Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

In this installment of NPR's series Inside Alzheimer's, we're sharing a recent video of Greg O'Brien at home on Cape Cod, Mass. A longtime journalist, O'Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009.

The first time I interviewed Greg O'Brien, back in January, I asked him what he was most afraid of.

Amy and Dave Freeman are willing to risk brutal winters, thin ice and hordes of hungry mosquitoes to raise awareness about impending mining operations on the border of public lands in northern Minnesota.

A year without a shower takes a tremendous amount of dedication and passion. Why do the Freemans believe the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is worth the sacrifice?

"The Boundary Waters belong to all of us. It's a national forest, it's federal lands. It's like a Yellowstone or a Yosemite," Dave says. "There's no other place like it on Earth."

Scientists have just made a breakthrough in understanding how clouds interact with the surrounding air by studying some of the most boring clouds you can imagine in unprecedented detail.

"If you ask a child to draw a cloud they would draw a white puffy cloud floating in the air all by itself — and that's the kind of cloud we were looking at," says Raymond Shaw, an atmospheric scientist at Michigan Technological University.

It was a routine launch for the Atlas V booster, which was carrying a Mexican satellite into orbit as it lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Friday morning. But the rocket's expanding exhaust plume was anything but ordinary.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Dame Stephanie Shirley's TED Talk

What's in a name? For tech entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley, bidding contracts under the name "Steve" enabled her to launch and grow a freelance software company with a virtually all-female staff.

About Dame Stephanie Shirley

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Dan Ariely's TED Talk

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely says we work hard not because we have to, but because we want to. He examines the intrinsic values we need to feel motivated to work.

About Dan Ariely

How Can A Monotonous Job Be Meaningful?

Oct 2, 2015

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Barry Schwartz's TED Talk

Psychologist Barry Schwartz says our current thinking about work focuses too much on paychecks and too little on all the ways we find fulfillment — even in jobs many might consider mundane.

About Barry Schwartz

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



What's come to be called "the nation's T. rex" now stands — though not in the United States. It's in Canada.

The nearly complete and much heralded Tyrannosaurus skeleton — the first ever owned by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History — was discovered in 1988 by a Montana rancher, Kathy Wankel, and will eventually find a new home in a grand display in the Washington, D.C., museum.

If you watch the film The Martian, you'll see Hollywood explosions and special effects galore, but you'll also see some serious science.

Actor Matt Damon, who plays stranded astronaut Mark Watney, must calculate his way through food shortages, Martian road trips and other misadventures as he fights to find a way off the Red Planet.

Numbers are a matter of life and death for Damon's astronaut, and in this movie they're not pulled from thin air.

The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation's sleek marble building is on the outskirts of Seoul, South Korea. After passing through a guarded gate, visitors climb the steps to the entrance and a big door with tinted glass slides open.

"Hello, sir. Nice to meet you, sir," says David Kim, a researcher at the laboratory. "You can follow me. We can go into the clean room. It's the laboratory where we do the procedures — the cloning."

It's a typical morning at the Dupont Veterinary Clinic in Lafayette, La. Dr. Phillip Dupont is caring for cats and dogs in the examining room while his wife, Paula, answers the phone and pet owners' questions. Their two dogs are sleeping on the floor behind her desk.

"That's Ken and Henry," Paula says, pointing to the slim, midsize dogs with floppy ears and long snouts. Both dogs are tan, gray and white, with similar markings. "I put a red collar on Ken and a black collar on Henry so I can tell who's who."

We might not be able to remember every stressful episode of our childhood.

But the emotional upheaval we experience as kids — whether it's the loss of a loved one, the chronic stress of economic insecurity, or social interactions that leave us tearful or anxious — may have a lifelong impact on our health.

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Mars is basically a pretty arid place, so it's pretty astonishing that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to spot signs of liquid water on the planet's surface.

Larry Goldstein is trying to find drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease. A biologist in cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego, Goldstein also just started testing something he hopes will enable paralyzed people to walk again.

For both lines of research, he's using cells from aborted fetuses.

"The fetal cells are vital at this time because, to our knowledge, they have the best properties for the kinds of experiments that we need to do," Goldstein says.

The drought in California over the past four years has hit the agriculture industry hard, especially one of the smallest farm creatures: honeybees. A lack of crops for bees to pollinate has California's beekeeping industry on edge.

Gene Brandi is one of those beekeepers. He has a colony of bees near a field of blooming alfalfa just outside the Central California town of Los Banos. He uses smoke from a canister of burning burlap to calm the bees.

Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, puppetry artist Basil Twist and neuroscientist Beth Stevens work in wholly unrelated fields, but they do have at least one thing in common.

Along with 21 others, they are winners of the 2015 "genius" grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a final version of updated rules intended to keep farmworkers from being poisoned by pesticides. The previous "worker protection standard" for farms has been in effect since 1992.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



For the past 10 years, doctors have used a genetic test to decide which patients may be able to skip chemotherapy after surgery for breast cancer.

Now a study confirms that this test, called Oncotype DX, works well for a small group of patients. But a longer, follow-up study is needed to draw conclusions for a fuller range of patients with riskier tumors.

Oncotype DX analyzes 21 genes in the tumor to estimate a woman's risk of the cancer coming back after surgery.

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Scientists have caught Mars crying salty tears.

Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes. The streaks appear in sunny spots or when the weather is warm, and they fade when the temperature drops.

Many earthlings were treated to a rare sight last night, as a "supermoon" coincided with a lunar eclipse. It was a bad night to have clouds obscuring the view, as the last total eclipse that had these qualities occurred in 1982, and the next won't happen until 2033.

This lunar eclipse ticked many boxes for sky watchers: It was a supermoon, when the moon is both full and in perigee, or close to Earth, making it loom large in our sky. It was also a blood moon (the fourth and final lunar eclipse). And because it occurred days after the fall equinox, this was also the harvest moon.

Citing a lack of enough oil to make the project worthwhile, Royal Dutch Shell Oil is halting its effort to drill for oil off Alaska's shore "for the foreseeable future." The company has spent some $7 billion on the exploration project.

Jonathan Bartels is a nurse working in emergency care. He says witnessing death over and over again takes a toll on trauma workers — they can become numb or burned out.

But about two years ago, after Bartels and his team at the University of Virginia Medical Center, in Charlottesville, Va., tried and failed to resuscitate a patient, something happened.

"We had worked on this patient for hours, and the chaplain came in and kind of stopped everyone from leaving the room," Bartels recalls.

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