Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[How California Oil Spill Could Hurt 'Galapagos Of The North']]> Sun, 24 May 2015 13:45:00 -0500
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California's Channel Islands are often called the "Galapagos of the North" because of their biological diversity. (Video via U.S. National Park Service)

They harbor close to 150 species of plants and animals that can't be found anywhere else, including the island fox. (Video via The Earth Minute)

The islands are also in the area affected by last week's oil spill, which dumped more than 100,000 gallons of oil into the Santa Barbara Channel. (Video via KERO)

While the islands are some 50 miles from the site of the spill, and land-dwelling species probably won't be affected, it's hard to gauge the impact on marine life. 

That's because the oil won't harm a lot of its victims directly — instead, experts say oil does the worst of its damage killing off plants and tiny animals at the bottom of the food chain, disrupting the ecosystem. (Video via Al Jazeera)

Dolphins and whales are common sights along the islands, and they both feed on krill, tiny crustaceans that are more vulnerable to the oil. (Video via YouTube /  richyacco)

The 1969 oil spill that pumped some 3 million gallons into the channel was blamed for the deaths of some 3,500 sea birds alone.

If there's good news, it's that this latest spill is a tiny fraction of that one: The pipeline was pumping well below capacity at the time of the spill. Investigators have yet to determine the exact cause of the leak. (Video via CNN)

This video includes an image from the U.S. Geological Survey

<![CDATA[Plankton Are More Valuable Than We Thought]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 13:50:00 -0500
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Thanks to a certain underwater cartoon, plankton don't have the best reputation.

But a 3.5-year worldwide study of the microscopic ocean organisms shows just how valuable the little critters are. 

The project, carried out by an international research team, traveled about 87,000 miles around the globe. The crew weathered storms and even got locked in Arctic ice for 10 days. 

Researchers collected plankton from more than 210 sites in every major oceanic region, using their samples to study plankton behavior, genetics and interactions in their ecosystem.

Plankton are the base of the marine food chain, but researchers said these complex organisms are greatly underappreciated:

"Without the phytoplankton, no oxygen. So for example, all the keys of doors are made of plankton. All the oil we burn is made of plankton. So those things are essential for the way Earth works, in general."

The study was the largest DNA sequencing effort ever done in ocean science and identified around 40 million plankton genes, most of which were previously unknown

An accompanying article, published in the journal Science, said the study "has generated a treasure trove of data available to anyone willing to dive in." We're hoping the diving pun is intended. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Broke for Free / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Philip Morris Sues Over 'Plain Packaging' Cigarette Rules]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 13:09:00 -0500
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Philip Morris International, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is fighting a new ruling in the U.K. that requires all cigarettes be sold in plain packaging.

U.K. Parliament enacted the rule in March. It will require all cigarettes sold in the country be packed in plain boxes by 2016. PMI has sued, contending the rules would "unlawfully deprive" it of its trademarks. (Video via U.K. Parliament)

PMI says its branding — those red ribbons, for example — is too important a part of the market economy to just legislate away.

PMI's general counsel wrote, "We respect the government's authority to regulate in the public interest, but wiping out trademarks simply goes too far."

The U.K. Department of Health points out smoking causes some 80,000 deaths a year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the country. In other words, the government is ready to fight this one. (Video via BBC)

A spokesman told the BBC, "We will not allow public health policy to be held to ransom by the tobacco industry."

The legal challenge is the latest front in a worldwide shift toward hard truths in tobacco marketing. (Video via Tobacco Free New York State)

The new packaging will not only eliminate brand marks but also carry graphic warnings of the damage smoking can cause to the body.

Australia's already using the new packaging and saw a 78 percent increase in calls to smoking hotlines. The World Health Organization says there aren't any other apparent factors that would cause that number to jump.

U.S. regulators had plans to require similar graphic warnings until 2012, when the tobacco industry got the rules overturned in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

And cigarette makers are still pushing back: In April, a group of companies filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over rules that require them to submit any changes they make to their brand packaging for approval.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Are A Few Cups Of Coffee Just As Good As Viagra?]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 13:08:00 -0500
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Sometimes science brings us good news. Case in point: A study from the University of Texas-Houston suggests that a strong cup of coffee can have a positive effect on men's sexual potency. 

The study, which was published in April, linked higher caffeine intake in American males with a reduced risk in erectile dysfunction. Men who consumed between 85 and 170 milligrams of caffeine per day were 42 percent less likely to report ED. 

Participants in the study consumed caffeine in various ways, including energy drinks and soda, but coffee seems to be making all the headlines, perhaps because of its higher concentration of caffeine.

The optimal amount of caffeine, according to the study, translates to two to three cups of coffee per day. Men who consumed more than 170 milligrams reported higher levels of ED. 

The research falls in line with established scholarship on sexual health. Improved blood flow helps potency, and caffeine relaxes arteries in soft muscle tissue, which is found in — well, you know. 

An exception was found in men with diabetes, who saw no change in their odds with caffeine intake. Researchers weren't surprised, as diabetes is the biggest risk factor for ED

While the study couldn't establish definitive causality between the two, the results are pretty clear: If you drink coffee in the morning, you might want to consider adding another cup at night. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and music by Brenticus / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Bird Flu Is Making Your Breakfast Expensive]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 11:40:00 -0500
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Have you noticed something changing at the grocery store? 

ABC reports egg prices could rise 75 percent due to the worst bird flu outbreak in U.S. history. We already don't like the sound of this.

According to The Wall Street Journal, almost 40 million birds have been killed as a result of the outbreak –– more than double the toll of the last major outbreak during the 1980s. The current losses represent roughly 10 percent of the country's egg-laying flock. 

And the issue has also affected products that use eggs as an ingredient. 

A market reporter told CNN the wholesale price of eggs sold in liquid form, mostly used by bakers and restaurants, rose from 63 cents per dozen to $1.52 in April. 

The Midwest has been hit particularly hard. KQDS reports a state of emergency has been declared in Minnesota, where 6 million birds have been euthanized. 

It's even worse in Iowa, the biggest egg-producing state in the country. CNBC reports the virus has resulted in the death of more than 25 million chickens and turkeys in that state alone. 

Large, concentrated populations of birds have contributed to the spread of the virus. The Wall Street Journal reports the average farm in the industry holds 1.5 million birds. When one hen house becomes infected, farms often euthanize all the others nearby to contain the virus. 

A chief executive for one of the nation's largest producers told The Wall Street Journal consumer demand for low costs has led the industry to house more chickens in fewer farms. But having fewer producers can be disastrous when one gets the virus. 

And the outbreak is causing hefty price tags outside the grocery aisles, too. The U.S. government has set aside close to $400 million to help pay for cleanup and compensate farmers for lost stock.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Latest House Bill Cuts Even More Funding From Earth Sciences]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 09:52:00 -0500
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This week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would rearrange policy and budgets for U.S. science agencies, and for earth scientists, it's not good news.

The reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act passed by a 217-205 vote, mostly along party lines. (Video via C-SPAN)

The bill doesn't have the authority to actually set budgets but calls for a 12 percent cut to the National Science Foundation's geosciences budget and a 10 percent cut to the Department of Energy's environmental research division. (Video via the National Science Foundation)

Nature says the bill would also prevent the NSF's environmental research division from funding "any climate-change research that overlaps with or duplicates work by other federal agencies" and would prevent the use of Energy Department research in creating fossil fuel regulations. (Video via the U.S. Department of Energy)

Science groups have lodged a series of formal complaints over the direction of the legislation, which they argue would "seriously underfund" and even "incapacitate" important research areas.

The America COMPETES Act is part of a trend in Congress. It follows a separate House bill that would cut nearly 40 percent from NASA's earth sciences budget.

And watchers in the media point to continued Republican pushback on issues of climate science.

Ars Technica holds up 2016 hopeful Jeb Bush, who admits climate change exists but doesn't think the science accurately represents man's proportion of that impact.

"For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you," Bush said at a recent campaign event. (Video via NBC)

In the House, Republicans applauded a bill they say will help return American science to its roots.

"When the National Science Foundation was mentioned, Americans thought of hard sciences: basic research, advanced technologies in biology, engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences. It is investments in these fields that advance American technology," said Texas Republican Brian Babin.

And on the other side of the aisle, House Democrats lamented what they see as a step backward.

"They are abandoning our future. America is the greatest nation on earth, but our greatness is not guaranteed. We have to work for it," said Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson. (Video via C-SPAN)

America COMPETES now heads to the Senate, but its future is less than certain. The White House has promised to veto the bill if it makes it to the president's desk.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Black Death: BP Oil Spill Blamed For Dolphin Die-Off]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 14:04:00 -0500
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"The progress continues, but that doesn't mean our job is done. BP is still here," says someone in a BP ad featuring the company's oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

But many dolphins are not. 

A 2013 study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 95 percent of the more than 1,100 cetaceans — which includes dolphins, whales and porpoises — stranded by the oil spill have died. Scientists say the period between the BP oil spill and now is the Gulf of Mexico's longest ever die-off of marine mammals — especially bottlenose dolphins.

