But Why

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

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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.

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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.

Melody A / iStock

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.

But Why will be live at WBUR Boston's Mega Awesome Super Huge Wicked Fun Podcast Playdate Sunday, April 29! Here's how to come by and check us out!

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

Why do people dream? Why do people have nightmares? How do dreams happen? Can people who are blind can see in their dreams?

In this episode of But Why, we're answering dreamy questions with psychiatrist Dr. David Khan of Harvard Medical School.

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

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

United States Olympic Winter Games bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor poses for a portrait at the 2017 Team USA Media Summit Monday, Sept. 25, 2017.
Rick Bowmer / AP

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.

Jane Lindholm / VPR

But Why visits the New England Aquarium in Boston to get answers to those and other questions kids have sent us about fish.

Sabina Hahn / Circle Round

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.'

Courtney Bonnell / AP

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?

One of the crucial ingredients in the formation of a snowflake is a tiny speck of dust. Learn more about how snow forms in this episode of But Why.
Jane Lindholm / VPR

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?

Pennies were first introduced in 1793, when the United States established our system of money.
Darren415

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?

pixel_dreams / istock

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.

CatLane / istock

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.

Kevin Smart / istock

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!

Melody Bodette / VPR

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.

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