Science & Health

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To hear a patient's heart, doctors used to just put an ear up to a patient's chest and listen. Then, in 1816, things changed.

A major global assessment of pollinators is raising concerns about the future of the planet's food supply.

A U.N.-sponsored report drawing on about 3,000 scientific papers concludes that about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species (such as bees and butterflies) are facing extinction. Vertebrate pollinators (such as bats and birds) are somewhat better off by comparison — 16 percent are threatened with extinction, "with a trend towards more extinctions," the researchers say.

One of the best ways to understand Zika virus might be to deliberately inject it into volunteers.

That idea may sound a little crazy, but it's not unprecedented. And some researchers are hoping the approach could help speed up the search for an effective Zika vaccine.

Right now, a bunch of labs are pursuing different ways of making a vaccine against Zika, mostly because of the concern that the virus might be linked to the birth defect called microcephaly.

Given recent advances in teleportation, it's reassuring to know that the human brain's navigation system appears to work just fine when we're beamed from place to place.

Meat has a greater impact on the environment than pretty much any other food we eat. As The Salt has reported, billions of cows, pigs, sheep and poultry we raise as livestock guzzle massive quantities of water and generate at least 10 percent of the total greenhouse gases attributed to human activity.

But scientists say we've been slow to acknowledge yet another side effect of our taste for meat: nitrogen pollution.

What if you had to go to the hospital, and when it came time to return home, your landlord said you couldn't move back in? Across the country, thousands of nursing home residents face that situation every year. In most cases, it's a violation of federal regulations. But those rules are rarely enforced by the states. So, in California, some nursing home residents are suing the state, hoping to force it to take action.

Author Isaac Asimov once wrote, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but, 'That's funny ... ' "

Good scientists search for the significance of surprises, coincidences and mistakes. With a little curiosity and perseverance, they can turn unexpected incidents into new insights.

Death Valley, Calif., one of the hottest places in the world, is in bloom with more than 20 species of colorful desert wildflowers.

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

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

One of the most puzzling astronomical discoveries of the past decade has just gotten a little bit clearer. Astronomers still don't know what's producing the brief, powerful bursts of radio waves they've been detecting, but for the first time, they've been able to see where one of them is coming from.

Astronomers first detected these so-called fast radio bursts in 2007. Until now, all 16 FRBs that have been reported have been found by combing through archival data.

More Rural Hospitals Are Closing Their Maternity Units

Feb 24, 2016

A few years ago, when a young woman delivered her baby at Alleghany Memorial Hospital in Sparta, N.C., it was in the middle of a Valentine's Day ice storm and the mountain roads out of town were impassable. The delivery was routine, but the baby girl had trouble breathing because her lungs weren't fully developed.

Dr. Maureen Murphy, the family physician who delivered her that night, stayed in touch with the neonatal intensive care unit at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, a 90-minute drive away, to consult on treatment for the infant.

As the drug-related death toll rises in the United States, communities are trying to open more treatment beds. But an ongoing labor shortage among drug treatment staff is slowing those efforts.

2 More U.S. Cases Of Zika Virus Likely Shared Via Sex

Feb 23, 2016

Health officials announced Tuesday that they are investigating 14 new U.S. cases of possible sexual transmission of the Zika virus.

The virus was confirmed to be in blood samples from two women, using a method that detects pieces of the virus' genetic material, say doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If this were a Sherlock Holmes story, its title would surely be "The Case of the Disappearing Quasar."

A western lowland gorilla at the Bristol Zoo Gardens successfully gave birth by a risky and rare emergency cesarean section.

The U.K. zoo released a video of the new baby, who is now 11 days old and weighs just over 2.2 pounds.

A warning: The beginning of the video shows a few seconds of the operation. You can skip to 0:20 for footage of the cute gorilla.

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

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Last December, NASA asked people if they wanted to be astronauts. The overwhelming answer was yes.

ANNE ROEMER: We had a record number of applications - roughly 18,300.

Hillary Clinton wants you to know that she was doing health care before health care was cool.

"You know, before it was called Obamacare it was called Hillarycare," Clinton said recently at a rally in Elko, Nev.

It's a stock line these days in her stump speeches and debates.

The term Hillarycare was coined back in the 1990s, when Clinton tried and failed to restructure the U.S. health care system during her husband's first term as president. It was supposed to be an insult, but now she's embracing it.

In a study powered by the labor of medical students, my colleagues and I found that two-thirds of clinical trials led by scientists at our finest academic institutions didn't share their results publicly within two years of the study's completion.

Moreover, none of these research institutions has a good record of sharing results. Many are much worse than the average.

A new study suggests that sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate and that the problem will continue well into this century.

"Sea level rise in the 20th century was truly extraordinary by historical standards," says Bob Kopp, an associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University, and who is lead author on the study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stumps for health care for everyone, it always gets huge applause.

"I believe that the U.S. should do what every other major country on Earth is doing," he told a crowd at Eastern Michigan University on Feb. 15. "And that is, guarantee health care to all people as a right."

The Democratic presidential hopeful basically wants to nationalize the U.S. health insurance industry, and have Uncle Sam foot the bill for medical bills, office visits and prescriptions.

Get rid of copays. Get rid of deductibles. Get rid of lots of forms.

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano. Yes, we're serious. Derek is one of just a few dozen known "sudden savants" or "accidental geniuses"—people who survive severe head injuries and come out the other side with special gifts for music or math or art. We were skeptical, so we brought Derek into a studio and asked him to play. He can't read music or even play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," but the music he improvises is beautiful.

You might expect the middle of the Pacific Ocean to be a pretty quiet place, especially a thousand feet down. But it turns out that huge parts of the ocean are humming.

Scientists have puzzled over the source of the sound for several years. Now, a marine biologist reporting Monday at a meeting of ocean scientists in New Orleans says she thinks her team may have figured it out.

Some $25 billion is headed to the five Gulf states that were devastated in the 2010 BP oil disaster. Just a fraction of the government fines and court settlements have been paid — but not all of it will end up repairing the damaged ecosystem.

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

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes really suck — literally and figuratively.

They're really good at finding and sucking on human blood. Which especially sucks, because their inescapable, insidious little bites can infect people with the Zika virus as well as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

These buggers — like most mosquitoes -- will bite where we're least likely to notice — at the ankles, behind the knees and at the back of our necks. No matter how much you cover up, one or two will home in on even the smallest cracks of exposed skin.

"Raise your hand if you have ever determined your location on the planet using the stars," Lt. Daniel Stayton tells his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.

A young officer halfheartedly puts up her hand. Another wavers. The rest of the class of 20 midshipmen sits stone-faced.

Strokes On The Rise Among Younger Adults

Feb 22, 2016

"I am what I like to call 'new stroke'," says Troy Hodge, a 43-year-old resident of Carroll County, Md. With a carefully trimmed beard and rectangular hipster glasses, Hodge looks spry. But two years ago, his brain stopped communicating for a time with the left half of his body.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

My husband died. He wasn't young any more and was sick and weak but we weren't expecting his death to come as quickly as it did, within a few days, almost overnight. He just went away. Maybe there are worse things than a quick, quiet death.

Here's what happened next.

My brother and sister-in-law (who live a couple of hours away) called: We'll be there tonight, and we're staying until you make us leave.

A friend: I have some lentil soup, may I bring it over? And may I bring the rest of my family and we'll all eat it together?

Mosquitoes. What Are They Good For?

Feb 19, 2016
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