Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[Measles Has Officially Been Eliminated In The Americas]]> Wed, 28 Sep 2016 07:40:53 -0500
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Measles has officially been eliminated in all of the Americas.

World health officials say this is the first time an entire region has been declared measles-free. But it has been eliminated in several individual countries, like the U.S.

It's a pretty big deal. As the Pan American Health Organization said in a statement, "This is a historic day for our region and indeed the world."

But we still have a lot of work to do before we can put measles completely behind us.

Note that officials used the word "eliminated" and not "eradicated."

We've only managed to eradicate, or completely put an end to, one disease: smallpox.

SEE MORE: The CDC Is Low On Funds To Fight Zika: 'Basically, We're Out Of Money'

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines eradication as the "permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts."

The CDC says measles was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But visitors bring the highly contagious disease back into the country all the time.

This year, 54 people from 16 states have been reported to have measles.

And when people don't get themselves or their children vaccinated, the number of cases goes up — like in 2014, when a whopping 667 cases were reported in the U.S.

Measles remains a leading cause of death for young children in developing countries. The disease killed about 115,000 people in 2014.

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<![CDATA[Latest Reason Congress Can't Fund The Government: Flint's Water Crisis]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:24:00 -0500
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Congress has just a handful of days left to avoid a government shutdown, but that didn't stop the Senate from sinking yet another attempt to keep the lights on.

This time, Senate Democrats blocked a stopgap funding measure, demanding federal funds to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, be tacked onto that bill.

SEE MORE: Congress Might Be Able To Override An Obama Veto For The First Time

The Senate already tucked $220 million for Flint into a $9 billion water infrastructure bill, but that's been held up in the House. And Democrats don't trust Republicans to keep the $220 million in whatever version of the bill the House ends up passing.

Previous spending measures have fallen victim to partisan hangups over funding to combat the Zika virus and lack of funding for Planned Parenthood, among other things.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Republican Congressional leadership started off the fiscal year by promising to return "regular order" to the appropriations process — that is, passing distinct, separate spending bills for each section of government.

Instead, Congress is going to have to cram all of its funding into one massive compromise bill — and even that's a long ways off. The resolution rejected Tuesday would only maintain current funding levels until Dec. 9.

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<![CDATA[Elon Musk Presents Transportation Plans For Colonizing Mars]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:24:00 -0500
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Elon Musk just announced plans for vehicles that could take us to Mars.

The Interplanetary Transport System is a set of giant rockets designed to haul astronauts to Mars in relative comfort. Each stage of the rocket will land like SpaceX's Falcon boosters: right on its engines.

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

SpaceX will need a ship like this if it's serious about getting lots of people to the red planet. Its Dragon capsules can make the trip, but Musk says they're about as roomy as an SUV. Not exactly comfortable for a jaunt to the next planet over.

The company is planning a test mission with one of those Dragon capsules in 2018. Musk says flight testing for the Interplanetary Transport System could start as soon as 2020.

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<![CDATA[9 Out Of 10 People On Earth Are Breathing Polluted Air]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:52:00 -0500
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Ninety-two percent of people on Earth are breathing polluted air.  

The World Health Organization released its most complete analysis yet of outdoor air quality. According to the agency, 3 million people die every year in connection to unhealthy air.

These pollutants are microscopic but are known to lead to lung cancer, strokes and heart disease. 

The WHO's interactive map shows that the most polluted areas of the world are concentrated in low- and middle-income countries. 

SEE MORE: Air Pollution Is Letting Teeny, Tiny, Toxic Particles Into Your Brain

Location is partly to blame for some of the high pollution levels. Some factors, like dust storms, are out of humans' control. 

But the WHO also said inefficient energy use and transportation contribute to the poor air quality.

These factors are part of the reason China, despite being a wealthier country, has the sixth-highest death rate in connection to air pollution. 

The U.S. seems to have relatively good air. It's better than most of Europe, though that is mostly due to Europe's farming practices and dependence on diesel fuel. 

The WHO says the world needs to take action, and fast, through sustainable transport, waste management and renewable energy.

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<![CDATA[Venice Locals Are Dressing Like Pirates To Protest Cruise Ships]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:13:00 -0500
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Protesters in Venice, Italy, are dressing like pirates and confronting cruise ships passing through the city's famous lagoon.

And it's all part of an effort to save it from environmental damage.

At least 1,000 demonstrators of all ages and political parties gathered at the lagoon Monday armed with flags, flares and pirate gear.

The protest was peaceful, and attendees said it was more like a party.

But the message was serious: "No grandi navi," or "no big ships."

SEE MORE: This Cruise Ship Is So Large, It Could House An Entire Town

"They are destroying this city that is unique in this world," a protester told The Telegraph.

Venice has become a very popular destination for cruise ships. About 600 of them pass through the city every year.

But environmentalists say the ships are destroying Venice's fragile foundations.

The United Nations even threatened to place the city on UNESCO's list of endangered heritage sites if Italy doesn't ban cruise ships in Venice by 2017.

Venice tried to ban the biggest boats and limit the number of smaller ships allowed to enter the canal each day. But that legislation was overturned in 2015.

Locals have been protesting the cruise ships for years now. During peak season, approximately 30,000 cruise ship passengers visit Venice every day.

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<![CDATA[This Scaly Animal Is The Most Trafficked Mammal In The World]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:55:00 -0500
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Meet the pangolin. It's a scale-covered mammal found in Asia and Africa that eats ants and termites. 

It's also the most trafficked mammal in the world. 

SEE MORE: Add Eastern Gorillas To The List Of Critically Endangered Species

Female pangolins only reproduce once a year — but as many as 100,000 pangolins are being poached annually. 

Pangolins are considered extremely valuable because of their meat and scales. Some believe the scales, which are made of keratin, can even cure cancer. 

As a result of poaching, all eight pangolin species are being threatened, ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is meeting in South Africa this week. One item on its agenda? Considering a ban on commercial international trade of all pangolin species. 

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<![CDATA[Relax — NASA Doesn't Care About Your Zodiac Sign]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:14:00 -0500
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The zodiac has been around for thousands of years and has always contained 12 signs — until recently. NASA pointed out there's actually a 13th constellation within it. 

Cue a bunch of people having a crisis on Twitter about their astrological signs possibly changing. 

SEE MORE: With Evidence This Close, NASA Has To Warn It Hasn't Found Aliens

But NASA doesn't care whether you're a Leo or a Sagittarius. It just wants the zodiac to be factually accurate. 

In a recent Tumblr post, NASA reported the ancient Babylonians originally started out with 13 constellations that the sun appeared to pass through. 

But in order to make their zodiac fit within their 12-month calendar, one of the constellations had to be left out. So Ophiuchus got the ax. 

NASA also pointed out that the Babylonian's zodiac doesn't exactly work as intended anymore, since the Earth's axis has shifted slightly in the last 3,000 years. 

So astrology might not be that scientific, but NASA's not trying to change it. Just know that if you're a die-hard Scorpio, you could've just as easily been an Ophiuchus. Doesn't that roll off the tongue?

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<![CDATA[Elon Musk's Plan To Colonize Mars Starts With This Rocket Engine]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:53:00 -0500
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Elon Musk has been busy thinking of ways to colonize Mars, and now he's got an engine that could get him there. 

The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla tweeted the first photos of the "Raptor interplanetary transport engine" shooting fire from its jets. Musk says this rocket engine will be the way to get to the red planet.

SEE MORE: How Will Mars Crews Cope With Watching Earth Fade Into The Distance?

Of course the Raptor itself isn't new — it's been in development for years. But this is the first time the public has seen photos of it in action. 

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002. The company's area of expertise: advanced rocket science. And the billionaire entrepreneur reportedly wants to take that expertise and send millions of people into space.

SEE MORE: Congress Could Make A Manned Mission To Mars Mandatory

To Musk, Mars is a plan B planet that will save humanity. He's even said he wants to die on Mars — "just not on impact."

Musk will reportedly detail his plan to use Mars as a backup planet at the 67th International Astronautical Congress on Tuesday.

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<![CDATA[With Evidence This Close, NASA Has To Warn It Hasn't Found Aliens]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 07:48:00 -0500
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NASA is really trying to warn people that it's not going to announce an alien discovery at its press conference Monday. 

But the discovery the space agency is likely to announce will probably only fuel speculation of extraterrestrial life. 

NASA is expected to release new evidence of an ocean under the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. 

SEE MORE: NASA Wants To Go To An Asteroid And Bring Part Of It Back

Now, this ocean by itself isn't revolutionary –– we first started to believe it existed there in 1979

The question has since turned to whether life could be found inside the water. In May, a NASA study reported this ocean on Europa may have a very similar chemical makeup to Earth's oceans. 

The study found Europa produces 10 times more oxygen than hydrogen –– a similar proportion to what's seen on Earth, and a key indicator for the potential for life. 

Europa is just one of the roughly 66 moons that have been discovered orbiting around Jupiter. It is one of Jupiter's four biggest moons, though, along with Ganymede, Callisto and Io. 

Some have even speculated an ocean on Europa could support multi-cellular life. If that doesn't sound exciting, remember for all the talk of possible life on Mars, NASA's only really searching for tiny, single-celled bacteria there. 

NASA has hammered home it won't be announcing aliens, but it did say it's found "surprising activity" on Europa. Space fans will have to wait until Monday afternoon to learn exactly what that means. 

NASA's press conference begins at 2 p.m. Eastern Time Monday. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope will be presented.

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<![CDATA[The Future Of Space Travel Is Strong With Gary Johnson]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 21:05:00 -0500
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"We do have to inhabit other planets. The future of the human race is space exploration," Gary Johnson said on ABC's "This Week."

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was asked to respond to a comment he made five years ago about the sun eventually engulfing Earth.

SEE MORE: Deep-Space Exploration Requires Habitats, And NASA's On It

The heart of the question was about climate change, and Johnson said we need to take care of the environment. But he notes the really long-term future of Earth is a little grim.

Space exploration and living on another planet are typically more popular topics in the tech world. Mars One wants to establish a permanent human settlement on the red planet, and SpaceX's Elon Musk is set to announce his competing Mars colonization plan this week. 

But Johnson is not the first presidential candidate to dream of space travel. 

"We will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American," Newt Gingrich said during his 2012 presidential campaign. 

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<![CDATA[India's In — Now, The Paris Climate Agreement Is Almost A Done Deal]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 18:43:00 -0500
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change in early October. 

The agreement needs to be ratified by at least 55 countries. Those countries have to account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. So far, 60 countries have approved it, but they represent only 48 percent of emissions. India will increase that to almost 52 percent.

The magic percentage of 55 is around the corner. Fourteen more countries, accounting for about 12 percent of global emissions, have promised to ratify the agreement before the end of the year.

SEE MORE: India Joining Paris Climate Agreement Could Stop It From Falling Apart

Ideally, that will happen before the next UN conference on climate change in November. President Barack Obama has pushed other world leaders, including Modi, to speed up their approvals.

If the plan goes into effect this year, it would prevent the next president from legally backing out within the next four years.

India is the third-largest carbon emitter, behind the U.S. and China. But initially, India was viewed as a hostile participant because officials wanted to prioritize getting the nation's citizens out of poverty and expanding electricity coverage over cutting emissions. 

But the country was able to strike a deal by pledging to increase its use of renewable energy rather than cap or cut its emissions, allowing the world's fastest-growing large economy to continue its upward trajectory. India's emissions will continue to grow, but at a much slower rate than other emerging economies.

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<![CDATA[Here's Why Antibiotic Resistance Has Become A Problem]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 15:24:00 -0500
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Bacteria is a part of life. Some of it's good, and some of it's bad. But drug-resistant bacteria have become a universal health threat, so the United Nations is seeking a fix.

The U.N. hosted a rare meeting to address the public health problem — only the fourth such meeting since it was founded.

A U.N. official said bacteria outsmarting modern medicine is "outpacing the world’s capacity for antibiotic discovery."

 But more than one cause is to blame.

One of the main problems is the use of powerful antibiotics, especially in hospitals. Doctors prescribe the drugs when weaker antibiotics fail, and that's not always a good thing. Overusing those kinds of drugs can help bacteria develop a resistance.

Another issue is the amount of antibiotics in what people eat. Antibiotics are added to the food of cattle, chickens and other animals to prevent illness and increase the animals' weight, but the drugs can lead to humans contracting antibiotic-resistant diseases.

So, if drug-resistant bacteria is this much of a threat, what can we do to stop it?

For starters, we could increase research funding. Antibiotic development is incredibly expensive, and most drug-makers don't invest in it. So while older antibiotics become resistant, there aren't many new antibiotics to take their place.

Nature could also provide an answer. A recently discovered species of ant in the Amazon Rainforest uses bacteria to fight off unwanted fungi from their nests. Chemicals in that bacteria have shown promising antibiotic effects.

But research and development only address part of the problem. Ultimately, overuse of antibiotics in both the medical and food industries needs to be handled.

World leaders from 193 countries signed a U.N. declaration to help combat the growing health problem in the coming years, but the details of that agreement have yet to be released.

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<![CDATA[The International Community Can't Agree On How To Save Elephants]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 15:14:00 -0500
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Most countries can agree we need to save endangered animals. But exactly how we do that is causing some rifts.

And at an annual convention for trade in endangered species, eyes are on elephants and rhinos.

Conservationists blame the declining elephant and rhino populations on poachers who make money off of ivory and horns.

Several African nations say the ivory trade should be flat-out banned, but Namibia and Zimbabwe argue legalizing the trade would help weaken the ivory black market and deter poachers.

A once-off ivory sale to China in 2008 backfired, which made some wary of a legal trade plan.

That plan, which was supposed to reduce ivory demand, ended up causing ivory prices to rise, and the legality of where the ivory came from was criticized.

And a lot of the world's ivory has been sent to China, though the country has said it would ban ivory sales entirely. As of now, there's a loose goal of making the ban official within two years.

And because so many people love ivory, reducing demand is a big barrier. Even educating the sizable chunk of buyers who don't know that the practice kills elephants might not be enough.

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<![CDATA[Top 3 Groups Trying To Convince Us That Aliens Exist]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:00:00 -0500
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There's been a lot of space news recently, and with any space news, there's always talk of aliens. But this week may have had a bit more talk than usual as three groups seemed to really want to prove aliens exist. 

First is China. It installed a massive telescope earlier this year but announced it will be powering the thing up Sunday

But this isn't any old telescope used for locating those hard-to-find constellations. China specifically built it to detect radio emissions in space, which would prove that intelligent life is out there somewhere. 

The next group is the European Space Agency. It's planning to build what it calls a European Sample Curation Facility — which is a super fancy way of saying alien life-form containment center.

The ESA and Russia's space agency have teamed up to search for any sign of life on Mars over the next 10 years.  

While researchers believe it'll be awhile before any samples of life could be brought back to Earth from the red planet, they want to be prepared with some place to store it. 

And while NASA made it clear it didn't find aliens on Jupiter's moon Europa, some eagle-eyed alien hunters believe they've found a snake in a NASA photo of Mars

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<![CDATA[Why The US And Russia Can Share A Space Station — But China Can't]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 11:45:00 -0500
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China's astronauts aren't allowed aboard the International Space Station, even though it's one of just three countries that runs its own manned space program.

This is because parts of a 2011 law prohibit NASA from using any of its funds for cooperative projects with China.