And while many say the BP oil spill was the main cause of these dolphin deaths, there was no study to say as much — until now. A new study, also conducted by NOAA, says there is a direct link to the biggest oil spill in history and the mass dolphin deaths.

In the first breeding season after the spill, the Gulf saw 10 times as many dead baby dolphins wash ashore than usual. This "unusual mortality event" has continued into 2014 with 87 percent of the casualties being bottlenose dolphins. 

The study found a large amount of the dolphins who died in the Gulf of Mexico had adrenal, lung and liver lesions consistent with lung disease caused by inhaling oil fumes and exposure to oil chemicals. Researchers also compared the dolphins from the Gulf with dolphins from other areas isolated from the spill.

BP refutes the NOAA's findings, saying in a statement, "The data we have seen thus far, including the new study from NOAA, do not show that oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident caused an increase in dolphin mortality."

This NOAA report comes shortly after BP released its own report, which claims the Gulf is "rebounding" and that more than 90 percent of water samples from the Gulf show low oil content. 

NOAA's findings are part of an ongoing investigation into the lasting effects of the BP oil spill, which BP says is the largest environmental assessment in history.

This video includes images from Getty Images, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0U.S. Army / Spc. Casey Ware, and Florida Sea Grant / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Hong Kong Group Uses DNA To Reveal, Shame Litterbugs]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 12:19:00 -0500
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Hong Kong, an undeniably beautiful city with an undeniably disgusting problem.

The city has a well-documented littering problem with much of the trash ending up on its coastline and even a law threatening a $1,500 fine for anyone caught leaving their litter on the ground. (Video via YouTube / Dante Archangeli)

Enter a new campaign from Hong Kong Cleanup to publicly shame litterbugs. They collected discarded cigarettes, coffee cups left on public plant displays and ... yes, that's a condom. The link between all these pieces of trash? DNA the litterers left behind. (Video via Hong Kong Cleanup)

"We predict eye color, skin color, hair color, freckling, the shape of the face and biogeographic ancestry," said Dr. Ellen McRae Greytak of Parabon Nanolabs, the laboratory that Hong Kong Cleanup and ad firm Ogilvy and Mather hired to test the litter samples.

The result? On Earth Day, Hong Kong Cleanup posted the images of the litterers' faces on digital billboards in the same location where the environmentalists found the trash.

This isn't exactly unprecedented. Police have used DNA from discarded trash for years to solve crimes under a legal precedent called "abandoned DNA."

In the month that followed, the shaming ad-campaign's received extensive media coverage and headline after headline — something Hong Kong Cleanup continues to revel in.

The attention is certainly well-timed. Hong Kong Cleanup estimates the city produces 6 million metric tons of trash a year and has its annual cleanup challenge the second week in June. To date, the group says it's picked up more than 17 million pieces of trash.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[T. Rex-Like Fossil Is First Dino Found In Washington State]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 11:07:00 -0500
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"And remember, if something chases you, run," says a character in "Jurassic World."

OK, so this story isn't that dramatic, but it does involve a T. rex-like bone. Researchers in Washington have discovered the state's very first dinosaur bone.

"I'm holding Washington state's first dinosaur!" Brandon Peecook told KING.

We mean, it only took 80 million years, but who's counting, right?

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is pleased as dino punch about the find from its paleontologists, although it's just one bone. And they actually aren't totally sure what type of dinosaur it is but know it's "slightly smaller than T. rex."

But "small" to a T. rex isn't really ... small. The Seattle Times says: "Still, think of a transit bus to imagine its size. Think of a carnivorous transit bus with bone-crunching teeth."

You may have noticed the bone is not in the best of shape. It was found in Washington's Sucia Island State Park, and the fact it was found at all is "rare and lucky," according to the press release.

This is because during the time of the dinos, Washington state was mostly underwater. 

The study's abstract comments on the find: "The Washington theropod represents one of the northernmost occurrences of a Mesozoic dinosaur on the west coast of the United States and one of only a handful from the Pacific coast. ... Its isolated nature and preservation in marine rocks suggest that the element was washed in from a nearby fluvial system."

And it has been determined you're looking at a femur. Scientists were able to figure that out because of a hollow part of the bone that was unique to theropods like the T. rex and because of a particular feature they found on the surface part of the bone that was unique to theropods.

And now they’ve had a chance to study it extensively. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

No word if they plan to use bones from the dino's DNA to bring up a real-life Jurassic Park. It doesn't matter how many movies they make against it, we'd still visit a park that had real-life dinosaurs in it.

Washington is now in the dino club. Yeah, we made that up, but it should totally be a thing. It's the 37th state where a dinosaur has been found. #DinoParty!

<![CDATA[LightSail And Tech Like It Could Give Space Travel A Boost]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:20:00 -0500
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The latest advances in spaceflight are taking their cues from ancient technology. The nonprofit Planetary Society is preparing to test LightSail, a fuel-less solar sail.

Despite its name, a solar sail doesn't use the charged particles of the solar wind. Instead it catches the tiny but constant pressure of photons — the light itself — to build up speed.

"Sunlight, or light, even though it has no mass, has momentum. So it can push these things through space. It’s a really extraordinary idea," CEO Bill Nye said. (Video via The Planetary Society)

LightSail will be packed into a tiny payload called a CubeSat. It's hitching a ride to orbit aboard the launch of the U.S. Air Force's X-37B spaceplane test platform Wednesday.

This showcases one of the benefits of a solar sail. Not needing fuel reduces both the expense and the overall risk of a given launch. Jason Davis, of the Planetary Society, explained to (Video via The Planetary Society)

"The group buying the rocket — the primary payload — they get a little bit nervous about, say, 10 miniature fuel banks on your CubeSat when they have a multimillion-dollar payload sitting on top of it."

The Planetary Society is sharing its data with NASA, which is pursuing the tech for many of the same reasons. Another benefit: Sails can reach crazy speeds. One of the lead engineers on the LightSail project told Wired it's enough for interplanetary travel and maybe beyond. (Video via NASA)

"The absolute best mission is to use conventional propulsion to get as close to sun as possible. Then deploy your sail. By [the] time you get to Mars, you're just screaming, and you can dump the sail."

NASA tested the concept with the NanoSail-D back in 2011. It was comparatively tiny — 100 square feet — but still reflective enough to spot with the naked eye from the ground. (Video via NASA, NASA’s Marshall Center)

Japan's space agency made the first successful interplanetary sail flight with IKAROS, which stretched more than 2,000 square feet and made a flyby of Venus before orbiting the sun. (Video via Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

NASA now has two other sail missions in the works: Lunar Flashlight will send a sail to orbit the moon, where it will reflect sunlight to illuminate craters on the dark side in search of water.

And NEA Scout will act as a proof of concept for propulsion to nearby asteroids.

LightSail's first test, meanwhile, is doomed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. It won't get high enough to escape the planet’s gravity for more than a month or so.

This video includes images from NASA and Wikimedia Commons.

<![CDATA[Don't Freak Out Over This Newly Discovered Rabies Strain]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 08:17:00 -0500
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It kind of sounds like the start of a zombie apocalypse. 

"They're infected!"

"Infected? Infected with what?"

But thankfully, this story is less about zombies and more about ... 

Foxes. Specifically, one fox that attacked a 78-year-old woman in late April.

Said gray fox had rabies, according to the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish. The elderly woman was walking near her home when the fox bit her.

"A rabies epidemic occurred among gray foxes in New Mexico from 2007 to 2010 and further testing of the fox is underway to determine if that strain of the disease is involved," the press release said.

That testing has now been done, and this is where the zombies come in ... because the strain of rabies the gray fox had was brand new. 

Sure. It could be an exciting find for the scientific community, but we're over here like ... (Video via Dimension Films / "Scream"

Rabies needs to be treated immediately. Once symptoms of the rabies disease are seen, it's usually always deadly. 

The World Health Organization says in the Americas, bats cause the most rabies deaths. It also says human deaths following exposure to foxes is "very rare."

Which we're sure the woman who was bit is thankful for. She received rabies vaccines and didn't develop the fatal disease, KRWG reports.

The state's Department of Health says the strain is related to others found in bats. So, it's not some big unexplainable strain we should all fear. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in the U.S., human fatalities usually only occur in people who don't get medical attention after being infected. 

This video includes images from Tom Benson / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and bmarks50 / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[The Puzzling Relationship Between Pandas And Bamboo]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 07:27:00 -0500
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One of panda bears' most famous traits is that they eat bamboo, and a lot of it. The plant makes up most of the bear's diet. (Video via YouTube / meiko 米可)

But new research suggests, after some two million years of eating it, the panda's digestive system still may not be all caught up. (Video via World Wide Fund for Nature)

Researchers in China looked at the bacteria in panda poop — because science is glamorous like that — and compared what they found to 54 other mammals, including herbivores and other bears.

