Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHmcV6bzeCY A cable that's as long as six football fields has been launched into orbit — and when it's deployed, it'll test an idea to knock out orbital debris. Japan's space agency sent the electrodynamic tether into space along with supplies for the International Space Station. Reels aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kounotori 6 craft will deploy the 700-meter (2,296 feet) tether, essentially unspooling a clothesline in space that could help...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Astronaut, senator, national hero - that's how we're remembering John Glenn. He died yesterday at the age of 95. If John Glenn had never left his hometown of New Concord, Ohio, he'd likely still be extraordinary, just on a smaller stage. But because he left, we all got to soar a little higher. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Friendship 7 climbing rapidly out of the Earth's atmosphere exerts a...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Next we go to North Dakota where it is bitterly cold. Opponents to the Dakota Access Pipeline have been camped out there and protesting for months. Now organizers are trying to get people to stop coming and those who are there to go home and wait for the next legal battle to play out. Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Nelson reports. TIM NELSON, BYLINE: It's a single degree above zero as Rachel Masquat sits at a fire...

If you could change the way a monkey or an ape's brain is wired, that animal would be capable of producing perfectly intelligible speech. That's the conclusion of a study that closely tracked the movements of a monkey's mouth and throat with X-rays, to understand the full potential of its vocal tract . Researchers then used that information to create a computer model of what it would sound like if the monkey were able to say phrases such as "happy holidays." The finding calls into question...

Any pet owner will tell you that their animal companions comfort and sustain them when life gets rough. This may be especially true for people with serious mental illness, a study finds. When people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were asked who or what helped them manage the condition, many said it was pets that helped the most. "When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days," one study participant with two dogs and two cats, "They just...

Scientists in Ireland are using a rather unexpected material to make an extremely sensitive pressure detector: Silly Putty. The Irish researchers combined the kids' plaything with a special form of carbon, and came up with a remarkable new material — one they think could someday be useful in making medical devices. Physicist Jonathan Coleman , at Trinity College, Dublin, says Silly Putty has some extraordinary properties. If you roll the stuff into a tight ball and throw it on the ground, it...

The surprise find of smallpox DNA in a child mummy from the 17th century could help scientists start to trace the mysterious history of this notorious virus. Smallpox currently only exists in secure freezers, after a global vaccination campaign eradicated the virus in the late 1970s. But much about this killer remains unknown, including its origins. Now scientists have the oldest complete set of smallpox genes, after they went hunting for viral DNA in a sample of skin from a mummified young...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnRxQ3dcaQk In 2015, Lida Xing was visiting a market in northern Myanmar when a salesman brought out a piece of amber about the size of a pink rubber eraser. Inside, he could see a couple of ancient ants and a fuzzy brown tuft that the salesman said was a plant. As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn't a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur. "I have studied paleontology for more than 10 years and have been interested in dinosaurs for...

Giraffes are dying at an alarming rate and could face extinction if the trend doesn't reverse, according to a new conservation report on animal populations worldwide. The report was released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature , which maintains the so-called Red List of species threatened with extinction. For the first time, the group now lists the giraffe as a "vulnerable" species, meaning it is "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future"...

One of the fundamental ways scientists measure the well-being of a nation is tracking the rate at which its citizens die and how long they can be expected to live. So the news out of the federal government Thursday is disturbing: The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade, according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65. "This is a big deal,"...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: There are multiple reports today that President-elect Donald Trump has picked Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt met with Trump this morning, and NPR is seeking confirmation of the pick. Pruitt is currently the attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, and in that role, he has been deeply critical of the EPA. Joining us to talk more about this is NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce. Hi there....

President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, announcing his decision in a statement Thursday. As attorney general, Pruitt has made no secret of his disdain for the EPA. His official biography calls him "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." He has repeatedly challenged the agency's rules in court, and he has even sued the EPA for an allegedly cozy "sue and settle" relationship with...

In the quest to help the poor, it's difficult to know whose needs are the greatest. Without clear data, it's tough to know who to help first. The traditional way to look for the poorest of the poor is with household surveys . That's the primary source of data for policy decisions, but it has drawbacks. "Household surveys are expensive, and the coverage is not great," says Stefano Ermon , an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University. So Ermon is heading up a new project to...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The Army Corps of Engineers says it is looking at alternative routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline. That decision announced Sunday was a win for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other protesters who've camped out at the construction site in North Dakota for months. This may not be the final word. President-elect Donald Trump says he would like to see the pipeline completed. We're joined now by Julie Fedorchak....

We live in a world of screens. And in this digital age — with so many devices and distraction — it's one of the things parents worry about most: How much time should their kids spend staring at their phones and computers? What's the right balance between privacy and self-discovery? Research continues to provide some answers on how parents are navigating this world. Just today, for example, there's a new study out that looks at nearly 2,000 parents — who have kids ages 8 to 18. Among the most...

