Health and Sciences University, answers kids’ questions about aging in this episode.

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September 8, 2023 24 mins

Why do birds fly? How do raptors soar? Why do some birds fly in the shape of a V? Why can’t some birds, like penguins, emus and ostriches fly? Why do hummingbirds fly so fast? We answer all of your questions about birds and flight with help from Anna Morris of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and Bridget Butler, the Bird Diva. And we get a preview of our new education series But Why: Adventures! Northeast Nature. Educators:...

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August 25, 2023 21 mins

We’re thinking about bears! Actually one specific type of bear: sun bears! Have you heard about this type of bear? They’re the smallest of the world’s bears, about half the size of a black bear. They live throughout southeast Asia and have a yellow or white crescent-shaped marking on their chests. We learn about sun bears with Wong Siew Te, a scientist and researcher who runs the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Malaysia. Al...

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