Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Donna Davis thought she had hit the jackpot with the two bags of mushrooms she collected in the woods of Northern California's Salt Point State Park. Instead, she ended up in the hospital, facing the possibility of a liver transplant, after mistakenly eating a poisonous mushroom known as the death cap.

Is outer space a man's domain? You might think so in Germany, where the country's 11 astronauts have all been men. They also dominate mission control at the German Space Operations Center, although Katja Leuoth is helping to change that.

Five years ago, Leuoth became the center's first female flight director. Recently, a second woman was hired, she says. They and 10 male colleagues run the European portion of the International Space Station 24/7 from the compound in the small Bavarian town of Oberpfaffenhofen.

As Californians hope for rain and snow to end the state's extreme drought, a decades-old rule prohibits reservoirs from filling up in the winter, so some water ends up being released.

The rule may sound odd given how chronically dry California is, but it's actually to prevent a bigger disaster: flooding.

Can We Fall Prey To Hidden Parasites?

Mar 18, 2016

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Hidden

About Ed Yong's TED talk

Science writer Ed Yong delves into the hidden world of parasites. He describes how parasites, once inside a host's body, become masters in the craft of manipulation.

About Ed Yong

How Can Hidden Sounds Be Captured By Everyday Objects

Mar 18, 2016

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Hidden

About Abe Davis' TED Talk

Computer scientist Abe Davis explains how you can turn a plant or a bag of chips into a microphone, and capturing the hidden sound vibrations on a high-speed camera.

About Abe Davis

Abe Davis is a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a musician.

What Hidden Underwater Worlds Are Left To Discover?

Mar 18, 2016

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Hidden

About Robert Ballard's TED Talk

Ocean explorer Robert Ballard makes the case for exploring the deep oceans, where he is discovering new species, resources and mountain ranges.

About Robert Ballard

Could A Boiling River From A Childhood Legend Exist?

Mar 18, 2016

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Hidden

About Andrés Ruzo's TED Talk

As a boy, Andrés Ruzo heard stories of a mythical boiling river. Years later, as a geoscientist, he recounts his journey deep into the Amazon to see if the river actually exists.

About Andrés Ruzo

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Hidden

About Sarah Parcak's TED Talk

Sarah Parcak is a pioneer in space archaeology. She describes her method of using satellite images to locate lost ancient sites.

About Sarah Parcak

There may be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of undiscovered ancient sites — Sarah Parcak wants to locate them.

When it comes to milk production, Gigi the cow is queen.

"She's the diva of all divas," says Robert Behnke, a Brooklyn, Wis., dairy farmer and Gigi's owner.

And she's earned that diva status: Earlier this year, she produced more milk in one year than any other cow had done before — just shy of 75,000 pounds of milk, roughly equivalent to 8,700 gallons. That's triple the national average for a dairy cow to produce in a year.

After days of anticipation, a fuzzy wing flopped out of the remains of an egg shell Friday morning, signaling the hatching of a baby bald eagle who's been watched and fretted over, via an eagle cam set up at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

The bird then worked its way out of its shell over the next hour, emerging more fully around 8:20 a.m. ET. Throughout the process, its parent eagle alternated between peering attentively (to be honest, eagles don't seem capable of anything but) and nestling over the fledgling and a second, as-yet-unhatched, egg.

Residents in Flint, Mich., are still living in a state of emergency, waiting for answers about the safety of their water.

After almost two years of bad drinking water, it can be hard for them to trust researchers and officials – except for a group of independent researchers from Virginia Tech who exposed the problem last summer.

"So we trust them. We don't trust nobody else," says Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, a resident of Flint.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you're planning to hoist a pint of Irish dry stout for St. Patrick's Day, the folks at Guinness have a polite request: Don't slurp the foamy head off their beer. It's essentially a nitrogen cap, they say, that's protecting the flavors underneath from being oxidized.

St. Patrick's is a huge day for the legendary brewer – of the 70 million people who are estimated to be celebrating today, around 13 million will also drink a glass of Guinness.

I've been itching to get a standing desk. After all, America's sitting itself into an early grave. Sitting is the new smoking. Clearly, a standing desk would stop me from sitting, and standing is just so much better for you than sitting, right?

