Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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The Call-In: Genetic Engineering

Aug 6, 2017

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And this is The Call-In.

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NASA's Voyager Program Turns 40

Aug 6, 2017

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This is Lulu's log, star date, August 6, 2017, where we consider matters of space, the stars and the universe.

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All his life, 56-year-old Jeanpier Marolahy has been growing rice in eastern Madagascar, on the steep hills that slope down from the central highlands toward the Indian Ocean.

The thin, weather-beaten Marolahy knows that rice production is all about water and timing. The grain needs a lot of water at first, but if torrential rains fall at harvest time, they can destroy the crop.

A decade ago, utility executives and policymakers dreamed of a clean energy future powered by a new generation of cheap, safe nuclear reactors. Projects to expand existing nuclear plants in South Carolina and Georgia were supposed to be the start of the "nuclear renaissance."

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When you want to change the world, a good invention helps. But that is just the start.

Take the story of Mike Davidson and Mike Smith: They wanted to change the world of dental hygiene with a new kind of toothbrush.

Three years ago, their brushes were rolling off the assembly line, ready for consumers. But then the pair ran into a business buzz saw, and it changed the way they saw the business of invention forever.

When a receptionist hands out a form to fill out at a doctor's office, the questions are usually about medical issues: What's the visit for? Are you allergic to anything? Up to date on vaccines?

But some health organizations are now asking much more general questions: Do you have trouble paying your bills? Do you feel safe at home? Do you have enough to eat? Research shows these factors can be as important to health as exercise habits or whether you get enough sleep.

Some doctors even think someone's ZIP code is as important to their health as their genetic code.

At San Antonio's largest homeless shelter, huge fans cool off the temporary residents. The courtyard can get crowded. One of the hundreds of nightly boarders is James Harrison. "I lost my apartment and had nowhere else to go," he explains.

Like most people at Haven for Hope, Harrison, who is 55, doesn't plan on staying long. But while he's here, he's taking advantage of some free medical testing — a screening for dormant tuberculosis.

The decision of a company to offer its employs the option to hack their bodies to function better in the workplace has raised eyebrows and, no doubt, generated publicity.

But it also gives us a chance to turn a light on hidden attitudes about the nature of the self.

Imagine that you could pay for your morning coffee with the swipe of your hand, or that you didn't need to have a key on your person to start up your car. Pretty convenient, huh?

Efforts to develop a treatment that stalls the memory-robbing devastation of Alzheimer's disease have so far been unsuccessful, but scientists are making strides in another important area: the development of better tests to tell who has the condition.

Their aim is to develop more accurate, cheaper and less invasive tests to detect the biological markers of Alzheimer's-induced changes in the brain.

The Archaeologist Who Hunts For Stolen Art

Aug 4, 2017

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So archaeologists in France say they have discovered a first-century A.D. Roman neighborhood. And it's being compared to another buried Roman city, Pompeii in Italy. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Paris.

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For students starting medical school, the first year can involve a lot of time in a lecture hall. There are hundreds of terms to master and pages upon pages of notes to take.

But when the new class of medical students begins at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine next week, a lot of that learning won't take place with a professor at a lectern.

The school has begun to phase out lectures in favor of what's known as "active learning" and plans to be done with lectures altogether by 2019.

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Think of plant pollination and you probably think of bees, summer flowers and bright sunshine.

But nocturnal insects such as beetles and flies also play a key role in the process. A new study sheds light on a previously unknown problem for these lesser-known pollinators, namely artificial lighting.

The survival of life of Earth (and elsewhere) may rest on the shoulders of NASA's next planetary protection officer – and they're taking applications.

The job posting has elicited headlines about how the space agency is seeking a person to defend our planet from aliens. But it's more concerned with microorganisms than little green men.

Rock art images of bulls, bison, horses, lions, rhinoceros, and other animals from caves like Lascaux and Chauvet in France and Altamira in Spain have become popular icons showcasing the antiquity of human-animal relationships, as well as human creativity.

It has become a rite of summer. Every year, a "dead zone" appears in the Gulf of Mexico. It's an area where water doesn't have enough oxygen for fish to survive. And every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissions scientists to venture out into the Gulf to measure it.

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 4.2 hit central Oklahoma on Wednesday night, the U.S. Geological Survey said, the sixth earthquake to affect the area in just over 24 hours.

Four hours later, a less intense earthquake of a preliminary magnitude 3.5 struck the area in the early hours of Thursday.

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As a climate change activist, former Vice President Al Gore is used to speaking in front of both hostile and friendly audiences. But there is one individual he has all but given up on.

"I have no illusions about the possibility of changing Donald Trump's mind," Gore says. "I think he has made it abundantly clear that he's throwing his lot in with the climate deniers."

Rising carbon dioxide levels could have an unexpected side effect on food crops: a decrease in key nutrients. And this could put more people at risk of malnutrition.

Scientists have been tinkering with the DNA in humans and other living things for decades. But one thing has long been considered off-limits: modifying human DNA in any way that could be passed down for generations.

If you're lucky enough to be in the path of totality for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse over North America, you will get at best about 2 ½ minutes to view "totality" – when the moon almost completely covers the disc of the Sun.

When someone posts a photo of food on social media, do you get cranky? Is it because you just don't care what other people are eating? Or is it because they're enjoying an herb-and-garlic crusted halibut at a seaside restaurant while you sit at your computer with a slice of two-day-old pizza?

Maybe you'd like to have what they're having, but don't know how to make it. If only there were a way to get their recipe without commenting on the photo.

There is comfort in distance, especially when the distance is in time.

Things that will happen far in the future seem not to bother us much, given that we will, most likely, be out of the picture.

Drug Puts A $750,000 'Price Tag On Life'

Aug 1, 2017

Jana Gundy and Amanda Chaffin, who live within two hours of each other in Oklahoma, each have a child with the same devastating disease.

The genetic condition, spinal muscular atrophy, robs its sufferers of muscle strength, affecting their ability to sit, stand or even breathe.

So both moms were ecstatic when the Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment for the condition two days before Christmas in 2016. It seemed the gift they had been waiting for — a chance to slow the heartbreaking decline of their young sons.

When Ralph Chou was about 12 years old, he took all the right precautions to watch his first solar eclipse.

"I did other stupid things, but when it came to looking at that eclipse, I was being very careful," says Chou, a professor emeritus of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo, who's a leading authority on eye damage from eclipse viewing.

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