Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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

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

Science writer Mary Roach is not easily repulsed. While researching her latest book, Grunt, Roach learned all about the medicinal use of maggots in World War I. She also purposely sniffed a putrid scent known as "Who me?" that was developed as an experimental weapon during World War II.

For Roach, it's all in the name of research. "I'm kind of the bottom-feeder of science writing," Roach jokes to Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm just someone who is OK with being very out there with my curiosity."

Monarch butterflies are disappearing.

Populations of these distinctive black and orange migratory insects have been in precipitous decline for the past 20 years, but scientists aren't exactly sure what's causing them to vanish.

What do large tables, large breakfasts and large servers have in common? They all affect how much you eat. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the hidden forces that drive our diets. First we hear from Adam Brumberg at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab about how to make healthier choices more easily (hint: good habits, and pack your lunch!). Then, Senior (Svelte) Stopwatch Correspondent Daniel Pink returns for another round of Stopwatch Science to tell you about those tables, breakfasts and servers. If you don't like spoilers, stop reading and go listen to the episode!

Will this summer be hotter than average?

How much rain can we expect?

A key step to answering questions about the weather is to consult the historic record. But what if there were no record? That's the predicament that Rwanda faces. The civil war and genocide that devastated that country in 1994 also destroyed Rwanda's system for tracking weather. The result was that for a roughly 15-year stretch, Rwanda has almost no record of what its weather was like.

Flowers generate weak electric fields, and a new study shows that bumblebees can actually sense those electric fields using the tiny hairs on their fuzzy little bodies.

"The bumblebees can feel that hair bend and use that feeling to tell the difference between flowers," says Gregory Sutton, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

In 2007, Rick Kinder was working for a contractor, building a house in southern Colorado. The workers had just finished putting in all the doors, windows and sealing the house. Kinder and a colleague were working in the crawlspace, hanging insulation.

"And we just heard this big roar and then a big boom, and it threw us against the walls, and it just blew the whole top of the roof off," Kinder says.

The sun has just set over a swamp east of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Gary Kittleson is putting on a headlamp and waders. The environmental consultant is searching for red-legged frogs. Some years, he says, he would be ecstatic to find just one or two.

Government officials in charge of energy policy from around the world are scheduled to gather in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday for the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial. It's a conference to serve as a follow-up to December's climate change talks in Paris.

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In a sunny patch of grass in the middle of Indianapolis' Crown Hill Cemetery, 45 people recently gathered around a large blackboard. The words "Before I Die, I Want To ..." were stenciled on the board in bold white letters.

Sixty-two-year-old Tom Davis led us through the thousands of gravestones scattered across the cemetery. He'd been thinking about his life and death a lot in the previous few weeks, he told us. On March 22, he'd had a heart attack.

As part of the Going There series, Michel Martin traveled to Fort Collins, Colo. to host a live storytelling event about owning water and dealing with a future where water may be scarce. The conversation was held in partnership with member station KUNC. It tackled the water issues in the Western United States while also highlighting the water crisis in Flint, Mich. and the challenges faced by Native American communities.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

Researchers are developing a system to teach robots how to feel pain.

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

She sails by the memory of the stars.

Her bones are lashed together with 6 miles of rope. Her twin wooden masts are lowered and outstretched only by the power of muscled arms. And once fully extended, the red, V-shaped sails announce who she is.

She is the Hokule'a, Hawaii's famous voyaging canoe, built in the double-hulled style used by Polynesian navigators thousands of years ago to cross the Pacific.

A germ that can't be treated with an antibiotic that is often used as the last resort has shown up for the first time in the United States.

Government scientists say the case is cause for serious concern but doesn't pose any immediate public health threat.

The germ was discovered in a 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania with a urinary tract infection. The infection was caused by E. coli bacteria that had a gene that made them resistant to an antibiotic known as colistin.

The deep-sea researchers were surveying an ocean ridge off the coast of Hawaii in 2015 and amid ordinary ocean floor fare — a bit of coral, some volcanic rock — they came across something surprising.

"Where did this guy come from? Holy cow!" one researcher said to his colleague.

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Andrew Herrington slips on a battered green backpack, stashes a .308 bolt-action rifle under his arm and steps off a boat onto the steep, rocky shores of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"It's about a half-mile that we're going to walk up to for those traps," he says.

In almost every circumstance, hunting is strictly forbidden at national parks. But there's an exception to that rule. Herrington's job is to hunt at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for an invasive and hugely destructive species: feral hogs.

NASA called off today's effort to inflate an expandable module attached to the International Space Station after its first attempt fell flat.

Here's a mystery found in a French cave. It appears that a group of Neanderthals walked into that cave about 176,000 years ago and started building something. Neanderthals were our closest living relatives but they weren't known as builders or cave explorers.

Scientists identify the forms as "constructions," but they can't figure out what they were for.

It has been more than 18 months since California's governor signed a law that allows pharmacists to distribute most types of hormonal birth control methods without a prescription.

Shareholders of Exxon Mobil and Chevron have voted to reject a series of resolutions aimed at encouraging the companies to take stronger actions to battle climate change.

But Exxon Mobil shareholders voted in favor of a rule that could make it easier for minority shareholders to nominate outsiders to the company's board, a potential victory for environmentalists.

Activist shareholders at both companies had placed an unusual number of resolutions on the ballot related to climate change.

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

You can't help but notice that Scott Pitnick has a big tattoo. It's a sperm with a long tail that winds down his right arm.

People sometimes stare. "And when I tell them what it is, they either are very interested or they pivot on their heel and walk away," says Pitnick, an evolutionary biologist at Syracuse University. "All eye contact ceases."

Some people just don't like talking about sperm. But not him. He's spent his career trying to unravel the mystery of giant sperm.

Whenever I'm out reporting in the field, I can tell many ranchers have a powerful connection with their cattle — it seems they can almost understand them. But researchers today are digging deeper to figure out exactly what cows are saying — and how they communicate through their moos.

I drove out to the research farm at the University of Missouri to ask cattle geneticist Jared Decker to share his expert insights.

The Florida Everglades is a swampy wilderness the size of Delaware. In some places along the road in southern Florida, it looks like tall saw grass to the horizon, a prairie punctuated with a few twisted cypress trees. The sky is the palest blue.

But beneath the surface a different story is unfolding. Because of climate change and sea level rise, the ocean is starting to seep into the swampland. If the invasion grows worse, it could drastically change the Everglades, and a way of life for millions of residents in South Florida.

At the end of 2013, snowy owls started showing up far south of their usual winter range. The big white birds were reported in South Carolina, Georgia, even Florida.

Dave Brinker, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, had never seen anything like it.

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