Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Snakes used to wander the Earth on legs about 150 million years ago, before they shifted from strut to slither.

Now, two scientists have pinpointed the genetic process that caused snakes to lose their legs. What's more, they say the "molecular machinery" for leg development still persists in snakes after these millions of years — it's simply switched off.

Whether it's jet lag, a new work schedule, daylight saving time or just a Monday morning, shifting sleep schedules takes a toll. But scientists think they might have found a way to reset our internal timers that's more than hot air.

At least, it works if you're a mouse. The solution, it seems, is thin air. A study published Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism found that decreasing oxygen levels for a short period of time helped mice recover from jet lag faster.

Giant panda Bao Bao, born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in August 2013, will be heading to China this winter.

Bao Bao's parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are on loan from China, and the agreement calls for any pandas born to the breeding pair to be sent to the Chinese breeding program before they turn 4.

Emergency Room Use Stays High In Oregon Medicaid Study

Oct 19, 2016

Will Medicaid expansion save the country money as people stop using expensive emergency rooms for primary care?

Not yet, suggest the latest findings from a landmark study published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study of Medicaid patients in Oregon who got Medicaid in 2008 found their ER use stayed high two years after they gained the health insurance coverage — even as they also increased their visits to doctors' offices.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

A stone tool found in the sand has always been considered the handiwork of early humans and their ancestors. But a remarkable discovery in a Brazilian forest suggests that might not be so.

Scientists saw a group of capuchin monkeys making stone flakes, an important type of early tool. It's not clear the monkeys knew what they were making, but nonetheless, it might prompt researchers to be more cautious when they come across ancient sites where similar tools are usually attributed to early humans.

Don't Look Now! How Your Devices Hurt Your Productivity

Oct 19, 2016

I'll admit it. I even take my phone with me when I head to the restroom, to fire off a few texts. Or I'll scroll through my email when I leave the office for lunch. My eyes are often glued to my phone from the moment I wake up, but I often reach the end of my days wondering what I've accomplished.

After a seven-month voyage through space and a three-day cruise to approach Mars, the European Space Agency's Schiaparelli lander is getting ready for the final leg of its journey: a six-minute trip through the red planet's atmosphere.

It's the make-it-or-crash-land-it moment for the probe, which is designed to collect data on Mars' atmosphere and dust storms. If it succeeds, it would be Europe's first successful Mars landing.

Schiaparelli was expected to enter the atmosphere at 10:42 a.m. ET on Wednesday, and make its landing at 10:48.

Nobody loves pesticides, exactly. But one kind of pesticide, called neonicotinoids, is provoking a particularly bitter debate right now between environmentalists and farmers. The chemicals are highly toxic to bees. Some scientists think they are partly to blame for the decline in pollinators.

For the past year, the province of Ontario, in Canada, has responded to the controversy with a novel experiment. Ontario's government is asking farmers to prove that they actually need neonicotinoids, often called neonics. It turns out that "need" is a word that's hard to define.

The Obama administration is announcing a series of recommendations for ensuring the safety of the nation's more than 400 underground natural gas storage wells.

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On Election Day this November, about 1 in 4 Americans will vote using a device that never lets the voter see a copy of his or her vote on paper.

For a decade, people who study Europe's bison population have been baffled by a genetic mystery. The animals, which are a protected species, seemed to have appeared out of thin air about 11,000 years ago.

"There's something very fishy in the history of European bovids," says Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide, one of the lead authors of a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

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Fewer than 1 in 5 members of Congress are women. At Fortune 500 companies, fewer than 1 in 20 CEOs are women. And if you look at all the presidents of the United States through Barack Obama, what are the odds of having 44 presidents who are all men?

If men and women had an equal shot at the White House, the odds of this happening just by chance are about 1 in 18 trillion.

Nearly 1 in 5 children each year suffers a psychiatric illness, according to research estimates. But a national shortage of medical specialists and inpatient facilities means that many still go untreated — despite national efforts to improve mental health care.

