Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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/.

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

"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said.

Thanks to scientists from The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, it might be time for an update:

Move over, human hipsters, you're not the only ones growing outrageous facial hair.

For years, farmers have noticed that some chickens have tufts of elongated feathers around their face and beak, making it appear like they had grown a beard. The cause of the feather beards was a mystery. Now, thanks to scientists in China, the mystery of the bearded chicken has been solved.

An elderly woman died and more than two dozen people were treated for possible rabies exposure after her family failed to realize that a nighttime encounter with a bat put her at risk of rabies.

Last August, the woman awoke in her Wyoming home and felt a bat on her neck. She swatted it away and washed her hands. Her husband captured the bat with gloved hands and released it outside.

Does the size of space — those zillions of stars and zillions of miles of nothing between them — freak you out?

Well, if it does, guess what?

You're not alone.

I give a lot of public talks about the universe. Really. It's in my job description:

  • Astronomer. Check.
  • Study stuff in space. Check.
  • Give talks about universe. Check.

Male orb-weaving spiders get devoured by the females they mate with, but a newly published study shows that at least the poor guys get to choose the lovely lady who will cannibalize them.

Tom Licence has a Ph.D., and he's a garbage man.

When you think of archaeology, you might think of Roman ruins, ancient Egypt or Indiana Jones. But Licence works in the field of "garbology." While some may dig deep down to get to the good stuff — ancient tombs, residences, bones — Licence looks at the top layers, which, where he lives in England, are filled with Victorian-era garbage.

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

Dr. James Gill walked through the morgue in Farmington, Conn., recently, past the dock where the bodies come in, past the tissue donations area, and stopped outside the autopsy room.

"We kind of have a typical board listing all of the decedents for the day," Gill said, pointing to the list of names on a dry-erase board. "Overdose, overdose, overdose, overdose, overdose. That's just for today."

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

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

Science writer Mary Roach is not easily repulsed. While researching her latest book, Grunt, Roach learned all about the medicinal use of maggots in World War I. She also purposely sniffed a putrid scent known as "Who me?" that was developed as an experimental weapon during World War II.

For Roach, it's all in the name of research. "I'm kind of the bottom-feeder of science writing," Roach jokes to Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm just someone who is OK with being very out there with my curiosity."

Monarch butterflies are disappearing.

Populations of these distinctive black and orange migratory insects have been in precipitous decline for the past 20 years, but scientists aren't exactly sure what's causing them to vanish.

What do large tables, large breakfasts and large servers have in common? They all affect how much you eat. This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the hidden forces that drive our diets. First we hear from Adam Brumberg at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab about how to make healthier choices more easily (hint: good habits, and pack your lunch!). Then, Senior (Svelte) Stopwatch Correspondent Daniel Pink returns for another round of Stopwatch Science to tell you about those tables, breakfasts and servers.

Will this summer be hotter than average?

How much rain can we expect?

A key step to answering questions about the weather is to consult the historic record. But what if there were no record? That's the predicament that Rwanda faces. The civil war and genocide that devastated that country in 1994 also destroyed Rwanda's system for tracking weather. The result was that for a roughly 15-year stretch, Rwanda has almost no record of what its weather was like.

Flowers generate weak electric fields, and a new study shows that bumblebees can actually sense those electric fields using the tiny hairs on their fuzzy little bodies.

"The bumblebees can feel that hair bend and use that feeling to tell the difference between flowers," says Gregory Sutton, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

In 2007, Rick Kinder was working for a contractor, building a house in southern Colorado. The workers had just finished putting in all the doors, windows and sealing the house. Kinder and a colleague were working in the crawlspace, hanging insulation.

"And we just heard this big roar and then a big boom, and it threw us against the walls, and it just blew the whole top of the roof off," Kinder says.

The sun has just set over a swamp east of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Gary Kittleson is putting on a headlamp and waders. The environmental consultant is searching for red-legged frogs. Some years, he says, he would be ecstatic to find just one or two.

Government officials in charge of energy policy from around the world are scheduled to gather in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday for the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial. It's a conference to serve as a follow-up to December's climate change talks in Paris.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

In a sunny patch of grass in the middle of Indianapolis' Crown Hill Cemetery, 45 people recently gathered around a large blackboard. The words "Before I Die, I Want To ..." were stenciled on the board in bold white letters.

Sixty-two-year-old Tom Davis led us through the thousands of gravestones scattered across the cemetery. He'd been thinking about his life and death a lot in the previous few weeks, he told us. On March 22, he'd had a heart attack.

As part of the Going There series, Michel Martin traveled to Fort Collins, Colo. to host a live storytelling event about owning water and dealing with a future where water may be scarce. The conversation was held in partnership with member station KUNC. It tackled the water issues in the Western United States while also highlighting the water crisis in Flint, Mich. and the challenges faced by Native American communities.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

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