SEE MORE: FOR SALE: Gently Used Space Station

When he wrote the law, then U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia cited concerns over national security and industrial espionage — and also pointed to China's human rights abuses.

Wolf retired at the end of his term in 2015, but that ban and that mentality stuck. Various government reports since the law went into effect have claimed China's space activity is a threat to U.S. political and military security.

It can seem a bit hypocritical, considering the U.S. was running joint space missions with Russia in the middle of the Cold War. That cooperation has continued: The two nations led the effort to build and run the International Space Station.

And scientists who work with China have criticized the ban as unethical.

The president and the next NASA administrator would have to work with Congress to repeal the law. There's no definite timeline, but current NASA head Charles Bolden seems optimistic.

In the meantime, China is pushing ahead with its own space program. It's worked with space agencies in Russia and Europe on research for eventual Mars missions, and it just launched a second space station of its own.

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<![CDATA[Terns In Alaska Show The Effects Of Climate Change At Work]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 18:50:00 -0500
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One of the earliest climate change warning signs is the shifting of animals' habitat ranges. We've already begun to see those shifts.

The most recent example is the Caspian tern. The seabirds were recently observed in northern Alaska — 1,000 miles farther north than the species had ever been spotted before.

Caspian terns are normally found in Washington state.

SEE MORE: It Only Took Us 20 Years To Destroy 10 Percent Of Earth's Wilderness

No one can say for sure if this means the terns will stay in Alaska. But a Stanford University biologist told the Guardian this 1,000-mile shift "attests to how much the globe has warmed."

The Adélie penguin is another bird whose geographic range is changing.

Scientists worry that as the climate changes, the continent will become more wet. That would force the penguins to migrate farther to find suitable nesting grounds.

A recent study found that by the end of the century, as much as 60 percent of the present population of Adélie penguins could be in decline.

SEE MORE: An Alaskan Community Has Voted To Move Because Of Climate Change

And it's not just animals that are affected. A UCLA study found that whole ecosystems in California are at risk.

The study, published earlier this year, showed that non-native plants were moving to higher elevations faster than native ones. In other words, native species have a harder time adjusting to climate change.

One UCLA professor said that could mean the current ecosystems are "unraveling." 

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<![CDATA[How Will Mars Crews Cope With Watching Earth Fade Into The Distance?]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 16:32:00 -0500
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What would it be like to watch Earth fade into the distance? If we're ever going to send humans to Mars and beyond, they're going to have to deal with seeing the Earth get smaller and smaller until it's just another light in the sky, and psychologists aren't sure how people are going to handle it. 

It's been dubbed the "Earth-out-of-view phenomenon." In the history of space travel, no one has ever been far enough from home to experience it. The moon is as far as anyone's ever gone, and from there, Earth still looks like Earth, with all its clouds, oceans and continents spinning around. 

SEE MORE: Congress Could Make A Manned Mission To Mars Mandatory

The fear is that watching Earth fade away will worsen the psychological challenges of deep spaceflight, like feeling disconnected, confined and vulnerable. Astronauts on board the International Space Station sometimes feel all of those things, and they actually have it pretty good compared to a deep space mission: They can make real-time calls with friends and family, they can receive gifts in supply shipments and, if things get bad, they know they can bail out. 

They also get a great view of Earth, and that's turned out to be pretty important. Astronauts talk about gazing out the window at their home planet in almost religious terms. It looks beautiful and fragile, and it tends to make people feel more love for their home planet. Humans on a Mars mission would spend hundreds of days without that view. So what do we do about it? 

SEE MORE: Apollo Astronauts' Health Issues Reveal A Hurdle To Deep-Space Travel

The researcher who coined the term "Earth-out-of-view phenomenon" has said it might be as simple as giving the Mars crews a telescope they can point home any time they want. But a big part of it might just be luck, since it's hard to know how someone will react to space ahead of time. 

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<![CDATA[One Of North America's Best Pollinators Could Be Disappearing]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 12:06:00 -0500
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A North American bee that's apparently really good at pollinating might be added to the endangered list.

The rusty patched bumblebee is known for pollinating cranberries, apples, plums and wildflowers — and wildlife experts say they're disappearing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Thursday the population has declined at such a rate that it should be considered a threatened species in the U.S.

And this is the second organization to recommend this bee for the list. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation filed a petition in 2013.

The society reports 87 percent of the bee population has been lost in recent years, and the decline is attributed to a number of things.

We're talking disease, habitat loss, climate change and pesticides.

The next step in the process is a 60-day waiting period in which members of the public can submit opinions on the proposed designation. After that, the wildlife service will make its decision.

If the bee is added, a habitat will be designated and protected.

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<![CDATA[A Doctor's Note Won't Stop Speculation About Clinton's Health]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 17:16:00 -0500
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Blink and you'll miss it: the latest in a series of seemingly endless speculations about Hillary Clinton's health.

Physician John R. Coppedge says he noticed something off about Clinton's eyes during her speech at a Philadelphia rally — there are a few moments when her eyes appear to be out of sync.

SEE MORE: Clinton Wants To Move Past Email Scandal, But Voters Can't Seem To

Coppedge managed to conclude that Clinton has a problem with one of her cranial nerves, and he says this problem is caused by a blood clot she sustained from a 2012 concussion.

It's a hell of a diagnosis to make — especially since Clinton's actual doctor has said the candidate is not suffering any symptoms from either the concussion or the blood clot. But Coppedge wants Clinton to undergo an independent neurological exam, just in case.

Coppedge admits that he's never examined Clinton, doesn't specialize in ophthalmology or neurology and is simply speculating from public information. But if a 20-second C-SPAN clip isn't enough to take a stab at a medical diagnosis, what is?

The health and fitness of both presidential candidates has become a major theme of this campaign. Despite medical disclosures from both Clinton and her rival Donald Trump, armchair doctors across the country continue to insist there must be something physically or mentally wrong with the candidates.

SEE MORE: Donald Trump Opened Up About His Medical Records ... Sort Of

This isn't to say Coppedge's opinion is entirely without merit. Since both candidates are over 65, some doctors have recommended they undergo cognitive tests to check for signs of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

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<![CDATA[Fracking Makes The Ground Swell, And Knowing That Might Make It Safer]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:03:00 -0500
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As if it weren't already incredible that fracking can lead to earthquakes, scientists are now learning it can actually make the surface swell and bulge — through more than a mile of solid rock.

But that's not necessarily bad news. In fact, the discovery might help make fracking safer. Researchers looking at wastewater injection sites in Texas say they watched how the ground swelled to forecast where earthquakes were most likely.

SEE MORE: In Light Of The Oklahoma Earthquake, Here's What Fracking Is and Isn't

From 2007-2010, satellites showed the ground under some wastewater wells rose by as much as 3 mm per year. From March to August 2014, the ground rose by as much as 5 mm in certain places.

If that doesn't seem like a big change, remember that we're talking about more than a mile of rock getting pushed up. The researchers say that takes huge amounts of pressure — more than enough to cause earthquakes, depending on the type of rock.

The satellite imagery directly tied wastewater injection to a magnitude 4.8 earthquake that rattled the region in 2012.

The good news is detecting this swelling could help forecast which areas are more prone to earthquakes. The lead researcher says his team's findings could be guidelines for regulators and oil companies, lowering the risk of aggravating any nearby faults.

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<![CDATA[Congress Could Make A Manned Mission To Mars Mandatory]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:47:00 -0500
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The U.S. may become legally obligated to send astronauts to Mars.

A Senate committee OK'd a bill Wednesday that — among other things — would require NASA personnel to visit the red planet and would give the space agency $19.5 billion to help make it happen.

This isn't really a new plan. NASA's had its sights set on a manned mission to Mars sometime in the 2030s for years now. 

SEE MORE: Chinese Officials Aren't Sure Where Their Falling Spacecraft Will Land

It's more about protecting the investment. The Senate hasn't forgotten how when President Barack Obama took office, he scrapped the ongoing project his predecessor had put in place to send astronauts to the moon. 

Over $9 billion had already been spent on the project by the time it was cut. 

As for what we can expect from a new president, Hillary Clinton recently said she supports the exploration of Mars, while Donald Trump has said the economy needs to be fixed first. 

The new bill received bipartisan support from senators in the committee and is expected to pass if it reaches the floor.  

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<![CDATA[Mark Zuckerberg And Priscilla Chan Want To Cure Every Single Disease]]> Thu, 22 Sep 2016 08:10:00 -0500
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During an event for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative on Wednesday, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg pledged more than $3 billion to help make all disease treatable — or at least manageable — by the end of the century.

"Can we ease the suffering of many by curing, preventing or managing all diseases that affect us now?" Priscilla Chan asked.

press release from the initiative says they will invest the money over the next 10 years.

SEE MORE: Nigeria's Startup Scene Is Drawing Big Names — Like Mark Zuckerberg

And they've already committed $600 million to creating a bioscience research center to bring together scientists and researchers from Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, San Francisco.

Chan and Zuckerberg's plan has been compared to Calico, a Google-backed biomedical company that's studying how to slow aging.

But many are praising the initiative's effort as a step in the right direction for scientists.

As a writer for The Washington Post put it, "As more Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg are seeking to make their mark in the biological sciences, they are emphasizing the power of collaboration and openness."

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has backed several other causes, including a startup that trains developers in Africa and a program that gives San Francisco Bay Area teachers money for school supplies.

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<![CDATA[Excess Levels Of Dangerous Chemical Found In Tap Water Across US]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 18:08:00 -0500
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Turns out lead isn't the only thing that could be contaminating your tap water.

Chromium-6, which people over the age of 30 might remember as the dangerous compound in the movie "Erin Brockovich," is in the water supplied to most Americans.

SEE MORE: Flint Had Lead In The Water; This Town Has Lead In The Land

The Environmental Working Group analyzed findings from the Environmental Protection Agency and found over 200 million people in all 50 states have higher levels of chromium-6 in their water than what scientists consider safe.

Excess levels of chromium compounds have been linked to lung and sinus cancer, as well as numerous other diseases.

The state of American water has been anything but clear lately after thousands of residents in Flint, Michigan, got sick after drinking water contaminated by lead.

The Environmental Working Group is currently lobbying the EPA to toughen its standards for water purity.

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<![CDATA[The Delicate Science Of Reading Ancient Scrolls That Can't Be Opened]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 13:00:00 -0500
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How do you read something that's ancient, burned beyond comprehension and too fragile to even touch?

The Ein Gedi scroll is an artifact dug out of a Jewish synagogue that was destroyed in A.D. 600. It looks like a lump of coal and will probably never be opened, but we now know it contains the beginning of the book of Leviticus — maybe the oldest example in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea scrolls.

SEE MORE: Ancient Sites Are Being Digitally Preserved Thanks To New Technology

We know that because researchers scanned the scroll with a technique called X-ray microtomography — like a medical CT scan, but more powerful

It looks like a medical CT at first, too. Researchers reconstructed the rolled shape and determined its texture based on how the X-rays reflected from the metal content of the inks. They were able to digitally unroll the scroll and read from it, no touching required.

The same X-ray technique worked on papyrus scrolls from Herculaneum, which were buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. These were even harder to read, because their carbon-based inks don't reflect X-rays as well as metal inks.  

Scientists borrowed the X-ray beam from one of Europe's particle accelerators to get enough power.

X-rays have even been used to digitally unroll scrolls of silver and read their inscriptions.

The tightly packed pages of ancient books can be just as difficult to open up safely. To look through these, scientists are developing terahertz cameras, which capture the light between microwave and infrared frequencies. 

They're precise enough to show where one page ends and the next begins — and to read the letters on each.

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<![CDATA[Chinese Officials Aren't Sure Where Their Falling Spacecraft Will Land]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 07:53:00 -0500
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Chinese officials can't rule out the possibility its falling space station will hit a city next year. 

The Tiangong-1 or "Heavenly Palace" lab was launched in 2011, and the last manned mission was in 2013. The lab continued to send data to the Chinese Manned Space Engineering Office until earlier this year, when the office ended the data transmissions.

Earlier this week, Chinese officials confirmed what had been speculated for months –– that they'd lost control of their craft.

A craft re-entering Earth's atmosphere isn't really the scary part. Usually scientists can control the descent to make sure it lands in an ocean. 

SEE MORE: They Even Have Laws In Space — And We Don't Mean Physics

But since China lost control, it has no idea where the craft is going to land. As a Harvard astrophysicist told the Guardian, just a small change in atmospheric conditions could change the craft's course "from one continent to the next." 

The saving grace here is most of the craft will burn up as it falls to Earth. But some parts, like the 200-pound rocket engines, may not melt completely.

Still, the planet's huge, so no city is being told to freak out just yet. China just launched a new space station, Tiangong-2, earlier this month.

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<![CDATA[Smoking Can Cause Damage To Your DNA, Even Years After You Quit]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2016 07:21:00 -0500
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Many of the negative effects associated with smoking cigarettes can disappear over time after a person quits.

But a new study out this week says the habit causes damage to your DNA that can last for decades.

As one of the researchers told NBC, "Our study has found compelling evidence that smoking has a long-lasting impact on our molecular machinery, an impact that can last more than 30 years."

To come to this conclusion, researchers from medical institutions across the country analyzed blood samples taken from nearly 16,000 people during prior studies.

And they found that people who smoked had a pattern of methylation changes that affected more than 7,000 genes.

SEE MORE: Fewer And Fewer People Are Smoking In The US

Translation: The smokers' DNA was altered in a way that can change how a gene functions. 

And many of those 7,000 genes had known links to smoking-related diseases, like cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

The study's authors say that within five years of quitting, most genetic changes "recovered" to look like nonsmokers' genes.

One of the study's authors said, "The encouraging news is that once you stop smoking, the majority of DNA methylation signals return to never-smoker levels after five years, which means your body is trying to heal itself of the harmful impacts of tobacco smoking."

But some genes, including the one linked to lymphoma, can still show signs of damage from smoking years later.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease, and it's the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the U.S.

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<![CDATA[Cat-Scratch Disease Is Putting More Infected People In The Hospital]]> Tue, 20 Sep 2016 12:28:00 -0500
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Your cute, snuggly feline can make you sick. 

Cat-scratch disease is real. And apparently, an increasing number of people infected with it are being hospitalized.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 12,500 people are diagnosed with the illness each year. The incidence of diagnosis decreased between 2005 and 2013. But the number of people diagnosed who required hospitalization increased from 3.5 percent between 2005 and 2007 to 4.2 percent between 2011 and 2013. 

SEE MORE: New York Could Become The First State To Ban Declawing

The disease is caused by a bacteria fleas give to cats. Cats transmit the disease to humans by licking an open wound or breaking the skin through scratching or biting. Symptoms include fever and fatigue, along with a red, swollen area around the site of the bite or scratch. 

Though rare, the disease could cause serious heart and brain problems

However, those types of complications usually only occur in people who have other conditions that weaken their immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined information from a database of insurance claims. The information they reviewed spanned from 2005 to 2013.

The South Atlantic region of the United States had the largest proportion of diagnoses. On average, children ages 5 to 9 had the highest yearly diagnosis rate.

Unfortunately, those adorable kittens are more likely to carry the bacteria than cats. 

And cats don't show any symptoms of carrying the bacteria. 

But don't worry too much.

