Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[After Its Next Launch, SpaceX Will Probably Only Use Reusable Rockets]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:29:00 -0600
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Elon Musk has a dream for humanity: cheap spaceflight. And that dream will be one step closer to reality after his company's next rocket launch. 

Answering a question on Twitter Saturday, Musk said SpaceX's next launch will be the last one before it switches from expendable rockets to more reusable ones.

That's a pretty big deal. Right now, the only other company using reusable rockets is Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. But its reusable rocket isn't designed to go into orbit like SpaceX's system.

Fuel capacity can make it hard for SpaceX's current rockets to carry things like satellites into orbit and make it back with enough fuel to land.

SEE MORE: Why Rocket Explosions Aren't Dampening SpaceX's Ambitious Plans

SpaceX's current Falcon 9 rockets are technically reusable, but the company hasn't attempted to relaunch any of them, and the next one will be expended. After that, the goal will be to bring the vehicle home every time.

The move toward always reusing rockets should make spaceflight cheaper. The company says each Falcon 9 costs $62 million, but fuel only costs $200,000

In a Reddit Q&A session, Musk said he expects the new Falcon 9 Block 5 rockets "could be used almost indefinitely, so long as there is scheduled maintenance."

In another tweet Saturday, Musk said the Block 5 should fly sometime around the end of the year.

SpaceX's last launch was earlier this month. That launch marked the end of a four-and-a-half month hiatus after one of the company's rockets exploded after launch. The next launch could be as soon as Jan. 30.

<![CDATA[How Smart Fishery Management Saved The Atlantic Sea Scallop]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:28:00 -0600
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Scallops taught the United States an important lesson in sustainability. 

A smart fishery management plan was meant to relieve suffering cod and flounder populations, but it also prevented the Atlantic sea scallop market from fizzling out in the '90s. 

In 1991, New England fisheries yielded 37 million pounds of scallops. Scientists started to worry when scallop landings dropped to less than 10 million pounds in 1994. 

SEE MORE: One Way To Help The World's Overfishing Problem: Buy American

Then, regulators closed three fisheries along the Georges Bank, an underwater plateau between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia. They also temporarily stopped issuing new fishing licenses, and they rotated access to certain fishing grounds. 

Scallops reach sexual maturity within two years and produce up to 270 million eggs at a time. So it only took about 10 years for the population to rebuild and achieve above-target levels. 

The price of scallops has more than doubled since 2002, and the shellfish now contributes an estimated $2 billion to local economies each year. 

Overfishing is now at an all-time low in the U.S., but rising ocean temperatures and acidity levels could still threaten scallops and other marine life. 

<![CDATA[Proposed Republican Health Care Plan Allows States To Keep Obamacare]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:22:00 -0600
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Senate Republicans have unveiled a potential replacement for Obamacare. 

"If you like your insurance, you should keep it, and we mean it," Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said. 

The Patient Freedom Act would move control of health care from Washington, D.C., to state governments. 

Each state has three options: keep the Affordable Care Act, enter a new "market-based" system with some federal funding or create their own plan without federal help. 

SEE MORE: Trump Targets Obamacare With His First Executive Order

There's no word yet on what President Donald Trump thinks about this first plan to replace Obamacare. 

In the past, he's said he wants insurance for everyone, and he wants replacement to happen at the same time Obamacare is repealed. 

The sponsors of the bill say it's "still a work in progress," and the new state-by-state plan would be implemented by the year 2020. 

<![CDATA[How We Can Immunize Ourselves Against Bogus Information]]> Sun, 22 Jan 2017 18:20:00 -0600
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We have our pick of contentious debates these days: climate change, vaccination, evolution. But outright dismissing one side of an argument as misinformation or "fake news" can make people even less likely to see your point of view. Instead, researchers say you should try chipping away at the problem.

Psychologists at the University of Cambridge found if you train people to recognize falsehood bit by bit, they're more likely to discount it. They say a drip feed of critical thinking is like being vaccinated against a disease.

SEE MORE: For Rats (And Humans) Ticklish Is A State Of Mind

For example, the researchers had people read about the climate debate. In one corner are the 97 percent of climate scientists who agree climate change is caused by human activity. In the other is a misleading petition said to be signed by thousands of scientists who dispute that consensus.

People who read only the facts were more likely to agree with the consensus of scientific findings. Those who read only the petition were less likely to agree.

Exposure to both viewpoints at once barely shifted their stance at all. But people who got little reminders about the political motivations of the petition increased their chances of siding with the consensus. And detailed reminders about strange and inconsistent signatures on the list increased them even more.

This critical-thinking training can apply to any debate, and the researchers say that stands to do some public good. One expert says if people build a "cognitive repertoire" of what misinformation looks like, they'll be more likely to recognize and resist it.

<![CDATA['Data Rescuers' Are Stockpiling A Ton Of US Climate Info]]> Sat, 21 Jan 2017 15:46:00 -0600
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After Trump's inauguration, government websites were changed to fit the incoming agenda. But some concerned scientists made sure they got as much government data as they could before that happened.

So-called "data rescuers" downloaded hundreds of thousands of pages about climate change and renewable energy in case the Trump administration removed or altered anything.

SEE MORE: Trump's EPA Pick Says Something Unexpected About Climate Change

Trump has publicly doubted the legitimacy of climate change, and references to climate change have already been removed from the White House website.

The information will be stored on servers in Europe. Researchers now plan to check for any changes between the old data and anything the Trump administration publishes.

<![CDATA[Trump's Skeptical View Of Climate Change Means Nothing To California]]> Sat, 21 Jan 2017 10:49:00 -0600
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It looks like California will challenge President Donald Trump and his administration's stance on climate change.

Less than an hour after Trump took the oath of office, state lawmakers outlined a plan to cut 40 percent of carbon emissions by 2030, based on levels from 1990.

SEE MORE: World Temperature Continues To Be A Hot Topic For Third Year In A Row

The plan also calls for having 4.2 million zero-emissions vehicles in the state in the next 14 years.

The proposal came out the same day the incoming Trump administration pledged to eliminate Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, which also focuses on cutting emissions.

California has been preparing to take on the new administration if necessary. Earlier this month, officials hired Eric Holder, attorney general under Obama, to help the state in any legal battles with Trump's administration.

And in December, California Gov. Jerry Brown said the state was "ready to fight" to curb climate change.

<![CDATA[Federal Lands May Now Be Easier To Give Away. Here's Why That Matters]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:06:00 -0600
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Members of Congress are trying to make it easier for the federal government to effectively give away hundreds of millions of acres of public land.

In a small subsection of rules proposed for the 115th Congress, lawmakers have changed the value of that federally owned land.

The new rule means the transfer or sale of federal land to state or local governments is no longer considered "economically significant." Basically, Congress will no longer have to offset the funds lost in the budget when the land is sold, making it easier to give away.

SEE MORE: Obama Gives $500M To Green Climate Fund Before Trump Takes Office

According to The Guardian, the new rule applies to land operated by the Bureau of Land Management, National Forests and any Federal Wildlife Refuge.

Right now, those areas contribute an estimated $646 billion dollars in economic stimulus each year and hold 6.1 million jobs.

Critics fear the new rules could be used to sell large portions of the lands for private energy and property development.

And while Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of the interior has said he's "absolutely against" transferring or selling public lands, he does support using them for drilling and mining.

<![CDATA[NASA May Have Found More Proof That Mars Once Had Water]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 07:56:00 -0600
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NASA's Curiosity rover has spotted what scientists say were probably cracks in drying mud on Mars, giving scientists even more proof that the red planet once hosted water.

Curiosity snapped photos of the cracks in December at a site called "Old Soaker."

SEE MORE: The Search For Life On Mars Is Heating Up And Getting Crowded

NASA researchers say the shallow crevices look like nothing they've ever seen before from Curiosity and could be the mission's first confirmed evidence of ancient mud cracks.

As one team member said in a statement, "Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don't look like fractures we've seen previously with Curiosity. It looks like what you'd see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked."

Scientists believe the mud layer formed more than 3 billion years ago, after Mars' ancient lakes dried up.

Over time, the cracks were most likely buried by layers of surface sediment, which eventually hardened into solid rock. But later on, wind erosion stripped away those layers to reveal the fractured patterns Curiosity caught on camera.

As another Curiosity team member put it, "If these are indeed mud cracks, they fit well with the context of what we're seeing in the section of Mount Sharp Curiosity has been climbing for many months. The ancient lakes varied in depth and extent over time and sometimes disappeared. We're seeing more evidence of dry intervals between what had been mostly a record of long-lived lakes."

Scientists say they will continue to analyze the site and look for other instances of cracking around Mars.

<![CDATA[Skittles-Coated Highway Seems Like A 'Stranger Things' Episode]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:31:00 -0600
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Stranger things are happening in Wisconsin.

Hundreds of thousands of Skittles spilled onto a highway.

Apparently, they fell off the back of a pickup truck.

The strangest thing: The Skittles were meant to be fed to cows.

"From what I understand, is these Skittles, are probably rejects from the factory. And they're given out to farmers. And apparently, they're good nutrients for cattle," explained Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt.

SEE MORE: Cows Eat This Device, And It Lets Them Text Their Farmer — Sort Of

Officials said the spilled Skittles also helped provide traction and improved icy roads. The spill didn't smell too bad either.

<![CDATA[Squirrels Are Bushy-Tailed National Security Threats]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:23:00 -0600
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One of the biggest threats to the U.S. power grid isn't state actors or natural disasters. It's that little gray mammal invading your bird feeder.

Security researcher Cris Thomas runs the numbers on grid attacks, and he wants to remind us that squirrels are way more problematic than any cyberattack has been so far.

SEE MORE: A Power Grid Cyberattack Isn't Just An Idea In The Movies

They've taken out bits of the grid more than 850 times since Thomas started counting in 2013. For comparison, officials have confirmed that cyberattacks on physical hardware have worked only twice: Stuxnet in Iran in 2010, and when hackers knocked out the power in Ukraine in 2015. Security researchers believe a third attack took place outside Kiev in 2016.

In fact, it's difficult to know the severity of our squirrel sabotage problem, because it happens so frequently. Utility industry groups say they're the most common cause of grid trouble: They cause 1 of every 5 outages.

One ill-fated squirrel can knock out power for thousands of customers or even trip up whole financial markets. Squirrels have short-circuited NASDAQ not once, but twice — from the same city in Connecticut.

So what is it about squirrels that makes them so uniquely suited to this mayhem? There's at least one species of climbing squirrel just about everywhere in the continental U.S. They're inquisitive and tenacious, and they gnaw on everything, because their teeth never stop growing.

And to a squirrel, these tall power structures are a lot like trees. Food sources like insects and nuts can collect in transformers, those transformers are decent shelter, and tall power lines give good access to any actual trees nearby.

Squirrels looking for food or shelter aren't as malicious as cyberattacks, of course. And while Thomas says the risk of a cyberattack is valid, it doesn't match the hype we've built around the possibility — especially when problems caused by local wildlife are much worse.

<![CDATA[The Future Looks Very Grim For More Than Half Of Our Fellow Primates]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:28:00 -0600
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The future is looking very grim for some of our fellow primates.

According to a new study, more than half of Earth's nonhuman primate species — including monkeys, lemurs and apes — are facing the threat of extinction.

And about three-quarters of primates have declining populations.

The shrinking numbers have researchers concerned. As one of the study's authors put it, "This truly is the eleventh hour for many of these creatures."

SEE MORE: Humans Could Hunt 301 Species Of Mammals Into Extinction

Habitat loss, the illegal pet trade, hunting and climate change are just some causes behind the decline. And those threats have one thing in common — humans.

An author of the study says unless conservation becomes a "global priority," many of the world's primate species will disappear in the next 25 years.

The researchers say Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently host two-thirds of all primate species. They say conservation efforts in these areas could stop or even reverse the global primate extinction trend.

<![CDATA[World Temperature Continues To Be A Hot Topic For Third Year In A Row]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:16:00 -0600
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Earth is getting hotter. It's just that simple, according to several leading global science agencies. 

A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed 2016 as the hottest year on record — the third year in a row to earn that title.

Since 2000, the global temperature record has been broken five times. 

Research from NASA supported this finding. So did research from two global agencies in the U.K. and Japan

Data from NOAA shows the average surface temperature up by 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit in 2016 . NASA's research shows the increase is higher, at 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit. 

SEE MORE: Trump's EPA Pick Says Something Unexpected About Climate Change

President Obama recently gave $500 million to a climate change fund connected to the U.N.

But President-elect Donald Trump has denied the existence of man-made climate change. And he's picked several Cabinet appointees who share his skepticism.

<![CDATA[Indonesia's Zoos That Aren't 'Decent' Still Might Not Close]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:23:00 -0600
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You can see bears' ribs in a video taken at Bandung Zoo in Indonesia. So some people are trying to shut down the zoo. But does this kind of pressure work? 


An animal rights group posted similar videos in May 2016, but the zoo is still open.

A zoo spokesman told the BBC this was an "old case." He said the bears are begging in the video because visitors "throw food at them." The zoo discourages people from doing this.

SEE MORE: These Freed Zoo Animals Are On To Bigger, Better Things

In 2015, the country's government had accredited or considered only four of Indonesia's 58 zoos "decent."

The zoos in question could get their licenses revoked, but it doesn't mean they'll close. 

This zoo in particular is privately run, so the local government says it can't do anything.

<![CDATA[This Robot Beats Just Like The Heart It's Wrapped Around]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:10:00 -0600
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To treat heart failure, scientists are building devices that give the organ a boost. This robot wraps around the heart and uses air pressure to mimic the squeezing motion.

It's a promising device for the tens of millions of people who deal with heart failure every year. When researchers tested it in pigs, it kept the circulation steady even after the animals had suffered cardiac arrest.