Microorganisms like bacteria often live in animals' digestive systems and in some, including us humans, they play important roles, like digesting plant fiber. (Video via Cambridge University)

The researchers found the panda's microorganisms much more closely resembled those of other carnivores and omnivores, and were missing the bacteria that helps other animals digest plant fiber, suggesting they're still not adapted to eating bamboo. (Video via National Geographic)

But other scientists have called that conclusion into question. 

Jonathan Eisen, a microbial biologist at the University of California Davis told Nature, "some of the microbes in the panda gut might still be highly efficient at breaking down cellulose."

Eisen argues the scientists only looked at what microorganisms were found in the panda, and not what functions they actually carry out in the panda's digestive system. 

And considering the panda has physically adapted over the millions of years it's eaten bamboo, developing a special thumb pad that helps it better grasp the chutes, it would be surprising if its digestive system hadn't followed suit. (Video via Smithsonian Institution)

Scientists theorize pandas started eating bamboo when they first moved to the higher elevation of the Chinese mountains where they live today, as a way of avoiding competition for prey with the predators already established there. (Video via Natural Habitat Adventures)

Like most bears, pandas are actually omnivores, and while they mostly eat bamboo, they will also eat meat if presented with it. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Hubble's Space Photos Have Come A Long Way In 25 Years]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 07:17:00 -0500
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The Hubble Space Telescope is known for its dazzling images of cosmic phenomena, but it didn’t exactly start that way.

Its first ever image, captured 25 years ago today, is decidedly less exciting. This is HD96755, a part of star cluster NGC 3532, about 1,300 light years away. It underwhelmed people back then, too.

After its launch, the Hubble Space Telescope had an attached PR campaign touting it as a scientific improvement over ground-based telescopes of the time. (Video via ESA/Hubble)

David Leckrone was Hubble’s senior project scientist until 2009. As he told Time, expectations were high. Reality was still kind of blurry. (Video via C-SPAN)

“The astronomers groaned when the media was invited. And everyone was a little perplexed and uncomfortable when the image came in because it was so out of focus. Someone said ‘Is that the way it’s supposed to look?'”

No, it wasn’t. This image came before any calibration or fine-tuning of Hubble’s instruments.

There was no post-processing, either. The images Hubble is known for go through an extensive cleanup and color-assignment process to get as good-looking as they are. (Video via the Space Telescope Science Institute)

That shot of HD96755 was what’s known as a “first light test.” It’s more to certify the cameras and mirrors are all working than to show off what they’re capable of.

Of course, it didn’t help that Hubble’s primary mirror was also flawed.

The first maintenance mission to Hubble, flown by the Space Shuttle Columbia in December 1993, delivered specialized hardware to correct the mirror and sharpen the images it captured.

Over the next months, astronomers dialed in their process and started turning out images Hubble is much better known for.

And to this day, Hubble is still at it. NASA says the telescope will keep collecting images for as long as it stays in working condition. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from NASA and RadioFan / CC BY SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[The President's Plan To Save Vanishing Bees, Pollinators]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 13:20:00 -0500
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Honeybees are disappearing. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)

But President Obama has a plan. (It's not this.) (Video via The White House)

On Tuesday, the Obama administration revealed its plan, which was obtained by The Washington Post, to combat the trend of disappearing honeybees. (Video via Vimeo / Soulful Journey)

Labeled as the "National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators," the plan is the brainchild of President Obama's Pollinator Health Task Force, which he created last summer.

So what’s this plan then? Well, the overarching theme is saving pollinators such as birds, butterflies, bats and, of course, bees. (Video via Flow Hive / Mirabai Nicholson-McKellar)

That'll be accomplished through a combination of research and development, improving pollinator education, managing the replanting of burned forests, updating federal building standards to support pollinators and creating a seed bank of specific plants for pollinators. (Video via Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

It sounds like a lot, but according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the country have disappeared in a pattern called colony collapse disorder, the product of several possible factors, ranging from pathogens to certain pesticides. (Video via Will Stewart / CC BY-NC 3.0)

Tuesday’s Pollinator Health Task Force plan hopes to reduce over-winter honeybee colony losses to just 15 percent within 10 years. (Video via The White House)

It’s also going to try to increase the Eastern population of the monarch butterfly to 225 million by 2020, from about 50 million last year. (Video via Natural Resources Defense Council)

Still, speaking to The Washington Post, a biology professor from Simon Fraser University says there'll be little change for pollinators if agricultural producers don't change how they use pesticides. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Honeybee pollination by itself is believed to contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. crop economy annually.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Brenticus / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[IMF Report Raises Question About Real Price Of Fossil Fuels]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 12:48:00 -0500
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One of the main issues governments tend to raise with alternative energy sources is they say they're more expensive and fossil fuels are just cheaper to produce. (Video via YouTube / Danni McGriffith)

But a new International Monetary Fund report suggests governments actually spend a "shocking" amount of money subsidizing those fossil fuels — a projected $5.3 trillion this year.

China reportedly leads the way in spending money to artificially lower the cost of energy, accounting for $2.3 trillion a year in subsidies, more than 40 percent of the total the report estimates. (Video via CBS)

The way the report calculated these subsidies is they took how much consumers pay for energy and subtracted that from the total "actual" costs. 

The bulk of those actual costs came from what governments will spend cleaning up local pollution, followed by global warming and other local factors. 

As the Financial Times points out, it's worth noting the IMF and economists have criticized these subsidies as wasteful, and the scale of this latest study is, "likely to provoke intense debate and be disputed by some."

Regardless, the IMF's report serves as fodder for comparing the cost of fossil fuels with renewables, especially because critics of renewables have alleged government subsidies mask their true cost. (Video via U.S. Department of Energy)

This is kind of tough, though, because the IMF hasn't issued a similar report about subsidies for renewable energy. There are some figures out there. 

The International Energy Agency, which promotes energy security through alternative energy sources said last year, government incentives amounted to $120 billion, a fraction of the IMF's estimate for fossil fuels.  

Renewable energy has its own externalities, though, among them the fact that because they rely on uncontrollable factors like the wind or the sun, they can't necessarily produce continual energy. (Video via BHE Renewables)

Still, the vast majority of reports indicate as the technology behind renewables advances, they will continue to get cheaper, while fossil fuels are a finite resource. (Video via SolarCity)

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[The Unexpected Way Collapsing Ice Shelves Add To Rising Seas]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 10:05:00 -0500
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When NASA announced the Larsen B ice shelf would be completely disintegrated by the end of the decade, you'd be forgiven for not knowing why it mattered. (Video via NASA)

It matters because it could contribute significantly to rising sea levels, one of the biggest threats the world faces going forward. (Video via WPBT)

Larsen B is an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula that first fractured in a big way in 2002, with two-thirds of the shelf collapsing in the space of six weeks.  

But the way disintegrating ice shelves contribute to rising sea levels isn't as obvious as you might think.

The British Antarctic Survey's Director of Science David Vaughan explained, "The ice in an ice shelf is floating, so when it melts it won't have a big impact on sea level rise."

Instead — ice shelves serve as a resisting force for glaciers, which flow downhill on the continental shelf. So when the shelf disintegrates, the rate of ice flow into the ocean increases. 

And that process has already started, following 2002's disintegration, with one glacier accelerating its flow rate, as it's known, by more than 35 percent. 

But there might be a silver lining, albeit a very, very slim one, as NASA's lead researcher on the shelf explains:

"Now, we have this rare opportunity of this ice shelf destabilizing and eventually collapsing in front of our eyes. ... That will give us incredibly valuable lessons that we could use to understand what might be happening elsewhere," researcher Ala Khazendar said

That's kind of outweighed by the bad news though, as the British Antarctic Survey reports Larsen C, just to the south of Larsen B, is also thinning. (Video via British Antarctic Survey)

This video includes music from Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Russian Rocket Mission Fails, Mexican Satellite Lost]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 19:13:00 -0500
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For the second time in three weeks Russia's space agency experienced a failed mission. A Russian rocket carrying a Mexican satellite lost control less than 10 minutes after its launch, according to Russian news agencies.

The Proton-M rocket burned up in the atmosphere, according to RT.

"Well, the launch all went according to plan however in minutes there was an engine failure," RT reported.

This comes just a few weeks after a Russian craft on its way to the International Space Station spun out of control.

The Proton rocket has had issues before, including this dramatic crash in 2013.

The satellite the Russian rocket was carrying cost the Mexican government $390 million total, but the Mexican government tweeted the satellite would be covered by insurance.

Mexico's Ministry of Transportation and Communications said it will launch a similar satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Lockheed Martin rocket in October.

<![CDATA['Kayaktivists,' The Chukchi Sea And Is Big Oil Wiser Now?]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 13:52:00 -0500
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If you're not familiar with the term "kayaktivists" — well, get ready.

Around 1,000 of them are expected to paddle through the Puget Sound Saturday to protest the Royal Dutch Shell ships and oil drilling rig currently docked in Seattle. The ships are headed north this summer. (Video via KING)

Earlier this week, Shell won conditional approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's coast. The move infuriated environmentalists who point to the infamous Deepwater Horizon explosion and environmental disaster as a worst-case scenario. (Video via Shell and RT)

But given an incredibly cautious public sentiment in wake of past tragedies and the enormous backlash if Shell did produce another disaster, has the oil industry learned from past mistakes?

