But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

Vermont Public

A Podcast For Curious Kids

  • 23 minutes 11 seconds
    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. Alesandra, 3 of Bella Vista, Arkansas wants to know why we can't hold air. In this episode from 2020, we’re joined by anthropologist Hugh Raffles, a professor at The New School, and by astronomer John O'Meara, chief scientist at the Keck Observatory. And we have special scoring by cellist Zoë Keating.

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    17 May 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 29 minutes 36 seconds
    What's cool about cockroaches?

    That’s a question a lot of people have, honestly. But a kid named Rosie was bold enough to ask us to investigate why. So, in the latest episode, we dig in on why cockroaches get such a bad rap and why you might want to reconsider if you’re not a fan.

    Only two percent of the world’s cockroaches are considered pests. Those are the ones that can live in houses and potentially make us sick. But the vast majority of cockroaches don’t bother humans at all! Some, like the social cockroach species known as termites, work to decompose organic material and are hugely important to our environment. So where do people learn negative attitudes toward insects? We dig deep into insects with Jessica Ware, an entomologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History. She’s also the host of the PBS digital series Insectarium. Answers to your questions about cockroaches, termites, dragonflies, praying mantises and more!

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    3 May 2024, 8:02 pm
  • 32 minutes 4 seconds
    How do crocodiles chomp?

    Why do lizards have scales? Why are reptiles cold-blooded? Why do lizards have long tongues? How do lizards grow their tails back? Are crocodiles dinosaurs? What’s the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? Why do crocodile eyes look like they have mirrors in the back? How do crocodiles chomp? Why do crocodile teeth stay sharp? Why are crocodiles green? Why do crocodiles swim? Answers to all of your crocodile and alligator questions with Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez, one of the researchers known as the Croc Docs at the University of Florida.

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    19 April 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 18 minutes 3 seconds
    Why do ballerinas wear ballet shoes?

    Why do people dance? Where did ballet come from? How do you make pointe shoes for ballet? How does practice make you better at things? But Why visited Dance Theatre of Harlem to get answers to these questions with company artists Derek Brockington and Lindsey Donnell.

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    5 April 2024, 1:00 pm
  • 29 minutes 11 seconds
    What is a solar eclipse?

    A solar eclipse is coming to North America on April 8, 2024. The moon will line up perfectly between the Earth and the sun, blocking out the sun’s light and casting a shadow that will pass over parts of Mexico, the United States and Canada. People in the path of totality will experience a few minutes of darkness during the day as the moon perfectly covers the sun. Those not in the path of totality in those countries will still experience a partial solar eclipse. In this episode, we’re answering questions about the eclipse and talking about how to keep your eyes safe if you’re watching it! We speak with Bridgewater State University solar physicist Martina Arndt, Fairbanks Museum planetarium director Mark Breen and Thomas A. Hockey, author of America’s First Eclipse Chasers.


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    22 March 2024, 2:13 pm
  • 28 minutes 6 seconds
    How do invasive species take over?

    Why are there Burmese pythons and chameleons in the Florida Everglades? We might not know how those animals arrived but they are causing damage to the natural ecosystem. An invasive species out competes native plants and animals in an ecosystem. So how does this happen? But Why travels to the Everglades to learn more about how and why species end up in places they shouldn’t. Plus, why are we sometimes told to kill invasive insects like the spotted lanternfly?

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    8 March 2024, 4:02 pm
  • 32 minutes 49 seconds
    Can snowstorms have thunder?

    How is snow made and what’s it made out of?  Why is it white and sparkly?  Why do snowflakes look different? Can snowstorms have thunder? Why do some places, like mountains, get more snow than others? Answers to all of your questions about snow, with Seth Linden, who works for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Plus we hear what it’s like to live at the top of Mount Washington, famous for its extreme weather, from Alexandra Branton, a meteorologist who works at the observatory at the top of the mountain, even during the frigid winter.

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    23 February 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 26 minutes 22 seconds
    Why do we need glasses?

    How do glasses work? Why do some people need glasses and other people don’t? Why do we have different eye colors? We answer your questions about glasses and eyes in the second of two episodes with Dr. Sujata Singh, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. And we hear from Maggie, a kid with low vision, about what it’s like to need glasses. 


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    9 February 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 29 minutes 51 seconds
    Why do we have two eyes if we only see one image?

    What shape are our eyes? What are they made of? How do they work? What’s the point of having two eyes if we only see one image? Why do we blink? What’s the point of tears and why are they salty? We answer your questions about eyes in the first of two episodes with Dr. Sujata Singh, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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    26 January 2024, 5:56 pm
  • 24 minutes 24 seconds
    What if the world started spinning backward?

    We’ve collaborated with our podcast friends at What If World to bring you the first (and only) episode of…But Why If World! In this episode we jointly answer some “what if” questions. What if cereal could talk to us? What if dinosaurs didn’t lay eggs? What if the world started spinning backwards? Take a listen to this curious collaboration.

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    12 January 2024, 2:00 pm
  • 53 minutes 36 seconds
    What makes you happy?

    For our last episode of each year, we often like to ask our listeners around the world to send us something fun. This year, we wanted you to tell us what makes you happy and you had a lot to share on that topic! Our listeners find happiness in spending time with friends, family, and pets and in doing activities they love: playing with friends, toys, arts and crafts, participating in sports, watching movies, and riding bikes. Two people say the special sandwiches their adults make them are what bring them happiness. And some kids told us learning new skills is especially exciting for them. In this episode: a happiness bonanza with all the responses we got. Plus we talk with a happiness expert: Gretchen Rubin. She’s the author of the Happiness Project and host of a podcast called Happier with Gretchen Rubin. 

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    29 December 2023, 2:00 pm
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