SEE MORE: Can Too Much Cardio Be Bad For Your Heart? Maybe

Right now, fixing serious heart failure can require an implant, a transplant or an artificial heart. A heart wrap would be less invasive. And since there's no blood flowing through it, there's less of a risk for infection.

It's also customizable. Researchers can tweak how hard it pumps, and even which parts of it work, so it can compensate for partial heart failure.

<![CDATA[An Asteroid Possibly Worth $10,000 Quadrillion Is NASA's New Mission]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 10:37:00 -0600
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Forget the Mars, Jupiter and Milky Way missions. NASA is now setting its sights on an asteroid, and it's not just any asteroid.

It's called 16 Psyche and is believed to be made almost entirely of nickel and iron.

Most asteroids are made up of rock or ice. So researchers think this trip to Psyche could help us learn more about Earth's core, which is also thought to be composed of similar metals.

NASA also wants to know if Psyche is actually a core of an early planet that could have broken off billions of years ago.

SEE MORE: NASA's Next Mission Turns To Space's Most Extreme Environments

Currently, the asteroid is the only place known to researchers where they could study what's believed to be an exposed metallic core without having to dig like they would to reach the Earth's.

The space program is teaming up with researchers from Arizona State University for the robotic mission, which will launch in 2023.

Right now, there aren't any plans to mine or land on the asteroid. But the mission's lead scientist estimates the iron alone could be worth as much as $10,000 quadrillion.

<![CDATA[Obama Gives $500M To Green Climate Fund Before Trump Takes Office]]> Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:04:00 -0600
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In one of his final acts as U.S. president, Barack Obama gave $500 million to a fund that helps poor countries develop clean energy technology.

It's called the Green Climate Fund, and it was a major part of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

Some are applauding Obama for giving the money before Donald Trump takes office. The president-elect isn't expected to make payments to the fund.

In fact, during his campaign, Trump pledged to cancel involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement and use the money for other projects in the U.S.

SEE MORE: The Paris Climate Agreement Probably Isn't Enough To Save Coral Reefs

But Obama's donation actually falls short of what he promised. Three years ago, he committed to giving $3 billion to the fund but couldn't get Congress on board.

<![CDATA[Gene Cernan Really Wanted Us To Return To The Moon]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 15:55:00 -0600
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Astronaut Eugene Cernan died Jan. 16 at the age of 82. And he made a lot of spaceflight history: He was a pilot for the Gemini and Apollo programs, he was the second American to walk in space, he went to the moon twice — and he's the last human being to walk on its surface.

"As we leave the moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind," Cernan said as Apollo 17 wrapped up its moonwalks.

Cernan didn't seem too happy about that last title. Humans haven't left Earth's orbit for decades, and he always had plenty to say about that fact.

SEE MORE: Listen To Astronauts Talk Earth, From Space

He said on Fox News in 2015, "I drove a car on the moon 42 years ago, and we can't get a human being in space today?" 

The human being part was important to Cernan. Since the Apollo program ended, deep space has been explored entirely by probes and telescopes. But Cernan testified more than once that there was no substitute for the human experience on new frontiers. 

"There's never been a ticker tape parade for a robot. … Lewis and Clark didn't send an empty canoe up the river. And I am not making light of it. Human beings have to follow in the footsteps of everything we can send before them," Cernan said

Cernan often acknowledged that might not mean a return to the moon. He had hoped our drive to explore would take us somewhere challenging — like Mars.

"There's only 12 people who have stepped on something solid, other than Earth," he said in a 2014 interview. "The essence of human existence is curiosity. I want to know. This is our chance. We can't blow it."

<![CDATA[This Zebra Shark Shocked Researchers By Giving Birth Without A Male]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:56:00 -0600
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A zebra shark (also commonly known as a leopard shark) at the Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Australia had more than two dozen babies before she was separated from her mate in 2013.

But three years later, she hatched three more eggs by herself, and researchers are stunned.

"We were absolutely astonished to find out that the offspring was what we call a parthenogenetic offspring of that mother," Hamish Tristram, a senior aquarist at Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, told ABC Australia.

Translation: Leonie the shark produced offspring without any help from a male whatsoever. Talk about an independent woman.

Asexual reproduction in sharks is pretty rare in the first place. But a shark that gave birth to pups the old-fashioned way and then switched reproduction styles? Scientists say it's a first.

SEE MORE: This Giant Shark Can Live For 400 Years

Initially, researchers thought maybe Leonie had stored sperm from her mate and that's how her eggs hatched years later.

But when they DNA-tested her pups and the possible parent sharks, they only found cells from Leonie.

Scientists are now trying to find out if this switch is possible in the wild. And if it is, it could be a really big deal for zebra sharks.

The species was recently listed as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Correction: An earlier version of this video identified Leonie as a leopard shark. Her species is more commonly known as a zebra shark in North America, and a leopard shark in some regions. The video has been updated.

<![CDATA[Are Peppers Really The Secret To Longer Life?]]> Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:00:00 -0600
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new study linking red hot chili peppers to a longer life is making the rounds. But before you start putting them in every meal, you might want to take the study with a grain of salt.

Researchers with the University of Vermont analyzed over 16,000 Americans through government data that kept tabs on them for an average of about 19 years.

The data showed the death rate for those who ate chili peppers was around 13 percent lower than people who didn't.

But the researchers admit the study shows a correlation, not a cause, so we can't point to chili peppers as the sole reason people were more likely to live longer.

SEE MORE: Life Expectancy In The US Has Dropped For The First Time In Decades

Other health indicators for chili pepper eaters, as a group, were varied. They tended to eat more vegetables and have lower cholesterol, but they also tended to drink, smoke and have lower incomes.

Also, Chili pepper eaters were often younger, which could skew the risk of death.

When the researchers separated the data by cause of death, red chili peppers were less of a factor. Vascular disease was the only cause of death where the pepper's health benefits came close to being statistically significant.

Still, the researchers argue the study supports Chinese research from 2015 that linked spicy foods to a lower risk of death.

Other experimental research has found the capsaicin in spicy foods can help fight obesity, cancer and inflammation.

<![CDATA[Cheer Up! Experts Say Blue Monday Isn't Really A Thing]]> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 10:34:00 -0600
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If you thought Mondays couldn't possibly get any worse, allow us to introduce you to Blue Monday.

According to a formula created by Welsh psychologist Cliff Arnall, it's the most depressing day of the year, and it falls on the third Monday in January. 

That's pretty much when all of the Christmas cheer has faded, the holiday bills begin to roll in and the weather is just, well, crummy.

That all sounds pretty bad on its own. But Arnall told reporters in the U.K. that Blue Monday 2017 could be particularly blue, thanks to anxiety over Donald Trump's impending presidency, several tragic celebrity deaths and other not-so-cheery factors.

But before you crawl back under the covers and hide until spring, some experts say Blue Monday is nothing more than a PR stunt.

SEE MORE: Magic Mushrooms Could Help Treat Severe Depression And Anxiety

As the director of development and delivery at London's Mental Health Foundation wrote in a blog post, "'Blue Monday' ... was created in 2005 to sell summer holidays. Since then it has become a yearly PR event and primarily a device to promote and sell things, often tenuously linked, to improving our wellbeing."

Sure enough, a quick scroll through Twitter will show you most of the posts trending under #BlueMonday are ads for sales, giveaways and vacations.

And there isn't any scientific evidence to back up the theory behind the depressing annual holiday.

But while Blue Monday might be fictional, many people do have seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons and typically starts in late fall.

<![CDATA[Prince Charles' New Picture Book Isn't Really For Kids]]> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 13:45:00 -0600
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Prince Charles is trying something new to tackle climate change –– co-authoring a picture book for adults.

The goal of the book is to explain the challenges and possible solutions for climate change in a simpler way.

SEE MORE: Kate Middleton Is Now A Member Of The Royal Photographic Society

The Ladybird series was originally for children and focused on different topics with each book.

Prince Charles himself was the subject of a Ladybird book in the '80s.

But, more recently, Ladybird has published books for adults with more tongue-in-cheek subjects like hangovers and hipsters. And now, the series is looking to shift to hard sciences.

Prince Charles' book on climate change is said to be the first Ladybird book to be peer-reviewed by scientists, but others have accused the royal of politicizing the issue.

The book is set to be released Jan. 26.

<![CDATA[This Company Wants To Mine The Moon. Now It Has The Money To Get There]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 15:30:00 -0600
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A private space company has raised the money it needs to get to the moon. But actually getting there and doing the mining it wants to might not come easy.

Moon Express reportedly raised over $45 million to finance a launcher that will take photos of the moon's surface. That was the first step.

The company's CEO said, "Our goal is to expand Earth's social and economic sphere to the moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent."

The company got permission from the U.S. government last year to land on the moon, a first for a private firm.

SEE MORE: This Changes How We Thought The Moon Was Made

And President Barack Obama signed the cleverly named SPACE Act in 2015. The act allows private entities to mine resources from space, but some have questioned if it violates international law.

The United Nations' Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says the "exploration and use" of celestial bodies can only happen for the benefit of all countries. A private U.S. company mining the moon probably wouldn't.

The treaty also forbids countries from doing anything that would cause "harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies."

Here's another hitch: The rocket Moon Express is using to launch the lander hasn't flown before. The company got the go-ahead to start testing last year but, as of Jan. 14, no launch date had been set.

<![CDATA[Backing Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For Bees]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 13:00:00 -0600
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized new guidelines for using certain pesticides — and people are already arguing about it.

Basically, the EPA backed away from restricting a handful of pesticides — all neonicotinoid compounds — that have been linked to harming honeybees.

SEE MORE: Millions Of Bees Died From A Pesticide That Slows The Spread Of Zika

In a separate release, the EPA said contact with the pesticides can harm bees and their larvae. But the agency also said most approved uses aren't "significant risks" to entire colonies.

The guidelines will likely be good news for growers, but some environmental agencies are up in arms. One expert said it's "outrageous" the EPA said the pesticides were dangerous for bees but still loosened restrictions.

The move also seems to go against bundles of research from other countries that say this class of pesticides not only harms bees, but also other nontarget insects.

Pesticides helped put a species of bumblebee on the U.S. endangered list for the first time early this year. While the EPA won't be restricting use of the chemicals for now, a full risk-assessment on how pesticides affect honeybees is expected to finish next year.

<![CDATA[Why Rocket Explosions Aren't Dampening SpaceX's Ambitious Plans]]> Sat, 14 Jan 2017 11:54:19 -0600
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SpaceX is back. On Saturday, it launched a rocket for the first time since September, but it has a lot of ground to make up.

"Every launch is a nerve-wracking, emotional — significant emotional event," SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell said. "I think this flight will be a little more nerve-wracking than normal."

The successful launch was the first of seven that will carry a constellation of communication satellites. SpaceX plans to ferry the rest to orbit over as little as 14 months with regular flights.

It might be strange to call a rocket company "plucky," especially one that gets government contracts and wants to eventually send people to Mars. But right now it's a good fit.

SEE MORE: SpaceX Finally Explains Why Its Rocket Exploded In September

SpaceX doesn't have the launch volume of its rivals yet, and those competitors haven't had to stop and restart their launch schedules because of rocket failures.

SpaceX only made half its planned launches in 2015. It made eight of 20 in 2016. But it has plans for 27 this year. By 2019, it wants to be lofting one rocket a week.

That speed makes sense when you look at the 70-plus launches in the company's cramped backlog and the need for profits. Mars expeditions aren't going to fund themselves.

<![CDATA[We're Slowly Cornering Earth's Biggest Animals]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:55:00 -0600
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Animals do best in pristine environments. When we protect wilderness areas, we get more animals, and the ecosystem stays healthier than developed land. 

But human influence is growing — and for the planet's biggest animals, these protected areas could one day be the only land they have left.

Big animals like elephants and cheetahs need big spaces to find food without competition, to avoid predators and to find healthy mates. But these days, uninterrupted ecosystems like that are getting smaller. From 2000 to 2013, these landscapes shrank by more than 7 percent all over the world. Roads and deforestation in unprotected wilderness are slicing off bits of their range.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Threatens Snow Leopards Even More Than Humans

In response, we're protecting more wilderness than ever before. Governments and conservation groups have set targets to protect big chunks of land and sea by 2020. In the U.S., President Obama has protected more land than any other president.

And the number of protected areas worldwide has been climbing this decade. Conservationists hope that if it keeps up, these areas will feel less like a last resort for the animals who live there — and more like a home.

<![CDATA[What's Happening When A Lithium-Ion Battery Explodes?]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:56:00 -0600
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We really like our lithium-ion batteries. They run our cellphones, our laptops and sometimes even our cars. But sometimes, they run into a string of problems that cause them to melt and catch fire.

This is the reason you can't have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in your luggage right now. It's also why you have to have special contracts to ship those hoverboard things by air. Their faulty batteries can overheat and pose a fire risk.

SEE MORE: Samsung Wants To Shut Down Its Fire-Prone Phones; Verizon Won't Let It

A lithium-ion battery can start to break down if it gets too warm, if it's handled roughly or even if it's charged up too often. Gas can collect in the battery, which can make it swell. When the gas vents, the electrodes inside the battery can deform and short-circuit.

These short-circuits are what caused the battery fires on Boeing's Dreamliner planes in 2013. And Samsung says that's what caused its Note 7 batteries to overheat. Short-circuits can concentrate a lot of a battery's energy in one spot, increasing its temperature to more than 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. 

So what do we do to make these batteries safer? Lithium is nasty stuff when it catches fire. Firefighters soaked the burning Dreamliner batteries in chemical fire suppressant, and they still didn't go all the way out.

Solid-state batteries would eliminate flammable liquids — but first, we have to figure out how to charge them quickly enough to be useful. In the meantime, some chemical engineers call for designing power cells with better reinforcement so they don't collapse or melt as easily.

