Why Do We Compete?
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 of being with your friends. Some people really don't like competition at all.
3-year-old Kai from Tokyo, Japan asks: "Why do we need to compete with other people, especially friends, for example on a sports day or at gym class?"
In this episode we discuss competition with anthropologist Niko Besnier. And we'll hear from 12-year-old Harini Logan, a competitive speller from San Antonio, Texas, and 10-year-old Del Guilmette, an athlete from Monkton, Vermont.
Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
We put Kai's question to Niko Besnier, anthropologist at the University of Amsterdam. One of his books is called The Anthropology of Sport, written with Susan Brownell and Thomas F. Carter. He says there are two reasons that people take part in competitions:
"One is that sports are fun. It's fun to play with your friends and classmates, to run, jump, play ball. We've all experienced this rush of pleasure and fun doing these things. But the other aspect that's contradictory to the fun part is that it enables us to measure our strength, our speed, our physical ability against those of other people. It's the competition part of sport, and competition can become extremely serious. Frequently, the fun part of sport gets lost."
Besnier says when competition gets out of hand it can lead to hurt feelings, and on a larger scale, competition can lead to things like war and inequality.
But with the right attitude, competition, especially when we compete against ourselves, can help us get better at sports and academics.
That's how it is for Harini Logan. She's a competitive speller who has made it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee twice!
"Competition teaches you a lot, whether it's the preparation leading up to that competition or the outcome," Logan says. "It can teach you a lot about not only your abilities, but also new things that can change the way you look at life. When you're preparing for a competition you can learn how to work hard, and how not to give up on something. And during the competition you learn teamwork. That's one thing you learn in spelling bees, because you want to be with your community, your friends. One thing to learn if you win: sportsmanship! You don't gloat about it, you still appreciate yourself but you don't overdo it so others don't feel bad. And if you don't win it doesn't matter. [You just say:] I'm going to try harder next time."
Competing also helps us get better. That's how 10-year-old Del Guilmette views it. He likes to play against tough teams when he plays sports, because that's how you get better.
"The best players at the game, whatever sport it is, they didn't get better because they played teams that they knew they were going to beat. They played those teams that were better than them. They got better and they practiced!"
Listen to the full episode to hear more about how these mature young competitors think about the value of competition.
Why Are Mammoths Extinct?
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, and Strangest Animals. And we'll hear from Nathaniel Kitchel, a Dartmouth researcher who used carbon dating to discover the age of a mammoth rib. Plus, John Moody, of the Winter Center for Indigenous Traditions in Norwich, Vermont, on how mammoths appear in the oral history of the Abenaki people.
"What was the ice age?" -Karen, 5, Wilmington, Delaware
In the Pleistocene era, which lasted from 120,000 years ago to 15,000 years ago, ice covered the landscape in much of the northern hemisphere. Ice covered all of Canada down into the Northern United States and all of northern Europe. And there were smaller ice sheets in Russia. How did this happen? Scientists think it was a buildup of ice over time.
"The theory is that the winter never ended," explained Ross MacPhee. "You would have snowfalls in the winter and it never really got warm enough to get rid of it completely. The next year that would be built on, built on and built on. And the thing about snow is that it kind of makes its own weather. If you have snow it gets very cold! And that preserves the snow pack for a very long time."
The weight of that snow would compact into ice, eventually covering parts of the world in great sheets of ice. It might help to think of the process as a little bit like what happens when you have a favorite sledding hill: the snow is light and fluffy when you start, but if you sled down it enough times (and walk up the hill, too), eventually the paths get icy from the footsteps and sleds continually packing the snow down.
It wasn't just ice sheets that were a feature of the ice age. All of that water caught up in the ice made sea level drop 300 feet lower than it is now. That exposed lots of land that is now covered in water, including a land bridge connecting Alaska and Russia!
This land bridge allowed a number of species to move into North America from Asia, like bison. And some North American animals went into Asia, like camels and horses! Bear species traveled in both directions. Humans also used the land bridge to migrate into North America, though scientists think some early humans probably used boats too.
Mammoths also migrated over that land bridge! They originated in Asia and came into North America. But there were other species of megafauna that roam the landscape as well, like giant condors, saber toothed cats and even giant sloths.
These species went extinct at the same time as mammoths, as the ice age was ending. Listen to the episode to learn more about the theories of why so many large animals went extinct around the same time.
What’s Your Idea To Clean Up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
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 think could be done about all the garbage in the ocean. Download our learning guide above to draw a picture or describe an invention you would make to help clean it all up.
Mary James sent her picture of the mermicorn to the Little Inventors competition, for Canadian children. See Mary's entry here. Her invention has been chosen from among hundreds of other submissions to be turned into a prototype, a model of what the real thing might look like. There are Little Inventors competitions in the UK as well, and lots of countries and organizations sponsor design challenges for kids. See if you can find one where you live!
What Are Robots Doing On Mars?
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.
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 rover is called Perseverance, which means not giving up, continuing to work toward a difficult goal even when challenges are placed in your way.
And it is quite a challenge just to get to Mars! The rover was launched on a rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida more than 6 months ago, by NASA, the U.S. Space Agency. And it has been traveling through space ever since, on a path to Mars. And now, people all over the world are eager to watch it land on Mars and get to work.
And it’s not just Perseverance that is going to land on Mars. There’s also a helicopter, called Ingenuity, which means cleverness, creativeness and resourcefulness all rolled into one. Ingenuity, the helicopter, is basically a drone—there’s no one inside driving it around, just as there are no people onboard the rover. But ingenuity is the first helicopter to ever test-fly on another planet!
Cool Beans: How Chocolate And Coffee Get Made
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.
"How is chocolate made?" - Samarah, 8, Johnson, VT
"Chocolate actually comes from cocoa beans--which is no bean at all--they are seeds of the cacao trees," says Ayala Ben-Chaim of Taza Chocolate. Taza is a "bean-to-bar" chocolate maker. That means starting with raw cocoa beans and going all the way through the process to turn those beans into a chocolate bar you can buy in a store. (Some chocolatiers get chocolate that's already mostly made and they just add stuff to it and shape it.)
The tree that those cocoa beans come from is called the Theobroma cacao tree, which grows in warm tropical parts of the world--within 20 degrees of the equator. Taza Chocolate sources (buys) cocoa beans from farmers in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Belize and Bolivia.
It takes about five years from when it's planted for a cacao tree to produce cocoa pods. "Cocoa pods are a little bit funny to look at. They look like a gourd growing off of the tree, or like a lumpy tiny American football. The cocoa pods grow off of the branches of the tree like apples, but they also grow right off of the trunk of the tree," Ben-Chaim explains.
