Science: What Geeks are Talking About from NPR


Here is the latest Science News from NPR.

Before Flint, Lead-Contaminated Water Plagued Schools Across U.S.
Michigan isn’t the only place dealing with lead-contaminated water. Schools all over the country have struggled to eliminate lead from water fountains and cafeterias — some for more than a decade.

Midlife Friendship Key To A Longer, Healthier Life
People between 45 and 65 may be the loneliest segment in the U.S. And researchers are using brain scans to show that friendships are vital to staying healthy and engaged in your middle years.

The Brain Likes Categories. Where Should It Put Mixed-Race People?
There aren’t a lot of studies on racial bias and mixed-race people, even though they’re the fastest-growing group in the U.S. A study finds more bias against people who don’t fit an existing category.

Forget About It: Your Middle-Aged Brain Is Not On The Decline
You forget someone’s name, or why you ran downstairs. Your brain is getting older, and the connections are weakening. But research shows the middle-aged brain is actually operating at its peak.

These 27 Solutions Could Help The U.S. Slash Food Waste
The U.S. wastes 133 billion pounds of food annually. Cutting that by 50 percent by 2020 is going to take a serious action plan. A new data-driven report ranks approaches that could get the job done.

Even Astronauts Get The Blues: Or Why Boredom Drives Us Nuts
We’ve all been there: bored in class, bored at work, bored in standstill traffic. But why do we find boredom so unbearable? Hidden Brain investigates – hopefully, without boring you.

Newly Discovered Dinosaur Helps Explain Rise Of Tyrannosaurs
The horse-sized Timurlengia euotica provides a glimpse into a 20 million-year gap in fossil records, when tyrannosaurs evolved from “marginal hunters” to “apex predators.”

Can ‘Slow Fish’ Help Save America’s Small-Scale Fishermen?
An event in New Orleans this weekend highlighted the wealth of seafood the Americas have to offer — and the endangered state of the small fishers who catch it.

The Science Behind Baking Your Perfect Pie (Happy Pi Day)
Great pumpkin pie is elusive. You could end up with a soggy crust or a grainy filling. Reporter Maanvi Singh embarked on a months-long quest to crack the code for the ideal pie.

Why A Group’s Power Dynamics Interferes With Collaboration
Research finds that when you put powerful people together in a group, individuals tend to vie for the same level of authority and deference they receive outside the group.

California To Permit Medically Assisted Suicide As Of June 9
Terminally ill Californians will legally be able to get medicine from doctors to end their own lives. The end of the state’s special legislative session Thursday made it official.

U.S., Canada Announce Shared Goals For Fighting Climate Change
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled goals for cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by more than 40 percent by 2025, among other ambitious targets.

How Best To Test For Zika Virus?
Getting an accurate diagnosis is a big hurdle in the current outbreak of Zika virus. There are three kinds of tests for Zika, and each has problems. Scientists are working hard to improve diagnosis.

Water, Soil And Radiation: Why Fukushima Will Take Decades To Clean Up
Five years after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, progress has been made, but there’s still plenty to do.

Hospitals Adapt ERs To Meet Patient Demand For Routine Care
Many Floridians and other Americans turn to the ER for problems that aren’t emergencies, a poll suggests, even though the experience can be unpleasant. Some ERs are striving to change their image.

This Plastic-Eating Bacterium Might Help Deal With Waste One Day
Scientists found a new species of bacteria in the debris around a Japanese recycling plant. With the help of two plastic digesting enzymes, it can eat plastic and use it as a main food source.

He Rescued A Dog. Then The Dog Rescued Him
Eric O’Grey was 51, obese and suffering from diabetes and high cholesterol when he took home an overweight shelter dog. Now the duo are headlining a campaign on how pets improve humans’ lives.

A Late Birth Date Could Boost The Risk Of An ADHD Diagnosis
Children who are the youngest in a class are more apt to be diagnosed with ADHD, studies find. But researchers say that doesn’t mean that they have the disorder.

1st U.S. Uterus Transplant Fails Amid ‘Sudden Complication’
The 26-year-old patient is recovering, and the Cleveland Clinic says it will continue its clinical study that is meant to involve 10 women with uterine factor infertility.

Chew On This: Slicing Meat Helped Shape Modern Humans
Long before cooking was common, early humans needed extra energy to fuel bigger bodies and brains. Scientists say simple stone cutting tools likely allowed small-toothed meat eaters to thrive.