And some researchers are figuring out how to build a flame retardant right into the battery's frame. If the temperature of the battery climbs past 300 degrees Fahrenheit, the chemical is released, and it shuts down any fire in less than half a second.

Until then, you're stuck with your current batteries — but unless they're under recall, like the Note 7's are, you'll probably be okay. The overall failure rate for rechargeable batteries is low — as low as 1 in every 40 million cells.

<![CDATA[These 2 Major Companies Are Taking A Stand Against The $600 EpiPen]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2017 08:12:00 -0600
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Two major health companies are taking a stand against the pricey brand-name EpiPen.  

Health insurance giant Cigna announced this week it has dropped its coverage of Mylan's $600 allergy treatment in favor of the half-price generic version. 

A spokesperson for Cigna said in a statement: "It is positive news for our customers. The generic version, available now in pharmacies, has the same drug formulation and device functionality as the branded medication, but at a substantial cost savings."

And on the same day, CVS Health said it will start offering customers the generic version of Adrenaclick, one of EpiPen's biggest rivals, for just over $100.

SEE MORE: EpiPen Maker May Have Cheated Government Out Of Millions Of Dollars

The drugstore chain said it "recognized that there was an urgent need in the marketplace for a less expensive epinephrine auto-injector for patients with life-threatening allergies."

Mylan drew major criticism last year after news broke that the pharmaceutical company had hiked prices of the EpiPen roughly 400 percent in less than a decade. 

But Mylan's CEO told CNBC this week that the company had learned from its decision.

"It absolutely has made Mylan a stronger company, me a stronger leader," Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said.

<![CDATA[The People Who Are Punching Away The Symptoms Of Parkinson's]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:09:00 -0600
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 People with Parkinson's disease are fighting back by boxing.

Kathy Rinehart-Hansen is one of them.

"The first time I watched, I thought, 'I won't be able to do this,'" she said. "This looks too hard." 

When she started, she couldn't get up without using her arms for support. Now she can.

"When I first started, I would like totally miss the bag, and you feel like a fool," she said.

Boxing can help reduce Parkinson's symptoms at any stage by increasing muscle control, movement and flexibility.

The degenerative disease kills the brain's neurons and can stiffen muscles. This inhibits movement and even speech.

But the fight is constant.

"It's helped because you get to meet people going through the different stages of the disease. You all have a common commitment and common goal to try and slow down the progression," said Larry Windmoeller, another member of the class.

"I've had it like I said for eight years, and I'm still in what's called stage 1. I haven't progressed to stage 2. And I don't plan on it," Rinehart-Hansen said. 

<![CDATA[Scientists Tie The Tiniest, Tightest Knot Ever]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 13:01:00 -0600
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It doesn't matter how thin the string is — scientists will still figure out how to tie it in knots.

They just tied the tightest knot ever. It has eight "crossings" in a chain just 192 atoms long. But it doesn't have loose ends, like a knot in a rope. The strands are wrapped around a metal ion and sealed in a closed loop.

SEE MORE: Where's All Our Graphene Consumer Tech?

On its own, the most complex molecular knot ever is more of a curiosity than a practical discovery. But scientists at the University of Manchester think they might be able to go from tying tiny knots to weaving whole sheets of molecular fabric the same way.

We've known for thousands of years that weaving strands of stuff into sheets can make it lighter and stronger.

Weaving polymers this tightly together could lead to better building materials, more bullet-resistant fabrics or more effective filters for cleaning carbon out of power plant emissions.

That sounds a lot like graphene, the other wonder material. Researchers have been tweaking it to do the same things.

And just like graphene, scientists think these knots could lead to entirely new classes of versatile materials.

<![CDATA[Nickelodeon Wants To Build An Underwater Theme Park In The Philippines]]> Thu, 12 Jan 2017 12:21:00 -0600
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Nickelodeon wants to build an underwater theme park among these beautiful islands in the Philippines. 

But environmentalists aren't having any of it.

On Monday, Nickelodeon's parent company, Viacom International, announced plans to develop the undersea attraction in Palawan, which is known for its pristine lagoons, beaches and coral reefs.

The nearly 1,000-acre theme park would feature attractions inspired by Nickelodeon favorites, like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Spongebob Squarepants" — of course.

SEE MORE: Universal Theme Parks' Next Big Addition: Nintendo

If you're not into the whole cartoon thing, the resort would also include hidden lagoons, an animal reserve, shipwreck diving, and underwater restaurants and lounges. 

Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, it might not be so awesome for the area.

Conservation groups have dubbed Palawan the Philippines' "last ecological frontier" because of its relatively untouched coastlines and forests. And activists say building a theme park there would harm the wildlife.

Almost immediately after Viacom's announcement, environmentalists slammed the development plans, calling them "shameful" and "a terrible example to the younger generation." 

In response, the firm working to construct the project issued a statement saying "all developments are on land" and "the only infrastructure in the water is floating," despite what was said in Monday's announcement. The theme park is scheduled to open in 2020.

<![CDATA[Scientists Upgrading Very Large Telescope To Search For Exoplanets]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 20:56:00 -0600
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Scientists at the European Southern Observatory are upgrading their Very Large Telescope in hopes of getting a better look at the sun's nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri.

The upgrade is funded by Breakthrough Initiatives — a group of scientific programs seeking evidence of life beyond our planet. 

SEE MORE: Astronomers Find A Rare Ring Galaxy With An Even Rarer Second Ring

Right now, it's difficult for the telescope to detect planets because of how bright the two main stars of the Alpha Centauri system are. The changes to the Very Large Telescope should dim that light.

Last summer, scientists found a planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, so we know there are planets in the Alpha Centauri system.

But the Very Large Telescope won't be strong enough to look beyond Alpha Centauri for planets, so the observatory is building an Extremely Large Telescope to handle that job.

<![CDATA[Organ Transplants Hit All-Time High — Sadly, It's Because Of Opioids]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 18:34:00 -0600
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For the fourth year in a row, organ transplants have reached record highs. 

In 2016, there were nearly 34,000 transplants — about 20 percent more than in 2012. And 82 percent of those were from people who had died.

But this isn't the major public health victory it seems like it should be. 

SEE MORE: Trying To Stop The Opioid Epidemic Is An Uphill Battle

America's opioid epidemic is one of the major causes for the increase in donor organs — one in every 11 organ donors died of a drug overdose. In some places, that number jumps to nearly one in four.

And unfortunately, there still aren't enough donor organs to meet the demands of people who need transplants. 

And since the organs come from overdose victims, they're considered high-risk, meaning they could — but usually don't — carry infectious diseases.

Even with the increase in donor organs, there are almost 120,000 people on the waiting list for organ transplants.

<![CDATA[St. Jude Pacemakers Updated After Flaw Made Them Vulnerable To Hackers]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 17:13:00 -0600
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St. Jude Medical updated its implantable cardiac devices after the Food and Drug Administration said they were vulnerable to hackers.

An FDA statement said cyber intruders could have attacked pacemakers and defibrillators by draining their batteries or making them send out the wrong pacing or shocks. That could be life-threatening.

The problem should be fixed now, and it appears no devices actually got hacked. But medical devices with lax security are surprisingly common.

SEE MORE: The Cybersecurity Stakes Just Keep Getting Bigger

In October, Johnson & Johnson notified more than 100,000 patients that their insulin pumps could be vulnerable to hackers, who could change a pump's dosage or shut it down entirely.  

And it's not just devices attached to people's bodies. One hacking expert said most hospitals are more than 10 years behind on cybersecurity practices.

<![CDATA[200 Dogs And Puppies Rescued From Dog Meat Farm In South Korea]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:59:00 -0600
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Two-hundred dogs rescued from South Korea are now one step closer to finding new homes.

Human Society International rescued the dogs from a meat farm. The owner reached out to the rescue organization for help in shutting down the farm.

Beyond rescuing the animals, HSI works with farmers to help them transition to a different livelihood, such as blueberry farming. 

Most people in South Korea don't eat dog meat regularly, and according to HSI, it's becoming increasingly unpopular with younger generations.

Of the 200 rescued dogs, 176 are coming to the U.S., nine to the U.K. and 15 to Canada.

Animal shelters in six states and Washington, D.C., will take in the rescued pups to help them get adopted. 

The director of animal protection and crisis response for HSI who assisted in this rescue said: "These rescued dogs will soon experience the compassion and care of humans that is not afforded to them at these farms. They will serve as ambassadors for the millions of others still suffering on dog meat farms in South Korea.”

SEE MORE: Your Dog Might Remember A Whole Lot More Than You Think

In the past two years, HSI has helped rescue 770 dogs from meat farms in South Korea alone.

This rescue operation is part of a larger mission to end the dog meat trade in Asian nations, including China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

<![CDATA[This Changes How We Thought The Moon Was Made]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:14:00 -0600
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new paper is tweaking the theory of how the moon was made –– not with a bang, but several of them.

Scientists have long thought one massive collision created the moon 4.5 billion years ago. A planet called Theia that was at least the size of Mars supposedly hit a very young Earth.

This knocked loose parts of Earth, and gravity helped the debris merge with Theia. This is what became the moon – at least in theory.

And in a lot of ways, the "Theia" theory isn't too far-fetched.

SEE MORE: NASA's Next Mission Turns To Space's Most Extreme Environments

At about a quarter the diameter of Earth, our moon is pretty big — meaning no other planet in our solar system has a moon as relatively close in size.

And when you look at what our moon is made of, the ingredients and their ratios are similar to Earth's.

The problem? Probability.

Math models show the chances of a single collision hitting at just the right spot, speed and angle are very slim. It's more likely small collisions happened over time and the debris came together.

The models for a single collision also suggest Theia's chemical makeup would have to be very similar to Earth's before the two hit. A bunch of small collisions that averaged their chemical makeups seems more likely.

Still, there's not enough data to confirm the multi-collision theory, and it seems that more studies will follow.

The answer to what created the moon might actually come from Venus. If a sample of the nearby planet shows its composition is similar to Earth's, there's a better chance a single, large object like Theia existed.

<![CDATA[Vaccine Skeptic Says Trump Asked Him To Head Panel On 'Vaccine Safety']]> Wed, 11 Jan 2017 08:12:00 -0600
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Vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says Donald Trump asked him to head a new commission on "vaccine safety."

"President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it. He says his opinion doesn't matter, but the science does matter," Kennedy told reporters.

The two met at Trump Tower on Tuesday. Kennedy said he and Trump are "very pro-vaccine," but they want to ensure that vaccines are "as safe as can possibly be."

Kennedy said he accepted Trump's offer, but on Tuesday night a transition team official said no decision to create a vaccine commission had been made. Instead, she said the president-elect is exploring a committee on autism. 

SEE MORE: Which Country Trusts Vaccines More: America Or France?

Both men have previously stoked fears that vaccine ingredients cause autism, despite the fact that research hasn't found a link between the two.

As one medical expert told The Washington Post, "That's very frightening; it's difficult to imagine anyone less qualified to serve on a commission for vaccine science. ... Our nation's public health will suffer if this nascent neo-antivaxxer movement is not stopped immediately."

<![CDATA[Weekend-Only Workouts Might Be Just As Good As Daily Exercise]]> Tue, 10 Jan 2017 13:12:00 -0600
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It happens to the best of us: The week flies by, and you haven't made it to the gym.

So you workout on Saturday and Sunday instead.

It's not an ideal schedule, but a new study says packing a week's worth of exercise into one or two days can still be beneficial.

The World Health Organization recommends the average adult get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.

Activities can include walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, household chores, sports and planned exercise — just to name a few.

SEE MORE: Losing Sleep Isn't Just Bad For Your Health — It's Bad For The Economy

Researchers found this: People in the U.K. who met that recommendation by exercising throughout the week had a 35 percent lower risk of dying than inactive people.

On the other hand, people who reached that goal with just a couple of workout sessions — known as weekend warriors — had a 30 percent lower risk of death. That's not much of a difference.

The study's lead author told The Guardian: "Millions of people enjoy doing a sport once or twice a week, but they may be concerned that they are not doing enough. We find a clear benefit. It's making them fit and healthy."

To come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed the overall health and self-reported exercise habits of more than 63,000 adults in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2012. Nearly 9,000 of the participants died during the study period.

Despite the known health benefits of regular exercise, in 2013, about 1 in 4 U.S. adults said they weren't physically activity in their free time.

<![CDATA[More Americans Got Mammograms When Obamacare Footed The Bill]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2017 11:11:00 -0600
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The number of Americans opting to get mammograms went up under President Barack Obama's health care law.

According to a new study, in the two years after Obamacare began, more women age 70 and older got mammograms compared to the two years before the Affordable Care Act was established.

To come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed Medicare claims for beneficiaries age 70 or older. Then, they pinpointed women who hadn't had a mammogram in the past two years. And they found that the mammography rate increased across all income and education levels.

The health care law eliminated out-of-pocket expenses for many preventive services, including mammograms. And that likely contributed to the increase. 

Those are certainly encouraging results, but the future of preventive services coverage is unclear.

SEE MORE: Best News Of 2017 So Far? Cancer Death Rate Drops A Fourth Since '91

President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare ASAP. But we don't know what portions of the law he'll get rid of and which ones he'll keep.

If the cost of preventive services falls back on patients instead of insurance companies, doctors worry people will opt out of screenings.

As the study's lead author told Forbes, "We know that poor people are less likely to get preventive services. My fear is that if we add cost back in, compliance rates will be even lower."

The study also looked at how many beneficiaries used colonoscopy preventive services. That number didn't see an increase after Obamacare was implemented. The study notes the lack of increase could be due "other procedural factors," including the need for sedation or concern about discomfort because of the invasiveness of the procedure. 

