But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids

But Why is a show led by you, kids! You 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.

Have a question? Send it to us!
Adults, use your smartphone's memo function or an audio app to record your kid's question (get up nice and close so we can hear). Be sure to include: your child's first name, age and town. And then email the audio file to questions@butwhykids.org.

But Why is hosted and produced by Jane Lindholm with help from producer Melody Bodette.

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Jane Lindholm interviews meteorologist Tom Messner in front of the green wall, where weather maps and images are digitally projected during a broadcast.
Jane Lindholm / VPR

How do weather people predict the weather and know what's going to happen tomorrow? Why is a meteorologist called a meteorologist? We learn about weather forecasting with National Weather Service Meteorologist Jessica Neiles and NBC5 Chief Meteorologist Tom Messner. 

MadKruben / istock

Are unicorns real? Who made them up? Where do they come from? What do they eat, how big are they, and do they have rainbow manes? We're answering all of your questions about unicorns-and learning about other mythical creatures as well with Adam Gidwitz, creator of The Unicorn Rescue Society and Dana Simpson cartoonist and author of Phoebe and Her Unicorn.

Melody Bodette / VPR

In this episode we're answering a few short questions about animals! Are jellyfish made of jelly and do they really not have hearts or brains? Do fish stink in the water or on land? Where do they sleep? Do chickens have tongues? Can spiders sleep? How many types of animals are there in the world? Do snakes live in Antarctica? Is a springbok faster than a grizzly bear? Do skunks have big tails or small tails?

maroke / istock

Why does school exist? When did kids start going, and why is it mandatory? Why are there 12 grades in school? Why do we call teachers by their last names? In this episode, we get schooled on school by sociologist Emily Rauscher and National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson.

Chef Tony Wu holds up 16,000 strands of very thin pasta he's just stretched and pulled by hand.
Jane Lindholm / VPR

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.

A hand holds up a piece of homemade paper printed with artistic designs.
Melody Bodette / VPR

How is paper made from trees? Why does paper fall apart when it gets wet? Why does it lose color in the sun? Who invented paper? We make a few sheets of paper and learn all about how it's made with artist Carol Marie Vossler at BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake, New York.

nechaev-kon / istock

This episode is all about bugs! We've gotten a lot of questions from you about insects and other critters. So we're tackling them with the help of Jessica Honaker and Kristie Reddick, otherwise known as the Bug Chicks.

Visitors cross highway 178 next to a crack left on the road by an earthquake Sunday, July 7, 2019, near Ridgecrest, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

Why do earthquakes happen? How do the tectonic plates move underground? How do we stay safe during an earthquake? For this week's show we headed to California to visit Jennifer Strauss at the Berkeley Seismology Lab and we hear from Celeste Labedz at the California Institute of Technology.

michaelmjc / istock

How do circuits work? How do electric plugs work? Why do some things conduct electricity and some things do not?

Younggi-Kim / istock

Where does electricity come from? What is electricity made of? Who invented it? How does electricity work? What are electrons made of? Where does static electricity come from? How is it generated? Why don't we use lightning as a power source? How does electricity power things? Electrical Engineer Paul Hines answers our questions, in part one of our live call-in program. Hines is a professor at the University of Vermont and co-founder of Packetized Energy.

An Amtrak passenger train pulls into a station on a rainy evening.
Courtesy / Amtrak

How do trains work? We're traveling to Union Station in Washington, DC and answering all of your questions with Amtrak's Patrick Kidd.

Claylib / istock

This week we're answering questions about gender. We've gotten a lot of questions about the differences between boys and girls so we're tackling them with Vanderbilt anthropologist Anna Catesby Yant and Dr. Lori Racha of UVM Medical Center.

Jane Lindholm / VPR

We're heading to the coast of Maine to learn a little bit about why the sea is salty and how mussels get their shells with Zach Whitener, a research associate at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine.

mustafahacalaki / istock

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.

5Second / istock

Why do we crave sweet foods even if they're bad for us? Why do we have to eat vegetables? Why does junk food taste so good? We answer all of your nutrition questions with Wesley Delbridge of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Keith Szafranski

Good Question! In this episode of But Why, we answer some questions that make us say, huh? Why do shoes get stinky? Why are little brothers so annoying? Also, why don't tow trucks have sirens?

The U.S. Capitol, where laws are made.
Tanarch / istock

Who makes the laws? That's what 5-year-old Paxton from Kelowna, British Columbia wants to know! We learn about laws with Mike Doyle of the Canadian organization Civix,  and Syl Sobel, author of How the U.S. Government Works.  Plus: how do elections work? And why does the UK have a government and a queen?

Melody A / istock

Why do we laugh? Why do you feel ticklish when someone tickles you? Why can't you tickle yourself? In this episode, originally from 2018, we learn about how humor develops with Gina Mireault of the Infant Laughter Project at Northern Vermont University. Plus: April Fools traditions and we listen to jokes sent in by kids with Vermont comedian Josie Leavitt.

Melody Bodette / VPR

In this episode, we're answering your questions about...us! Why do you make But Why? How are podcasts made? And we're answering questions about the physics of sound and radio.

Greenpeace U.S. actions director, Katie Flynn-Jambeck, holds up plastic recovered from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Tabor Wordelman

Why is there a big patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean? Four-year-old Leon has heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and he wants to know what the deal is. So we speak with someone who's actually been there! Teen Vogue News and Politics Editor Alli Maloney visited the garbage patch last year for a series called Plastic Planet. But in this episode we'll also explore how young people are becoming activists, trying to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced, waste that sometimes goes into the ocean. Anika Ballent, with the non-profit Algalita, shares what kids can and have been doing.

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