Science & Health

Krulwich Wonders...
4:48 am
Sun September 28, 2014

2 Ways To Think About Nothing, One Mo' Time

NASA

This being my last weekend with this blog, I wanted to repost a story I wrote a few years ago that has continued to intrigue me ...

I'm going to show you two kinds of nothing.

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Shots - Health News
4:43 am
Sun September 28, 2014

Unmasked, Cancer Survivors Face The Symbol Of Their Torture

Emily Whittington, a radiation therapist at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, pulls down a mask intended to guide radiation beams into patients with head and neck cancer.
Emily Siner NPR

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 2:21 pm

Every 15 minutes, for 10 hours a day, another patient walks into the radiation room at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. Each picks up a plastic mesh mask, walks to a machine, and lies down on the table underneath.

Nurses fit the mask over the patient's face and shoulders. And then they snap it down.

"It was awful," says Barbara Blades, who was diagnosed with cancer in her lymph nodes and tongue nine years ago. "It was awful to have your head bolted to a table. Not being able to move. Not being able to move your head."

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Parallels
4:41 am
Sun September 28, 2014

Tiny Spanish Island Nears Its Goal: 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Five industrial wind turbines form part of the Gorona del Viento power plant on the island of El Hierro. By the end of this year, the power plant is set to generate 100 percent of the energy El Hierro needs, making it the world's first energy-independent island powered only by renewables.
Lauren Frayer for NPR

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 2:21 pm

It actually takes quite a lot of fossil fuel power to reach the tiny Spanish island of El Hierro. You have to catch a commercial jet flight, a propeller plane and then a ferry to reach what was once the end of the known world, before Columbus set sail.

But once you're there, there's no need for fossil fuels at all. The ancient island off the west coast of Africa is now a model for the future, within months of running on 100 percent renewable energy, which consists of a mix of wind and hydro-power.

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Science
7:20 am
Sat September 27, 2014

India Zooms To Mars Much More Cheaply, But With Trade-Offs

A member of the Indian security force keeps watch over a launch vehicle carrying the Mars Orbiter probe at the Indian Space Research Organization facility, in Sriharikota, in 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 8:17 am

Earlier this week, two spacecraft arrived at the planet Mars. One came from India, the other from the U.S. Both are now in orbit and collecting data. But the Indian probe is conducting its mission at a tiny fraction of the cost of its NASA counterpart.

"Some of the publicly available numbers are in the $74 million to $75 million range," says Amaresh Kollipara, a managing partner of Earth 2 Orbit, a company that pairs private satellite providers with the Indian space agency.

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Cities Project
5:17 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

N.J. Braces For Future Disasters By Fleeing, And Fortifying, The Coast

Artists' renderings of New Meadowland show how the wetland would be designed for human recreational use as well as flood control. The berm shown would be a path through the park when water was low (left). When storms came in, the wetlands would flood, and the berm would protect local development.
Courtesy of New Meadowlands

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 11:58 am

It has been nearly two years since Hurricane Sandy crashed ashore in New Jersey, devastating cities throughout the region. As cities and towns along the coast consider how to prepare for future weather patterns, and avert the kind of damage that happened in 2012, a two-pronged response has emerged — a kind of municipal fight-or-flight response.

One option is to retreat — encourage residents to move away from the water. The other is to resist — armor the coast so it can take a battering without flooding city streets.

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The Salt
5:15 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

GMO Wheat Investigation Closed, But Another One Opens

How did that genetically modified wheat end up in a field in Oregon? Investigators still don't know, but now they've found GMO wheat in Montana, too.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 6:38 pm

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) say that they cannot figure out how genetically engineered wheat appeared, as if by magic, in a farmer's field in eastern Oregon in the spring of 2013.

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Animals
3:52 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Florida's Manatees: Big, Beloved And Bitterly Contested

A manatee swims underwater in the springs of Crystal River, Fla. — home to a group of residents who have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, demanding that the agency consider removing the animals from the endangered species list.
Amanda Cotton iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 5:39 pm

They're large, even ungainly. But there may be no animal more beloved in Florida than the manatee.

