Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Research out of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that people see New Year's Day, their birthdays and even the start of a new month or week as "temporal landmarks" — an imaginary line demarcating the old "inferior" self from a new and improved version. That explains why we often fail at resolutions — our new selves are usually not much better than the old ones. But it also suggests how we might stick to our resolutions — use more temporal landmarks to reach our goals.

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Oklahoma City residents woke early New Year's Day to a magnitude 4.2 quake. Earlier this week, a magnitude 4.3 quake struck the same area.

The state isn't historically known for earthquakes, but NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit that Oklahoma "has recently seen a dramatic rise in seismic activity." Here's more:

What's the universe made of?

It's a question that's been bothering scientists and philosophers for millennia, and has become even more vexing in recent decades, as physicists have become convinced that most of the universe is made of something we can't see or touch or measure.

At least not yet.

Bingeing has become many people's favorite way to consume television. But marathon-viewing doesn't just change how we watch, it also affects how we eat.

While the culture of the Netflix all-nighter is relatively recent, researchers have been studying the links between TV viewing and mindless eating for years. And the news isn't good for our waistlines.

Editor's note: This story was first published in December 2014.

The first time I ever got tipsy was during a champagne toast at a cousin's wedding reception.

All was good, until the room started spinning — and the sight of my cousin's bride dancing in her wedding dress was just a whirl of lace.

Of course, if you're an uninitiated teenager, any amount of alcohol can go straight to your head. But, decades later, bubbly wine still seems to hit me faster than, say, beer. It turns out there's a reason.

How safe is it in the United States to be born someplace other than a hospital? The question has long been the focus of emotional debate and conflicting information. Now, Oregon scientists and health workers who deliver babies have some research evidence that sheds a bit more light.

Animal welfare advocates got major traction this year pushing for cage-free eggs.

In September, McDonald's pledged it would move to 100-percent cage-free eggs in its supply chain. And while the movement was already underway, this announcement seemed to really set off a domino effect.

Some of the biggest egg producers in the U.S., including Rembrandt Foods, pledged allegiance to cage-free. Packaged good behemoths like Nestle and fast food chains like Subway did as well. (See the list of companies below.)

VIDEO: Meet The Bots That Beat The Obstacles

Dec 30, 2015

Editor's note: This story first ran on Jan. 16, 2015, as part of NPR's Invisibilia podcast. It's about a man who decided he no longer wanted to be ruled by fear. Without realizing it, he used a standard tool of psychotherapy to help him stop dreading rejection.

An inherited disorder that stems from a problem in the way the body handles iron in the blood has been called a "Celtic Curse" because of the condition's high prevalence among people with ancestry in the British Isles and Ireland.

The rare winter floodwaters that have already claimed the lives of 18 people in Missouri are continuing to swell, prompting the evacuation of several towns along the Mississippi River. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has activated the National Guard to help fight the floods.

Joseph Leahy of St. Louis Public Radio, citing the governor's office, reports that 12 of the flood-related deaths were caused by vehicles being swept from inundated roadways.

Guinea is set to celebrate with concerts and fireworks Wednesday, following the World Health Organization's announcement that the country is now officially Ebola-free.

On Tuesday, WHO declared that after two years and over 2,500 deaths, the Ebola epidemic in Guinea has officially ended. The announcement marks the passing of two 21-day incubation periods since the last person to have contracted Ebola — a baby girl called Noubia — was cured of the virus.

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As a young girl, Maya Shankar was well on her way to a promising career as a classical violinist. The famed Itzhak Perlman had taken her on as his private student at The Juilliard School at the age of 14, and she was accepted to his prestigious summer program on Shelter Island. But not long after, she injured her finger while playing a difficult section of Paganini's Caprice no. 13. She tore a tendon in her hand, putting her musical career to an untimely end.

Every once in a while a technology comes along that completely alters the way scientists do their work.

It's hard to imagine astronomy without a telescope or high energy physics without an accelerator.

From here on in, it's going to be impossible to imagine biology without CRISPR-Cas9.

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About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, the latest statistics suggest, and it's probably about as common on Native American reservations as anywhere else. But a diagnosis in Indian Country is rarer, say mental health workers. That's likely at least partly because of a cultural belief — many Native American communities don't recognize dementia as a disorder.

The new Will Smith movie Concussion has put the spotlight back on the dangers of football. Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian immigrant who was the first to publish research on the degenerative brain disease he called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

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3 Big Moments From Space In 2015

Dec 26, 2015

It's been an exciting year for developments in space. NPR Science Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel shares three highlights with host Linda Wertheimer.

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Time now for some "Talkin' Birds."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ray Brown's "Talkin' Birds."

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Do you remember cutting paper snowflakes in school? Artist Rogan Brown has elevated that simple seasonal art form and taken it to science class.

These large-scale paper sculptures may evoke snow, but actually trade on the forms of bacteria and other organisms. The patterns may feel familiar, but also a bit alien. You're not looking at a replica of a microbe, but an interpretation of one. And that distinction, Brown says, is important.

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It was early 1954 when computer scientists, for the first time, publicly revealed a machine that could translate between human languages. It became known as the Georgetown-IBM experiment: an "electronic brain" that translated sentences from Russian into English.

The scientists believed a universal translator, once developed, would not only give Americans a security edge over the Soviets but also promote world peace by eliminating language barriers.

Are successful people's sleep patterns giving them a leg-up on average people?

"Successful" people get more shut-eye than you might expect, with more than 50 percent of 21 surveyed clocking in at 6-8 hours every night. An infographic put together by a U.K. furniture store called HomeArena (which coincidentally sells mattresses) shows the sleep routines of 21 political leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, media moguls and TV personalities.

Our Parasites And Vermin Reveal Secrets Of Human History

Dec 24, 2015

They look like tiny tubes with stumpy legs. They can nestle snugly into pores, right at the base of small hairs. And there are probably hundreds on your face.

Austin Martin, a junior at Brown University, stands in front of an eighth-grade class at Community Preparatory School in Providence, R.I. He's here to test out the website he developed, which he hopes will help junior and senior high school students learn the vocabulary they'll need for their college entrance exams.

He starts the class by connecting his laptop to a projector, and then he veers off the traditional path, away from rote memorization — and toward rap music.

A short song clip plays over speakers: "So rude that your mentality is distorting your reality."

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