Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Paleontologists at the University of New South Wales in Australia say they have identified a tiny new species of marsupial lion that lived around 18 million years ago.

The extinct, squirrel-size animal weighed about 1.3 pounds, very likely lived in trees and had teeth that suggest it was capable of ripping apart other small creatures with its molars.

The researchers named it Microleo attenboroughi in honor of Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist who has hosted numerous documentaries on wildlife.

Early mornings are routine for 69-year-old Hiroyuko Yamamoto. He's typically at a busy intersection in the city of Matsudo, near Tokyo, where he volunteers as a school crossing guard. But one rainy morning a little over a year ago, an old woman caught his attention.

She was pushing a bicycle. She was kind of disheveled. Despite the rain, she didn't have an umbrella. When Yamamoto spoke to the woman, she said she was trying to get to the city of Kamisuwa. That's about four hours away by train.

After Rory Staunton fell at the gym and cut his arm in March of 2012, the 12-year-old became feverish. He vomited during the night and complained of a sharp pain in his leg. When his parents called his pediatrician the next day, she said there was a stomach virus going around New York City, and his leg pain was likely due to his fall.

But she did advise his parents, Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton, to take Rory to the emergency department because of possible dehydration. The hospital workers did some blood work, gave him fluids and sent him home.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Japanese cities, space is at a premium. So convenience stores that cram everything from Kleenex to rice balls into a few square yards are everywhere. You can't walk five minutes in most cities without running into one or two or even half a dozen.

But they're not just a place for Slurpees and snacks. Nearly 27 percent of Japan's population is now 65 or older, and convenience stores are changing to serve this growing market.

How great would it be to win a brand new car? How horrible would it be to get laid off from your job? Research by psychologist Dan Gilbert at Harvard University suggests, not that great and not that horrible (respectively). Among the many things Gilbert studies is how people make predictions about future events—specifically, how we make predictions about how we'll feel about future events.

As expected, the Zika outbreak in Florida is growing — though how fast is still difficult to say.

State and federal health officials say mosquitoes are spreading Zika in two neighborhoods of Miami, including Miami Beach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told pregnant women Friday not to go into these neighborhoods — and to consider postponing travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County.

The rain fell for days, sometimes 3 inches or more in a single hour, as streets became rivers and rivers ate up entire neighborhoods in southeast Louisiana.

Between Aug. 11 and Aug. 14, more than 20 inches of rain fell in and around East Baton Rouge, one of the hardest-hit parishes. And in some parishes in the region, as much as 2 feet of rain fell in 48 hours.

The National Weather Service says the likelihood that so much rain would fall in so little time was about one-tenth of 1 percent. A flood this bad should only happen once every thousand years.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

What It's Really Like To 'Walk' In Space

Aug 21, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

It looks like it could be a cartoon character, but it's real. And this little squid is making waves on the internet.

Researchers from the Nautilus exploration vessel were cruising along the deep sea floor off California's coast when they came upon the bright purple creature with giant, stuffed-animal-like eyes.

"Whoa!" they exclaim in unison.

"It looks fake," one says. And those googly eyes? "It looks like they just painted them on," another says, to peals of laughter.

When Scott Gatz and his husband decided to become fathers several years ago, pursuing parenthood meant finding both an egg donor and a surrogate to help them conceive a baby. Their first round of in vitro fertilization produced seven healthy embryos. One of those embryos was successfully transferred to their surrogate's womb, resulting in their son Matthew, who is now 6-years-old.

While the San Francisco couple feels their family is now complete, they are still in a quandary over what to do with their six remaining embryos — what they call their "maybe babies."

When scientists tallied the temperature readings from around the world last month, this is what they discovered:

"July, 2016 was the warmest month we have observed in our period of record that dates back to 1880," says Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And July wasn't a freak occurrence, he notes. The past 10 years have seen numerous high temperature records.

A microscopic parasite is ravaging the fish population of the Yellowstone River in Montana prompting state officials to ban water-based recreation along a 183-mile stretch of the river and all of its tributaries.

The state's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced the closure, which extends from Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary at Gardiner to the Highway 212 bridge in Laurel.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

At about 8 a.m. ET today, far above Earth, astronaut Jeff Williams floated out a hatch and then welcomed Kate Rubins into the void.

"OK Kate, come on out," said Williams.

Artisanal Food Waste: Can You Turn Scraps Into Premium Products?

Aug 19, 2016

Many efforts to address the food waste crisis hinge on getting consumers to buy fruits and vegetables that are adorably ugly — the bumpy tomato, the bulbous carrot, the dinged apple. Taste and nutritional value aren't compromised by their irregular appearance.

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

Rising sea levels have eroded an Inupiat Eskimo village for decades. Now, residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, have officially voted to relocate.

The island community, located near the Bering Strait, opted to move rather than remain in place with added safety measures to protect against the rising waters. The city clerk's office told NPR that 94 votes favored relocating and 78 votes wanted to protect in place.

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

Contact lenses are so ubiquitous — about 41 million people in the U.S. wear them — that it's easy to forget that they're actual medical devices, with small but real medical risks.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Next-generation hot dogs and hamburgers may come with an unusual ingredient: seaweed. That's the goal of a group of scientists trying to make these red-meat-rich, unhealthful foods more healthful by adding nutrient-packed seaweed, a staple in Japanese and other Asian cuisines.

This is the conclusion of our three-part series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

May 7: Race Day

Scientists have discovered that a common cause of sudden heart death has been misunderstood because researchers didn't appropriately account for racial differences in their studies.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

In 1874, when the painter and naturalist Henry Wood Elliott was observing a small crowd of walruses on the Punuk Islands off Alaska's coast, he was preoccupied with the appearance of their pustules and the precise texture of their skins.

"The longer I looked at them the more heightened was my disgust; for they resembled distorted, mortified, shapeless masses of flesh," he wrote. Almost off-handedly, he noted their number — around 150, all male — before pondering their resemblance to "so many gnomes or demons of fairy romance."

When it comes to waves, it doesn't get much bigger than the gravitational variety. Einstein predicted that huge events — like black holes merging — create gravitational waves. Unlike most waves we experience, these are distortions in space and time. They roll across the entire universe virtually unimpeded.

Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916, but none were spotted until recently. Given their incredible power, why did it take a century to locate them?

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