Science & Health

The Salt
4:59 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

What's The Most Important Thing Food Labels Should Tell Us?

Illustration by Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:29 pm

Food labels have become battlegrounds. Just last week, voters in Washington state narrowly defeated a measure that would have required food manufacturers to reveal whether their products contain genetically modified ingredients.

Supporters of the initiative — and similar proposals in other states — say that consumers have a right to know what they're eating.

But there are lots of things we might want to know about our food. So what belongs on the label?

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Health Overhaul Problems-Alabama
4:44 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Alabama Insurers Have More Questions Than Answers

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama says the company is reviewing the president's statement and evaluating its impact on the requirements for implementing the federal law.
Credit Jones Valley Teaching Farm

Alabama's largest health insurance company and the state Insurance Department had more questions than answers after the president said consumers should be allowed to renew individual plans slated to end under the federal health care law.

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, spokeswoman Koko Mackin said the company is reviewing the president's statement and evaluating its impact on the requirements for implementing the federal law.

Blue Cross had 97,000 individual customers whose policies didn't meet the requirement of the new law and were being moved to new policies.

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All Tech Considered
3:56 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Electric Cars Drive Demand For Cheaper, More Powerful Batteries

A prototype of a flexible battery from Imprint Energy, one of 40 companies working on battery technology in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Imprint Energy

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:29 pm

If there's one person you'd expect to have an electric car, it's Venkat Srinivasan. He's in charge of battery research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

"I'm actually in the market for a new car and would love to buy an electric car," he says. "But there are practical problems."

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Health Overhaul-Alabama
3:37 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

624 Alabamians Pick Plans In Insurance Marketplace

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 624 Alabamians selected health insurance plans in the first month that Alabama's federally run health insurance marketplace was available.
Credit U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 624 Alabamians selected health insurance plans in the first month that Alabama's federally run health insurance marketplace was available.

That's equal to one-tenth of 1 percent of the estimated 677,000 Alabamians without health insurance.

The department says more than 10,500 applications were completed in Alabama in October, and they covered more than 20,800 people.

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Shots - Health News
1:44 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops

The plate on the left contains about equal numbers of colonies of two different bacteria. After the bacteria compete and evolve, the lighter ones have taken the lead in the plate on the right.
Courtesy of Michael Wiser

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:49 am

Evolution is relentless process that seems to keep going and going, even when creatures live in a stable, unchanging world.

That's the latest surprise from a unique experiment that's been underway for more than a quarter-century.

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Animals
1:35 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Old Dogs, New Data: Canines May Have Been Domesticated In Europe

A dog burial in Greene County, Ill. This fossil dates back to about 8,500 years ago.
Courtesy of Del Baston, Center for American Archaeology

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 7:34 pm

Scientists have used some new tricks and old dogs to show that thousands of years ago, wolves may have first become man's best friend in Europe.

Researchers extracted DNA from ancient wolf or dog fossils and compared it with DNA from modern dog breeds and wolves. Until recently, labs didn't have the kind of genetic tools they'd need to work with such old dog DNA and do this kind of detailed comparison.

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The Two-Way
1:33 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Tennessee Valley Authority To Close Several Coal-Fired Plants

An air-monitoring station near the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Kingston, Tenn. Stations such as this one are used to monitor clean-air compliance of TVA coal-fired plants.
Wade Payne AP

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 3:47 pm

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, has decided to close six coal-fired power plants in Alabama and replace two others in Kentucky with a single new natural gas station.

CEO Bill Johnson made the announcement at a Thursday board meeting in Oxford, Miss., citing stricter environmental regulations and flat demand for power.

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Krulwich Wonders...
7:50 am
Thu November 14, 2013

My Wine Won't Stop Crying — A Mystery In A Wineglass

Dan Quinn YouTube

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 12:23 pm

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Science
2:07 am
Thu November 14, 2013

As Climate Warms American West, Iconic Trout In Jeopardy

Native Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout swim in the cool waters of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park, Montana.
Jonny Armstrong USGS

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 5:53 am

In the mountain streams of the American West, the trout rules. People don't just catch this fish; they honor it. And spend lots of money pursuing it.

