Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Last January, Noelle Murphy and her family were on their way to the Please Touch Museum for children in Philadelphia. Right before they arrived, 3-year-old Dylan had an accident.

"He wet himself," Murphy said, "And we were thinking, 'Oh no, how are we going to deal with this?' "

Usually they're naked, ancient and stony. But all of a sudden, they could live next door.

A dapper older gentleman spurns his mate of a certain age to take a fresh-faced young lover. You've seen that movie before, right?

Well, this choice of youth may turn out to be more than a Hollywood trope. Researchers say decisions like that one may have been the evolutionary source of menopause.

Richard Van As was working in his home near Johannesburg, South Africa, in May of 2011, when he lost control of his table saw.

"It's a possibility that it was a lack of concentration," he says. "It's just that the inevitable happened."

The human voice appears to trigger pleasure circuits in the brains of typical kids, but not children with autism, a Stanford University team reports. The finding could explain why many children with autism seem indifferent to spoken words.

Coast Guard: Tug Boat Sparked April Barge Explosion

Jun 17, 2013

A Coast Guard report says a passing tugboat helped spark the massive explosions that rocked the Mobile River and injured three people in April.

A preliminary report   says workers were cleaning fuel storage tanks on two barges moored at Oil Recovery Co. in Mobile on April 24.

The report says flammable vapors from the barges entered the engine room of the towing boat Safety Runner, causing a brief fire. Investigators believe the flames traveled back to the barges and resulted in the explosions.

The 19th century just lost its last living man.

Jiroemon Kimura, of Kyotango, Japan, was born in April 1897, lived right through the 20th century and died last Wednesday. He was 116. According to Guinness World Records (which searches for these things), he was the last surviving male born in the 1800s. All the other boys from that century, as best we know, are dead.



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that patenting natural human genetic material must stop. But the court also ruled that synthetically produced DNA is fair. The decision was prompted by patents on a gene test for breast cancer which was issued to Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City. We're joined now in our studio by Arthur Caplan, who's head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU's Langone Medical Center. Thanks very much for being with us.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new rule that would extend "endangered species" protections to chimpanzees held in captivity. Nearly half of all the chimps in the U.S. live in research facilities, and the regulation changes would make it more difficult to use these animals in medical experiments.

Australian archaeologists using remote-sensing technology have uncovered an ancient city in Cambodia that has remained hidden for more than a millennium under dense jungle undergrowth.

The discovery of Mahendraparvata, a 1,200-year-old lost city that predates Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat temple complex by 350 years, was part of the Hindu-Buddhist Khmer Empire that ruled much of Southeast Asia from about 800 to 1400 A.D., during a time that coincided with Europe's Middle Ages.

The diet world has a new golden child: green coffee extract.

A "miracle fat burner!" "One of the most important discoveries made" in weight loss science, the heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz said about the little pills — which are produced by grinding up raw, unroasted coffee, and then soaking the result in alcohol to pull out the antioxidants.



This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented. The case involves a dispute over patents held on the BRCA1 and the BRCA2 genes, the so-called breast cancer genes; and tests a company, Myriad Genetics, used to look for mutations to those genes.

Denis Hayes on Being Green

Jun 14, 2013



Anyone who has taken some time on Earth Day to contemplate the planet has my next guest to thank. Danis Hayes was the first national coordinator for Earth Day back in 1970, and if I might insert a personal note, Earth Day back in 1970 was also the anniversary of my first science story I ever did. So this is very interesting, and I'm very happy to have as my guest today Denis Hayes, who is, and as I say, he's head of the Solar Energy Research Institute under President Jimmy Carter.

With Climate Change, No Happy Clams

Jun 14, 2013



Think for a minute about the victims of climate change. You might envision the polar bear, right? You see a lot of that in the news, atop a block of melting ice or - where there's no ice to grab onto, or the great ice sheet covering Greenland drip, drip, dripping away, or the tiny island of Tuvalu whose people and beaches might soon be swallowed by rising seas.

Rolling Out Bamboo Bicycles

Jun 14, 2013



Up next, Flora Lichtman is here with us for our Video Pick of the Week. Hi, Flora.


You went with something Seattlely(ph). How would I describe it - Seattle-like this week for this week's video.

That's right. When in Mayor McSchwinn's city, you have to go with the bikes. Lightening it up for pick of the week, but - as usual.


LICHTMAN: Oh, yes. This week's video is about, not just any bicycle builders, these are folks who are building bicycles out of bamboo.



This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. He's been called Mayor McSchwinn for riding his bicycle to work. He's pledged to turn his town of Seattle into a model for what one city can do to lower its carbon footprint, and for good reason. As the climate changes, coastal cities like Seattle are challenged by rising sea levels.