The concern is certainly fair. The Chukchi Sea has far more extreme oceanic conditions and is far more remote than drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, making disaster response more difficult if something went wrong. (Video via U.S. Geological Survey)

Shell is pushing hard to present a message of safety. Ahead of its approval to drill in the Chukchi Sea in 2012, it released several videos explaining its response plans if something went wrong. It also pointed out features on its rigs meant to prevent a massive BP-like oil leak into the sea.

It also has a 12-point explainer on its website on how it would deal with a leak in the nearby Beaufort Sea. But part of that plan includes "using detailed ice and weather forecasting to warn of extreme conditions" — something it's seemingly already failed to do.

The rig mentioned in that Shell video we featured earlier was the Kulluk. When Shell tried to move the rig in late 2012 to avoid taxes, a Coast Guard report shows the tow master warned the rig it was a bad idea because the frozen conditions "guarantees an ass kicking."

Sure enough, the tow lines broke and Kulluk ran aground, forcing a Coast Guard rescue and eventually leading the Department of the Interior to rescind Shell's Arctic drilling approval. (Video via ODN)

And then there's a February report from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management predicting a 75 percent chance there will be a large oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if drilling begins there.

That figure understandably inspired a flurry of foreboding headlines. But the bureau has since released a larger explanation saying the 75 percent figure is over the course of 77 years if the Chukchi Sea had hundreds of wells in production, not one company exploring the area.

A "large" oil spill is defined as anything leaking 1,000 barrels or more, which pales in comparison to the Exxon Valdez oil spill that dumped an estimated 257,000 barrels or the 4.9 million barrels spilled by Deepwater Horizon.

Ultimately, this is a crystal ball issue. The government has tried to make sure Shell is fully prepared for any situation in the name of a potentially huge economic impact.

But in doing so, it's also accepting the risk a largely untouched ecosystem suffers some kind of significant setback. (Video via Greenpeace)

A risk management consultant who used to work for Shell in the Arctic told The Atlantic, "Have we really worried enough about the potential of a catastrophic blowout? Have we learned enough about the prevention and mitigation of spills? At this point it’s an unanswered question.”

This video includes images from Edward Boatman / CC BY 3.0, Thibault Geffroy / CC BY 3.0Getty Images, and music by @nop / CC by NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Forget Explosions, Aging Galaxies Are Slowly Strangled]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 08:17:00 -0500
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Space. In the Star Trek world, it's the final frontier, something still left for earthlings to explore.

"Your father was captain of a star ship for 12 minutes, he saved 800 lives ... I dare you to do better, enlist in Starfleet." (Video via Paramount Pictures / "Star Trek"

And while the idea of exploring space sounds really cool, and maybe even peaceful and serene at times ... apparently galaxies are getting strangled to death. Huh?

The brainiacs at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh published research in the journal Nature that says galaxies could be dying because of space strangulation.

But let's back up a minute and explain some cool stats about stars. For portions of their lifetime, stars burn hydrogen as fuel. Galaxies stop making new stars when that fuel runs low, kind of like a car running out of gas. 

As Wired points out, this new study is challenging our old views that star formation just kind of ... stops. And rather suddenly at that. 

The researchers looked at the metals made by stars as they consume hydrogen. As stars consume, they produce measurable amounts of other metallic elements, such as iron.

The researchers looked at the metal content of 26,000 galaxies. If the galaxy kicked the bucket suddenly — and the gas was sucked into a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, for example — that metal formation should have stopped. But, researchers obviously found out they didn't, or we wouldn't be bringing you this story.

Rather morbidly, researchers found galaxies don't just go kaboom! and that's that. Instead, based on their steadily increasing metal content, the researchers believe the galaxies are slowly strangled as they run out of hydrogen.

The next piece of the puzzle, an astronomer says, is figuring out why they die in the first place.

This video includes music by Broke for Free / CC by 3.0.

<![CDATA[Meet The Opah, The First Known Warm-Blooded Fish]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 02:37:00 -0500
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Researchers say they've discovered the first known fully warm-blooded fish.

It's called the Opah, or moonfish, and it lives in cold environments deep below the ocean's surface. Scientists say the Opah generates heat by constantly flapping its pectoral fins. (Video via Science)

It then uses fatty tissue to help trap the heat and special blood vessels to spread the warmth throughout its large, disc-like body.

Fish, of course, are generally thought to be cold-blooded animals, so researchers say this gives the Opah a "competitive edge" over some of its aquatic cousins in more frigid waters.

And, sure, the orange-and-silver fish might look pretty innocent, but researcher Nicholas Wegner of the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the opah is actually quite the aggressor.

"Before this discovery I was under the impression this was a slow-moving fish, like most other fish in cold environments. But because it can warm its body, it turns out to be a very active predator that chases down agile prey like squid and can migrate long distances," Wegner said. 

Other fish, like tuna and some sharks, can also generate heat, but their bodies can only handle short periods in the cold before they have to retreat to warmer waters. (Video via National Geographic)


The Opah can keep its body warm for long periods of time, so it doesn't have to worry about that as much.

But despite what seems like a pretty cool discovery, at least one scientist was skeptical. At least at how it's labeled, anyway.

The study refers to the Opah as a fish with "whole-body endothermy" or, basically, entirely warm-blooded. 

But an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is quoted in The Washington Post saying that's a bit misleading.

He says the opah is warm for the most part, but, "It gets cold as you go back into the body or back into the tail or as you go up or down," so calling it a "whole-body" warm-blooded fish might be a stretch.

The findings from the Opah study are published in the journal Science

This video includes images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

<![CDATA[Want To Quit Smoking? Put Some Money On The Line]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 15:41:00 -0500
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There's plenty of difficult and complicated ways to quit smoking — going cold turkey, nicotine patches — but researchers believe they've discovered a simpler way that seems to be working — money.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered in a recent study that the threat of losing money from a deposit or the offer of a cash reward were both more effective than conventional techniques aimed at quitting smoking.

That sounds about right. The offer of cash is usually a pretty good motivator.

According to the study, though, it was the threat of losing cash that led to long-term success. Among the people who would’ve accepted either rewards or a refund of their deposit, the deposit smokers were more likely to still be abstinent at six months.

What's interesting is that those in the refundable deposit program put down $150 and were offered $650 in rewards, while those in the reward program were simply offered $800. So the threat of losing money seemed to matter more than the amount they could gain. (Video via New England Journal of Medicine)  

And there's another catch. Smokers were much more likely to participate in the reward program than the deposit program. Ninety percent of those assigned to the reward program agreed to participate — compared to only 14 percent of those assigned to the deposit program. (Video via WKYT)

Researchers say more research is needed to determine what levels of rewards and deposits are most effective at helping a smoker quit. (Via KDVR)

The study looked at more than 2,500 CVS Caremark employees and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Ferran Jordà / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and 401(K) 2012 / CC BY SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[Our Attention Span Is Shorter Than That Of A ... Oh, Look!]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 08:22:00 -0500
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A new study from Microsoft found our memories are actually worse than that of Dory. 

"I forget things almost instantly. It runs in my family," Dory said in the movie "Finding Nemo."

OK, so it actually said worse than a goldfish, but we couldn't find any cute animated goldfish to open on. 

Anyway ... what were we talking about? Oh, yeah. According to Microsoft Canada, the average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. In 2013, it was eight seconds. 

The attention span of a goldfish? Nine seconds. That's kind embarrassing on our end, dontcha think?

And we did it to ourselves. The short attention span is the fault of man-made machines ... technology! 

The study broke attention span down into three categories: Sustained, which is prolonged focus, Selective, which is avoiding distraction and Alternating, which is switching between different tasks.

The first part of the study was a survey of 2,000 Canadians, the next part was neurological research with 112 Canadian participants. 

It found four top factors that impact attention: Media consumption, social media usage, technology adoption rate and multi-screening behavior.

No surprise, long term focus "erodes" (that's their word, not ours) with the more screen-time and social media usage.  

Guess we can all just blame Facebook, right?

But there could be a silver lining in all of this. Something we humans have that goldfish don't. And it kind of sounds like a super power.

Our brains can produce BURSTS! Neurological readings produced during the study found higher usage of social media increased "short bursts of high attention." Kind of like a super ultra-focus power that only comes in short waves. Neato peato. 

But we're gonna kill your buzz. The study found that overall, "digital lifestyles have a negative impact on prolonged focus."

But don't worry, you'll probably forget that soon enough. Or, maybe you haven't even made it this far into the video. As a Time article notes, just congratulate yourself for making it this far. 

The study did find those with "digital lifestyles," are better at processing information at once. So, there's that. Oh, look! 

This video includes music by Broke For Free / CC by 3.0.

<![CDATA[FDA Outlines Change On Lifetime Blood Ban From Gay Men]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 22:13:00 -0500
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Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration released the outline of its new guidelines for blood donations from gay men.

