Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Here are the claims: Oranges taste better in the shower. Eating oranges in the shower will make you happy. The shower orange experience could turn your entire life around.

Thousands of Reddit users have been finding out for themselves. And they have chronicled their adventures on the subreddit /r/ShowerOrange/.

In the last three years, 33 U.S. states have passed laws aimed at helping dying people get easier access to experimental treatments that are still in the early stages of human testing. Supporters say these patients are just looking for the right to try these treatments.

Such laws sound compassionate, but medical ethicists warn they pose worrisome risks to the health and finances of vulnerable patients.

The U.S. is producing less air pollution, but smog levels are still rising in the western U.S. because of pollutants released in Asian countries that then drift over the Pacific Ocean. Researchers say their findings show the importance of a global approach to preserving air quality.

"Scientists found Asian air pollution contributed as much as 65 percent of an increase in Western ozone in recent years," NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai. "China and India, where many consumer products are manufactured, are the worst offenders."

Near Esparto, in the beautiful Capay Valley region of central California, 1,400 young almond trees flourish in a century-old orchard overlooking the hills. Since November, they've stood in perfect rows without a hint of foliage — resting, naked and dormant, for the upcoming growing season. Their branches now swell with bright pastel blooms in preparation for pollination.

In a birth announcement of sorts, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Nashville Zoo released a joint statement Thursday saying that a male clouded leopard cub was born on March 1. The cub is the first of his species to be born from artificial insemination using frozen (and then thawed) semen.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is now the 14th U.S. Secretary of Energy, despite having once pledged to eliminate the Department of Energy.

Or at least, he tried to pledge to eliminate the department — including once when he couldn't think of its name.

Perry was confirmed Thursday by the Senate in a 62-37 vote.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A patch of mold has fetched a pretty penny in London - over $14,000. Now, to be clear, this isn't the black stuff growing in damp corners of the bathroom. It's a dish of perhaps the most important mold in medical history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo.

"As you can see, all my lab is glass — just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas," says Brivanlou, perhaps only half joking.

Brivanlou knows that some of his research makes some people uncomfortable. That's one reason he has agreed to give me a look at what's going on.

Remember those pictures of parched lawns and bone-dry unplanted fields when it seemed that Californians could only pray for rain and snow?

Now thanks to one of the wettest winters on record, scientists say that the snowpack along the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a whopping 185 percent of average. And that's important because the runoff from the Sierra snowpack provides one-third of all of California's water.

If you're failing less, then you're succeeding more, right? That's exactly what appears to be happening with birth control in the United States, according to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute.

If you consider thousands of dollars for a tiny patch of decades-old mold a tad too pricey, well, maybe you're just not cut out for the high-stakes world of mold auctions. Because not even that hefty bit of green wouldn't have brought home the other bit of green that just sold Wednesday at a London auction house.

It's not clear when or where life on this planet began, but scientists are working hard to find out.

Now, researchers writing in the journal Nature say they found fossils of what could be some of the earliest known creatures to grace the Earth, embedded in rocks that are at least 3.7 billion years old.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Spring is here, sort of.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: That is the warmest temperature we've ever had in the month of February...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Back in the day, people paid for routine, primary medical care on their own and used insurance only when something serious came up. Some primary care doctors are betting that model can thrive again through a monthly subscription for routine care and a high-deductible insurance policy to take care of the big stuff.

But the changes raise questions about whether that approach really leads to more effective and efficient health care.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump has ordered a review of the Waters of the U.S. rule. It's an Obama-era regulation that says which waters the federal government can protect. As NPR's Nathan Rott reports, undoing the rule would be a long and difficult process.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Updated 5:35 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is moving to roll back an environmental rule intended to define which small bodies of water are subject to federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn't think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I'm not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope?

One of the great treats of following an Agatha Christie mystery (my favorite being Hercule Poirot) is that you know there will be an "Aha!" moment at the end. The fastidious, mustachioed detective will pull together all the disparate facts and present a compelling answer.

The private company SpaceX has announced that it plans to send two passengers on a mission beyond the moon in late 2018.

If the mission goes forward, it would be the "first time humans have traveled beyond low Earth orbit since the days of Apollo," as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit.

The two private citizens approached the company about the idea and have already paid a sizable deposit, CEO Elon Musk told reporters in a conference call. These private individuals will also bear the cost of the mission.

When it comes to climate change, we often think of the cars we drive and the energy we use in our homes and offices. They are, after all, some of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. But what about the toast you ate for breakfast this morning?

A new study published Monday in Nature Plants breaks down the environmental cost of producing a loaf of bread, from wheat field to bakery. It finds that the bulk of the associated greenhouse gas emissions come from just one of the many steps that go into making that loaf: farming.

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: "intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires."

National Geographic contributing photographer Joel Sartore is 11 years into a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black-and-white backgrounds. So far, he's photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.

In my head, a person with the name Danny has a boyish face and a perpetual smile. Zoes have wide eyes and wild hair and an air of mild bemusement.

If you drink more alcohol than you want to or should, you're not alone. A nationwide survey by the National Institutes of Health found that 28 percent of adults in the U.S. are heavy drinkers or drink more than is recommended.

Yet, most heavy drinkers don't get the help they need.

Pages