Episodes
What is the cleverest thing hippos can do? This week we’re answering seven quirky questions about animals! Why do elephants like peanuts? Why do cows put their tongues up their noses? Has anyone ever ridden a tiger? How do woodpeckers cling to trees? Why is some bird poop black and some is white? Why do people make animals like sharks and bears sound way scarier than they are? Answers from Keenan Stears of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Christine Scales of Billings Farm &...
Published 07/16/21
What are fireworks made of, why are they bright and loud, and how do people make them? And, why do Americans celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks? We learn about pyrotechnics with licensed fireworks professional John Steinberg. And David Chavez, an explosives expert at Los Alamos National Laboratory tells us how changes to the materials used in fireworks can make them better for the environment and unleash new, more vibrant colors in the night sky. We also address firework safety and how...
Published 07/02/21
This week, we answer a question from 4-year-old Hugo in Burlington, Vt. Hugo wants to know how noodles are made. We visit M.Y. China , a restaurant in San Francisco, CA to watch executive chef Tony Wu hand-pull 16,000 noodles and hear from the restaurant's owner, chef Martin Yan , host of the PBS show Yan Can Cook . And to give us some historical context, Jen Lin-Liu , author of On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta, shares her insight.
Published 06/18/21
Are seeds alive? What are they made of? Here in Vermont it's planting time, and we've been getting a lot of questions about seeds from kids around the world. In this episode we'll explore the importance of preserving seed diversity with Hannes Dempewolf of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Crop Trust manages a repository of seeds from around the world at the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Plus, ethnobotanist and Abenaki scholar Fred Wiseman shares a little bit...
Published 06/04/21
Our guest this week is a lexicographer. That's someone who studies words and, in this case, edits dictionaries. Emily Brewster is a senior editor at Merriam-Webster and host of the podcast Word Matters. Emily answers a question from 8-year-old Emma in Kentucky, who wants to know how words are added to the dictionary. But before we can answer that, we'll tackle 7-year-old Julia's question, "How are new words created?" Join us for an episode about how words are created, when they've reached a...
Published 05/21/21
How do people whistle? How does whistling make a sound? Why does your tongue change a whistle higher or lower? Can you get a trophy for whistling? Can people with laryngitis whistle? Get ready, we learn all about whistling with musician and champion whistler Emily Eagen and musician Yuki Takeda. And who whistles our theme song? We'll hear from musician Luke Reynolds, and a kid whistling chorus from our listeners! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript How do you...
Published 05/07/21
How are rocks made? Why are some rocks hard and others soft? How do rocks shine? How are geodes and crystals made? Why do some rocks have gems in them? Answers to your rock questions with Hendratta Ali, rock doctor! Ali is a geologist who studies and teaches at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide
Published 04/23/21
Is it OK to do something that you were told not to do and then never tell anybody? In this episode we tackle that thorny question from 10-year-old Finn from Seattle. We'll also wrestle with the question, "Why do people make really bad choices and want other people's lives to be harder?" Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript We're tackling some ethical dilemmas in this episode and we're letting kids give the answers! We also get a response from ABC Radio's Short &...
Published 04/09/21
Have you ever felt competitive with a friend or a sibling? Competition comes up in a lot of different ways in life. Maybe you're running a race with a friend and you want to beat them! Maybe you're trying to play a song without making a mistake and you're competing against yourself. Sometimes competition feels good and fun. It can make you want to do better, and make a game more enjoyable. But not always. Sometimes competition feels bad. Like it's too much pressure, or takes away from the fun...
Published 03/26/21
In the ice age, megafauna roamed North America: mammoths, saber-toothed cats, even giant land sloths! What happened to them? In this episode we answer questions about the ice age: What was it? Did birds live during that time period? How about giraffes? Did people live with woolly mammoths? Why did mammoths go extinct? We'll answer your questions with Ross MacPhee, senior curator at the American Museum of Natural History and author of End of Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest,...
Published 03/12/21
In 2019, we answered a question about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge mass of plastic and other trash swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. Mary James heard that episode and was so inspired, she created a device to help clean up the plastic in the ocean. In this episode of But Why, we learn about her invention, the mermicorn! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide Listen back to Why Is There A Big Patch Of Garbage In the Pacific Ocean? Kids: we'd like to know what you...
Published 02/26/21
On Thursday, February 18th, a robot called a rover is expected to land on the surface of Mars, and begin collecting information scientists hope will help us learn if life ever existed on that planet! We answer your Mars questions with Mitch Schulte, NASA program scientist for the Mars 2020 mission. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript NASA has a number of ways that you can watch the landing live on February 18th at 11:15 a.m. PST / 2:15 p.m. EST / 19:15 UTC. The...