The drafted recommendations would make it possible for men who have had sex with men to donate blood for the first time in 30 years, but that's only if they haven't had sex with another man for a year. (Video via American Red Cross)

According to the FDA's recommendation, 7 percent of men report they have ever had sex with another man. That number goes down to 4 percent with men who have had sex with another man in the past five years.

Although this recommendation does take away the lifetime ban for gay men, it has been met with criticism from gay rights advocates since it was announced in December. Critics say say blood donation bans should be based on risky behavior instead of sexual orientation or whether a person has been celibate. 

"Now if you're gay and you want to save lives, the FDA will let you. You just can't have sex for an entire year. That's right. 365 days of celibacy. Introducing the celibacy challenge," actor Alan Cumming said in a GLAAD video.

The FDA cited success in countries including Japan, the U.K., Brazil and Australia — which also have one-year celibacy policies — as a reason for the policy change. It also cited more effective blood screening tests.

There will now be a 60-day public comment period for the recommendations.

 This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[White Spot Mystery On Ceres Will Hopefully Be Solved Soon]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 21:51:00 -0500
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Scientists are getting tantalizingly close to solving a modern space mystery: What are those spots on the dwarf planet Ceres?

The first white spot showed up in images from the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004, but NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been giving us better and better looks over the past few months. 

Dawn sent back images of Ceres as it approached the dwarf planet, eventually entering orbit in early March. The latest images were taken earlier this month and show the weird shiny areas in unprecedented detail. 

So, what are they? Now, it should surprise no one that a decade-old anomaly on a nearby dwarf planet could lead to some pretty wild theories. 

The idea that it might be a sign of alien life is actually one of the less out-there ones. Some scientists think icy objects like Ceres could potentially have been the birthplace of life in our solar system. 

But Twitter users seem to like the idea that the largest spot is an actual alien city. The Dawn mission's director even teased the theory, saying: "That’s ridiculous! ... Do they even have cities? For all we know, [Cereans] may live only in rural communities." Yep, that's a NASA joke.

Without a firm answer, it's possible to believe the spots are just about anything

Although they're probably ice. Ice or salt, maybe shiny rocks. Reality can be such a buzzkill sometimes.

The Dawn spacecraft is set to get an even closer look at Ceres in June and will send back more pictures at least twice before then. 

This video includes images from NASA, NASA / ESA,  Randall Munroe / CC BY NC 2.5, Jason Ahrns / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Kristian Niemi / CC BY NC ND 2.0

<![CDATA[How The Beak Is Providing A Breakthrough In Bird Evolution]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 11:49:00 -0500
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If you want to get the most realistic look at some dinosaurs this summer, your best bet really isn't "Jurassic World." (Video via Universal Pictures / "Jurassic World")

No, your best bet is grabbing a pair of binoculars and striking out with a local birding group. (Video via Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Science has held for a while now that birds are theropod dinosaurs, but we're still figuring out exactly how they made the transition from hulking behemoths like Spinosaurus to modern-day sparrows. (Video via BBC, Youtube / Brian I)

Now, researchers have made something of a breakthrough, and it's all because of the beak. 

Beaks are one of birds' most distinctive characteristics, and their widely varied uses reflect birds' evolutionary adaptation. (Video via PBS)

Research published in the journal Evolution details how scientists went a little "Jurassic World" on chicken embryos to replicate features from the fossil record. 

Scientists in the past have noted how birds' skeletons more closely resemble their dinosaur ancestors in embryonic stages than as adults. (Video via Poultry Cooperative Research Centre)

Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner said"The hand actually looks pretty much like the archeopteryx hand ... but a gene turns on that actually fuses those together. So what we're looking for is that gene, we want to stop that gene from turning on."

So the researchers inhibited certain genes in the chicken embryos, leading them to develop snouts closer to those of ancestral birds we know from fossils.

What's the significance of their findings? Well that remains to be seen, but there is one big takeaway. 

The researchers say their methods could be used to trace back evolutionary developments, genetically — which would essentially tell scientists how the birds evolved. 

But there's a lot of research to be done, and we're still a pretty long ways off from anything resembling "Jurassic World." 

So in the meantime, you'll have to settle for birds. Which isn't really settling because birds are awesome. (Video via National Geographic)

This video includes an image from digital cat / CC BY 2.0 and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Feds Know Shell's Return To Arctic Is 'Highly Controversial']]> Tue, 12 May 2015 11:09:00 -0500
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Score a major victory for the oil industry as Shell now has approval to drill offshore in the Arctic, though there are restrictions.

Late Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued this letter listing 18 separate conditions for drilling in the Chukchi Sea, opening the door for Shell to invest another $1 billion in the region analysts believe holds vast oil reserves. (Video via Shell)

The feds' decision is a huge blow for environmentalists who argue a mistake in the Arctic could be even more devastating than the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The region for proposed drilling has far more extreme oceanic conditions and is more remote, making it hard for responders to reach a disaster if something went wrong. (Video via RT & U.S. Geological Survey)

"Right where Shell proposes to be drilling, we found more coral than people have seen in most other places in the world's oceans," said John Hocevar, a marine biologist for Greenpeace. "The pink, fuzzy bits — those are the soft corals and you see them fairly often."

Shell, however, has done a lot to try to ease concerns over its drilling plans in the Arctic, including this video released in 2012 with details on how its equipment would manage a blowout.

President Obama initially gave Shell the go-ahead to drill in the Chukchi Sea in 2012, but that same rig featured in the Shell video ran aground on New Years Eve 2012. A U.S. Coast Guard team rescued some crew members, towed the rig ashore and the Department of the Interior banned Shell from drilling until the company addressed safety issues. (Video via ODN)

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also released this letter finding no significant impact on human environment or physical environment, though the acting regional supervisor acknowledged the operation would be "highly controversial."

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Broke for Free / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Alaska Program Offers Free Pregnancy Tests In Bars]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 07:23:00 -0500
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"I'm pregnant."

"With a baby?" (Video via Universal Pictures / "Knocked Up"

You go out drinking with your girlfriends one night. One thing leads to another and you walk into the bar's restroom and see this: 

A little poster totally killing your buzz and asking you the last time you had sex and also offering up a free pregnancy test.

It's actually part of an important community-based intervention program. Get your serious shoes on. 

The dispenser is at several bars in the state because the University of Alaska Anchorage is trying to get women thinking about drinking during pregnancy. 

The poster specifically mentions Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASDs, which cause physical, mental or behavioral problems in a child. 

While it's an issue around the United States, Alaska specifically has "the highest rate of [FASD] cases per capita in the U.S," according to the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

The CDC says there's no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. 

"There are still doctors that will say 'oh, you know, a glass or two of wine, you know, isn't such a big deal. Well, it's kind of like Russian roulette,'" the CEO of Alaska Mental Health Trust said

Alcohol is the leading preventable cause of "birth defects and developmental disabilities," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In a perfect world, women would know as soon as they're pregnant, but oftentimes women don't know immediately. That's where those pregnancy tests in the bars come in. 

The $400,000 study is meant to promote FASD awareness and will continue through June 2016. 

<![CDATA[Mercury's Magnetic Field Is Way Older Than We Thought]]> Sun, 10 May 2015 13:52:00 -0500
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In one of its final acts before plowing into the surface of Mercury at more than 8,700 mph, NASA's MESSENGER mission determined the planet's magnetic field is older than we thought.

MESSENGER only recently got close enough to notice; it captured the readings at just 9 miles above the surface of the planet. Catherine Johnson, planetary scientist and author of a paper on the new findings, explains. (Video via NASA)

She told "The signals we detected are really small, and very, very hard to measure. We'd never have been able to measure them if not for these really risky low-altitude observations in the last few months of the MESSENGER mission."

The new data indicates Mercury's magnetic field could be 3.9 billion years old or some 400 million years older than even Earth's own magnetosphere. (Video via NASA)

At one point, Mercury's field could have been just as strong as Earth's, even though it's only a third of the size of our planet. But these days, the field is about 1 percent the strength of Earth's.

The field is thought to exist thanks to the flow of liquid metal at Mercury's core, which is the same geodynamic process that generates our field here on Earth. Mercury is the only other rocky planet in the solar system with a magnetic field generated this way. (Video via NASA)

MESSENGER's magnetic data gives planetary scientists new insight into the formation and early lifespan of Mercury and planets like it. They detailed their findings in the journal Science.

And while all that remains of MESSENGER is a smoking crater on Mercury's surface, later missions are expected to gather more data about Mercury's magnetism.

BepiColombo, a joint Japanese and European Space Agency mission named for Italian scientist Giuseppe Colombo, is scheduled to launch for Mercury's orbit in 2017.

This video includes images from NASA and the European Space Agency.

<![CDATA[Liberia Is Ebola Free But West Africa Still Has Work To Do]]> Sat, 09 May 2015 20:19:00 -0500
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The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia is over.

