Science & Health

Shots - Health News
11:36 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Why Doctors Are Testing An Epilepsy Drug For Alcoholism

Gabapentin, sold under the brand name Neurontin, helps some people cut down on drinking.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 6:36 am

In the hunt for new ways to help people fight alcoholism, doctors are studying gabapentin, a generic drug that's commonly used to treat epilepsy and fibromyalgia.

In a 12-week clinical trial conducted by the Scripps Research Institute, people taking taking gabapentin were much better at reducing their alcohol intake than those who got a placebo. The research, involving 150 people, was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Research News
3:54 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Why Do People Agree To Work In Boring Jobs?

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 5:15 am

In the essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," philosopher Albert Camus — who would have turned 100 on Thursday — explored the nature of boring work. There's new psychological research into why people end up in boring jobs.

All Tech Considered
4:37 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

4-D Printing Means Building Things That Build Themselves

H. Jerry Qi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado University, holds simple models printed using polymers that have "shape memory." The flat piece on the left can reshape itself into a box with the application of heat.
Glenn J. Asakawa University of Colorado

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 5:12 pm

In our Weekly Innovation series, we pick an interesting idea, design or product that you may not have heard of yet. Got an innovation you think we should feature? Fill out our form.

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The Two-Way
3:28 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Another Election?! Relax, This One's To Name A Baby Panda

You can help select a name for the National Zoo's new panda cub.
Abby Wood Smithsonian's National Zoo

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 3:45 pm

Fresh off Tuesday's election, another is just around the corner: The National Zoo wants you to help name its new panda cub by casting a vote at Smithsonian.com.

You can vote online (no photo identification required and the balloting continues until Nov. 22).

At NPR, we always strive to ensure that our audience is informed of the candidates — even when they're names for pandas.

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The Salt
2:08 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Forget Barley And Hops: Craft Brewers Want A Taste Of Place

The brewers at Scratch Brewing Company add wild plants like spicebush, goldenseal, wild ginger, chanterelles and wild rose root to their beer to give it the flavor of the Illinois woods.
Aaron Kleidon Scratch Brewing Company

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 10:37 am

Last week, Aaron Kleidon went for a walk in the Illinois woods and returned with a bag of lotus seeds. The seeds were bound not for his dinner plate, but for his pint glass.

In a few months, Kleidon will have lotus-flavored beer at the small brewpub Scratch Brewing Company, which he owns with two friends in Ava, Ill. The microbrewery specializes in beers with seeds, leaves, roots, fruits and fungi foraged from a nearby wooded property. The brewers have even made a saison from chanterelle mushrooms.

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Shots - Health News
9:48 am
Wed November 6, 2013

How Pictures Of Infant Boy's Eyes Helped Diagnose Cancer

A milky eye can be a sign of early cancer of the retina.
Courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 8:51 pm

Bryan Shaw never expected to write a research paper about a rare eye cancer.

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Environment
3:56 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Thanks To Parasites, Moose Are Looking More Like Ghosts

A large bull moose is inspected by a hunter at a weigh station in Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 5:48 pm

The news for moose is not good across the country's northern tier and in some parts of Canada. A recent and rapid decline of moose populations in many states may be linked to climate change, and to the parasites that benefit from it.

In Minnesota, moose populations have dropped from a high of more than 12,000 two decades ago to fewer than 3,000 now. Moose in some parts of Manitoba have declined by 50 percent and more.

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The Two-Way
1:29 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Why India's Mars Mission Is So Much Cheaper Than NASA's

The PSLV-C25, with India's Mars orbiter aboard, prior to Tuesday's launch at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in southern India.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 3:33 pm

Former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin pioneered a "faster, better, cheaper" approach to America's space program, but he would have been hard-pressed to deliver a Mars mission for the bargain-basement price of India's first probe to the red planet, which blasted off Tuesday.

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Space
2:01 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There?

This is an artist's illustration of Kepler-62f, a planet in the "habitable zone" of a star that is slightly smaller and cooler than ours. Kepler-62f is roughly 40 percent larger than Earth.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 10:36 am

A team of planet hunters estimates that about 22 percent of the sun-like stars in our galaxy may have planets about the size of Earth that are bathed in similar amounts of sunlight — and potentially habitable.

That's the conclusion of a new analysis of observations taken by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt for potentially habitable Earth-like planets around other stars.

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The Two-Way
4:31 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Scientists Estimate 20 Billion Earth-Like Planets In Our Galaxy

An artist's rendition of Kepler-69c, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun, located about 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
AP

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 12:34 pm

A new study suggests there could be far more Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars than once thought, some of which might even harbor life.

A team of astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, used the Kepler space telescope to survey 42,000 Sun-like stars looking for a telltale dimming caused by an orbiting planet as it crosses between us and the parent star.

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The Salt
4:13 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

How To Levitate A Sandwich: 'Modernist Cuisine' Spills Photo Secrets

Modernist chefs often like to deconstruct dishes. Why shouldn't food photographers do the same?
Courtesy of the Cooking Lab

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 10:36 am

Food porn or art? That's for you decide.

But one thing is for certain: The jumbo-sized images in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine are truly awesome.

In one, a ham and cheese sandwich levitates in midair. Then, a Weber grill gets sliced in half lengthwise to expose a pink burger cooking on another page. And blueberries and peas balloon to the size of dinner plates and melons.

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Shots - Health News
4:13 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Childhood Maltreatment Can Leave Scars In The Brain

Girls are particularly vulnerable to brain changes caused by stress or trauma, researchers say.
Allen Johnson iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 11:21 am

Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later on.

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Research News
4:13 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

How'd They Do That? The Story Of A Giant Rock And A Road Of Ice

The Large Stone Carving is the heaviest stone in the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was believed to have weighed more than 300 tons when it was first transported to the site between 1407 and 1420.
DEA/ W. Buss De Agostini/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 6:42 pm

Great works of ancient engineering, like the Pyramids or Stonehenge, inspire awe in every beholder. But some onlookers also get inspired to figure out exactly how these structures were made.

Howard Stone, an engineer from Princeton University, had such a moment in Beijing's Forbidden City — a city-within-a-city of palaces and temples built in the 15th and 16th centuries. A carved, 300-ton slab that formed a ramp to one structure particularly caught Stone's eye. "How in the world did it get here?" he wondered.

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The Salt
3:31 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Why Are Pig Farmers Still Using Growth-Promoting Drugs?

In recent years, pork producers have found ways to keep the animals healthy through improved hygiene.
M. Spencer Green AP

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 6:42 pm

It's one of the most controversial practices in agriculture: feeding small amounts of antibiotics to animals in order to make them grow faster.

But what if the drugs don't even work very well?

There's some good evidence that they don't, at least in pigs. They used to deliver a boost in growth, but that effect has disappeared in recent years or declined greatly.

The reason for this is interesting and even paradoxical.

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World
4:07 pm
Sun November 3, 2013

As Mirrors Beam Light To Town, Norwegians Share Patch Of Sun

People gather in the central square of Rjukan, Norway, on Wednesday to bask in the sun reflected by mirrors on a nearby mountainside.
NTB Scanpix/Reuters/Landov

The small town of Rjukan has long had to make do without sunlight during the cold Norwegian winters.

But that changed Wednesday, when the town debuted a system of high-tech mirrors to reflect sunlight from neighboring peaks into the valley below.

Rjukan, originally founded 100 years ago as an industrial outpost for the energy company Norsk Hydro, is nestled between several mountains and does not receive direct sunlight from late September to mid-March — nearly six months out of the year.

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