Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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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When Dominika Tamley chose "Isebelle," her American Girl doll, she picked a toy whose hair and eye color matched her own. But the 10-year-old is quick to point out that's not the only way the doll resembles the real child who plays with her.

"She's like a mini-me," Tamley explained with pride. "Because she has a hearing aid and I have a hearing aid."

Editor's Note: This story originally gave the time it takes light to travel from the sun to Earth as just over eight seconds. The correct time is just over eight minutes. Your editor is very embarrassed.

Crowdfunding is a now a popular way to raise money for everything from birthday bashes to political protests. But on some of the big online fund raising sites, you'll find public pleas for something far more personal — infertility treatments.

Greg and Julia Fry of Ithaca, N.Y., were in their early 30s when they got married three years ago and set out to start a family. But a year passed and they didn't get pregnant. Six more months went by and, still, no baby.

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The hipbone's connected to the leg bone, connected to the knee bone. That's not actually what those body parts are called, but we'll forgive you if you don't sing about the innominate bone connecting to the femur connecting to the patella. It just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Evan Smith wanted to get his hands on the world's biggest diamonds — the kind that sit atop royal scepters, and the ones that are always the target of elaborate movie heists.

But this wasn't for some nefarious get-rich-quick scheme. It was for science.

"The most valuable, the most prized, of all gemstones are coincidentally some of the most scientifically valuable pieces of the Earth," says Smith, a diamond geologist at the Gemological Institute of America.

The United Kingdom's fertility regulator has put its seal of approval on the "cautious use" of techniques to create a baby from the DNA of three people. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA, announced Thursday that it will now begin to accept applications from fertility clinics that wish to become licensed to perform the procedure.

The decision means the U.K. will sanction and regulate the techniques, known broadly as mitochondrial donation, "in certain, specific cases."

It sounds like the plot of a movie.

Police discover a body in a warehouse. It's a young man who's been stabbed multiple times. They swab the body — and it tests positive for a deadly infectious disease.

Investigators realize the people who killed him — members of a street gang — may now be spreading the virus without knowing it.

This actually happened in the West African nation of Liberia in 2015. The deadly disease was Ebola.

The Obama administration is trying to protect Planned Parenthood's federal funding before the president turns over the reins of government to Republicans who have historically been hostile to the family planning group.

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It's a cold, damp fall day in London. But in a windowless basement laboratory, it feels like the tropics. It's hot and humid. That's to keep the mosquitoes happy.

"In this cage, we have the adult mosquitoes," says Andrew Hammond, a genetic engineer at Imperial College London, as he picks up a container made out of white mosquito netting.

The lab is buzzing with hundreds of mosquitoes. "Everything in this cubicle is genetically modified," Hammond says, pointing to the container of mosquitoes.

As Ben Franklin noted, some of you have "the Power of changing, by slight means, the smell of another discharge ... our water. A few stems of asparagus eaten, shall give our urine a disagreeable odour." Apparently this is so common a power that the 18th century French botanist Louis Lémery wrote that asparagus causes "a filthy and disagreeable smell in the urine, as everybody knows."

Everybody except me, anyway.

Ever since NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012, it's been slowly making its way along hills, dunes and mesas, collecting rock samples all along the way.

But last week, as it started climbing up a gently sloping mountain, called Mount Sharp, it started acting weird. NASA engineers now say that a part of the extendable arm, the drill that bores into the Martian rock, keeps getting jammed.

Just as the tip hovers a few inches off the ground, the drill stops.

Updated Dec. 15, 11:30 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to be his interior secretary, the transition team announced Thursday morning.

Zinke is a first-term congressman and a former Navy SEAL commander who served in Iraq and was awarded two Bronze Stars. He was re-elected to a second term last month with 56 percent of the vote.

Female orchid mantises are dazzlingly beautiful, with pinkish legs that appear to form a delicate flower blossom. They're also double the size of their far plainer male counterparts.

The Department of Energy is refusing the Trump transition team's request to name those who have worked on climate change within the department, because of concerns about what the incoming administration will do with the names. President-elect Donald Trump has denied climate change is real.

Scientists released this year's so-called Arctic Report Card on Tuesday, and it is a dismal one.

Researchers say the Arctic continues to warm up at rates they call "astonishing." They presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco.

NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with Susanne Rust, senior reporter and director of the Energy and Environment Reporting Project at Columbia University, about Exxon Mobil's climate change policies under the leadership of CEO Rex Tillerson, who is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state.

Some New England fishermen are pinning their hopes on a new kind of trawl net being used in the Gulf of Maine, one that scoops up abundant flatfish such as flounder and sole while avoiding species such as cod, which are in severe decline.

On a crisp New England fall day, college freshman Jordan Taylor was playing Ultimate Frisbee when he collided with another player. Taylor was rushed to the hospital, where doctors realized he'd been hit hard enough to tear the delicate covering of his spleen, and he was bleeding internally. A quick surgery fixed the spleen, but doctors saw something strange while they were operating.

"As the doctor was speaking to me post-surgery, he mentioned he'd noticed I had a bunch of extra spleens," Taylor says. We asked if the additional organs gave him spleeny superpowers.

Thousands of Earth scientists are in San Francisco this week to talk about climate change, volcanoes and earthquakes.

And another tectonic topic: President-elect Donald Trump.

As president, Trump will oversee a huge government scientific enterprise. Agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA have satellites collecting valuable data on the climate. Other agencies employ scientists studying that data, or modeling future climate shifts.

Republicans in Congress say they'll vote to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act early next year — even though they don't yet have a plan to replace it.

But they also insist that they don't want to harm any of the millions of people who got their health insurance under the law.

Erick Ask still remembers the first time he heard about the food ingredient that would become the focus of his professional life. He was in ninth grade.

"Mr. Elslip, my biology teacher, said to us one day, 'How many of you have eaten seaweed?' " Ask recalls. "And nobody raised their hand. And he says, 'Well, how many of you have eaten ice cream?' And we all raised our hands. And he says, 'Well, then you have eaten seaweed!' "

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will not consider a challenge to the terms of a concussion-related settlement between the National Football League and more than 20,000 retired players.

The deal settled a class-action filed by former players who accused the NFL of covering up what it knew about the link between playing professional football and the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you'd be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories

Dec 11, 2016

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