"The next step in the process is fermentation. Fermentation is so important in chocolate making. And this is one of the things that is so surprising about chocolate making.
After the beans ferment, they spend a week drying in the sun on wooden planks. At this point they look like almonds. Next, they are packaged and shipped to wherever they'll be made into chocolate.
The first thing the chocolate maker will do is roast the beans at 200 degrees for about an hour, which gives them a nice toasted flavor.
"We also start to separate the thin outer shell that surrounds the inner part of the cocoa bean. Our next step is to separate that shell from the inner part of the bean, called the nib. We do this by winnowing the cocoa beans, using a machine," says Ben-Chaim.
"At Taza Chocolates we use a traditional Mexican milling style using a molino - or mill - to grind the cocoa beans down," Ben-Chaim says, demonstrating. "Over time, those cocoa nibs will be turned into a cocoa liquor, which is smooth and chocolaty. Imagine a chocolate waterfall. It looks beautiful, it smells chocolaty and delicious and yet it is not very tasty because we're missing a really important ingredient, and that is sugar."
Sugar is added to the chocolate liquor, then the sweetened chocolate is ground again, and other ingredients are sometimes added, like spices or coffee or fruit.
At this point some chocolate makers will conche the chocolate, which blends and mixes the chocolate at a high temperature over many hours, which makes it smooth and creamy. Taza doesn’t conche their chocolate. The next step is tempering. Tempering the chocolate makes it glossy and brittle. Then the chocolate is poured into molds and cooled. Then it's wrapped up and ready to take home.
Also in this episode: we visit 44 North Coffee to learn more about the mysterious beverage that so many adults like to drink--coffee!
Why Are Cactuses Spiky?
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 cactuses are spiky and how they got those spikes, as well as why teddy bear cactuses aren't actually cuddly!
Those prickly spines that are so characteristic of the cactus family are actually modified leaves! Cactuses don't have the kind of leaves like a maple or oak tree. But they might have had leaves that were at least a little more like that way way back in the past. Over time, those leaves evolved into the spiky spines we see on cactuses today because they help the plants survive in hot, dry environments.
Why are cactuses spiky? -Noah, Iowa
"They can be a defense mechanism to discourage herbivores - animals that eat plants - from eating the cactus. But, also, spines create shade!" explains Kimberlie McCue.
"When you're covered in spines, as the sun moves across the sky, those spines are casting shadows on the body of the cactus. They're little shade umbrellas!"
All cactuses are native to desert environments, and some live in places where it never rains at all. So how do they get water to survive? Well, Kimberlie tells us that these plants grow not too far from the ocean.
"Early in the morning, there will be fog that comes off the water. Those spines provide a place for the water to condense, form little droplets of water that run down the spine, to the body of the plant, down to the ground and to the roots."
Cactuses are also extremely important parts of their desert environments, as they hold soil in place and provide shelter for birds and other animals. Those insects and birds in turn help pollinate the cactus flowers. Cactuses are also an important local food source for humans.
Unfortunately, cactuses are in danger from people who poach (illegally take) wild plants from their environment. Kimberlie McCue says one way to help make sure cacti stay healthy and plentiful is to be careful when you buy cactus plants. Check to see where the plant seller got the cactus and make sure they're taking care to be ethical stewards of these plants before you buy.
What's A Screaming Hairy Armadillo? How Animals Get Their Names
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 snakes, German shepherds and more! Our guests are Steve and Matt Murrie, authors of The Screaming Hairy Armadillo, and 76 Other Animals With Weird Wild Names.
There are some animals whose names don't really seem accurate-like daddy long legs...which certainly aren't all daddies! Or bald eagles that very clearly have plenty of feathers on their heads. Or guinea pigs, which aren't actually pigs!
And then there are animals with awesomely silly names. Have you ever heard of the umbrella bird? How about the sparklemuffin peacock spider! Or the monkeyface prickleback, the sarcastic fringehead, and the white-bellied go-away bird!
How do animals get their names? Well, there are two types of animal names: Scientific names and common names.
Scientific names are used as a way to categorize all living things, so even if you don't know a lot about an animal, you can learn a lot about them by knowing their scientific name. There are eight different levels that living things get grouped into: domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.
The broadest category is called the domain. There are three domains: archaea, bacteria, and eucarya. Bacteria and archaea are both categories of micro-organisms. All animals and plants belong in the eucarya domain.
Below domain is kingdom. There's a kingdom for animals called Animalia and a kingdom for plants called plantae. (And a few others as well.) As you go through the classification system it gets more and more specific. So, take humans: we belong to the eucarya domain, the animalia kingdom, the chordata phylum (because we have a backbone), the mammalia class (because we're mammals), the primate order, homonidae family, homo is our genus and homo sapien is our species name.
All species have two official scientific names, kind of like how you have a first name and a family name. So the species name for humans is homo sapien. The species name for a common black rat is rattus rattus. An Asian elephant is elephas maximus.
Those names sound fancy, and originally the scientific names of animals were in Latin or Greek, but they don't have to be Latin or Greek anymore, they just have to sound like they are!
But we don't typically call all animals by their scientific names. We often refer to them by their common names, which are kind of like nicknames! Common names can be different in different languages. Like, the scientific name for a wolf is canus lupus. That would stay the same no matter what language you're using. But in English we tend to call it a wolf; in Spanish you'd call it un lobo, and in Welsh it would be blaidd (pronounced "blythe").
Even within the same language, an animal can have lots of common names. Here in Vermont, where I live, we have an animal called a groundhog. But most people around here call it a woodchuck. And others call it a land beaver, or a whistle pig! Common names were often in use long before animals go their specific scientific names.
Hopes And Dreams For 2021 From Kids Around The World
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 epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo, climate activist Bill McKibben and Young Peoples Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye.
Here are just a few of the hopes and dreams you sent us:
"My environmental wish for 2021 is that we can stop so much pollution. My personal wish is to learn Urdu and to convince my brother to get a cat or dog!" - Maya, Toronto, Ontario
"My wish for 2021 is that the coronavirus will stop and the vaccine will come out and we can do things we haven't done this year and we can have our birthday together this year!" -Zain
"I want to learn how to ride my bike by myself. - Adelaide, 6, California
"What I want to happen for the new year is that I want people to start being responsible and no coronavirus. I want people to stop polluting. I want people to wear more masks. I want people to be kind to animals." - Jedi, 8, Ohio
"I hope in 2021 more people think about and believe in climate change." -Evelyn, Albany, New York
"Next year I would like more electric cars!" - Kyrav, 6, Geneva, Switzerland
"My hope for next year is that we don't use as much plastic as we do now and that coronavirus will stop so we're able to do the things we like to do." - Tejas, Canberra, Australia
"My hope for 2021 is that everyone gets health care." - Mikal, 7, Georgia
My new year’s resolution is for sloths to take over the world and for people to use less plastic. - Sloan, 7, Wisconsin
Why Do Things Seem Scary In The Dark?