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, women age 40 and older should get a mammogram every one to two years.

<![CDATA[The Paris Climate Agreement Probably Isn't Enough To Save Coral Reefs]]> Sun, 08 Jan 2017 13:18:00 -0600
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Humans are going to have to do a lot more if we want to save the world's coral reefs.

Climate change is quickly killing coral through a process called coral bleaching. In 2016, coral reefs suffered the biggest die-off ever. Some regions of the Great Barrier Reef lost up to 35 percent.

SEE MORE: The Great Barrier Reef Is Dying, And Tourists Are Rushing To See It

Coral bleaching is probably exactly what you're imagining: Colorful corals turn white and die. When major changes take place in the ecosystem, corals expel the algae that gives them their color. Since algae is the corals source of food, they begin to starve.

Scientists say if current climate trends continue, 99 percent of reefs will experience annual bleaching by the end of the century. Catastrophic events could begin as early as 2043. 

And even the Paris climate agreement can't save the reefs. A 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature is too much for corals to adapt to. And the agreement's ideal target of just a 1.5-degree Celsius rise would still be too little, too late.

To give reefs a better shot at adapting to a changing climate, the world would need to agree to an emissions reduction plan that's 1.5 times those pledged in the Paris agreement.

The loss of coral could have wide ranging effects — and not just on the animals that call reefs home. Coral reefs are some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, and that biodiversity makes them a key place to search for new medicines

<![CDATA[SeaWorld San Diego's Orca Show Isn't Ending — It's Being Replaced]]> Sun, 08 Jan 2017 11:15:00 -0600
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SeaWorld San Diego hosts its final orca show Sunday — but that doesn't mean the whales will stop performing.  

The "One Ocean" show has been a feature at the park for decades. Orcas perform tricks like jumping out of the water and splashing audience members.

But after years of backlash from animal rights activists — and a bottom-out in ticket sales — the park announced in 2015 it would be shutting down the Shamu show and starting a new educational program.

That program will be called "Orca Encounter," and it's billed as an educational experience that will show visitors natural orca behavior.

But a SeaWorld official says the whales will still take cues from trainers. The show will include the whales jumping out of the show pool and slapping their tails on the water — sound familiar?

Critics are already saying "Orca Encounter" won't solve the whales' main problem: being held in captivity. 

And the director of the documentary "Blackfish," which illustrated how captivity can turn orcas violent, told CBS the show is meant to make people feel better, not the animals. 

The educational program will be introduced at other SeaWorld parks in San Antonio and Orlando by 2019.

<![CDATA[Beijing Turns To Special Police Force To Combat Smog]]> Sun, 08 Jan 2017 10:06:00 -0600
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Beijing is creating a special police team to reduce the city's toxic smog. 

The smog has been so bad residents have had to stay indoors for days at a time. 

SEE MORE: China's Smog Could Make It More Difficult To Fight Off Some Infections

Beijing's mayor told state media the city has regulations for "open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning [and] dust from roads" but that enforcement of the laws has been weak.

However, the public has pushed officials to address larger sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power plants.

State media says 500 polluting factories will be shut down this year, and Beijing's mayor promised to slash coal consumption by 30 percent. 

Air pollution isn't just Beijing's problem. Earlier this month, China issued a national fog red alert for the first time ever.

<![CDATA[If You've Never Seen A Star Explode, Watch The Sky In 2022]]> Sat, 07 Jan 2017 13:25:00 -0600
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Set a reminder to look up at the stars more in 2022. You might see a star explode.

About 1,800 light-years away — in the left wing of the constellation Cygnus — is a binary star system that scientists say is getting ready to merge and form a red nova.

A nova often begins as a binary star system where the more massive star is a white dwarf and steals hydrogen from its partner. When it collects enough, the hydrogen explodes outward.

Because the two stars share a communal atmosphere, the system is a perfect candidate for this type of phenomenon.

SEE MORE: NASA's Next Mission Turns To Space's Most Extreme Environments

Two astronomers predicted the nova back in 2015. Since then, they've done "two strong tests" and say their hypothesis is still "holding up."

Right now, the two stars are too dim to see with the naked eye, but if they do merge, the nova should create a new visible star in the sky.

This won't be the first red nova scientists have watched, but it's the first time they will have predicted one — if it comes to pass.

<![CDATA[GOP Starts To Split On Obamacare: Repeal & Delay Vs. Repeal & Replace]]> Sat, 07 Jan 2017 11:26:00 -0600
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The GOP fight to repeal Obamacare doesn't seem to be off to a smooth start.

GOP senators filed a budget resolution on Wednesday to start stripping away funding for the Affordable Care Act.

But some high-profile Republican lawmakers want party leadership to focus on a replacement to the controversial law before they start to chip it away.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a "repeal and delay" strategy. That plan would slowly strip away Obamacare funding while a viable replacement is crafted.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan agrees. He says his goal is to come up with a new health care bill by the end of 2017.

Republicans kept control of both chambers of Congress, with 52 seats in the Senate. That means conservatives need all hands on deck to pass budget legislation.

The plan to defund the law through budget reconciliation bills only requires a simple majority in the Senate, that's at least 51 votes. But to overcome a filibuster, Republicans would have to court some Democrats to reach 60 votes.

"Go ahead, repeal it. Repeal it now. See what happens," outgoing Vice President Joe Biden told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Democrats warn of an insurance market meltdown if lawmakers start tinkering with health care laws without an end goal.

And with more than 20 million people signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, it's unlikely many Democrats will be willing to help repeal the law.

SEE MORE: Elizabeth Warren Wants To Stay In The Senate To Fight Trump

Outgoing President Barack Obama says the GOP will have to own any problems that happen with health care, or "Trumpcare," as he's called it.

Now, that concern appears to have caused several senators to push for replacing Obamacare at the same time it's repealed.

"I don't think we can just repeal Obamacare and say we're going to get the answer two years from now," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press."

<![CDATA[Astronomers Find A Rare Ring Galaxy With An Even Rarer Second Ring]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 14:35:00 -0600
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Gravity pulls most galaxies into spiral or elliptical shapes. But on rare occasions, they're shaped like rings.

It takes something special to leave an unattached halo of stars and gas just floating there, and scientists still aren't sure what that is. But they have a lot of theories.

SEE MORE: Extremely Rare Galaxy Sheds Light On How Others Get Their Shapes

It could be that collisions with other galaxies punched holes through them. Or maybe the galaxy used to have central bars that disintegrated. Or the ring could be gas that got vacuumed up from a nearby dwarf galaxy.

However they're formed, they don't form often: Fewer than 1 in 1,000 galaxies are shaped like rings.

But it turns out these cosmic rarities can get even more unique. Researchers just found a new ring galaxy — and when they took a closer look, past the bright visible light of the core, they found a second dimmer ring.

"That's actually a red feature that appears to be another diffuse ring," said astrophysicist Patrick Treuthardt.

Two rings suggests the galaxy's gone through two distinct stages of formation. If so, it could be an exciting addition to our knowledge of ring galaxies — but astronomers aren't any closer to understanding how it happens.

<![CDATA[Part Of London Passed Its Annual Pollution Level For 2017 — In 5 Days]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 14:32:00 -0600
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That was quick. Part of London has already passed its annual limits for pollution, and it only took five days.

Law states hourly levels of nitrogen dioxide can't exceed 200 micrograms per cubic meter more than 18 times per year.

But by Jan. 5, readings on a road in the city had passed those limits. At one point, levels of the gas were about 1.75 times the legal amount.

SEE MORE: Paris' Solution To Air Pollution? Free Parking

This isn't too shocking. Last year, London passed annual limits in just a week.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the city is produced largely by diesel vehicles. In 2010, a study estimated up to 5,900 deaths in London could be linked to long-term exposure to the gas.

Such exposure to nitrogen dioxide has adverse effects on lung function and breathing.

But officials are trying to stop things from getting worse. London's mayor has pledged more than a billion dollars over the next five years for air quality measures.

<![CDATA[An Iceberg The Size Of Delaware Is Ready To Break Off Antarctica]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 12:38:00 -0600
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A iceberg the size of Delaware is dangerously close to breaking away from Antarctica.

According to NASA, a big crack in the Larsen C ice shelf grew dramatically at the end of last year.

And now, the nearly 2,000-square-mile section of the ice sheet is hanging on by a thread — a flimsy 12-mile stretch of frozen water.

Experts think it won't be long before it breaks off. As one scientist told the BBC, "If it doesn't go in the next few months, I'll be amazed."

SEE MORE: Seabird Poop Could Help Save Arctic Sea Ice

And when it does, it could create one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded and might lead to the collapse of the entire Larsen C shelf.

NASA says if and when the mammoth iceberg breaks away and melts, it won't make sea levels rise, simply because it's already floating.

But the Larsen C shelf prevents other glaciers from reaching the ocean. If the whole shelf breaks up, those glaciers could contribute to rising sea levels.

If researchers' estimates are on track, the ice the Larson C shelf is holding back could eventually melt and increase global sea levels by almost 4 inches. That's a lot.

<![CDATA[The Famous SeaWorld Killer Whale Tilikum Has Died]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 11:00:00 -0600
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Tilikum, one of SeaWorld's most famous killer whales, has died.

The marine park announced the orca's death on its website Friday morning. The cause of death is still unclear, but his veterinarians and caretakers were treating him for a bacterial lung infection before he died.

He was about 36 years old.

SEE MORE: California Bans Breeding Orcas In Captivity — But It's A Little Late

Tilikum was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983. He was moved to SeaWorld in 1991 from another marine park in Canada.

He had been involved in the deaths of three people, including one of his trainers in 2010.

In 2013, he was featured in the documentary "Blackfish," which amplified the controversy surrounding SeaWorld's care for its animals.

SeaWorld has not brought in a whale from the wild in decades and announced the end of its orca breeding program last year.

<![CDATA[Best News Of 2017 So Far? Cancer Death Rate Drops A Fourth Since '91]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2017 08:10:00 -0600
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Fewer Americans are dying from the second biggest killer in the U.S.: cancer.

New numbers from the American Cancer Society show from 1991 to 2014, the cancer death rate has dropped by a quarter.

That means there were about 2 million fewer cancer deaths than expected if cancer death rates stayed at their peak.

The big overall drop is fueled by decreasing death rates from four major types of cancer: lung, breast, colorectal and prostate.

SEE MORE: Life Expectancy In The US Has Dropped For The First Time In Decades

The American Cancer Society's report says those encouraging numbers are because of better screening, better treatment and fewer smokers.

The society's chief medical officer said in a statement, "The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer's deadly toll."

But there's still a long way to go. The organization estimates this year, the U.S. will have nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases and over 600,000 cancer deaths.

<![CDATA[Don't Drop Your New Year's Resolution Just Yet]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 16:09:00 -0600
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It's 2017, and it's time to start those New Year's resolutions. 

Here are a few tips to help you do it.

No. 1: Keep your goals realistic. Rome wasn't built in a day. All that pasta you ate in 2016 isn't going to be burned off in a day, either. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, choose a goal (or a series of mini-goals) that feels attainable.

No. 2: Keep your goals to yourself. Studies show telling others about your goals can actually give you a false sense of accomplishment, leading you to slack off before you even begin. 

SEE MORE: Mark Zuckerberg's New Year's Resolution: To Visit Every US State

No. 3: Make an action plan. Decide how you're going to do what you want to do. Mapping out a game plan can give you direction and help you spot any early pitfalls before they happen. 

No. 4: Track your progress. Keeping a record of your progress can help motivate you — and keep you accountable. There are literally thousands of apps to help you do it. 

No. 5: Keep your goals positive. The happier they make you, the more likely you are to stay with them. Science says so. 

<![CDATA[NASA's Next Mission Turns To Space's Most Extreme Environments]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 14:31:00 -0600
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NASA's boldly pushing the boundaries with its next mission: exploring the most "extreme and exotic" objects — like neutron stars, pulsars and supermassive black holes.

The space agency announced it'll be sending three telescopes equipped with cameras to monitor these extreme environments.

Neutron stars are like cramming the sun into a city-sized sphere. When a star reaches the end of its life cycle, it collapses on itself, and its protons and electrons are literally jammed together.

If you took a piece the size of a sugar cube out of a neutron star, it'd weigh as much as Mount Everest.

SEE MORE: NASA Has Big Plans For 2017

Pulsars are a type of neutron star that spin incredibly fast. NASA compares them to your blender, with some pulsars spinning over 700 times per second.

But black holes might be the most intriguing of all. They have an astronomical amount of matter being pushed through a tiny space.

An average black hole is like a star 10 times more massive than the sun going through a sphere as wide as New York City.

What's even more mysterious are supermassive black holes, which astronomers say are found near the center of practically every galaxy. 

NASA's new mission is expected to cost $188 million. The launch is scheduled for 2020.

<![CDATA[You Might Be Aging, But That Doesn't Mean Your Brain Stops Growing]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 13:34:00 -0600
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Until now, we thought all of the brain's cells were connected before adolescence. But a new study finds there's a spot that keeps growing into adulthood, indicating that may not be the case.

Researchers at Stanford took MRI scans of kids and adults and also looked at autopsy results. They found that an area of the brain that deals with facial recognition was relatively larger in older subjects.

We knew other parts of our brains grow as we get older. The prefrontal cortex insulates its neurons with fats and proteins so they're more efficient. But the researchers say that's not the case here. This facial-recognition region could be growing new cells — not just insulating existing ones — and making new connections, called synapses.

SEE MORE: Can't Sleep In A New Place? Your Brain May Be Waiting For Danger

This is unexpected, since the brain tends to start losing synapses before adolescence. It's called "synaptic pruning," and it's basically the physical effect of learning.

