Science & Health

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Vera Rubin, the groundbreaking astrophysicist who discovered evidence of dark matter, died Sunday night at the age of 88, the Carnegie Institution confirms.

Rubin did much of her revelatory work at Carnegie. The organization's president calls her a "national treasure."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rubin was working with astronomer Kent Ford, studying the behavior of spiral galaxies, when they discovered something entirely unexpected — the stars at the outside of the galaxy were moving as fast as the ones in the middle, which didn't fit with Newtonian gravitational theory.

It's a time of year when we're often urged to be grateful; for friends, for family, for presents under the tree. But not everyone experiences gratitude as a positive force in their life.

At 44 years old, Dave Adox was facing the end of his two-year battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He needed a ventilator to breathe and couldn't move any part of his body, except his eyes. Once he started to struggle with his eyes — his only way to communicate — Adox decided it was time to die.

He wanted to donate his organs, to give other people a chance for a longer life. To do this, he'd need to be in a hospital when he went off the ventilator.

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How Kitchen Sounds Influence Food Flavor

Dec 24, 2016

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American Hearing Loss In Decline

Dec 24, 2016

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Lori Dajose is a recent member of "Friends of Joe's Big Idea." After studying planetary science as an undergraduate, she found her calling as a science writer. Lori describes science writing as "the perfect way to combine my love for words and my love for asking questions about the universe."


Interview Highlights

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It's a continuing paradox of the meat industry. Every year, more restaurants and food companies announce that they will sell only meat produced with minimal or no use of antibiotics. And every year, despite those pledges, more antibiotics are administered to the nation's swine, cattle and poultry.

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Life often requires improvisation, especially when things don't go according to plan. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam brings us the story of one woman who's had to reinvent herself again and again.

Rare Snowfall Blankets Dunes in The Sahara

Dec 22, 2016

On Monday, a rare and beautiful thing happened: There was a dusting of snow on the red sand dunes of the Sahara.

The snow fell on the northern Algerian town of Ain Sefra, which is known as the "gateway to the desert."

Karim Bouchetata, an amateur photographer there, grabbed his camera and took a number of photos before the snow melted later that day. He uploaded them to Facebook, where the surreal images quickly went viral.

The holiday season is a time when lots of people take to the air, flying to see relatives or go on vacation. But when it comes to seasonal travel, humans are totally outnumbered by insects.

That's according to a newly published study in the journal Science, which found that more than 3 trillion migrating insects fly over south-central England each year.

Researchers looking into whether a shorter course of antibiotics would treat young children's ear infections as well as a longer course found that not only was the shorter treatment less effective but it didn't reduce antibiotic resistance or side effects.

For patients with serious brain injuries, there's a strong link between sleep patterns and recovery.

A study of 30 patients hospitalized for moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries found that sleep quality and brain function improved in tandem, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

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On this first day of winter - a heat wave at the North Pole - well, relatively speaking. Tomorrow, temperatures at the North Pole are expected to approach freezing.

ZACK LABE: In Fahrenheit, It's nearly 40, maybe 50 degrees above normal.

Doctors have long known that black people are more likely than white people to suffer from diseases such as high blood pressure. A study suggests that racial discrimination may be playing a role in a surprising way.

The study, which involved 150 African-Americans living in Tallahassee, Fla., found that knowing someone who had experienced racial discrimination was associated with genetic markers that may affect risk for high blood pressure.

This winter brings the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, full of familiar costumes, familiar villains, and the familiar "pew pew pew" of space guns. But you can skip the movie theatre and still hear those iconic blaster sounds if you visit a frozen lake.

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It took a lot of convincing to get John Evard into rehab. He was reluctant to give up the medications that he was certain were keeping his pain at bay. But ultimately he agreed — and seven days into his stay at the Las Vegas Recovery Center, the nausea and aching muscles of opioid withdrawal are finally beginning to fade.

"Any sweats?" a nurse asks him as she adjusts his blood pressure cuff.

"Last night it was really bad," he tells her, "but not since I got up." Evard, who is 70, says he woke up several times in the night, his sheets drenched with sweat.

The wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is probably outside the stretch of ocean that international search ships have scoured for the past two years, a "first principles review" has concluded.

The findings, based on a fresh analysis of satellite data, recovered debris and other information, suggest that the plane may in fact lie within a roughly 10,000-square-mile (25,000-square-km) patch to the north of the existing search area.

Updated Dec. 23:

The Pentagon has quietly sidelined a program that placed blast gauges on thousands of combat troops in Afghanistan.

NPR has learned the monitoring was discontinued because the gauges failed to reliably show whether service members had been close enough to an explosion to have sustained a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury.

By now, you've very likely heard the case for limiting sugar.

Over the past two years the World Health Organization and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have begun urging us to consume no more than 10 percent of our daily calories from added sugar. Drinking more than one sugar-sweetened soda a day can put you over that limit.

Physicists at Harvard have built a radio receiver out of building blocks the size of two atoms. It is, almost certainly, the tiniest radio receiver in the world.

And since it's a radio, it can play whatever you want to send its way, including Christmas music, as this video by the Harvard team that designed it makes clear:

In a technological tour de force, scientists have developed a new way to probe antimatter.

For the first time, researchers were able to zap antimatter atoms with a laser, then precisely measure the light let off by these strange anti-atoms. By comparing the light from anti-atoms with the light from regular atoms, they hope to answer one of the big mysteries of our universe: Why, in the early universe, did antimatter lose out to regular old matter?

There's a grim chapter in American history that involves forced sterilization. And for much of this past century, California had one of the most active sterilization programs in the country.

A state law from 1909 authorized the surgery for people judged to have "mental disease, which may have been inherited." That law remained on the books until 1979.

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