Last summer, I went on Morning Edition to talk about the quest for a great-tasting tomato. And at the very end of the conversation, I confidently declared that no one should ever put tomatoes in the refrigerator. It kills the taste, I said. That's what I'd heard from scientists and tomato growers alike.

Rodents are generally the last things most restaurant owners want in their kitchen.

But in the larger cities of Peru, chefs are practically fighting over guinea pigs in a restaurant craze that is bringing financial stability — if not exactly wealth — to small farmers in the Andes Mountains.

An experimental lander from the European Space Agency is making its final descent toward Mars, preparing for a controlled landing on Wednesday.

The Schiaparelli probe detached from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, on Sunday.

There was a moment of alarm when, after separating from the ship, Schiaparelli didn't send the expected signals back to scientists on earth. It did send back a "carrier signal" to show it was operational, but didn't communicate any telemetry data about its status or location.

Yana Shapiro is a partner at a Philadelphia law firm with an exhausting travel schedule and two boys, ages 9 and 4. When she feels run-down from juggling everything and feels a cold coming on, she books an appointment for an intravenous infusion of water, vitamins and minerals.

"Anything to avoid antibiotics or being out of commission," the 37-year-old says.

Sex with someone new has always made me nervous. Now, TV is making it even worse.

I keep seeing scary ads featuring young people asking their parents why they didn't get the vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus — HPV. If you're unfamiliar with HPV, it's a sexually transmitted infection that has been linked to various cancers, including cervical cancer in women.

I didn't get vaccinated. So lately I've been wondering: Now that I'm 29, is it too late for me to get the vaccine?

A pair of storms brought strong winds and heavy rain to parts of Washington state and Oregon this weekend.

The National Weather Service reported the remnants of a typhoon caused wind gusts around 50 mph on Saturday evening in Washington state, and heavy rain flooded some roads. More than 25,000 people lost power.

West Virginia Grapples With High Drug Costs

Oct 15, 2016

Skyrocketing prices for essential medicines like the EpiPen, are generating public outcry, congressional hearings and political promises for policy fixes. In the meantime, the increases continue to hit pocketbooks — even of people who don't rely on these expensive drugs. In a state like West Virginia, where dire budget shortfalls have been a problem over the last few years, the problem is especially pronounced.

About one-third of all the food produced globally is either lost or wasted. Pests and infections destroy fruits and vegetables. Grains often rot in storage or during transport. And then there's food in consumers' kitchens and refrigerators that doesn't get eaten, and eventually discarded.

Such losses amount to more than $900 billion globally, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Counting all the galaxies in the universe is hard. So hard, it seems, that it's possible to miss billions of them.

A new analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data finds there are almost 10 times more galaxies in the universe than we once thought there were — about 2 trillion of them, up from about 200 billion.

Scientists are one step closer to understanding a mystery of the Milky Way.

In 2007, data showed that a young star about 400 light years away from our solar system was blinking. It was being covered, uncovered and covered again in what astronomers call a "series of complex eclipses."

The eclipses told astronomers that something was orbiting the young star, and that the something was very large.

The news this week.

For that reason, we're bringing you this photo of a baby elephant named Jotto cuddled up to an ostrich named Pea.

Conservationists with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya came across Pea two years ago today, while they were rescuing a different infant elephant. The trust is well-known for its rescue and rehabilitation program for orphaned elephants.

Scientists have discovered a new kind of spidey sense.

We already knew that jumping spiders have exceptional vision. We knew that they are great at perceiving vibrations. We even knew that they can "hear" at extremely close range.

But in research published in Current Biology, researchers at Cornell University found that a common species of jumping spider called Phidippus audax can actually hear from much farther away than we thought — at distances of 10 feet away, or more.

Suppose I take the candy from the cabinet where you left it and put it someplace else. Where will you look for it when you get home?