But this study has shown age doesn't necessarily mean you'll lose a bunch of your brain cells. And this growing part of the brain could explain why adults are better at recognizing subtle emotional expressions than babies.

<![CDATA[Exposing Kids To Peanuts Early Could Help Prevent Allergies Later]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 12:11:00 -0600
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If you don't want your kids to be allergic to peanuts later in life, feed them — peanuts.

New guidelines health officials released this week say exposing infants to peanut products sooner rather than later could prevent them from developing an allergy down the road.

Now, this isn't exactly a new idea. Several studies have had the same conclusion.

But, until now, there had been a lot of confusion about the details — like when to start exposing babies to peanuts and how.

SEE MORE: Modern Life Is Too Clean For Fighting Allergies

The new recommendations fall into three categories.

The first category includes infants at a high risk of developing a peanut allergy. These babies have severe eczema or an egg allergy or both. The guidelines say they should be introduced to peanuts as young as age 4 to 6 months, either at home or at a specialist's office.

The second moderate-risk category includes infants with mild to moderate eczema. Because a peanut allergy is less likely, parents can expose these children at about 6 months.

And finally, kids who don't have eczema, food allergies or a family history of either condition can eat peanut products at any age but officials say preferably before they turn 6 months old.

The guidelines note you should never give infants or young children a solid peanut. A small taste of peanut butter or peanut powder should do the trick.

<![CDATA[Coca-Cola Gets Sued For Claims It Made About Obesity And Its Drinks]]> Thu, 05 Jan 2017 10:16:00 -0600
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A lawsuit is accusing Coca-Cola of misleading people about the potential health risks of its sugary drinks.

The complaint filed Wednesday in California alleges Coca-Cola and its parent company have falsely advertised that its sugary drinks aren't scientifically linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It also argues Coca-Cola paid "experts" and used ads to convince the public that a lack of exercise, not sugary drinks, causes obesity.

SEE MORE: Nutrition Labels On Junk Food Will Finally Make More Sense

Coke and its parent company are accused of doing that through an industry-wide campaign. The suit claims they promoted the idea that all calories, no matter where they come from, are as equally good or bad for the body.

This is from an ad: "All calories count, no matter where they come from –– including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories."

And in recent years, scientists who received funding from Coca-Cola have claimed more exercise, not cutting calories, was the scientific way to lose weight.

SEE MORE: The Feds Are Fed Up With Your Sugar Intake

A company spokesman told Quartz the lawsuit is "legally and factually meritless."

Other studies have found diet affects weight a lot more than exercise.

<![CDATA[Another Study Disproves Any Pause In Global Warming]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 19:36:00 -0600
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new study has disproved the existence of a climate change hiatus — again.

The so-called hiatus marked a period of time starting in 1998 when global warming seemed to pause, something climate skeptics saw as evidence climate change wasn't real. The only problem is the pause never happened. 

2015 study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that instead of an actual hiatus, the pause was caused by a change in how ocean temperatures were measured. 

Back in the day, scientists relied on boats to measure the temperature of ocean water as it entered a ship's engine room, but near the turn of the century they began using buoys instead.

Ships engines tend to be hotter than ambient temperatures, so the data came back skewed slightly warmer than it actually was. When buoys became the instrument of choice for climate scientists, the ocean seemed colder by comparison — making global warming seem to disappear.

So in 2015, NOAA decided to correct for the change in scientific tools used in the older data. That led some skeptics to cry foul.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Is Freaking People Out Enough To Not Want Kids

The 2015 findings even led the House Committee on Science to look into the study. The chair of the committee was worried NOAA had "altered temperature data to get politically correct results."

But the new study — conducted by researchers at the University of California Berkley and Berkley Earth — seems to bear out what the 2015 study found. 

Using three independent data sets from satellites, buoys and an autonomous fleet of sensors called the Argo network researchers confirmed what scientists in 2015 suspected — no pause existed.

<![CDATA[This Designer Turns Running Shoes Into Protection From Pollution]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 15:59:00 -0600
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Beijing-based designer Zhijun Wang makes antipollution masks by re-purposing running shoes.

So, smog masks just got more fashionable.

SEE MORE: Meet The Small Town Destroyed By A Tornado And Rebuilt On Green Energy

The evolution of smog masks can seem dystopian, but they're an important safety precaution in China.

1.6 million people in China die every year because of air pollution.

"Every day I have to think about it. I have to wear a face mask to go outside. Is tomorrow going to be so horrifying that I won't be able to run outside? So I thought, 'Can I use my own approach to express how I feel about this?'" Wang said.

Runners in Beijing are particularly affected by pollution. It's recommended that they check the Air Quality Index for smog levels, wear masks during their workout, and even skip days with unsafe pollution levels.

So as pollution gets worse and smog masks get more elaborate, it seems pretty fitting to see designer masks made from running shoes. 

<![CDATA[US Navy Dolphins Have A New Mission: To Help An Endangered Species]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 12:00:00 -0600
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The U.S. Navy's dolphins have a new mission — to locate the critically endangered vaquita porpoise

The Marine Mammal Center says only about 60 of these porpoises exist and that less than half are females that can reproduce.

Vaquitas live in the waters of the northern Gulf of California in Mexico.

But so does a type of fish that's illegally trafficked to Asia, where its swim bladder is in high demand. Poachers use nets to catch the fish, and oftentimes vaquitas are caught right along with them.

SEE MORE: The US And World Took Key Steps For Animal Conservation In 2016

To help the porpoises, the Navy is training its dolphins to seek out the remaining vaquitas and relocate them to a protected area. 

The operation is a joint one with Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

"Undoubtedly this is going to be the last call that the vaquita has, and as President Peña Nieto instructed us, we will make every effort we can to prevent its extinction," Rafael Pacchiano, Mexico's secretary of environment and natural resources, told a local paper in December. 

However, since vaquitas have never been held in captivity, the director of World Wildlife Fund Mexico is worried the porpoises will end up dying anyway.

The U.S. Navy most often trains its dolphins to use their sonar to detect intruders and underwater mines, as well as find lost equipment in murky water or at deep depths.

The vaquita operation is set to begin in May.

<![CDATA[Scientists Say This Belly Membrane Should Be Classified As An Organ]]> Wed, 04 Jan 2017 11:10:00 -0600
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A membrane in the human digestive system has been making headlines as a newly discovered organ.

Scientists have known about the membrane for hundreds of years. But now, some are arguing that it should be officially classified as an organ.

Meet the mesentery. It acts kind of like sticky paper in the human digestive system and connects a person's small and large intestines to the abdominal walls.

SEE MORE: Everyone In France Is Now An Organ Donor Unless They Opt Out

Scientists have thought of it as a bunch of different membranes. But, in a recent review, researchers argue it's actually one continuous organ.

As one of the review's authors told The Washington Post, "The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure."

Not much is known about the mesentery. But scientists say studying it could lead to some new discoveries about its impact on abdominal diseases.

<![CDATA[SpaceX Finally Explains Why Its Rocket Exploded In September]]> Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:57:00 -0600
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SpaceX finally said why its rocket exploded on a launchpad in September, taking a $200 million Facebook satellite with it.

In a statement Monday, the company said a buckled liner trapped oxygen inside one of the rocket's fuel tanks and friction or breaking fibers made that oxygen explode.

However, the investigation couldn't determine if broken fibers or friction ignited the oxygen.

SEE MORE: Elon Musk's Plan To Colonize Mars Starts With This Rocket Engine

SpaceX had considered sabotage as a possible explanation immediately after the explosion. One unproven theory involved a sniper shooting the oxygen tank from the roof of a nearby building owned by competitor United Launch Alliance.

The explosion in September was extra concerning because it happened during the fueling portion of the mission, which is generally considered safer than other stages. The rocket wasn't scheduled to take off for another two days.

SpaceX said it plans to redesign the tanks so they can't buckle. Until then, the company will use warmer helium while fueling the rockets in the hopes that oxygen doesn't become trapped and ignite.

The short-term fix will have to do for now. SpaceX's next launch is scheduled for Sunday.

<![CDATA[Everyone In France Is Now An Organ Donor Unless They Opt Out]]> Mon, 02 Jan 2017 16:38:00 -0600
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As of the first day of 2017, everyone in France is considered an organ and tissue donor — unless they opt out.

According to the new law, if individuals don't want to donate their organs, they must join the National Register of Refusal. Or, they can put their wishes not to donate in writing.

They can also tell their family members. Those relatives must explain the circumstances of the conversation to doctors, who will transcribe the discussion with family. Relatives must then sign the transcription.

SEE MORE: Driverless Cars May Worsen The Organ Shortage, But Science Has Answers

Before the new law, doctors needed consent from the donor's relatives to retrieve the organs if the person had not made clear his or her wishes regarding organ donation.

According to The Guardian, families in France refused to give doctors permission to retrieve organs nearly a third of the time.

Some people choose not to donate for religious reasons.

SpainWales and Belgium are just some of the countries that already employ various degrees of presumed consent. Spain and Belgium have some of the highest rates of organ donations from the deceased in the world.

Germany and the United States have "opt-in" systems. In the U.S., people who want to donate their organs must give their consent and sign up on state registries, often when they get a driver's license or state ID.

<![CDATA[NASA Has Big Plans For 2017]]> Mon, 02 Jan 2017 10:18:00 -0600
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You might have plans to get in shape or save money in 2017, but it's safe to say NASA's plans are a bit more ambitious.

2017 will mark the end of the Cassini spacecraft. For more than a decade, Cassini beamed back hundreds of gigabytes of data about Saturn, its moons and its rings.

SEE MORE: 2016 Space Exploration Was Enlightening And Kinda Weird

Now that Cassini's job is complete, it's going out in a blaze of glory. In April, the satellite will circle ever closer to Saturn until it breaks apart in the planet's atmosphere.

A few hundred million miles away from Cassini, NASA will launch the neutron star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER. It's an instrument that will examine super-dense neutron stars and tell us what's going on inside them.

Neutron stars contain more mass than the sun, but they're a little over 12 miles in diameter. We still have no idea how that works, but scientists are eager to find out.

NASA doesn't plan to spend all of 2017 looking into the cosmos. It's also launching equipment to the International Space Station to monitor Earth's ozone layer. SAGE III will provide crucial information to track the planet's progress in improving the ozone's health.

That's just a taste of what NASA has in store for 2017. 

<![CDATA[Driverless Cars May Worsen The Organ Shortage, But Science Has Answers]]> Sat, 31 Dec 2016 16:22:00 -0600
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When the fleets of driverless cars start rolling out, they're expected to decrease road deaths.

Humans cause an estimated 94 percent of road fatalities, and autonomous vehicles will likely lower that rate. But there's a catch.

About 1 in 5 organs used for transplants come from car crash deaths. If self-driving cars mean fewer people die behind the wheel, what does that mean for the organ shortage?

Roughly 6,500 people in the U.S. die waiting for an organ transplant every year. That doesn't even include those cut from the list because they're "too sick."

The bright side is that technology is working on alternatives. Scientists have found a way to genetically engineer pig DNA so those organs could eventually be safe and dependable to use in humans.

SEE MORE: Oh, No. This Autonomous Car Learned How To Drive By Watching Humans

That process modifies DNA to get rid of parts that make foreign cells unsuitable for humans. Eventually, researchers hope to test transplants on primates and then us. Pig and cow heart valves have replaced human valves before.

There are also lab-grown organs. In 2013, scientists grew an edible meat patty from stem cells. The same sort of process has created windpipes, noses and a bunch of other things.

Then there's 3-D bioprinting. Cells from a patient could be printed onto a mold of an organ or tissue and incubated to multiply the cells. The created organ could conceivably be transplanted into a patient.

The technology isn't quite up to producing complex organs like a heart, liver or kidney. But things like skin and blood vessels are showing promise.

We can't definitively say these methods would solve an organ shortage created by super-safe self-driving cars — but they're pretty cool ideas.

The other option for boosting transplant numbers is signing up to donate your extra organs, which you don't actually have to be dead to do.

<![CDATA[China Is Getting Rid Of Its Ivory Trade]]> Fri, 30 Dec 2016 20:08:00 -0600
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China's government says it's finally getting rid of the country's ivory trade once and for all.

The international ivory trade was banned in 1989, but China has one of the largest domestic markets left in the world. The country's now planning to phase out all ivory processing and sales by the end of 2017.

SEE MORE: The US And World Took Key Steps For Animal Conservation In 2016

That's important for conservationists because legal ivory markets often fuel demand for poaching and the illegal ivory trade.

And poaching is still devastating elephant populations in Africa. The Great Elephant Census estimated the African elephant population dropped 30 percent from 2007 to 2014, to around 350,000 elephants.

Similar blanket bans on ivory trading were adopted this year by the U.S. and Hong Kong, two major markets for legal and illegal ivory trade.

<![CDATA[How To Keep Birds From Sabotaging The US Space Program]]> Fri, 30 Dec 2016 17:41:00 -0600
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Sometimes the biggest problem facing NASA's space program isn't budget limits or bad weather: It's the birds that get too close to the rockets.

In 1995, woodpeckers postponed a launch when they drilled dozens of holes in Space Shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank. Engineers spent days repairing the damage. They posted fake owls and inflatable "eyes" around the pad to keep the woodpeckers from returning before the launch.

SEE MORE: Millions Of Birds Could Be Saved Thanks To This Change By The FAA

But even the raw power and noise of a shuttle at full throttle wasn't always enough to scare away the local birds. In 2005, a turkey vulture struck Discovery's fuel tank just after liftoff.

Any impact against the shuttle could have damaged its protective heat shields, and NASA took that very seriously. Just one flight earlier, a chunk of foam weighing less than that vulture put a hole in Columbia's heat shields. Seven astronauts died when the shuttle broke up on re-entry.

