Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Stephon Alexander didn't always love music. When he turned 8, his grandmother, who was from Trinidad, forced him to take piano lessons in the Bronx. His teacher was, in a word, strict. "It felt like a military exercise to rob me of my childhood," Alexander recalls.

Several years went by like that. Until one day when Alexander's dad brought home an alto sax he found at a garage sale. "That became my toy. Music no longer for me was this regimented tedium," he says.

Tesla says its cars' suspension systems have no safety problems, and the electric-auto maker calls an allegation that it has pressured customers not to report safety problems "preposterous."

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

The luminous glow of light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of people in North America from seeing the Milky Way in the night sky.

That's according to a new atlas of artificial night sky brightness that found our home galaxy is now hidden from more than one-third of humanity.

Late spring is swarm season — the time of year when bees reproduce and find new places to build hives. Swarms of bees leave the nest and zoom through the air, hovering on trees, fences and houses, searching for a new home.

While a new neighborhood beehive can be stressful for homeowners, it's an exciting time for beekeepers, who see it as an opportunity.

This year's extra-large El Nino weather pattern is over, according to federal meteorologists.

"We're sticking a fork in this El Niño and calling it done," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists wrote on a blog tracking the 15-month-long weather event.

Sharon Belvin's nightmare with cancer began in 2004, when she was just 22.

Belvin was an avid runner but said she suddenly found she couldn't climb the stairs without "a lot of difficulty breathing."

Eventually, after months of fruitless treatments for lung ailments like bronchitis, she was diagnosed with melanoma — a very serious skin cancer. It had already spread to her lungs, and the prognosis was grim. She had about a 50-50 chance of surviving the next six months.

"Yeah, that was the turning point of life, right there," she says.

In 1975, I was living in San Diego and needed a job. The roommate of a friend of mine was a scientist at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. He said a colleague of his was looking to hire a lab technician, so I applied and got the job. The scientist I worked for was some guy from a small town in Texas. His name? Jim Allison.

It's time to update your copy of the periodic table. Four new elements discovered in recent years have now been named, pending final approval by the international group of scientists in charge of the table.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has announced these proposed names:

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117

Women who want an abortion in deeply conservative Texas have slightly more choice these days than they had a few months ago. In March, the Food and Drug Administration simplified rules on abortion medication, allowing patients to take the standard regimen of abortion drugs later in a pregnancy.

It's easy to think that evolution led inevitably to modern humans, the cleverest of apes. But there were some strange excursions along the way. Take, for example, the Hobbits.

That's the nickname for a 3-foot-tall human relative that once lived in what is now Indonesia. A new discovery suggests that it was island life that created this dainty creature.

Anthropologists first found the bones of the Hobbits in 2004 on the Indonesian island of Flores. Their scientific name is Homo floresiensis.

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

The first time Kit Parker's phone rang, everything seemed fine. It was January 2006, and Parker's old Army buddy Chris Moroski was calling to say hi.

Parker and Moroski had jumped out of airplanes together in the 1990s when they were paratroopers in the National Guard. But after the attacks on Sept. 11, Parker had been deployed to Afghanistan, his friend to Iraq. They'd lost touch.

A powerful new technique for changing genes in insects, animals and plants holds great promise, according to a report from an influential panel of scientists released Wednesday. But the group also says it's potentially very dangerous.

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

Imagine getting paid an estimated $6 million for your involvement in this three-word jingle: "I'm Lovin' It." Yep, Justin Timberlake inked a lucrative deal with McDonald's. (Guess you could say he wants you to "buy buy buy.")

Or how about earning an estimated $50 million to promote Pepsi products?That's the endorsement deal that megastar Beyonce signed up for back in 2012.

You are trapped in space. Seriously. You're captured, cornered, mired. You're totally stuck and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

You're trapped in space and what that really means is you're trapped in three dimensions.

To get a gist of what I'm talking about, imagine for a moment you're walking through the woods and a bear magically appears in front of you.

To escape this angry bear, which direction would you run?

A weathered wooden shed that holds wheelbarrows, hoes and other basic tools is the beacon of the Student Organic Farm, a two-acre swath within the larger horticultural research farm at Iowa State University.

On a warm spring evening, a half-dozen students gather here, put on work gloves and begin pulling up weeds from the perennial beds where chives, strawberries, rhubarb and sage are in various stages of growth.

"I didn't know how passionate I [would] become for physical work," says culinary science major Heidi Engelhardt.

WATCH: Mosquitoes Use 6 Needles To Suck Your Blood

Jun 7, 2016

It's not just idle curiosity that's got scientists hunting down all the bloody details of a mosquito bite. Bites from these bugs are more dangerous to humans than those of any other animal; mosquitoes kill hundreds of thousands of people each year worldwide, and sicken millions more.

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

In California, there is so much solar energy that grid operators have to switch off solar farms. One solution of dealing with the additional power generated is to share the renewable wealth across state borders – but in the West, it's sparking some not-so-neighborly opposition.

Nancy Traweek's job is to balance California's electrical grid at the California Independent System Operator, keeping the lights on for 30 million people. She relies on huge natural gas power plants that put out a steady stream of electricity.

You've heard that you should eat more kale. Now a small but growing industry wants you to eat more kelp.

Seaweed production has long been a big industry in Asia. But recently, American entrepreneurs have launched new enterprises that grow fresh and frozen seaweed right here in the States.

"Broomgate." Yes, that's really what some people are calling it.

OK, it may not quite rise to the level of a "-gate" scandal, but it is bringing about some big changes in the sport of curling.

But before we get into what exactly the controversy is about, it's necessary to give a little background on curling.

Shortly after Milo Lorentzen was born, nurses whisked him away to the neonatal intensive care unit for low blood sugar and jaundice. An exam then found a cluster of irregularities, including a cleft palate and a hole in his heart.

The staff called in a geneticist, who issued a misdiagnosis — the first frustrating episode in what would become years of testing, as Karen Park and Peter Lorentzen searched for a way to help their son.

One of my fondest childhood memories is of eating tomatoes. We picked them in the garden and ate them in sandwiches, sitting on a picnic table under the trees outside our house. That juicy, acidic taste is forever lodged in the pleasure centers of my brain.

For anyone with similar memories, supermarket tomatoes are bound to disappoint. Indeed, the classic supermarket tomato — hard, tasteless, sometimes mealy — has inspired countless bitter complaints.

Take a closer look at the tomato display in your local grocery store, though, and you'll notice some big changes.

Minhae Kim didn't check air pollution levels before bringing her one-year-old to Seoul's Yongsan Family Park.

Perhaps she should have. On this day — and on most days this spring — the measures of the most dangerous kind of pollution in Seoul exceed the World Health Organization's recommended limit. And Korea ranks near the very bottom for air quality in Yale University's latest 180-country Environmental Performance Index.

Since 2014, the U.S. Army has gradually been deploying the latest version of a hearing protection system that protects users from loud noises while still letting them hear the world around them.

The system is called TCAPS, or Tactical Communication and Protective System, and about 20,000 of the new TCAPS devices have been deployed in the field so far.

The federal government is moving to ban virtually all sales of items containing African elephant ivory within the U.S. For a long time it's been illegal to import elephant ivory. This new rule extends the ban to cover ivory that's already here.

A group of scientists say they want work toward being able to create a synthetic version of the entire human genetic code in the laboratory.

Their hope is that a complete set of synthetic human DNA, known as a genome, could someday lead to important medical breakthroughs.

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

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