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 darkness. We practice our night vision by not using flashlights and we think about how our other senses can help us navigate. Steve also answers questions about how animals see in the dark and why it sometimes look like animals' eyes are glowing back at us in the darkness.
This episode features coloring pages by Xiaochun Li. Download and print My Flashlight And Me, and Hiding Under The Covers. You can color as you listen!
Why Aren’t Babies Just Little Adults?
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.
It seems like a really bad idea, right? Human babies rely on adult humans for everything, while babies of some species never meet their parents and are able to take care of themselves as soon as their born! Why is that?
While researchers aren’t sure on this one, Celeste Kidd says there are a lot of theories.
“Because we are very intelligent, we need bigger brains to account for all the things we can do that other animals can’t do. If you have a big brain and you’re born via live birth – meaning you aren’t born from an egg – then there’s an upper limit on how big your head can be when you go through the birth canal,” she explains.
In other words, we need those big brains to do all the things humans do, but a human head with a fully developed brain can’t fit through the birth canal.
“The bigger your head needs to be ultimately, the more immature you need to be born,” Celeste says. So we have to develop and grow outside of the womb. We’re born with some of our brain power, but our brains keep growing long after we’re born, well into our 20s. And there are some advantages to that long period of childhood.
“If you require dependence on your parents for a really long time, which humans do, that creates a lot of opportunity for you to learn a lot of stuff about your culture and the other people that you’re being raised with. We have a lot of knowledge that is unique to us as a species, and that’s unique to us as social groups,” Celeste says.
The long childhood allows for a lot of cultural transmission – learning about tools, language, manners and arts. Some of these exist in other species, but the human systems are a lot more elaborate and take more time to learn!
Why Are We Still Talking About The Election?
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.
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 not be president? What is the Electoral College and why do we still have it; why haven’t we changed to a popular vote? How does the president talk to the people without being on the news?
Helping us answer these questions is political reporter Ayesha Rascoe, who covers the White House for NPR. Adults, you might want to check out the NPR Politics Podcast, a daily podcast that frequently features Rascoe's reporting and expertise.
Why Do Whales Sing?
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.
Why Are Whales So Big?
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.
Why Can't Kids Vote?
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 run the country.
But the position that's getting the most attention is the election for who will be president for the next four years. We learn about voting and elections with Erin Geiger Smith, reporter and author of Thank You For Voting and Thank You For Voting Young Readers' Edition. Also: how does the government work? Why haven't we had girl presidents before? Why are Democrats called Democrats? Why are Republicans called Republicans?
Who Invented The President?
Who Makes The Laws?
Why Are Some Animals Pets And Others Are Lunch?
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 love them? Herzog is the author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.
Why Do Dogs Have Tails?
Why Do Cats Sharpen Their Claws?
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
Vaccines, Masks and Handwashing: A Coronavirus Update
In this installment, we follow up on our March episode about the novel coronavirus now that we know more about COVID-19 and how it spreads. Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, assistant clinical professor of infectious diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina, returns to answer questions about the things we can do to keep ourselves and those around us safe. And we'll learn about what vaccines are, how they're developed and the accelerated process for developing a coronavirus vaccine.
How Do You Make Ice Cream?
How is ice cream made? Why does ice cream melt? Why does some ice cream melt faster than others? We’ll answer your questions about this summery concoction with Rabia Kamara, of Ruby Scoops in Richmond, Virginia. It’s going to be sweet.
What Happens To The Forest After A Fire?
Why are there forest fires? What happens to the forest after a fire? Sometimes you send us questions about things you’ve heard about, and sometimes you send us questions about your experiences. We’ll hear from 5-year-old Abby in Australia who wanted to know more about the bush fires near her home earlier this year. Liam and Emma tell us about their wildfire experiences in California, and we get answers to your questions from Ernesto Alvarado, professor at the University of Washington.
Why Do Ladybugs Have Spots? Do Dragonflies Bite?
This week, we're getting out our bug nets and talking about dragonflies and ladybugs! Why do ladybugs have spots? How many different types of ladybugs are there? How do they crawl on the ceiling without falling down? Where do dragonflies and ladybugs sleep? Why are dragonflies called dragonflies? Do they bite? We're joined by Kent McFarland, a research biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the co-host of another great VPR podcast called Outdoor Radio.
But Why Live: A Musical Celebration
In this special live episode But Why had a musical celebration with Mister Chris, the Junkman and May Erlewine, and we heard your songs. You can listen to But Why Live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 26, 2020. This program is in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
But Why Live: A Discussion About Race And Racism
In this special live episode But Why held a discussion about race and racism with the authors of ABCs of Diversity, Y. Joy Harris-Smith and Carolyn Helsel. You can listen to But Why Live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 26, 2020. This program is in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
But Why Live: Trees
In this special live episode learned about trees and tree communication with scientists Alexia Constantinou and Katie McMahen of the Simard Lab at the University of British Columbia. You can listen to But Why Live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 26, 2020. This program is in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
But Why Live: Kid Press Conference with Governor Phil Scott
In this special live episode we held a kid press conference with Vermont Governor Phil Scott. You can listen to But Why Live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 19, 2020. This program is in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
Why Do Spiders Have Eight Legs?
Why don't spiders stick to their own webs? How do spiders walk up walls and on ceilings without falling? Why do spiders have eight legs and eight eyes? How do they make webs? And silk? What's a cobweb? How do spiders eat? And why are daddy long legs called daddy long legs when they have to have a female to produce their babies?! We're talking spiders today with arachnologist Catherine Scott.
But Why Live: Words and Language
In this special live episode we learn about words and language with linguist John McWhorter, host of the podcast Lexicon Valley. You can listen to But Why live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 19, 2020. This program is in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
But Why Live: Space Exploration
In this special live episode we learn about space and space exploration with Jim Green, NASA's Chief Scientist. You can listen to But Why live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 19, 2020. This program is part of a collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
How Does Slime Work?
What is slime and how do you make it? What makes glue sticky? Why does mixing diet coke and Mentos make an explosion? How does glow in the dark stuff glow without batteries? We're talking about sticky things like slime and glue in this episode. Plus, bonus: explosions! The branch of science we're focusing on is called chemistry. Chemistry is basically the study of stuff and what it's made of, and how different substances interact with one another, sometimes even combining to make new stuff. Our guest is Kate Biberdorf, professor of instruction at the University of Texas, better known as "Kate the Chemist." Her new book is called The Big Book of Experiments.
