Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Astronomers are offering the general public a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to discover a new planet in our solar system.

Many astronomers now think there may be a massive, undiscovered planet lurking in the far reaches of our solar system. Right now, however, the existence of this planet is theoretical. So the hunt is on to actually capture an image of it.

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

Poised on the brink of ushering in a new era, NASA's historic launch pad in Florida will need to wait another day for its milestone. At the last minute, the private space company SpaceX scrubbed its Saturday launch, which would have marked the first time the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A was used in over half a decade.

Polar bears aren't the only beloved Arctic animal threatened by climate change. Scientists believe reindeer are at risk as a warming world makes their main winter food source disappear.

But reindeer on one Alaskan island are surprising researchers.

And that surprise doesn't just come from the fact that the reindeer are hard to spot.

On St. Paul Island, Lauren Divine of the EcoSystem Conservation Office was not having luck seeing a herd of 400 reindeer, even on this treeless island with tundra as far as the eye can see.

We keep on learning from great lives.

On Oct. 16, 1939, just weeks after Germany invaded Poland and Britain was at war, Winston Churchill, who had warned of Germany's wicked and avaricious ambitions, was called out of political isolation to become First Lord of the Admiralty and drafted an essay in which he asked, perhaps himself as much as anyone who would read it, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

Living by the ocean might sound nice, but in the era of climate change, it's a risky proposition.

As sea levels rise, coastal residents are faced with tough choices: try to fortify their homes, move to higher ground or just pull up roots and leave.

Homeowners in Nahant, Mass., are grappling with these wrenching questions. The community lies on a rocky crescent moon of land in the Atlantic Ocean just north of Boston.

For its entire history, it has been at the mercy of the ocean.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

As immigrant communities across the U.S. watch the battle over President Trump's administration ban, there is also concern among some scientists and medical groups.

They say there should be a welcoming atmosphere for the thousands of international researchers and students who attend conferences every year in the U.S. and help shape medical and technical advances.

Many scientific, academic and medical groups signed onto a letter urging the president to rescind his original immigration executive order.

These days, you're more likely to come across the concept of a Rorschach test in a cultural context than a clinical one. The actual psychological test — in which participants are asked to interpret 10 symmetric inkblot images — isn't as widely used as it once was. But metaphorically, Rorschach is still our go-to term when something elicits a variety of interpretations among different people.

Since going over capacity last week, the water level in the Oroville Dam has dropped, but it's still at a higher level for this time of year than the previous 16 years.

The economy in southwestern Pennsylvania has been hit twice, once by the collapse of big mining and steel employers, and again by the environmental destruction that accompanied those industries.

It's a part of the country that voted heavily for Donald Trump.

Ashley Funk grew up an hour outside Pittsburgh. The area feels kind of left behind with buildings named after mining companies and polluted ponds turned fluorescent, alarming colors.

Yahoo is warning some of its users that their accounts might have been breached by intruders using forged cookies, allowing them to access private information without knowing users' passwords.

Cookies are pieces of code stored by browsers to, among other things, keep track of whether a user is logged into a password-protected account. They're also used for innocuous functions, such as keeping track of online shopping cart contents.

You know those nasty brown spots that can ruin an otherwise perfectly delicious apple? Those spots and other problems — like blossom blight and yellow leaves — are often caused by fungi. Apple growers usually fight back with fungicides, but a new study has found that those fungicides could be hurting honey bees.

"The long-standing assumption is that fungicides won't be toxic to insects," says May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

For most of human history, we had a lot of bad ideas about how we were getting sick. We also had plenty of bad ideas about how to prevent it, like bloodletting, drilling large holes in the head and drinking arsenic.

We really only started to figure out how to effectively fight infectious disease about 200 years ago, when, inspired by milkmaids, a doctor named Edward Jenner decided to take a closer look at a promising folk remedy - the surprising details we'll leave for the video.

If history is a matter of dispute in the Middle East, so too is some of the archaeology underway to document and preserve remnants of that history.

The Israeli military has an archaeology unit that is responsible for excavations in most of the West Bank, land captured by Israel in 1967 and sought by Palestinians for an independent state.

