Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Unexplained, short radio bursts from outer space have puzzled scientists since they were first detected nearly a decade ago.

The elusive flashes — known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs — are extremely powerful and last only a few milliseconds. The way their frequencies are dispersed suggests they traveled from far outside our galaxy. About 18 have been detected to date. They've been called the "most perplexing mystery in astronomy."

A comparison of kid brains and grownup brains may explain why our ability to recognize faces keeps getting better until about age 30.

Brain scans of 25 adults and 22 children showed that an area devoted to facial recognition keeps growing long after adolescence, researchers report in the journal Science.

After multiple recent studies showing that feeding peanut-containing foods to infants can reduce the risk of peanut allergies, there are new federal guidelines for parents about when to start feeding their infants such foods.

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At this time every year, northern elephant seals gather along the California coast. Will Huntsberry visited a colony of some 23,000 seals and sent this audio postcard.

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It's been more than 10 years since the U.S. was hit by a major hurricane. Scientists mark that up to chance. But as NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, new research suggests a reason for our good fortune.

Imagine being able to collect the DNA of a human ancestor who's been dead for tens of thousands of years from the dirt on the floor of a cave. Sounds fantastic, but scientists in Germany think they may be able to do just that. If they're successful, it could open a new door into understanding the extinct relatives of humans.

People think of black holes as nightmare vacuum cleaners, sucking in everything in reach, from light to stars to Matthew McConaughey in the movie Interstellar. But, in real life, black holes don't consume everything that they draw in.

Do Anti-Snoring Gadgets Really Work?

Jan 4, 2017

To what lengths would you go to stifle the thunderous snorts and buzz-saw growls of a spouse or roommate, just so you can get a good night's sleep? Dozens of anti-snoring devices crowd the market, ranging from slightly absurd to moderately torturous.

Louisiana is losing its coast at a rapid rate because of rising sea levels, development and sinking marshland. Officials are trying to rebuild those marshes and the wetlands, but much of the coast can't be saved. This makes Louisiana's history an unwitting victim. As land disappears and the water creeps inland, ancient archaeology sites are washing away, too.

Richie Blink was born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, La. — way down south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Now he works for the National Wildlife Federation.

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Two researchers in Germany are trying to determine the best way to teach the German language to nonnative speakers, and at the same time make life a little easier for the wave of Syrian refugees arriving in their city.

Thousands of those refugees have landed in Leipzig, a city of about half a million, in what used to be East Germany. Some of the newcomers have had a difficult time; there have been news reports of racist animosity and violence against them.

One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, "Who's going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?"

Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care.

There's more methane gas in the atmosphere than there used to be, by every scientific measure. The Obama administration has been trying to stem the increase of this powerful greenhouse gas, but the incoming Trump administration appears bent on keeping the government's hands off methane.

What to expect when you're expecting a baby dinosaur? Expect to wait.

That's the conclusion of a study by researchers at Florida State University who determined how long it took dinosaurs to hatch from their eggs by studying their teeth. Much like tree rings, teeth have growth lines called lines of von Ebner that can be used to estimate the age of an animal.

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Almost a million elephants roamed Africa 25 years ago. Assessments of their population now vary but suggest there are fewer than half that many. The main reason for the decline is ivory. Despite a 1989 ban on ivory trade, poachers continue to kill elephants for their tusks.

Now China, the destination for most of that ivory, has announced it will shut down its domestic ivory market.

Creatine, a chemical constituent of meat and fish that's legally been sold online, in supermarkets, health food stores and vitamin shops for at least a couple of decades, may be the most commonly used muscle-building supplement marketed.

Emil Girardi moved to San Francisco on New Year's Eve in 1960. He loved everything about the city: the energy, the people and the hills. And, of course, the bars, where Girardi mixed drinks for most of his adult life.

About 10 years ago, the 83-year-old New York native had a stroke and collapsed on the sidewalk near his Nob Hill home. Everything changed.

"I didn't want to go out of the house," Girardi recalled, adding he only felt comfortable "going from the bedroom to the dining room."

He'd started to fear the city's streets — and growing older.

From West Virginia to Wyoming, coal country overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump and his message that he will bring coal jobs back. Now, those same voters are eyeing his incoming administration closely, careful to see if he will keep his promises to revive the coal industry and get miners back to work.

In September, reproductive endocrinologist John Zhang and his team at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City captured the world's attention when they announced the birth of a child to a mother carrying a fatal genetic defect.

I did not want to join yoga class. I hated those soft-spoken, beatific instructors. I worried that the people in the class could fold up like origami and I'd fold up like a bread stick. I understood the need for stretchy clothes but not for total anatomical disclosure. But my hip joints hurt and so did my shoulders, and my upper back hurt even more than my lower back and my brain would. not. shut. up. I asked my doctor about medication and he said he didn't like the side effects and was pretty sure I wouldn't, either.

If movies were trying to be more realistic, perhaps the way to summon Batman shouldn't have been the Bat-Signal — it should have been the bat squeak.

New research from the Bat Lab for Neuro-Ecology at Tel Aviv University found that bats are "vocalizing" more information than many researchers previously thought. And researchers were able to decipher what the bats were squeaking to each other about — often they were bickering over things like food, sleep and mating.

Eighteen years ago, on New Year's Eve, David Fisher visited an old farm in western Massachusetts, near the small town of Conway. No one was farming there at the time, and that's what had drawn Fisher to the place. He was scouting for farmland.

"I remember walking out [to the fallow fields] at some point," Fisher recalls. "And in the moonlight – it was all snowy – it was like a blank canvas."

With a president-elect who has publicly supported the debunked claim that vaccines cause autism, suggested that climate change is a hoax dreamed up by the Chinese, and appointed to his Cabinet a retired neurosurgeon who doesn't buy the theory of evolution, things might look grim for science.

'Panda Grandpa' Pan Pan Dies In China

Dec 30, 2016

In the final days of a year that has become known for a number of celebrity deaths, 2016 struck again. The Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported this week that what is thought to be the world's oldest male panda has died in China at the age of 31 — around 100 in human years.

Terrorist attacks, hurricanes, a divisive U.S. election, Brexit — 2016 has not been easy. With the year coming to an end, we thought it was time to get some serious perspective — from the scale of the entire universe.

We're tackling big questions: what scientists know, and what they have yet to learn.

So before you ring in another year, take a moment to contemplate the billions of years that led to 2017 and the billions more yet to come.

Being overweight can raise your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk for developing diabetes. It could be bad for your brain, too.

Is It Possible To Die Of Grief?

Dec 29, 2016

The actress Debbie Reynolds' death just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died has led some to speculate that grief from the loss might have been a contributing factor. There was similar speculation when actress Brittany Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, was found dead at just 39, several months after the sudden death of his wife.

Here's a timely reminder for all you would-be revelers out there: Be careful with your countdowns this New Year's Eve. There will be a little extra time to bask in the glow of a retreating 2016 — or curse its name, as the case may be.

Whatever your inclination may be, one thing is certain: Before the year is out, the world's foremost authority on time will be adding one more second to the clock.

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