But Why Live: Poetry
In this special live episode we learn about poetry and writing with Poetry Guy Ted Scheu, Rajnii Eddins, and we hear your poems! Get your pencils ready; we’ll be doing some fun writing exercises as well. You can listen to But Why live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 19, 2020. This program is part of a collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
But Why Live: Bats and Beavers
In this special live episode, we learn about bats and beavers! First up, all about bats with Barry Genzlinger of Vermont Bat Center. Then, we learn about the industrious beaver with wildlife biologist Kim Royar of the Vermont Department for Fish & Wildlife. Listen live at vpr.org and call-in every Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time through June 19, 2020. This program is part of a collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education to bring interactive educational opportunities to students while schools are closed.
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. Allesandra, 3 of Bella Vista, Arkansas wants to know why we can't hold air. We're going to get scientific, but also philosophical and imaginative with anthropologist Hugh Raffles, astronomer John O'Meara, and, a special treat, cellist Zoë Keating, who scored the episode for us to help us really feel it!
Circle Round: The Fallen Sparrow
We're sharing a new episode from one of our favorite podcasts, Circle Round. Jane Lindholm co-stars with Molly Bloom (Brains On!, Smash Boom Best) as twin sisters who reap what they sow in this story with origins in Korea, Tibet, Japan and China.
Why Do Cookies Taste Better With Salt? And Other Cooking Questions
We head to the kitchen to answer cooking and food questions. Why does food taste better with salt? Why do we need salt to make sweet things like cookies? Why do seasonings taste good in food but not so much on their own? Why are marshmallows soft? Why do egg whites go from clear to white when they're cooked? How are expiration dates determined? Answers to your food questions with Molly Birnbaum, host the podcast Mystery Recipe and editor of America's Test Kitchen Kids.
Why Do Baby Teeth Fall Out?
We're talking about teeth with a friendly dentist! How do teeth become loose? Why do our baby teeth fall out? Why do people only have two sets of teeth? Why don't babies have teeth when they're born? Why are teeth white? Why do we have gums in our mouth? How does toothpaste clean your teeth? How does sugar make cavities? We get answers from Theron Main, a pediatric dentist at Timberlane Dental Group in South Burlington, Vermont.
'Are Llamas Ticklish?' And Other Silly Questions
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?
Guests include Jo Blasi from the New England Aqarium, naturalist Marry Holland, therapy llama-handler Shannon Joy, and Elephant Listening Project researcher Peter Wrege.
Brave Little State: Tips From A Homeschooling, Remote-Working Mom
We’re sharing an episode of a Vermont Public Radio's Brave Little State. We know many of you are experiencing some changes now that schools in lots of states and countries are closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. For some families this is the first time you’ve had to try to do something like school at home. But others of you might do homeschooling all the time; and you’ve probably got some great advice for families who are new to this routine!
This episode of Brave Little State brought together two families to talk about how to make the shift.
Coronavirus For Kids, And The Science Of Soap
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.
Why Do People Have Nightmares?
Why do people dream? Why do people have nightmares? How do dreams happen? Can people who are blind can see in their dreams? We're listening back to our episode about dreams with psychiatrist Dr. David Kahn of Harvard Medical School.
How Do We Fall Asleep?
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, all about sleep. We're highlighting an episode from 2018 with pediatric sleep psychologist Dr. Lisa Meltzer. And stay tuned; our next episode is all about dreams!
What Happens When A President Is Impeached?
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. Our guests for this episode are Loyola Law School professor and legal analyst Jessica Levinson and Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don't Know Much About History and other books.
Do Animals Get Married?
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.
Why Do Lions Roar?
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.
How Do We Taste Food?
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? In this episode of But Why we get answers to all of those questions from chef, author, and TV personality Chris Kimball, Dr. Leslie Stein of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, and Vermont-based chef and cookbook author Matthew Jennings.
Why Are Some Words 'Bad'?
In this episode, we tackle why some words are "bad". Plus: Why do people say bad words? Why aren't kids allowed to say cuss words? Why is the middle finger bad? And adults, don't worry, we won't actually be using any bad words in this episode! But we will explore the psychology and brain science behind bad words with Benjamin Bergen, professor of cognitive science at University of California, San Diego. He's the author of What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves.
Ice, Ice, Baby: Why Is Ice Slippery?
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, the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ontario.
How Do Meteorologists Predict The Weather?
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.
Are Unicorns Real?
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.
Are Jellyfish Made Of Jelly?
In this episode we're answering a few short questions about animals! Are jellyfish made of jelly? Do fish stink in the water or on land? Where do fish sleep? Do chickens have tongues? Can spiders sleep or not? 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?
Why Do We Have To Go To School?
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.
How Are Noodles Made?
This week, we answer a question from 4-year-old Hugo in Burlington, Vt. Hugo wants to know how noodles are made. But he's about to get more than he bargained for!
For this episode we visit a restaurant called M.Y. China, in San Francisco, CA to watch executive chef Tony Wu hand-pull 16,000 noodles in 2 minutes. The restaurant's owner, chef Martin Yan of the PBS show Yan Can Cook narrates the action. 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.
How Is Paper Made?
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 sheet of paper and learn all about how it's made with artist Carol Marie Vossler at BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake, New York.
What Do Mosquitoes Do In Winter?
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.
Why Do Earthquakes Happen?
Why do earthquakes happen? How do the tectonic plates move underground? How do we stay safe during an earthquake? Why are continents so far apart? Why do buildings sometimes catch fire after earthquakes? Why are there tsunamis after earthquakes? 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.
How Do Circuits Work?
How do circuits work? How do electric plugs work? Why do some things conduct electricity and some things do not? How does a battery make a phone work? How do lights turn on? Where do electrons go when the electricity is off? How fast is electricity? How do light bulbs work? How does solar power work? How do electric cars work? Why is electricity dangerous?
Electrical Engineer Paul Hines answers our questions for the second half of our electricity live call-in program. Hines is a professor at the University of Vermont and co-founder of Packetized Energy.
What Is Electricity?
Where does electricity come from? What is electricity made of? Who invented it? How does electricity work? What are electrons made of? 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.
Why Do Trains Run On Tracks?
How do trains work? What about electric trains? Steam trains? Bullet trains? Why do they have to go on tracks? How can trains go so fast even though they're so heavy? And why don’t trains have seat belts? We’re traveling to Union Station in Washington, DC and answering all of your questions with Amtrak’s Patrick Kidd.