Scientists Report In Real Time On Challenging Zika Research
It’s rare for researchers to share their data as they work, but scientists in Wisconsin are reporting on their Zika virus experiments in real time. They say it’s critical for stopping the virus.

Medical Bills Still Take A Big Toll, Even With Insurance
The Affordable Care Act has increased access to doctors and helped reduce medical costs. But poll data show 26 percent of U.S. families are still struggling to pay their health care bills.

How Google’s Neural Network Hopes To Beat A ‘Go’ World Champion
On Wednesday in Korea, a Google AI program will take on a top-level player in the ancient game of Go. Here’s what you need to know.

Tests Say The Water Is Safe. But Flint’s Restaurants Still Struggle
The tap draws from Lake Huron. Eatery owners have bought ice, bottles and expensive filters. Large signs in windows post lead-free test results. But diners in this Michigan city are still leery.

Stem Cell Pioneer: Nancy Reagan Brought Alzheimer’s ‘Into The Public Sphere’
NPR’s Kelly McEvers speaks with Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem cell research pioneer, about former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s legacy as an Alzheimer’s research advocate.

Can’t Get In To See Your Doctor? Many Patients Turn To Urgent Care
A recent poll shows 27 percent of Americans have visited an urgent care center in the past two years. Why? Most cite convenience.

Scientists Find A Genetic Culprit For Gray Hair
Think you’ve gone gray from stress? Scientists say they’ve identified the first gene for gray hair. It accounts for about 30 percent of grays, mostly in lighter colored hair.

Abuse Or The Flu? My Autistic Son Couldn’t Tell Me What Was Wrong
My heart fell when a counselor called to say he was worried something bad might have happened to Nat, my severely autistic 25-year-old son. Nat has trouble talking, and was teary. What should I do?

Bill Gates Calls For ‘Energy Miracle’ In 15 Years. Do Experts Agree?
Yes and no. They definitely want a miracle to bring clean, cheap power to the powerless — only a lot sooner.

Scientists Discover ‘Remarkable Little Octopod,’ Possibly New Species
A robotic vehicle was exploring the ocean floor by Hawaii, more than 2 1/2 miles underwater. To the surprise of NOAA scientists, it came across a cute, “ghostlike” octopod. One suggested name: Casper.

Monarch Butterflies Are On The Rebound
After years of decline, the numbers of Monarch butterflies are up. NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro speaks with Jorge Rickards of the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico about their promising rebound.

High-Flying, Hibernating And Other Peculiar Bird Behavior
Spring is for the birds. And some are pretty odd. There’s a bird that walks under water and another that impales its prey. NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro speaks with Ray Brown from “Talkin’ Birds.”

Fighting Cancer By Putting Tumor Cells On A Diet
While genetic mutations are nearly ubiquitous in cancer, they may not always be the driving force for disease, some researchers say. They suggest looking at disruptions in cellular metabolism.

Second Study Affirms New Thinking About Peanut Allergies In Kids
A second big study affirms new thinking: early exposure to peanuts — beginning in infancy — reduces the risk of developing a peanut allergy. And this peanut tolerance holds up as kids get older.

Hubble Space Telescope Photographs Oldest Galaxy Ever Seen
The Hubble Space Telescope photographed what scientists say appears to be the oldest galaxy ever seen. It shows a collection of stars that formed 400 years after the Big Bang.

How Free Are USDA Scientists To Speak Their Mind?
Jonathan Lundgren’s research pointed out problems with popular pesticides. He says that message — and the messenger — were unwelcome at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

Deep-Sea Audio Recordings Reveal A Noisy Mariana Trench, Surprising Scientists
Instead of quiet, researchers hear sounds of earthquakes, ships, “the distinct moans of baleen whales” and a passing storm, nearly 7 miles deep in the Pacific.

Hubble Sees A Galaxy 13.4 Billion Years In The Past, Breaking Distance Record
Looking from Earth, it’s in an area just above where the handle of the Big Dipper meets its cup – or, if you prefer, it’s just above Ursa Major’s rump.

Why Is Laughter Contagious?
Neuroscientist Sophie Scott studies laughter, specifically its effect on our body and brain. She discusses laughter’s contagious nature, as well as its role in maintaining social bonds.

