Science & Health

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Neil Shook was relaxing at home in Woodworth, N.D., on a Saturday afternoon just over a week ago.

"My wife was outside and she yelled at me to come outside and take a look at this," he recalls.

A massive brown cloud covered the horizon to the west. It was a dust storm — although Shook, who's a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, doesn't like to call it dust. "I like to refer to it as soil, because that's basically what it is," he says. "We saw this huge soil cloud moving from west to east across the landscape."

Water stagnating at a construction site. A dwindling number of mangroves along the shore. Lakes choked with algae and hyacinth. Sewage pipes leaking into the sea.

These are common sights in India.

Until recently, the best people could do to try to draw attention to such problems was to tweet pictures to the government or write letters to the newspaper — hoping someone with the power to make changes would take note.

A team of European and Moroccan scientists has found the fossil remains of five individuals who they believe are the most ancient modern humans (Homo sapiens) ever found.

In a remote area of Morocco called Jebel Irhoud, in what was once a cave, the team found a skull, bones and teeth of five individuals who lived about 315,000 years ago. The scientists also found fairly sophisticated stone tools and charcoal, indicating the use of fire by this group.

How Alan Alda Makes Science Understandable

Jun 7, 2017

Have you ever struggled with getting a basic point across to a friend or colleague? Communication isn’t simple, especially when you’re trying to express complex ideas.

Alan Alda, the actor, New York Times best-selling author and longtime host of of PBS’ “Scientific American Frontiers” has spent hours trying to bridge the communications gap with scientists, physicists, neuroscientists and academics.

In Suitland, Maryland a giant warehouse holds the largest collection of whale bones in the world.

Stacked from floor to ceiling are bones of sperm whales, gray whales, and the largest whales on Earth—blue whales, which can reach 380,000 pounds. Ancient whale fossils, tens of millions of years old, are also packed into the collection.

It was time for Emily Harrington to make a choice.

Harrington is a professional climber. In 2014, she was trying to reach the top of the tallest peak in Southeast Asia, a little-known mountain called Hkakabo Razi that had been successfully climbed only once before.

Conservation photographer Paul Nicklen has spent more than two decades documenting the ice and wildlife in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth — the Arctic and the Antarctic.

If you've ever bought coffee labeled "Uganda" and wondered what life is like in that faraway place where the beans were grown, now's your chance to see how climate change has affected the lives of Ugandan coffee farmers — through their own eyes.

The overwhelming majority of bats are friends of humanity. They gobble up the insects that bite us and ruin our crops. They pollinate flowers and they replant forests by spreading seeds around. But as agriculture overtakes rain forests and jungles, humans have come into conflict with one bat species: the common vampire bat.

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The Trump administration is taking steps to allow five energy companies to use seismic air guns for oil and gas exploration off the U.S. Atlantic coast even though they would incidentally harass marine mammals. Environmental groups and some coastal communities object.

"The testing would take place over a huge area ranging from the Delaware Bay, south to Cape Canaveral in Florida," NPR's Jeff Brady reports. "Ships would crisscross the ocean shooting loud bursts of sound underwater to map the geology."

Scientists have found a shockingly hot, massive, Jupiter-like planet that has a tail like a comet.

"It is so hot that it is hotter than most stars that we know of out there," says Scott Gaudi of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, whose team describes the scorching world called KELT-9b in the journal Nature.

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Let's turn now to Indiana. James Brainard is the Republican mayor of Carmel just outside of Indianapolis. And he joins us from member station WFYI. Thanks for being with us.

JAMES BRAINARD: Oh, it's great to be with you.

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Alan Alda's father wanted him to become a doctor, but it wasn't meant to be. "I failed chemistry really disastrously ... " Alda says. "I really didn't want to be a doctor; I wanted to be a writer and an actor."

Which is exactly what happened, but Alda didn't leave science behind entirely. His new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, is all about communication — and miscommunication — between scientists and civilians.

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Let's talk for a few more minutes about one of the key reasons the president gave for pulling the U.S. out of the climate accord. He said it was to save American jobs such as the jobs in coal.

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In explaining his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump said the deal hurt American industry.

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Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is where we start with our Friday political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and The Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times. Good to see you both.

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Renée Fleming and Francis Collins have something unexpected in common: music.

Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, plays guitar. Fleming, of course, is a renowned soprano.

Michael Bloomberg is pledging to fill a funding gap created by President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, offering up to $15 million to support the U.N. agency that helps countries implement the agreement.

After a lifetime of smoking, Juanita Milton needs help breathing.

She's tethered to an oxygen tank 24/7 and uses two drug inhalers a day, including Spiriva, which she calls "the really expensive one."

"If I can't afford it, I won't take it," Milton says.

The 67-year-old's chest was heaving one recent morning from the effort of walking down the hallway into the kitchen. Her voice was constricted as she loaded medication into a device about the size of her palm.

Missy Hart grew up in Redwood City, Calif. — in gangs, on the street, in the foster care system and in institutions.

"Where I'm from," the 26-year-old says, "you're constantly in alert mode, like fight or flight."

But at age 13, when she was incarcerated in juvenile hall for using marijuana, she found herself closing her eyes and letting her guard down in a room full of rival gang members.

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During the campaign, President Trump vowed to, quote, "cancel U.S. participation" in an historic international agreement, the Paris climate accord. Today, he did it.

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