SEE MORE: Canine Companions Can Help Baby Big Cats Thrive In Captivity

The researchers admit there are limitations to this study. The database they examined didn't include information from people 65 and older, and it only included information on those with private, employer-sponsored insurance.

The CDC recommends treating cats monthly with a flea medication, trimming their claws and keeping them inside. Humans should also wash bites and scratches immediately and avoid rough play with cats.

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<![CDATA[The FDA Wants To Create An App That Could Save Opioid Users' Lives]]> Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:58:00 -0500
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A coding competition may be the Food and Drug Administration's second-most-powerful tool to keep overdose victims from dying. 

The most powerful tool would be naloxone — a potent antidote used when a person overdoses on opioids like heroin or painkillers. 

"You can actually resurrect someone. ... It'll save, we estimate, thousands of lives a year," a spokesman for the National Institute on Drug Abuse said. 

SEE MORE: Implantable Medicine Could Be The Future Of Fighting Opioid Addiction

The problem is some states require a prescription for the drug. But when a person has overdosed, time is critical. 

So the FDA announced a competition to create a mobile app connecting those in need of the antidote to people nearby who do have naloxone prescriptions. 

The idea's been compared to Yelp, but instead of saying a restaurant is 0.2 miles away, it could tell you someone four doors down has the drug. 

The winner, or winners, of the competition will take home $40,000. The FDA is encouraging participants to collaborate before submitting functional prototypes in November.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called opioid overdoses an epidemic, and the FDA reports 28,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2014 alone. 

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<![CDATA[Science Says The 5-Second Rule Is As Disgusting As We All Thought]]> Tue, 20 Sep 2016 09:15:00 -0500
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Yeah, turns out, the so-called 5-second rule is as disgusting as we all thought.

According to a new study out this week, no matter how fast you pick up food that's been dropped on the ground, you can still pick up dangerous germs along with it.

To finally debunk the 5-second rule once and for all, researchers contaminated four surfaces with bacteria.

They then dropped four different types of food onto those surfaces — watermelon, bread, buttered bread and gummy candy.

The scientists found, generally speaking, the 5-second rule has some truth to it — the longer the food sat there, the more bacteria accumulated on it.

SEE MORE: Watch Bacteria Become Drug-Resistant Like It's No Big Deal

But in some cases, the bacteria made its way onto the food in less than 1 second, and no food was left completely uncontaminated.

As one of the study's authors said in a statement, "Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously."

For the record, watermelon picked up the most bacteria, thanks to its moisture. 

And the gummy candy got the least.

So next time you drop food on the floor, you might want to think about the bacteria crawling on it before you take a big bite. Just saying.

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<![CDATA[Obama Makes Fighting Drug Abuse A Top Priority For His Last Months]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 19:11:00 -0500
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The Obama Administration announced that this week is Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. It's an effort to educate the general public about the issue and urge Congress to provide more funding for treatment.

A White House memo stated the awareness week would include more than 250 events, including a roundtable discussion with families affected by heroin and opioid addictions. 

SEE MORE: The Only Thing Scarier Than These Photos Is The US Heroin Trend

This epidemic has received quite a bit of attention lately — but why did President Obama decide to dedicate a week to it?

His announcement cites a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that more Americans die in drug overdoses than traffic accidents each year.

Obama made a surprise visit to West Virginia last fall to announce his desire to fight prescription drug abuse, and he mentioned the cause in his 2016 State of the Union address.

It seems Obama wants to do as much as he can before his term ends.

Besides his recent focus on prescription opioids and heroin, Obama has continued granting clemency to prisoners, welcomed more than 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country and lowered the Guantanamo Bay detainee population to 61 men.

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<![CDATA[The Company That Damaged The Great Barrier Reef Is Finally Paying Up]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 12:50:00 -0500
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This ship damaged part of the Great Barrier Reef more than six years ago. Now, its owners have to pay for it. 

The Chinese coal carrier had tens of thousands of tons of coal and heavy fuel oil on board when it went off course and ran aground in a protected part of the reef. 

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

Not only did the carrier leak oil into the surrounding water, it crushed the coral and spilled toxic paint particles onto the surviving reef. 

The Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Australia, stretches for 135,000 square miles and is home to thousands of species of fish and coral, as well as other marine life like dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. 

The company that owns the carrier, Shenzhen Energy Transport, battled back and forth with the Australian government for years following the incident. 

It believed the $90 million the government asked for to clean up the reef was unnecessary, since coral reefs can regenerate on their own. 

Now, the two have agreed on a settlement that's about one-third of the initial request — $29.6 million. Most of the money will go toward clearing the toxic paint from the reef. 

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<![CDATA[Experts Are Warning Doctors Not To Prescribe Codeine To Kids]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 12:14:00 -0500
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to think twice about prescribing medications containing codeine to children. 

Codeine is an ingredient in some over-the-counter cough medicine, but it's also used as a painkiller and is often prescribed after dental procedures or surgery to remove tonsils or  adenoids. 

SEE MORE: Despite Warnings, Codeine Still Prescribed To Children In ER

But the AAP discovered codeine metabolizes "ultra-rapidly" in some users, especially those who experience obstructive sleep apnea. This means the person's liver converts the codeine into larger amounts of morphine than it should. 

Just taking a standard dose could cause slowed breathing or even death for those patients. 

And for some, the drug appears to be ineffective at alleviating pain. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a similar warning last year — highlighting that medicines containing codeine could slow breathing in children. 

"The FDA is not saying anything that's shocking or surprising to pediatricians, because we've for some time been cautious using cough and cold medicines and any medication with codeine," Dr. Grace Brouillette from the University of Kansas Medical Center told KSHB

Two years prior, the FDA announced health care professionals should prescribe an alternative painkiller for children who've had their tonsils and/or adenoids removed, because codeine had been linked to several deaths. 

And the European Medicines Agency has also ordered codeine not be prescribed for any children under the age of 12. It also announced codeine shouldn't be prescribed for children older than age 12 who have chronic breathing problems.  

The AAP's report names several alternatives to codeine, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, but does say further research is necessary to find more effective ways to treat pain in children. 

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<![CDATA[Deliberate Forest Fires Killed An Estimated 90,000 Indonesians in 2015]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 09:06:00 -0500
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Researchers from Harvard and Columbia blame forest fires in Indonesia for the premature deaths of 100,000 people last year. 

Those researchers studied the health effects of smog created by intentional fires set in the Southeast Asian country.  

The fires were set to clear land for crops. It's a practice that's used frequently — but flames often spread out of control, and 2015 saw drier-than-normal conditions.  

SEE MORE: A Really, Really Old Water Dispute In India Just Caught Fire

And that 100,000-person estimate may be on the low end, too, since researchers didn't include the number of children or infants who may be affected by the the prolonged haze. 

Indonesia's smog drifts to other Southeast Asian countries, and 10,000 of those estimated deaths were in Malaysia and Singapore.  

Some blame big corporations for the fires. Others blame local farmers. Indonesia's government has been accused of not enforcing laws already in place to curb the practice. 

By the country's official count, only 19 people died from the fires last year. 

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<![CDATA[3 Shark Attacks In Less Than 3 Hours At A Florida Beach]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:59:00 -0500
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"You don't want it to happen but you're not going to not surf," one surfer told WFTV

"They're definitely bad the past couple of days. I got chased by one on the inside about knee-high," another surfer told WOFL

They're talking about shark attacks off of New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County, Florida. In a span of just over two hours Sunday, three people became the large fish's potential lunch.

SEE MORE: Woman Rides To The Hospital With A Shark Still Latched On To Her Arm

A 43-year-old man, a 36-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy were injured surfing off the beach.

The two men were taken to the hospital where one of them needed to undergo surgery. The teen was treated for a laceration at the beach.

So why so many shark attacks? There could be a few explanations.

SEE MORE: This Giant Shark Can Live For 400 Years

Local affiliates report the migration of mullet fish is drawing sharks and other predators in to feed off of them. Sharks sometimes confuse moving hands and feet for fish.

According to WOFL, all three of the shark attacks happened near the jetty — a popular fishing spot that is attractive to sharks hoping for a snack.

Attacks at this beach shouldn't be that surprising. New Smyrna Beach is apparently known as the "shark attack capital of the world." The county where the beach is located has seen the most shark attacks in the U.S. since 2000.

Luckily, all three people injured Sunday are expected to survive. 

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<![CDATA[Alabama Pipeline Leak Echoes Concerns Over Dakota Access Pipeline]]> Sun, 18 Sep 2016 19:40:00 -0500
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It's been more than a week since an Alabama inspector discovered a leak in a pipeline that normally pushes 1.3 million barrels of gasoline a day.

Although about 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked, those who live near the spill are lucky it happened where it did.

SEE MORE: East Coast Gas Prices Are Expected To Spike, Thanks To A Pipeline Leak

One Alabama riverkeeper says "it's really pretty fortunate where it is," because the area is contained — upstream from a national wildlife refuge and downstream from a major Birmingham drinking water intake. But pipeline leaks aren't always so fortuitous.

Concerns about pipeline issues have sparked protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, both in North Dakota and Washington, D.C.

The planned pipeline is expected to run from North Dakota to southern Illinois. But the Standing Rock Tribe says it infringes on their sacred lands and would ruin the tribe's drinking water if it leaks.

SEE MORE: American Indians Stand Together To Shut Down Pipeline Project

The government stepped in on Sept. 9 to stop construction on a portion of the pipeline. On Friday, a federal appeals court reinforced that decision by issuing its own ruling to stop construction while it considers the tribe's emergency injunction request. 

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<![CDATA[They Even Have Laws In Space — And We Don't Mean Physics]]> Sat, 17 Sep 2016 16:16:00 -0500
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"Our objective is not to continue the Cold War, but to end it. We have reached an agreement at the United Nations on the peaceful uses of outer space," President Lyndon Johnson said.

In 1967, the United Nations laid down a set of rules to govern space exploration, and 104 nations signed on.

It's called the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The Outer Space Treaty, for short. Here are the important bits.

SEE MORE: Listen To Astronauts Talk Earth, From Space

Article I: Space exploration shall be the "province of all mankind," free of discrimination.

Article II: No nation can lay sovereign claim to any celestial territory. Space is for everyone.

Article III: Up here, international law and the U.N. Charter apply.

Article IV: No nukes, weapons of mass destruction or military maneuvers or bases.

Article V: Astronauts shall render all possible assistance to other astronauts.

Article VII: If you launch it, you're liable for any damage.

Article IX: No contaminating celestial bodies, and no contaminating Earth with anything you bring back.

Article XI: Parties shall disclose the nature, conduct, location and results of space activities.

SEE MORE: FOR SALE: Gently Used Space Station

The relatively new field of commercial spaceflight has its own rules, typically managed by national agencies. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration handles them.

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<![CDATA[Fishing Illegally? Google's All-Seeing Eye Is Watching You]]> Sat, 17 Sep 2016 14:55:00 -0500
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Illegal fishing is a major drain on our oceans, but Google and Leonardo DiCaprio are hunting those criminals down — from space.

A new app out from Google Earth Outreach — called Global Fishing Watch — allows everyday users to look for illegal activity on the world's oceans.

SEE MORE: Our Oceans Are Littered With Trash — Here's How We Could Fix It

Global Fish Watch is partially funded by DiCaprio's charitable foundation, which contributed about $6 million to the Google project.

The app uses algorithms to identify fishing vessels via its Automatic Identification System — which most commercial vessels have. Then, users can look for suspicious activities, like large ships in areas where only small operations should be or unusual zig-zagging behavior, which could mean ships are offloading their catch onto another boat.

This takes a lot of the work out of the usual process.

"We still have an analyst in Spain who would literally watch certain vessels hour by hour and plot out where they were," Jackie Savitz told Andrew Revkin of The New York Times.

Being able to track and hopefully capture these criminals is important to the health of the oceans.

Humans already take more fish from the ocean than can be easily replaced by the remaining fish. Fifty-three percent of the world's fisheries are already fully exploited, meaning there's no room to increase production.

And some of the most popular commercial fish populations have declined so far that their species' survival is threatened. Illegal fishing accounts for about 35 percent of wild marine catches globally.

SEE MORE: Obama's Atlantic Preserve: Good News For Fish, Less So For Crustaceans

Illegal fishing also has a dangerous human rights element. Forced labor, physical abuse, murder and starvation aren't unheard of on illegal fishing vessels.

For instance, in the Philippines, "manning agencies" trick workers into joining an illegal fishing crew. They're promised higher wages, but on the ships, they're often beaten and receive no pay for 20-hour workdays.

If Global Fishing Watch works — and the technology behind it has already had some success — we might be able to preserve the oceans and make them a safer place for humans, too.

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<![CDATA[Should You Work Out For 30 Minutes Or An Hour?]]> Sat, 17 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0500
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How long should you work out?

Thirty minutes might not seem long enough when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. But in the exercise world, more isn't always better.

According to personal trainer Jeff Smith, intensity beats duration.

"If you're working very hard, you can do it in an hour," he said. "So the length of time is really irrelevant without looking at the intensity of the work."

The government's fitness recommendations aren't meant to keep you in the gym for hours. It says adults ages 18 to 64 should exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 2.5 hours each week or at a vigorous intensity for an hour and 15 minutes a week.

When it comes to knocking out those workouts in 30 minutes vs. 60 minutes, Smith says to think of it like sprinting vs. jogging. What you spend on intensity, you make up for in time.

It's why high-intensity interval training, or HIIT workouts, are so popular right now.

They can be as short as 20 minutes, and you not only burn more calories than a lower-intensity training session, but you keep burning calories in the hours after you're done.

But you need to work up to that.

If you're a rookie, a longer 60-minute workout could be easier because it might be tough to go at the intensity you need for a shorter time.

And as you get stronger, Smith says you can easily cut out some exercises that don't maximize your time. For example, if you want to lose weight, chin-up exercises are better than bicep curls because they work more muscle groups.

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<![CDATA[A Sinkhole In Florida Is Leaking Radioactive Water Into The Ground]]> Sat, 17 Sep 2016 08:34:00 -0500
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A Florida company kept a dangerous secret from the public for three weeks: A massive sinkhole had leaked at least 215 million gallons of radioactive water into an aquifer.

The mining company said workers first noticed it around the end of August but didn't tell anyone because they found "no risk to the public."

And the sinkhole seems to be draining into an aquifer that provides drinking water to millions of people. It also feeds water into springs used for recreational activites.

The water has a radioactive material known as phosphogypsum, a byproduct from using phosphate to create fertilizer. Phosphogypsum is placed into stacks and maintained to limit the amount radioactive material leaking into the air.

Locals around the sinkhole told Newsy's partners at WFTS that they're worried about the safety of their drinking water.

"We have a well, and so if it ends up in the aquifer, it's going to end up with us," resident Amy Gibson told WFTS.

But officials from the plant say they took the necessary steps required by law when they first noticed the sinkhole.

One way the company is helping to clean up the area is pumping the water that the sinkhole leaked back up through on-site wells.

And the Florida Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that the company "immediately took steps to investigate and initiate corrective action."

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<![CDATA[Our Oceans Are Littered With Trash — Here's How We Could Fix It]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 15:15:00 -0500
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There's a lot of trash in the world's oceans. Every year, volunteers for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy comb beaches and coastlines to pick some of it up before it makes it to the water, but keeping oceans garbage-free requires some creative thinking.

