Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Every morning in a government office building in Boulder, Colo., about a dozen people type a code into a door and line up against a wall on the other side. There are a couple of guys in military uniform, and some scientists in Hawaiian shirts. They work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they're here for a daily space weather forecast.

The golden poison dart frog is about an inch long and banana yellow. By some estimates, the skin of one little frog contains enough toxin to kill 10 adult men.

"Oh yeah, it's one of the more lethal poisons on the planet," says Justin Du Bois, a synthetic chemist at Stanford University.

What Defines The Perfect Meal?

Nov 17, 2016

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Food We Eat

About Charles Spence's TED Talk

Professor Charles Spence studies what makes for a great eating experience. He says it's far more dependent on 'the everything else' that surrounds the meal, rather than the food itself.

About Charles Spence

It's a cool August morning as I ride in Magnus Hansen's dented pickup truck through the verdant hills of south Greenland. We're in search of his flock of 500 sheep grazing on the slopes. Soon we encounter three animals grazing by the gravel on the dirt road. The two ewes and a lamb first eye us warily from the bushes, then scurry across the road. Nearby is a shimmering fjord, but less than 10 miles away, though we can't see it, lies Greenland's mighty ice cap, a mile thick in the center of the island.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a deposit in West Texas is the largest continuous oil and gas deposit ever discovered in the United States.

On Tuesday, the USGS announced that an area known as the Wolfcamp shale contains 20 billion barrels of oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

That is nearly three times more petroleum than the agency found in North Dakota's Bakken shale in 2013.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

For months now, demonstrators have protested against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota, and they've drawn inspiration from a big win last year. President Obama blocked construction of another pipeline, the Keystone XL.

For 22 years, Nick Fugate washed dishes at a local hotel near his home in Olathe, Kan.

"There was nothing easy," he says, and chuckles. "I just constantly had to scrape the dishes off to get them clean."

Fugate recalls minor annoyances like the long days and the hot kitchen. The work did sometimes get tedious, he says, but he didn't really mind.

"Just as long as I got the job done, it was fine," he says.

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In the year 1054, Chinese astronomers of the Song Dynasty recorded a star in the sky so bright that it was visible to the naked eye even during daytime for several weeks.

China was the world's leading scientific power at that time. But its people also saw astronomical events as omens of earthly affairs. And so the astronomers carefully recorded the location of the star and the time it was visible.

As the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani was a proponent of a controversial policing philosophy known as "broken windows." It calls for police to go after small crimes, in hopes of preventing bigger problems.

At first, it appeared as if violent crime dropped in the neighborhoods where "broken windows" policing was in force. The statistics, however, told a different story.

But the idea remains popular, despite evidence it likely had only modest effects.

What could the world of medical research look like under a Trump administration?

It's hardly an idle question.

The federal government spends more than $30 billion a year to fund the National Institutes of Health. That's the single largest chunk of federal research funding spent outside the Pentagon's sphere of influence.

Policy insiders confronted that question — albeit with an acute shortage of actual data — Monday at a meeting of health advocates in New York City.

Inpatient treatment programs for heroin and opioid dependence can be so difficult to get into in some parts of the country that drug users who want to quit are voluntarily asking judges to lock them up — just to guarantee they'll get help.

Florida conservation officials say a female panther has crossed a river, and it could be a big deal for the survival of the species.

Florida panthers are endangered — about 200 of the large cats live in south Florida, in an area that's less than 5 percent of their original range. If the animal is to thrive, it needs to do two things: expand its territory and breed.

Mantis shrimp, a group of aggressive, reef-dwelling crustaceans, take more than one first-place ribbon in the animal kingdom. Outwardly, they resemble their somewhat larger lobster cousins, but their colorful shells contain an impressive set of superpowers.

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Grapefruit's bitterness can make it hard to love. Indeed, people often smother it in sugar just to get it down. And yet Americans were once urged to sweeten it with salt.

Ad campaigns from the first and second world wars tried to convince us that "Grapefruit Tastes Sweeter With Salt!" as one 1946 ad for Morton's in Life magazine put it. The pairing, these ads swore, enhanced the flavor.

Some tiny clusters of brain cells grown in a lab dish are making big news at this week's Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

Known as "minibrains," these rudimentary networks of cells are small enough to fit on the head of a pin, but already are providing researchers with insights into everything from early brain development to Down syndrome, Alzheimer's and Zika.

You can't choose your parents, so you can't help it if you're born with genes that increase your risk of heart disease. But a study finds that you can reduce that risk greatly with a healthful lifestyle.

Scientists have been wondering whether that's the case. To find out, one international consortium looked at data from four large studies that had isolated genetic risk factors for heart disease.

They identified genetic markers that seem to put people at nearly twice the risk for heart disease.

Its official name is the perigee-syzygy, meaning the moon is both full and closest to Earth. But many call it the supermoon, and Monday's version will be a "showstopper," NASA says. It's the nearest supermoon in almost 70 years — and we won't see another like it until 2034.

"When a full moon makes its closest pass to Earth in its orbit it appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter, making it a supermoon," NASA says.

Here are five things to help you enjoy this supermoon:

When To See It

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Is Birdfeeding Just, Well, For The Birds?

Nov 12, 2016

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for some Talkin' Birds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Tweedly-deedly-dee (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A bird show - I like that. I love birds.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLING)

The Vietnam War ended more than 40 years ago, but it continues to claim military lives. Nearly every spring new names are etched into the black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which pays tribute to the more than 58,000 service members who lost their lives.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Donald Trump did talk about coal during the campaign, he often referred to it as clean coal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We're going to go clean coal. And that technology is working. I hear it works, so.

Peanut allergies can be among a parent's biggest worries, though we've had good evidence for more than a year that when most babies are 6 months old or so, introducing foods that contain finely ground peanuts can actually reduce babies' chances of becoming allergic to the legumes. Even so, many parents are scared to do that.

A genetic fluke stood in the way of love for a lonely, unique garden snail named Jeremy.

But against all odds, and thanks to a global search, Jeremy has hopefully found a mate (or two).

Jeremy is a "lefty" snail, meaning his shell swirls counterclockwise and his sex organs are on the left side of his head. He's a mirror image of other members of his species — and he wouldn't be able to mate with normal snails because their reproductive organs wouldn't line up.

Imagine you're passing a fast-food restaurant and you smell hamburger on the grill. You're hungry, so you pull in and eat one ... and the foam box it comes in.

That's apparently what's happening with some oceanic birds. And now scientists think they know why.

The fact that sea animals and birds eat floating plastic has long puzzled biologists. Their best guess was that it looks like food. But the new evidence suggests that for a lot of birds, plastic actually smells like food.

Scientists have pinpointed the ticklish bit of a rat's brain.

The results, published in the journal Science, are another step toward understanding the origins of ticklishness, and its purpose in social animals.

In excavated waste heaps along the western coast of Greenland, researchers have found evidence that ancient Greenlanders, known as the paleo-Inuit or Saqqaq, may have been eating large amounts of bowhead whale. But these 4,000-year-old "dumpsters" are from millennia before humans had specialized technology to hunt down such massive prey.

During his campaign, Donald Trump called climate change a hoax. And he vowed to abandon the Paris climate agreement signed last year by President Obama and almost 200 countries.

It probably wouldn't be hard for Trump to dump the climate deal.

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