It was once the nation hit hardest by the disease. More than 4,700 Liberians lost their lives during the outbreak. During the peak of the epidemic, flights were cancelled into the country, fuel and food supplies ran low and schools, businesses and borders were closed. 

But now it's been 42 days since a case of Ebola was confirmed in Liberia. That's twice the normal incubation period for the disease.

But West Africa, and that includes Liberia, isn't out of the woods just yet. Guinea and Sierra Leone are still reporting new cases of the disease. Both countries reported nine cases for the week ending May 3. (Video via World Health Organization)

That's a far cry from the 300 to 400 fresh cases Liberia was reporting on a weekly basis in August and September at the peak of the outbreak, but it is a sign that the disease is still spreading, and could spill over into Liberia again if it isn't properly managed.

Plus, there is a lot researchers are still discovering about how long Ebola can remain in a person's body.

On May 1 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning that male Ebola survivors should use a condom during sex indefinitely. 

That's because a woman became infected with the disease after having intercourse with a man who had overcome the virus five months before. It was previously thought that Ebola could survive in semen for about three months. 

And The New England Journal of Medicine detailed a case on Thursday of an American doctor who survived the disease but found the virus was still present in his eye more than a month after leaving the hospital. (Video via World Affairs Council)

So researchers are still learning about how Ebola can continue to spread through survivors of the disease, and it isn't completely out of West Africa just yet. But the announcement of an Ebola-free Liberia is still cause for some celebration.  

Liberia's economy took a big blow during the epidemic with many foreign companies pulling out of the country. Now that the worst seems to be over, Liberia can work on building their economy back up. (Video via CBS)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Why It Took So Long For A City To Ban Tobacco In Baseball]]> Sat, 09 May 2015 09:01:00 -0500
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Perhaps no American sport is more tied to its traditions than baseball, no matter the logic behind those traditions or — frankly — the ick factor.

On Friday, the city of San Francisco banned smokeless tobacco in all sports venues, including professional parks.

That includes AT&T Park where the reigning world champion San Francisco Giants play. So Silicon Valley moms and dads, you won't have to worry about your kids spotting their favorite player dipping starting next season. (Video via YouTube / socalbaseballtv)

But why it took so long for any municipality to step in and ban "chaw" is more an issue of a game that fiercely protects tradition.

We're decades removed from when baseball had the ability to let umpires check video and make sure they got calls right, but we only just started replay reviews last season and many still call that move an insult to America's pasttime.

New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made speeding up an, at times, lethargic game one of his top priorities. (Video via Fox Sports)

But chewing tobacco undeniably goes beyond getting the call right or keeping the pace of the game fast enough to hold fans' interest. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says more than half a million kids age 12-17 try smokeless tobacco for the first time each year.

Those lumps in players' cheeks are so intrinsic to baseball, they famously led to the make-believe boys in "The Sandlot" getting sick on a carnival ride. Critics say it's hard to argue the product isn't marketed to real-life kids and baseball's inspired generations of tobacco addicts. (Video via 20th Century Fox / "The Sandlot" & ABC)

"I honestly don't get any buzz or effect off of it anymore," college baseball player Ray McCourt told ABC. "It's just kind of a baseball thing."

"It gave me the ideal of, 'Oh, if I want to hit bombs, I need to be dipping,'" said McCourt's teammate.

The latest round of critics calling for an end to chewing tobacco in Major League Baseball came last year when Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at just 54 years old of cancer in his salivary gland. (Video via CNN)

Gwynn and his son — also a major league ballplayer — blamed his years of dipping.

"Tobacco in my mind is what killed my dad," Tony Gwynn, Jr. told HBO.

Of the new ban in San Francisco, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the team's beat reporter, "It's a step in the right direction. I think it can be a good thing. It's going to be hard to enforce. It's a tough habit to break."

To Bochy's point, enforcement does seem sketchy. If players decide to step back into the clubhouse between innings to dip, would anyone really stop them?

The MLB players union, the most powerful union in American professional sports, could oppose the ban if it feels players' rights are being violated. According to the current labor agreement, players and managers can't chew during interviews and can't carry tobacco when fans are in the stadium. The union had no comment on San Francisco's tobacco ban.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[How Ebola Can Hide In The Body]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 21:32:00 -0500
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In the past couple weeks, we have heard two reports of the Ebola virus sticking around for a surprisingly long time in survivors' bodies.

On May 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to male Ebola survivors that they should use a condom during sex indefinitely.

That warning came after a woman contracted Ebola after having unprotected sex with a male Ebola survivor. He had overcome the virus about five months before. (Video via World Health Organization)

And on Thursday the New England Journal of Medicine reported an American doctor who survived the disease had Ebola in his eye more than a month after leaving the hospital — it even turned one of his normally blue eyes green. (Video via World Affairs Council)

Scientists still don't know everything about why Ebola sticks around so long in survivors' semen or eyes, but testicles and eyes have something in common — they're both immune privileged.

Immune privilege means the immune system doesn't respond the same way to antigens in certain areas of the body. It is believed to occur in the eyes, testicles, and during pregnancy in the placenta and fetus.

While this function of the body protects those areas from an inflammatory immune response, which could harm them, it also creates a safe haven for viruses like Ebola.

But for survivors of Ebola, this means they're not completely in the clear yet. And this Ebola outbreak had thousands of survivors — many more than previous outbreaks.

During an Ebola outbreak in 1995, there were similar reports of eye infections. Judging by that outbreak, NPR reports about 15% of survivors could be at risk of vision loss or even blindness this time around as they move on from the disease.

And the CDC still doesn't know exactly how long Ebola can be found in semen. Before this women became infected, it was thought Ebola was gone from semen after three months.

Ebola survivors are also at risk for a type of joint and bone pain that feels similar to arthritis. Immune privilege is believed to occur to some extent in articular cartilage found in joints, although there isn't necessarily a direct connection to what Ebola survivors experience.

This Ebola outbreak had more than 26,000 suspected cases, and the World Health Organization reported about 1 in 3 of those patients survived. In the coming months, we'll start to find out exactly how their bodies continue to respond to the disease. (Video via World Health Organization)

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Ebola Found In Survivor's Eye Months After Treatment]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 09:41:00 -0500
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​A doctor who contracted Ebola in September while working in West Africa was given the all-clear after being treated at Emory University. 

Months later he was back in the hospital. Teeming inside his eye: Ebola.

"We need to understand this a little more. We think we're getting 10 years of strain-specific antibodies," said Dr. Ian Crozier.

This video was published in December of last year, and it's pretty clear to see Dr. Ian Crozier has two blue eyes. Due to the infection, his left eye turned green.

"It felt almost personal that the virus could be in my eye without me knowing it," Crozier told The New York Times

The New England Journal of Medicine originally published the news of Crozier's condition. According to the journal, in December 2014, Crozier had 20/20 vision in his left eye. Within five days of symptoms, his vision had deteriorated to 20/60.

Other than eye trouble, Crozier reported symptoms of joint and muscle pain, fatigue and hearing loss — health problems survivors in West Africa are also facing. There are unconfirmed reports of hearing loss and blindness as well. 

There's not a lot known about what types of struggles Ebola survivors could face, as much of the effort was put toward treating and containing the disease.

Doctors who cared for Crozier were advised to wear protective gear. However, tests showed his tears do not contain the disease, which doctors say means casual contact with Crozier before he was admitted likely didn't pose a risk.

Although numbers in many countries are the lowest they've been in the past year, since December 2013, more than 26,000 people have been infected with the deadly disease.

The New York Times reports Dr. Crozier's eyesight has returned gradually after treatment with steroids and an experimental drug, and his left eye returned to blue. He left for Liberia in April with other doctors to examine Ebola survivors.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Russian Resupply Spacecraft Burns Up Over Pacific Ocean]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 07:58:00 -0500
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An uncrewed Progress space cargo freighter burned up somewhere over the Pacific Ocean Thursday night.

This fiery end was only a matter of time. Russia’s Progress 59 mission ran into trouble more than a week ago, when the spacecraft stopped responding to commands shortly after launch.

It entered an uncontrolled spin and Earth’s gravity pulled it back into the atmosphere. (Video via NASA)

The robotic spacecraft was carrying more than three tons of fuel and equipment for the crew of the International Space Station, and it should have been routine: the Progress program has been resupplying the ISS for the last 15 years, and has lost only one other spacecraft. (Video via NASA)

“Russia’s space agency is investigating the failure of the Progress craft, and hoping to understand what exactly caused the $50 million mission to go wrong,” said Al Jazeera’s Tarek Bazley.

According to the Russian state news agency TASS, early investigation shows evidence of an “emergency situation” with the third stage of the rocket that was boosting Progress to orbit.

Inspectors will go over the rest of Russia’s launch vehicles to see if it’s a shared problem. (Video via NASA)

In the meantime, the ISS crew is in no danger, from debris or from running out of supplies: NASA reiterated Thursday the crew has enough stores to last past even the next planned resupply flight. (Video via NASA)

Some debris from Progress 59 is expected to make it all the way down to the surface, but it will splash down in the Pacific and won’t pose a danger to populated areas.

