Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

A solar-powered plane called the Solar Impulse 2 is preparing to resume its flight around the world after nine months on the ground for repairs.

The team's goal: to be the first plane to circumnavigate the globe using only solar power.

NPR's Geoff Brumfiel tells our Newscast unit that the plane is getting ready for liftoff in Hawaii. Here's more from Geoff:

Could swallowing the eggs of a parasitic worm help treat a disease?

It might just work in some cases, according to the work of P'ng Loke and Ken Cadwell, two researchers at New York University who study parasites and the immune system.

On Tuesday, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a plan to send interstellar probes to the Alpha Centauri star system. The audacious project would use a giant laser on Earth to accelerate scores of postage-stamp-size spacecraft to nearly the speed of light. They would cross the void in just 20 years — virtually no time on the scale of interstellar travel.

Chicago's North Broadway Street is always bustling, but in the past few weeks, it has been noisier than ever. There is water flowing from an open fire hydrant, and as traffic inches by, a cement truck backs up and pours concrete down into a big hole in the street.

"Well, we always say there's two seasons: either winter and construction," says Maureen Martino, the executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. This water main upgrade is only the beginning; Martino says the city has plenty more scheduled for the area this year.

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

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

After months of hesitation, U.S. health officials now say that the Zika virus is indeed the cause of severe brain damage in the infants of some women who were infected with the virus during pregnancy.

A CDC review published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describes evidence of what U.S. health officials now call a causal relationship between the virus and a severe form of microcephaly and intracranial calcifications.

Coastal cities across the globe are looking for ways to protect themselves from sea level rise and extreme weather. In the U.S., there is no set funding stream to help — leaving each city to figure out solutions for itself.

New Orleans and Philadelphia are two cities that face very similar challenges of flooding from rising tides. But they've chosen to pay for the solutions in very different ways.

New Orleans: Post-Disaster Payments And Grants Pave Future

Ian Burkhart, now 24, was paralyzed in 2010 after diving into a wave in shallow water. The accident left him with some arm movement but no use of his hands.

On a cold windy morning, Kelly Nissen feeds the cows at the Iowa State University Beef Nutrition Farm. He weighs out specific rations and carefully delivers them to numbered feed bunks.

"When you're feeding, you're always double-checking yourself to make sure it's going in the right lot," Nissen says. It's important — because these cows munch on more than just the common mix of hay, corn and distiller's grain. They're also charged with testing out different formulas developed by the researchers in the animal science department at Iowa State.

Some users of LSD say one of the most profound parts of the experience is a deep oneness with the universe. The hallucinogenic drug might be causing this by blurring boundaries in the brain, too.

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

Finding a new planet that orbits a distant star isn't such a big deal anymore — astronomers have discovered around 2,000. But no one knows if any of these planets has a moon.

That might change this year, if a moon-hunting project goes as planned.

A leading brand of home and garden pest-control products says it will stop using a class of pesticides linked to the decline of bees.

Ortho, part of the Miracle-Gro family, says the decision to drop the use of the chemicals — called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short — comes after considering the range of possible threats to bees and other pollinators.

"While agencies in the U.S. are still evaluating the overall impact of neonics on pollinator populations, it's time for Ortho to move on," says Tim Martin, the general manager of the Ortho Brand.

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

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

Artificial limbs have come a long way since the days of peg legs and hooks for hands. But one thing most of these prosthetics lack is a sense of touch.

Zhenan Bao intends to change that.

Days after they declared a spacecraft emergency over the Kepler space telescope, NASA engineers say the craft has now recovered and that they're working to figure out what happened.

Kepler, which is currently nearly 75 million miles away from Earth, placed itself into Emergency Mode sometime in the middle of last week. But it wasn't until a scheduled contact on Thursday that mission engineers discovered the problem. That led NASA to declare a wider emergency, giving the mission priority access to communications through its Deep Space Network.

The number of tigers in the wild has risen from an estimated 3,200 in 2010 to about 3,890 in 2016 — a gain of more than 20 percent after a century of decline, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The group says the tiger populations have grown in at least four countries: India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.

Wearing a Fitbit?

If so, you already know that electronic fitness trackers can let you keep records on your smartphone of how many steps you've walked, how much you've slept, maybe your heart rate, or even where you've been.

But what can the gadget tell your doctor? A few things that are pretty useful, it turns out.

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

Friday was a landmark day for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It launched into space a resupply capsule bearing a new inflatable habitat for the International Space Station. Then the rocket's "first stage" returned to Earth for a sea landing — without exploding.

Every year, U.S. hospitals treat hundreds of thousands of violent injuries. Often, the injured are patched up and sent home, right back to the troubles that landed them in the hospital in the first place.

Now, as these institutions of healing are facing pressure under the Affordable Care Act to keep readmissions down, a growing number of hospitals are looking at ways to prevent violence. In Baltimore, health department workers have pitched hospitals an idea they want to take citywide.

A research team is now working to put a massive drill into the the Gulf of Mexico's seafloor to help peel back 65 million years of history. Their goal: to secure a nearly mile-deep core sample from the Chicxulub crater that's commonly linked to the end of the dinosaur era.

"There's a lot of questions about mass extinction events, including all the extinction or kill mechanisms out there," says one of the research team's leaders, Sean Gulick of the University of Texas, Austin.

The KQED podcast Love in the Digital Age explores "how technology changes the way we experience love, friendship, intimacy and connection." The most recent episode focuses on two people — a Los Angeles radio host and his wife — who have drawn great strength from their online communities and social media as they face his diagnosis of terminal cancer. You can listen to the podcast here.

Poaching and destruction of habitat have decimated wild tiger populations around the world, especially in Cambodia.

There are no longer any breeding tigers left in the wild in that country, and the species is considered "functionally extinct" there, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

A new era for living in space may be about to start.

A prototype habitat is headed to the International Space Station for a two-year trial. What makes the module unique is it's launched folded up, and it's inflated to its full size once in orbit.

Deep in the forests of Hawaii, a native tree called 'ōhi'a reigns king. The tall canopy tree dominates the island's forests, especially on the Big Island. 'Ōhi'a makes up approximately 80 percent of Hawaii's native forests and more than half of 'ōhi'a grows on Hawaii Island.Often the first plant to grow from a fresh lava flow, 'Ōhi'a is known for its resilience. That's what makes a recent discovery all the more tragic: 'ōhi'a is dying.

The tiny Samoan islands have among the highest rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the world — and diet and weight-related health issues have been rising in these Pacific nations since the 1970s. Now 1 in 3 residents of American Samoa suffers from diabetes.

Prejudices are often deep, obstinate beliefs. You've probably noticed this if you've ever tried to change someone's political opinion at a dinner party. But David Fleischer, the director of the Leadership LAB of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, thinks he's found a way to begin changing people's prejudices with just a short conversation.

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