Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Jimena Canales is a faculty member of the Graduate College at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a research affiliate at MIT. She focuses on 19th and 20th century history of the physical sciences and science in the modern world.

Economic theory rests on a simple notion about humans: people are rational. They seek out the best information. They measure costs and benefits, and maximize pleasure and profit. This idea of the rational economic actor has been around for centuries.

But about 50 years ago, two psychologists shattered these assumptions. They showed that people routinely walk away from good money. And they explained why, once we get in a hole, we often keep digging.

The type of nerve agent used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. was developed in a top-secret laboratory in Moscow and was once a closely held secret of the Russian government.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found slumped on a bench in the city of Salisbury on March 4. Experts quickly assessed that Skripal — a former Russian intelligence official accused of spying for the British — had been poisoned with a nerve agent.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May named the agent in a speech before Parliament.

Do Backyard Chickens Need More Rules?

Mar 12, 2018

Last September, a cappuccino-colored stray chicken appeared in Katherine Rae Mondo's neighborhood in Oakland, Calif. After it hung around the same intersection for a couple of days, Mondo took it in — her house had a coop, and she was already caring for a housemate's three-chicken flock.

She named the stray chicken Terribad, since, unlike most hens, "she was kind of a wild woman who didn't obey the rules, and she could fly," Mondo says.

While the orcas of Puget Sound are sliding toward extinction, orcas farther north have been expanding their numbers. Their burgeoning hunger for big fish may be causing the killer whales' main prey, chinook salmon, to shrink up and down the West Coast.

Chinook salmon are also known as kings: the biggest of all salmon. They used to grow so enormous that it's hard now to believe the old photos in which fishermen stand next to chinooks almost as tall as they are, sometimes weighing 100 pounds or more.

A new report raises concerns that when fishing vessels "go dark" by switching off electronic tracking devices, in many cases they are doing so to mask the taking of illegal catches in protected marine parks and restricted national waters.

Eventually it happens to everyone. As we age, even if we're healthy, the heart becomes less flexible, more stiff and just isn't as efficient in processing oxygen as it used to be. In most people the first signs show up in the 50s or early 60s. And among people who don't exercise, the underlying changes can start even sooner.

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting tens of millions of people in the United States. But getting help for children who have it in public school can be a nightmare.

"They wouldn't acknowledge that he had a problem," says Christine Beattie about her son Neil. "They wouldn't say the word 'dyslexia.' "

Other parents, she says, in the Upper Arlington, Ohio, schools were having the same problem. The district in a suburb of Columbus wasn't identifying their children's dyslexia or giving them appropriate help.

Millions of Americans use opioids to relieve pain. But many also struggle with addiction.

This week, a report in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, found that nonopioid painkillers — like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — were as effective as opioids at treating chronic back, hip and knee pain, and with fewer side effects.

Emperor penguins are known to be social and curious. But you probably didn't know that they are also reasonably good at framing a video shot.

When an expeditioner with the Australian Antarctic Division left his camera on the ice while visiting a penguin colony, the birds quickly hustled over to investigate.

It's worth noting that the penguins did not actually push the record button – it was already rolling — but did manage to produce a hilarious 38-second video.

When you talk about traditional Scandinavian foods, you end up talking about porridge. In a cold climate, only certain grains could thrive — namely barley and oats. Their warm mush was a building block of early Nordic foodways, and is still a staple.

Now, an everyday bowl of plain old grain mush hardly sounds controversial. But in the middle of the 19th century, Norway was gripped with a series of public debates that later became known as the Norwegian Porridge Feud. Really.

Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester and author of the upcoming book Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth. His scientific studies are funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Education.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Decoding Our Emotions.

About Kang Lee's TED Talk

Developmental researcher Kang Lee says scientists can detect emotions by reading subtle physiological signals beneath the surface of our skin.

About Kang Lee

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Decoding Our Emotions.

About Lisa Feldman Barrett's TED Talk

Identifying basic emotions in others — like fear, sadness or anger — seems instinctive, but psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett says we're doing more guesswork than we think.

