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: A Podcast For Curious Kids

But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids

From Vermont Public

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.

Most Recent Episodes

Why do armadillos have shells? Why are sloths slow?

Why do armadillos have shells? How do they roll into balls? Why are sloths so slow? Can sloths actually move fast? How do they defend against predators? Why do they have such long nails? We learn about two unique looking animals in this episode: sloths and armadillos. These mammals are part of an ancient superorder called Xenarthra and share a common ancestor. To get answers to kid questions about armadillos we took a field trip to Texas to talk with Michael Perez at the Forth Worth Nature Center and Refuge. And to learn about sloths, we interviewed Sam Trull of the Sloth Institute in Costa Rica. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide

Who invented emoji?

Emoji are those little images you can send in text messages to friends and family. Nine-year-old Leila in New Jersey wants to know how they were invented. So in this episode we find out with Jane Solomon, editor at Emojipedia and Paul Galloway of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. We learn what the first emoji looked like, way back in the dark ages of the 1990s and we explore how emoji may be a new trend, but communicating through pictures is a very old tradition. Plus, are emoji...art? Give this episode a �to find out! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript

How did dinosaurs leave tracks?

But Why has answers to your dinosaur questions! When did the dinosaurs live? How many species of dinosaurs were alive in the Cretaceous period? How do dinosaurs get their names (and why are they hard to say)? Why are dinosaurs extinct? We visit Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas to see some actual dinosaur evidence: tracks left by two types of dinosaur 113 million years ago. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas has several sites where dinosaur footprints have been well-preserved. Though some of the tracks were actually chiseled out and sold before the park got state recognition and protection. In the summer of 2022, drought in this part of Texas caused riverbeds to dry out, revealing new tracks that hadn't been seen before. These discoveries made news around the world! The rock in the area is limestone. And the tracks are largely in what are now riverbeds. But In the time of the dinosaurs, 113 million years ago, the landscape looked very different. The sea covered much of the land, and the spots where the tracks are were the seashore, full of sticky wet mud. The dinosaurs walked through the mud and left footprints, which were then covered over by silt and other sediment. As the mud got compressed and eventually turned into limestone, the tracks were preserved. The landscape changed over the millennia. As the sea receded and rivers curved through the landscape, the flowing water eroded the limestone, eventually revealing these tracks that had been covered for millions of years. Some of the tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park are about the size of a large dinner plate look like classic dinosaur prints, with three long toes and claw marks. Those are from a dinosaur called Acrocanthosaurus. Acrocanthosaurus was shaped like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It walked on two legs and had a large ridge down its back. It was a carnivore and likely the apex predator in its North American environment. The other dinosaur whose tracks have been found at this state park is Sauroposeidon. These tracks are much bigger and rounder, more like an elephant track. They're so big a kid could sit inside one as if it was a bathtub! Sauroposeidon was a huge dinosaur. It walked on all fours and had a long tail and a very long neck. It weighed as much as 44 tons and was as tall as a 6-story building. In fact, it may have been the tallest animal that has ever lived! Sauroposeidon was an herbivore, and may even have been hunted by Acrocanthosaurus. The two dinosaurs lived at the same time and made the visible tracks at the park within hours or days of each other. The biggest dinosaurs lived in the Cretaceous period,145 million to 65 million years ago. It's estimated there were as many as a thousand different dinosaur species in that time period, but only a few hundred have so far been named. Most paleontologists believe most dinosaurs died out more than 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit planet Earth.The asteroid itself didn't kill all the dinosaurs all at once, though it was big enough to cause a lot of devastation. It also kicked up a huge cloud of dust and debris that essentially blocked sunlight from reaching the earth. This caused plants to die. Without plants, large herbivores didn't have enough to eat. When the herbivores died, the carnivores had nothing to eat and they died, too. If you want to see the dinosaur tracks, check out our videos on YouTube.

How is cheese made?