The U.S. patent office has delivered a potentially lucrative victory to bioengineer Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute in Massachusetts, regarding patents for an extraordinarily useful gene-editing tool.

CRISPR, a technology that's already worth billions of dollars, is shaping up to play a big role in medicine and medical research because it can edit DNA with unprecedented accuracy. But exactly who has the right to profit from the technology has been up for debate.

Two of the most influential groups in the food industry are asking companies to change those pesky "expiration" or "sell by" labels on packaged food.

Aetna, one of the nation's largest insurance companies, says that starting in March it will remove what's been a key barrier for patients seeking medication to treat their opioid addiction. The change will apply to all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a switch in recent months.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

On Wednesday morning, NASA rewarded five members of the public — two doctors, a dentist, an engineer and a product designer — for their creative ideas for how to poop in a spacesuit.

Yes, it sounds a little bit funny. But unmet toilet needs could have life or death consequences for an astronaut in an emergency situation.

That's why thousands of people spent tens of thousands of hours on the "Space Poop Challenge," brainstorming, modeling, prototyping and number-crunching to come up with a crowd-sourced solution to the problem of human waste in a spacesuit.

Americans say they're feeling more stress, according to a survey released Wednesday by the American Psychological Association.

Americans rated their stress higher in January compared to last August, increasing from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 10-point scale. That's the first significant increase in the 10 years that the association has been doing these polls.

After two days of round-the-clock work to control water flowing over the Oroville Dam in Northern California, people who live downstream of the structure are allowed to return to their homes, officials announced Tuesday.

Nearly 200,000 people were affected by evacuations after water scoured enormous holes in two of the dam's concrete spillways beginning Sunday, raising concerns that the tallest dam in the country could fail.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The musician and multimedia artist has co-created an immersive experience designed to make people aware of their implicit biases. It's called "The Institute Presents: Neurosociety."

Read the full story at KQED.

Scientists could be allowed to make modifications in human DNA that can be passed down through subsequent generations, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine say.

Such a groundbreaking step should only be considered after more research and then only be conducted under tight restrictions, the academies write in a highly anticipated report released Tuesday. Such work should be reserved to prevent serious diseases and disabilities, it says.

About 3,000 years ago, a potter near Jerusalem made a big jar. It was meant to hold olive oil or wine or something else valuable enough to send to the king as a tax payment. The jar's handles were stamped with a royal seal, and the pot went into the kiln.

Over the next 600 years, despite wars destructive enough to raze cities, potters in the area kept making ceramic tax jars, each one stamped with whatever seal represented the ruler du jour.

They didn't know it, but in the process, the ancient potters were not just upholding centuries of tax bureaucracy.

The world is in a hyperinfectious era. And that means there are a lot of words being tossed around that you might not be familiar with. Or maybe you have a general idea of what they mean but wish you knew more.

Here are some key terms and definitions. And yes, there will be a quiz (coming in March so you have time to study).

Pygmy elephants. Monkeys with noses the size of beer cans. And a deer so small you could cradle it like a baby.

And right there, sitting on a leaf, is the strangest bug we've ever seen.

"Check out the size of it," says virus hunter Kevin Olival as he picks up a ginormous roly-poly. "It's the size of a ping-pong ball!"

Few topics send the media into a panic like the idea of hookup culture on college campuses. But are college students actually having more sex than their parents did a generation ago? Research suggests the answer is no.

Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College, says something has changed, though: In today's hookup culture, developing an emotional attachment to a casual sex partner is one of the biggest breaches of social norms.

Most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about what the farmed seafood we eat might itself be eating. The answer is usually an opaque diet that includes some kind of fishmeal and fish oil. Fishmeal is usually made from ground-up, bony trash fish and forage fish — like anchovy, menhaden or herring — that nobody is clamoring for, anyway.

Except researchers now say these are the very types of fish that may be more valuable to humans who eat them directly, rather than being diverted toward aquaculture and other uses.

The Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific is the deepest part of the world's oceans. You might think a place that remote would be untouched by human activity.

But the Mariana Trench is polluted.

At its deepest — about 7 miles down — the water in the trench is near freezing. The pressure would crush a human like a bug. Scientists have only recently explored it.

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