Science & Health

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Love In The Time Of Repeal And Replace

Mar 14, 2017

"This is a first for me," says Rabbi Andy Dubin, as he sits down on a collapsible chair opposite Ann Justi and Don Boyer.

The three of them are in the compact living room of Boyer's apartment in Yonkers, N.Y., standing between the sofa, TV and writing desk. Dubin is in his socks, having shed his snow-caked boots out in the hallway.

Scientists have caught sight of a star extremely close to what they think is a black hole, whizzing around it at an extraordinary speed — at least twice an hour. As NASA put it, "This may be the tightest orbital dance ever witnessed for a likely black hole and a companion star."

The pair is in our galaxy, in an area dense with stars some 14,800 light-years from Earth.

Sea ice in the Arctic has been melting at a record-breaking pace. Scientists blame a warming climate for most of that, but researchers have now teased out a natural cycle for how Arctic sea ice melts year-to-year.

Based on that cycle, they conclude that 30 percent to 50 percent of the melting is due to natural causes, while human-caused warming is responsible for the rest.

An orangutan named Rocky is helping scientists figure out when early humans might have uttered the first word.

Rocky, who is 12 and lives at the Indianapolis Zoo, has shown that he can control his vocal cords much the way people do. He can learn new vocal sounds and even match the pitch of sounds made by a person.

A few months ago, at her office in Houston, Kate Rubins was feeling weird.

She was dizzy, she says — "staggering around like a 2-year-old who had just learned to walk." She was constantly looking at her desk to make sure the objects on top weren't floating away.

Rubins wasn't going nuts. She was just readjusting to Earth after living without gravity for four months, hundreds of miles above the planet's surface.

Scientists have taken another important step toward creating different types of synthetic life in the laboratory.

An international research consortium reports Thursday that it has figured out an efficient method for synthesizing a substantial part of the genetic code of yeast.

"We are absolutely thrilled," says Jef Boeke, a geneticist at New York University School of Medicine, who is leading the project. "This is a significant step toward our goal."

President Trump's head of the Environmental Protection Agency says he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a major cause of global warming.

"I would not agree that [CO2] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Scott Pruitt said Thursday in an interview with CNBC's Joe Kernen.

Trump, Democrats Look For Common Ground On Drug Prices

Mar 8, 2017

For years, congressional Democrats have tried to pass legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for millions of beneficiaries.

Now, they believe they have a not-so-secret weapon: President Donald J. Trump.

Now, it's no surprise that Neanderthals didn't brush their teeth. Nor did they go to the dentist.

That means bits of food and the microbes in their mouths just stayed stuck to their teeth. While not so good for dental hygiene, these dental plaques are a great resource for scientists interested in understanding more about Neanderthal diet and lifestyle.

There is such a thing as a memory athlete. These are people who can memorize a truly insane amount of information really quickly, like the order of playing cards in a deck in under 20 seconds, or 200 new names and faces in a matter of minutes.

Neuroscientists writing Wednesday in the journal Neuron found these champs of memorization aren't that different from the rest of us.

What if your friend the robot could tell what you're thinking, without you saying a word?

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. We've been hearing a lot about the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Let's turn now to NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam to talk about some research that gives us a new data point in this conversation.

Hey, Shankar.

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Opponents of abortion rights have long argued that public funds for services like cancer screenings and contraception should go solely to health clinics that don't provide abortions.

Women with breast cancer sometimes get confusing messages about soy-based foods, including soy milk, edamame and tofu.

On one hand, studies have suggested that the estrogen-like compounds in soy — called isoflavones — may inhibit the development or recurrence of breast cancer.

On the other hand, there's been concern that consuming soy-based foods can interfere with the effectiveness of breast cancer drugs such as tamoxifen.

When you step outside after a big rainstorm and take a deep whiff of that fresh, earthy smell, you're mostly smelling a chemical called geosmin.

It's a byproduct of bacteria and fungi. And something about rain lofts the chemical — and sometimes the organisms themselves — into the air, a process that not only helps release that earthy smell but may, in very rare conditions, spread diseases.

Somehow raindrops launch tiny living things off the ground.

An influential advisory panel says there's not enough evidence to determine whether annual pelvic exams should be routine for women who aren't pregnant and have no symptoms of disease.

The way environmentalist Craig Cox sees it, streams and rivers across much of the country are suffering from the side effects of growing our food. Yet the people responsible for that pollution, America's farmers, are fighting any hint of regulation to prevent it.

"The leading problems are driven by fertilizer and manure runoff from farm operations," says Cox, who is the Environmental Working Group's top expert on agriculture.

This week on Hidden Brain, we return to our archives to ask what happens when you empathize with your enemy? Why does reaching out to another tribe make our tribe so angry? In order to get at this question, we talk with Israelis and Palestinians who took the radical step of empathizing with the other side. From their experiences, we learn that not only can empathizing with the enemy be very difficult, it can also be dangerous.

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When you pick up a newspaper and read a story about the latest results on breast cancer, autism, depression or other ailments, what are the odds that finding will stand the test of time?

The answer, according to a study in the journal PLOS One is: flip a coin.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

For young adults, social media may not be so social after all.

Among people in that age group, heavy use of platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram was associated with feelings of social isolation, a study finds.

Last summer Felicia Keesing returned from a long trip and found that her home in upstate New York had been subjected to an invasion.

"There was evidence of mice everywhere. They had completely taken over," says Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College.

It was a plague of mice. And it had landed right in Keesing's kitchen.

This spring and summer may be a doozy for Lyme disease, at least in parts of the Northeast.

"We're anticipating 2017 to be a particularly risky year for Lyme," says Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.

Ostfeld has been studying the debilitating tick-borne disease for more than 20 years, and has developed an early warning system based on mice. For more on that, check out the piece in our sister blog, Goats and Soda.

Thomas Starzl, the doctor who pioneered liver transplant surgery, has died at the age of 90. In an announcement on its website, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said Starzl died peacefully at his home on Saturday.

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What comes to mind when I say the words Chicago winter? An icy wind, perhaps, maybe the frozen lake. How about snow piled high in the streets?

Spending time in space changes people: Not just their outlook on life, but also their eyesight.

For years, a North Texas doctor has been trying to find out what is causing this vision change among astronauts. His latest research provides some clues — and connects astronauts on the International Space Station, cancer patients on a roller coaster plane flight, and high-tech sleeping sacks.

In all his 50 years, Georges Kouamé Koffi has eaten chocolate once. "Someone gave me a piece to try," says the cocoa farmer. "It was lovely." Chocolate bars are on sale at a store in his city of San Pedro, in southwestern Ivory Coast. "But they are too expensive for us," he says.

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