Why Are Boys Boys And Girls Girls?
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. This is a frank but age-appropriate conversation about male and female bodies and about how biological sex differs from gender. We think the whole family will enjoy this episode, but you're always free to give our episodes a listen to see if it's right for your young ones.
Other questions in this episode: Why are boys taller than girls? Do only boys have Adam's apples? Why can't girls grow beards? Why do most boys have short hair? Why do girls wear makeup and boys don't? Why do professional sports have all-men's and all-women's teams? Why can more girls do the splits than boys? Why didn't women have as many rights as men back in the olden days?
How Do Mussels Get Their Shells?
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.
We also get an answer to a question to how you get a ship in a bottle from Colorado-based ship-in-bottle builder Daniel Siemens in this encore episode from 2016.
Why Am I Afraid Of The Dark?
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.
Then we go on a night hike with Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Perren, to talk about ways to embrace the darkness. We practice our night vision by not using flashlights and we think about how our other senses can help us navigate. Steve also answers questions about how animals see in the dark and why it sometimes look like animals' eyes are glowing back at us in the darkness.
Why Is Sugar Bad For You?
Why do we need to eat and how does food give us energy? Why do you have to eat vegetables? Why does junk food taste so good? So many questions about food and nutrition. We get answers from Wesley Delbridge, of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Other questions in this episode include: Why does eating salty food make you thirsty? Why is sugar bad for you? Why are vitamins in food? Why is breakfast so important? Why do children get hungry at night? Why is fast food so popular?
"Do Skunks Like Their Own Smell?" And Other Stumpers!
Today, 10 questions with one answer in common: "That's a good question!" We've picked 10 stumpers, like: Why don't we suffocate in cars when we're driving? How do we know where our mouths are? Why are there more boys than girls in books? Do monkeys every touch the ground? Why don't fish get electrocuted when lightning strikes? Where does the sidewalk end?
Our experts include naturalists Mary Holland, author Grace Lin, primatologist Sofia Carrara, pediatrician Laurie Racha, Dan Goodman of AAA of Northern New England, and the poetry of Shel Silverstein.
Who Makes The Laws?
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. We also answer a question from Charlotte in North Carolina: how do elections work? And Hattie in England asks why her country has a government and a queen.
Still Funny: Why Do We Laugh?
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.
How Is But Why Made? What Is Sound?
In this episode of But Why, 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. What is sound and how is it made? Why are sound waves invisible? How do echoes work? How do microphones work? How do radio signals work? Answers to your sound and radio questions from our VPR colleagues: sound engineer Chris Albertine and Chief Technology Officer Joe Tymecki.
Why Is There A Big Patch Of Garbage In The Pacific Ocean?
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.
Why Do Elephants Have Trunks? Why Do Giraffes Have Purple Tongues?
We're exploring two different animals in today's episode. One has a long neck and the other has a long trunk! We'll answer: Why are elephants so big? How do their trunks work? Why do they have tusks? Why is elephant skin so rough? Do elephants stomp? Are they actually afraid of mice? And Why are elephants being poached? Peter Wrege of the Elephant Listening Project, which studies elephants in Central African Republic, answers elephant questions. And Steph Fennessy, from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Namibia, answers these questions about giraffes: Why do giraffes have long necks? Why do animals have different patterns, like zebras, giraffes, cheetah? What's a giraffe's usual life span? And why are their tongues purple?
Why Do Days Start At 12 O'Clock?
How was time created? How did one minute become 60 seconds and one hour became 60 minutes? Why is time segmented into 12-hour periods? How do clocks work? Why is a year 365 days? Why is there an extra day in February every four years? Does time have a beginning or an end? Is time travel possible? Answers to all of your time questions with Andrew Novick of NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Why Do We Sometimes See The Moon During The Day?
Why does the moon change shape? How much does the moon weigh? What color is the moon? Why does the Earth only have one moon? Why does the moon have holes? Where does the moon go when we can't see it? Why do we sometimes see the moon in the daytime? Why does the moon look like it's following you when you're in the car? Answers to your moon questions with John O'Meara, chief scientist at the W.M. Keck Observatory.
What Is It Like To Be An Adult?
What is it like to be an adult? It's a big question from a young mind! We invited adults who listen to share their perspectives and Nora McInerny, host of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, helps guide us through that and a few other questions about the strange world of adults: Why can adults do things that kids can't do? Why don't adults play pretend like they used to when they were kids? What happens when you don't listen to your boss? And why do people cry when they're happy?
Why Do We Poop And Fart?
How does your body make poop? How many germs are in an ounce of poop? Why do people fart and why are farts stinky? Look, everybody does it, so today we're going to tackle one of the areas kids seem to find fascinating: why and how we poop! Plus, we get some help from Chicago public radio station WBEZ's Curious City to learn about what happens after you flush the toilet.
Circle Round: 'Armadillo's Song'
This week, instead of a normal episode, we're bringing you an episode from one of our podcast friends, Circle Round, from WBUR in Boston. Circle Round features folk tales from around the world, and we've selected one we think you'll really enjoy. French comedian Gad Elmaleh stars in "Armadillo's Song," a story about achieving goals and proving naysayers wrong!
Why Don't Spiders Get Stuck In Their Webs?
Why don't spiders stick to their own webs? How do spiders walk up walls and on ceilings without falling? Why do spiders have eight legs and eight eyes? How do they make webs? And silk? What's a cobweb? How do spiders eat? And why are daddy long legs called daddy long legs when they have to have a female to produce babies?! We're talking spiders today with arachnologist Catherine Scott.
Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?
Why do we celebrate Halloween? Who created this holiday? Where do pumpkins come from and why do we carve them? This week we're answering your Halloween questions with a professor of all kinds of scary and creepy things, Regina Hansen of Boston University.
Living With A Brain Tumor: 11-Year-Old Twins Share Their Story
In today's episode we're not answering any questions. Instead, we're going to talk with 11-year-old twins Isabelle and Sophie Posner-Brown. When Sophie was two, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She's had three surgeries and lots of chemotherapy, but she's been on a break from chemo for the last four years. The twins talked with But Why about what it's like to live with Sophie's illness.
Why Do People Get Cancer?
A cancer diagnosis can be scary, and for kids it can be bewildering. We've gotten some questions about cancer and in this episode we answer them with Dr. Donald Small, director of pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. We answer how people get sick when it's not caused by germs, how people get cancer, and why cancer "does not have a cure." There's nothing graphic or scary in this episode, but adults may want to give this episode a listen if cancer is something your littles have been dealing with.