Take the Pacific Garbage Patch, where currents drag trash and plastics into a big vortex out in the middle of the ocean. There are four other patches just like it across the planet.

SEE MORE: The Ocean Is Too Loud For Whales And Dolphins

There aren't concrete numbers for the amount of trash already swirling around in these gyres, but some research estimates it's increasing by 8 million tons a year.

The Ocean Cleanup project wants to filter it out. It proposes giant v-shaped barriers right in the middle of the garbage patch, which would comb the trash out of the ocean currents.

When it graduates from its proof-of-concept versions to its full-size filters, Ocean Cleanup claims its technology could reduce the Pacific Garbage Patch by half within a decade.

SEE MORE: It Only Took Us 20 Years To Destroy 10 Percent Of Earth's Wilderness

Some pollution — like oil spills — is harder to corral with a net, which is where the robots come in. MIT developed prototypes for a fleet of autonomous conveyor bots, which would roam for weeks at a time and soak up oils and other liquid pollution.

Of course, the best way to get trash out of the ocean is to stop it from getting there in the first place. That's why the Ocean Conservancy encourages people to use their own two hands with its International Coastal Cleanup day. 

It's the largest one-day volunteer effort to comb trash off the world's coasts. Last year, nearly 800,000 volunteers gathered more than 18 million pounds of trash — or more than 717 pounds of garbage per mile of coastline they covered.

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<![CDATA[The US Government Wasn't Really Going To Kill Thousands Of Wild Horses]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 13:07:00 -0500
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Last week, a U.S. government advisory board recommended euthanizing thousands of "unadoptable" wild horses and donkeys.

Animal rights activists were outraged, but it looks like the animals' lives will be spared after all.

SEE MORE: 2 Horses Die At Pimlico Before The Preakness Stakes

The Bureau of Land Management's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board put out a statement saying it "does not and will not euthanize healthy animals."

And a spokesperson for the bureau told The New York Times, "We're not going to sell to slaughter or put down healthy horses."

See, the bureau has rounded up more than 45,000 wild horses and donkeys in government-funded corrals, pastures or sanctuaries.

It's expensive to keep them there — over $49 million per year.

On top of that, there are about 67,000 wild horses roaming public lands out West, which is about three times more than officials say the land can handle.

The bureau also says it can't keep up with how quickly the population is growing. According to estimates, the number of horses and donkeys on bureau-managed lands shot up by about 15 percent from last year.

Now, the wild horse and burro advisory board's recommendation is simply a suggestion; it can't make any binding decisions.

SEE MORE: Researchers Say Horses Can Recognize Our Facial Expressions

But the proposal might have done more than just ruffle some feathers.

As a writer for The Washington Post notes, "The recommendation ... has served as a flare, drawing attention to an enormous problem long wrangled over by many passionate parties."

The advisory board is scheduled to meet again around spring to discuss the issue.

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<![CDATA[Sea Ice Might Not Be At A Record Low Now, But It'll Get There]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 08:21:00 -0500
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Sea ice might not have hit a record low this year, but it's well on its way.

Ice at the North Pole hit the second lowest level ever on Saturday — about 1.6 million square miles. Scientists don't really understand it since the arctic summer wasn't that hot.

Tracking arctic sea ice started in the 1970s, and in 2012, those levels hit a record low at 1.31 million square miles.

The director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center says he wouldn't be surprised if sea ice disappeared completely by the summer of 2030.

Those low levels could cause a lot of problems. First, the planet relies on sea ice to maintain its temperature.

Sea ice also reflects radiation from the sun back into space. And if there's no ice to reflect those waves, the Earth is going to heat up — a lot.

And those levels also affect wildlife. A study released this year showed the growth of 19 polar bear populations fell. Without arctic ice, the animals have no habitat and can't hunt.

Those kinds of effects will eventually make their way south. One climate scientist told the Guardian, "What happens in the arctic doesn't stay in the arctic."

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<![CDATA[More And More Employees Are Testing Positive For Illicit Drugs]]> Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:42:00 -0500
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The number of employee drug tests coming back positive for illicit drugs like heroin and marijuana is at a 10-year high.

According to new data from Quest Diagnostics, positive drug tests have increased in the combined U.S. workforce the past three years.

Overall, in 2015, 4 percent of 9.5 million urine tests came back positive. That's about 380,000 tests and a slight bump from 2014's results.

But that's a big jump from the numbers we saw in 2010 and 2011. During both of those years, only 3.5 percent of worker drug tests were positive.

The data also showed the number of positive drug tests for employees in positions where safety is a concern increased slightly to 6.9 percent.

That group includes truck drivers, pilots, ship captains and other transportation workers.

A director with Quest Diagnostics said in a press release these numbers should be concerning to employers:

"Our nationally representative analysis clearly shows that drug use by the American workforce is on the rise, and this trend extends to several different classes of drugs and categories of drug tests."

The data shows an increase in positive tests for cocaine, amphetamines and opiates.

But marijuana was by far the most common substance detected.

The jump isn't surprising, considering how many states have legalized marijuana in recent years.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize marijuana in one form or another.

And a recent study found more American adults are smoking pot across the country.

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<![CDATA[California Bans Breeding Orcas In Captivity — But It's A Little Late]]> Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:26:00 -0500
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Back in March, SeaWorld said it would quit breeding orcas in captivity. It also said it would cut the animals out of theatrical shows. Now, that pledge will be enforced by law. 

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Orca Protection and Safety Act into law on Tuesday. The law states orcas can still be used in educational shows but can't be bred in captivity or used in theatrical performances.

But there aren't really that many groups that breed orcas in captivity in California — besides SeaWorld. 

SEE MORE: The Ocean Is Too Loud For Whales And Dolphins

And at this point, passing a law seems kind of irrelevant. SeaWorld already pledged to make changes after the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish." 

The documentary looks at the life of one orca at SeaWorld named Tilikum — the killer whale that was involved in the deaths of three people. SeaWorld received major backlash from animal rights groups after the film's release.

So, if anything, the move is symbolic. Organizations behind the bill are using the law as a way to make sure SeaWorld doesn't pivot on its decision.

California is the first state to pass a law banning the breeding of killer whales. The law also states orcas that are rescued can still be kept in captivity.

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<![CDATA[Obama's Atlantic Preserve: Good News For Fish, Less So For Crustaceans]]> Thu, 15 Sep 2016 11:09:00 -0500
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Just two weeks after expanding a national monument in the Pacific Ocean, President Barack Obama is announcing the nation's first monument in the Atlantic.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument — a preservation area about the size of Connecticut — will sit 130 miles off Cape Cod's coast and will be off-limits to commercial fishing.

But due to criticism from New England's seafood industry, the Obama administration isn't planning to phase out all kinds of fishing in the area at once.

Most commercial fishermen will have just 60 days to stop their operations in the newly announced protected area, but two of the Atlantic's biggest fishing industries — red crab and lobster — will have seven years to end theirs.

SEE MORE: Obama Designates Historic House As Monument For Women's Equality

The decision to allow red crab and lobster fisheries to continue fishing in the area is likely an economic one, as the industry is estimated to be worth millions.

But it also may have something to do with different sea life being at different levels of risk. The red crab industry, for example, is sustainably managed, according to an independent organization that promotes sustainable fishing.

On the other hand, Cape Cod made headlines two years ago when it was rapidly losing its namesake fish.

The larger issue with commercial fishing may not be how many fish are caught but the way they're caught.

Often, large nets are dragged along the sea floor's hard surfaces, knocking down or killing structure-forming animals that are habitats for many other species.

Yet lobster and crab are often caught using traps that fishermen leave and then come back to, meaning they're not dragged behind a boat and aren't as damaging to the sea floor.

While lobster and crab fishing are being given a longer timeline to continue operations, other activities that extract from the sea floor –– like mining and drilling –– are also being banned.

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<![CDATA[Bats Can Learn To Put Up With Us Noisy Humans]]> Thu, 15 Sep 2016 09:02:57 -0500
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Humans and our machines are really, really loud.

And this noise pollution has measurable impacts on the animals that live nearby. It's harder to talk to your neighbors, or find a mate — or hear that rattlesnake coming — if there's a busy highway nearby.

SEE MORE: You Don't Need A Fancy Name To See The Effects Humans Have On Earth

But of all the animals that live and die by their ears, bats are particularly strong at tuning out our noise.

Biologists set up sound experiments with fringe-lipped bats, which hunt for frogs by listening for the sound they make and by pinging them using ultrasonic echolocation. 

If it's too loud to hear the calls of the frogs, no problem: The bats just echolocate more.

This is the latest research to show bats will adapt their behaviors to compensate for a noisy environment. Earlier studies showed human noise made bats take longer to find food, or made them change the length of their echolocation calls, but ultimately the bats are successful.

Not all animals can adapt to noise as readily, though. Shipping activity makes humpback whales less efficient when they forage for food. Birds in urban environments could find it harder to communicate and attract mates.

And finding a quiet place to live is harder than ever. Data from the National Park Service shows that thanks to planes and visitors and even air conditioning, not even those protected areas sound like true wilderness anymore.

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<![CDATA[Crows Learn To Use Tools When There Aren't Woodpeckers In The Way]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0500
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We know crows are smart. One species even famously uses tools to get food. But scientists are only just now learning why crows would evolve such an amazing ability — and, bizarrely, the reason involves woodpeckers.

Crows living on the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific use sticks to dig insects out of trees and logs. Researchers just found another species native to Hawaii that does the same thing.

SEE MORE: New Research Reveals Crocodiles Use Sticks To Hunt Birds

The birds appear to have evolved their stick prowess over time. They don't have to teach it to each other. They just know how to use sticks, and they have beaks that help them use the tools well.

But Hawaii and New Caledonia are more than 3,800 miles apart as the, um, crow flies. They're both isolated islands. So how did the crows on both islands learn to dig in trees with sticks, like woodpeckers do with their specialized beaks?

Easy: Those woodpeckers weren't there. They aren't native to the islands, but there are still plenty of bugs around under the tree bark. That opens the door for other animals to develop unique ways to get at those tasty insects.

The same thing has happened with aye-ayes and other mammals. Woodpeckers don't live in Madagascar, so the aye-ayes there evolved long, thin fingers to get a first crack at the insects in local logs.

This competition for food sources might help explain why tool use among birds happens in the first place, and why it's so rare. The researchers say other species of foraging crows might have the same affinity for tools — though it probably depends on whether there are woodpeckers nearby.

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<![CDATA[A Really, Really Old Water Dispute In India Just Caught Fire]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 09:39:00 -0500
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Protesters in India want water — so they set trucks and buses on fire. And clashes with police left at least one dead

India's water supply has been decreasing. And it's no different in reservoirs connecting two farming states in southern India. 

It boils down to this river — the Cauvery. It runs between multiple states, but the main argument is between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

SEE MORE: For These Vigilantes In India, Cows Come Before People

Karnataka has control over releasing water to Tamil Nadu — and the Supreme Court demanded the state do just that at the beginning of September after Tamil Nadu said it wasn't receiving its allotment. 

Protests continued even after the court reduced the amount of water that needed to be released. 

If it seems like this dispute is intense, keep in mind it's been going on since British rule in India at the end of the 1800s. 

There have been several attempts to resolve the issue since India gained independence and its states were redrawn, which also reignited the controversy. 

SEE MORE: India's Infrastructure Might Be Magnifying Death Toll From Heat Wave

There have been mass protests over the years.

Several opinion pieces have pointed out that the conflict is in some ways less about water and more about "regional identity."

But, farmers in the states mostly grow plants heavily reliant on water, so it is a matter of livelihood. 

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<![CDATA[Millions Of Americans Aren't Taking Their Blood Pressure Meds Properly]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 07:27:00 -0500
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Millions of American adults aren't taking their blood pressure medication as directed, and it's putting them at risk for dangerous health complications.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5 million Medicare Part D patients age 65 and older are skipping doses of their meds or not taking them at all.

And not keeping your blood pressure in check could lead to some pretty serious issues, like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and even early death.

CDC Director Tom Frieden called the findings "troubling" and told reporters, "There's a reason hypertension is called the silent killer."

He continued, "A simple action can avoid potentially deadly consequences: Take your blood pressure medicine as prescribed."

SEE MORE: New Study Says You Should Drop Your Blood Pressure Even More

It's unclear exactly why patients aren't using their blood pressure medications properly. 

But the report says multiple factors are most likely to blame, including complex pill regimens and unpleasant side effects.

And that's why the CDC is calling on doctors and health care providers to do more to help older patients stick to their high blood pressure treatment plans, like simplifying their medication regimens.

For its part, Medicare said in a statement, "Medicare will continue to work with prescription drug plans to educate enrollees about the importance of taking their blood pressure medications as prescribed so that they can lower their risk for heart disease and stroke."

According to the CDC, about 70 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and only about half have their blood pressure under control.

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<![CDATA[Dolphins Might Have A 'Highly Developed Spoken Language']]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 13:18:00 -0500
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Apparently dolphins chat it up like you and me.

For the first time, researchers claim to have recorded a pair of dolphins having a conversation. They said they found dolphins have "a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language."

SEE MORE: Swimming With Dolphins In The Wild Could Soon Be Banned In Hawaii

And apparently, the animals even wait for the other to stop talking.

The conversation between two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins was in a concrete pool at the Karadag Nature Reserve in Crimea.

According to the study published last month, dolphins speak by creating pulses or whistles. It also said they form words by changing the frequency and level of pulses. 

SEE MORE: The Ocean Is Too Loud For Whales And Dolphins

Researchers said the results of this study lead them to believe toothed whales have a similar "highly developed spoken language."

"The analysis of the dolphin spoken language in this study has revealed that it either directly or indirectly possesses all the known design features of the human spoken language," the study said.

But not so fast. Some scientists are skeptical. One told The Huffington Post, the study isn't "really a novel item" because similarities between how dolphins and humans communicate have been reported.

A 2007 study also claimed dolphins have their own language. The researcher found dolphins used nearly 200 different whistles.

The possibility that dolphins use a highly developed language shouldn't be surprising. Studies have found dolphins have complex brains.

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<![CDATA[NY Teen Was A 'Different Person' After Contracting Brain-Eating Amoeba]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 10:03:00 -0500
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Kerry Stoutenburgh's family and loved ones say she was "a brave, beautiful and brilliant human being."

But after the college student contracted a brain-eating amoeba while swimming on vacation in Maryland, everything changed.

Stoutenburgh's family says she started complaining of a headache and sensitivity to light a few days after she returned home to upstate New York.

SEE MORE: How A Florida Teen Survived A Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba Infection

The doctors at the hospital told them it was simply dehydration. But Stoutenburgh's sister says she thought it was something much worse.

She told People: "She was discharged from the hospital, and she came home to take a nap. When she woke up, she was a completely different person running around and yelling gibberish. It was terrifying."

They rushed Stoutenburgh back to the hospital, but it was too late to save her.

The 19-year-old was taken off her respirator and died Aug. 31.

You've probably heard of the parasite that killed her: Naegleria fowleri. The infection it causes is rare and deadly.

It has a fatality rate of over 97 percent; only three people in the U.S. have survived a Naegleria infection in the past 50 years.

But again, infections are rare. Doctors see cases about zero to eight times a year, almost always from July to September.

The amoeba is found in warm fresh water, like lakes, hot springs and swimming holes. And an infection happens when water that has the amoeba enters the body through the nose.