But some western trout may be in trouble. Rivers and streams are getting warmer and there's often less water in them. Scientists suspect a changing climate is threatening this iconic fish.

I joined two such scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey as they drove up a mountain road in Montana, in the northern Rockies, a place dense with stands of Douglas fir and aspen trees and braided with mountain streams.

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The Salt
2:14 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Could Hunger Make Us More Charitable?

Researchers have a hunch that because we often had to share food to survive, we're inclined to be more interested in giving when we're hungry.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 3:44 pm

Hunger can make people emotional, that's for sure. Some people get "hangry" when their blood sugar levels drop and their irritability rises. Others get greedy.

But new research suggests that we may have another, innate response to hunger: a desire to encourage others to share what they have.

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The Salt
11:18 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Why Can We Taste Bitter Flavors? Turns Out, It's Still A Mystery

The first taste of an olive can be a bit shocking. But eventually, many of us start to enjoy bitter fruits, nuts and beverages.
Screenshot from TEDxTalks/Youtube.com

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:08 am

For most of us, bitter foods aren't love at first bite. (Not convinced? Just watch the little girl in the video above taste an olive for the first time.)

But after a few espressos or IPAs, most of us warm up to bitter flavors and eventually throw our arms in the air, like the little girl in the video, declaring, "Yes, I love bitter foods!"

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Science
4:21 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Why Typhoon Haiyan Caused So Much Damage

This map from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory shows the amount of heat energy available to Typhoon Haiyan between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3. Darker purple indicates more available energy. Typhoons gain their strength by drawing heat out of the ocean. The path of the storm is marked with the black line in the center of the image.
NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 6:13 pm

The deadly typhoon that swept through the Philippines was one of the strongest ever recorded. But storms nearly this powerful are actually common in the eastern Pacific. Typhoon Haiyan's devastation can be chalked up to a series of bad coincidences.

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The Two-Way
11:09 am
Mon November 11, 2013

'Ferrari Of Space' Crashes And Burns In Earth's Atmosphere

An artist's rendition of the GOCE satellite shows the craft in its orbit around Earth. After four years of studying oceans and gravity fields, GOCE re-entered the atmosphere over the Southern Atlantic Ocean Sunday night.
ESA /AOES Medialab

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 2:41 pm

More than a ton of advanced electronics, including an ion engine and sensors that help detect variations in gravity, crashed into Earth's atmosphere Sunday night, when the European GOCE satellite ended its four-year mission. Most of the 2,425-pound craft disintegrated when it re-entered the atmosphere over the South Atlantic Ocean; about 25 percent did not.

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Science
2:20 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Lessons In Leadership: It's Not About You. (It's About Them)

Ronald Heifetz draws on his training as a psychiatrist to coach aspiring leaders at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 6:15 pm

Ronald Heifetz has been a professor of public leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School for three decades, teaching classes that have included aspiring business leaders and budding heads of state. Each year, he says, the students start his course thinking they'll learn the answer to one question:

As leaders, how can they get others to follow them?

Heifetz says that whole approach is wrong.

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World
5:11 pm
Sun November 10, 2013

Lighting Up The Investigative Path With Polonium-210

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat boards a helicopter in Ramallah, the West Bank, for the start of his journey to a hospital in France on Oct. 29, 2004. He died 2 weeks later.
Scott Nelson Getty Images

Originally published on Sun November 10, 2013 5:58 pm

With a Swiss forensics investigation pointing to polonium-210 as a possible cause of Yasser Arafat's death, the radioactive element is back in the news.

Confirming whether the Palestinian leader died from an assassination attempt will be difficult, given polonium's short half-life and the fact that Arafat has been dead nine years, science writer Deborah Blum says.

Whatever happened to Arafat, polonium does have a deadly history.

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