Kangaroos, Koalas, and Wombats! Why Don’t They Live In Cities?
We'll learn about the kinds of animals that live in urban environments and the challenges they face! One young Australian listener wants to know why wombats, kangaroos and koalas hang out in the countryside rather than the city. Dr. Mark Eldridge from the Australian Museum Research Institute tackles that one. And we turn our focus to one particular urban dweller, the raccoon, with York University raccoon expert Suzanne MacDonald. She lives in Toronto, which has one of the most dense populations of raccoons in the world. She helps answer why raccoons eat garbage, how long they live and why they look like they're wearing masks.
Why Is Fire Orange?
We visit Fireman's Hall Museum in Philadelphia and get answers to a dozen questions about fire from Philly firefighter Lisa Desamour. She tells us what fire is, why matches work to start fires, and why fire is often orange. Plus: how does water put out fire? How do smoke alarms work? Why do firefighters have Dalmations?
Why Do People Like Different Types Of Music?
In this episode of But Why, we hear music from Music for Sprouts' Mr. Chris, Drummer Seny Daffe, and cellist Emily Taubl and answer questions about strings, percussion, and the magic of music itself. Get ready to dance.
Why Do Turtles Need Shells? Why Do Frogs Hop?
Why do turtles need shells? Why do turtles move so slowly? Why do frogs hop? Why are frogs green? Why are colorful frogs poisonous? Why do frogs inflate their throats? What some of the biggest threats are to amphibians and reptiles? We head out to the pond to get answers from some herpetologists! We also get a preview of the new Earth Rangers podcast!
How Was The Universe Created?
But Why explores the Big Bang, earth, stars and black holes in this call-in episode that aired live on Vermont Public Radio. Astronomer John O'Meara tackles the big bang, the origins of the universe and how we know humans landed on the moon. Plus, why is the earth round? What is space made out of? How are stars formed? Why do the stars shine so bright? What's beyond space? How long does it take to get to outer space? Will humans ever be able to go to Mars?
An Introduction To VPR's Timeline
In this episode we want to introduce you to another show made at VPR that we think you're really going to like. It's called Timeline and it explores the history of western music. Host James Stewart has just made 4 special episodes exploring the elements fire, water, earth and air. We're bringing you the water episode!
Why Is Milk White?
'But Why' heads to the farm to answer a whole herd of animal questions: How do cows make milk? Why do cows moo? Why do some animals eat grass? Why do pigs have curly tails? Why do pigs have more teats than cows? Why do eggs in the fridge not hatch? How do chicks grow in their eggs? Why do roosters crow? Why do horses have hooves? Why do horses stand up when they sleep? Why are some fences electric?
Why Do Ants Bite?
Why do ants bite? Do both male and female ants have stingers? Do ants sleep? What do they do in the winter? In this episode we learn all about the fascinating world of ants with Brian Fisher , curator of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences. Fisher has identified about 1000 different species of ants!
Hoots And Screeches And Whistles, Part 2
How fast can the fastest bird go (and what bird is it?) Why do birds have wings? How do they fly? Why are birds so colorful? And why do they sing at dawn and dusk? In the second part of our live show in April with Bird Diva Bridget Butler, we learn all about birds, and get some lessons in how to sing like our avian neighbors!
Hoots And Screeches And Whistles, Part 1
How do owls eat? Why are owls nocturnal and how do they see in the dark? How do owls swivel their heads all the way around? Why do birds move their heads back and forth when they walk? This episode was recorded live at The Mega Awesome Super Huge Wicked Fun Podcast Playdate in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Why Is Tape Sticky?
Why is tape sticky? How do erasers erase? We'll tackle arts and crafts in this episode, answering not just those two questions but learning how to make paint out of rocks and spit!! Vermont artist and wildcrafter Nick Neddo joins us with some tips on how to create your own paint and art supplies.
Podcast Extra: Heterotaxy and Hearts
After hearing our episode about hearts, 3yo Ethan Chandra, from Middlesex, NJ, wanted to share the story of his own heart. In this podcast extra, Ethan and his 5yo sister Zoe and their mother, Ali, talk about what it's been like for Ethan to live with a condition called heterotaxy.
How Does Your Heart Work?
How does your heart keep you alive? How does it pump blood? Why is blood so important? Why do children have heart surgeries? Why is a baby's heartbeat faster before it's born? Why does blood rush to your head when you're upside down? Why can you feel your heart in your head when you're lying still or under water? In this episode of But Why, we're going talking about a very special muscle! It keeps us alive and it has its own special rhythm: the heart. Pediatric oncologist Dr. Jane Crosson from Johns Hopkins Hospital answers questions about the heart.
Why Do We Laugh?
Why do we laugh? Why do you feel ticklish when someone tickles you? Why can't you tickle yourself? We learn about how humor develops with Gina Mireault of the Infant Laughter Project at Northern Vermont University.
Why Do People Dream?
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 Khan of Harvard Medical School.
Why Do We Need To Sleep?
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, all about sleep. We're joined by pediatric sleep psychologist Dr. Lisa Meltzer.
What Are Olympic Medals Made Of? Why Does Every Country Have A Flag?
What are Olympic medals made of? Why does every country have a flag? The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway in PyeongChang, South Korea. We reached out to medal-winning Olympians Elana Meyers Taylor, Andrew Weibrecht and Hannah Kearney to reflect on what winning a medal represents. And we learn about flags with vexillologist Scot Guenter from San Jose State University.
How Do Fish See? How Do Fish Sleep? How Do Fish Breathe?
How did the first fish get into the ocean? How do fish breathe under water? If you put a fish's head underwater, but not its tail, would it survive? How do fish get diseases? How do fish see underwater without googles? Why do fish swim when they are asleep? Do fish drink water? Do fish have ears? How are fish born? But Why visits the New England Aquarium in Boston to get answers to those and other questions kids have sent us about fish.
Circle Round: 'The Lion's Whisker'
Instead of an episode of But Why, we're going to check out an episode of one of our other favorite podcasts. Circle Round is a storytelling show from WBUR, a public radio station in Boston. On Circle Round, they find stories from all around the world and then get really interesting people to act them out. This week we're sharing one of their episodes with you! This is one of our favorites. And it's actually about sharing. It's called 'The Lion's Whisker.'
Are There Underground Cities?
In this episode, we answer a question from 5-year-old Wyatt in Los Angeles and learn about ancient underground cities in Turkey, the subterranean passageways of Montreal and the dug-out houses of Coober Pedy, Australia. Also in this episode: Why is it so warm underground?
Why Do Snowboards Look Like Skateboards?