This video includes images from NASA. Music by Planet Boelex / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Fingers Crossed For Comet Lander Philae To Wake Up Again]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 22:16:00 -0500
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Philae, the plucky little lander that bounced its way across a comet last November, ran out of power a couple of days after impact and had to shut down. 

But Philae's new home, comet 67P, is becoming a bit brighter and more cozy with each passing day. The comet is getting nearer and nearer to the sun, and is expected to reach its closest point in mid-August. (Video via European Space Agency)

That means there's a slim chance we haven't heard the last of Philae. Scientists at the European Space Agency are crossing their fingers that they will get a few more messages back from the lander sometime over the next few months. 

"Having Philae reactivated is not so likely, but is not impossible. Philae was designed to hibernate, was designed to switch off and be able to reactivate itself," ESA's Andrea Accomazzo said.

But because Philae didn't exactly stick the landing, it's anyone's guess whether that will happen. The probe bounced several times, and ESA scientists still aren't sure exactly where it wound up. 

For scientists to get any more messages, a string of unlikely things has to happen. Philae has to get warm, it has to get enough sunlight to charge up, and it has to transmit its signal while the Rosetta orbiter is close enough to receive it. 

The orbiter is currently making a series of wide fly-bys, meaning it only gets close to the comet every once in a while. (Video via European Space Agency)

Combine that with the fact that Philae appears to have landed someplace dark and we're clearly looking at an uphill battle. 

The first window to get a message from Philae takes place through mid-May, though we'll get several more chances before the summer is over. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Allergy Sufferers, Beware Of The 'Pollen Tsunami']]> Thu, 07 May 2015 14:49:00 -0500
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There's a storm brewing in the Northeast. But unlike the nor'easters from seasons past, this one isn't full of wind and rain. Instead, it's pollen.

"We have a health alert now for the 45 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. Warnings of a pollen tsunami with doctors warning of one of the worst allergy seasons in years," George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America."

One doctor described the situation for NBC, calling it a "triple whammy." Early- and mid-spring tree pollen along with grasses are all producing pollen at the same time, which is making for some awfully runny noses.

"The pollen tsunami is real, and individuals now who have seasonal allergies know who they are, they're in allergy misery," Dr. Clifford Bassett told WNYW.

As for the root of this so-called pollen tsunami? A harsh winter combined with a delayed spring created the perfect conditions for maximum pollen.

Climate change may also play a part. A 2014 scientific study published in Global Change Biology linked changes in pollen season and timing with changes in the Earth's climate.

As for what you can do to help fend off any pollen, some tips include wearing sunglasses, exercising indoors when possible and keeping track of the pollen count in the area.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Whole Foods Wants Young Money, Even If It Must Charge Less]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 13:29:00 -0500
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Score another victory for millennials as more and more corporations try to court their business and cater to their tastes. Whole Foods Market wants your dollars, millennials, even if it has to charge fewer of them to get you to buy something.

During its second quarter earnings call, Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey announced the grocery chain would launch a new lower-priced line of stores. (Video via OWN)

"This new format will feature a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection," Mackey said. "It will offer a convenient, transparent and values-oriented experience geared toward millennial shoppers."

Not a bad move for a store with a reputation that's as much about organic, natural food as it is high prices. Its nickname, after all, is "Whole Paycheck."

Another big reason for the need to find new customers is Whole Foods Market doesn't exactly have the market cornered anymore on locally grown or organic products. Mainstream grocery store chains know their consumers want this stuff, too. (Video via Hy-Vee)

The new stores will have their own brand separate from Whole Foods, but as Mackey told investors, "We want to underscore we see this as an 'and' to our Whole Foods Market brand and not an 'or.'" (Video via ABC)

Mackey didn't say what the new brand name would be, but said the company is already building a team and negotiating leases for new storefronts. (Video via Whole Foods Market)

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Brenticus / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[How Climate Change Denial Bred Uncertainty In Science]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 13:08:00 -0500
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In a perfect world, science informs policy — especially where that policy relates to science. 

But new research shows the reverse might be true, at least when it comes to climate change. (Video via GoPro)

In the political world, an elected official can present a snowball in the Senate as evidence climate change isn't happening. (Video via C-SPAN)

Now, a group of international researchers says, that denial of climate change has seeped into the scientific community. (Video via Peruvian Ministry of the Environment)

That doesn't mean scientists have taken up the cause of denying climate change is happening — they haven't. There's still an overwhelming consensus. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

In their paper, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, the researchers argue vested interests and political figures have scammed scientists into using the language of deniers and causing an appearance of uncertainty. 

Literally, scammed: SCAM stands for Scientific Certainty Argumentation Method, a strategy of creating uncertainty to push inaction. 

"The Colbert Report" compiled a montage of politicians saying: "I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change. I'm not a scientist. I'm not a scientist. I'm not a scientist."

As that "Colbert Report" bit highlighted, several politicians have deflected questions about climate change as well, excusing themselves as "not scientists," which furthers public uncertainty. (Video via PBS)

It's worked in the past: Tobacco companies used perceived uncertainty in the medical community to push cigarettes after links to cancer and other diseases emerged. (Video via Camel)

The researchers argue these SCAM arguments have played on scientists' own skepticism, causing them to double back on their own conclusions and generally causing more uncertainty. (Video via National Science Foundation)

As an example of concepts from climate contrarians infiltrating the scientific community, the paper points to two issues of Nature and a host of other papers focusing on the perceived "pause" in warming. (Video via Yale UniversityNASA)

In the end, they argue, more work needs to be done in strengthening the boundary between science and pseudoscience, and they encourage scientists not to be swayed or distracted by unfounded claims. (Video via C-SPAN)

This video includes an image from NASA/Goddard/Bill Hrybyk.

<![CDATA[Millennials More Open To Premarital Sex, Fewer Partners]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 07:59:00 -0500
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Millennials might be more accepting than their parents when it comes to premarital sex, but new research says millennials are averaging fewer sexual partners than Generation X. 

That comes from a study out of San Diego State University which says millennials average 8.26 sexual partners, down from estimated 10 partners Gen X averages. The numbers were controlled for age. 

Lead researcher Jean Twenge theorizes the shift has to do with changing attitudes.

 "This is consistent with their image as a tolerant, individualistic generation accepting others' choices and making their own. ... When the culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result."  

Twenge says there's also more education of sexually transmitted diseases, which could be another factor of the limited sexual partners. 

The lowest number of sexual partners from a recent generation comes from the Greatest Generation, or those who grew up during the Great Depression. They average 2.16 sexual partners. This study says those numbers peaked for the 1950s-born Boomers who averaged 11.68 sexual partners. 

The full study can be found in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Farm Security Administration / Dorothea Lange and peasap / CC BY 2.0

<![CDATA[Global CO2 Levels Tick Past 400 Parts Per Million]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 07:42:00 -0500
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Global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels just passed 400 parts per million for the first time.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports CO2 levels have been on track to pass this milestone for years. Some of its research sites recorded 400ppm as early as 2012. (Video via NOAA)

“This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times. Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.”

Researchers averaged samples from 40 sites around the globe, so variables such as population centers or active volcanoes wouldn’t skew the results.

NOAA expects the average will stay above 400ppm until May, after which blooming plants in the northern hemisphere should draw off some of the CO2 as fuel for photosynthesis. (Video via NOAA)

But it’s not a permanent reduction: climate scientists at NOAA say it will take a huge worldwide effort to reverse the effects of accumulated CO2.

Simply leveling off atmospheric carbon dioxide would require humans eliminate 80 percent of our worldwide fossil fuel emissions. It would take even more cutbacks to get CO2 concentrations to decline. (Video via NASA)

That’s a tall order, and only getting taller: numbers from the Energy Information Administration suggest global emissions could climb more than 40 percent as places such as India and China develop. (Video via NDTV)

The climate summit scheduled for later this year in Paris has its work cut out for it. The Guardian quotes a spokesperson with the U.N. group overseeing the talks, who says there “needs to be a long term development plan … for triggering a peaking of global emissions in 10 years’ time followed by a deep, decarbonisation of the global economy by the second half of the century.” (Video via United Nations)

The Paris summit will start in November.

This video includes images from NASA and NOAA.

<![CDATA[Why It's So Hard To Make People Care About Endangered Bugs]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 11:40:00 -0500
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This is Capelatus prykei, a diving beetle that's brand new to science, but already has a big problem. 

The researchers who discovered Capelatus have asked for it to be listed as critically endangered. 

That's because Capelatus has only been found in an area of wetlands in Western Cape, South Africa, and it faces the threat of habitat loss, through urbanization and development. (Video via Google, African Queen Guesthouse)

But Capelatus' case is hardly unique. Destruction of habitat hits insects particularly hard because many of them are habitat specialists — meaning they're tied to their specific ecosystem. (Video via The Guardian)

Of the just over 5,000 species of insect evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, about 1,000 are endangered, and a further 1,450 are data deficient, meaning their conservation status is unknown.

