Show cover of 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!


Why do oranges have peels?
Why do oranges have peels? Why is the inside of an orange segmented? Why are lemons and limes so sour? Why do lemons have seeds but limes don’t? Why does fruit have juice? How many oranges are in a gallon of juice? How do seedless oranges reproduce? How are oranges available year-round? Why are the fruit and the color both called orange? We’re answering questions about citrus with Fernando Alferez from the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Drive | Transcript
24:19 6/14/24
Do people eat bugs?
Yes! In many parts of the world, insects are a regular part of people’s diets. Bugs are an efficient source of protein, and many cultures find them delicious. Some countries, like the US, don’t have a strong culture of insect cuisine, but that’s starting to change as people look for ways to feed a growing global population without using as many resources as we currently do. So insects might be an important part of our future diets as well. With all the talk about cicadas this summer, eating bugs has been making news for adults. So, in this bonus episode, But Why learns about cooking up insects with Joseph Yoon, edible insect ambassador at Brooklyn Bugs. Download transcript
14:18 6/7/24
Why do cicadas come out every 17 years?
This spring, trillions of periodical cicadas are emerging from the ground, where they’ve spent 13 or 17 years feeding on xylem (basically, tree juice).  The two specific broods emerging this year have not come out at the same time since 1803, and kids may be hearing a lot of news about these loud insects. So today we’re tackling the cicada questions you’ve sent us: Why do cicadas come out every 17 years? What do cicadas eat? Why are there more cicadas at night than in the morning? Why do cicadas molt? How do cicadas get babies? We speak with Dan Gruner, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, to get answers.Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
19:43 5/31/24
Where does the sky end?
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.Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
23:11 5/17/24
What's cool about cockroaches?
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 don’t bother humans at all! Some, like the social cockroach species known as termites, work to decompose organic material and are hugely important to our environment. So where do people learn negative attitudes toward insects? We dig deep into insects with Jessica Ware, an entomologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History. She’s also the host of the PBS digital series Insectarium. Answers to your questions about cockroaches, termites, dragonflies, praying mantises and more!Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
29:36 5/3/24
How do crocodiles chomp?
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 alligator questions with Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez, one of the researchers known as the Croc Docs at the University of Florida. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
32:04 4/19/24
Why do ballerinas wear ballet shoes?
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. Download our learning guides: PDF  | Google Slide | Transcript
18:03 4/5/24
What is a solar eclipse?
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 experience a partial solar eclipse. In this episode, we’re answering questions about the eclipse and talking about how to keep your eyes safe if you’re watching it! We speak with Bridgewater State University solar physicist Martina Arndt, Fairbanks Museum planetarium director Mark Breen and Thomas A. Hockey, author of America’s First Eclipse Chasers. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
29:11 3/22/24
How do invasive species take over?
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 like the spotted lanternfly? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide Transcript
28:06 3/8/24
Can snowstorms have thunder?
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 weather, from Alexandra Branton, a meteorologist who works at the observatory at the top of the mountain, even during the frigid winter. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides | Transcript
32:49 2/23/24
Why do we need glasses?
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.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
26:22 2/9/24
Why do we have two eyes if we only see one image?
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. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
29:51 1/26/24
What if the world started spinning backward?
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. Download transcript
24:24 1/12/24
What makes you happy?
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 people say the special sandwiches their adults make them are what bring them happiness. And some kids told us learning new skills is especially exciting for them. In this episode: a happiness bonanza with all the responses we got. Plus we talk with a happiness expert: Gretchen Rubin. She’s the author of the Happiness Project and host of a podcast called Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide
53:36 12/29/23
What's it like to be bilingual?
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 bilingual? Why do some people speak two or three languages? How many languages can someone learn? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
34:57 12/15/23
How are electric guitars made?
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. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide
24:31 12/1/23
Why are pandas black and white?