A GoFundMe page was set up on behalf of the Stoutenburgh family to collect donations.

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<![CDATA[The Moon Could Be Making Some Earthquakes Bigger]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 08:38:00 -0500
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How big an earthquake gets might depend on the moon.

Researchers in Japan looked at the world's largest recorded earthquakes and found they were more likely to happen during full or new moons when tidal forces in the ocean are strong.

SEE MORE: NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams Is Home After Breaking Spaceflight Record

Earthquakes aren't completely understood, but we know they're mainly caused by the release of energy that's been pent up from tectonic plates grinding together.

All earthquakes start small. A geophysicist working in the U.S. said: "The tides just add a little — 1 percent or less — additional push on top of that tectonic loading. Even though it's a small contribution, it could be just the amount of stress that is the 'straw that breaks the camel’s back.'"

Looking at data from roughly 10,000 past earthquakes, scientists found a magnitude 5.5 earthquake was more likely to become a magnitude 8.0 during periods of high tidal stress. 

Although tidal stress affects big earthquakes, the researchers couldn't find a connection between tidal stress and the frequency of smaller earthquakes.

However, a recent study by the geophysicist we mentioned earlier looked at the San Andreas fault and found low frequency earthquakes were more likely to happen when the moon was in its waxing phase. That's when the size of the tide increases at its fastest rate.

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<![CDATA[It's Not Just You — August Really Was Hotter Than Ever]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 08:11:00 -0500
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"Well, of course, this is the first heatwave that we've had in two years in Manhattan," a WABC anchor said in August.

"Even those used to the sweltering temperatures are not used to this," a CBS reporter said of the heat in August.

If you thought August felt warmer than usual this year, you were right.

Last month was the hottest August in the 136 years of modern record keeping, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

SEE MORE: An Alaskan Community Has Voted To Move Because Of Climate Change

July is typically the hottest month each year. But in 2016, August tied July as the hottest month ever recorded.

It was 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer than August 2014, which was considered the warmest August up until now.

But it doesn't seem all that special when you see it continues a trend — now of 11 consecutive months — of setting monthly high temperature records.

The rising temperatures worry President Barack Obama who didn't parse words in a New York Times interview in early September.

"My top science adviser John Holdren, you know, periodically will issue some chart or report or graph in the morning meetings, and they're terrifying," Obama told The New York Times.

Obama also announced last week the United States and China had joined the Paris agreement. The agreement, which was reached last year, aims to limit greenhouse gases.

In the agreement, the United States aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels within a decade.

SEE MORE: There's A Lot Of Work Left To Ratify The Paris Climate Agreement

But that could be a challenge. Some Republican lawmakers have said the Senate should ratify the agreement. The Obama administration disagrees.

And there was another hurdle back in February; the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to put the administration's greenhouse gas emissions rules for power plants on hold.

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<![CDATA[New Rule Could Shield Planned Parenthood Funding From Partisan Attacks]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 20:35:00 -0500
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When Democrats and Republicans argue, Planned Parenthood is often caught in the middle. Congress still hasn't managed to provide funding to fight the Zika virus because the bill also includes cuts to Planned Parenthood's funding.

Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to change that. It proposed a rule saying states can't cut family planning funding for any reason that's "unrelated to the ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner."

SEE MORE: Rates Of Pregnancy-Related Deaths Have Doubled In Texas

This essentially takes away a state's ability to cut Title X family planning funding to try and restrict abortion access, which has become common practice. 

Since 2015, eleven states have slashed family planning budgets even though, by law, tax dollars can't be used to fund abortion services. So the services being hit are ones like cancer screenings and STD testing.

Tennessee Rep. Diane Black called the rule a "stunt" saying, "We've known all along that the Obama Administration will go to untold lengths to protect its friends in the big abortion industry."

But those who are in favor of the rule say it will protect women's right to access important and even life-saving services.

SEE MORE: Zika Virus Prompts Pregnancy Advisories And More CDC Travel Warnings

Budgetary restrictions have become a massive problem for women's health care. Texas' maternal mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2014. Researchers have been hesitant to draw a direct connection, but some doctors say cuts to women's health care make it tough to keep expectant mothers healthy.

The new rule will likely go into effect after a 30-day public comment period.

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<![CDATA[Here's Everything You Need To Know About Pneumonia]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:47:00 -0500
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Pneumonia. It's one of the most common illnesses in the U.S.

The lung infection puts about 1 million adults in the hospital every year. And it can get pretty serious — about 50,000 die from it.

And anyone can contract it, even politicians. 

Hillary Clinton's doctor confirmed Sunday that the Democratic presidential candidate is being treated for the disease. It's unclear how she got infected.

SEE MORE: How Much Do We Need To Know About The Presidential Candidates' Health?

But pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, a virus or fungi. When a person becomes infected, the lungs fill with fluid and make breathing difficult.

Anyone can get pneumonia, but older adults, children and people with chronic illnesses are more susceptible.

The most common symptoms are coughing, fever, shaking chills and shortness of breath. 

But some people experience loss of appetite, fatigue, confusion, profuse sweating and influenza symptoms.

Treatment depends on several factors, including the cause of the infection, how severe the symptoms are and the patient's age and overall health.

Most cases aren't that serious and can be treated at home with plenty of fluids, rest and aspirin to control any fever.

But some patients need to be hospitalized and given fluids through an IV, antibiotics, oxygen therapy and possibly breathing treatments.

And if left untreated, pneumonia can cause respiratory failure, sepsis and even death.

Pneumonia itself is not contagious, but the germs that cause it are. And they can spread from person to person pretty easily.

In Clinton's case, a source told People that several members of her campaign have also been sick in recent days.

Fortunately, protecting yourself from pneumonia is pretty simple. 

Doctors recommend getting a flu shot every year, washing your hands, refraining from smoking and being aware of your general health.

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<![CDATA[Rosetta Orbiter Will End Its Space Journey By Smashing Into A Comet]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:39:00 -0500
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Say goodbye to the Rosetta space orbiter because, well, it's about to bite the dust. 

The European Space Agency launched the flying object into space more than a decade ago. Rosetta is known by the agency as the "comet chaser," and it will crash into its destination on Comet 67P near the end of this month. 

The orbiter has had many historic firsts for a spacecraft. Researchers don't know a whole lot about comets, and Rosetta is the first spacecraft to fly alongside one. 

SEE MORE: The Space Engine That Could Defy Physics Is Going Into Orbit

The craft has seen how a comet is changed by the heat of the sun, was the first to take pictures of a comet to see what it's made of and will be the first to touch down on a comet's nucleus.

And the landing comes at a good time. Rosetta will be joining its counterpart Philae on the comet — Philae touched down in 2014, then it disappeared. 

Earlier this month, the lander seemingly came back to life and sent a picture of the comet to Rosetta.

Starting on Sept. 24, the orbiter will reportedly begin its descent into the depths of a comet core, where it probably won't be heard from again. 

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<![CDATA[The Great Barrier Reef Is Dying, And Tourists Are Rushing To See It]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 07:47:00 -0500
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The Great Barrier Reef is dying. And tourists from all over the world are rushing to see it while there's still time.

Nearly 70 percent of people who visited the reef in 2015 said they made the trip to Australia to witness its beauty before it's gone.

Almost half of the reef's coral has vanished over the past three decades, thanks to warming ocean temperatures, invasive species and coastal development.

And this year, it suffered the worst coral bleaching in recorded history. One study estimated over 90 percent of the reef has been affected. 

SEE MORE: Ah, Fish Pee. Keeping Our Beloved Coral Reefs Alive

The Australian government thought the reef's dire state would drive tourists away, but it's done the exact opposite. That's great news for the multi-billion-dollar tourism industry — but it could be bad news for the reef itself.

This phenomenon is called last-chance tourism, and it happens all the time at vanishing destinations, like the Maldives and Galapagos Islands.

Researchers fear it could make the reef's plight even worse. 

One of the study's authors wrote in The Conversation, "There's a vicious cycle at play here: tourists travel to see a destination before it disappears, but in so doing they contribute to its demise, either directly through on-site pressures or ... through greenhouse gas emissions."

But a reef scientist told Motherboard the impacts of tourism are actually "overwhelmingly positive."

"The greater the value of Great Barrier Reef tourism, the easier it is to justify government investment in reef management."

It looks like the reef might already be seeing those positive effects. A new video from early September showed at least part of the reef has almost fully recovered from coral bleaching.

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<![CDATA[Illnesses From 9/11 Debris Could Be Deadlier Than The Attacks]]> Sun, 11 Sep 2016 18:18:00 -0500
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Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, but 15 years later, doctors say the aftermath of the destruction could be even more deadly.

Asbestos, lead, noxious gases and other harmful chemicals were left behind in the debris. Those chemicals are now taking their toll on survivors and first responders.

SEE MORE: The US Intel Community Has Added Major Real Estate Since 9/11

"I have stage IV inoperable throat cancer on both lymph nodes," former heavy equipment engineer John Devlin said on The Daily Show back in 2010. 

"And you're suffering from?" Jon Stewart asked the rest of the panel of 9/11 first responders. 

"I got heart disease and lung disease from being down there," former Department of Transportation worker Ken George said.

"Heart, lung, back, brain issues," former NYPD officer Chris Bauman said.

"Cancer," former FDNY firefighter Kenny Specht said.

Christine Todd Whitman, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, recently apologized for claiming the air was safe at Ground Zero, but first responders say it's too late for apologies.

Dr. Jim Melius, who works for the New York State Laborers Union, told the Guardian, "Within the next five years, we will be at the point where more people have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses than died from the immediate impact of the attacks." 

SEE MORE: 9/11 Commission Chairs: More Must Be Done To Combat Extremist Ideology

It took years, but in 2010 Congress passed a $4.3 billion measure to cover the medical costs of people suffering from illnesses caused by exposure to debris on September 11.

As of July 2016, almost 75,000 people were enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program. More than 1,100 members of the program have died since it started in 2011.

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<![CDATA[Which Country Trusts Vaccines More: America Or France?]]> Sun, 11 Sep 2016 17:54:00 -0500
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If you had to guess, which part of the world would you say is most distrustful of vaccines? The Americas? Maybe Southeast Asia? Nope — it's Europe.

A study that surveyed nearly 66,000 people from 67 countries found that Europeans — and especially the French — are very distrustful of vaccines.

SEE MORE: Massive Yellow Fever Outbreak Prompts Emergency Vaccinations In Africa

And while Europeans aren't too keen on vaccine safety, people in poorer countries around the globe are among those who trusted vaccines the most. Southeast Asia, Africa and the Americas ranked the highest in vaccine trust.

In most countries, about 90 percent of the people surveyed agreed that vaccines are important for children. 

There were a few exceptions — only about 80 percent of Russians surveyed agreed childhood vaccinations are important.

Most people surveyed in France didn't doubt the importance of vaccines for children. But safety was a different story — 41 percent said vaccines aren't safe for anyone. That's more than three times the global average. Bosnia, Russia, Mongolia and Greece rounded out the top five countries distrustful of vaccine safety.

In the United States, about 14 percent surveyed said vaccines aren't safe. Fewer than 10 percent questioned the importance for children or doubted the effectiveness of vaccines.

So why is Europe — and especially France — so skeptical of vaccine saftey?

Well, the study's lead author told NPR: "In France, in recent years there have been a series of vaccine controversies that have eroded trust."

For instance, there have been concerns that hepatitis B vaccines could cause multiple sclerosis. But the World Health Organization says there's nothing to worry about.

This isn't the first time doctors and researchers have seen vaccine fears play out like this. Something similar happened after a 1998 study seemed to suggest a connection between vaccines and childhood autism. That study has since been retracted and discredited.

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<![CDATA[An Elephant Tranquilizer Might Be Making The US Heroin Epidemic Worse]]> Sun, 11 Sep 2016 12:54:00 -0500
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An elephant tranquilizer 10,000 times the strength of morphine might be making the U.S. heroin epidemic worse.

The tranquilizer, called carfentanil, is a synthetic version of the human drug fentanyl — an opioid used to treat severe pain

Symptoms of fentanyl include shallow breathing, slowed heart rate and confusion, among others.

SEE MORE: Michigan Heroin Addicts Are Stealing Nail Polish For Drug Money

But carfentanil can be fatal to humans. Just a couple milligrams can knock out large animals like elephants and moose.  

Over the past several months, the drug has been linked to many deadly overdoses in humans. Officials said the drug first appeared in central Ohio in July.

Since Aug. 19, there have been about 300 heroin overdoses in the Cincinnati area — 174 of those happened in a six-day period. 

In some cases, users don't even realize they're taking carfentanil. Dealers are reportedly selling the drug as heroin or lacing heroin with the tranquilizer. The opioid is cheaper and stronger than heroin, so dealers can make their supplies last longer. 

VirginiaIndiana and Kentucky have also seen a spike in overdoses believed to be caused by carfentanil. Canadian officials are also starting to see it come across the border.

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<![CDATA[Here's Every Organism Named After President Obama]]> Sat, 10 Sep 2016 05:34:23 -0500
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President Barack Obama is a parasite. No, not like that. One is just named after him.

While that might not sound like the most flattering thing ever, especially given his history with pests, it's all good. The scientists who named the new flatworm say they went with the name because the parasite is so unique.

Baracktrema obamai is found in Malaysian freshwater turtles. The parasitic flatworm infects their lungs and can be fatal.

In all, scientists have named seven organisms after Obama.

Researchers found a hairworm in Kenya and named it after him. That worm was found near where the president's father lived, hence the namesake.

An extinct and apparently toothy lizard is called Obamadon — or "Obama's teeth" — because of the president's toothy smile.

Or a fungus that looks kind of like a dried leaf. Researchers found it in 2007 near the end of Obama's first presidential campaign and named it after him as a nod to his support of science education.

darter fish, named for the president's leadership in environmental protection.

This bird, scientifically named Nystalus obamai, but generally referred to as a western puffbird.

And finally, a not-at-all-scary-looking trapdoor spider. It has relatives named after celebrities, like Angelina Jolie and Bono.

When it comes to the parasites, these namesakes might just seem like a really clever way to diss the commander in chief, but having an organism carry your name is actually a honor.

And if having seven creatures named after you isn't a compliment, what is?

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<![CDATA[America Could Wait Longer Than Expected For Next Manned Spaceflight]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 16:37:00 -0500
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Astronauts haven't launched to space from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Optimistically, there was only supposed to be a six-year gap before commercial companies could start launching manned flights to the International Space Station in 2017.

But that timeline is looking doubtful. Boeing has pushed back its first manned launch to 2018, citing engineering challenges. SpaceX is going to be delayed — probably for months — while it investigates a recent explosion.

SEE MORE: The Space Engine That Could Defy Physics Is Going Into Orbit

The explosion did major damage to the pad at Space Launch Complex 40, so the company won't be launching from there anytime soon. When Orbital ATK lost a rocket just after launch in October 2014, it took a year to refurbish the pad.

But even before SpaceX's launch troubles, NASA's inspector general found both SpaceX and Boeing are still having trouble meeting the safety requirements of the commercial crew program.

NASA thinks the first commercial crews won't fly until 2018, and has bought more seats aboard Russian rockets until then. The explosion might as well have been an expensive exclamation point.

For what it's worth, SpaceX's progress with its Crew Dragon capsule doesn't appear to have changed yet. An unmanned launch to the ISS is still scheduled for May 2017.