So the agency started up an intense bird safety campaign. It cleaned up the roadkill that attracts vultures and stationed bird-watchers by the runways.

Since 2005, it's used special bird-specific radar to track flocks and will even delay launches if fowl wander too close. Since 2007, it's run a network of remote sound cannons to scare birds away from launch pads and runways.

Those cannons could be useful in the future, too — in case the roar of the Space Launch System isn't enough warning.

<![CDATA[Why You'll Have To Wait A Second Longer For The New Year]]> Fri, 30 Dec 2016 12:47:00 -0600
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Anyone looking to party hard into the new year on Dec. 31 will have an extra second to celebrate.

It's called a leap second, and we can blame the Earth for its existence.

International timekeepers calculate time in two ways: by Earth's rotation and by a standard  length of a second based on atoms.

SEE MORE: The History Behind New Year's Eve's Biggest Party

That second one is called atomic time, and it determines the time on electronic devices like cellphones and laptops.

But the two time-keeping measures aren't always in sync since the Earth's rotation slows down by about 2 milliseconds each day.

So about every 500 days, we pause atomic time for one second so the Earth can catch up.

The last leap second was added June 30, 2015.

While it's only an extra second, recalibrating atomic time can create major challenges for tech users.

After previous leap seconds, Twitter couldn't accurately say when tweets were posted, Reddit and LinkedIn crashed, and hundreds of flights were grounded after airline check-in systems stopped working.

If leap seconds weren't added, the difference between astronomical time and atomic time in 1,000 years would be around 17 minutes.

So relish that extra second on New Year's Eve. Just know you might have difficulties tweeting about it afterward.

<![CDATA[Bill Gates' Foundation Invests In The Future Of HIV Prevention]]> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 19:31:00 -0600
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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest up to $140 million into a company to further its work on an innovative HIV-prevention treatment.

The drug should work similarly to a diabetes treatment the company, Intarcia Therapeutics, is currently working on. Patients would have a small pump inserted into their abdomen that would deliver HIV-prevention medicine over the course of six months or one year.

The treatment is likely years away from being approved, but it could prove to be a lot more effective than other HIV-prevention measures simply because people don't have to remember to take it every day.

SEE MORE: Meet The People Battling For Better Access To HIV-Fighting PrEP Drugs

This is yet another recent breakthrough in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Advocates say 2016 has been a great year for the science of HIV prevention. 

Several studies across the world are testing new HIV cures and preventative injections.

But there's still a lot of work to be done. Nearly 2 million people are infected annually. An epidemic in Russia alone reportedly saw 100,000 new cases in 2016.

<![CDATA[Climate Change Is Freaking People Out Enough To Not Want Kids]]> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 16:43:00 -0600
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Climate change is making some people rethink having kids.

"I am not typical. Most of my friends want kids or have kids, ... and they all ask when am I going to have mine," Aviva Gali said.

SEE MORE: Trump's Cabinet Might Not Be Good For Climate Change

Rising temperatures, water shortages and a government-subsidized fossil fuel industry are just a few reasons deterring people.

"The world is overpopulated. If I'm having a child, I'm contributing to that. If I have a child, they'll be living in a first-world nation where we consume a massive amount of resources," Griffin Sinclair-Wingate said.

Advocacy groups like Conceivable Future say they're not trying to stop people from having kids. But they do support informed decisions and want the government to do more about climate change.

"This deeply felt desire as a human, as a woman, as a person who loves family and very much loves kids, needs to wrestle with, like maybe that's the wrong thing to do," Camila Thorndike said.

Has climate change affected your decision to have kids? Let us know on any of our social channels.

<![CDATA[After Debbie Reynolds' Death, Some Ask: Can You Die Of A Broken Heart?]]> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 11:07:00 -0600
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The son of actress Debbie Reynolds' had some striking words about his mother after she died Wednesday.

"She wanted to be with Carrie," he said.

Reynolds' daughter, "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher, died just one day earlier. She went into cardiac arrest on a plane on Dec. 23.

Reynolds died a result of a stroke, but her death sparked questions about whether it's possible to die of a broken heart.

SEE MORE: A Tribute To Carrie Fisher: A Force Of Talent

It sounds like the stuff of fairy tales and romantic movies, but some studies say broken heart syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, can happen.

Dr. Ilan Wittstein estimates as many as 10,000 people experience broken heart syndrome each year.

"What we think happens is that the body produces a large amount of these stress hormones, like adrenaline, and when produced in large amounts, it can actually be somewhat toxic to the heart," Wittstein told CBS.

But even more people might suffer from it.

The American Heart Association says doctors can misdiagnose patients with having a heart attack because the symptoms are often similar with broken heart syndrome.

Patients experiencing broken heart syndrome are thought to suffer from chest pain and shortness of breath after a time of physical stress or extreme emotion. But the difference between that and a heart attack is that blocked arteries aren't causing those symptoms.

It's usually treatable, and recovery can be as short as a few days.

The Mayo Clinic says the death of a loved one isn't the only thing that can precede broken heart syndrome. A frightening medical diagnosis, losing a job and even a surprise party can all be potential triggers.

<![CDATA[Paris' Solution To Air Pollution? Free Parking]]> Thu, 29 Dec 2016 09:59:00 -0600
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Paris is giving local residents free parking for a day to fight the city's recent spikes in pollution.

The deal is valid Dec. 29, but if smog levels don't go down, the city says it might go even further and offer people free services for electric cars and bike-sharing.

An organization that monitors air quality in France expects pollution to reach a "high" level in some parts of the country during the last days of December.

Paris has seen a few concerning spikes in air pollution recently. In early December, authorities put a temporary ban on cars when the city had one of its highest pollution episodes in the past decade.

And Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens announced they want to ban diesel vehicles by 2025.

But where does Paris rank in the grand scheme of things?

The city is pretty high up there, but it's not topping the charts. Right now, smog is considered a health concern for certain groups of people but not everyone.

Experts recommend active children, adults and those with respiratory disease in the city should limit time outdoors but don't need to avoid it completely.

But in places like China, parts of India and even Las Vegas, pollution can reach levels that are hazardous to all people.

<![CDATA[Obama Sets Aside Even More Land For National Monuments]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 21:12:00 -0600
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President Obama just won't stop turning federal land into national monuments.

A new designation will turn land near the outskirts of Las Vegas into the Gold Butte National Monument. Land in southern Utah will become the Bears Ears National Monument. 

The two areas cover more than 1.6 million total acres. The Bears Ears area is made up of lands that are considered sacred to several Native American tribes. 

In a statement, President Obama said the move "will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes."

But not everyone is welcoming the move. Many conservatives are upset the land won't be available for agriculture, mining or oil drilling. And there may not be anything future presidents can do about it.

The Antiquities Act allows presidents to declare national monuments. But the White House Council on Environmental Quality said the act doesn't appear to outline how to undo that process.

<![CDATA[China Announces Largest-Ever Pangolin Smuggling Bust]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 16:12:00 -0600
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Chinese officials announced they've made the largest bust of the world's most trafficked mammal, the pangolin.

Chinese media reported more than three tons of pangolin scales were seized at a Shanghai port. Authorities estimate more than 5,000 animals had been killed. 

Three suspects were arrested in connection with the bust. Authorities said the crates used to smuggle the scales were registered in Africa. The suspects could face more than a decade in prison.

If you're not quite sure what a pangolin is, you're not alone. The scaly little mammals aren't really well known. 

Pangolins tend to curl into a ball when threatened. Their scales make them basically impervious to predators in the wild, but they're easy targets for people.

In some parts of Asia, pangolins are prized for their meat, and their scales are often used in traditional medicine. That's why all eight species are being hunted to the brink of extinction.

The pangolin's plight has gotten more attention recently, and it's currently under the highest level of international protection an animal can receive. 

But saving the pangolin population is tough because scientists don't have a good estimate of how many are left in the wild. 

<![CDATA[What Is A Hangover, Anyway?]]> Wed, 28 Dec 2016 15:26:00 -0600
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If you've ever spent an evening drinking your weight in *whiskey, then you've probably woken up the next morning feeling ... not so great. This, my friend, is a hangover.

But what is a hangover, anyway? Scientists still aren't sure why we get them or what exactly causes them. But there are a few factors that come into play. 

Number one, alcohol is a diuretic. When we drink alcohol, it causes us to pee — a lot. That can cause dehydration, which in turn can cause headaches, dizziness and fatigue. 

Number two, alcohol increases the production of stomach acid, irritating the lining of our stomachs. That might be why you spend the morning after a night out with your head in a wastebasket.

Number three, when we drink alcohol, we're essentially drinking low-grade poison. When our bodies process alcohol, they produce a toxic compound called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is even more toxic than alcohol, and can cause a handful of hangover symptoms.

So, how do you prevent a hangover? Well, you could drink in moderation — or not at all. But in the meantime, the internet has plenty of ideas for how to make yourself feel better.

What's your go-to hangover cure? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter

*Newsy does not advise drinking your weight in whiskey — or any alcohol, for that matter. Hospital visits are expensive and not very fun. 

<![CDATA[Kasich's Veto Keeps Ohio's Renewable Energy Standards In Place]]> Tue, 27 Dec 2016 19:53:00 -0600
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Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vetoed a measure that would have halted the state's transition toward renewable energy.

Ohio law currently mandates the state's power companies must gradually ramp up the percentage of renewable energy they supply — up to 12.5 percent by 2027. 

The state also has efficiency standards that require Ohio utility companies to sell 22 percent less power in 2027 than they did in 2009.

This recent bill from the state's GOP-controlled legislature would have made those standards voluntary — if Kasich hadn't vetoed it.

Unlike most of his rivals in the Republican presidential primary, Kasich openly supported green energy as a means of fighting man-made climate change.

That's angered some of Ohio's state legislators. State Sen. William Seitz, who sponsored the vetoed proposal, accused the governor of ignoring "the millions of Ohioans who decisively rejected this ideology."

Other recent vetoes from Kasich include a tax break for oil and gas companies and a strict restriction on abortions. Lawmakers have until midnight Saturday to attempt to override those vetoes. 

<![CDATA[There Are Parallels Between HIV-Prevention Drug Truvada And Gardasil]]> Tue, 27 Dec 2016 15:42:00 -0600
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Truvada — aka PrEP — can prevent someone from contracting HIV. But it's not always the easiest topic to talk about with a health professional.

"People on PrEP are admittedly saying out loud that I'm at risk of acquiring HIV in my lifetime, and I think that comes with its own stigma," said Kristin Keglovitz Baker, chief operating officer at Howard Brown Health in Chicago. "Sometimes for some people, it identifies them right away as someone who is at risk. For some people, it identifies them in a community where they're not necessarily comfortable."

That's because critics of PrEP think it promotes unsafe sex practices, especially among the LGBTQ community. Keglovitz Baker sees a parallel between PrEP and a popular vaccine.

"I always relate it to Gardasil," Keglovitz Baker said. "If Gardasil was marketed as a cancer prevention vaccine, we would've had a lot more uptake. But because it was marketed as a sexual health vaccine for HPV, parents sort of shied away from it. It meant that we were admitting that our young people have sex."

Gardasil forced parents to talk about HPV, the most common STD in the U.S., which could lead to cervical cancer in women. The vaccine didn't promote promiscuity — but some saw it as such. 

Keglovitz Baker said PrEP is in the same boat. She applauds the AIDS Foundation of Chicago for changing the conversation about PrEP: It's not a drug that promotes condom-less sex. Instead, it allows people to take control of their own prevention stories.

"Chicago had a great marketing approach this year, with kind of coupling it around relationships, communication, love and romance and sexy messaging, which I think appeals to people, and again, makes them feel excited about it rather than this is something I don't perceive I need, or I'm really scared of it, or it has to do with HIV," Keglovitz Baker said. "I think the more we can use images of the people who are most affected by HIV, and the more we can have those messages come from those communities, the more we're going to get it in the hands of people that need it most."

<![CDATA[Cheetahs Are Dangerously Close To Becoming Extinct]]> Tue, 27 Dec 2016 13:48:00 -0600
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Cheetahs are getting dangerously close to becoming extinct.

According to a new report, cheetahs have been driven out of 91 percent of their historical habitat. Only about 7,000 of the majestic, speedy cats are left in the wild. 

Cheetahs are currently listed as a "vulnerable" species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list.

But the new report says the cats should be upgraded to the more urgent "endangered" classification as soon as possible because their numbers are dramatically declining.

As one of the report's authors said in a statement: "Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked. Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought."

The main threats cheetahs face are human-related: conflict with human populations, overhunting, habitat loss and illegal trafficking. And they encounter these dangerous situations both in and out of conservation areas.

Scientists say because cheetahs can adapt and thrive outside of protected areas, they could bounce back. But they need some major conservation efforts put into place.

<![CDATA[Vera Rubin, Astronomer Who Found Evidence Of Dark Matter, Has Died]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 21:50:00 -0600
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Vera Rubin, the astronomer who discovered evidence of dark matter, has died.

Rubin joined the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1965.

In the 1970s, she and her colleague, astronomer Kent Ford, found stars in spiral galaxies rotated at the same speed as one another — even though some stars were farther from the center.

The observation defied Newtonian gravitational theory. That led the team to believe an invisible mass existed that made the stars rotate at the same speed. That mass is what is known as dark matter.

Swiss astronomer introduced the idea of dark matter in 1933. According to the National Science Foundation, the idea wasn't well-received by the scientific community until Rubin and Ford shared their evidence.

Rubin graduated from Vassar College with a bachelor's degree in astronomy in 1948. She received her master's degree from Cornell University in 1951 and her Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1954.

President Bill Clinton presented Rubin with the National Medal of Science in 1993. 

Pope John Paull II appointed Rubin to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1996.