We're marking the winter solstice with an episode all about snow! Why do snowboards look like skateboards? We get an answer from Burton Snowboards. How is snow made? Why is snow white? Why are all snowflakes different? We'll hear from Jon Nelson, author of "The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder." Also why does snow melt? And where is the deepest snow?
Why Is Money So Important?
In this episode of But Why we visit a credit union to learn what money is all about and Slate Money hosts Felix Salmon, Anna Szymanski and Jordan Weissman answer questions about why money plays such a big role in modern society. How was money invented? Why can't everything be free? How do you earn money? Why don't kids go to work? How was the penny invented? Why are dimes so small?
What Is The Biggest Number?
What's the biggest number? Who was the first mathematician? Why is seven a lucky number? Why is fifth grade math so hard? We're tackling something new: questions about math! With us to offer some answers and some mind-blowing concepts is author Joseph Mazur.
Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?
Why do we have daylight saving time? And why are days longer in summer and shorter in winter? Daylight saving time is really just a trick. At least, so says Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. He's our guest in this episode and he explains the reasons behind this semi-annual ritual of moving the clocks forward and back.
Looking For More Kids Podcasts? We've Got You Covered
On this special episode of But Why, we're going to introduce you to some of our kids podcast classmates. We've all gotten together to create one big podcast episode that gives you a little flavor of what each one of us is all about. Enjoy!
Why Do Leaves Change Color In The Fall?
Why do leaves change color in the fall? Why are leaves green? Why don't leaves turn all of the colors of the rainbow? In this episode of But Why, we're talking about fall leaves, and how trees go from green to fiery red, orange and yellow.
Why Do People Die? Questions About Death
This episode of But Why is a serious one. We're talking about death. Why do people die when they get too old? What happens to people when they die? What does it feel like when you're dead? Our guide is Jana DeCristofaro from the Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Oregon, which supports children and families facing serious illness or coping with the loss of a family member.
Listen: Talking To Kids About Violence In the News
In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas on Sunday, we're re-releasing our special episode for parents. We speak with Dr. Robin Gurwitch about how to answer questions children may have about violence they hear in the news. She's a child psychologist at the Duke University Medical Center and she has served on numerous commissions and committees about children and trauma, including the National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.
Is It Ever OK To Break A Rule?
Is it OK to do something that you were told not to do and then never tell anybody? We tackle that question from 10-year-old Finn from Seattle. Also in this episode: why do people make really bad choices and want other people's lives to be harder?
How Do Hurricanes Form?
In the last couple of weeks, two big hurricanes have hit parts of the United States and Caribbean islands. In this episode we answer questions from kids who have been hearing the news and wondering: How do hurricanes form? Why do hurricanes strike Florida? Why do hurricanes have names? We speak with atmospheric scientist Shuyi Chen of the University of Washington.
How Is Glass Made?
How is glass made? Why does glass break? Why do bubbles pop? What's it like inside a bubble? We make everything clear in this episode! Our questions are from kids in Arizona, Brazil, California and Cambodia.
How Do Bees Make Honey And Why Do They Sting?
Why do bees pollinate? How do bees make honey? Why do bees have stingers? Why do bees die when they sting you? What's the difference between a bee and a wasp? Does honey have healing properties? Vermont farmer and beekeeper John Hayden of The Farm Between answers all of your bee questions! And we learn about one curious kid's app, which he hopes will help save pollinators.
Why Are There So Many Different Languages?
In this episode, we're answering some of our frequently asked questions, the questions we hear a lot from all of you: why are there so many different languages? Why do we get hiccups? Why do our fingers get wrinkly in the tub? Why are plants so many colors? Why do leaves change colors in the fall? Why is the sky blue?
Why Do Flamingos Stand On One Leg?
We're answering ten questions as quickly as we can in this episode of But Why. Why do onions make you cry? How do hummingbirds hum? Why do flamingos stand on one leg? Do moths have veins in their wings? Do cats that share a home have the same meow? What was the first book? How do libraries get money if people borrow books for free? Why do people have fidget spinners? Why can't my stuffed animal get wet? And how do pigs poop? Can we do it all in 20 minutes?!
How Do You Make Bread?
How is bread made? Who made the first cake? Why shouldn't you touch raw eggs? On this episode of But Why, we're talking about baking. We get a lesson in bread making on a field trip to King Arthur Flour. Later, the Botanical Society of America weighs in on a recent episode where we talked about why some berries are poisonous.
Why Are Moths Attracted To Light?
In this episode we're celebrating the official return of summer to the northern hemisphere by answering some summertime questions! How do fireflies glow and can they control how they blink? Why are owls nocturnal? How do they swivel their heads around? And how do they hoot? Plus a few burning questions about why bug bites itch, why poison ivy and caterpillars and berries can all be poisonous, and how come we have to wear sunscreen! We'll get answers from wildlife biologists Kent McFarland and Bryan Pfeiffer. Plus we hear an episode of one of VPR's other podcasts, Outdoor Radio.
How Are Babies Made?
How are babies made? We speak with Cory Silverberg, author of What Makes A Baby, for answers to questions about how we all come into the world.
Podcast Extra: Do Dogs Get Strep Throat?
We recently did an episode all about dogs. But after that came out, Nash, from Fort Dodge, IA, sent us a question wondering if dogs ever get strep throat. So we reached back out to Jessica Hekman to get an answer!
Why Are Some Animals Pets And Others Are Lunch?
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 love them? Herzog is the author of 'Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.'
Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
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.
Why Do Cats Purr?
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.'
Who Was The First Person?
Who was the first person? Paleoanthropologist Adam Van Arsdale answers one of the most frequent questions we get here at But Why. Also: how does evolution work? Was there a first of every living thing? How did the first animal come alive? How did monkeys turn into people? And what did cavemen eat that we still eat today?
The Kratts Take Kids On Wild Animal Adventures
For 20 years, brothers Chris and Martin Kratt have been taking kids on adventures around the world through their TV shows, including Wild Kratts, Zoboomafoo, and Kratts' Creatures. They spent many childhood summers exploring the wilds of Vermont. In this special episode, we are sharing a Vermont Edition interview Jane did with the Kratts for her other radio show.
How Do Butterflies Fly?
How do butterflies fly? Why are butterflies called butterflies? How do airplanes fly? If gravity pulls everything down, how do planes and rockets get up in the air? Why do planes have engines and how do they make them? We're visiting ECHO, the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for answers.
How Do Piano Keys Make Sound?
Did you know pianos have strings and hammers? We're learning all about instruments and how they use strings to make noises.
How Do Big Plants Grow From Such Small Seeds?