Published 02/17/21
How is chocolate made? Why can't we eat chocolate all the time? Why is chocolate dangerous for dogs? Why do adults like coffee? In this episode, we tour Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts to learn how chocolate goes from bean to bar. Then we visit a coffee roaster in Maine to learn about this parent-fuel that so many kids find gross! And we'll learn a little about Valentine’s Day.
Published 02/12/21
What makes a cactus a cactus? And what are you supposed to call a group of these plants--cacti, cactuses, or cactus?! We'll find out in today's episode, as we learn more about the cactus family with Kimberlie McCue of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. She'll answer kid questions about why cacti are spiky and how they got those spikes, as well as why teddy bear cacti aren't actually cuddly! Those prickly spines that are so characteristic of the cactus family are actually...
Published 01/29/21
Why are whale sharks called whale sharks? Why are guinea pigs called pigs if they're not pigs? Why are eagles called bald eagles if they're not bald? You also ask us lots of questions about why and how animals got their names. So today we're going to introduce you to the concept of taxonomy, or how animals are categorized, and we'll also talk about the difference between scientific and common names. We'll learn about the reasoning behind the names of daddy long legs, killer whales, fox...
Published 01/15/21
As the new year dawns, what are you hopeful for in 2021?Even though the change of the calendar year is mostly symbolic, New Year's Day is often a time for looking back on the year that just passed and setting goals for the year ahead. We asked you to share your hopes and dreams for 2021, from the end of the COVID-19 pandemic to your own personal goals. In this episode, more than 100 kids from around the world offer New Year's resolutions.We'll also hear from Johns Hopkins University...
Published 01/01/21
Lots of people are afraid of the dark, including many kids who have shared that fear with us. In today's episode we explore the fear of the dark with Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and a picture book for young kids called The Dark. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript | Coloring Page Then we go on a night hike with Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Parren, to talk about ways to embrace the...
Published 12/18/20
Why are babies small and grownups big? Why are babies so helpless, instead of little versions of adults? Do babies know they're babies? How do babies grow? How do babies learn to talk? Kids have been sending us lots of questions about babies! This week we’re learning more about the development of the human brain  with Celeste Kidd, professor of psychology and primary investigator at the  Kidd Lab at the University of California Berkeley.
Published 12/04/20
A few weeks ago we talked about why kids can't vote and we also answered some questions about the U.S. Presidential Election. It's been two weeks since the November 3rd election, but we're still getting questions about it! We get answers from NPR political reporter Ayesha Rascoe. TRANSCRIPT Here are some of the questions we're tackling in this episode: What would happen if someone counted the votes wrong? Why is President Donald Trump going to court and why are people saying Joe Biden might...
Published 11/20/20
In our most recent episode, we answered questions about  really big animals: whales! We covered a lot when it comes to these huge aquatic mammals but there was one big topic we didn't get to: and that's how whales communicate.  We'll learn more about the sounds whales make: singing, whistles, and echolocation clicks with Amy Van Cise, a biologist at NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington.
Published 11/06/20
How do whales spray water? Why are humpback whales so fat and blue whales so long, and why are blue whales blue? Do whales have belly buttons? How do you weigh a whale? And how do whales drink water in the salty ocean? We have a whale of a time answering questions about these ocean-dwelling mammals with paleontologist Nick Pyenson, author of Spying on Whales: The Past, Present and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures.
Published 10/23/20
In the United States, where But Why is based, we have a big election coming up. Election Day is officially on November 3rd. But more Americans than usual are voting in advance this year, sometimes in person at their town hall or city office. And sometimes by mailing in their ballot-that's the piece of paper where they mark down who they want to vote for. People in lots of states are voting for their governors, who help run their states, or their Congresspeople, who work in Washington to help...
Published 10/09/20
This episode may not be suitable for our youngest listeners or for particularly sensitive kids. We're discussing animal ethics with author Hal Herzog. In a follow up to our pets episodes, we look at how we treat animals very differently depending on whether we think of them as pets, food, or work animals. Why do some cultures eat cows and others don't? Why do some cultures not have pets at all? And is it okay to breed animals like dogs that have significant health problems even though we...
Published 09/25/20
Why do dogs have whiskers? Why are dogs' eyesight black and white? Why do dogs have so many babies? Why do dogs have tails and we don't? Why are dogs thumbs so high on their paw? Why don't dogs sweat? Why do dogs roll in the grass? Why aren't dogs and cats friends? Veterinarian and dog scientist Jessica Hekman has answers. Dog Coloring Page Dog Breed Quiz Coloring Page Dog Breed Quiz Answers Transcript
Published 09/11/20
Why do cats purr? How do cats purr? Why can't we purr? Why do cats "talk" to people, but not other cats? Why do cats sharpen their claws? Are orange cats only male? Why do cats like milk and not water? Why are some cats crazy? Can cats see color? All of your cat questions answered with Abigail Tucker, author of The Lion in the Living Room. Download a coloring page Transcript
Published 08/28/20