Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Future Consequences.

About Juan Enriquez's TED Talk

From genetically modified animals and crops, we can already manipulate DNA. But futurist Juan Enriquez argues soon we can take full control of human evolution to create a better life for all of us.

About Juan Enriquez

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Future Consequences.

About Sam Harris's TED Talk

Does superhuman artificial intelligence sound like science fiction? Not for Sam Harris. He says it's not a question of if but when — with potentially destructive consequences.

About Sam Harris

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Future Consequences.

About Paul Knoepfler's TED Talk

New gene editing tools hold a great deal of promise, but biologist Paul Knoepfler says we should be cautious. He warns altering DNA can have dire consequences, including a new form of eugenics.

About Paul Knoepfler

Cassini Plunges To Saturn

Sep 15, 2017

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Snow leopards are no longer endangered, according to the global authority for assessing risks to species. However, the situation is looking dire for five species of ash tree, now listed as critically endangered.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced the changes to its Red List on Thursday.

Let's start with the good news.

California lawmakers must decide by the end of the day Friday whether to approve the most ambitious clean energy goal in the country: 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

The state wouldn't be the first. Hawaii already has its own 100 percent goal. But California uses about 30 times more electricity than Hawaii and is the fifth largest economy in the world.

To some, it's a chance for the state to cement its environmental leadership as the Trump administration rolls back Obama-era climate change programs.

Electric eels sometimes leap out of the water to increase the power of their jolt — and one scientist has been trying to understand this behavior more fully by letting a small eel repeatedly shock his arm.

Ken Catania, a Vanderbilt University neurobiologist who has been studying electric eels in his lab, recently noticed something strange whenever he tried to fish them out with a net that had a metal rim and handle. The eels would leap out of the water to attack it.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For years, the government has been trying to reduce the risk that legitimate biological research could be misused to threaten the public's health, but those efforts have serious shortcomings.

That's the conclusion of a report released Thursday by the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that examined existing practices and policies on so-called dual-use biological research.

During a press conference on Aug. 15, President Trump was asked by a reporter why he waited so long to "blast neo-Nazis" in the wake of the white supremacist rally held the previous weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

That rally resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a young counterprotester, and injuries to dozens of others.

When you feel like everyone around you is having more fun and spending more time with friends, it can make you feel bad about yourself — even if it's not true.

But according to Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies how our view of the world affects our view of ourselves, this perception can challenge us to become more social and make more friends.

Snot otter. Lasagna lizard.

Pick your favorite nickname for the Eastern hellbender salamander.

On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess."

More than a million acres of Montana forests and rangeland have burned this year, so far, causing unhealthy air across the state since mid-July.

In August the Missoula County health department took the unprecedented step of advising the entire town of Seeley Lake to evacuate due to smoke; air there has been classified as "hazardous" levels for 35 days in August 1.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET Sept. 14

The Cassini spacecraft's final moments are a few hours away. Early Friday morning, it will slam itself into Saturn's atmosphere.

The Sign, a documentary directed, shot and produced by Josh Turnbow and Robert Dvoran and set to air Thursday, addresses whether the end of days is coming this month, as some biblical literalists predict.

The "sign" in the title refers to an alignment in the sky peaking on Sept. 23, whereby Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will be around the constellations of Virgo and Leo, together with the sun and moon. Sept. 23 is when Jupiter leaves Virgo after being there for a while.

The non-stop, "never-seen-before" hurricanes of the last few weeks have given us a glimpse of what a climate-changed world will look like for humanity.

If it seems like a scary vision, you should know that we're only at the very beginning of this wild ride. Things are likely going to get harder.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now that Hurricane Irma has left Florida, gasoline supplies are slowly coming back into the state. But thousands of gas stations remain closed anyway.

That's because with electricity out throughout the peninsula, even stations that have access to gas have no way to get it into people's vehicles.

"Power is the issue. Most of these gas stations don't have backup generation that can allow the pumps to work," says John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital, an energy investment firm.

We don't usually think of adorable puppies as disease vectors, but they might actually be making people sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a Campylobacter outbreak in people and its link to puppies purchased from a chain of pet stores.

Hurricane Irma was the longest-lasting powerful hurricane or typhoon ever recorded, worldwide.

Irma sustained its 185-mph winds for 37 hours – "the longest any cyclone around the globe has maintained that intensity on record," according to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University. The previous record was held by Typhoon Haiyan, also called Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013.

When it comes to drinking alcohol during pregnancy, some women wonder: Is it OK to have one drink?

"I do get that question often," says David Garry, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Stony Brook University Hospital. And, he says his answer is clear.

Everyone has regrets. You probably have a few of them. By some estimates, regret is the most common negative emotion that we talk about, and the second-most common emotion mentioned in our daily lives.

Pollinators such as bees play a key part of producing the beans that go into your morning cup of coffee.

In fact, they are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the plants' yield, Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, tells The Two-Way. Bees actually increase the quality of the beans by making their size more uniform.

What to do if you live in Florida's Manatee County waiting on a hurricane? Rescue a few manatees, naturally.

On Sunday, Hurricane Irma was still 100 miles away from Tampa but had already sucked the water out of shallow Sarasota Bay, a prime habitat for manatees — the protected marine mammals also known as sea cows.

Intrigued, Marcelo Clavijo and several friends went out for a drive to take in the strange sight of an empty bay.

Cancer drugs cost far less to develop than industry-backed research asserts, an analysis published Monday asserts. Research and development costs are a major reason that drug companies justify high prices, so this dispute has a direct bearing on the cost of medical care.

After 13 years in orbit around Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is about to plunge itself into the planet's atmosphere and disintegrate. NASA decided to put an end to the mission on Friday because the probe is almost out of fuel.

Cassini has provided exquisite details about the second-largest planet in our solar system.

To appreciate that some questions are better than others, it helps to consider a few examples of questions that are bad.

To find them, try playing Twenty Questions with a young child. In trying to guess an animal, a young child might ask: Is it a koala? Is it an elephant? (Not: Is it a mammal? Does it live in Africa?) These are bad questions in the sense that they're unlikely to yield an efficient solution to the problem of discovering the animal one's adversary has chosen.

It's an unusually bad wild fire season in the West, and for weeks people across the region have been breathing air thick with smoke.

"There's smoke from Canada, smoke from Idaho, smoke from California and Montana. There's smoke everywhere," says Greg Svelund, a spokesman for Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality.

Pages