Why are there so many plants? How are seeds made? How does germination work? How can plants grow so big if they start from such a small seed? Why are flowers different colors? Why are plants and trees green? Where does dirt come from? In this episode of But Why , we're talking about plants with garden consultant Charlie Nardozzi.
How Does NASA Drive The Mars Rover?
The discovery of seven new planets that could contain life has kids and adults pretty excited. We can't get to these planets yet but we do have tools to explore planets closer to home. In this episode, St. Michael's College astronomy professor John O'Meara answers how the Mars rover is driven from back here on earth?
Are Yawns Really Contagious?
Why are yawns contagious? Why do we hiccup? How do teeth get loose? Why do your ears hurt when you drive up over the mountains? Why do we get dizzy when we spin? Why do people slip? Why do people faint? Why do we have saliva and mucus? Why do people cry when they get hurt? How do voice boxes work? Why does your voice sound weird when it's recorded? Dr. Lori Racha has more answers to your body questions.
Why Do Your Fingers And Toes Turn Wrinkly In The Tub?
Why do your fingers and toes turn wrinkly in the tub? Why are people ticklish? How do you get freckles? Why do some people have birthmarks? How do our hands feel things? Are humans animals? Why don't humans have tails? Why do we need food and water to survive? Why do our nose and ears keep growing? How do bones connect together? We're talking about our weird and wonderful bodies with Dr. Lori Racha, a pediatrician at the University of Vermont.
How Do Popcorn Kernels Pop?
How do popcorn kernels pop? How do salmon know where to return to spawn? How do rabbits change colors? Why does television fry your brain? How do zippers zip stuff? Who was the fastest runner in the world? In this episode, we'll tackle all these questions!
Why Is The World Split Into Countries?
Why is all of the world split up into countries, states, cities and counties and more? Why can't we all just live as one big group? Which country has the least amount of people? We're talking about countries and borders with author Juan Enriquez. Also in this episode: why don't school buses have seatbelts?
How Is Chocolate Made?
How is chocolate made? Why can't we eat chocolate all the time? Why does chocolate melt? Why can't dogs eat chocolate? In this episode, we travel to Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts to get some answers. Plus, we visit a coffee roaster in Maine to learn about this parent fuel that so many kids find gross!
What's What With The Weather?
We're getting answers to all of your weather questions! Where does snow come from? Why do clouds stay up in the sky? How hot is lightning? What are thunderstorms? How is wind made? Those questions and more are answered by meteorologist Mark Breen, author of The Kids' Book of Weather Forecasting.
Thanksgiving Special: What Made The Turkey Trot To Boston?
On this special episode, we're going to listen to a story about how turkeys used to get from farms in Vermont to markets and dinner tables far away in Boston, a distance of a couple hundred miles. This was before refrigerated trucks. So how do you think they did it?
Why Do We Like To Eat Certain Foods?
Why do we like to eat certain foods? Why do some people like to eat spicy food and some people don't like to eat 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?
Ghosts And Fairies And Gnomes, Oh My!
Are ghosts real? Why do some cultures believe in fairies and gnomes and some don't? We'll learn about how beliefs in ghosts vary in different parts of the world with Justin McDaniel of University of Pennsylvania. Then we're off to Iceland to learn about magical creatures with Terry Gunnell.
Why Do Geese Fly In The Shape Of A 'V'?
How do birds fly? Why do they flock? How do they not get shocked when they sit on telephone wires? The Bird Diva has our answers to all of your questions about our feathered friends. And why do chickens lay different colored eggs? We visit the hen house at Shelburne Farms to find out.
Who Invented The President?
Who invented the president? Which country had the first president? We answer presidential questions historical in nature with author Kenneth C. Davis . Also in the episode: why do leaves change color in the fall?
Why Is The Sea Salty?
We're heading to the coast of Maine to learn a little bit about why the sea is salty, how mussels get their shells and how model ships get in those glass bottles.
Why Is Soccer Called 'Soccer' Instead Of 'Football'?
7-year-old Kala wants to know why we say soccer in the United States, when the rest of the world calls the game "football." In this episode we hear from people who make their living in the game, professional players, coaches and commentators.
How Long Does It Take For A Baby Cheetah To Go From Fluffball To Hunter?
How long does it take for baby animals to grow up? In this episode, we're learning about cheetahs and horses with two questions from siblings in Australia.
Do Bumblebees Have Hearts?
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.
Why Don't Bicycles Fall Over?
It's all about bikes in this episode of But Why? Why bicycles can stay up when you're riding them, but fall over when stopped. Olympian Lea Davison tells how to get started when riding, and we learn how a bike chain moves a wheel.
How Does An Engine Work?
Seven-year old Sawyer wants to know: how does an engine work? We learn about chainsaws from Ashleigh Belrose, an instructor the Center for Technology in Essex, Vermont.
How Does It Feel When Your Family Changes?
Families grow and change. What does that feel like? We asked kids to tell us about their families, and we speak with author Amy Bloom about how love is not something that needs to be divided up, like a pie, but can expand and multiply.
Why Is The Sky Blue?
Why is the sky blue? We get an answer from a science writer for NASA's Space Place. And what are Saturn's rings? Carolyn Porco of the Cassini Imaging Team explains.
Special Episode: How Do You Talk To Kids About Violence In The News?
This is a special episode just for parents. It's about how to address violence and tragedy in the news with your children. This podcast comes the day after and in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
How Do You Make Paint?
In this episode of But Why we're learning how to make paint from an artist who wild-crafts his own pigments, and we're visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to learn about the value of art.
Why Do People Have Different Religions?
In this episode of But Why we tackle the question of why people have different religions. Our answer comes from Wendy Thomas Russell, who wrote a book on how to talk about religion for secular families. Plus we visit a farm where kids of both the human and the goat variety are involved in making cheese.
Who Invented Words?
On But Why we let you ask the questions and we help find the answers. One of the things that many of you are curious about is language. How we speak, why we speak and what we speak.
How Does Music Move Us?
We're turning things around! Instead of you sending us the question, this time we're asking the question and looking to you for some answers. We wanted to explore why music moves us.
What Is The End Of The World Going To Feel Like?
This episode looks at a big question, a really big question. It's about the end of the world and what it might feel like. Parents: this episode is about asteroids and supernovas; some kids may find this episode a bit scary, or may have never considered those possibilities before, so you may want to listen first on your own.
How Do Bears Sleep All Winter?
In our very first episode, we've got owls and turtles and bears, oh my! It's all about animals.
But Why: Intro For Adults
My name is Jane Lindholm and I'm hosting a new podcast for kids from Vermont Public Radio.