Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

The coastal town of Fairhope has problem with geese. Officials will hold a public meeting today to discuss how to deal with the large number of birds that gather on the city's public beaches along Mobile Bay. Scientists say water is contaminated near the beaches, and goose waste may be part of the problem.

 Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A north Alabama company has won a contract worth as much $51.6 million for work at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The space agency says Analytical Services Inc. will provide strategic research and analysis at Marshall. It will also provide support services for communications at the NASA center. The one-year contract can be lengthened through extensions. ASI is based in Huntsville and has offices in Montgomery, Troy, Mich., and the Washington, D.C., region.

There's been a lot of controversy over the health care overhaul's requirement that most health plans this month to start covering contraceptive services for women as a free preventive benefit.

But that requirement may prevent some young women from falling into a coverage gap of a different kind: no maternity coverage.


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA's Curiosity rover has beamed back its first color photo from the ancient crater where it landed. The view showed a pebbly landscape and the rim of Gale Crater off in the distance. Curiosity snapped the photo on the first day on the surface after touching down on Mars Sunday night. The rover took the shot with a camera at the end of its robotic arm, which remained stowed. The landscape looked fuzzy because the camera's removable cover was coated with dust that kicked up during the descent to the ground.


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on late Sunday after the robotic explorer Curiosity signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere. The most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built touched down on the Martian surface inside of a giant crater after a tricky landing routine that included a series of braking tricks, a heat shield and a supersonic parachute.

It's Saturday night at the Metropolitan Room, a comedy club in New York City. Host Jimmy Failla is warming up the crowd.

"Where you guys from?" he asks one group in the audience. "Boston? Home of the Red Sox. Personally, we'd prefer you rooted for the Taliban!"

There are 50 or 60 people in the audience, sipping cocktails. Failla has a system. He asks people where they're from. Most are locals. He then hits them with something they can relate to.

Drugs to lower cholesterol run neck and neck with antidepressants for popularity in the U.S.

There's ample evidence cholesterol-lowering pills called statins can reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack. The pills are frequently prescribed for people who've never had a heart attack or stroke, but are at high risk for trouble.

Red Cross Launches Hurricane App For Smart Phones

Aug 1, 2012 / American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is launching a hurricane app for smart phones.

The nonprofit organization said the technology is designed for people who visit or live in hurricane-prone areas.

Officials say the free app is available for use on both iPhone and Android platforms.

Authorities say the new app gives instant access to local and real-time information on what to do before, during and after hurricanes. It also allows people to monitor personalized weather alerts in locations where family and friends reside and share information with others in their social networks.

Beginning today, most new and renewing health insurance plans must begin offering a broad array of women's preventive health services, most notably coverage of birth control, at no upfront cost.

But even as they take effect, the new rules remain the subject of legal challenges.

The Gilliam Cemetery, which lies 60 miles north of San Francisco, appears to be gaining residents lately. But it's not only because new people have been interred there. Instead, headstones that wound up being buried a century ago have been found and resurrected.

The cemetery's story begins in 1850, when a wagon train of pioneers left Missouri and settled near what is now Sebastopol, Calif. The Gilliam Cemetery was started in 1852, when Polly Gilliam Sullivan and her husband, Isaac, needed a place to bury their stillborn son.

Telescope Targets Black Holes' Binges And Burps

Jul 31, 2012

NASA's newest space telescope will start searching the universe for black holes on Wednesday. Scientists hope the NuSTAR X-ray telescope, which launched about six weeks ago and is now flying about 350 miles above the Earth, will help shed some light on the mysteries of these space oddities.

Mission control for the telescope is a small room on the University of California, Berkeley, campus, where about a dozen people with headsets rarely look up from their screens.

It's a diagnosis nobody in grad school would ever expect.

Arijit Guha, who's working on a doctorate at Arizona State, felt sick after coming back from a trip to India in early 2011. His severe stomach pain, which he thought was probably from a bug he caught on the journey, turned out to be caused by colon cancer. He was 30.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham says a new federal program focused on disease prevention is having a positive impact on the region. UAB’s local coalition aims to decrease death rates for cervical and breast cancer.

“Our program focused on women in eight counties in Alabama, particularly around screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer,” says Dr. Edward Partridge, Director of UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Society.

You may not have heard of pectus excavatum — or "sunken chest," as it's commonly known — but there's a good chance you know someone who was born with it.

It's the most common deformity of the chest wall, affecting roughly one in 500 people — boys much more often than girls. And while sunken chest can be corrected with surgery, the procedure is invasive and very painful. Many families won't do it.

One rite of passage most teenagers look forward to and parents dread is learning how to drive. Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens by far, on the order of five times more than poisoning or cancer. Does that mean you should scare the daylights out of teens to encourage safe driving? Traditional driver education classes tend to do exactly that, with gruesome videos and photos of fatalities and smashed-up cars.