This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Your brain has nearly 100 billion neurons, and one of my next guests compares that complexity to the Amazon rainforest. In fact, he says there about as many trees in the Amazon as there are neurons in your brain. Think about what the Amazon looks like for a second.

Looking Back, and Up, at a Seattle Icon

Jun 14, 2013



We are broadcasting today from the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. And just steps away from this building, right outside is something that should be familiar to anyone who's ever received a postcard from Seattle or taken home a pen or a glass or anything tchotchke of any kind. And it's the Space Needle, built in connection with the 1962 World's Fair. It is an iconic part of the Seattle skyline.

Look through a series of 15th-century woodcuts, and you'll find that the leper is as much an icon of medieval art as the crown or the cross.

Leprosy was so common in Europe during the Middle Ages that it's estimated 1 in 30 people was infected with the bacteria. But by the turn of the 16th century, after the Crusades had swept across Europe, the disease mysteriously disappeared. And it never returned.

This left scientists puzzled. Did the bacteria mutate to become less harmful, or did Europeans become resistant to the germs?

The egg of the future may not involve a chicken at all. In fact, in the high-tech food lab at Hampton Creek Foods in San Francisco, the chicken-less egg substitute has already been hatched.



This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan.

We've all seen a flock of birds shift direction instantaneously mid-flight, or a school of fish swirl in what looked like tightly choreographed maneuvers. That's called collective behavior and it fascinated and baffled scientists. Why do they do it? How? Telepathy? Now technology is revolutionizing the way researchers can track, visualize and even create swarms, and what they're finding will make you go wow.

A trio of Chinese astronauts has successfully docked with the Tiangong-1 space laboratory for what's expected to be a total of 15 days in orbit — the longest mission to date for China's burgeoning manned space program.

A once-a-day pill has been proven to lower the risk of getting HIV among needle-using drug addicts, just as it does among heterosexual couples and men who have sex with men.

Among 2,400 injecting drug users in Bangkok, those assigned to take a daily dose of an antiviral drug Viread, or tenofovir generically, had half the risk of getting HIV over a four-year period as those who took a placebo pill. Among those who took tenofovir faithfully, there were 74 percent fewer infections.

What is it about dolphins? They have very, very big brains, and that makes we humans, whose brains are nothing to sniff at, nervous. We don't know what to make of them.

The latest example: On May 17 in India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued an order to all Indian states banning dolphin amusement parks. No leaping out of pools to catch balls, no jumping through hoops. Forcing dolphins to entertain humans, the ministry said, was morally unacceptable.

Nature documentaries always go on and on about how fast a cheetah can run. Cats in captivity have been clocked at 65 miles an hour, the highest speed recorded for any land animal.

And yet, scientists know very little about how the animal runs in the wild, especially when on the hunt.

"You can look at it and say, 'Oh that's fast,' " says Alan Wilson, a veterinarian at the Royal Veterinary College, London. "But you can't actually describe what route it follows, or how quickly it's gone, or the details of [the] forces it has to exert to do that."

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the classic film, Jurassic Park. Michael Dhar, a science writer and contributor to the website Live Science, tells Melissa Block and Audie Cornish about how the science featured in the movie holds up to what we know about dinosaurs today.



The connected car promises voice-activated systems that let drivers dictate emails and texts, make a dinner reservation or update their Facebook page, all while behind the wheel. Some cars already have these options. Many more are on the way. Carmakers say it's safer than fiddling around with a smartphone.

When a kid lops off a fingertip with a cleaver or car door, there's a chance the end of the digit will grow back. The fingerprint will be gone, and the tip may look a bit strange. But the flesh, bone and nail could return.

Now biologists at New York University have figured out just how this lizard-like regeneration happens in mice. There's some secret sauce at the nail cuticle that makes it possible, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

If you've felt smug and safe using built-in, voice-controlled technology for text messages, email and phone calls while driving, forget it. There are some sobering findings about the risk of distraction from the American Automobile Association and the University of Utah.

The proliferation of hands-free technology "is a looming public safety crisis," AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet says. "It's time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars."

The Bracken Bat Cave, just north of San Antonio, is as rural as it gets. You have to drive down a long, 2-mile rocky road to reach it. There's nothing nearby — no lights, no running water. The only thing you hear are the katydids.

The cave houses a massive bat colony, as it has for an estimated 10,000 years. Bat Conservation International, the group that oversees the Bracken Cave Reserve, wants it to stay secluded, but the area's rural nature could change if a local developer's plan moves forward.