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<![CDATA[Miami Beach Just Completed Its First Aerial Spray For Zika]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 10:09:00 -0500
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On Friday, officials completed the first of several planned aerial sprays over Miami Beach for mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. 

But many are worried the insecticide used in those sprays could have dangerous consequences.

"There are plenty of studies out there that have indicated this could have short-term and long-term impacts on adults, children, pets, animals, other animals, insects, things like that," Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco told WFOR.

Friday's spray of the insecticide Naled was actually supposed to start Thursday. But protesters and growing concerns from local leaders prompted a delay. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about two tablespoons of the insecticide are used per acre.

SEE MORE: The CDC Is Low On Funds To Fight Zika: 'Basically, We're Out Of Money'

Experts have said there's no need to worry about the effects of Naled on humans and the environment. But many people beg to differ.

An aerial Naled spray in a South Carolina town earlier this month killed millions of bees almost immediately.

And some residents who live near the area where Miami officials conducted an aerial spray last month say they felt the effects.

"My tongue for four hours felt so tight and shaky, I was about to go to the emergency room," one woman said during a Miami Beach City Hall meeting.

So far, there have been 56 local cases of the Zika virus in Florida, and the state has seen 596 travel-related cases.

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<![CDATA[It Only Took Us 20 Years To Destroy 10 Percent Of Earth's Wilderness]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 07:39:00 -0500
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Twenty years is just a tiny drop in the bucket when it comes to the human race's existence here on Earth.

But in that short time, we've managed to destroy nearly 10 percent of the world's wilderness.

According to a new study out Thursday, since the 1990s, there have been "catastrophic declines" in wilderness areas that add up to a staggering 1.27 million square miles.

To put things into perspective, that's an area roughly twice the size of Alaska and more than four times the size of Texas.

SEE MORE: Saving Trees Could Also Save The World's Last Tigers

One of the study's authors said in a statement, "Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around."

To get these numbers, researchers mapped wilderness areas around the world and compared the map to a similar one created in the early 1990s.

They found South America was hit the hardest — the continent lost almost 30 percent of its wilderness in two decades.

And Africa experienced a 14 percent loss in that time.

The study's authors say immediate action should be taken to protect all wilderness areas, no matter how small. Or else we might lose even more in the years to come.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Just Realized There's More Than One Kind Of Giraffe]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 22:19:00 -0500
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You probably think you know everything you need to know about giraffes. They have long necks, live in Africa, eat leaves and that's it.

But you probably didn't know there are four different kinds of giraffes. You didn't know that because scientists just found out themselves.

SEE MORE: The Panda Population Is Perking Up, But It Still Has A Long Way To Go

A new study published in the journal Current Biology says the different giraffes should be considered different species because of their genetic diversity and the fact that the species don't interbreed in the wild.

Now, we have the northern giraffe, the southern giraffe, the Masai giraffe and the reticulated giraffe. There are a few differences in the appearance of these giraffes, but they're still pretty similar looking.

That's probably why scientists didn't notice the four different kinds until they examined the massive mammal's DNA.

Study co-author Dr. Axel Janke guessed that no one noticed the differences until now because giraffes just don't get as much attention as other animals, like lions and elephants.

The distinction may seem like splitting hairs, but it could be important for the survival of all four species. The giraffe population has dwindled from 150,000 to 90,000 over the past three decades.

But when you look at the population of each individual species, the numbers become a lot more concerning.

Janke told The New York Times: "These 90,000, split up over four species, makes it immediately clear that the giraffes are threatened. You see immediately there is urgent need for protection."

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<![CDATA[Here's Why Some Of Hawaii's Most Beautiful Songbirds Might Go Extinct]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:23:00 -0500
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Some of Hawaii's most beautiful songbirds are disappearing.

And, according to a new study, climate change might be to blame.

Researchers focused on eight bird species on the island of Kauai.

Six of these belong to a group of colorful birds called honeycreepers, which have lived on the Hawaiian islands for centuries.

And scientists believe those six species could possibly cease to exist in Hawaii within the next 10 years.

Researchers say that's because rising temperatures have increased the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in areas that were previously cool enough to keep them under control.

And since most of the island's forest birds have evolved in a pretty much disease-free environment, they're more susceptible to avian malaria and other dangerous illnesses.

One of the study's authors told The Verge the study taught them two main things about Kauai's birds:

"One, that the ones we already knew were in trouble were in even worse trouble than we thought. ... And two, species that we thought were doing okay were actually now in trouble. So it was a really worrisome finding."

And losing the birds could be a big problem for Kauai's forest ecosystem. The honeycreepers help pollinate plants, keep bug populations under control and spread seeds.

The study's authors say they are trying to protect the remaining honeycreepers by collecting eggs to safely breed them in captivity.

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<![CDATA[Watch Bacteria Become Drug-Resistant Like It's No Big Deal]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:00:00 -0500
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Just in case you need a startling reminder of how quickly bacteria become superbacteria, scientists working at Harvard University and an Israeli university built a giant petri dish that makes it easy to see the problem.

The 8-square-foot dish is coated with different levels of antibiotic, ranging from no drugs at all on the edges, to a dose that should be lethal for E. coli, to a very lethal dose, to a ridiculously lethal dose in the center. 

This time-lapse shows how the E. coli spread to the next level, then different mutations evolve and each strain races to the center. The race lasts about 11 days. 

SEE MORE: Bacteria Found In Skeletons Confirms Source Of London's Great Plague

The lead study author says the MEGA-plate was inspired by a clever bit of viral marketing for the 2011 film "Contagion." A billboard was coated with bacteria, which slowly grew to spell out the name of the film. 

The MEGA-plate isn't just for looks, though. The researchers say it can help them understand evolution and drug resistance. For instance, they learned that the fittest strain doesn't always win out automatically — it has to be in the right place at the right time.

And going from no drug to tons of drugs without the gradual steps in between stopped the bacteria from spreading at all. 

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<![CDATA[Yosemite Just Got 400 Acres Bigger]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 08:08:00 -0500
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Yosemite National Park is expanding; it just added 400 acres of wetlands and meadows.

The Trust for Public Land bought Ackerson Meadow for a reported $2.3 million from private owners earlier this year and then donated the land to the national park.

SEE MORE: The Obamas Are Trying To Make National Parks 'Cool'

The acreage is Yosemite's largest addition since 1949. It lies along the park's western border.

The National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary late last month. To mark the occasion, President Barack Obama stopped by and spoke about the importance of protecting the land.

The meadow is home to many species of plants and animals, and park officials are labeling it as vitally important. One official said, "The purchase supports the long-term health of the meadow and its wild inhabitants."

Park officials say meadows take up only 3 percent of the national park's land but are home to about a third of the park's plant species.

SEE MORE: Do You Vape? Not In U.S. National Parks, You Don't

Yosemite celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. The official says the original plans for Yosemite included Ackerson Meadow and that "it is exciting to finally have this important place protected."

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<![CDATA[Bacteria Found In Skeletons Confirms Source Of London's Great Plague]]> Thu, 08 Sep 2016 07:52:00 -0500
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We've finally gotten confirmation of what caused as many as 100,000 people to die in London centuries ago.

Thanks to DNA testing, for the first time, scientists have found evidence of the bacteria from London's Great Plague.

Museum of London Archaeology researchers working at a mass burial site found the bacteria Yersinia pestis in the teeth of five out of the 20 skeletons sampled.

"Ancient DNA is very vulnerable to contamination and suffers from full preservation. ... The teeth are like sealed capsules that preserve this information better than other parts of the skeleton," said Michael Henderson, senior human osteologist at the Museum of London Archaeology.

SEE MORE: This Flu Season, Shots Are The Only Recommended Option

Yersinia pestis has a looming reputation. Previous testing showed it was the bacteria behind the Black Death, which hit Europe in the 14th century and killed about 40 percent of the region's population. 

Nearly a fourth of London's population died in the plague of 1665. But don't worry, the bacteria would have died just days after the people did, so researchers won't be unleashing any new plagues by digging up the site. 

Other than piecing together history, it's good to know more about diseases like the plague to understand how it spreads, evolves and is similar to today's diseases.

There's more to be done, however. Researchers also plan on doing isotopic analysis, which will help them understand where these individuals came from, what their diets were like and other possible diseases they may have contracted during their lives. 

Other findings also have been discovered at the site, and all findings will be published in a book set to be released next year. 

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<![CDATA[The Space Engine That Could Defy Physics Is Going Into Orbit]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 15:35:00 -0500
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EmDrive is back in the news. Someone finally decided to put the so-called "impossible space engine" to the test in orbit.

This is the engine that doesn't use any propellant but seems to generate small amounts of thrust anyway. Physics says that simply shouldn't work.

SEE MORE: Is A NASA Lab About To Crack Interstellar Travel?

Except researchers have detected thrust in multiple experiments. Some scientists ruled out why it shouldn't work. Others proposed explanations for why it does.

But experts and enthusiasts can and will debate the EmDrive all day. Now, someone has finally decided to just launch it into space and see if it will actually fly.

Cannae, the company that built an early version of the EmDrive, plans to put one on a tiny satellite called a cubesat and use it to stay in orbit for at least six months. This is longer than satellites of this size tend to last — especially those without propellant.

If the satellite can stay in orbit, it means the engine is producing thrust. If it doesn't work, nobody will be surprised. Physics, remember.

Cannae doesn't have a launch date yet, so in the meantime, careful investigations will continue here on Earth. There are rumors more NASA EmDrive research will pass the peer review process, which would be a big step toward scientific credibility.

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<![CDATA[This Flu Season, Shots Are The Only Recommended Option]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 07:37:00 -0500
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The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should avoid the only flu vaccine this year that doesn't require a needle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated FluMist during the summer and found the nasal spray was only 3 percent effective in children 2 years old and up during the last flu season.

SEE MORE: When HPV Vaccine Has Option To Opt Out, Parents More Likely To Opt In

Flu shots aren't 100 percent effective, but the CDC found they protected two-thirds of the children during the same period.

AstraZeneca, the maker of FluMist, tried to appeal to the CDC and cited several international studies that showed its drug was as effective.

But the recommendations the CDC's investigative committee makes usually direct what vaccines are available in the U.S., and NBC reports that clinics have been quick to cancel FluMist orders since the CDC's finding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children older than 6 months get vaccinated each season.

Unfortunately for kids scared of needles, the flu shot is the only recommended option this time around.

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<![CDATA[NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams Is Home After Breaking Spaceflight Record]]> Wed, 07 Sep 2016 07:14:00 -0500
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Five hundred thirty-four days, two hours and 48 minutes.

That's how much time veteran NASA astronaut Jeff Williams has spent in space throughout his career — longer than any other American astronaut in history.

The only other U.S. astronaut to come close is Scott Kelly, who logged a total of 520 days, 10 hours and 30 minutes in space.

"We've enjoyed a great stay up here over the last almost six months. We especially enjoyed our stay with the entire crew of Expedition 48," Williams said during a change of command ceremony.

SEE MORE: NASA Wants To Go To An Asteroid And Bring Part Of It Back

Williams returned to Earth from his latest mission Tuesday night. He and two Russian cosmonauts spent 172 days on the International Space Station.

And they definitely accomplished a lot up there. 

On top of conducting hundreds of experiments and technology demonstrations, Williams and his colleagues also helped with the arrival of several resupply ships, including SpaceX's Dragon capsule.

Williams said the day before his departure that he was going to miss it all, but he's eager to spend some time with his family. This was his fourth spaceflight mission with NASA.

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<![CDATA[There's Still A LOT Of Unexplored Earth Out There]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 16:12:00 -0500
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We know more than we ever have about our planet. But the more we explore, the more we realize there's a lot left to learn.

Earth's ice caps, oceans and other isolated places still have plenty of secrets — at least until we or our robots figure out how to get there. 

SEE MORE: You Don't Need A Fancy Name To See The Effects Humans Have On Earth

There are whole mountain ranges and lakes that have been sealed off from the rest of the world for millions of years in Antarctica. We have to drill or scan through thousands of feet of ice to learn about them. 

And then there are the ecosystems we don't even know about. Utility workers in Romania once found a cave that was cut off from the rest of the world for 5.5 million years. It had evolved a whole ecosystem of unique species that run on chemicals rather than sunlight.

We find some 18,000 new species every year. But scientists estimate we've only categorized about 14 percent of what's out there. 

Only about 2,000 of those new species come from the oceans, but that could be because we haven't gotten around to looking closely yet. By volume, we've explored less than 5 percent of the ocean.

And our maps aren't very detailed. The water is so hard to look through, it's easier to map Mars than it is to get a detailed map of our own seafloor.

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<![CDATA[NASA Wants To Go To An Asteroid And Bring Part Of It Back]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 10:41:00 -0500
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Not to freak you out, but NASA has a whole list of asteroids it thinks could hit our planet.

The good news is the space agency is going to send a craft to one of them, and for the first time ever, carry a sample of the asteroid back to Earth.

SEE MORE: NASA's DNA Sequencer Could Be A 'Game Changer' For Long-Term Missions

The OSIRIS-REx space probe is set for launch Sept. 8. Its mission is to "bring back 60 grams of pristine carbon-rich material from the surface of [asteroid] Bennu."

Now, how scary can this asteroid be? One of the team's leaders said, "Think of it as a small mountain in space ... that makes occasional close approaches to our planet."

It's going to take two years for OSIRIS-REx to travel to Bennu, and when it does, it'll first map the asteroid and identify what kind of chemicals and minerals are on its surface.

Finally in 2020, the craft will briefly touch down to collect the sample of rocks and dust that NASA's looking for.

Then it just has to get near Earth and eject the sample in a canister with parachutes before it will spend its remaining days revolving around the sun.

OK, so it might not be a simple mission, but if all goes according to plan, it'll lay the foundation for future exploration of asteroids, which were actually some of the first parts of our solar system.

Materials in asteroids could be the ingredients that created life, and it's possible an asteroid –– like Bennu –– supplied the water for our oceans.

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<![CDATA[Air Pollution Is Letting Teeny, Tiny, Toxic Particles Into Your Brain]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 10:37:00 -0500
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Air pollution can do a lot of damage to the human body, from the lungs to the skin to the heart.

And, according to a new study, scientists can now add the brain to that list.

Researchers from Lancaster University in the U.K. have found tiny magnetic particles from air pollution lodged inside human brains.

The study's authors analyzed the brain tissue of 37 people between the ages of 3 and 92 who lived in Mexico City and Manchester, England.

And they say they found "abundant" magnetite nanoparticles in the samples, which isn't a good sign.

"It causes the formation of very reactive oxygen species, such as free radicals, that cause cell damage and eventually cell death, the hallmarks of diseases like Alzheimer's disease," Professor Barbara Maher, one of the study's authors, said.

And researchers say the particles they found look very similar to those found in air pollution in urban areas, especially next to busy roadways. 

They are formed by combustion of frictional heating from car engines or brakes.

SEE MORE: New Method Could Catch Alzheimer's 15 Years Before Symptoms Appear

Now, the study doesn't offer any strong evidence that magnetite causes Alzheimer's disease or makes it worse.

But scientists say they're hopeful the study will provide new opportunities for research into possible environmental risk factors for all kinds of different brain diseases.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. 

And Alzheimer's and other types of dementia will cost the country $236 billion in 2016 alone.