MOSCOW (AP) — An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft (similar to the one pictured here) has redocked with the International Space Station after an aborted attempt five days earlier. The Progress cargo ship had separated from the station a week ago to perform engineering tests and try out a new docking system and had been due to reconnect with the station on Tuesday. But problems developed with the avionics in the docking system. The second attempt early Sunday was successful. Video streamed from Russian mission control reported no problems.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana researcher says the "dead zone" that develops every spring and summer in the Gulf of Mexico is smaller than usual this year. Nancy Rabalais (RAB uh LAY) of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium says the area of low-oxygen in gulf waters covers 2,889 square miles. In a news release, Rabalais says that is the fourth smallest dead zone measured since mapping of the zones began in 1985. The dead zone forms because fertilizer and other nutrients run into the Mississippi River, which empties into the gulf.

Where Did All The Watermelon Seeds Go?

Jul 26, 2012

Many people think of the seedless watermelons popping up at grocery stores and markets everywhere in the last few years as a marvel of modern scientific technology. In fact, more than 60 percent of watermelon shoppers seek this smoother pink flesh, and the numbers are increasing every year, according to a recent survey done for the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

'Calling My Children' And The Faces Of AIDS

Jul 26, 2012

Photographer David Binder began documenting stories about AIDS in the late 1980s and became well known for humanizing the epidemic for various publications, including Life magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The big question hanging over the International AIDS Conference this week is whether all 34 million people in the world with HIV can possibly get antiviral drug treatment.

Alabama Improved In Kids Count Rankings; Is 45th

Jul 25, 2012
KIDS COUNT / Annie E. Casey Foundation

Children in Alabama are still dealing with obstacles as they face the future, but the 2012 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Alabama children with their best ranking in overall well-being since the data book began publication in 1990.

But it also shows that Alabama still has much work to do in insuring a bright future for children. Alabama ranks 45th in the new data book.

When the next epidemic comes, there's a good chance it will switch flights at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Researchers at MIT have developed a pretty nifty computer model to figure out the most influential airports in the early stages of an epidemic's spread.

The cool weather in London is good news for the Olympic athletes because their bodies won't need to put as much energy into cooling off.

But most of us aren't lucky enough to be headed to London, and we could use some help keeping cool.

When you get hot you sweat — but it's not enough to just sweat. To cool off, you need that sweat to evaporate. It's evaporation that drains the heat from your body.

Track The Spread Of AIDS Across The Globe

Jul 25, 2012

Its expansion was frighteningly fast. A handful of cases were first recognized in the U.S. at the beginning of the 1980s, but AIDS was soon seen around the world.

By 1990, the world had a pandemic on its hands. In 1997, the peak of the epidemic, more than 3 million people became newly infected with HIV.

Greil Hospital Closing In Shift To Community Care

Jul 24, 2012
Alabama Department of Mental Health / Alabama Joblink

Greil Memorial Psychiatric Hospital will shut its doors as part of a nationwide move to put patients into community-based care.

The facility will stop taking patients by Aug. 17 and focus on placing its 62 residents elsewhere.

The state Department of Mental Health is working with the directors of three-community based health centers to increase their services ahead of the move. Department Commissioner Jim Reddoch says that patients who cannot be placed in a community setting will be taken to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa.

The HIV epidemic among African-Americans is getting deserved new attention at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. And the news isn't all bad.

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black high school students are engaging in risky sexual behavior far less often than they were 20 years ago.

Since black teens are the future of the epidemic for the hardest-hit ethnic group, this is encouraging.

Here are the main results:

How To Make Condoms For Women Fashionable

Jul 24, 2012

Two of the more colorful events at the 19th International AIDS Conference so far are focused on a single message: The world needs more female condoms.

The first event was an intimate fashion show Monday night, featuring dresses made with female condoms. Highlights of the show included a beautiful baby-doll dress layered with white condoms and a yellow miniskirt covered with condoms twisted into roses.

Scientists Says Lionfish Population Exploding in Gulf

Jul 23, 2012
NOAA's National Ocean Service / Flickr

Scientists say there’s an exploding population of lionfish off Alabama’s coast and are concerned how it could affect the ecosystem. The spiky, brown-and-white striped fish are native to the Pacific Ocean, but not the Gulf or Atlantic. Scientists believe the invasive species was first introduced about 20 years ago in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. Karon Aplin is with Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Thirty years ago, we first began hearing about AIDS — then a mysterious, unnamed disease that was initially thought to be a rare form of cancer that affected gay men. Scientists soon learned that it was neither of those things, and, in fact, it was a virus that everyone was vulnerable to.

That vulnerability became apparent when, in 1991, basketball superstar Magic Johnson announced that we would retire immediately because he had contracted HIV.

Long before the era of post-Sept. 11 security precautions in the U.S., an unknown person or group of people may have begun carrying out a series of bioterrorism attacks in California.

The target? Menthol-scented eucalyptus trees.

Before you wonder why you hadn't heard of this, it's because the story isn't necessarily true. It's a hypothesis, a theory promoted by a noted California entomologist and eucalyptus expert named Timothy Paine.

If his theory is correct, then somebody out there wants those trees dead.

Digging For Clues