Rubin and her husband, Robert J. Rubin, who was a mathematician and astrophysicist, had four children. All of them earned their Ph.D.s in mathematics and sciences. 

Rubin died in Princeton, New Jersey, on Dec. 25. She was 88 years old. 

<![CDATA[Solar Energy Is Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels]]> Mon, 26 Dec 2016 11:48:00 -0600
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Here's one good thing to come out of 2016 — solar energy is finally cheaper than fossil fuels. 

The World Economic Forum estimates that in over 30 countries across the globe, solar and wind are now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuels. And more countries are expected to join those ranks.

Solar energy has come a long way. About a decade ago the average cost of generating a megawatt-hour of solar energy was $600 — now it hovers around $100, the same average price of coal. 

Plus, wind and solar are attracting more and more investors; renewable energy trumped fossil fuel investments globally for the first time in 2015. 

Despite these strides, the report says we won't achieve the goal of capping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius unless more investments are made.

The United Nations estimates an additional $1 trillion needs to be invested annually in renewable energy by 2030. Right now, the average global investment is around $200 billion.

<![CDATA[France Just Opened The World's First Solar Panel Road]]> Sat, 24 Dec 2016 09:59:00 -0600
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The future is here: A small village in France just opened what it claims is the first solar panel road in the world — and it wasn't cheap.

The road, called Wattway, is a little over half a mile long and cost about $5.2 million to create. 

It's expected to see around 2,000 vehicles per day. The solar panels are coated in a special silicon that protects them from the weight of trucks and other heavy vehicles.

Although Wattway is being called the first road of its kind, the technology isn't new. The Netherlands opened a solar bike path in 2014.

The road is in a two-year test period to see if it can generate enough energy to power street lights in the town it runs through.

There is one hitch, though. Solar panels work best when they're at an angle. And critics have said the roadway isn't a great use of public money. 

Still, France's ecology minister hopes solar roadways will eventually be installed throughout the country.

<![CDATA[Ebola Vaccine Provides 100 Percent Protection During Human Trials]]> Fri, 23 Dec 2016 12:15:00 -0600
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U.S. and European regulatory agencies are now fast-tracking an Ebola vaccine found to be 100 percent effective during human trials.

Multiple health experts tested the vaccine in 2015 on almost 6,000 people in Guinea. After at least 10 days, not one of those people had developed symptoms of Ebola.

Researchers chose 10 days specifically because symptoms are known to start between two and 21 days of infection. The World Health Organization notes patients don't become infectious until symptoms begin developing.

Over 28,500 people in West Africa had Ebola between 2013 and 2016. More than one-third of them died.

The last of the West African countries at the heart of that Ebola outbreak was declared Ebola-free in June.

But the vaccine's manufacturer has stockpiled 300,000 doses, just in case another outbreak begins between now and when regulatory approval is granted.

One of the doctors involved with testing the vaccine told NPR the effectiveness of it is likely to drop from 100 percent once it's tested on more people.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and the U.S. Army developed the vaccine in 2005

<![CDATA[The North Pole Just Hit 32 Degrees; It Should Be Minus 20]]> Fri, 23 Dec 2016 12:14:00 -0600
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The North Pole is pretty dang hot.

A weather buoy about 90 miles from Santa's headquarters recorded temperatures near 32 degrees Fahrenheit — the freezing point of fresh water.

To put that in perspective, normal temps in the Arctic region this time of year hover around minus 20 degrees.

And they were already higher than normal. Temperatures reached minus 11 degrees on Tuesday, but in a span of two days, they jumped more than 40 degrees. One expert said the jump might have contributed to a major loss of sea ice.

Experts say a major storm to the east of Greenland dragged hot air up north and caused the December heat in the North Pole.

While the jump wasn't totally unexpected, it is cause for concern. This is the second time in the past five weeks the North Pole has experienced an unsettling increase.

Experts fear if nothing is done to slow climate change, these kinds of warming events could happen far more frequently.

<![CDATA[The Same People Who Voted Trump Likely Benefit From Obamacare The Most]]> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 16:12:00 -0600
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With President Barack Obama about to leave office, enrollment in Obamacare is growing. The administration announced more than 6.4 million people signed up by the preliminary deadline of Dec. 19 for 2017 coverage.

That's 400,000 more than last year. And that number doesn't include numbers from state-run exchanges in states like New York or Colorado. And people still have until Jan. 31 to enroll.

SEE MORE: Republicans Might Fight To Keep One Part Of Obamacare

And what's really interesting is the five states that had the biggest enrollment are all states Donald Trump won.

"We have to repeal and replace Obamacare," Trump said during a presidential debate.

It's not really clear at this point how the GOP-controlled government will handle health care. We know a repeal will most likely happen, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus on what to do after that.

Currently there's talk of an immediate repeal with an almost three-year transition period to whatever the Trump administration and Congress cook up.

But it seems many who voted for Trump are signing up for Obamacare most often.

The American Communities Project looked at Gallup data and found the types of counties with some of the highest increases in those insured include places with older people, the working class and those living in rural America — groups that overwhelming chose the candidate vowing to get rid of Obamacare.

<![CDATA[Hong Kong Really Wants To Get Rid Of Its Ivory Trade]]> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 10:36:00 -0600
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One of the largest ivory trading markets in the world is on its way to being shut down.

The Executive Council in Hong Kong has approved a three-point plan to phase out the city's local ivory trade by 2022.

SEE MORE: It Just Got A Lot Harder To Buy Or Sell Elephant Ivory In The US

Hong Kong is a hotbed for ivory trade and has a strong link to the poaching of African elephants.

The first step of the plan is a ban on the import and re-export of hunting trophies and certain ivory carvings. It will go into force "immediately" when it's enacted.

Step two will ban the import and re-export of pre-convention ivory: That's ivory acquired before an environmental trade treaty went live in the '70s.

That step will start three months after the bill goes into effect.

The third step is a total ban on the commercial sale of ivory. Officials think this phase will be done by 2022.

One official said the measure will show the international community how serious Hong Kong is about curbing illicit trade. 

The Legislative Council still needs to approve the plan.

<![CDATA[The Senate Is Fighting Against 'Monopoly Business' From Drug Companies]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 21:03:00 -0600
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A Senate investigation is blaming what it calls the "monopoly business model" for making once-affordable prescription drugs cost hundreds of dollars more per dose.

The new report from the Senate Aging Committee looked at the practices of four companies. Those companies often acquired the drugs and then jacked up the prices just because they could.

SEE MORE: Meet The People Battling For Better Access To HIV-Fighting PrEP Drugs

Companies looked for drugs that treated rare conditions and had just one manufacturer. That meant there wouldn't enough patients to effectively complain when prices went up or enough competition to make a rival treatment. 

The infamous Martin Shkreli became the face of the phenomenon. But his companies aren't the only ones using this model.

And taxpayers are at least partially footing the bill. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the V.A. paid $126 billion for prescriptions this year. 

It's hard to prevent this kind of business strategy because it can be tough for smaller companies to break into the market. Application fees and access to generic medicine recipes can cost more than $100,000.

To combat this, Sen. Susan Collins proposed legislation that would waive pricey application fees for certain drugs and make it easier for smaller companies to compete in the pharmaceutical marketplace.

<![CDATA[An Italian Supervolcano Might Be Ready To Blow — But Maybe Not]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 19:35:00 -0600
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Scientists warn that the volcano that caused the largest eruption in European history might be getting ready to blow again.

The volcano is called Campi Flegrei, and it's located under the Italian city of Naples. 

SEE MORE: We're Taking Our First Close Look At Undersea Volcanoes

Campi Flegrei is what's known as a supervolcano. It's so large that at one point, it ejected more then 240 cubic miles of ash, pumice and lava.

Volcanic eruptions are notoriously hard to predict. But scientists writing in the journal Nature say the volcano is nearing a critical point — identified in other volcanoes — when rising magma can cause an eruption.

The last time Campi Flegrei erupted, Italy ended up with a new mountain. That was all the way back in 1538, and it was a relatively small eruption. An even earlier eruption was so large it might have killed off the Neanderthals. 

SEE MORE: The Right Volcanic Eruption Can Cancel Summer

And in 2012, Italian authorities raised the volcano's alert level from quiet to scientific attention.

Despite warnings that the the volcano could be about to erupt, scientists also made it clear that they couldn't say when — or even if — it would actually go off.

<![CDATA[Wasn't The US Supposed To Launch Astronauts Again In 2017?]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:57:00 -0600
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NASA has long said 2017 would be the year the U.S. could start sending people into space on its own again. No longer would Americans have to hitch rides on Russian rockets to the International Space Station. Instead, they would be able to rely on U.S. companies like SpaceX and Boeing. Lawmakers and former astronauts have been calling for that kind of independence since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.): "In space, we are losing our ability to lead."

Eugene Cernan: "I drove a car on the moon 42 years ago, and we can't get a human being in space today?"

So how's that plan going? Well, like most things involved in spaceflight, there have been delays. NASA and its contractors have both had setbacks, so they won't be launching crews for a while. But they're getting closer.

SEE MORE: Blue Origin Says Spaceflight Isn't A Race, But It Sure Seems Like One

SpaceX's plans for manned test flights of Crew Dragon got pushed back to the second quarter of 2018. A spokesman told Newsy the company might change the way it fuels its rockets to avoid more explosions like the one in September. That will be safer for eventual crew — but it will take time to change procedures around.

Boeing told us it's sticking to the schedule it announced earlier this year: Its first manned flight tests will be in August 2018. The company had pushed its dates back earlier, when it ran into design challenges for its Starliner capsule that could have been safety risks. The company warned inspectors the goals it first set with NASA for its flight tests might have been too ambitious.

And some delays are thanks to NASA. Auditors reviewed the commercial crew program in September and found NASA isn't being prompt with its safety monitoring. That stacks on top of technical hurdles its contractors still have to get over, like the crew seats SpaceX has to finish designing. NASA felt it had no choice but to buy passage on Russia's rockets through 2018.

That's a far cry from the optimism NASA had about 2016 flights back when it announced Commercial Crew in 2011. And now it's stuck waiting. It won't be launching its own manned missions until the Space Launch System is ready to fly — which might not happen until 2023.

But even with these delays, the commercial crew program is moving quickly. NASA started working with contractors in 2010. For comparison, the Apollo program took seven years to get astronauts off the ground. The space shuttle took nine years from announcement to carrying crew.

<![CDATA[The Scientific Reason Static Electricity Is Worse In Winter]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:56:00 -0600
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Winter is here, which means it's time for warm clothes, thick socks and getting shocked by everything you touch. What do doorknobs and light switches have against you?

Electrons, mostly. Static shocks occur when two things with different electrical charges get close enough. You see this with door handles, balloons and clothes fresh out of the dryer. It happens in nature, too. Lightning is just a really big static discharge.

SEE MORE: Warmer Temperatures Could Lead To More Lightning Strikes

These charges get built up through friction, like when you're walking across carpet in thick wool socks or putting those warm flannel sheets on the bed for the winter.

And yes, it's worse when it's cold out. In dry winter air, there's less water vapor to conduct charge away from you. The lower the humidity, the higher the voltage of static discharges.

So now you know — not that knowing will make it any easier to brave the door handle every morning. But there are some things you can do about it.

If you take off those fluffy socks, not only will you ground yourself, but you'll also cause less friction as you walk. Or, if you'd rather keep your toes warm, a humidifier can prevent the air in your home from drying out.

<![CDATA[The 'Ziggy Stardust' Snake Is One Of Many Newly Discovered Species]]> Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:00:00 -0600
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How does an entire report on newly discovered species become a reference to the late, great David Bowie?

A rainbow-headed snake bearing a striking resemblance to Ziggy Stardust might have something to do with it.

The World Wildlife Fund released a new report detailing 163 new plant and animal species discovered in the Greater Mekong region in Southeast Asia, one of the best areas in the world for biodiversity.

Specifically, the species were found in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

SEE MORE: Earth's Animals Are Dealing With More Roads Than Ever

Besides the "Ziggy Stardust" snake, scientists discovered the Phuket horned tree agamid –– a lizard with fearsome horns –– and the purple mouse-eared flower, whose petals resemble ... you guessed it.

The research even has something for "Star Trek" fans: a newt in Thailand with red and black markings similar to a Klingon.

As fun as these species are, the report also hits a serious note. Many of the newly discovered species are threatened or endangered.

Deforestation, poaching and pesticide use are all issues the region must tackle quickly if it wants to remain a biodiversity hot spot.

<![CDATA[Obama Blocks Offshore Drilling In Atlantic And Arctic Oceans]]> Tue, 20 Dec 2016 20:32:00 -0600
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President Obama just took millions of acres of federal waters off the table for oil and gas companies.

Obama used a little-known provision in the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban new leases for offshore drilling in federally owned parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

SEE MORE: Trump's Pick For Environmental Protection Has Ties To Oil Lobbyists

The action covers 98 percent of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean, as well as about 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic Ocean. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau simultaneously announced action to ban oil and gas drilling in Canada's Arctic waters.

The administration is characterizing this as a permanent ban, but President-elect Donald Trump might have something to say about that.

There's not a lot of precedent to go on here, but in 2008, President George W. Bush rescinded an executive ban on offshore drilling initially passed by his father in 1990. Trump might be able to do the same with Obama's action.

While on the campaign trail, Trump promised to open up federal lands to the oil and gas industry. And with a Republican-held Congress, there won't be much standing in the way of doing just that. 

<![CDATA[Pregnancy Alters A Woman's Brain — But In A Good Way]]> Tue, 20 Dec 2016 14:27:00 -0600
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Being pregnant not only changes a woman's body, but also her brain, according to a recent study.

By looking at brain scans of women who had recently given birth for the first time, researchers in Europe discovered reductions of gray matter.

