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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Shannon Joy

We're answering 9 questions that put a smile on our faces, and we hope they make you chuckle, too. Plus, you might actually learn something from some of the answers!

Are llamas ticklish? Why do pickles and cacti look alike? What are boogers made out of? How do fish see underwater without goggles? Do skunks like their smell? Do pigs poop? Are elephants afraid of mice? Are jellyfish made of jelly? Why are yawns contagious?

A grey, blue and white microscopic slide.
Centers For Disease Control

VPR is bringing But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids to the airwaves on Saturday, March 21 at noon. As coronavirus continues to spread in the United States and changes the course of everyday live, we’ll be hearing Explaining the Coronavirus To Kids, And The Science of Soap, which answers kids questions about coronavirus to give our youngest listeners the information they need to stay safe.

The 16 new cases of COVID-19 announced by health officials Saturday brings the total number of cases in Vermont to 49.
Centers for Disease Control

As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, the World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. We’re answering questions about the virus with infectious disease doctor Krutika Kuppalli, who studies global pandemics. And chemistry professor Palli Thordarson, from the University of New South Wales on the science of why washing your hands with plain old soap and water is so effective against germs.

Dreams are endlessly fascinating. Psychiatrist David Kahn describes dreams as the way your brain thinks while you're asleep.
maroznc / iStock

Why do people dream? Why do people have nightmares? How do dreams happen? Can people who are blind can see in their dreams? In this episode of But Why, we're answering dreamy questions with psychiatrist Dr. David Kahn of Harvard Medical School.

Getting enough sleep is really important for the development of your brain, muscles, and emotional health.
Victor Brave / iStock

Why do people need to sleep? How do we actually go to sleep? How does sleeping get rid of toxins in the brain? And how come when it's nighttime I don't want to go to sleep but when it's morning I don't want to wake up?! Those questions and more with pediatric sleep psychologist Dr. Lisa Meltzer.

Senate Television / AP

Curious kids are hearing about the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump. So But Why is helping them understand what impeachment is and what happens when a president is impeached. We'll explain why impeachment is an important part of the US constitution and why impeaching a president doesn't mean removing him or her from office.

Mario Hoppmann / istock

Do animals get married? Do they fall in love and have friends? Do they laugh when they're happy and cry when they're sad? When you talk to your pets, can they understand you? Why can't they speak to us? And do animals know what kind of animal they are? Alyssa Arre of the Comparative Cognition Lab at Yale tackles these interesting questions.

istock / Pedro Helder da Costa

Why do lions roar? Why do crickets chirp? Why do bucks shed their antlers every year? How can porcupines and hedgehogs avoid poking themselves? Do fish pee? What is the fastest fish? What do jellyfish eat? A roundup of animal questions, with answers from Paola Bouley of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, naturalist Mary Holland and Jo Blasi of the New England Aquarium.

Olga Chalovskaia / istock

Why do we like to eat certain foods? Why do some people like to eat spicy food? And what's up with kids not liking vegetables? Why does pineapple hurt your mouth when you eat too much of it? Why do we taste things and how? Why do different foods taste different? Do animals have the same taste buds as people?

Sadeugra / istock

In this episode, we tackle why some words are considered bad. Plus: Why do people say bad words? Why aren't kids allowed to say cuss words? Why is the middle finger bad? Adults, don't worry: we won't actually be using any bad words in this episode!

anyaberkut / istock

How does water turn into ice? Why is ice sometimes slippery and other times sticky? Why is it so cold? Why does it float? How are icicles made? Why are icebergs mostly underwater? What was the ice age? We'll get answers to all of those questions with help from Celeste Labedz of the California Institute of Technology. And we'll take a trip to the world's largest skating rink.

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. 

A unicorn in a clearing
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?

Empty Classroom
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?

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