Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Nurse practitioner Kim Hamm talks in soothing tones to her 14-year-old patient as she inserts a form of long-acting contraception beneath the skin of the girl's upper arm.

"This is the numbing medicine, so you're going to feel me touch you here," she says, taking the teen's arm. "Little stick, one, two three, ouch. And then a little bit of burn."

Human life spans have been increasing for decades thanks to advances in treating and preventing diseases and improved social conditions.

In fact, longevity has increased so much in recent decades that some researchers began to wonder: What is the upper limit on human aging?

"Dirty water everywhere."

That's how Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald described the situation in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in an interview with NPR Wednesday morning. "A lot of rain and a lot of wind," she said. "Before [Hurricane] Matthew, the ground was already saturated, so the idea that you could have 25 inches of rain is a very scary thought."

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The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for their groundbreaking work on molecular machines — tiny, man-made structures with moving parts capable of performing tasks.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa share the prize equally.

Sauvage linked two tiny rings to create a molecular chain, or "catenane," in 1983; Stoddart designed a "rotaxane," or a ring on an axle; and Feringa designed the first molecular motor by making a motor blade spin in one direction.

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The European Parliament voted Tuesday to ratify the landmark Paris climate accord, paving the way for the international plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions to become binding as soon as the end of this week.

Most of us have been tempted at one time or another by the lure of sugar. Think of all the cakes and cookies you consume between Thanksgiving and Christmastime!

But why are some people unable to resist that second cupcake or slice of pie? That's the question driving the research of Monica Dus, a molecular biologist at the University of Michigan. She wants to understand how excess sugar leads to obesity by understanding the effect of sugar on the brain.

Specially trained dogs have been known to sniff out explosives, drugs, missing persons and certain cancer cells, but author Alexandra Horowitz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that extraordinary olfactory abilities aren't just the domain of working dogs.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET with further states of emergency in the U.S.

Hurricane Matthew crashed into southwestern Haiti as a Category 4 storm Tuesday morning, dumping rain and scouring the land with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour.

It is the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in Haiti since 1964, when Hurricane Cleo also hit the island nation's southwestern peninsula.

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2016 has been awarded to three theoretical researchers for their insights into the odd behavior of matter in unusual phases, like superconductors, superfluid films and some kinds of magnets.

David J. Thouless receives half the prize, and Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz share the other half. All three used mathematics to explain the the properties of matter in certain states.

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The Nobel Prize in physics this morning has been awarded to three scientists. They won for their work exploring new phases of matter. Joining us to talk about the winners is NPR's science editor, Geoff Brumfiel. Good morning.

Finally — some good news for the bees of Hawaii.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given endangered status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to the islands. These are "the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," according to the Xerces Society, which advocated for the new designation.

This is a story about a revolution that never happened.

In 1975, a novel transportation system called Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT for short, started operating in Morgantown, West Va. It was supposed to usher in a new age of public transit.

It didn't.

But West Virginia University, which operates the PRT system, remains committed to it — and is spending more than $100 million to refurbish the aging system.

I make a lot of kale chips. You might even say I have chipping kale down to an art. But even for a kale connoisseur like me, the crinkly green cruciferous vegetable is still full of surprises. In this case, explosive surprises.

The National Hurricane Center is warning that Hurricane Matthew will "bring life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge" to parts of Haiti beginning Monday evening. People on multiple Caribbean islands are preparing for the Category 4 storm.

Yoshinori Ohsumi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries about "autophagy" — a fundamental process cells use to degrade and recycle parts of themselves.

Ohsumi, 71, is a professor emeritus at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Yokohama, Japan. As the sole winner, Ohsumi will receive more than $930,000.

Picture this: You're in the supermarket with your hungry preschooler in tow. As you reach into the dairy case, you spot a sign with a friendly cartoon cow. It reads: "Ask your child: Where does milk come from? What else comes from a cow?"

In a small study published last year, signs like these, placed in Philadelphia-area supermarkets, sparked a one-third increase in conversations between parents and children under 8.

Want to be smarter? More focused? Free of memory problems as you age?

If so, don't count on brain games to help you.

That's the conclusion of an exhaustive evaluation of the scientific literature on brain training games and programs. It was published Monday in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

India has formally joined the Paris climate change agreement, handing over its country's official ratification documents to the United Nations on Sunday.

India's ambassador to the U.N., Syed Akbaruddin, smiled as he delivered the ratified agreement to the international body's office of legal affairs. The ceremony was held in front of a banner depicting Mahatma Gandhi and recognizing Oct. 2, the Indian peace leader's birthday, as an international day of nonviolence.

A wildfire in the mountains of California's Santa Clara County has destroyed a dozen homes and consumed about 4,400 acres of forest.

The Loma fire has been burning in the Santa Cruz mountains since September 26, and although it is more than 60 percent contained, it still threatens more than 150 structures, according to Cal-Fire, the state agency in charge of wildfire efforts. Almost 2,000 personnel, including inmate fire crews, are fighting the blaze.

Perhaps, you're among the more than 36 million people that have watched social psychologist and Harvard professor Amy Cuddy's TED talk about "power poses" — poses she says would make people feel more powerful and more willing to take risks. For example, poses like leaning back in your chair or standing with your hands on your hips.

Hurricane Matthew is roaring across the Caribbean Sea as a monster Category 5 storm on a course that puts Jamaica, as well as parts of Haiti and Cuba, in the path of its potentially devastating winds and rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center called it the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007, and said Matthew will be approaching Jamaica late Sunday night. It is expected to reach the eastern part of the island on Monday.

The U.N. is planning to launch its first space mission into orbit, packed with scientific experiments from countries that can't afford their own space programs.

It's teaming up with the Sierra Nevada Corporation, which makes the Dream Chaser, a reuseable spacecraft that, when it returns from orbit, can land at an ordinary airport. They formally announced the plans this week at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

How Can Dinosaurs Help Us Understand Our Own Species?

Sep 30, 2016

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Anthropocene

About Kenneth Lacovara's TED Talk

Earth's rocks and fossils can help us understand our own species. Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara says there's "no doubt" that humans' impact on Earth will show up in the geological record.

About Kenneth Lacovara

Are We Headed Into Another Mass Extinction?

Sep 30, 2016

Part 3 of TED Radio Hour episode Anthropocene

About Peter Ward's TED Talk

At various times, life on earth has come close to being erased. Paleontologist Peter Ward explains what we can learn from previous mass extinctions

About Peter Ward

What's The Anthropocene?

Sep 30, 2016

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Anthropocene

About Kenneth Lacovara's TED Talk

Have we entered a new age defined by humans? Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara says there's "no doubt" that humans' impact on Earth will show up in the geological record.

About Kenneth Lacovara

How Do We Embrace All Kinds Of Nature?

Sep 30, 2016

Part 2 of TED Radio Hour episode Anthropocene

About Emma Marris's TED Talk

Environmental writer Emma Marris wants us to broaden our definition of nature to one that embraces urban and wild spaces in order learn to protect and care for it.

About Emma Marris

Can We Preserve Seed Diversity For The Future?

Sep 30, 2016

Part 5 of TED Radio Hour episode Anthropocene

About Cary Fowler's TED Talk

Biodiversity archivist Cary Fowler explains how the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will prepare humans for the climate change and its effect on our environment and our food supply.

About Cary Fowler

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