Kids love cheese! (So do adults: Americans consume an average of 40 pounds of cheese per person per year.) In this episode we learn how cheese is made and answer all of your cheesy questions: Why are there different types of cheese? Why do cheeses have different flavors? How do you make Colby Jack cheese? How does cheese get its color? And why do we say cheese when we take a picture? We visit the Cabot Cheese factory and talk with Maegen Olsen and Panos Lekkas. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Cheese starts with milk. Cheese is often made with milk from cows or goats, but it can also be made with milk from sheep, buffalo, camels or other mammals. (There's even a moose-cheese company in Russia!) If the cheese is made in bulk to sell to lots of people, companies will usually run tests on the milk before they turn it into cheese. They want to make sure it doesn't have bad bacteria or antibiotics in it. The milk is then pasteurized, which means it's heated quickly and cooled quickly to kill any lurking bad bacteria. Next cheesemakers will add a starter culture. Starter culture is GOOD bacteria, which will eat the milk sugar (lactose), create lactic acid and drive down the pH of the milk. That helps create curds. The next step is coagulation! (Coagulation is the process of turning a liquid into a semi-solid or solid.) To coagulate the milk, an enzyme called rennet is added. Now it's time to separate the curds from the whey. Cheesemakers will use knives to cut the coagulated milk into chunks known as curds, leaving some liquid behind. That liquid is known as whey. When milk is made into cheddar it gives a 10% yield, meaning 10% of the milk will become cheese and 90% will be left over as whey. Some cheesemakers, like Cabot, use the whey to make protein powders. In other factories it might go to waste. Next, it's time to add salt. Salt serves as a preservative and gives the cheese flavor. If it's a flavored cheese, things like garlic or peppers will be added at this point. The cheese is then pressed into blocks. At factories like Cabot, they pull the curds into tall towers and then add more and more, creating pressure that forms those curds into solid blocks. Smaller cheesemakers use a cheese press. In the final step, the cheese is aged. It will sit in a cold storage or cheese cave and just...get older. Cheddar can be aged for years, giving it a stronger flavor. Aging also changes the texture of a cheese like cheddar. It can get more crumbly the older it gets. Once it's ready, it will be cut, packaged and shipped to stores.

How do bees make honey and why do they sting?

Why do bees pollinate? How do they make honey? Why do bees have stingers? Why do (some) bees die when they sting you? What's the difference between a bee and a wasp? Does honey have healing properties? Farmer and beekeeper John Hayden answers all of your bee questions! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides | Transcript | Coloring Page Bees collect nectar from flowers. Nectar is the sweet liquid that entices the bees to the flower. The bees climb onto or into the flower and suck up the nectar with their straw-like mouth and collect it in a little sac called a crop. They also collect pollen on their legs. As they move from flower to flower, they leave a little bit of that pollen on each new flower they visit. That's called pollination and it's how flowers reproduce. Bees take the pollen and nectar back to their hives and put it into the honeycomb (six-sided cells they have built out with wax). Pollen is like protein, one of the building blocks of animal bodies, and bees use that to feed their young mostly. To turn nectar into honey, bees spit it up into other bees' mouths and eventually they spit the liquid into the honeycomb cells. Then they fan it with their wings to evaporate some of the moisture. Once it has reached the right consistency, they seal it off with wax to store it for later. So honey is just concentrated nectar. Bees keep the honey in storage for the winter months when there are no flowers. But they make more than they need, so beekeepers take the extra honey out of the hive and leave the bees enough to survive through the winter. Bees sting to protect their hive and defend their honey from potential predators. But honeybees don't sting unless they have to, because after they sting, their stinger gets pulled out of their body and they die! Honeybees die when they sting because their stinger has a barb on it, like a fish hook. The stinger gets hooked into your skin and then when the bee tries to fly away the hook stays in and pulls out the bee's abdomen as it flies away. Honeybees are social insects who depend on their colony to survive. So they are willing to sacrifice themselves to make sure the whole colony can survive. Honeybees are far from the only pollinator. Bees are very important to our ecosystem and there are more than 4000 species in the US alone. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats also play important pollinator roles. Resources How do big plants grow from small seeds? How are babies made? Honeybee music video

Why do sharks have so many teeth?

