Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

In 1874, when the painter and naturalist Henry Wood Elliott was observing a small crowd of walruses on the Punuk Islands off Alaska's coast, he was preoccupied with the appearance of their pustules and the precise texture of their skins.

"The longer I looked at them the more heightened was my disgust; for they resembled distorted, mortified, shapeless masses of flesh," he wrote. Almost off-handedly, he noted their number — around 150, all male — before pondering their resemblance to "so many gnomes or demons of fairy romance."

When it comes to waves, it doesn't get much bigger than the gravitational variety. Einstein predicted that huge events — like black holes merging — create gravitational waves. Unlike most waves we experience, these are distortions in space and time. They roll across the entire universe virtually unimpeded.

Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916, but none were spotted until recently. Given their incredible power, why did it take a century to locate them?

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


Now, you can love your seafood and eat it, too. But first, you'll have to catch it. Fisherman Kirk Lombard's new book, The Sea Forager's Guide to the Northern California Coast, teaches the art, science, ethics and wisdom of fishing for your next meal in the ocean. Through wit, poetry and anecdotes, Lombard makes the case that the sincerest stewards of wild sea creatures are often those who intend to have them for dinner.

"The wave" has been a popular diversion among spectators at stadium sporting events since at least the early 1980s, and over the years this pastime has caught the attention of physicists.

The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle.

That's because, increasingly, prescription insurers are threatening to kick drugs off their lists of approved medications if the manufacturers won't give them big discounts.

The story of Henry Molaison is a sad one. Known as Patient H.M. to the medical community, he lost the ability to create memories after he underwent a lobotomy to treat his seizures.

He did earn a place in history, though. His case taught scientists a lot about how the brain creates and stores memories.

"A lot of what we know about how memory work came from more than a half-century of experimentation that was conducted on Patient H.M.," says Luke Dittrich, author of the book Patient H.M. : A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets.

How The Placebo Effect Could Boost An Olympic Performance

Aug 14, 2016

Olympic medals are won by margins of tenths or even hundredths of a second. So, it's no surprise that athletes want any edge they can get — even methods not backed by a lot of scientific evidence.

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Astronomers think they've discovered a new planet in our solar system.

Now all they have to do is find it.

Nobody's actually seen the new planet. The reason astronomers think it's out there is the strange behavior of some smallish objects in the Kuiper Belt, a collection of celestial objects orbiting in the outer reaches of the solar system.

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Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo, N.D., attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

A computer may soon be able to offer highly personalized treatment suggestions for cancer patients based on the specifics of their cases and the full sweep of the most relevant scientific research.

IBM and the New York Genome Center, a consortium of medical research institutions in New York City, are collaborating on a project to speed up cancer diagnoses and treatment.

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Computer programs often reflect the biases of their very human creators. That's been well established.

The question now is: How can we fix that problem?

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

Just 12 years ago, researchers feared that the California Island fox, a species about the size of a cat inhabiting a group of islands off the Southern California coast, was toast. Non-native predators and pesticides had dramatically reduced their ranks. The few that remained were placed on the endangered species list.

Sharks can live to be at least 272 years old in the Arctic seas, and scientists say one recently caught shark may have lived as long as 512 years.

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Sometimes what we call the slug for a story turns heads all day long. The slug is the short phrase that identifies a story on our show board. Well, the slug for this next piece is eagles killing other rare birds. Here's the background.

Researchers in Brazil who are trying to help people with spine injuries gain mobility have made a surprising discovery: Injured people doing brain training while interacting with robot-like machines were able to regain some sensation and movement.

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Night owls and stargazers, get ready for something spectacular on Thursday.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, already one of the most reliably impressive celestial events, promises to be especially good this year.

The Perseid shower happens every year in August "when Earth ventures through trails of debris left behind by an ancient comet," according to NASA.

Puerto Rico is in the midst of one of the worst Zika outbreaks of any region in the northern hemisphere. The island has been reporting roughly 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. Hundreds of pregnant women are already infected, and public health officials say the outbreak in Puerto Rico probably won't start to subside until September or October.

Yet health officials also say efforts to stop the spread of the virus are being hampered by mistrust, indifference and fatigue among residents, over what some view as just the latest tropical disease to hit the island.