Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When a huge floating gyre of plastic waste was discovered in the Pacific in the late 1980s, people were shocked. When whales died and washed ashore with stomachs full of plastic, people were horrified. When photographs of beaches under knee-deep carpets of plastic trash were published, people were disgusted.

Though some of it came from ships, most, presumably, was from land. But how much was coming from where?

De Beers Group, the company most known for diamonds, announced Monday that it is moving 200 elephants from South Africa to Mozambique in an attempt to boost that country's depleted population.

In July and August, some 60 elephants are scheduled make the trip from the company's Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve, in the northernmost part of South Africa, to Zinave National Park in central Mozambique.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The ideal Italian pizza, be it Neapolitan or Roman, has a crisp crust flecked with dark spots — marks left by a blazing hot oven. The dough is fluffy, moist and stretchy, and the toppings are piping hot. A pizzeria's brick oven pops these out to perfection, but intrepid home cooks attempting to re-create Italian-style pizzas have more than likely discovered facsimiles are nigh impossible to produce.

There's new evidence that a woman's levels of female sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, can influence her risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Women are less likely to develop dementia later in life if they begin to menstruate earlier, go through menopause later, and have more than one child, researchers reported Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago.

There's a cycle that starts when the snow melts and the earth thaws high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. It's a seasonal cycle based on timing and temperature, two variables that climate change is pushing increasingly out of sync.

To the outsider, it can be hard to see: Plants still grow, flowers bud, bears awake, and marmots breed. Broad-tailed hummingbirds still trill around a landscape that evokes the opening scene of The Sound of Music, with flowery meadows and granite peaks.

If you're in the hospital or a doctor's office with a painful problem, you'll likely be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10 – with 0 meaning no pain at all and 10 indicating the worst pain you can imagine. But many doctors and nurses say this rating system isn't working and they're trying a new approach.

Jose Belardo of Lansing, Kansas, spent most of his career in the U.S. Public Health Service. He worked on the frontlines of disasters in places like Haiti, Colombia, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. At home with his three kids and wife, Elaine, he'd always been unfailingly reliable, so when he forgot their wedding anniversary two years in a row, they both started to worry.

"We recognized something wasn't right and pretty much attributed it to being overworked and tired," Elaine says.

In 1998, 25 weeks into her pregnancy, Sara Arey's cervix dilated and her amniotic sac started to descend into the birth canal. She was rushed to a hospital an hour and a half away from her home near Hickory, N.C., where she stayed for more than a week before her baby was born via emergency C-section. The baby, a girl, died 12 hours later in the hospital.

All roads may lead to Rome, but once you get there, good luck taking the subway. The sprawling metropolis is expanding its mass transit system — a sluggish process made even slower as workers keep running into buried ancient ruins.

"I found some gold rings. I found glasswork laminated in gold depicting a Roman god, some amphoras," says Gilberto Pagani, a bulldozer operator at the Amba Aradam metro stop, currently under construction not far from the Colosseum.

People are talking a lot about plastic straws these days — how international corporations like Starbucks and Marriott International are banning them, and the deleterious impact they have on the environment.

The cows were silent on a recent July morning at Mill-King dairy farm in McGregor, Texas. They stood under shade trees, digesting their breakfast, while cicadas buzzed in the branches overhead.

"It's starting to warm up, so they're starting to get a little bit less ... frolicky," says Craig Miller, watching from the fence line.

His grandfather started this farm. Now he runs it, producing nonhomogenized milk from a mostly grass-fed herd. He says this cow behavior is exactly what he expects as the temperature rises.

If you've been to a beach this summer, anywhere from Texas to the Carolinas, you've likely seen it. Masses of brown seaweed, sometimes a few clumps, often big mounds, line the shore. It's sargassum, a floating weed that's clogging bays and piling up on beaches in the Gulf and Caribbean.

On Miami Beach recently, Mike Berrier was enjoying the sun and the water, despite the sargassum weed.

