Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

In space, food is freeze-dried, prepackaged, and frankly not always very tasty. But on Monday aboard the International Space Station, astronauts got a rare treat: fresh lettuce.

The red romaine lettuce was grown by NASA's Veggie project, which has one goal — to bring salad to space.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Update at 5:20 p.m. ET: Space Lettuce Tastes 'Awesome'

Monday morning on the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren and astronaut Kimiya Yui of Japan sampled the "Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce, the first plant grown in space. The trio first sanitized the leaves and then dressed them with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. According to Kelly, the lettuce tasted "kind of like arugula." Lindgren was unequivocally pleased, taking a big bite of one of the leaves and declaring: "That's awesome."

In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.

The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred Wednesday. The EPA initially said 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply.

From member station KUNC, Stephanie Paige Ogburn reports for our Newscast unit:

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, whose tireless efforts uncovered a link between the drug thalidomide and severe birth defects, has died at age 101.

In 1960, Kelsey was the new medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration when an application for FDA approval of the sedative Kevadon, the trade name of thalidomide, manufactured by drug company William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati.

Thalidomide had already been sold to pregnant women in Europe and elsewhere as an anti-nausea drug to treat morning sickness, and Merrell wanted a license to do the same in the U.S.

Could Sexting Help Your Relationship?

Aug 8, 2015

Sexting is scandalous, dangerous and downright dirty behavior.

A machine with superhuman intelligence is a staple of science fiction. But what about a machine with just ordinary human intelligence? A machine that's so humanlike in its behavior that you can't tell if it's a computer acting like a human, or a real human?

Take a close look at a house cat's eyes and you'll see pupils that look like vertical slits. But a tiger has round pupils — like humans do. And the eyes of other animals, like goats and horses, have slits that are horizontal.

Scientists have now done the first comprehensive study of these three kinds of pupils. The shape of the animal's pupil, it turns out, is closely related to the animal's size and whether it's a predator or prey.

Men who work out may be using legal over-the-counter supplements to the point that it's harming their emotional or physiological health, according to a recent study.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you three items.

From NPR's South America correspondent, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro:

Some days, the french fries are just irresistible. You know it's not the best thing to put in your body, but did that salad really stand a chance after the smell of fried garlic, Parmesan and thyme on crisp potato wedges wafted over to you?

It goes by many names: Delhi belly. Montezuma's revenge. The Aztec two-step. But doctors use one not-so-glamorous term: traveler's diarrhea.

If you're visiting a place this summer with less than ideal sewage disposal — maybe a resort in Mexico or a village in Rajasthan — chances are your GI tract will give you trouble at least once ... maybe twice ... maybe continuously.

When I interviewed mathematician Eugenia Cheng for an upcoming episode of The Sporkful podcast, she sliced a bagel along a Mobius strip.

A Mobius strip, in case you're not familiar, is a surface with only one side. You can make one by taking a strip of paper, twisting one end halfway around, and taping it to the other end. Like this:

Humpback whales don't just sing songs — they compose with the whales around them, singing a song that evolves over time. Scientists didn't know that until they started recording whale sounds in the 1960s and spent years listening. The evolution of this "culture of listening" among researchers is the focus of Morning Edition's weekly summer series, Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound.

The name Hiroshima is so tied to the atomic bomb that it's hard to imagine there were other possible targets.

But in early 1945, the U.S. was still months away from building its first bomb and certainly didn't know what to hit.

"Should it be a city? Should it be a military installation? Should you be just displaying the bomb, without killing anybody?" These are questions that were yet to be decided, says Alex Wellerstein, a historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

From the outside, the AeroFarms headquarters looks like any other rundown building in downtown Newark, N.J. It used to be a store, and more recently a nightclub. Now it's a test farm.

"My favorite is the mustard green that's called a Ruby Streak, which is this leaf right here," says AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg, sampling some of the company's greens. "And my second favorite is cress, watercress, which is this guy right here."

Hannah Roberts was a first-year-medical student at Columbia University College of Physicians in 2013 when she noticed her classmates were having an especially tough time relating to dementia patients.

"There's a misconception that dementia patients are like toddlers in a way," Roberts says. Many medical students, she says, "are intimidated at the challenge of having to get accurate histories and establish a connection with someone who has a limited ability to communicate."

Buy a jug of milk in the U.S. and, as long as it's in the fridge, you shouldn't have to worry about it spoiling for about three weeks.

That's quite a luxury. Because it's not the case in many other parts of the world where fresh milk has a much shorter shelf life.

Milk is highly perishable — a few hours out of the cow at room temperature, and bacteria, some of which cause disease, start to flourish.

Idaho's so-called "ag-gag" law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

The ability to store energy could revolutionize the way we make and use electricity. But for many utility companies and regular folks, energy storage is still way out of reach. It's expensive — sometimes more expensive than building out old-fashioned infrastructure like power lines and power plants.

For people like Jim and Lyn Schneider, their decision to invest in battery storage came four years ago when they moved to central Wyoming.

Heated tools like flat irons can make hair waterfall straight. But there's always that worry of burning the hair, or yourself.

That can make hair-straightening a miserable process, as Marita Golden wrote in her essay "My Black Hair":

He was probably about 40 years old, 155 pounds, white and wearing a suit. And he's the reason why women are shivering at their desks in air-conditioned buildings.

At some point in the 1930s, someone defined "metabolic equivalents" — how much energy a body requires while sitting, walking and running. Almost a century later, the back-of-the-envelope calculations are considered a standard for many things, including air conditioning.

Walk along one of the many streams and rivers in the West Nile region of Uganda, and you'll notice something funny. All along the riverbanks, you'll see small pieces of blue cloth, attached to wooden stakes in the ground. There's one every 50 yards or so.

No, this isn't some half-baked public art project. These dinky contraptions are actually flytraps, designed to lure and kill tsetse flies, whose bites transmit a parasitic disease called sleeping sickness, which, like rabies, drives victims mad before it kills them.

You're probably at least a little bit racist and sexist and homophobic. Most of us are.

Nearly every plant that we now depend on for food — from wheat to beans to tomatoes — comes from ancestors that once grew wild on hills and in forests.

In most cases, we don't know who, exactly, tamed those plants. We don't know which inventive farmer, thousands of years ago, first selected seeds and planted them for food.

The blueberry, though, is different. We know exactly who brought it in from the wild, and where.

It happened in the pine barrens of New Jersey.

One of the frequent trials of parenthood is dealing with a picky eater. About 20 percent of children ages 2 to 6 have such a narrow idea of what they want to eat that it can make mealtime a battleground.

A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics shows that, in extreme cases, picky eating can be associated with deeper trouble, such as depression or social anxiety.

Wanted: More Bulls With No Horns

Aug 3, 2015

The next time you're in the dairy aisle at the supermarket, take a moment to imagine the animals that produced all that milk. Do these cows have horns? Chances are they do, or at least they did at birth.

About 85 percent of milk sold in the United States comes from Holstein cows born with horns. But it's standard practice for farms to remove horns from cattle to prevent injuries to workers, veterinarians and other cows in the herd.