Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Throughout history, atrocities have been committed in the name of medical research.

Nazi doctors experimented on concentration camp prisoners. American doctors let poor black men with syphilis go untreated in the Tuskegee study. The list goes on.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Big news this week in commercial space travel. And to tell us all about it, NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel is here. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Hey there.

SHAPIRO: What exactly happened this week?

America's beekeepers are having a rough time. They lost an estimated 42 percent of their hives last year.

It started with a boom and ended with a touchdown: Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, has sent a craft past the edge of space and then landed its rocket safely – and vertically — in Texas.

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Over the next few weeks, the U.S. and other negotiators will meet in Paris to try to finalize a huge climate deal. My colleague Steve Inskeep spoke with NPR's Shankar Vedantam on a hidden factor in those negotiations.

World leaders are scheduled to meet in Paris soon, trying to draft an agreement on how to combat climate change. Among the heads of state, you'll also see California Gov. Jerry Brown, who is spearheading his own international climate movement.

Brown has been on an international diplomatic tour the last few months — all about climate change.

"The world faces an existential threat," he told Canadian leaders in July.

Then, he went to the Vatican. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," he said.

Happy Thanksgiving from Hidden Brain! All of the research in this week's episode is geared toward helping you have a happier holiday, with tips to help you avoid three deadly Thanksgiving pitfalls: overeating, over-shopping, and fighting with your relatives.

For appetizers, we'll start with two of Shankar's Morning Edition radio stories.

Diesel trucks used to be known for belching black, polluting exhaust. Over the years, manufacturers have worked hard to shed that image, building cleaner engines. But there's a small group of diesel truck owners who are going in the opposite direction.

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A look at the brain's wiring can often reveal whether a person has trouble staying focused, and even whether he or she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD.

A team led by researchers at Yale University reports that they were able to identify many children and adolescents with ADHD by studying data on the strength of certain connections in their brains.

A government watchdog says the Department of Homeland Security can't say for sure whether its system to detect a biological terror attack actually works.

In a report released Monday, the Government Accountability Office says the BioWatch system has issued dozens of false alarms since its introduction. It recommends that Homeland Security, which oversees the system, hold off any upgrades until the department can be sure of BioWatch's current capabilities.

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When A Stranger Leaves You $125 Million

Nov 21, 2015

One morning last year, when Bryan Bashin sat down to check his email, a peculiarly short note caught his attention.

"A businessman has passed away. I think you might want to talk to us," it read.

Bashin directs a nonprofit in San Francisco called the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, so he gets a lot of email about donations. But this one felt different. It came from a group of lawyers handling the estate of a Seattle businessman who had died, Donald Sirkin.

The giant roundworm looks a lot like an earthworm. It's pinkish, up to a foot long and can live for two years.

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The National Institutes of Health decided their last 50 research chimps are no longer needed. That means some new tenants are coming to Chimp Haven, a sanctuary in Louisiana. Cathy Willis Spraetz runs the group, and she's on the line with us.

How Can You See Without Seeing?

Nov 20, 2015

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Adaptation

About Daniel Kish's TED Talk

Daniel Kish has been blind since he was 13 months old, but has learned to "see" using a form of echolocation.

About Daniel Kish

When he was 13 months old, Daniel Kish lost both eyes to retinal cancer. He taught himself to navigate by clicking his tongue and listening for echoes — a method science calls echolocation, and that Kish calls flash sonar.

How Did Endurance Help Early Humans Survive?

Nov 20, 2015

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Adaptation

About Christopher McDougall's TED Talk

Christopher McDougall explores the mysteries of the human instinct to run: How did endurance help early humans survive, and what urges from our ancient ancestors spur us on today?

About Christopher McDougall

A kind of salmon that's been genetically modified so that it grows faster may be on the way to a supermarket near you. The Food and Drug Administration approved the fish on Thursday — a decision that environmental and food-safety groups are vowing to fight.

Vocal cords are small and complex — and, when badly damaged, they're difficult to treat.

Now, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have engineered lab-grown vocal cord tissue for the first time.

The tissue appears to be functional, the researchers report, although so far it has only been tested outside of an animal's body.

After retiring hundreds of research chimpanzees in 2013, the NIH says 50 remaining chimps will no longer be used for medical studies.

The 50 chimpanzees were kept in case they were needed in a public health emergency, but now they will be moving into a federal sanctuary as soon as there is room.

After testing all the pieces of a tiny pill-size device, Albert Swiston sent it on a unique journey: through the guts of six live Yorkshire pigs.

Pig bodies are a lot like human bodies, and Swiston wanted to know whether the device would be able to monitor vital signs from inside a body. It did.

You're at the grocery store, shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. You've grabbed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cans of pumpkin. If you're from the Midwest like I am, you're also gearing up for green bean casserole.

But when you approach a refrigerated section of the store piled high with turkeys, you're suddenly inundated with labels: natural, fresh, no hormones, young, premium and so on. Pretty soon, your head is spinning, so you grab the nearest one. As you head to the checkout line, you wonder if you've just made an ethical choice or been duped.



We live in a society where sex is often touted as the secret sauce that keeps a relationship tasty. So more sex must be better for you and your romantic partner, right?

Well, for established couples, having sex once a week hits the sweet spot for happiness and well-being, a study finds. This is either great news or tragic, depending on how you're feeling about your sex life.

It turns out that psychologists are working hard to figure out whether more sex makes us happier.

Built it and they didn't come.

That could be the motto for China's infamous "ghost cities" — vast housing complexes that were frantically erected over the past decade but remain largely uninhabited.

For years, the real estate market in China has been booming. Chinese laws allow city governments to cheaply grab nearby rural areas for development, and that's fueled the frenzy to build, build, build. Over the past 20 years, the country's urban areas have quintupled.

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By the time a flower or insect makes it to a natural history museum, you'd think we'd know the basics - the very basics.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When you're trying to persuade investors to pour money into your new seafood startup, maybe don't use the term maggots.

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