Gray matter has the parts of the brain that deal with sensory perception, speech and emotion. The changes associated with pregnancy happened in sections involving how we process information about people and social situations.

SEE MORE: Chipotle Employee Fired For Being Pregnant Just Won Her Lawsuit

This reduction in gray matter might help new mothers become more attached to their child and recognize his or her needs.

Not all women studied had equal reductions in gray matter. The researchers concluded that the women who's gray matter shrunk the most bonded best with their newborns.

Children also go through a comparable "gray matter pruning" process when they hit puberty.

Children's brains evolve and form stronger connections during that time, and that's when their body starts producing sex hormones. So researchers think that might be similar to what happens to women during pregnancy.

The study concluded women's brain changes caused by pregnancy were still there for at least two years. But the part of the brain where they did see gray matter recover handles memory, which could explain why "pregnancy brain" fades after a while.

<![CDATA[This Robot Can Turn Thoughts Into Actions — With Mind Control]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 17:12:00 -0600
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This mind-controlled robot could open a new world for people with disabilities.

SEE MORE: These Mind-Controlled Robots Are Changing Paralyzed Patients' Lives

And unlike its predecessors, this one doesn't require a brain implant.

Research subjects wear an electroencephalography (EEG) cap, which records brain activity and turns thoughts into movement. 

Humans do the thinking, and the robot does the work. 

SEE MORE: Toyota Made A Tiny Robot To Keep You Company On Your Commute

Researchers say this technology could help people who are paralyzed or have limited motor function due to conditions like muscular dystrophy, stroke and spinal cord injuries. 

<![CDATA[Female Physicians May Provide Better Care Than Their Male Counterparts]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 17:07:00 -0600
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 Female doctors might be saving more lives than their male counterparts.

But they get paid about 8 percent less.

SEE MORE: Millions Of US Kids Aren't Seeing A Doctor Regularly

Harvard researchers estimated 32,000 fewer Medicare patients would die each year if male doctors could achieve the same outcomes as female doctors.

The study compared more than a million hospital visits of elderly Medicare patients. 

It showed patients treated by women had lower mortality rates and a lower risk of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. 

So what explains this disparity in care? 

SEE MORE: Your Doctor's Political Views Could Affect Medical Advice

According to the researchers, "Female physicians are more likely to practice evidence-based medicine, perform as well or better on standardized examinations and provide more patient-centered care."

Do you think female physicians deserve equal pay? Let us know on any of our social platforms.

<![CDATA['Best By,' 'Use By' And 'Sell By' Dates May Get A Lot Less Confusing]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2016 09:32:00 -0600
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We've all tossed food in the trash because it's passed its labeled date, except it might not have been spoiled at all.

Shoppers see "best by," "use by" or "sell by" dates on food products, and they definitely don't mean the same thing. 

That's why the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its food labeling guidelines. The department is pushing egg, meat and dairy manufacturers to use just one food label: "best if used by." 

A "use by" date only says how long the product will be at peak quality — not when it will go bad. And "sell by" dates aren't even for consumers. They tell stores how long to display the product for inventory purposes.

Research has shown the "best if used by" label is the clearest way to tell consumers when a product is past its peak freshness.  

SEE MORE: Colorado's $4.5M Plan To Save Mule Deer Involves Killing Predators

With the current confusing food labels, the average family throws away $1,500 worth of food each year that isn't really expired. 

Ultimately, it's up to each manufacturer whether to adopt the "best if used by" label, but even that doesn't need to be a rigid expiration date.

No matter what label and date you see, experts say to trust your nose. If a product is spoiled, the odor should give it away. 

<![CDATA[Trying To Stop The Opioid Epidemic Is An Uphill Battle]]> Sun, 18 Dec 2016 16:26:00 -0600
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The United States has seen a 33 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in the past five years, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the overdoses are linked to highly addictive opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers.

SEE MORE: There's A New War On Drugs At The Center Of America's Heroin Epidemic

In fact, prescription painkillers are to blame for the majority of overdose deaths in 2015.

That's one of the reasons the head of the CDC considers doctors one of the first lines of defense in fighting the opioid epidemic.  

In an op-ed for Fox News, Dr. Tom Frieden says while it's important to help people who are addicted to opioids, it's necessary for medical staff to stop opioid exposure from the start.

That take seems to be spreading through the medical community. Since 2010, prescriptions of OxyContin have fallen by 40 percent. The drug is one of many opioid-based painkillers.

Users often turn to heroin or other drugs when prescription painkillers are no longer available to them or become too expensive. Frieden says that's why it's so important to avoid prescribing opioids.

SEE MORE: Opioid Production In The US Is About To Go Way Down

Those fighting the opioid epidemic stateside may soon be facing an uphill battle worldwide. Since opioid prescriptions have fallen in the U.S., some companies — like the one that produced OxyContin — have begun to look overseas for friendlier new markets.

<![CDATA[Deep-Sea Fishing Ban Aims To Give Coral A Surviving Chance]]> Sat, 17 Dec 2016 15:44:00 -0600
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just protected an area of the Atlantic Ocean that's about the size of Virginia from deep-sea commercial fishing.

The newly protected area is called the Frank R. Lautenberg Deep Sea Coral Protection Area in honor of a former senator with that name, and it runs from Virginia north to Connecticut. That's about 38,000 square miles of federal waters.

The area is home to coral that grow just millimeters a year. For many of the marine species in the area, these coral gardens are a source of shelter, food and breeding grounds.

SEE MORE: This $117K Endangered Tuna Will Make Some Expensive Sushi

But because coral is fragile and takes a long time to grow, it's incredibly vulnerable to damage by humans — damage that could take centuries to recover from.

The new protections ban fishing gear that drags the bottom of the ocean, which should prevent damage to the corals and marine animals living there.

<![CDATA[Colorado's $4.5M Plan To Save Mule Deer Involves Killing Predators]]> Sat, 17 Dec 2016 15:41:00 -0600
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Colorado plans to kill one to two dozen mountain lions and black bears a year.

It's part of the state's Parks and Wildlife Commission's predator control plan to increase the mule-deer population in the northwestern Piceance Basin over the next three years.

And it comes with a price tag of about $4.5 million.

SEE MORE: The Balance Of Predators And Prey Comes Down To Math

It's estimated more than 400,000 mule deer live in Colorado. According to the commission's numbers, that's only about 78 percent of the target population.

But here's a stat that has Bambi-lovers scratching their heads.

In 2015 alone, about 34,000 mule deer were hunted and killed — legally.

deer license costs $34 in Colorado or $380 if you're an out-of-state hunter.

But the commission says revenue isn't a driver of how many deer licenses the state issues and pointed to 2007 when Colorado cut deer licenses by 85 percent.

It also insists its research shows that natural predators, not humans, are keeping the mule deer population below the desired number of between 525,000 and 575,000 in the state.

SEE MORE: Humanity's Worst Trick: Making Big Cats Disappear

Scientists at Colorado State University have doubts.

In a letter to the commission, three Colorado State biologists wrote, "We find it surprising that CPW's own research clearly indicated that the most likely limiting factors for mule deer are food limitation, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance — not predators." 

They say predator control is costly and ineffective and that the plan would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

<![CDATA[Doctor Credited With Creating The Heimlich Maneuver Dies At 96]]> Sat, 17 Dec 2016 15:17:00 -0600
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Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, has died at 96 after complications from a heart attack.

The Cincinnati physician became a household name when his choking-prevention move was popularized in the 1970s.

SEE MORE: At 96, Henry Heimlich Got The Chance To Use His Own Maneuver

But he also received a good deal of criticism during his career.

The maneuver he became famous for might not have been entirely his idea.

SEE MORE: Pizza Delivery Driver Helps Save Choking Man's Life

Dr. Edward Patrick, also deceased, claimed he helped Heimlich develop the life-saving technique.

Dr. Heimlich also supported a controversial theory that malaria injections could cure HIV and other diseases.

In the 1990s, Heimlich backed experiments in China that infected AIDS patients with small doses of malaria. The World Health Organization called it one of the modern "atrocities" committed by doctors.

His family released a statement after his death, saying, "He was single-minded in his quest to find better ways to save lives. Dad dreamed that anything was possible in the field of medicine, even when critics said otherwise."

<![CDATA[We Could Someday Slow Aging If This Study Is On The Right Track]]> Fri, 16 Dec 2016 08:37:00 -0600
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Scientists may have found a way to turn back time.

"What we discovered is that we can change the program of a cell in an animal and we can convert an old program into a young program," research associate Alejandro Ocampo said.

OK, not real time. Using a new technique that takes adult cells back to their embryonic form, researchers with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies say they reversed signs of aging in cells.

Not only did this technique make human cells in a petri dish look and act young again, but it also helped mice with a premature aging disease live 30 percent longer than they normally would.

SEE MORE: Life Expectancy In The US Has Dropped For The First Time In Decades

And when healthy mice received the same treatment, researchers say they looked younger and their organs healed faster from injuries.

The researchers say their findings might help scientists understand the aging process better. And they hope that, eventually, this technique could be used on humans to help ward off age-related diseases and ailments.

But that day is likely a long way off. The researchers say it could be years before their age-reversing treatment goes to human trials.

<![CDATA[Trainees At Federal Facility Practiced With Deadly Strand Of Ricin]]> Thu, 15 Dec 2016 18:06:00 -0600
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About 9,600 people training at a federal emergency preparedness facility were practicing with a deadly substance. And they didn't know about it.

Officials with the Center for Domestic Preparedness, which is located in Anniston, Alabama, told the Anniston Star last month that the center realized it was using a more dangerous form of ricin in its training than it intended. 

SEE MORE: Nearly 600,000 Children Die From Breathing Toxic Air Every Year

And it turns out, it had been using that version of the toxin since 2011.

The center has a facility that offers training for emergency responders "in a true toxic environment using chemical agents and biological materials."

The center provides all kinds of training for people from many different fields, including agriculture, hazardous materials and information technology.

Representatives for the facility have told various media outlets the center had ordered a safer version of ricin for training purposes. It claims the vendor made an error and provided the facility with a more dangerous strand of the substance over the past five years.

According to the center, trainees had two protective barriers from the substance: special apparel and a biosafety cabinet.

Officials have said no one became ill from the substance.

The Anniston Star reported earlier this month that a worker at the facility said employees didn't wear respirators when dealing with the toxic substance.

SEE MORE: A Reindeer Might Have Caused Siberia's Sudden Anthrax Outbreak

According to USA Today, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate.

Last year, the U.S. military stopped working with live biological samples at four labs after live strains of anthrax were reportedly sent to nearly 200 labs around the world. 

<![CDATA[Earth's Animals Are Dealing With More Roads Than Ever]]> Thu, 15 Dec 2016 16:38:00 -0600
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Our roads are reaching farther than ever into what used to be wilderness — and for the animals they share space with, their influence doesn't end at the shoulder.

Researchers found that all roads, from tiny country paths to 10-lane highways, have an effect on the local wildlife that stretches at least a half mile. When you map that out, 20 percent of Earth's landmass is affected by roads, and the other 80 percent is cut up into chunks, nearly all of which are smaller than 38 square miles. 

 These artificial boundaries cramp wildlife — especially larger animals. An elephant or a mountain lion roaming around its natural range, for example, is likely to come across at least one road. 

SEE MORE: Monkeys Could Talk If They Had The Brains — But It Would Sound Creepy

Some animals that try to cross these roads won't make it, and many of them won't even try that. Research has shown animals will sometimes change their natural behaviors to avoid intrusive roads, which starts to affect a population's genetic health.

Some scientists would like to see more policy that protects Earth's remaining roadless spaces and the animals that live there — whether that's road planning that keeps the movements of local wildlife in mind, or overpasses and underpasses that give animals safe routes across. 

<![CDATA[How Will President-Elect Donald Trump Affect Access To Birth Control?]]> Thu, 15 Dec 2016 16:09:00 -0600
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Getting birth control could become a lot harder under a President Donald Trump.

Right now, the Affordable Care Act makes FDA-approved birth control methods free with insurance. But without insurance, birth control could cost up to $600 a year.

SEE MORE: Trump's Victory Has Some Women Considering IUDs

Planned Parenthood serves nearly 5 million people a year in the U.S. About 80 percent of them use Planned Parenthood for affordable pregnancy prevention.

Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood — moves several members of Congress already support.

But without the Affordable Care Act or Planned Parenthood, birth control could become a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult to get.

Trump has said he would support making birth control available without a prescription, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says could make birth control more accessible to the general population.

That could make birth control easier to get, but it still leaves a question of cost. And many women are now searching for birth control methods that will outlast Trump's presidency.

<![CDATA[Ceres Has Been Hiding Water Ice In Its Darkest, Coldest Craters]]> Thu, 15 Dec 2016 12:46:00 -0600
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Ceres, the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, joins the moon and Mercury as the only known airless worlds with frozen water on the surface. 

The stuff has been venting into space, and traces of it have been leaking from the interior for a while — and now, we think there's a lot of it lurking just below the surface, too. But water ice doesn't last long in the open on Ceres. Thanks to the harsh sunlight and lack of an atmosphere, it evaporates — most of the time, anyway. 

SEE MORE: Just Like Pluto, Ceres Is A Bit Busier Than We Thought

New scans from the Dawn spacecraft show in colder areas at the poles, in deep craters where sunlight doesn't reach, this ice can exist on the surface, after all.

There are more than 600 craters in permanent shadow near Ceres' poles. Scientists found 10 with ice in them. Now, the question is how the water got there in the first place. It could be thanks to cryovolcanoes, which erupt with ice and other materials that could eventually land in the upper latitudes. Or it could be impacts from other asteroids digging the water out of deposits below the surface.

Either way, it's good news for our exploration of the solar system. Now, we can learn more about how and where this ice shows up — and maybe use it to support human expeditions in the future.