Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Slurping up smoothies, sodas and slushies through disposable plastic straws could one day become a thing of the past.

The call to toss plastic straws out of our food system is growing louder and louder. On Thursday Bon Appétit, a large food service company, announced it is banning plastic straws in all 1,000 of its cafes in 33 states, including locations like AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The company says it plans to complete its transition to paper straws by September 2019.

It's the latest salvo in a growing war against straws.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There is one question parents rarely answer truthfully. Do you play favorites with your kids? Overwhelmingly, parents say no. But what does the research say? Our co-host Steve Inskeep talked about it with NPR's Shankar Vedantam.

The images from the eruption of Kilauea are breathtaking. Lava is gushing from cracks in the earth, spraying — at times — more than 200 feet in the air. Eruptions from the Halema'uma'u crater continue to punch plumes of gas and ash into the Hawaiian sky.

For those living in the southeast corner of the Big Island, the eruption is devastating. Thousands have been evacuated, as rivers of lava slowly burn their way down the flanks of the long-active volcano, consuming homes and blocking roads.

Artificial intelligence, which is bringing us everything from self-driving cars to personalized ads on the web, is also invading the world of medicine.

In radiology, this technology is increasingly helping doctors in their jobs. A computer program that assists doctors in diagnosing strokes garnered approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. Another that helps doctors diagnose broken wrists in X-ray images won FDA approval on May 24.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, most frequently diagnosed among adults over 65. To catch those typically slow-growing malignancies early, when they can often be cured, most doctors' groups recommend colorectal cancer screening starting at age 50.

But the American Cancer Society this week changed its advice and is recommending that screening start five years earlier.

On Aug. 24, 1952, the Silook and Oozevaseuk families of Gambell, Alaska, welcomed a baby girl into the world and introduced her to the island that had been their home for centuries. Gambell is at the western edge of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. When the weather is clear, you can see Siberia in the distance.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Here in the United States, cars and industry are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. In Africa, it's different. There, it's agriculture and a lot of it is cows. NPR's Eyder Peralta visited a lab trying to understand cow emissions.

Watch the video here.


The maned wolf is a weird-looking beast.

Its huge ears and lanky black legs have earned it the nick name "fox on stilts". But the maned wolf is neither fox nor wolf. It is a distinct species in the Canidae family.

Scientists beamed down lasers on the ancient city of Jerash in Jordan, mapping the site and then comparing it with historic photos to show what remains — and what has been subsumed by the growing modern city.

Jerash is world famous, and one of the most popular tourist sites in Jordan. It has long streets and a plaza lined with Greco-Roman columns. The site also boasts two amphitheaters, a hippodrome, temples and churches.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is "a vital project in the national interest" and that its purchase will ensure the expansion is built, despite protests from environmentalists and other groups.

Canada will control both the 715-mile pipeline and its expansion, which is meant to increase capacity to 890,000 barrels a day. To do so, Canada will pay the pipeline's current owner, Kinder Morgan, $4.5 billion in Canadian dollars — about $3.5 billion in U.S. currency.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Parents these days are stressed. So are their kids.

The root of this anxiety, one scholar says, is the way we understand the relationship between parents and children. Alison Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks parents—especially middle-class parents—view their children as entities they can mold into a specific image.

Great white sharks have a "hidden life" that is becoming a lot less hidden thanks to a scientific expedition that has been years in the making.

Updated at 7:01 p.m. ET

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties on Saturday in preparation for Subtropical Storm Alberto.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday

Bay mussels in Washington's Puget Sound have tested positive for trace amounts of oxycodone, providing more evidence that the opioid prescription medication is truly ubiquitous.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Attention Please.

About Amishi Jha's TED Talk

What exactly is attention, and how can we reclaim it? Neuroscientist Amishi Jha says there's a powerful link between mindfulness, meditation and attention.

About Amishi Jha

Amishi Jha is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on attention, working memory and mindfulness.

Chaos is neither friend nor foe. It just is. This week: two very different perspectives on how to deal with life's most tumultuous moments.

We begin in 2015, in a poor slum in the West African country of Liberia. Police have just discovered a young man, dead and covered in stab wounds. Tests show he was infected with a terrifying disease that causes raging fever, severe internal bleeding, and kills up to 90 percent of the people it touches: Ebola.

Grains are the bedrock of civilization. They led humans from hunting and gathering to city-building. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the fruits of three grasses provide the world with 60 percent of its total food: corn, wheat and rice. Aside from energy-rich carbohydrates, grains feed us protein, zinc, iron and essential B vitamins.

But rice as we know it is at risk.

With guest host John Donvan.

Lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has claimed “dozens of structures and destroyed scores of acres.”

The threat from the volcano goes beyond lava. Ash and gas in the air, and the steam created when lava touches water can spread for miles and be harmful to anyone who breathes it in.

The asteroid impact that ended the age of the dinosaurs also released so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the planet warmed up by about 5 degrees Celsius — and the hot spell persisted for roughly 100,000 years.

That's according to a new study in the journal Science that offers a cautionary tale about how Earth's climate will react to the carbon dioxide that's being pumped into the atmosphere now by the burning of fossil fuels.

Up to four major hurricanes could form in the Atlantic this hurricane season, according to the annual forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Overall, the season will likely be normal or somewhat more intense than normal, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, with a 25 percent chance that hurricane activity will be below normal.

"I want The Three Bears!"

These days parents, caregivers and teachers have lots of options when it comes to fulfilling that request. You can read a picture book, put on a cartoon, play an audiobook, or even ask Alexa.

The State Department said that a U.S. government employee assigned to Guangzhou, China, has reported experiencing "vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that "the medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent" with the symptoms reported by Americans working at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. "We have medical teams that are moving to be on the ground there. We are working to figure out what took place both in Havana, and now in China, as well."

Though Americans spend an estimated $80 billion to $100 billion each year in hopes of easing their aching backs, the evidence is mounting that many pricey standard treatments — including surgery and spinal injections — are often ineffective and can even worsen and prolong the problem.

Covered California, the state's health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, has devised what could be a powerful new way to hold hospitals accountable for the quality of their care.

Starting in less than two years, if the hospitals haven't met certain designated targets for safety and quality, they'll risk being excluded from the "in-network" designation of health plans sold on the state's insurance exchange.

For the first time, scientists have videotaped sharks traveling a 500-mile-long "shark highway" in the Pacific, and they plan to turn it into a protected wildlife corridor in the ocean.

As Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has moved to roll back a sweeping array of Obama-era regulations he's relentlessly cited his goal of providing "regulatory certainty."

In his first address to career employees last year he told the gathered room at the EPA, "Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what we expect of them, so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply."

If you have a genetic mutation that increases your risk for a treatable medical condition, would you want to know? For many people the answer is yes. But typically such information has not been a part of routine primary care.

For patients at Geisinger Health System, that could soon change. Starting in the next month or so, the Pennsylvania-based system will offer DNA sequencing to 1,000 patients, with the goal of eventually extending the offer to all 3 million Geisinger patients.

There's a moment from nearly a decade ago that's still on loop in Laura Ogden's mind. When Laura plays back this mental video, she imagines an alternate ending. A happier ending.

There's a technical name for this kind of thinking: A counterfactual.

A counterfactual is a mental simulation where you think about something that happened, and then imagine an alternate ending.

Kathleen Vohs, a professor at the University of Minnesota, says we come up with counterfactuals all the time.

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