You can read more about the study's findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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<![CDATA[It Doesn't Look Like Surviving Cancer Always Leads To A Healthy Life]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 08:42:00 -0500
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Surviving cancer may do little to change people's lifestyles. A newly published study found cancer survivors show similarly risky behavior compared to those who've never had the disease.

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma compared more than 45,000 cancer survivors against over 400,000 participants who had no cancer history.

SEE MORE: Hormone Replacement Therapy Might Nearly Triple Risk Of Breast Cancer

Skin cancer was the only form of the disease excluded from the study.

In terms of weight and diet, roughly two-thirds of both survivors and those in the control group were overweight or obese. Around 80 percent of both groups didn't get the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

Smoking rates among male cancer survivors were lower, but women who'd survived the disease were more likely to smoke compared to women who had no cancer history.

Male cancer survivors were less likely to drink heavily compared to their gender's control group, but cancer had little effect on how much women drank.

And physical inactivity was significantly higher for cancer survivors, regardless of gender.

All the lifestyle choices we mentioned are among the American Cancer Society's recommendations for cancer survivors.

An estimated 14.5 million cancer survivors are in the U.S., and that number is expected to increase.

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<![CDATA[After Months Of Silence, Scientists Finally Find The Philae Lander]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 18:17:00 -0500
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After 13 months of silence, researchers have spotted the little lander that could. 

The camera on the Rosetta spacecraft spotted exactly where the Philae lander is on comet 67P. 

SEE MORE: NASA Finally Found A Spacecraft It Lost Almost 2 Years Ago

Philae landed on the comet Nov. 12, 2014, but he didn't end up exactly where he was supposed to be. Instead of landing in the sunlight, he landed in one of the comet's shadows, preventing his battery from recharging. 

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission manager said, "We were beginning to think that Philae would remain lost forever. It is incredible we have captured this at the final hour."

The entire Rosetta mission is about over. The spacecraft is scheduled to descend toward the surface of the comet on September 30, gathering a few more high-resolution images and some close-up data before ending it's 12-year mission.

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<![CDATA[In Light Of The Oklahoma Earthquake, Here's What Fracking Is and Isn't]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 15:05:00 -0500
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Days after an earthquake rattled Oklahoma and several bordering states, officials closed a number of wastewater wells. To many, that meant fracking was to blame for the natural disaster. 

But is fracking really the culprit? According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it's the wastewater wells themselves — not fracking — that can lead to big quakes.

SEE MORE: Earthquakes Like The One In Oklahoma Could Be Humans' Fault

"Fracking" is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing. It's a process used to access oil and natural gas reserves in certain types of rock.

Frackers drill thousands of feet into rock formations and insert a tube into the wells. Then high-pressure fluid, often water mixed with chemicals and sand or beads, is pumped into the holes. 

The water and additives are pumped at such a high speed, eventually the rock gives out and fractures, hence the term "fracking."

At this point, the natural gas and oil that fracking is targeting will flow toward the surface and be collected.

But fracking is not a big red button that sets off an earthquake. At least, it's not the only big red button. 

The Office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment says the disposal of the wastewater is actually the bigger problem. Largely because even more water is used in the disposal than during the actual process.

This disposal raises the level of pressure and makes the rock formations along fault lines less stable, which increases the chance of a human-induced earthquake.

Though it is important to note wastewater injection doesn't happen only during fracking. It happens at all drilling sites. 

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<![CDATA[Add Eastern Gorillas To The List Of Critically Endangered Species]]> Mon, 05 Sep 2016 09:42:00 -0500
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Eastern gorillas are in trouble. Both subgroups of the apes have been moved to the critically endangered list.

The animals, which are the largest species of apes in the world, were added to the "red list" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on Sunday.

The population of Grauer's gorillas, formerly known as eastern lowland gorillas, has decreased by about 77 percent in just over two decades.

The IUCN reports in 1994 there were 16,900 Grauer's gorillas. Last year there were only 3,800.

And there are only about 880 mountain gorillas, the Grauer's relative.

SEE MORE: The Panda Population Is Perking Up, But It Still Has A Long Way To Go

But the dramatic decline in population isn't unique to this species of gorilla. Despite the fact that hunting and capturing the animals is illegal, all gorillas in Africa are on some type of endangered list.

Other animal populations on the continent are hurting, too. A study released last week showed poaching has caused the population of African forest elephants to decline 65 percent between 2002 and 2013.

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<![CDATA[The Panda Population Is Perking Up, But It Still Has A Long Way To Go]]> Sun, 04 Sep 2016 21:17:00 -0500
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Wildlife activists have long been concerned about the state of the giant panda's population. Now, it appears the panda is making a comeback.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature upgraded the black-and-white bear's status to vulnerable after it had been listed as endangered for more than 25 years.

SEE MORE: A Majority Of The World's Largest Animals Could Be Extinct By 2100

The World Wildlife Fund credited the Chinese government for creating panda reserves and limiting local impact on panda habitats.

While this is certainly good news for pandas, the population is far from thriving. The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are around 1,900 pandas left in the wild and just over 2,000 in total.

But human conservation is starting to help. On Saturday, a panda panda panda had twins in Atlanta. No word if Desiigner was there to witness it. 

Not everyone in the animal kingdom is celebrating, though. The IUCN downgraded two of the six great ape species from endangered to critically endangered.

It's important to remember that for every conservation success, there are lots of failures. It's almost impossible to account for every single plant and animal on the planet, but the World Wildlife Fund estimates anywhere between 200 and 100,000 species go extinct every year.

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<![CDATA[Governor Declares State Of Emergency After Oklahoma Earthquake]]> Sun, 04 Sep 2016 16:32:00 -0500
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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency as a result of the 5.6 magnitude earthquake that hit the state Saturday morning.

So far, the damage appears to be pretty minor. There was only one reported injury, and at least 14 buildings were damaged. But things could have been a lot worse.

SEE MORE: Earthquakes Like The One In Oklahoma Could Be Humans' Fault

Gov. Fallin said the emergency declaration "will start the process to helping individuals, families and businesses impacted by the earthquakes and serves as a precursor to requesting any necessary assistance.”

The earthquake's epicenter was near Pawnee, Oklahoma, but the effects were felt as far away as Chicago and San Antonio. Residents of states including North Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri also felt the effects.

Earthquakes in that area of the U.S. have become alarmingly common as of late, and scientists think humans are to blame for the uptick in seismic activity.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Geological Survey made a map of places where oil drilling practices such as fracking and wastewater disposal can cause or at least contribute to man-made earthquakes.

After the earthquake hit, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered each wastewater disposal well within a 500-mile radius to shut down. But that only affects 37 of the roughly 4,200 wells that operate in Oklahoma.

From 1973 to 2008, the central and eastern parts of the country averaged 21 earthquakes per year with a magnitude of at least 3. In 2014, there were 659 earthquakes of that magnitude or higher.

The state of emergency covers Pawnee County and is scheduled to last for 30 days.

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<![CDATA[Concussions Are Still A Medical Mystery]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 16:14:00 -0500
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We know about the concussion problem. In sports and in combat, we know taking a hit to the head isn't healthy. But there's still a lot we don't know about concussions themselves.

A concussion occurs when the brain impacts the skull or gets shaken around. They lead to headaches, confusion and dizziness, but concussions are sometimes called "the invisible injury" because patients don't necessarily look hurt.

SEE MORE: So, Is The NFL Actually Going To Take Concussions Seriously Now?

We don't know exactly how often they happen. Estimates range from "more than 1 million" to as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions a year. From 2001 to 2011, 1 in 13 Veterans Affairs patients — nearly 60,000 vets — sought care for conditions associated with concussions.

We do know concussions increase the risk of more concussions and of more serious diseases.

We know about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It's a neurological disease that shows up in people who sustain multiple hits to the head.

Some of CTE symptoms are like the concussions that lead to it — loss of attention, headaches and disorientation. But it also leads to impeded judgment, memory loss and dementia.

We know it takes time to set in, but we don't know exactly how many hits it takes to increase the risk of CTE. We still don't understand the effects it has on brain tissue. Researchers didn't even know how to spot CTE until a couple years ago — and they can't go looking for it except during an autopsy.

SEE MORE: Children May Be Getting More Concussions Than We Realized, Study Says

The best way to treat CTE and concussions is prevention: Stop them before they happen. But researchers are also working on how to spot the damage in living patients using MRIdrugs that aid cognitive recovery from concussions and ways to detect concussion on the field.

And, yes — we know helmet design plays a part in concussion risk. National groups have poured time and money into improving head protection for everyone who needs it.

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<![CDATA[Photos Of Jupiter's North Pole Give A Glimpse Of What's To Come]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 14:38:00 -0500
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NASA just got the first photos of Jupiter's north pole ever, but that's just the beginning of what the spacecraft missions are going to catch.

The Juno spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral in August 2011 and arrived at Jupiter last month. And NASA scientists say what Juno caught on camera is unlike anything they've ever seen.

NASA's goal with Juno is to track the evolution of Jupiter. Researchers want to see how the planet was formed and how it's changed over the years.

Jupiter's north pole isn't at all like what we have here on Earth. First, it's blue. It also has a shape vastly different from other gas giants in the solar system. Saturn, for example, has a hexagon of clouds at its north pole.

Juno wasn't just snapping pictures. It was also collecting scientific data, like information on magnetic fields and the planet's southern auroras, the latter of which are impossible to see from Earth.

Juno is scheduled to make about three dozen flybys before the end of its mission in October 2017, so time will tell what other phenomena the spacecraft will catch until then.

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<![CDATA[Earthquakes Like The One In Oklahoma Could Be Humans' Fault]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 11:09:00 -0500
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A preliminary 5.6 magnitude earthquake rattled Oklahoma and several other states on Saturday morning.

The center was believed to be northwest of Pawnee, Oklahoma, about 55 miles from Tulsa. People as far north as Fargo, North Dakota, and as far south as San Antonio, Texas, said they felt it.

SEE MORE: Devastating Earthquake Brings Up Legal Questions In Italy

In March, the U.S. Geological Survey released a map showing its forecast of damage from earthquakes. It was the first time the maps included human-induced earthquakes — from processes like fracking and wastewater disposal — instead of just naturally occurring ones. The three states with the potential highest hazards were Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas — three of the states most widely affected by Saturday's quake.

According to the USGS, the number of earthquakes per year with a magnitude of 3 or higher in the central and eastern parts of the country have more than quadrupled in recent years. It reports the central and eastern U.S. saw an average rate of 21 earthquakes per year with a magnitude of 3 or higher between 1973 and 2008. That number jumped to 99 per year between 2009 and 2013. In 2014 alone? There were 659.

Immediately after Saturday's quake, people on Twitter were blaming fracking.

SEE MORE: The EPA's Fracking Study Missed A Big Problem: Earthquakes

The U.S. has seen a significant increase in the number of fracking wells over the past 15 years or so.

But even according to USGS, fracking causes small earthquakes that are "almost always too small to be a safety concern." And it says fracking isn't the main cause of human-induced earthquakes in the central part of the country. Instead, it says wastewater disposal from fracking and other drilling operations are to blame. But it's quick to point out that a number of factors go into the earthquakes that are caused by wastewater disposal.

Even so, Oklahoma has experienced a lot more earthquakes over the past few years. According to the state, there were 109 magnitude 3 or greater earthquakes in 2013. In 2015, 907 were reported.

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<![CDATA[There's A Lot Of Work Left To Ratify The Paris Climate Agreement]]> Sat, 03 Sep 2016 10:42:00 -0500
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The world's two biggest carbon emitters — the United States and China — just ratified the Paris climate agreement at the G20 summit. But there's still a lot to be done.

The United States and China together account for about 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

"This is not a fight that any one country, no matter how powerful, can take alone. ... Some day we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet," President Barack Obama told reporters.

But if the Paris agreement is going to come into effect, a lot more countries need to ratify it — like 55 in total. That's when the agreement becomes internationally binding. Currently, only 26 have.

In fact, only two of the top 10 carbon producers have ratified the climate deal — the U.S. and China. Together those other eight countries produce almost as many metric tonnes of carbon dioxide as China alone.

Other countries have ratified the agreement, but after the United States, North Korea is the next largest emissions producer to have done so.

There's hope that this move might jump-start the ratification process in countries like Brazil. But other countries don't seem to be in a hurry to ratify.

There's some good news. Earlier this year, India and the U.S. pledged to ratify the Paris agreement in 2016. India is the third-largest producer of carbon emissions. President Barack Obama is expected to meet with India's prime minister during the G20 summit.

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<![CDATA[FDA Thinks Antibacterial Soap Is Kind Of Sketchy]]> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 20:03:00 -0500
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is officially not a fan of antibacterial soap — specifically 19 active ingredients used in antiseptic washes. 

The FDA says manufacturers haven't proven the ingredients are safe for long-term daily use or more effective than just plain old soap and water.

SEE MORE: Down The Drain? Bar Soap Sales (And Use) Have Decreased

The FDA previously asked for data from manufacturers to support claims the ingredients, most notably triclosan and triclocarban, were safe and effective. The agency has now concluded those claims equate to misbranding.

Some studies have suggested that triclosan can disrupt hormones in animals, but its effects on humans are still unclear.

The American Cleaning Institute  defended the safety and efficacy of antibacterial soaps, saying manufacturers will keep working to provide more data on antibacterial ingredients.  

Manufacturers have a year to remove the ingredients from their products, but the FDA's ruling doesn't affect hand sanitizers or "antibacterial products used in health care settings."

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<![CDATA[You Don't Need A Fancy Name To See The Effects Humans Have On Earth]]> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 16:05:00 -0500
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Life has existed on earth for at least 3.5 billion years. Humans have only been around for about 200,000 of them. And the past 60 or so have been so significant that some experts say it's already time to officially record the impact of humans in the geological record.

Today, mankind influences more than 83 percent of the Earth's surface in some way or another. Our movements, agriculture, industry — and our nuclear testing especially — have left permanent marks on the fossil record. 

Scientists call the human epoch — or want to call it — the Anthropocene. It could have started as early as 1800 and was definitely underway by the 1950s. But geologists say these markers aren't significant enough to warrant a new era. There just isn't enough impact in the fossil record yet — despite everything we've done to the planet.

SEE MORE: Discovery Of Earth's Oldest Fossils Has Implications For Mars

Since the 1950s, human activity has pushed Earth's natural systems so far there's concern the planet won't be able to accommodate human civilization as we know it in the future.

Scientists agree: Humans are driving potentially serious climate change. Global temperatures have climbed. Oceans have warmed and grown more acidic.

Human influence is thought to be driving declines in biodiversity. Extinction rates could be some 1,000 times faster than they were before humans showed up. Some models suggest we've already lost as much as 7 percent of known species.

And as the climate shifts, animals and plants could find it even harder to adapt. Extinctions could grow more common.

SEE MORE: Pope Francis Puts Care For The Planet On Par With Care For The Poor

Plus, while we've created new species thanks to domestication and our movements around the globe, those species don't have the same genetic diversity as ones that have just now died out after millions of years. 

In any case, impact on these animals will eventually make its way into the geological record. Whether it gets its own name or not, some of the first fossil evidence of overall human influence on the planet will be the bones of the domesticated chicken.

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<![CDATA[This Plastic Wrap-Inspired Fabric Could Make Some Pretty Cool Clothes]]> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 09:57:00 -0500
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Scientists have developed a new fabric that could make the coolest clothes ever. Literally.