Why do sharks have multiple sets of teeth? Why do sharks lose so many teeth? Do sharks eat fish? How do sharks breathe underwater? Do sharks sleep? Give a listen to this totally jaw-some conversation about sharks with Dr. Kady Lyons, shark researcher at the Georgia Aquarium! We also tackle: Why are dinosaurs extinct and sharks are not? Were megalodons the biggest sharks in the world? Do sharks have noses? How do sharks communicate? Why do sharks bite? Why are sharks dangerous? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Sharks are a type of fish. They've been around for millions of years and their body plan hasn't changed much in that time! Sharks' skeletons are made of cartilage. They don't have any calcified bones - so the only part of a shark that gets left behind in fossil records is their teeth! Megalodons were the biggest shark, but they are extinct (despite sensational TV shows that claim otherwise). The latest research suggests megalodons were bigger than modern day humpback whales! Sharks and other fish breathe by extracting oxygen from water by the use of their gills. Gills are made of very thin tissue. The blood inside the tissue picks up oxygen from the water and brings it into the organs in the fish's body. Sharks evolved to have sharp teeth to grab slippery fish and other prey. If they break a tooth, they can regrow a new one, and they just drop the old one. Easily replacing a tooth that breaks off is a strategy that allows them to keep hunting. Their teeth grow continually through a shark's life, moving forward in their mouth kind of like on a conveyor belt, maturing as they go. So when a tooth falls out a new one moves forward. Some sharks lose whole rows of teeth, like dentures, all at the same time. All sharks are carnivores, eating fish, seals, and sometimes other sharks. Some species, like whale sharks, filter feed, mostly on zooplankton but sometimes phytoplankton (sea plants) as well. Sharks have been known to attack humans, but humans actually aren't great prey for them because we lack a thick layer of blubber or other energy the sharks are on the hunt for. Usually sharks attack when they mistake a human for something else, like a seal. Sharks go through periods of sleep or rest, reducing brain activity. Sharks have a fantastic sense of smell. It helps them find their prey.

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 of these questions! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Inside the husk is a tiny little droplet of water surrounded by something called the endosperm. The endosperm is what you're actually eating when you eat popcorn. When you heat up popcorn, the tiny droplet of water gets hot and turns into steam. That steam pushes through the endosperm and turns it kind of soft and that endosperm builds up pressure and explodes through the husk. When it explodes, that soft gelatinous endosperm hits cooler air and it hardens up in whatever shape it has exploded into. So that's why popcorn has all those funny shapes and feels kind of like foam. Salmon are born in freshwater, but then spend their lives in saltwater. They return to the freshwater to spawn (lay and fertilize eggs) and die. Some salmon return to any body of freshwater to spawn, but some salmon have special ways of finding their way back to the place they were born. They use a kind of internal compass to head back to the spot. Other fish rely on their sense of smell to find their way back to fresh water. Animals that turn white in winter use the length of day as their cue to stop producing pigment in their fur. Their bodies can sense the hours of daylight, and when the daylight starts getting shorter, their hormones will tell the cells to stop producing melatonin. Hormones tell the cells what to do to shut off the production of pigment in the fall and to turn it on again in the spring. It's not because the days and the nights get colder or warmer. The fastest runner in the world is Usain Bolt. He's the fastest man who's ever been timed. He's a Jamaican sprinter, and he holds the world record for both the 100 and the 200 meter sprints. He has nine gold medals at the Olympics and 11 world championships. His record for the 100 meter sprint is 9.58 seconds. That is super fast. That's more than 23 miles an hour. Want to pop your own popcorn from kernels? Find a big pan with a tight-lid. Pour two tablespoons of cooking oil in the pan. Then add a half a cup of popping corn. Cover the pan and turn the heat to high. In a few minutes the popcorn will start to pop. Turn off the heat. Open the lid when the popcorn stops popping. Enjoy! How a zipper works Sounds Wild

How do snakes slither?

Field trip time! Today we're learning all about snakes while out on a search for timber rattlesnakes in New York with state wildlife biologist Lisa Pipino. Some of the questions we tackle: How do some snakes make venom? Why are some snakes venomous and others are not? Why do rattlesnakes have a rattle? How do snakes slither on the ground without legs? Why don't snakes have legs? Why don't snakes have ears? How do they smell with their tongues? Why do some snakes use heat vision? Do snakes sleep? Why do snakes stick out their tongues so much? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Snakes are ectothermic - meaning they are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Snakes like to bask on warm rocks to stay warm. A rattlesnake's first rattle segment is called a button. They shed their skin once or twice per year and each time they do, they get a new rattle segment. Rattle segments sit on top of each other, and when rattlesnakes shake their tail, the segments rattle. This noise is a warning to predators to stay away. Some snakes lay eggs. Others develop eggs that grow and hatch inside their body, meaning the snakes give birth to live young. Rattlesnakes give birth to live young but only stay with their babies for about a week. Those babies follow their mother's scent trail back to the den for winter. Some snakes are venomous, but not poisonous. What's the difference?! Venom is delivered through a bite or a stinger, while poison is usually inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Snake venom is a lot like saliva, except it's toxic. Snakes create it using a special gland. They then use their venom to immobilize or kill their prey before they eat it. They sometimes use their venomous bite as a defense as well. Snakes do have nostrils and can smell through their nose a little bit. But they mostly use their tongues to smell and sense their environment. They stick out their tongues to pick up scents. And then they rub their tongues on a special organ at the top of their mouths, which sends a message about the scent to their brains. Timber rattlesnakes live in the Eastern US and are different from some of the other well-known rattlesnakes in the Western US. In much of the northeastern states they're considered threatened or endangered. People shouldn't try to look for these snakes because of the possibility of disturbing the snakes or their habitats.

