Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Why Are Diamonds Worth So Much?

Jul 2, 2016
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The Dark Side To The Firefly's Flare

Jul 2, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Lisa Lynn Kotnik has been a singer on the New Orleans club circuit for more than 15 years.

"I sang at Fritzel's for eight years," she says. "I sang at the Bombay Club for 15 years, I sang at Margaritaville — the list could go on and on and on."

While Kotnik sings to revelers at night under the stage name Lisa Lynn, in the daytime she's battled health problems — fibroids, ovarian cysts, a hysterectomy and even a brain aneurysm.

Paris was at the forefront of public bike-sharing schemes, and it now has electric car-sharing schemes and is something of a laboratory for mobility. As of today, motorists with cars built before 1997, and motorcycles built before 2000, will no longer be able to drive them in the city during daylight hours on weekdays.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says keeping old cars out of the city will help lower pollution levels. But not everyone is happy about it.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Frigatebirds, seagoing fliers with a 6-foot wingspan, can stay aloft for weeks at a time, a new study has found. The results paint an astonishing picture of the bird's life, much of which is spent soaring inside the clouds.

1 In 10 People May Face Malnutrition As Fish Catches Decline

Jun 30, 2016

There are many important reasons to manage the world's wild fisheries. We do it to maintain stock levels, to ensure biodiversity and because fish are valuable. But researchers say there's something else in need of protection: The very people who rely on fish for food.

Scientists are predicting more than 10 percent of the world's population, a whopping 845 million people, will experience deficiencies in critically important micronutrients including zinc, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and fatty-acids in the coming decades if global fish catches continue to decline.

Why do people act the way they do? Many of us intuitively gravitate toward explaining human behavior in terms of personality traits: characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that tend to be stable over time and consistent across situations.

This intuition has been a topic of fierce scientific debate since the 1960s, with some psychologists arguing that situations — not traits — are the most important causes of behavior. Some have even argued that personality traits are figments of our imagination that don't exist at all.

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An influential federal panel has taken the unusual step of telling the Obama administration to withdraw a controversial proposal to revise regulations that protect people who volunteer for medical research.

The proposal is "marred by omissions, the absence of essential elements, and a lack of clarity," according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The conclusions are part of a 283-page report released Wednesday.

The U.K.'s fraught decision to exit the European Union was motivated by everyday issues such as trade and immigration. But its impact could soon be felt in some of Europe's most esoteric locales — like particle accelerators.

Environmentalists are demanding that one of the most prized fishes on the planet be listed as an endangered species.

Last week, about a dozen environmental groups — including Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice — formally petitioned the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to consider listing the Pacific bluefin tuna as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. That status mandates the highest levels of protection from harm.

Virtual Reality Aimed At The Elderly Finds New Fans

Jun 29, 2016

Virginia Anderlini is 103 years old, and she is about to take her sixth trip into virtual reality.

In real life, she is sitting on the sofa in the bay window of her San Francisco assisted-living facility. Next to her, Dr. Sonya Kim gently tugs the straps that anchor the headset over Anderlini's eyes.

Every place has its own sound. A small group of scientists is hard at work recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. — more than 70 soundscapes so far.

For our series on the centennial of the national parks, we traveled to Colorado, to find out how they create these portraits of sound.

First Lesson: It's Very Hard To Escape The Sound Of Humans.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

As the water recedes in West Virginia, residents are taking stock of their losses. At least 23 people died in massive floods that swept across the southeastern part of the state on Friday.

Thanks to the rise of food delivery services like Grubhub and Eat24, it's getting easier to order meals online.

A team of archaeologists diving near the Greek island of Antikythera have reported a startling new discovery from a previously explored 2,000-year-old shipwreck. The find — a very heavy, metal cylinder — offers new insights into the maritime warfare of ancient times, the scientists say.

The latest episode of the podcast Invisibilia explores the idea that personality — something a lot of us think of as immutable — can change over time.

This week on Hidden Brain, we take on cheating.

Nothing Says 'Hip' Like Ancient Wheat

Jun 27, 2016

Forget bold stripes and mule flats — could the next big fad be super-old wheat?

Consumer interest in healthy grains could sow the seeds for some long-forgotten bread wheats to make a comeback, according to an opinion article released Monday in Trends in Plant Science — presumably the Vogue of botany.

Can a computer write a sonnet that's indistinguishable from what a human can produce? Computer scientists at Dartmouth College tried to answer that question with a competition that NPR's Joe Palca reported on as part of his series, Joe's Big Idea.

Hard-core criminals are trapped in a vicious circle of their own thinking. Cognitive treatment of offenders can show them a way out of that trap. With effort and practice, even the most serious offenders can learn to change their thinking about other people and themselves. They can learn to be good citizens, and feel good about it. But in most cases the criminal justice system doesn't present them that opportunity—not in a form that offenders recognize as genuine.

With A Zap, Scientists Create Low-Fat Chocolate

Jun 25, 2016

Physicists say they've discovered how to zap the fat out of chocolate.

The researchers, led by Rongjia Tao of Temple University, were able to remove up to 20 percent of fat by running liquid milk chocolate through an electrified sieve. And they say the chocolate tastes good, too.

23 Killed In Historic West Virgina Flooding

Jun 25, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Twelve years ago, I tried to drive a stake into the heart of the personality-testing industry. Personality tests are neither valid nor reliable, I argued, and we should stop using them — especially for making decisions that affect the course of people's lives, like workplace hiring and promotion.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

There's an explosion of interest in friendly bacteria.

Beneficial microorganisms, as we've reported, can help us digest food, make vitamins, and protect us against harmful pathogens.

As this idea gains traction, so too does the popularity of fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Though the science is tricky, researchers are learning more about how this ancient technique for preserving food may also help promote good health.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the latest episode of the Invisibilia podcast and program, which is broadcast on participating public radio stations. This story contains language that some may find offensive.

Just a week before a Vermont law kicks in requiring labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients, U.S. Senate agriculture leaders announced a deal Thursday that takes the power out of states' hands — and sets a mandatory national system for GM disclosures on food products.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled the plan that had been negotiated for weeks with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

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