Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Wednesday was the day astronomers said goodbye to the old Milky Way they had known and loved and hello to a new view of our home galaxy.

A European Space Agency mission called Gaia just released a long-awaited treasure trove of data: precise measurements of 1.7 billion stars.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has proposed a new rule that restricts scientific research that can be used by the agency for its regulatory decisions.

The proposed rule only allows the use of studies that make all data publicly available for anyone to analyze. Pruitt proposed the new rule as a way to make the agency's decision-making more "transparent, objective and measurable."

The day was June 4, 1924. A dark-haired girl, just 17 years old, was admitted to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. She became colony inmate 1692. The superintendent of the colony examined her. He declared her healthy, free of syphilis, able to read, write, and keep herself tidy. And then he classified her as "feeble-minded of the lowest grade, moron class."

A Flint activist who worked to expose the Michigan city's lead crisis is being hailed as an environmental hero. She's one of the winners of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize.

The honor, announced on Monday, recognizes grass-roots environmental activists from around the world.

Long before it lands on a restaurant menu, Chilean sea bass takes quite a journey to arrive on land. To catch these deep-sea dwellers, fishers usually drag nets along the ocean floor a quarter of a mile, or more, beneath the ocean's surface — a form of fishing called bottom trawling.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization tries to keep tabs on bottom trawling, which rakes in juvenile fish and lots of other ocean species that are not the desired catch, depleting future fish stocks. It asks member countries to adhere to quotas and report fishing statistics.

As more states legalize marijuana, there's growing interest in a cannabis extract — cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

It's marketed as a compound that can help relieve anxiety — and, perhaps, help ease aches and pains, too.

Part of the appeal, at least for people who don't want to get high, is that CBD doesn't have the same mind-altering effects as marijuana, since it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of the plant.

Zoologist Lucy Cooke says humans have got it all wrong about sloths. "People think that because the animal is slow that it's somehow useless and redundant," she says. But in fact, "they are incredibly successful creatures."

Cooke is the founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society and the author of a new book called The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. The book aims to set the record straight on some long-held misconceptions about the animal world.

When Teens Cyberbully Themselves

Apr 21, 2018

During the stressful teen years, most adolescents experience emotional highs and lows, but for more than 20 percent of teenagers, their worries and sad feelings turn into something more serious, like anxiety or depression. Studies show that 13 percent to 18 percent of distressed teens physically injure themselves via cutting, burning or other forms of self-harm as a way to cope with their pain.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It's one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

Malibu Moves To Ban Single-Use Plastic

Apr 20, 2018

In terms of environmental impact, there are alternatives to plastic straws — glass, paper, metal even. But each one had its particular flaw in the eyes of Robert Morris, who owns the Paradise Cove restaurant in Malibu, Calif.

"I've tried paper, but they just don't work as well with our cocktails, and we've had paper straws in the past for years, but pasta straws are just better and take less time to decompose," Morris said.

The U.S. Geological Survey released a report Wednesday predicting that there could be dire consequences if a major earthquake hits the second-largest fault in Northern California.

The USGS simulated a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on the Hayward Fault, which runs up and down the East Bay Area through Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, Fremont and Milpitas. The results show that an earthquake of that scale could kill up to 800 people and cause more than $100 billion in total damage.

Where other chefs might see kitchen trash, Tim Ma finds treasure — for his culinary creations, and his bottom line.

The spring thaw is upon us, and parched western states will be watching closely as snows melt and rivers rise. Fancy satellites monitor water levels in the biggest rivers, but they don't spot the smaller streams and waterways that feed into them. Now, some Colorado scientists have hit on a new way of tracking those smaller streams — inspired, by Pokemon.

Within seconds, a bright, white flash erupted on the lower deck of West Delta 105 E, an oil-production platform positioned a dozen miles off the Louisiana coast. Disoriented, one crew member found himself 10 feet away from where he had been working before he blacked out. Another likened the impact to a sledgehammer blow to his head. A third told investigators he felt like he'd been hit by an 18-wheeler, his hard hat, glasses and earplugs knocked off in the blast.

A researcher was surveying seabirds off the coast of Vancouver Island when he spotted something unexpected: a huge group of common bottlenose dolphins — about 200 of them — breaching and swimming.

This was a bizarre sight because this kind of dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) has never before been spotted in this area. Bottlenoses like the warmer waters farther south.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That's the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Novelist Richard Powers lives in a house perched on a hillside, just on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "It's very much a tree house," he says with a laugh. "That's why I live here."

His latest book, The Overstory, brought him to the old growth forests of Tennessee. The novel follows the lives of nine different people, all determined to save ancient trees from destruction. Their lives become entwined as they fight to save virgin forests, with unforeseen consequences.

The U.K. plans to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday at a meeting of Commonwealth nations.

"Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world," May said in a statement, in which she called the U.K. government "a world leader on this issue."

The joint alert from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security last month warning that Russia was hacking into critical U.S. energy infrastructure may have shaken some Americans. But it came as no surprise to the country's largest grid operator, PJM Interconnection.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

SpaceX has launched NASA's planet-hunting satellite TESS into outer space Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral.

Tess — short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — will spend two years searching for planets near bright, nearby stars. The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch window was narrow — just 30 seconds — and TESS was to be deployed into orbit about 48 minutes after launch.

Gene therapy is showing promise for treating one of the most common genetic disorders.

Results of a study published Wednesday show that 15 of 22 patients with beta-thalassemia who got gene therapy were able to stop or sharply reduce the regular blood transfusions they had needed to alleviate their life-threatening anemia. There were no serious side effects.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia has seen two massive bleaching events over the span of two years. And that's led to a widespread die-off of the corals, according to a new study.

The words "dog" and "fog" sound pretty similar. Yet even a preschooler knows whether you're talking about a puppy or the weather.

Now scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have identified a two-step process that helps our brains learn to first recognize, then categorize new sounds even when the differences are subtle.

Each night, all over the ocean, swarms of animals wriggle and kick their way from deep below the waves to feed at the surface. Each creature is tiny — less than a centimeter long, and sometimes much smaller — and there are trillions of them.

New research suggests this nightly migration might be helping mix the ocean on a grand scale, sending columns of water down as the animals swim up. It's a radical idea, and one that is just starting to take hold among scientists who study the oceans and who have long assumed that wind and waves, not animals, are the drivers of ocean-mixing.

Predicting how climate change will alter the weather is becoming a flourishing business.

The consumers are property owners and businesses that fear a rise in extreme weather — hurricanes, floods or heat waves, for example. Last year set a record for U.S. losses at over $300 billion.

This was years in the making: An adorable, critically endangered male lowland gorilla has been born at Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. Zoo staff have named him Moke [Mo-KEY], a name that means "little one."

Your body needs oxygen to function — and that was true even before you were born. As you grew inside your mother's womb, even before you had working lungs, your cells were crying out for oxygen. And your mother kindly answered that call. Oxygen and nutrients from her blood made their way down your umbilical cord, through your belly button, and fueled your body.

Pages