Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

There are three statues in the United States honoring Dr. James Marion Sims, a 19th-century physician dubbed the father of modern gynecology. Invisible in his shadow are the enslaved women whom he experimented on. Today, they are unknown and unnamed except for three: Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey. This week, we talk with historian Vanessa Gamble and poet Bettina Judd as we grapple with the troubling history of medical experimentation on African Americans.

A program used in many U.S. fisheries to protect the marine environment and maintain healthy fish populations may have an immensely important added benefit: preserving the lives of American fishermen.

Todd Rose dropped out of high school with D- grades. At 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

Today he teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to "the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society."

In other words, Todd Rose is not your average guy. But neither are you.

Hunger is not the only reason we eat sweets.

Often we eat as a way to celebrate, or sometimes we reach for food when we're sad or bored.

And a study published this month in the journal Environment and Behavior points to another factor that can nudge us to eat: clutter.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we reported yesterday, the leaking gas well near a Los Angeles neighborhood has been temporarily plugged, ending four months of uncontrolled amounts of methane being released into the atmosphere.

Here we are in an election year — once again asking the great see-into-the-future question in politics — who will be the next president?

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Find your binoculars and fill up the bird feeders, because the Great Backyard Bird Count starts today.

The annual event invites bird-watchers of all levels to count the birds in their backyards, wherever that may be, and submit the data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, which launched the project in 1998.

On Thursday, researchers announced the discovery of gravitational waves --wrinkles in the very fabric of space-time.

But behind the headlines and news conferences were decades of hard work, hundreds of scientists and more than a billion dollars in taxpayer funds.

Exactly 15 months after it completed a seemingly impossible journey to land on the surface of a comet, the Philae lander now faces "eternal hibernation," as officials at the European Space Agency say the craft doesn't get enough sunlight to power its batteries.

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One of the world's most famous and oldest spacecraft is revealing some of its past. Apollo 11 was the first mission to land humans on the moon. As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, Michael Collins circled above in the command module called Columbia.

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If you've ever seen what a Neanderthal is supposed to have looked like, it might be hard to imagine mating with one. But modern humans did. We know because, a few years ago, scientists found stretches of Neanderthal DNA in living humans.

And now there's evidence, from a study published Thursday in Science, that some of that DNA might help shape our health.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode To Endure

About Lord Martin Rees' TED Talk

Astronomer and cosmologist Lord Martin Rees asks whether our species will endure despite the many existential threats we face.

About Lord Martin Rees

Lord Martin Rees is an emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at University of Cambridge.

For the Midwesterner who likes to eat local, this time of year is a challenge. Browse the produce shelves in middle America — or any place where snow falls in winter — and you'll find carrots from Mexico and peppers from Peru.

Far from our galaxy, in the vast darkness of space, two massive black holes merged into a single, larger hole.

And now researchers say they have detected rumblings from that cataclysmic collision as ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself. The discovery comes a century after Albert Einstein first predicted such ripples should exist.

Tiny eggs have started hatching this week at the San Diego Zoo, and scientists there are celebrating the arrival of baby tree lobsters.

It's all part of a conservation effort for the Lord Howe Island stick insect. The huge, black, shiny creature, also known as a tree lobster, is a superstar of the entomological world, because its history is such a strange saga of passion and commitment.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A massive gas leak in the Los Angeles area that was first announced in October is still leaking. The company that operates the storage facility where the leak happened says the leak could be capped as early as the end of the week.

Most of the leaking gas is the greenhouse gas methane, which is harmful to the environment. But how harmful is it?

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that researchers first tagged in 1956, has hatched what could be her 40th chick, leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to call her "an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope."

Born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (which is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument), the new (adorable) chick has been named Kūkini — the Hawaiian word for messenger.

The heart of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan is now on hold, after the Supreme Court granted a stay request that blocks the EPA from moving ahead with rules that would lower carbon emissions from the nation's power plants.

The case is scheduled to be argued in June, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But a decision could be long in coming, particularly if the case winds up in the Supreme Court — meaning that the rules' fate might not be determined before a new presidential administration comes into power in 2017.

When Carolyn Coyne's lab at the University of Pittsburgh recently tried to order a sample of Zika virus from a major laboratory supplier, they were told it was out of stock.

"They are actually back-ordered until July for the virus," Coyne says. "At least that's what we were told." She ended up obtaining Zika from another source, and it arrived at her lab Tuesday.

The international trade in exotic animal parts includes rhino horn, seahorses, and bear gall bladders. But perhaps none is as strange as the swim bladder from a giant Mexican fish called the totoaba.

The totoaba can grow to the size of a football player. It lives only in the Gulf of California in Mexico, along with the world's smallest and rarest mammal — a type of porpoise called the vaquita.

Researchers may have detected gravitational ripples from the collision of two black holes, according to rumors circulating in emails and on blogs.

Anne Bowers wanted her boyfriend to buy her a used ring. Second-hand engagement rings are hundreds or even thousands of dollars less expensive than new ones.

But when it came time for him to propose, her husband went for a new ring. He said he just couldn't buy a second-hand ring. Why?

Second-hand rings have a history. They may have been worn by someone in an unhappy relationship.

The sighs we notice usually accompany emotions like relief or discontent. But our brains are programmed to make us heave an unconscious sigh every five minutes or so — no matter how we feel.

"Sighing is vital to maintain lung function," says Jack Feldman, a brain scientist at UCLA. These periodic deep breaths reinflate tiny air sacs in the lungs that have gone flat. But the brain circuitry behind those reflexive sighs has been a mystery.

The Gulf of Mexico is now open for commercial fish farming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last month that, for the first time in the U.S., companies can apply to set up fish farms in federal waters.

The idea is to compete with hard-to-regulate foreign imports. But opening the Gulf to aquaculture won't be cheap, and it could pose environmental problems.

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