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.

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On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world.

Have a question? Send it to us!

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

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

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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.

Sabina Hahn / Circle Round

This week, instead of an episode of But Why, 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!

Sean McCann / www.ibycter.com

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.

cmannphoto / istock

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.

Sophie Posner-Brown (left) was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 2 years old. She and her twin sister Isabelle talk about life with a serious illness.
courtesy

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.

Our bodies are made up of cells. Cancer happens when cells divide out of control.
JackBlack3D / istock

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.

istock / tang90246

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.

Philadelphia firefighter Lisa Desamour says a healthy curiosity about fire is a good thing, and kids should feel comfortable asking questions. But they also need to know basic fire safety.
Jane Lindholm / VPR

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? 

Many different musical instruments
Katsiaryna Pleshakova / iSt

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.

Melody Bodette / VPR

Why do turtles need shells and why do they move so slowly? Why do frogs hop? Why are frogs green? Are colorful frogs poisonous? Why do frogs inflate their throats? What are some of the biggest threats to amphibians and reptiles? We wade into a Vermont pond with herpetologists Jim Andrews and Kate Kelly! We also get a preview of the new Earth Rangers podcast.

A telescope on a tripod pointed up toward a night sky.
ClaudioVentrella / iStock

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?

Water has the power to shape the land around it.
Jane Lindholm / VPR

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!

Altayb / istock

But Why will be taking your space questions live on air on July 12! And you can participate from home, where ever you are!

Vermont's dairy farms and co-ops are among the industries affected when Congress failed to reauthorize the federal Farm Bill in September. The programs and provisions in the bill could result in tens of thousands of dollars in income for dairy farmers.
Tom Remp / Billings Farm & Museum

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?
We get answers at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont.

Ants tend to live in large, specialized colonies where every individual has a job that benefits the whole community.
Cabezonification / iStock

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!

Northern cardinals have distinctive colors and call to one another at dawn and dusk.
Tyler Pockette / courtesy

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!

John Billingsley / VPR

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.

Coprid / istock

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.

Ethan Chandra has a condition called heterotaxy, and has gone through five heart surgeries before age 4.
Courtesy / The Chandra Family

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.

BahadirTanriover / istock

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 cardiologist Dr. Jane Crosson from Johns Hopkins Hospital answers questions about the heart.

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