How Can We Prevent The Next Global Health Epidemic?
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates stresses our dire need for a system that can take on the challenges of the next global health epidemic.

How Do Our Social Networks Affect Our Health?
Physician and social scientist Nicholas Christakis explains how face-to-face social networks and their structures influence behaviors and phenomena in human society and the natural living world.

Why Did Humans Become The Most Successful Species On Earth?
Historian Yuval Harari explains how human imagination powered the growth and spread of homo sapiens around the world.

Tribe Says Drilling Project Would Have ‘Heartbreaking’ Consequences
An energy company is heading to court for the right to drill in Montana, near Glacier National Park. But some Native Americans and environmental groups want to stop the long-delayed project.

Puerto Rico’s Growing Financial Crisis Threatens Health Care, Too
Unless Congress and the White House can agree on a funding fix for Medicaid in the U.S. territory, many worry that Puerto Rico’s health care system could collapse when stopgap funding ends next year.

Could You Hack Your Brain To Get More Motivated?
Volunteers learned to activate a part of the brain linked to motivation when they got feedback from an MRI. It’s much more specific than older forms of biofeedback. But could it help change habits?

Big Power Companies Hail Oregon Lawmakers’ Approval Of Plan Phasing Out Coal
The legislation, which calls for big utilities to stop relying on coal by 2030, emerged from a January agreement between the companies and environmental advocates.

How Does Sunshine Affect The Lottery?
Social science research examines how the mood of gamblers can change the way they think about risk. New Yorkers buy more lottery tickets when the weather is good and when their sports teams win games.

Gas Prices Pop Up Despite Historic Supplies Of Oil. Blame Spring
The Energy Information Administration says oil inventories are at “historically high” levels. Still, gas prices have been heading up because oil refineries are switching to more costly summer blends.

Indicted Ex-Oil CEO Aubrey McClendon Dies In Car Crash
Aubrey McClendon, one of the pioneers of the shale oil revolution in the U.S. died in a car crash Wednesday at age 56 years. McClendon was indicted Tuesday on charges he conspired to rig the bidding process on oil and gas leases in Oklahoma.

Sleep Munchies: Why It’s Harder To Resist Snacks When We’re Tired
A new study finds that too little sleep boosts a signal in the body that may drive a stronger desire to eat. It’s the latest evidence linking sleep deprivation to overeating and increased body weight.

To Make A Wild Comeback, Cranes Need More Than Flying Lessons
The 15-year project wasn’t a flight of fancy. Biologists used a plane to successfully teach many young, captive-bred whooping cranes to migrate cross-country. But the birds aren’t reproducing well.

How Does Gender Affect One’s Willingness To Compete?
New research looks at how gender shapes competitions. Multiple strands of social science research suggest highly competitive settings are likely to dissuade qualified women from tossing their hats in the ring. NPR explores the consequences, the implications and also the causes for this disparity in the willingness to compete.

In An Unusual Move, The EPA Tries To Pull A Pesticide From Market
The pesticide got “conditional” approval just eight years ago, but the EPA now says it could poison fish. The move is raising hope among activists who want the EPA to regulate pesticides more tightly.

Is Nutritious Food In Peril, Along With Pollinators?
A U.N.-sponsored report warns that disappearing pollinators, such as bees, could cut production of healthful foods like fruits and nuts. But the degree of damage is mostly a matter of speculation.

This Gene Could Turn Your Hair Gray
Is stress turning your hair gray? Your ancestors may have something to do with it, too. Scientists say they’ve found the first genetic variant associated with going gray.

Why This German City Has Banned Coffee Pods In Government Buildings
Hamburg officials say single-use pods waste resources and aren’t always recyclable. The city is believed to be the world’s first to oust the capsules from schools, offices and other institutions.

Scott Kelly Reflects On His Year Off The Planet
During his 340 days aboard the International Space Station, the astronaut documented his time there with hundreds of photos. Kelly says the perspective makes him feel “more like an environmentalist.”

Scott Kelly Reflects On His Year Off The Planet
During his 340 days aboard the International Space Station, the astronaut documented his time there with hundreds of photos. Kelly says the perspective makes him feel “more like an environmentalist.”

Boston’s Heroin Users Will Soon Get A Safer Place To Be High
Set to open within a few weeks, the room will not be a place to inject drugs or get high, say health providers. Instead, a nurse will monitor heroin users as they come down from the drug’s effects.

