Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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

Astronomers think they've discovered a new planet in our solar system.

Now all they have to do is find it.

Nobody's actually seen the new planet. The reason astronomers think it's out there is the strange behavior of some smallish objects in the Kuiper Belt, a collection of celestial objects orbiting in the outer reaches of the solar system.

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

Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo, N.D., attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

A computer may soon be able to offer highly personalized treatment suggestions for cancer patients based on the specifics of their cases and the full sweep of the most relevant scientific research.

IBM and the New York Genome Center, a consortium of medical research institutions in New York City, are collaborating on a project to speed up cancer diagnoses and treatment.

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Computer programs often reflect the biases of their very human creators. That's been well established.

The question now is: How can we fix that problem?

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

Just 12 years ago, researchers feared that the California Island fox, a species about the size of a cat inhabiting a group of islands off the Southern California coast, was toast. Non-native predators and pesticides had dramatically reduced their ranks. The few that remained were placed on the endangered species list.

Sharks can live to be at least 272 years old in the Arctic seas, and scientists say one recently caught shark may have lived as long as 512 years.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Sometimes what we call the slug for a story turns heads all day long. The slug is the short phrase that identifies a story on our show board. Well, the slug for this next piece is eagles killing other rare birds. Here's the background.

Researchers in Brazil who are trying to help people with spine injuries gain mobility have made a surprising discovery: Injured people doing brain training while interacting with robot-like machines were able to regain some sensation and movement.

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

Night owls and stargazers, get ready for something spectacular on Thursday.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, already one of the most reliably impressive celestial events, promises to be especially good this year.

The Perseid shower happens every year in August "when Earth ventures through trails of debris left behind by an ancient comet," according to NASA.

Puerto Rico is in the midst of one of the worst Zika outbreaks of any region in the northern hemisphere. The island has been reporting roughly 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. Hundreds of pregnant women are already infected, and public health officials say the outbreak in Puerto Rico probably won't start to subside until September or October.

Yet health officials also say efforts to stop the spread of the virus are being hampered by mistrust, indifference and fatigue among residents, over what some view as just the latest tropical disease to hit the island.

When tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted in March to having taken the heart drug meldonium, the public got a rare glimpse of a common practice that's often called "legal doping."

A study of drinking water supplies throughout the U.S. shows that numerous sources are contaminated with firefighting chemicals.

A team of scientists examined government data from thousands of public drinking water supplies. The water samples had been collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The scientists were looking for several types of chemicals from a class of fluorinated substances used commonly in firefighting foam.

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

Three college-age scientists think they know how to solve a huge problem facing medicine. They think they've found a way to overcome antibiotic resistance.

Many of the most powerful antibiotics have lost their efficacy against dangerous bacteria, so finding new antibiotics is a priority.

It's too soon to say for sure if the young researchers are right, but if gumption and enthusiasm count for anything, they stand a fighting chance.

Until March of this year, Janet Prochazka was active and outspoken, living by herself and working as a special education tutor. Then a bad fall landed her in the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Doctors cared for her wounds and treated her pneumonia. But Prochazka, who is 75, didn't sleep or eat well in the hospital, and became confused and agitated. Then she contracted a serious stomach infection.

"Microbes have always ruled the planet but for the first time in history, they are fashionable," writes Ed Yong in his new book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, on sale Tuesday.

WATCH: Lessons In Wound Healing From Our Favorite Fly

Aug 9, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

During the Olympics we will hear a lot about the winners. But the reality is most athletes at the games come home without a medal. Today we explore what losing does to athletes, fans and anyone who casts a vote for president.

Listen to this week's episode to hear the story of judo star Jimmy Pedro, and how he dealt with a crushing defeat in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Daniel Pink also joins Shankar for a Stopwatch Science competition on all the unintended consequences of losing.

Stopwatch Science

High blood pressure, once considered a scourge of wealthy nations, is now even more common in low- and middle-income countries, according to an analysis in the journal Circulation.

Globally, more than 30 percent of the population suffered from high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, in 2010. That represents a notable increase over the span of a decade, driven by a dramatic rise of hypertension in less wealthy nations, according to the new study.

Athletes Go For Gold With Red Spots Blazing

Aug 8, 2016

Swimmer Michael Phelps won Olympic gold again Sunday while covered in red — red spots, roughly medal-size, all over his shoulders and back.

The marks were the result of an ancient Eastern medicinal therapy known as cupping that is achieving new popularity among some athletes in the United States, including numerous Olympians.

Cupping typically involves treating muscle pain and other ailments with cups that apply suction to skin. Cupping is often combined with other forms of alternative medicine, such as acupuncture and massage.

Worm isn't a scientific term. According to one of the Smithsonian's worm experts, Anna Phillips, a worm is just "an organism that is long and thin ... without legs ... that's not a snake."

This summer, NPR's science desk is thinking about waves, of all kinds — ocean, gravitational, even stadium waves. But what is a wave, anyway? My editor asked me to puzzle that one out. And, to be honest, I was puzzled.

Is a wave a thing? Or is it the description of a thing? Or is it a mathematical formula that produces a curve that gives you the description of a thing?

A few years ago, almost every aspect of Rosanne Mottola's life was governed by the feeling in her gut. Literally.

"I experienced extreme urgency to have to use the bathroom. Pain. Bleeding," says Mottola, who has ulcerative colitis. "A lot of times I would go the whole day without eating," she says, so that she wouldn't have to rush to the bathroom so often.

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