Growing up in Washington, D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Rebecca Lemos-Otero says her first experience with nature came in her late teens when her mother started a community garden.

"I was really surprised and quickly fell in love," she recalls. The garden was peaceful, and a "respite" from the neighborhood, which had high crime rates, abandoned lots and buildings, she says.

The United Kingdom is counting its butterflies today — and will keep going for the next three weeks.

The ninth annual Big Butterfly Campaign kicks off today, with a big boost from a legendary voice.

"I did it in my garden," Sir David Attenborough intoned. "Where are you going to do yours?"

The ask is simple: Anybody in the U.K. can download an app or print out a chart that shows pictures of common butterflies.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

In hospitals across the country, anesthesiologists and other doctors are facing significant shortages of injectable opioids. Drugs such as morphine, Dilaudid and fentanyl are the mainstays of intravenous pain control and are regularly used in critical care settings like surgery, intensive care units and hospital emergency departments.

Counting cats, much like herding them, is a complicated proposition.

But a coalition of groups in Washington, D.C., is giving it a shot.

PetSmart Charities, the Humane Society, the Humane Rescue Alliance and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are collaborating on a project called the D.C. Cat Count, which aims to create a more accurate estimate of the city's entire cat population — both feral cats and pet cats.

Each spring, barnacle geese migrate more than 1,800 miles from the Netherlands and northern Germany to their breeding grounds in parts of Russia above the Arctic Circle.

The journey north usually takes about a month, and the geese make multiple stops along the way to eat and fatten up before they lay their eggs, says Bart Nolet of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and the University of Amsterdam.

Three Dimensions, Endless Possibilities

Jul 19, 2018

Five years ago, Cody Wilson fired the world’s first fully 3-D-printed gun at a range in central Texas. Then he shared the blueprint online, where it was downloaded over 100,000 times in the first few days.

Dr. Elliot Tapper has treated a lot of patients, but this one stood out.

"His whole body was yellow," Tapper remembers. "He could hardly move. It was difficult for him to breathe, and he wasn't eating anything."

The patient was suffering from chronic liver disease. After years of alcohol use, his liver had stopped filtering his blood. Bilirubin, a yellowish waste compound, was building up in his body and changing his skin color.

Disturbing to Tapper, the man was only in his mid-30s – much younger than most liver disease patients.

The Terminator's killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world's top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for "laws against lethal autonomous weapons."

When people think of particle accelerators, they tend to think of giant structures: tunnels many miles long that electrons and protons race through at tremendous speeds, packing enormous energy.

But scientists in California think small is beautiful. They want to build an accelerator on semiconductor chips. An accelerator built that way won't achieve the energy of its much larger cousins, but it could accelerate material research and revolutionize medical therapy.

First of all, what is an accelerator?

Archaeologists Find 14,500-Year-Old Bread

Jul 18, 2018

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NOEL KING, HOST:

How To Be A Savvy Consumer Of Science News

Jul 17, 2018

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The news overload we all feel can extend to the world of science. Our friend from the world of astrophysics, Adam Frank, has offered to provide some tools to help make us all savvier consumers of science news. Adam Frank, welcome back. It's good to talk to you.

CTE has been part of the national lexicon in the U.S. since the 2015 movie Concussion dramatized the discovery of this degenerative brain disease among football players.

Most teens today own a smartphone and go online every day, and about a quarter of them use the internet "almost constantly," according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center.

Now a study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that such frequent use of digital media by adolescents might increase their odds of developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

More than 400 years after Galileo Galilei discovered the first of Jupiter's moons, astronomers have found a dozen more — including one they've dubbed "oddball" — orbiting the planet. That brings the total number of Jovian moons to 79.

Patients whose blood cancers have failed to respond to repeated rounds of chemotherapy may be candidates for a new type of gene therapy that could send their cancers into remission for years. But the two approved therapies, with price tags of hundreds of thousands of dollars, have roiled the insurance approval process, leading to delays and, in some cases, denials of coverage, clinicians and analysts say.

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