Science & Health

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In a post published by the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) last month, the behavior of a mountain gorilla female in Rwanda was described in striking terms.

The 26-year-old female, named Pasika, has been traveling alone with her baby for more than seven months in Rwanda's Virunga mountains, ever since her social group fell apart at the death of its silverback leader. Her infant, Mashami, is now one year old.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams clearly has conflicted feelings about marshmallows.

In a just-published interview in Vogue magazine, she and her husband talked about the so-called "marshmallow test." It's a well-known experiment to study children's self-control first run by a Stanford psychologist in the 1960s.

A bumper sticker spotted in Montana reads, "No barley, no beer." It's a reminder that Montana's barley farmers are struggling. Barley is an unforgiving crop that needs a precise recipe of water and sunshine to thrive — too much of either will cause it to wither and die. And amid a changing climate and unpredictable seasons, that's exactly what's happening.

Most Americans drink safely and in moderation. But a steady annual increase in trips made to emergency rooms as a result of drinking alcohol added up to 61 percent more visits in 2014 compared with 2006, according to a study published this month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Visits to hospital emergency rooms for alcohol-related issues rose rapidly over a nine-year period, though it's unclear why.

It's summer in Australia and extreme heat is causing bats' brains to fry.

Hundreds of fur-covered flying fox bats, which lack sufficient canopy cover and shade in Australia's suburbs, died outside Sydney over the weekend as temperatures soared to 117 degrees F, the hottest it's been since 1939.

An apology for "tweeting out such fake news" didn't come from a media member accused by President Trump, but from a Japanese astronaut whose growth in outer space was miscalculated.

In a tweet on Monday, Norishige Kanai claimed he had grown by as much as 3 1/2 inches since arriving at the International Space Station on Dec. 19.

Warming temperatures are having a profound and potentially devastating impact on one of the most important green sea turtle populations in the world.

Scientists were surprised to find that "virtually no male turtles" are being hatched in a key breeding ground in the northern Great Barrier Reef.

Like many reptiles, the sex of a turtle is determined by how warm the egg is as it's being incubated. And small temperature differences can cause dramatic changes in the male-to-female ratio.

The results of an IQ test can depend on the gender of the person who's conducting the test. Likewise, studies of pain medication can be completely thrown off by the gender of the experimenter. This underappreciated problem is one reason that some scientific findings don't stand the test of time.

Butterfly beak. Moth mouthpiece. Lepidoptera lips.

Call it whatever you want, the proboscis is a big deal. It's a defining feature of many moths and butterflies – the long, flexible mouthpiece that dips into flowers and draws out nectar.

In the 19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay Nature: "A man is a god in ruins."

Ever since people contemplated the existence of a divine dimension — and this belief must go back to the very early stages of Homo Sapiens or even earlier — with Neanderthals, a split occurred between the human condition and the eternal.

As humans, it is our curse and our blessing to be aware of our own mortality — and to suffer with the loss of our close ones — and, in a broader sense, with the predicament of others.

A Twitter battle over the size of each "nuclear button" possessed by President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un has triggered a surge in sales of a drug that protects against radiation poisoning.

Troy Jones, who runs the website www.nukepills.com, said demand for potassium iodide soared last week, after Trump tweeted that he had a "much bigger & more powerful" button than Kim – a statement that raised new fears about an escalating threat of nuclear war.

A week after announcing a dramatic expansion of offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the Trump administration will grant an exception for the state of Florida.

Tuesday's Google Doodle honors Har Gobind Khorana. He would have turned 96 on this day according to legal documentation, though nobody knows the exact date the Nobel Prize-winning scientist was born. Khorana was from a small village of roughly 100 in what is now Raipur, Pakistan, but was part of India in 1922.

Where you live — in a city versus a rural area — could make a difference in how old you tend to be when you first have sex, what type of birth control you use and how many children you have.

These are the findings from federal data collected using the National Survey of Family Growth, which analyzed responses from in-person interviews with more than 10,000 U.S. women, ages 18 to 44, between 2011 and 2015.

Jimena Canales is a faculty member of the Graduate College at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a research affiliate at MIT. She focuses on 19th and 20th century history of the physical sciences and science in the modern world.

A federal energy regulator has rejected a proposed rule that would have subsidized nuclear and coal plants, helping those fuel sources compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables.

The rule was described by the Department of Energy as a way to promote the resilience of the electric grid — that is, its ability to provide reliable energy in the face of disruptive events like bad weather.

Inside a bustling market in the north coast town of Tavua on Fiji's largest island, farmer Adi Alesi Nacoba stacks her produce of the day. She carefully lays out eggplants, chilies, and papayas at her newspaper-lined table.

Bad weather is hampering efforts to contain a fire and oil spill off the coast of Shanghai three days after a collision between an Iranian-owned oil tanker and a Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier in the East China Sea.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Quick, think of a physicist.

If you're anything like me, you probably didn't have to think very hard before the names Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton popped up.

But what if I asked you to think of a female physicist? What about a black, female physicist?

You may have to think a bit harder about that. For years, mainstream accounts of history have largely ignored or forgotten the scientific contributions of women and people of color.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is how many veterans have approached health care conversations about marijuana use with the doctors they see from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Worried that owning up to using the drug could jeopardize their VA benefits — even if they're participating in a medical marijuana program approved by their state — veterans have often kept mum. That may be changing under a new directive from the Veterans Health Administration urging vets and their physicians to open up on the subject.

A top-secret multi-billion dollar U.S. spy satellite launched from Cape Canaveral on Sunday reportedly failed to separate from the upper stage of its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and never reached orbit.

Before it got cold this winter, it was warm. Very warm. In fact, new data out Monday shows 2017 was the third warmest year recorded in the lower 48 states.

And it was also a smackdown year for weather disasters: 16 weather events each broke the billion-dollar barrier.

First, the heat. Last year was 2.6 degrees F warmer than the average year during the 20th century.

Pfizer has announced plans to end its research efforts to discover new drugs for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The pharmaceutical giant explained its decision, which will entail roughly 300 layoffs, as a move to better position itself "to bring new therapies to patients who need them."

Fun fact about the newsroom at WFPL, the NPR member station in Louisville, Ky., where I work: It is fully stocked with lots of candy. Mini-chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, Jolly Ranchers — the list goes on and the candy bowl is constantly being refilled.

Then last week, a gigantic bag of gummy bears appeared. Which led to this question from our digital editor, Jonese Franklin: "Do gummy bears really come in different flavors, or do we just think they taste different because they are different colors?"

To study the human gut and the microbes that live within it, scientists have a couple of options. They can grab a small piece of tissue from the gastrointestinal tract or collect a sample of fecal matter.

Two recent books, one a manifesto by British classicist and Cambridge professor Mary Beard, the other a work of fiction by novelist and game designer Naomi Alderman, address — in different ways — the difficult relationship between women and power.

When are women's voices heard? When and how do women have influence in public and private spheres?

A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town's reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped.

The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste.

"I think some of our best steakhouses chased the quality of the beef to the bottom," Kotar says.

Nearly 70 people live on a sliver of land wedged between Interstate 82 and Rattlesnake Ridge in central Washington state. A massive chunk of the ridge is moving, and cracking, and geologists say it will likely cause a landslide.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a top secret U.S. government payload into orbit, while returning its first-stage booster to the ground for reuse.

The Falcon lifted off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the first-stage of the Falcon returned to Earth for an upright landing, the upper stage lofted the mysterious Zuma, presumed to be a spy satellite or military communications satellite, into an undisclosed orbit.

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