Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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Summer is winding down, but when members of Congress return to Washington from their vacations next week, many of their constituents want them to do something about the mosquitoes — the ones carrying Zika virus, to be specific. A new survey shows that three quarters of Americans say Congress should make the allocation of more money to deal with the Zika outbreaks in Florida and Puerto Rico an "important" or "top priority" when they return to Washington. "People generally do value spending...

Against the backdrop of the picturesque Lake Tahoe, President Obama said environmental conservation is a key part of fighting the impact of global warming. Obama spoke on the first of a two-day environmental tour at an annual summit designed to keep the health of Lake Tahoe a priority for the federal government and the states it borders, Nevada and California. "We embrace conservation because healthy and diverse lands and waters help us build resilience to climate change," the president said....

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

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

It's been four years since scientists first started accusing a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, of killing bees. These pesticides are used as seed coatings on most corn and soybean seeds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a new look at neonics, but it hasn't imposed any new restrictions on the pesticides. Now Minnesota is stepping ahead on its own. Last Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered a variety of steps to help pollinators, including bees....

An experimental drug dramatically reduced the toxic plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, a team reports in the journal Nature . Results from a small number of patients who received a high dose of the drug, called aducanumab , hint that it may also be able to slow the loss of memory and thinking. "If that hint of a clinical benefit is confirmed, it would be a game changer in the fight against Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Eric Reiman , executive director of the...

"I'm not comfortable eating a watch battery." That's how researcher Christopher Bettinger describes one of the biggest obstacles for sending tiny medical robots into the human body for diagnosing and treating diseases. These devices run on batteries (like those in watches) and they are usually made of toxic materials such as lithium. This month, Bettinger, based at Carnegie Mellon University, presented his group's work on creating edible, nontoxic batteries at a national meeting of the...

Residents of Hawaii are keeping a close eye on two hurricanes in the Pacific, Madeline and Lester. And astronauts have been watching the storms, too — from a different angle. On Tuesday, the International Space Station caught a spectacular view of both storms, as well as a powerful hurricane in the Atlantic. The strongest storm in the video is Gaston, currently passing through the open ocean far from land. It's a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. The two...

The extended drought in California has farmers looking for ways to use less water. Among them: growing feed indoors using hydroponics. The new diet is making some Central Valley sheep very happy. On Golden Valley Farm an hour north of Fresno, Mario Daccarett's employees milk 500 sheep every day, in rounds of 12. This creamy milk eventually is turned into cheese and sold at places like Whole Foods. "They tell me that our Golden Ewe cheese is the best for grilled cheese sandwich ever,"...

At a campground in northwestern Montana, 30 people are groggily gearing up for a day of mushroom picking. Most are here because they want an excuse to get outside and taste some of Montana's more exotic wild mushrooms. But others, like Matt Zaitz from Kansas, are here to turn a profit. "It's not easy work," Zaitz says. "It's tough." Zaitz started picking mushrooms in the Midwest this spring and followed them north as the season progressed. He's now hunting morels in the Crown of the Continent...

We are running out of ways to treat gonorrhea, the World Health Organization announced today. The U.N. health agency released new guidelines warning doctors that it no longer recommends an entire class of antibiotics, quinolones, because quinolone-resistant strains of the disease have emerged all over the world. Instead, the health agency recommends using cephalosporins, another class of antibiotic. The new protocol replaces guidelines that had not been changed since 2003. According to the...

When you praise a dog, it's listening not just to the words you say but also how you say them. That might not be huge news to dog owners. But now scientists have explored this phenomenon by using an imaging machine to peek inside the brains of 13 dogs as they listened to their trainer's voice. The reward pathway in the dogs' brains lit up when they heard both praising words and an approving intonation — but not when they heard random words spoken in a praising tone or praise words spoken in a...

They aren't saying it's alien, but they are saying it's "interesting." The SETI Institute — the private organization that looks for signals of extraterrestrial life — has announced that it is investigating reports of an unusual radio signal picked up by Russian astronomers. The signal was detected on a much wider bandwidth than the SETI Institute uses in its searches, and the strength of the received signal was "weak," SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak wrote in a blog post . It was...

Alabama health officials are planning to test for tuberculosis at an automotive plant near Montgomery after one employee was confirmed to be infected. Pam Barrett, the director of tuberculosis control with the Alabama Department of Public Health, says testing and evaluations will begin today at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama outside Montgomery. Barrett says only the employees who were in close contact with the infected worker will need to be tested. Pulmonary tuberculosis is an airborne...