Contrary to popular belief, science does not say so.

The mathematics problem he solved had been lingering since 1637 — and he first read about it when he was just 10 years old. This week, British professor Andrew Wiles, 62, got prestigious recognition for his feat, winning the Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for providing a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem.

Pot-infused edibles are big sellers in states that have legalized marijuana. The problem is, it's been tough to measure and regulate the potency of these ganja-laced gummy bears, lollies and brownies.

At 85 years old, Alpha Edwards did not expect to be out of savings or to have $3,000 of credit card debt.

"I don't do anything that costs money," Edwards says. "I can't."

The problem started four years ago, when Edwards moved to Miami Springs, Fla., with her little brown dog. Her husband had recently died, and Edwards wanted to be closer to her daughter.

Edwards regularly sees doctors for her chronic lung disease and her pacemaker. And not long after she moved, she needed a cardiac procedure.

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Psychologists disagree on whether expecting your marriage to be a deeply fulfilling relationship makes it more likely that the union will thrive, or that it will doom you to disappointment.

So, psychologists, should we just go ahead and expect the worst after the honeymoon?

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

At Southwest Baltimore Charter School, preparing lunch takes a few extra steps.

"We don't use the water from the building for cooking, not at all," say cafeteria worker LaShawn Thompson, shaking her head.

Her colleague, Christine Fraction, points to a large water bottle sitting on the counter of a stainless steel sink.

"We having greens or something like that, we having vegetables, we'll just turn it over into the pan and then put it on the stove," she says.

Humans like to place things in categories and can struggle when things can't easily be categorized. That also applies to people, a study finds, and the brain's visual biases may play a role in perceptions of mixed-race people.

Forget About It: Your Middle-Aged Brain Is Not On The Decline

Mar 15, 2016

Faced with her own forgetfulness, former NPR correspondent and author Barbara Bradley Hagerty tried to do something about it. She's written about her efforts in her book on midlife, called Life Reimagined. To her surprise, she discovered that an older dog can learn new tricks.

A confession: I loathe standardized tests, and one of the perks of reaching midlife is that I thought I'd never have to take another.

By now, you probably know that Americans waste a lot of food.

Each year, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food that farmers grow never makes it to our plates. That's enough to fill 44 skyscrapers. And tons of it ends up in landfills, where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas.

The poet John Berryman once wrote, "My mother told me as a boy (repeatingly) 'Ever to confess you're bored means you have no inner resources.' I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored."

We've all been there: bored in class, bored at work, bored in stand still traffic. But why do we find boredom so unbearable? And, if we hate boredom so much, why do we still take boring jobs? This week on Hidden Brain, we try to answer these questions and more – hopefully, without boring you.

Bored at Work

Eighty million years ago, tyrannosaurs were the top predators in Asia and North America.

And scientists say a newly discovered dinosaur from Uzbekistan helps to explain their rise.

In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers said they have found a specimen from a 20 million-year gap in fossil records — between the small-bodied "marginal hunters" and the "apex predators" the tyrannosaurid group would become. This group includes Tyrannosaurus rex, Albertosaurus and Tarbosaurus.

You can't find a more intimate relationship between humans, food and nature than fishing, says Michele Mesmain, international coordinator of Slow Fish, a seafood spinoff of the Italy-based Slow Food movement. Think of all the thousands of boats at sea, catching wild creatures to haul back to shore and eat. "It's our last source of widely eaten, truly wild food," she says.

Editor's note: Last fall, NPR's Maanvi Singh embarked on a months-long quest to find her ideal pumpkin pie recipe. As she discovered, there's a lot of science involved in getting the crust and filling just the way you like it. To celebrate Pi Day, we reprise this story, first published last December.

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. I have baked many, many, many pies.

And when I first began making pumpkin pies this autumn, my results were at best inconsistent and, at worst, disastrous.

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

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation last October that would allow terminally ill people to request life-ending medication from their physicians.

But no one knew when the law would take effect, because of the unusual way in which the law was passed — in a legislative "extraordinary session" called by Brown. The bill could not go into effect until 90 days after that session adjourned.

Pages