Traffic safety officials regularly warn us of the risks of driving while drunk or distracted. But Americans still need to wake up to the dangers of getting behind the wheel when sleepy, according to a recent study of crash rates. A report released Tuesday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as drivers who get seven hours of sleep or more. And the less sleep the person behind the wheel...

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET on Dec. 6 The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota is asking people camping near the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline to go home. "I'm asking them to go," Dave Archambault III told Reuters on Monday , saying that the Obama administration "did the right thing," and that he hoped to "educate the incoming administration" of President-elect Donald Trump. "Nothing will happen this winter," he said. In an interview with Fargo, N.D., radio station...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Let's look at what comes next for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Yesterday's decision by the Army Corps of Engineers has brought construction to a halt for now. The Corps says it's going to consider alternative routes for the pipeline which is nearly completed. NPR's Nathan Rott is in North Dakota where protesters continue to have a lot of questions and concerns. NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: First there were excited...

The high-stakes fight over who invented a technology that could revolutionize medicine and agriculture heads to a courtroom Tuesday. A gene-editing technology called CRISPR-cas9 could be worth billions of dollars. But it's not clear who owns the idea. U.S. patent judges will hear oral arguments to help untangle this issue, which has far more at stake than your garden-variety patent dispute. "This is arguably the biggest biotechnology breakthrough in the past 30 or 40 years, and controlling...

Meat was seldom on the menu when I was a kid. When we did eat it, my family's go-tos consisted of hot dogs (consumed once per year at my dad's work picnic), kung pao chicken from various local Chinese establishments, and my mom's tandoori chicken slathered in yogurt sauce. These dishes all followed my formerly vegetarian, reluctantly omnivorous Hindu parents' Cardinal Rule for Eating Meat: Meat should not resemble animal. Skin and bones were to be avoided, which meant that chicken wings and...

When a robotic probe finally lands on a watery world like Jupiter's moon Europa , what do scientists have to see to definitively say whether the place has any life? That's the question retired astronaut John Grunsfeld posed to some colleagues at NASA when he was in charge of the agency's science missions. "We looked at him with blank faces," recalls Jim Green , head of NASA's planetary sciences division. "What do we need to build to really find life? What are the instruments, what are the...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AILSA CHANG, HOST: Nestle wants to fool your taste buds. The Swiss chocolate behemoth says it has made a scientific breakthrough that will allow it to use 40 percent less sugar in its candy bars without affecting the taste. Fat chance - pun intended. The company claims its scientists have altered the structure of sugar so that it dissolves more quickly. This tricks your tongue into perceiving extra sweetness. Of course, if you know...

Pandemic flu, Ebola, Nipah virus. Emmie de Wit has held all of them in her hands (with three layers of gloves in between, of course). She's a virologist working at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. The 450-person facility, which is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is nestled in a town of 4,000. It's surrounded by mountains and national forests. Only one road passes through. This is where de Wit, who is originally from the Netherlands,...

In Florida, oranges are so important that they're on the state's license plates. But after 11 years of fighting a debilitating disease, Florida's citrus industry is in a sad state. The disease, called citrus greening , is caused by a bacterium that constricts a tree's vascular system, shriveling fruit and eventually killing the tree. The bacterium is spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid. Florida's signature orange crop is now less than a third of what it was 20 years ago because of this...

Part 4 of our series, " Unlocking Dyslexia ." Megan Lordos, a middle school teacher, says she was not allowed to use the word "dyslexia." She's not alone. Parents and teachers across the country have raised concerns about some schools hesitating, or completely refusing, to say the word. As the most common learning disability in the U.S., dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population. That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it. Under the...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. SCOTT SIMON, HOST: We're reporting this week on the most common reading disability. Ask just about anyone what dyslexia is, you'll almost certainly hear something like this. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: When they read, they get, like, B's and D's - like, they're switched around. UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: They can either appear out of order, sometimes backwards. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: They write backwards. UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Backwards order....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHpxD807kM4 Each year, a glowing mass of clouds forms over the South Pole, high in the atmosphere, trapped between Earth and space. From the ground they look wispy and shimmery, like a blue-white aurora borealis. From space, they look like an electric-blue gossamer haze. Scientists call them noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds, and this year the noctilucent cloud season came early to the Southern Hemisphere. In the decade since NASA launched a satellite that...

If you're curious about what people really think about some of the hottest of hot-button food controversies, the Pew Research Center has just the thing for you: a survey of attitudes toward genetic modification, organic food and the importance of eating healthfully. The survey results are published in a 99-page report that can keep you occupied for days. But if you're pressed for time, here are some of the most interesting highlights that caught our eye. 1. A lot of Americans don't care what...

A single tornado can cause a lot of damage. But even worse are tornado outbreaks. Just this week, a cluster of at least 18 tornadoes struck the Southeast over two days . Scientists are seeing bigger clusters in recent years, and they're struggling to figure out what's happening. When weather conditions are just right — lots of rising heat and moisture, and vertical wind shear — sometimes you get more than just a tornado. Mathematician Michael Tippett at Columbia University, who tracks these...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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