Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

The meat on an adult human's bones could feed another person for over two weeks, or maybe a whole Stone Age tribe for a couple of days, according to a new report on the practice of Paleolithic cannibalism. No wonder, then, that evidence of cannibalism in ancient humans pops up in the archaeological record from time to time.

Viruses are supposed to be tiny and simple — so tiny and simple that it's debatable whether they're even alive.

They're minimalist packets of genetic information, relying entirely on the cells the infect in order to survive and reproduce.

But in 2003, researchers identified a new kind of virus that that turned scientific understanding of viruses upside down, and tested the boundary of what can be considered life.

A surprising medical finding caught the eye of NPR's veteran science correspondent Richard Harris in 2014. A scientist from the drug company Amgen had reviewed the results of 53 studies that were originally thought to be highly promising — findings likely to lead to important new drugs. But when the Amgen scientist tried to replicate those promising results, in most cases he couldn't.

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It doesn't take more than a few episodes of the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch to get the idea that commercial fishing can be a career path rife with risk, making it one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.

Experts are increasingly confident that a powerful nerve agent was used to kill and injure victims in an attack on a rebel-held region of Syria on Tuesday.

More than 70 people were killed in a bombing in Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The organization says that the death toll so far includes 20 children.

Elsewhere in the province, more than 30 people were reported killed in conventional attacks.

The U.S. military is trying to figure out whether certain heavy weapons are putting U.S. troops in danger.

The concern centers on the possibility of brain injuries from shoulder-fired weapons like the Carl Gustaf, a recoilless rifle that resembles a bazooka and is powerful enough to blow up a tank.

This story starts with the mystery of a missing cow.

University of Utah researchers placed seven cow carcasses in Utah's Great Basin Desert, and set up cameras to learn about the behavior patterns of local scavengers.

But a week later, researcher Evan Buechley returned to one of the sites and found no sign of the cow.

A rain forest sings with the sounds of insects, birds, maybe a howler monkey or two. But scientists are discovering that some forest dwellers also communicate in ways humans usually can't hear — via ultrasound.

A team from Dartmouth College has recorded these signals in treetops on a pristine Panamanian island called Barro Colorado, and slowed them down to make sense of them.

Taking Shortcuts In Drug Testing Can Put Patients At Risk

Apr 4, 2017

We all want breakthroughs in medicine. I've never met someone who doesn't.

Even with all the progress we have seen in medicine, millions of people suffer, or have family members who suffer, from diseases that are making their lives worse or threatening their lives. Time means something different to these people. They do not have the luxury of waiting patiently while researchers test new drugs.

Would opening the door to cheaper, skimpier marketplace plans with higher deductibles and copays attract consumers and insurers to the exchanges next year? That's what the Trump administration is betting on.

In February, the administration proposed a rule that would take a bit of the shine off bronze, silver, gold and platinum exchange plans by allowing them to provide less generous coverage while keeping the same metal level designation.

Imagine a concrete room, not much bigger than a parking space. No window. You're in there 23 hours a day, 7 days a week; you don't know when you'll get out of this room. A month? A year? A decade?

Our minds don't do well with that kind of solitude and uncertainty.

What do listening to music, hitting a baseball and solving a complex math problem have in common? They all activate less gray matter than drinking wine.

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Humans have long looked to animals for design inspiration. From basic camouflage to a quiet bullet train in Japan to the Wright brothers' wings, the process called biomimicry is a basic tenet of human engineering.

Jonathon Keats has turned it on its head.

Don't be tricked by their appearance — fangblenny fish aren't just a cute face. They use special opioid-based venom to avoid being eaten.

The fish are 2 inches long and live in places such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef. When one is caught and swallowed up by a predator, the blenny literally bites its way out. The venom disorients the bigger fish, and the blenny escapes to freedom.

If you wanted a bag of Doritos from one of Brad Appelhans' experimental vending machines, you'd have to wait. The associate professor of preventative medicine at Rush University Medical Center designed a device that fits inside of vending machines and waits 25 seconds before releasing the typical processed snacks. But healthier fare — like peanuts or popcorn — drops instantly.

The astronomer Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Last week, a physician made the extraordinary claim that he had an effective treatment for sepsis, sometimes known as blood poisoning.

Sepsis is a bodywide inflammation, usually triggered by infection, and the leading cause of death in hospitals, taking 300,000 lives a year. So, even a 15 percent improvement in survival would save 40,000 lives — the number of Americans who die on the highway each year, or from breast cancer.

It has been more than eight decades since the last known Tasmanian tiger died. In that time, the marsupial has become the stuff of textbook sketches and yellowing photographs, little more than a memory aging into oblivion.

But Thylacinus cynocephalus may still be out there.

Recent "plausible sightings" have challenged the accepted wisdom that the animal has gone extinct — and have inspired researchers at Australia's James Cook University to commence a quest to find it themselves.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, and slowly let it out through your mouth. Do you feel calmer?

Controlled breathing like this can combat anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It's one reason so many people experience tranquility after meditation or a pranayama yoga class. How exactly the brain associates slow breathing with calmness and quick breathing with nervousness, though, has been a mystery. Now, researchers say they've found the link, at least in mice.

Driving up the coast toward Bay Center, Wash., it's obvious when you start to approach Willapa Bay. Fifteen-foot high piles of empty shells begin to appear on the side of the road. This is an oyster town.

But it's also home to a sinking piece of history.

Seventeen-year-old Indrani Das just won the top high school science prize in the country. Das, who lives in Oradell, N.J., took home $250,000 from the former Intel Science Talent Search, now the Regeneron Science Talent Search, for her study of brain injuries and neuron damage. In her spare time, she's already working with patients as a certified EMT.

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There is some good news about Zika. Health organizations are reporting fewer cases of Zika-linked birth defects than projected. But, as NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff reports, the findings are causing researchers to take a closer look.

After millions of dollars of flood damage and mass evacuations this year, California is grappling with how to update its aging flood infrastructure. Some say a natural approach might be part of the answer.

All the water that poured down spillways at the Oroville Dam in northern California did a lot of damage to the area — and for miles down the river.

"It looks like a bomb's gone off," says John Carlon of River Partners, a nonprofit that does river restoration. "That's what it looks like."

Updated 7:55 p.m. ET

The most expensive part of doing business in outer space is getting there. The private space flight company SpaceX thinks it can change all that, and Thursday's successful reuse of a rocket was a big test of its business model.

SpaceX launched a communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a rocket stage that had already been to space and back. SpaceX is betting that this kind of recycling will lower its costs and revolutionize space flight.

MacArthur Park is in the middle of Los Angeles, near downtown. At the center of the park is a small lake, and it's not most people's idea of a picturesque fishing spot.

It was there that the California Ghetto Carping club caught a record breaking fish this week — a 50-pound carp.

Update 7:06 P.M. Eastern: The EPA says it's reversing course and keeping chlorpyrifos on the market.

That's despite the agency's earlier conclusion, reached during the Obama administration, that this pesticide could pose risks to consumers. It's a signal that toxic chemicals will face less restrictive regulation by the Trump administration.

You'd think that a vaccine that protects people against more than a half dozen types of cancer would have patients lining up to get it. But the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can prevent roughly 90 percent of all cervical cancers as well as other cancers and sexually transmitted infections caused by the virus, has faced an uphill climb since its introduction more than a decade ago.

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