Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Wednesday is Valentine's Day, and if you struggled to find just the right words to tell a special someone how you feel, you have options.

There are the classic options: Store-bought superhero valentines or sappy Hallmark cards. Or if you're into something sweet — boxes of pastel-colored candy hearts, emblazoned with messages like "BE MINE," "XOXO" and "HOT STUFF."

But if those candy greetings feel tired, or just aren't striking the right note, Colorado researcher Janelle Shane has some ideas.

Civilization originated in the Fertile Crescent region, including parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. That's the lesson most of us learned in school.

In it, civilization is used in a highly positive way to refer to the rise of city-states and the development of writing around the 4th millennium B.C.

A team of engineers at Dartmouth College has invented a semiconductor chip that could someday give the camera in your phone the kind of vision even a superhero would envy.

The new technology comes from Eric Fossum, a professor of engineering and his colleagues at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering.

Love is complicated, scientifically speaking. There's no single, specific "love chemical" that surges through our bodies when we see our beloved, and we can't point to a specific corner of the brain where love resides.

California has a giant rodent problem.

To clarify, it's not that California has a huge problem with run-of-the-mill rats, it's that the state has an emerging problem with jumbo-sized critters.

Nutria, otherwise called Myocastor coypus, were thought to have been eradicated from the state's wetlands and rivers as far back as 1965, but they have mysteriously reappeared in three counties over the past year, California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Peter Tira told NPR.

Hot summers can devastate canola farmers. Prolonged heat waves can leave behind fields of fallen, shattered oilseed pods and destroy vast amounts of the crop. Why canola (oilseed rape) seedpods disintegrate rapidly in prolonged heat blasts has been something of a mystery, but a new study suggests rising temperatures trigger a genetic cascade in the plant that leads to premature fruit development.

At a conference last week, I received an interesting piece of advice:

"Assume you are wrong."

The advice came from Brian Nosek, a fellow psychology professor and the executive director of the Center for Open Science. Nosek wasn't objecting to any particular claim I'd made — he was offering a strategy for pursuing better science, and for encouraging others to do the same.

Mark Seidenberg is not the first researcher to reach the stunning conclusion that only a third of the nation's schoolchildren read at grade level. The reasons are numerous, but one that Seidenberg cites over and over again is this: The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child's brain.

If the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov were alive today, what would he say about smartphones? He might not think of them as phones at all, but instead as remarkable tools for understanding how technology can manipulate our brains.

At first glance the images are unremarkable. They're grainy, ill-defined, seemingly more akin to television static or an 8-bit video game than they are to the high-resolution masterworks sent back by the Hubble Space Telescope.

But take another look.

Finding Planets Outside The Milky Way

Feb 11, 2018

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This is Lulu's log, stardate Feb. 11, 2018, where we explore matters of space, the stars, and the universe.

(SOUNDBITE OF C418'S "MOOG CITY")

Teens And Gender

Feb 11, 2018

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Recently, an online survey asked me to name African women scientists I admired. I found myself struggling — even though I'm a Kenyan entomologist, researching sustainable ways to feed our expanding population amid a changing climate. I thought to myself, why are there so few of us?

I was wrong: We are not few at all. Twitter proved it.

The website Levers in Heels, which features African women in STEM, in January called on the internet to tweet the names of African women scientists. People shared hundreds.

More Religious Leaders Challenge Silence, Isolation Surrounding Suicide

Feb 11, 2018

The Rev. Talitha Arnold was just 2 years old when her father, a World War II veteran, took his own life.

"You just didn't talk about those things back then. We didn't even talk about suicide when I was in the seminary," says Arnold, who leads the United Church of Santa Fe in New Mexico.

Then, when the wife of one of her divinity school professors killed herself and no one muttered a word about it during the service, Arnold says she was appalled. "I was sitting there thinking, 'This was nuts. Why can't you name it?' " That was almost 40 years ago.

Fiona the hippo may be one of the greatest living social media stars of the decade, but in terms of those who aren't living, look no further than Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Though she's a fossil, Sue is a true Chicagoan and has been on display in her home at The Field Museum since 2000.

Like many of us these days, Sue is sassy and shares her hot takes on Twitter with adoring fans.

It's hard to imagine that a blue dye sold in pet food stores in the U.S. to fight fungal infections in tropical fish could be a potent weapon against malaria.

A long time ago, when I was working on my Ph.D. research, I learned to use supercomputers to track the complex 3-D motions of gas blown into space by dying stars.

Using big computers in this way was still new to lots of researchers in my field and I was often asked, "How do you know your models are right?"

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Peering Into Space.

About Jedidah Isler's TED Talk

Scientists believe at the center of every galaxy is a supermassive black hole. Jedidah Isler describes how gamma ray telescopes have expanded our knowledge of this mysterious aspect of space.

About Jedidah Isler

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Peering Deeper Into Space.

About Natasha Hurley-Walker's TED Talk

Natasha Hurley-Walker explains how a new radio telescope helps us "see" without light. She says these telescopes can tell us about millions of galaxies — and maybe even the beginning of time.

About Natasha Hurley-Walker

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Peering Deeper Into Space.

About Sara Seager's TED Talk

In our galaxy alone, there are hundreds of billions of planets. And Sara Seager is looking for the perfect one, a "Goldilocks" planet — neither too hot nor too cold — that could support life.

About Sara Seager

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Peering Deeper Into Space.

About Allan Adams's TED Talk

In 2015, scientists first detected gravitational waves - ripples in space caused by massive disturbances. Allan Adams says this discovery helps answer some of our biggest questions about the universe.

About Allan Adams

Karen Byrne's left hand sometimes operates on its own terms. It has unbuttoned shirts and stubbed out cigarettes, without her permission. Oh, and a few times, her own hand has slapped her across the face.

This is a documented medical occurrence, not a premise for a Jim Carrey movie. The condition's name? Alien hand syndrome.

A lick of cold, creamy gelato isn't just magic. It's mathematics.

"You have to respect the range," emphasizes Gianpaolo Valli, a senior instructor at Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, Italy, who has spent decades drilling aspiring gelato chefs on the right ratio of solids to water in any given recipe. (FYI: Solids need to be between 32 and 46 percent.) If your numbers are off, you're likely to end up with a disaster instead of a dessert.

Different neurological conditions like autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder appear to have more in common than scientists thought they did. A new study finds that they have important similarities at a molecular level.

And understanding the molecular basis of those disorders could help in developing better treatments.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the time of smartphones, checking a horoscope might seem as quaint as making a call. But technology has a new generation looking to the sky charts.

Mercury retrograde trends on Twitter. YouTubers analyze the stars. And hip publications keep astrologers on contract.

Much of the U.S. remains firmly in the grip of winter, even as the sports-enthused world prepares to cheer on athletes in snow-and-ice-centered events at the Winter Olympics.

Stop Crying! Tear-Free Onions Are Here

Feb 8, 2018

Using onions to explain away crying is a familiar gag. On The Brady Bunch, housekeeper Alice answers the phone and cries as the caller tells her a sad story. After hanging up she says, "Darn onions," holding up the offending allium. And Rowlf the Dog sang on The Muppet Show, "I never harmed an onion. So why should they make me cry?"

More than a dozen states oppose the Trump administration's proposal to open up nearly the entire U.S. coastline to offshore oil leasing. Federal officials will get public feedback on the plan in Sacramento on Thursday. The Interior Department says it takes local concerns into account — as happened in a recent controversial move with Florida — but states have no direct say, since the leasing would take place in federally controlled waters.

As complicated as it as to launch and operate a telescope in space, it's almost as complex to move a space telescope around here on Earth.

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