About Lisa Feldman Barrett

Scoot over, cans; cartons are moving in on your shelf space. Specifically, the soft, light rectangular containers commonly associated with juice boxes — "aseptic cartons" to the carton literati.

"They're growing in popularity," says Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council, an industry group. "Broth is predominantly in aseptic packaging now, and you see a lot of coconut water in it."

Welcome to Invisibilia Season 4! The NPR program and podcast explores the invisible forces that shape human behavior, and we here at Shots are joining in to probe the often tenuous line between perception and reality. Here's a personal essay by the host that expands on Episode 1.

Wildlife should be managed using the best available science.

That is a core tenet of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, an unofficial set of principles that has guided U.S. and Canadian wildlife management policy for more than a century.

A new study, published Wednesday in Science Advances, raises the question of whether the rule is being followed.

Last Saturday, while I was visiting Fatty's Tattoos and Piercings, a college-aged woman in a hoodie walked in and asked for a tattoo, her first, right on the spot.

"I want a red-tailed hawk feather," she told the artist on duty at the Washington, D.C., tattoo parlor.

He peppered her with questions: How big? What style? She alternated between a blank stare and a furrowed brow: "I ... have a photo on my phone of the feather that I like, I could show you that?"

There is no shortage of speculation on what became of legendary American aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 over the Pacific during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

Now, Richard Jantz, a researcher affiliated with the University of Tennessee, has re-examined data from bones found on a remote atoll three years after Earhart vanished and has determined they very likely belonged to her.

Three main theories about Earhart's disappearance — arguably the most enduring aviation mystery in history — have been bandied about over the years.

Over the past few years, I've spent many hours reading up on — and a morning observing — the smart, sassy behavior of octopuses.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The U.S. is on track to become the world's biggest oil producer, pumping out more crude than at its peak nearly a half century ago. For decades, few expected such a comeback, and it's all the more remarkable because the price of a barrel of oil is nowhere near what it was during the last, recent boom.

"This is an incredible statement, but we're probably making more money at fifty dollars a barrel than a hundred," says Kirk Edwards, president of Latigo Petroleum in Midland, the de facto oil capitol of West Texas.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated March 8 at 1:53 p.m. ET

A major study is challenging the widely held view that adult human brains make new neurons.

The study of 59 samples from 29 brains of people of various ages found no immature neurons in anyone older than 13, scientists report online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"Hauntingly beautiful." "Terrifying and seductive." "A bit too crazy for me."

These are some viewer reactions after watching Alex Garland's Annihilation, a fantasy sci-fi drama that leaves you in a weird state for days.

Twenty-one top tech companies are banding together to try to stop wildlife traffickers from trading endangered species on their platforms.

The Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, organized by Google and the World Wildlife Fund, was announced Wednesday morning. It includes companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, eBay, Facebook, Instagram and Microsoft, and they're pledging to "work together to collectively reduce wildlife trafficking across platforms by 80% by 2020."

Jacob Katz is on the hunt — not for geese or ducks. On a farm about 40 minutes north of Sacramento, he wades through a rice paddy with an aquarium net in hand. But he's not fishing.

"We're going bug hunting," Katz says.

The senior scientist for California Trout, a conservation group with a focus on protecting wild fish, is at River Garden Farms. Founded in 1913, they typically grow things like corn, wheat and around 5,000 acres of rice — the kind local sushi restaurants use.

Phyllis Petruzzelli spent the week before Christmas struggling to breathe. When she went to the emergency department on Dec. 26, the doctor at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, near her home in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, said she had pneumonia and needed hospitalization.

Then the doctor proposed something that made Petruzzelli nervous: Instead of being admitted to the hospital, she could go back home and let the hospital come to her.

OK, so maybe you're one of those people who don't wash their hands even after going to the bathroom because your dad never did and he never got sick.

Or you think a three-second hand scrub is more than enough.

Or you squirt on some hand-sanitizer and figure you've done your duty.

I have some news for you.

There's a new study out on norovirus and the role hand-washing can play in stopping an outbreak.

To sum it up: Wash up!

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