Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

From anthrax outbreaks in thawing permafrost to rice farms flooded with salty water, climate change seems to play a bigger and bigger role in global health each year.

Sugar shocked.

That describes the reaction of many Americans this week following revelations that, 50 years ago, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists for research that shifted the focus away from sugar's role in heart disease — and put the spotlight squarely on dietary fat.

What might surprise consumers is just how many present-day nutrition studies are still funded by the food industry.

Donald Trump sat down with controversial TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz on his show, set to air Thursday, to discuss his personal health and medical history.

Health care providers and insurers agree that it's in everyone's best interest to refer women for genetic testing if their family history of breast or ovarian cancer puts them at higher risk. What they don't agree on is what should happen before testing — whether women need to be advised by a certified genetic counselor or someone with similar training before the test is ordered.

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

Vampire bats are thirsty creatures. And they drink only one beverage: mammalian blood.

Each night, they hop on the ground, crawl up to an unsuspecting victim and latch onto its ankle.

Then the little critters use razor-sharp incisors to slice a deep, tiny wound into a victim's skin. As blood flows out of the wound, the bat laps it up — about a tablespoon per bite.

Most of the time, these bites are harmless – if not a bit uncomfortable. But if the bat carries rabies, a quick nip can be deadly.

When It Comes To Our Politics, Family Matters

Sep 12, 2016

It can happen anywhere: that moment when you gaze at the people around you and realize you simply can't understand their politics.

How can these people – be they our friends, colleagues or, worst of all, our spouses – believe as they do, when facts and reason clearly point in the opposite direction? How can they support political candidates whose views are so antithetical to our definition of common sense?

They're questions voters across the country have been asking a lot this election season – voters like Kate Burkett of Indiana and Tom Barnes of Maryland.

It's 3 a.m. and Whiskers has decided it's time for breakfast. He jumps up on your bed, gently paws at your eyelids and meows to be fed. Annoyed? Cat behavior specialist Sarah Ellis says you have only yourself to blame.

Ellis says that cat owners reinforce negative behaviors when they give in to them. "Cats are not necessarily born meowing and screaming at us for food, it's a behavior that they learned," Ellis tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Marijuana Pays For Schools In Colorado — Kind Of — But How Will It Help Maine?

Sep 10, 2016

Voters in Maine and a handful of other states are deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana this November. One thing that could swing the vote is the possibility of millions of dollars in tax revenue from retail marijuana sales. Colorado was the first state in the country to roll out a tax scheme for legal marijuana in 2013, after recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012. So how are voters in Colorado spending the cash, and what should Maine voters expect?

A deadly fungus that's been devastating frog populations is spreading across the globe — it's helped drive the extinction of 200 species so far. In California, the chytrid fungus has moved inexorably across the Sierra Nevada, leaving thousands of frogs dead.

But scientists are trying to turn the tide against the fungus with an experimental treatment, one that could matter to frogs worldwide.

NASA sent a robotic spacecraft from Florida out to an asteroid Thursday, but that's not the only asteroid mission the space agency has in the works.

A Map To Help Cancer Doctors Find Their Way

Sep 9, 2016

What if doctors could call up a computerized map that would show them how a case of cancer is likely to progress?

Tumor cells can mutate in unexpected ways. And cancers can suddenly grow. For doctors, anticipating cancer's next moves can help guide timely, effective patient treatment.

A mapping program, called PiCnIc for short, aims to help physicians in staying a step ahead of cancer and preparing long-term treatment plans with fewer elements of surprise.

How does it work?

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Big Data Revolution

About Andrew Connolly's TED Talk

Big Data is everywhere — even the skies. Astronomer Andrew Connolly shows how large amounts of data are being collected about our universe, and how it will help lead to new discoveries.

About Andrew Connolly

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Big Data Revolution

About Riccardo Sabatini's TED Talk

The human genome is a complex code that contains all the data that makes a person. Scientist Riccardo Sabatini says we have the power to read this code, predicting things like height, eye color, age — all from a vial of blood.

About Riccardo Sabatini

California is already on track to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Now under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, the state will ratchet up its fight against climate change by launching an ambitious campaign to scale back emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

"This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country," Brown said.

Like so many brilliant innovations, the idea seems obvious in hindsight. Just combine college, coffee, and chemical engineering. Of course!

If you've ever wanted to watch a superbug evolve before your very eyes, you're in luck. Researchers filmed an experiment that created bacteria a thousand times more drug-resistant than their ancestors. In the time-lapse video, a white bacterial colony creeps across an enormous black petri dish plated with vertical bands of successively higher doses of antibiotic.

How A Dog In An MRI Scanner Is Like Your Grandma At A Disco

Sep 8, 2016

Dogs can be trained to do a multitude of tasks. Most can learn to sit, lie and stay; others can guide the blind, rescue the injured and maybe even detect cancer. But the hardest thing of all might be to train them to do nothing. Stop scratching. Don't wag your tail. Don't drool. Don't even lick your chops.

A rocket set to take off Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral, Fla., is part of a mission by NASA and the University of Arizona to send a robot to an asteroid. The goal: Bring back ancient dust.

The asteroid is called Bennu, and it's basically a giant rubble pile, shaped something like a spinning top. But it's a very special rubble pile. Scientists believe it has been moving through space untouched for about 4.5 billion years, making it a time capsule from when our solar system was just starting to form.

Most populations of humpback whales no longer need endangered species protections, according to a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The U.S. government listed all humpback whales as endangered back in 1970, after commercial whaling had drastically reduced their numbers.

Clearly, researchers love Facebook, even if some of the rest of us are ambivalent.

A 2012 survey of social science papers related to the social network turned up 412 separate studies, and there have been even more since. Among the most popular questions: What effect does Facebook have on emotional states?

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

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

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We like to think all stories are equal. But our astrophysicist thinks we did not make a big-enough deal of what he thinks is a story so important it gives him chills. So here's last week's news through the misty eyes of NPR blogger Adam Frank.

"It's just a dot of light, but it's a very special dot of light." That's how Queen guitarist Brian May describes the asteroid named for his late friend and bandmate Freddie Mercury.

Official designation: Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.

"Happy Birthday Freddie!" May wrote on Twitter. "They already named a planet after you, but this little ROCK is a bonus! ha ha."

Most of the world didn't know anyone lived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea until the 1930s, when Australian gold prospectors surveying the area realized there were about a million people there.

When researchers made their way to those villages in the 1950s, they found something disturbing. Among a tribe of about 11,000 people called the Fore, up to 200 people a year had been dying of an inexplicable illness. They called the disease kuru, which means "shivering" or "trembling."

The Perils of Power

Sep 5, 2016

It's "much safer to be feared than loved." So wrote Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, his seminal treatise on power. Many centuries later, we still see this idea in our culture – in cyber bullying and blustering politicians, in abusive CEOS and in television's antiheros. We tend to equate power with strength, and popularity with Mean Girls.

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

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Lizards are expected to be hard hit by climate change — and a new study suggests it might be even worse for some lizards than scientists thought.

A subspecies of eastern gorilla that lives in Democratic Republic of Congo now faces "an extremely high risk of extinction," wildlife experts say. Grauer's gorilla, the largest great ape in the world, is now listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "red list" of threatened species.

The news came as another famous animal — the giant panda — was taken off the endangered list and placed on the vulnerable list.

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