Golden Mole Award Winner Announced
We received 300 nominations for the award for accidental brilliance. It’s a contest from NPR’s Skunk Bear blog that celebrates scientific insights gained from surprises, coincidences and mistakes.

Originals: How To Spot One, How To Be One
Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, tells us what makes an original, how parents can nurture originality in their children, and its potential downside.

Puerto Rico Races To Stop Zika’s Mosquitoes Before Rains Begin
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is an old foe, spreading yellow fever and dengue on the islands long before Zika gained a foothold. How do you stop an insect that can breed in a teaspoonful of stale water?

What It’s Like To Freefall From 20 Miles Above The Earth
Early Air Force experiments helped pave the way for the space program. Joseph Kittinger, who jumped from a balloon 103,000 feet up, talks about his experience.

Cleveland Clinic Performs First Successful Uterus Transplant In The U.S.
It could be another path to parenthood besides surrogacy or adoption for U.S. women who do not have a uterus, or who have a uterus that does not function.

The Stethoscope: Timeless Tool Or Outdated Relic?
Why is a 200-year-old icon of the medical field still in wide use in the digital age? Some say modern tools are more informative and worth the extra cost, but the stethoscope has staunch defenders.

With CDC Help, Puerto Rico Aims To Get Ahead Of Zika
So far, the U.S. territory has reported 117 Zika cases, including five pregnant women. But health officials say the real test will come when April and May rains bring more mosquitoes.

Report: More Pollinators Species In Jeopardy, Threatening World Food Supply
About 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species such as bees and butterflies are facing extinction, according to the global assessment.

Why Scientists Hope To Inject Some People With Zika Virus
There’s no vaccine yet, but Zika researchers are racing to find a good candidate. After testing it in animals, checking for effectiveness in humans might include injecting Zika into healthy people.

Why Your Hamburger Might Be Leading To Nitrogen Pollution
Many farmers who grow corn and soybeans to feed livestock use too much nitrogen fertilizer, which can cause a host of environmental problems. To fix them, scientists say we should eat less meat.

Beam Me Up, Scotty? Turns Out Your Brain Is Ready For Teleportation
The brain usually relies on our senses to navigate. But researchers found that when people experienced virtual teleportation, their brains still managed to keep them on course.

Nursing Home Evictions Strand The Disabled In Costly Hospitals
Federal rules mostly prohibit nursing homes from refusing to readmit residents after a hospital stay. But states rarely enforce the regulations. Some California families are now suing the state.

In A Far-Off Galaxy, A Clue To What’s Causing Strange Bursts Of Radio Waves
Astronomers have known about the powerful pulses but had never been able to catch one in the act to help figure out what’s producing them. Last year, they got one.

Oil Producing Nations Struggle To Cope With Falling Prices
U.S. consumers are enjoying extremely low gasoline prices, but the big drop in oil prices is causing hardship in nations that depend on oil production to fund their governments and social programs. NPR takes a look at which oil producing countries are hurt most and how they’re coping.

Death Valley’s Harsh Desert Blanketed With Wildflower ‘Super Bloom’
Death Valley, Calif., one of the hottest places in the world, is in bloom with more than twenty species of desert wildflowers. It’s the biggest bloom the park has seen in a decade.

Whoops! 12 Tales Of Accidental Brilliance In Science
You nominated 300 cool stories of scientific surprise for Skunk Bear’s Golden Mole Award. Our shortlist has it all: circuits painted with light, imperceptible genitalia, and a terrifying frog.

More Rural Hospitals Are Closing Their Maternity Units
Facilities for delivering babies are expensive to run and hard to staff. But when small rural hospitals close their birthing units, pregnant women are forced to travel much farther for care.

Shortage Of Addiction Counselors Further Strained By Opioid Epidemic
Counselors in the field of substance abuse rehabilitation earn roughly $40,000 a year, surveys show, and the work can be emotionally draining. Employee turnover is high, and likely to get worse.

Two More U.S. Cases Of Zika Virus Likely Shared Via Sex
U.S. health officials say they have confirmed the two women had Zika. And their only risk factor was having slept with male partners who had recently traveled to places with active virus transmission.

NASA Receives Record Number Of Astronaut Applicants
When NASA asked who wanted to be an astronaut, thousands of people said yes. The agency received a record number of applicants for the next class of astronaut candidates.