Why do we feel pain?

Why do we feel pain when we get hurt? What is pain? Why do we cry when we get hurt? Why do we say ow or ouch? We're learning about how pain works with Joshua Pate. He's a physical therapist and author of a forthcoming children's book series about pain. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Pain happens when your body sends signals to your brain that something is wrong. And your brain sends signals to your body to feel pain! Pain is protective–it lets us know to stop doing something that is damaging or might damage our bodies. And it lets us know that something is wrong and we might need to get help from an adult or a medical provider. When you get hurt, like scraping your knee for example, the nerve cells in the knee send a message to the brain. Your eyes might see the scraped knee and send another message to your brain. Then your brain has to decide how much danger your knee is in. Pain is messaging that lets your brain know that something is not well. If you didn't have that pain, you might keep scraping your knee over and over. Pain is biopsychosocial, meaning biology, psychology and social or environmental factors all play a role in what pain feels like for individual people. A lot of things can turn the feeling of pain up or down. Distraction, like listening to music or watching a video can help turn pain down. Staring at the source of pain can make it hurt more. Outside factors can also impact pain. In a study from several years ago, people were asked to hold a freezing cold rod. Scientists changed the colored lights in the room. When the lights were blue people felt less pain from the rod than when the lights were red. Normally, pain will recede when an injury heals. But not for everyone. Sometimes people suffer from chronic pain after an injury. We cry when we're in pain as a way of letting others know that something is wrong. We also learn to use the words ow or ouch. Other languages have different words for pain.

Why do we have friends?

Why do friends care about each other? How do you make friends? Can you have more than one best friend? How do you deal with a bully? We answer questions about friends and bullies with Dr. Friendtastic (also known as Eileen Kennedy-Moore), a psychologist and author of Growing Friendships: A Kids' Guide to Making and Keeping Friends. And we get lots of advice from kids themselves about how to make friends and deal with bullies. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Friendship is often about action. It's about what we do together, how we treat each other. The key to friendship is kindness. Best friends are nice, but the word "best" can make it feel like a contest. Most people have different friends and for different situations. So it's okay to have several close friends instead of needing to identify just one best friend. Some people have lots of friends, but other people may just have a few close friends. People with more friends tend to put more effort into having more friends. It's okay to have a lot of friends or just a few! To make friends, you have to show an openness to friendship. That can be as easy as smiling or saying hi. It's also important to be kind to potential friends. And it also helps to identify people who have similar interests to you. Then, invite them to do something. Kids make friends by doing fun things with other kids. Don't wait until you feel close to someone to invite them to do something; you become close by doing shared activities. Shy people might be unintentionally sending the message to potential friends that they don't like them. Stop focusing on being uncomfortable and instead look the other kid in the eye (or the forehead if eye contact is hard for you), smile and say hello. Practice it with an adult. At recess or on the playground, bigger groups of kids will be more open to you joining than groups with just two or three kids. Research shows that instead of asking if you can play with a big group, hang back and watch for a few minutes to figure out the game the other kids are playing, and then just join in. If you ask "Can I play with you?" you risk interrupting the play. Bullying is deliberate (intentional) meanness directed at one person where there is an imbalance of power. For example, an older or more popular kid picking on a younger or less popular kid. It's important to know the difference between bullying and meanness. Bullying requires adult intervention. If you're having a problem with a friend that is not bullying, you may still want to talk that through with an adult, but it's often possible to handle that conflict with your friend on your own.