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: Why do animals live in the zoo? Why are pandas black and white? Do pandas hibernate? How can we save the pandas? Check out our social media pages for lots of pictures! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
25:55 11/17/23
Why do we celebrate birthdays?
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!  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
17:44 11/3/23
Why do we like being scared?
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 out, moderate and controlled fear can actually have benefits to our mental health! Download our learning guide: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
25:40 10/20/23
How is meat made in a lab?
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 Biomaterials Research Laboratory at the University of Vermont to learn more about how and why lab-grown meat is being developed. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
20:46 10/6/23
Why do people get older?
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. Download our learning guide: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
26:39 9/22/23
How do birds fly?
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: learn more about But Why: Adventures! Northeast Nature and sign up for free access to the series! Download our learning guides: Video |  PDF | Transcript
24:40 9/8/23
What are sun bears?
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. Also in this episode: Do bears live in caves? Why do they climb trees? Why do bears hibernate in winter? Naturalist Mary Holland answers questions about hibernation. And we are treated to A Bear Song by Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
21:56 8/25/23
Why don't bicycles fall over?
It's all about bikes in this episode of But Why? How come bicycles stay up when you're riding, but fall over once you stop? We turn to Andy Ruina, professor of engineering at Cornell University, for the scientific answer. We also learn how a bike chain works and Olympic mountain biker Lea Davison tells how to get started when riding. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
21:23 8/11/23
How do we learn to read?
11-year-old Alaska (from Colorado) wants to know: why do some kids love reading while others don’t? We know there’s a lot of debate lately about the best ways to teach kids how to read. But in this episode we leave the pedagogy to adults and let kids share with one another why they love to read and their best tips for kids like them, who may be struggling to learn (and love) to read. Plus, guest Fumiko Hoeft, medical doctor and professor at the University of Connecticut and at the University of California San Francisco, lifts the lid on our brains to explain what’s happening inside us when we learn to read. Dr. Hoeft runs a brain imaging research program and a lab called BrainLENS. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
35:27 7/28/23
How are crickets so loud?
How are crickets so loud? Why do they chirp at night? How are they different from grasshoppers? We’re talking crickets today with Karim Vahed, a cricket and katydid expert and entomologist (bug scientist) in England who works with BugLife, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust. In this episode, Professor Vahed takes on some of pressing general insect questions as well: Do insects have bones? What do baby bugs like to do? Do insects drink water? Why are bugs so important? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
26:43 7/14/23
Why do we have allergies?
Why is it that some people have allergies when others don’t, even if they’re in the same family? How do allergies work? Can you be allergic to water? Why are some people allergic to cats and dogs? Can you grow out of your allergies? We’re joined by pediatrician and allergy researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta to answer the dozens of questions kids have sent us on this topic. Plus we learn about promising treatments being developed to help relieve allergy suffering. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript.
30:28 6/30/23
What are eels?
What are eels? And why are some eels electric? We head to Poughkeepsie, New York to learn about eels with Chris Bowser, Hudson River estuary educator with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Plus we learn about electric eels. Electric eels have captured the imagination of many people, but they’re not actually considered eels by the scientific community. They’re a type of knife fish, more closely related to catfish and carp. But they are electric! So we’ll tackle why they’re electric and how they create electricity. David de Santana, of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, tells us what it’s like to study electric eels in the Amazon.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides
23:02 6/16/23
Why is social media so addictive?
Why do people spend so much time on social media? But Why answers kids' questions about social media and screen time and we learn about how to be a good citizen online with Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World and Growing Up In Public: Coming of Age in a Digital World, coming in September. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
19:51 6/2/23
Why do wolves howl?
Why do wolves howl at the moon? Do wolves have different howls? How were wolves domesticated into dogs? How do wolves run fast for so long? What kind of habitats do wolves prefer? Why are people scared of wolves? Do they eat people? How do we protect them? But Why visits the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York, where education director Regan Downey answers kid questions about these apex predators. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript 
27:17 5/19/23

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