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

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

Forget Hawaii or Fiji. The spot that's really got surfers talking these days is a secluded pond more than 100 miles from the ocean, in California's Central Valley. "It's just an amazing, amazing wave," says Robert "Wingnut" Weaver , a longboarder from Santa Cruz, Calif., and one of just a handful of surfers who have ridden the wave. "It's mind-blowing." But it's not natural. A machine generates these breakers in an experimental wave pool south of Fresno, in Lemoore, Calif. And, unlike natural...

Everywhere you turn, it seems, there's news about the human microbiome. And, more specifically, about the bacteria that live in your gut and help keep you healthy. Those bacteria, it turns out , are hiding a big secret: their own microbiome. A study published Monday suggests some viruses in your gut could be beneficial. And these viruses don't just hang out in your intestines naked and homeless. They live inside the bacteria that make their home in your gut. These particular viruses are...

We know a lot about the life of Lucy, the famous fossil of Australopithecus afarensis — our ancient ancestor and bridge to the ape world. Lucy was 3 feet tall; she lived in what is now Ethiopia and she walked upright. She ate leaves, grass and maybe nuts and seeds . She probably slept in a tree nest. And now, scientists say they know something about her death. In a study published Monday in Nature, researchers at the University of Texas present evidence they say shows Lucy died after she fell...

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The Norwegian government says 323 reindeer were apparently struck by lightning last week and died. The animals lived on a mountain plateau in central Norway called the Hardangervidda. The rugged alpine landscape is (usually) a good place for a reindeer — delicious lichens grow on exposed rocks, and the area is protected from development because it falls within a national park . The Norwegian Nature Inspectorate wrote in a press release that officials discovered a field of carcasses on Friday...

Isaac Asimov inspired roboticists with his science fiction and especially his robot laws. The first one says: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Artist and roboticist Alexander Reben has designed a robot that purposefully defies that law. "It hurts a person and it injures them," Reben says. His robot pricks fingers, hurting "in the most minimal way possible," he says. And the robot's actions are unpredictable — but not random. "It...

It has been a year since Christiane Heinicke has had an egg. Or been in a car. Or gone outside without a spacesuit. Since last August, the German physicist has been living with five other people in a 1,200-square-foot, solar-powered dome on the side of a Hawaiian volcano in an experiment in Mars-like living. The project, known as the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS , ended Sunday. Today, the crew is back in the town of Kailua-Kona to debrief and answer the big...

More than three dozen just-released audits reveal how some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated, often by overstating the severity of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and depression. The Center for Public Integrity recently obtained, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit , the federal audits of 37 Medicare Advantage programs. These audits have never before been made public, and though they reveal overpayments...

The rumbling started on the afternoon of May 22, 1960. Sergio Barrientos , then about 8 years old, was walking down a street in his hometown in southern Chile when the ground started to shake. He remembers electrical wires swinging from the telephone poles — so violently that they slapped each other from opposite sides of the street. "At the same time, I saw some of the chimneys falling down through the roofs of the houses," says Barrientos. The ground shook so hard that he was knocked off...

Typically superheroes spend their summertime helming big budget franchises for movie studios. This year, with blockbuster season winding down and schools opening their doors, Marvel's following up its summer at the multiplex by giving its superheroes a new assignment . Last week, the publisher unveiled the last of five special covers featuring disciplines that guide school curricula nationwide — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, also known as STEAM. It's part of an effort, the...

Remember the toucan in Costa Rica who had its upper beak hacked off by a perpetrator who was never found? Well, here's an update to a story we first told you about last year. And, spoiler alert — it has a happy ending. Local residents brought the bird to a nearby animal rescue center. And thanks to its dedicated workers, amazing doctors and engineers, the toucan now has a prosthetic beak. That new beak and Grecia, as the bird's called, went on public display just this last week at ZooAve, a...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR . SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Texas has some of the best medical care facilities in the world, but a study in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Journal singles out Texas for concern because its maternal mortality rate has doubled. From 2010 to 2014, the mortality rate for mothers dying from complications of childbirth has risen in the U.S. generally over a decade, but that increase has been sharpest in Texas where more than 600 women died between 2010 and...

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