Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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Is Missile Defense Our Best Defense?

Jun 1, 2017

This week, the Pentagon successfully tested and shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile target. The move is widely seen as a test of the Pentagon’s ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.

But how exactly does the US’s missile defense system work? And can we trust it when we need it the most? When lives are on the line?

GUESTS

Emotions, the classic thinking goes, are innate, basic parts of our humanity. We are born with them, and when things happen to us, our emotions wash over us.

"They happen to us, almost," says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Welcome to Invisibilia Season 3! The NPR program and podcast explores the invisible forces that shape human behavior, and we here at Shots are joining in to probe the often tenuous line between perception and reality. Here's an excerpt from Episode 1.

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For more on the U.S. role in the Paris Agreement, we are joined now by Todd Stern. He was the Obama administration's chief climate negotiator in Paris. Welcome back to the studio.

TODD STERN: Thank you very much, Ari.

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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It's a mission that's been in the works for nearly 60 years. NASA says it will launch a spacecraft in 2018 to "touch the sun," sending it closer to the star's surface than ever before.

The spacecraft is small – its instruments would fit into a refrigerator — but it's built to withstand temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, all the while maintaining room temperature inside the probe.

Exxon Mobil Corp. shareholders have asked the energy giant to publicly disclose how the fight against climate change could affect the company's bottom line.

It's a victory for environmental activists, who have been urging the oil company to consider the economic impact the Paris accord would have if it is fully implemented. The global agreement calls for more investment in renewable energy and for deep cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions that result from burning fossil fuels.

Trying to make out what someone is saying in a noisy environment is a problem most people can relate to, and one that gets worse with age.

At 77, Linda White hears all right in one-on-one settings but has problems in noisier situations. "Mostly in an informal gathering where people are all talking at once," she says. "The person could be right beside you, but you still don't hear them."

President Trump is nearing a decision on whether to formally withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement — a landmark deal in which nearly every country volunteered to curb its greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit global warming.

Howard Scott Warshaw has had many gigs over the years, but perhaps his most notable achievement was also a spectacular failure:

"I did the E.T. video game, the game that is widely held to be the worst video game of all time," he says.

The war in Syria is a conflict of the social media age. Everyone — the rebels, the government, ordinary citizens, everyone — has a cellphone.

And that means almost no bad deed goes unrecorded by someone.

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At the University of Wisconsin, some students are blending art and science to create hotels that might save disappearing insects. Susan Bence of member station WUWM explains.

Doctors can save thousands of lives a year if they act promptly to identify sepsis, an often lethal reaction to infection. Sometimes called blood poisoning, sepsis is the leading cause of death in hospitals.

A 4-year-old regulation in New York state compels doctors and hospitals to follow a certain protocol, involving a big dose of antibiotics and intravenous fluids. It's far from perfect — about a quarter of patients still die from sepsis. But early intervention is helping.

In 1969, Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist from Stanford University, ran an interesting field study. He abandoned two cars in two very different places: one in a mostly poor, crime-ridden section of New York City, and the other in a fairly affluent neighborhood of Palo Alto, Calif. Both cars were left without license plates and parked with their hoods up.

Sharks have been swarming around southern California beaches for weeks. NPR wanted to know more about why, so we placed a call to Chris Lowe, a professor in marine biology and head of the Shark Lab at California State University at Long beach — or rather, we tried. Lowe was offshore on a boat trapping sharks to tag, and at the appointed time for our interview, Lowe had his hands full ... of shark.

Dr. Mark Sklansky, a self-described germaphobe, can't stop thinking about how quickly microbes can spread.

"If I am at a computer terminal or using a phone or opening a door, I know my hands are now contaminated, and I need to be careful and I need to wash my hands," says Sklansky, a professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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NASA Spacecraft Finds Storms On Jupiter

May 28, 2017

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And this is Lulu's log - stardate May 28, 2017, where we consider matters of space, the stars, the universe and planets.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Receiving a diagnosis in 2017 — at least one made at a medical center outfitted with the latest clinical gadgetry — might include a scan that divides your body into a bread loaf of high-resolution digital slices. Your DNA might be fed through a gene sequencer that spits out your mortal code in a matter of hours. Even your smartphone might soon be used to uncover health problems.

On a Saturday afternoon, 10 students gather at Genspace, a community lab in Brooklyn, to learn how to edit genes.

There's a recent graduate with a master's in plant biology, a high school student who started a synthetic biology club, a medical student, an eighth grader, and someone who works in pharmaceutical advertising.

"This is so cool to learn about; I hadn't studied biology since like ninth grade," says Ruthie Nachmany, one of the class participants. She had studied anthropology, visual arts, and environmental studies in college, but is now a software engineer.

It's planting time in America. Farmers are spending long days on their tractors, pulling massive planters across millions of acres of farmland, dropping corn and soybean seeds into the ground.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Richard Dawkins On Terrorism And Religion

May 27, 2017

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Impulsive children become thoughtful adults only after years of improvements to the brain's information highways, a team reports in Current Biology.

A study of nearly 900 young people ages 8 to 22 found that the ability to control impulses, stay on task and make good decisions increased steadily over that span as the brain remodeled its information pathways to become more efficient.

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Wired For Altruism.

About Abigail Marsh's TED Talk

When Abigail Marsh was 19, a complete stranger risked his life to save her from a car accident. Today, she studies what motivates us to help others — and why some of us are "extraordinary" altruists.

About Abigail Marsh

Most anyone who has encountered a flamingo has probably been impressed by its signature ability to balance on a single long, spindly leg for remarkably long periods of time.

But actually, scientists have now shown that what appears to be a feat requires almost no muscle activity from the bird.

NASA's Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter's north and south poles.

That's just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team.

Many Adults Don't Think Exposure To Vaping Is Bad For Kids

May 25, 2017

Despite the toxic ingredients commonly found in e-cigarettes and other vaping products, many adults don't think secondhand e-cigarette aerosol poses a risk to children, according to a report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About one-third of adults surveyed didn't know if secondhand aerosol caused harm to children, and 40 percent of the adults said this kind of exposure caused "little" or "some" harm to children.

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