Check out this high-tech cooling material that scientists at Stanford University came up with.

It's a nanoporous, plastic wrap-inspired textile that makes the wearer feel about 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than if they were wearing cotton.

SEE MORE: The Clothes You're Wearing Could Be Made Out Of Plastic Bottles

The fabric does this two different ways. First, it lets sweat evaporate through it, like most ordinary materials do. But this new textile also dispels heat from infrared radiation, which is pretty darn revolutionary.

The human body naturally emits infrared radiation — that's the stuff that makes us show up on heat maps.

Fabrics like cotton and linen trap the radiation and keep us hot.

But there's at least one material that lets that heat out — polyethylene. You know, plastic wrap.

But alas, no one wants to walk around wearing Cling Wrap when it's hot outside. And that's where Stanford's new textile comes in handy.

Scientists hope the material will one day be used in tents, vehicles and even buildings.

And with temperatures continuing to reach record highs around the world, we can't get that fabric in our closets fast enough.

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<![CDATA[Pope Francis Puts Care For The Planet On Par With Care For The Poor]]> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 07:42:00 -0500
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Pope Francis wants to save the planet — and he wants Catholics to help.

In a message marking the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, he proposed adding the care of the planet to the list of Christian works of mercy.

You may have heard of the traditional works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and others.

But the pope said in his message that the world has new forms of poverty, and new forms of mercy are needed to address them.

SEE MORE: The Latest Attempt To Save The World? Edible Food Packaging

"When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings. At the same time, each creature has its own intrinsic value that must be respected," he said.

Church officials say the proposal was "the next logical step" for the pope's push for a green church.

Last year, Pope Francis issued a scathing encyclical on the issue that connected the mistreatment of the environment to mistreatment of the poor.

Experts believe his call to link care for the Earth and care for the poor might actually work.

A religious studies professor at Catholic University of America told The Washington Post, "Where he's really, I think, pushing us forward in Catholic social teaching is trying to get us to see that this is one problem. It's not two, separate and unrelated."

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to ask for forgiveness for their sins against the planet and then make changes to their daily lives to help the environment, like turning off lights and carpooling.

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<![CDATA[Facebook's Internet Plans Blow Up With A SpaceX Rocket]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 20:51:00 -0500
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blew up on the launchpad during a test run, taking its $200 million payload with it. That's bad news for SpaceX, and it's also not great for Facebook.

SEE MORE: Where Does The Internet Come From?

The rocket was supposed to carry Spacecom's AMOS-6 communications satellite. Facebook was supposed to pay Spacecom $95 million to lease several frequencies covering Europe and Africa. That deal is now up in smoke.

The sunk deal sets back part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative, which is aimed at bringing Internet access to developing regions. The program is meant to swell and support the company's global userbase.

Now Facebook is going to miss out on extending its reach in sub-Saharan Africa, at least for now. Bloomberg notes the company's registered 84 million users in the region, but it has trouble with spotty infrastructure.

SEE MORE: Facebook Is Mapping Every Building To Bring The Internet To Everyone

Internet.org isn't just about satellites, though. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out the company still has its internet drones.

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<![CDATA[Millions Of Bees Died From A Pesticide That Slows The Spread Of Zika]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 13:53:00 -0500
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"It was like visiting a cemetery," said a resident of Summerville, South Carolina. "Pure sadness."

That's how one woman described seeing millions of dead honey bees in Dorchester County, South Carolina.

And an aerial spray of a pesticide used to control mosquito populations is to blame.

"I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that we spray poison from the sky," bee owner Andrew Macke told WCBD.

Beekeepers in the area say their colonies dropped dead almost immediately after the spray was released Sunday.

A bee farm in one town lost about 2.5 million bees on the spot. And its co-owner says she's devastated.

"All of my equipment is contaminated, my honey is contaminated, my cone is contaminated. I'm totally shut down here," Juanita Stanley told WCSC.

SEE MORE: Honeybee Head-Butts Say More Than We Thought

The pesticide the county used is called Naled. Officials sprayed to kill mosquitoes that carry viruses like Zika and West Nile.

Naled has been registered for use in the U.S. since 1959 and is primarily used to control adult mosquitoes.

But it is toxic to other insects, birds, fish and even humans. It's classified as a severe skin and eye irritant and is harmful when ingested or inhaled.

Officials told WCIV this was the first time they have sprayed the pesticide from the air. The county normally sprays from the road.

They say they gave residents plenty of warning with a newspaper announcement on Aug. 26 and a Facebook post on Aug. 27.

The county administrator did apologize for the incident, telling The Charleston Post and Courier, "I am not pleased that so many bees were killed."

But residents are looking for more than an apology.

A bee activist group called started a petition and a hashtag to end Naled spraying in the county.

There are many chemical-free alternatives to pesticides that can help repel mosquitoes. To learn more about these methods and other information on pesticides, visit NoSpray.org.

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<![CDATA[Discovery Of Earth's Oldest Fossils Has Implications For Mars]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 13:15:00 -0500
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It's an ancient 3.7 billion years. That's how old recently discovered fossils in Greenland are believed to be, making them the oldest ever found.

Life that far back consisted of single-cell bacteria. The fossils aren't the remains of these kinds of bacteria but are more evidence of their life in shallow water as they formed colonies.

Up until this discovery, Earth's oldest fossils were 3.5 billion years old.

Genetic evidence argues life on Earth started 4 billion years ago, so these new fossils are getting scientists closer to verifying with their own eyes when life began.

But because plate tectonics on our planet recycle rocks, it's becoming harder and harder to find fossils as old as the ones just discovered.

Mars used to have a warmer and wetter environment, similar to the conditions these bacteria are believed to have lived in on Earth.

Luckily for those researching Mars, the red planet's plate tectonics aren't as active, so finding fossils there with these kinds of bacteria could be a lot easier.

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<![CDATA[Just Like Pluto, Ceres Is A Bit Busier Than We Thought]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 13:00:00 -0500
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Not all asteroids are chunks of dead rock, especially not the solar system's largest one. A new batch of research on data from the Dawn probe shows there's a lot going on down on Ceres.

The dwarf planet hosts a relatively new cryovolcano, which spews molten chemicals like water or methane instead of lava. The one on Ceres is one of the best examples in our neck of space.

Scientists think it might be driven by some reaction with chlorine in the interior. Ceres doesn't have tectonic plates causing volcanic activity like Earth does.

SEE MORE: If We Ever Do Find Alien Life, Here's How It Might Happen

But Ceres' geology is much more active than scientists once thought, and a lot of it seems to be thanks to these ice volcanoes. They could have helped smooth out many of the old craters on the surface.

Those bright spots Dawn saw in craters? Scientists thought they might have been salts but are now pretty sure they're water ice that got exposed recently thanks to a landslide or impact. And if that's the case, they won't last long. The sun evaporates any ice on the surface within a couple of decades.

Dawn also has detected charged particles of the solar wind interacting with Ceres. Researchers say this is more good evidence for the atmosphere they first detected on Ceres in 2014 or could even point to a weak magnetic field.

If all this sounds familiar, it's a lot like what was recently discovered about Pluto. Turns out, the dwarf planets are more interesting than scientists once gave them credit for.

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<![CDATA[SpaceX's Launch Prep Went Up In Smoke]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 12:05:00 -0500
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This massive amount of smoke is coming from NASA's Kennedy Space Center launch pad.

That's the launch pad where an unmanned SpaceX rocket was set to take off. The company claims the explosion was caused by an "anomaly." It was reportedly felt miles away.

SEE MORE: SpaceX's Dream Of Reusable Rockets Is Becoming A Reality

statement from SpaceX said there weren't any injuries and the pad was clear at the time of the blasts.

"Really a devastating explosion. There's extensive damage to the launch pad and of course the rocket itself," CBS senior space consultant Bill Harwood said.

The local emergency management office tweeted there wasn't a threat to the public.

The explosion happened during a static test fire. That's when the rocket doesn't move when the engine is turned on. The test was in preparation for a launch Saturday.

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<![CDATA[You Know What's Better Than One Puppy? Identical Twin Puppies]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 10:23:00 -0500
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This one's for the dog-lovers. An Irish wolfhound has given birth to the first documented set of identical twin puppies.

Kurt de Cramer, a vet in South Africa, delivered the babies via cesarean section. He noticed a bump in the mother's abdomen, but didn't think much of it.

According to the BBC, de Cramer reportedly performs around 900 c-sections on dogs every year.

SEE MORE: Dogs Understand Language A LOT More Than We Give Them Credit For

De Cramer found two living puppies in the same placenta — a first in his 26 years of veterinary practice.

The little ones had two separate umbilical cords, and a reproductive specialist told BBC the puppies had "small differences in the white markings on their paws, chests and the tips of their tails."

But vets weren't sure the puppies were actually identical at first — it's not uncommon for puppies in the same litter to have similarities. Blood work later confirmed what de Cramer had thought. The puppies were identical twins.

This might not be the first set of identical twin puppies ever, but it is the first documented case.

But it's difficult to say whether healthy identical twins in dogs are rare. The only reason this pair is known as identical is because they were born via C-section.

A lot of dogs give birth naturally and then eat the placenta of their young. According to the reproductive specialist on the case, this means many owners and vets are "blissfully unaware" if any identical twins are in a dog's litter.

The Irish wolfhound puppies reportedly have five other siblings. All are healthy and doing well.

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<![CDATA[The Future Is Pretty Grim For LA's Mountain Lions]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 08:24:00 -0500
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The mountain lion population around Los Angeles could become extinct in the next 50 years.

UCLA published a study on Wednesday that found urban development — particularly highways — on the coast of California has suppressed the reproduction of mountain lions.

One stretch of highway is isolating a small group of the cats in the Santa Monica Mountains, away from the rest of their species. It's causing "inbreeding depression."

SEE MORE: A Majority Of The World's Largest Animals Could Be Extinct By 2100

Inbreeding depression happens when small populations of a species lose diversity over time. And if this continues, experts say there's a 99.7 percent chance LA mountain lions will go extinct in the next 50 years.

But displaced mountain lions could cause a more immediate risk for people. Urbanization has forced the animals in some parts of the city to wander a little too close for comfort.

Last year, a mountain lion known to wildlife officials was found living under a person's home.

And in April, a mountain lion caused a lockdown at a California high school.

Solutions are in the works. Last year, city officials proposed a multimillion-dollar overpass for wildlife to help the cats avoid being hit by cars. That project is currently in development.

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<![CDATA[Turns Out, Adults Are Pretty Chill When It Comes To Smoking Pot]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 08:04:00 -0500
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Gone are the days when marijuana was widely condemned as an evil, dangerous drug.

Pot use among American adults is actually on the rise.

And, according to a new study, that could be because people see the drug as less harmful than they did in the past.

SEE MORE: The DEA Still Isn't Easing Up On Medical Marijuana Restrictions

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 600,000 adults who participated in an annual government survey about drug use and health from 2002 to 2014.

They found 13 percent of adults surveyed in 2014 said they had used marijuana in the past year.

That's up from roughly 10 percent in 2002.

And the percentage of people who reported daily or near-daily marijuana use jumped from nearly 2 percent to 3.5 percent during that time period.

SEE MORE: Colorado Teens Aren't Using Marijuana As Much As You'd Think

The growing number of pot users coincided with a decrease in the number of people who perceived a "great risk of harm" from smoking marijuana once or twice a week.

Half of the participants expressed that concern back in 2002, but only 33 percent felt the same way in 2014.

One of the study's authors told HealthDay, "This increase has corresponded with the legal and social acceptance of marijuana, and so it is not such a surprise."

And let's not forget that over the past 20 years, medical marijuana has been legalized in 25 states and the District of Columbia, and recreational use is legal in four of those states and D.C.

The study's authors say it's too soon to tell if these trends will continue. 

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<![CDATA[Alligator Season In Florida Just Got Gruesome]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2016 14:40:00 -0500
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It's alligator hunting season in Florida, but it appears some people might be taking the hunting to an extreme.

Newsy's partners at WPTV report residents in Loxahatchee Groves recently discovered three alligators that had been beheaded.

"It's reprehensible. I don't understand how people could do this," Amy Best told WPTV.

The bodies of the alligators were discovered floating in a canal near resident Amy Best's home; the third was found stuffed in a nearby container of some kind.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is now investigating the discovery, but there's not a whole lot to go on.

It's perfectly legal for Florida residents to kill alligators this time of year if they have a hunting permit. But hunters are limited to killing only two alligators a year.

They are also required to tag the alligator's tail and dispose of the body, but WPTV's Alyssa Hyman reports she didn't spot any tags on the three discovered in Loxahatchee Groves.

Finally, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires hunters to report all alligator harvests.

Best says she doesn't think a hunter is behind the beheadings.

"They wasted the skin, which is the most valuable part, and then the meat," Best said.

Currently, Fish and Wildlife officials don't know if anything criminal took place in regards to the alligator beheadings. Florida's alligator hunting season officially ends Nov. 1.

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<![CDATA[NASA's DNA Sequencer Could Be A 'Game Changer' For Long-Term Missions]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2016 14:18:00 -0500
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A NASA scientist has sequenced DNA in space for the first time ever. 

NASA called it a "game changer," saying it will help astronauts diagnose illnesses and identify microbes growing on the International Space Station. 

Astronauts accidentally bring all kinds of microbes with them when they travel to space. As a result, strange fungi have been found growing on the walls of the ISS, and similar situations were reported at the Russian space station Mir. 

SEE MORE: NASA Rearranging Space Station To Make Way For Crew Missions

Over the weekend, astronaut Kate Rubins used a sequencer called a MinION to conduct tests on DNA samples that were prepared on Earth.

The next step is preparing those samples in space, where the lack of gravity makes it difficult to remove air bubbles trapped in the samples. 

But preparing the samples in space could be a big help during a potential journey to Mars or other long-distance missions. 

Scientists says sequencing the DNA could help keep astronauts safe by determining whether the microbes they're exposed to are harmful. That could also prevent wasting resources — like antibiotics and disinfectant — when they aren't needed. 

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<![CDATA[The CDC Is Low On Funds To Fight Zika: 'Basically, We're Out Of Money']]> Wed, 31 Aug 2016 09:48:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is low on funds to fight the Zika virus.

And the agency is counting on Congress to replenish those funds — and fast.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters Tuesday, "Basically, we are out of money, and we need Congress to act. The cupboard is bare."

Frieden says as of Aug. 26, the CDC had spent $194 million of the $222 million it set aside to battle Zika.

The Hill says about half of that money went to state and local health agencies and that the remaining cash was divided among several areas, including diagnostic tests, public outreach and staffing to help deal with outbreaks in Florida and Puerto Rico.

SEE MORE: The FDA Is Now Recommending Zika Screening For All US Blood Donations

Back in February, President Barack Obama asked Congress for nearly $2 billion in emergency funds to fight the virus. But Congress refused.

And now that the virus is actively spreading in Florida, the need for more funding is more urgent.

In fact, just hours after Frieden's plea to Congress, Florida officials confirmed three new nontravel-related Zika cases in Miami-Dade County.

One case is part of an outbreak in Miami Beach, and officials are trying to determine the origin of the others.

Congress will return from a seven-week summer break in early September, and Obama has urged members to make Zika funding its first priority.

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