Sorry, dolphins. It's the manatee that is the state's official marine mammal. But as manatees meander through Florida's shallow bays, rivers and canals, they often encounter people. And that's where problems arise.

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Krulwich Wonders...
9:37 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Everything Dies, Right? But Does Everything Have To Die? Here's A Surprise

Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Sat September 27, 2014 2:05 pm

A puzzlement.

Why, I wonder, are both these things true? There is an animal, a wee little thing, the size of a poppy seed, that lives in lakes and rivers and eats whatever flows through it; it's called a gastrotrich. It has an extremely short life.

Hello, Goodbye, I'm Dead

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Veterans-Health Care
4:39 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Alabama Congresswoman Says Complete Mistrust Of VA

Rep. Martha Roby of Montgomery said the veterans say they get appointments made within two weeks, but then they get canceled.
Credit roby.house.gov

An Alabama congresswoman says she has complete mistrust of the health care system for veterans.

Rep. Martha Roby of Montgomery made the comment Thursday. That was one day after she met with top officials of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System.

The interim director of the Central Alabama VA announced earlier this week that wait times for new patients had been cut by one-third. Roby says veterans are telling her that's incorrect. She said the veterans say they get appointments made within two weeks, but then they get canceled.

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The Two-Way
11:54 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Obama Calls On International Community To Fight Ebola

President Obama speaks about the Ebola epidemic Thursday at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 12:40 pm

President Obama urged the international community to join the United States in trying to stop the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, saying the disease could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the coming months if it is left unchecked.

"If this epidemic is not stopped, this disease could cause a humanitarian catastrophe across the region," Obama said at a U.N. meeting in New York. "In an era when regional crises can quickly become global threats, stopping Ebola is in the interests of the entire world."

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The Salt
2:33 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Sayonara To 'Super-Size Me'? Food Companies Cut Calories, So Do We

Wouldn't this salad make a healthful addition to your pizza for dinner?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 7:48 am

It just might be the dawn of a new era in American eating. Two-thirds of us are now more likely to go for foods marketed as lower-calorie and "better for you," and that means we're finally eating fewer calories.

But all this calorie-cutting from our cookies and cupcakes isn't just benevolent behavior on the part of the big food and beverage companies. It's also good for their bottom line.

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Shots - Health News
2:33 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Research Institutions Will Have To Identify 'Dual-Use' Pathogens

Biohazard suits used to handle dangerous microbes hang in a laboratory at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 3:53 pm

Any research institution that receives federal funding will soon have to screen certain kinds of scientific experiments to see if the work could potentially be misused to endanger the public.

The new policy will take effect next year, and it's the latest effort by the U. S. government to come to grips with so called "dual-use" biological research—legitimate medical or public health studies that could reveal how to make already-worrisome germs or toxins even more destructive.

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Shots - Health News
10:57 am
Wed September 24, 2014

After The NIH Funding 'Euphoria' Comes The 'Hangover'

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 10:02 am

When Richard Larson co-wrote a scientific paper about the perils of up-and-down funding for the National Institutes of Health, he noted that the research cycled between states of "euphoria," and a "hangover" far greater than you'd expect.

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Krulwich Wonders...
10:01 am
Wed September 24, 2014

This Blog Is Ending Soon

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 6:08 pm

NPR (in the form of a super-top executive) sat me down and, after four years of generously supporting this blog, told me it can't anymore. It needs to cut costs and — you know the phrase — it has chosen to go "in new directions." So at the end of this month, Krulwich Wonders will no longer appear on NPR's website.

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The Salt
8:30 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Scientists Step Up Food Fraud Efforts Following Horse Meat Scandal

The French enjoy horse meat — here's a horse meat butcher in Paris. But even the French were angry that they had been paying beef prices for it last year.
Thomas Coex AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 10:35 am

Last year, the great European horse meat scandal alerted consumers around the world to food fraud.

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