Solving The Mystery Of The Disappearing Quasar
Scientists were studying the properties of the light coming from a quasar — one of the brightest objects in the universe — when the light just seemed to wink out. Now they think they know why.

WATCH: Aborable Baby Gorilla Born By Rare, Risky Cesarean Section
It’s highly unusual for veterinarians to perform C-sections on gorillas. The western lowland gorilla is critically endangered.

Sea Levels Rose Faster Last Century Than In Previous 2,700 Years, Study Finds
And researchers predict things are going to get worse — their findings suggest sea levels will rise between 1 to 4 feet by 2100.

Academic Medical Centers Get An F In Sharing Research Results
There’s no excuse for not reporting all findings within two years of finishing a clinical study, says Yale University’s Dr. Harlan Krumholz. He calls on his colleagues to do a better job.

Hillary Clinton Hitches Her Health Care Wagon To Obamacare
Rather than sweeping reform, Clinton’s health plan is a collection of tweaks to the Affordable Care Act. The proposed changes are aimed at trimming consumer costs and improving coverage.

Sanders Health Plan Renews Debate On Universal Coverage
Left-leaning economists and Democratic analysts are sparring over Sanders’ proposal of health care for all, paid for by the government. Some who like his aspiration say the numbers don’t add up.

Stroke of Genius: How Derek Amato Became a Musical Savant
Derek Amato wasn’t born a musical savant. He became one—almost instantly—after hitting his head on the bottom of a swimming pool.

Snakes On An Island: Massachusetts Plans Colony To Save Endangered Species
It sounds like the plot for a terrible horror movie, but the plan to build a rattlesnake colony on an abandoned island in the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts is real. NPR’s Audie Cornish talks to Tom French of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Mysterious Ocean Buzz Traced To Daily Fish Migration
Scientists say the buzz picked up by hydrophones in the Pacific may be caused by “fish farts” — the emptying of air bladders that let clouds of fish rise and fall during daily hunts for food.

Is The BP Oil Spill Settlement Money Being Well-Spent?
Gulf states are starting to spend the first of billions from BP’s settlements and fines for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history — but not all the money is being used for restoration.

Why Zika-Spreading Mosquitoes Love Feet And Ankles
How do these buggers manage to find and feast on even the smallest cracks of exposed skin? Well to start, they’re really good at sniffing out our B.O.

Strokes On The Rise Among Younger Adults
Fewer people are having strokes now than decades ago. But that improvement seems to be mostly among the elderly. Young people are actually having more strokes, partly because of the rise in obesity.

U.S. Navy Brings Back Navigation By The Stars For Officers
A decade after phasing out celestial navigation from its academy courses, the U.S. Navy has restarted that formal training. The shift comes at a time of growing anxiety over possible threats to GPS.

They Brought Cookies: For A New Widow, Empathy Eases Death’s Pain
Her husband died. Then the neighbors started showing up. They brought soup. Cookies. Tea. But what they really brought was empathy. And that made the pain bearable.

How Brainwaves Allow Paralyzed Musicians To Continue Playing
Linda Wertheimer speaks with Eduardo Miranda and Elisa Bergersen about their project that enables paralyzed musicians to perform again through proxies.

How Scientists Misread The Threat Of Zika Virus
Zika was ignored by infectious disease scientists for years. This happens more often than you might think, especially with diseases discovered in remote regions. A researcher says we can do better.

Residents Return Home After Workers Cap Leaking Gas Well In Los Angeles
Residents are returning to the Los Angeles community of Porter Ranch now that the leaking natural gas well there has been capped.

Mosquitoes. What Are They Good For?
NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Nora Besansky, a professor of biology specializing in mosquitoes, about what would happen if mosquitoes were eradicated.

Honey, Who Shrank The Alligators?
For many, the alligator is the face of the Florida Everglades. But the reptiles are shrinking in size and population, a signal that the watershed might not be doing as well as it should.

VIDEO: Taking Out The Trash At The Space Station
“The deorbit burn and re-entry of Cygnus will not air on NASA TV,” NASA says, somewhat disappointingly. The craft was released over Bolivia on Friday.

Once Parched, Florida’s Everglades Finds Its Flow Again
The Everglades lost half its ecosystem when the Tamiami Trail was built through the heart of the national park, cutting off water flow. Now, a plan to restore the ecosystem is finally going online.

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