That's 5,000 species — one half of one percent of the million or so species of insect described by science, which is just a fraction of the six million species estimated to live on our planet. (Video via Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Given that sheer volume of insects, it's really hard to keep track of how many are at risk of extinction, or even already extinct. (Video via Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic)

Dr. David Bilton, the lead author in describing Capelatus, put it like this: "It's not always easy to be sure a relatively large vertebrate is extinct. It's therefore often even more difficult for small insects, with specialised, and often poorly-known habitat requirements."

This dilemma might be to blame for the fact that endangered insects attract a lot less attention than their more charismatic mammalian counterparts. (Video via 3AWRadioBBC)

But beyond what Bilton calls their, "intrinsic right to exist," there's a strong ecological reason to preserve them. (Video via CBS)

Insects play crucial roles in ecosystems across the world, from regulating plant life to becoming food for other organisms, so while we might not notice them on a daily basis, it would be hard not to notice their absence. (Video via Rice University)

You can find Dr. Bilton's work in the journal Systematic Entomology

This video includes an image from *Psycho Delia* / CC BY NC 2.0 and music from Master Class & Blendy Cello / CC BY NC SA 3.0

<![CDATA[SpaceX Tests Escape Rockets So Astronauts Can Abort Missions]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 08:55:00 -0500
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SpaceX tested its crew capsule abort rockets Wednesday, as the latest step in preparing its Crew Dragon capsule for manned spaceflight.

In this test, SpaceX Says “Our primary objective is to capture as much data as possible as the data captured here will be key in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017.”

The abort system uses eight SpaceX-designed Super Draco engines. Combined they can crank out 120,000 pounds of thrust in less than a second, to get astronauts as far as possible as fast as possible in the event of an emergency. (Video via SpaceX)

Launch escape systems are required for NASA to certify any crew program. NASA used similar rockets on its Apollo capsule, and will use a similar system for Orion when it starts manned launches in the early 2020s. (Video via NASA)

But where these systems use “puller” rockets to yank the crew capsule out of harm’s way, Crew Dragon’s rockets are built into the lower edges of the capsule in a “pusher” configuration.

Integrated rockets have two benefits: since they’re never ejected, Crew Dragon has abort capability at nearly any point during the launch sequence. And SpaceX hopes to use them for more than emergency escapes.

Just like its Falcon rocket recoveries, SpaceX plans to eventually return its Crew Dragon capsules to the ground under their own thruster power.

The next step is an in-flight abort test. SpaceX plans to test its escape system from aboard an ascending Falcon later this year. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from SpaceX and NASA. Music by Esbe / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Economic And Language Barriers Could Hurt Hispanic Health]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 16:51:00 -0500
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Hispanics living in the U.S. have a lower mortality rate than whites but may face health challenges due to education, poverty and language barriers. That's according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which is a first of its kind for the CDC, used health surveys and death certificates between 2009 and 2013 to gather data. Researchers found that, although Hispanics are less likely to die from the leading causes, they face their own unique set of health challenges.

Hispanics born in the U.S. have higher rates of heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. U.S.-born Hispanics are also more likely to be obese and more likely to smoke cigarettes.

CDC epidemiologist Ken Dominguez, lead author of the study, said on a call with reporters the population's health problems might partly be attributed to the foods marketed toward Hispanics.

Taking a closer look at Hispanic groups, Puerto Ricans — a group that represents 10 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population — smoke at a higher rate than whites. According to the CDC, that might be one reason why rates of death and disease among Puerto Ricans are rising.

The CDC says other factors might play a role in poor health among Hispanics, including education, poverty and language barriers.

"If you're a health care provider, work with interpreters to eliminate language barriers for Spanish-speaking patients. Counsel patients with high blood pressure and those at high risk for diabetes or cancer on weight control and diet," a CDC spokesperson said.

Nearly 1 in 6 Americans are Hispanic, making them the nation's largest minority group. That population is expected to rise from 57 million to 85 million by 2035.

This video includes images from Getty Images, wlodi / CC BY SA 2.0 and Alex Barth / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Managing Isolated Amazonian Tribes Poses A Unique Problem]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 13:32:00 -0500
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The idea of uncontacted peoples in the Amazon is one that captures the imagination. (Video via National Indian Foundation of Brazil)

Such that videos like this one from the BBC of an isolated tribe in Brazil still make the rounds on the Internet. (Video via BBC)

But for some people, the issue of what to do about isolated peoples is extremely real — like villagers in the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru. (Video via Peruvian Society for Environmental Rights)

Members of the Mashco Piro tribe, pictured here, reportedly attacked a village and killed a 20-year-old man with a bow and arrow. (Video via Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest)

A group of about 30 tribe members have had run-ins with the village several times already this year, usually raiding it for supplies. (Video via Madre de Dios River and Tributaries Native Federation

Their case raises a tough question for the authorities: How to protect the villagers, who don't want to be relocated, without disturbing the tribe?

The village is populated by more modernized indigenous people, and they've asked for barriers to be constructed to keep the tribe out of their settlement. (Video via Madre de Dios Regional Educational Authority)

But that's just one possible solution that won't address more systemic problems authorities have identified, which include illegal logging and drug trafficking, driving tribes out of isolation. (Video via CCTV)

One isolated tribe in Brazil that spoke with interpreters said outsiders had killed tribe members and asked for help. (Video via National Indian Foundation of Brazil)

But actually helping the tribes presents a whole host of problems — not the least of which is disease. 

As the BBC reports, the tribes are more vulnerable to common diseases because they haven't developed immunities through exposure. 

The threat that problem can pose is evidenced by history. Starting in the 16th century, disease killed an estimated 95 percent of indigenous people in the Americas over the course of just a few generations.

In the meantime, officials from Peru's Ministry of Culture have assigned conservation officials and specialists to look into what to do about the encounters.

<![CDATA[Panera Nixes 150 'No No' Ingredients, But It Could Be Costly]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 12:56:00 -0500
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Not even a week ago, Chipotle announced it will only make burritos with nongenetically modified ingredients. Not to be out done, Chipotle's fast-casual competitor Panera has announced plans to drop 150 items from its list of ingredients.

Here's a line from a Panera Bread commercial: "We've realized the secret to great taste is clean food ultimately."

Panera has recently published its "No No List" online, which includes the artificial preservatives, sweeteners and flavors that Panera says will be taken off the menu by the end of 2016. Some have already been removed from Panera's food.

When asked about the drastic changes, Panera Bread Founder and CEO Ron Shaich told Fortune"It is a much higher standard than what makes business sense. ... It is 'how do I want to feed my daughter?' That's the gold-standard question, and when I answer that, it tells me what I want to do for my customers."

Panera, much like Chipotle, has been ahead of the curve when it comes to removing items from its menu that are perceived as being unhealthy or better for the environment. More than a decade ago, Panera stopped using meat from animals that had taken antibiotics, and less than nine years ago, the company removed trans fat from its menus across the country.

This cleanse of the menu was once unique to places like Panera or Chipotle, but over the past year, many large corporations and restaurant chains  — McDonald's, Nestle, Tyson and Kraft, just to name a few — have all joined the trend to appeal to health-conscious consumers.

But making these major changes to the menu doesn't come without challenges. Panera's CEO says removing certain ingredients from its salad dressings was "the most challenging category by far," and it took the fast-casual company months to reformulate the dressing to fit its new standard. 

"Rolling blackouts of carnitas sounds like an absolute nightmare!" a CNBC anchor said.

Chipotle has experienced firsthand the difficulties that can be created by sticking with a tougher standard. Chipotle was forced to cut its ties with one of its major pork suppliers because the supplier was not raising the livestock according to the restaurant's "responsibly raised" standards. 

That forced the company to stop serving pork in many of its locations around the country, which had a negative effect on sales.

And while a healthier menu is undoubtedly a popular trend, it is also an expensive one. Panera's expenses rose to $479 million during the first quarter of 2015, which is 10 percent higher than a year ago.

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<![CDATA[US Has Highest Maternal Death Rate Of Developed Countries]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 07:16:00 -0500
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It's a scary and potentially surprising find: The U.S. ranks last among developed countries when it comes to risk of maternal death.

That's according to the State of the World's Mothers 2015 report by the Save the Children organization released Monday. The report defines maternal death as the likelihood that a woman will end up dying due to a pregnancy.

In the overall Mothers' Index Rankings from the report, the U.S. fares better, ranking 33rd out of 179 countries surveyed. The Mothers' Index Rankings take into account five things: the lifetime risk of maternal death due to pregnancy, mortality rate for children under the age of 5, formal schooling years of children, gross national income per capita and women's participation in national government.

Last year, the U.S. ranked 31st overall, meaning the U.S. has slipped two spots since then. 

In the U.S., mothers face a 1 in 1,800 chance of pregnancy-related death — the worst of any developed country. 

Specifically, Washington D.C., ranked the worst among 25 high-income capital cities from around the world as nearly eight infants died per 1,000 live births. 

And out of 50 U.S. cities, Cleveland was the worst with an infant mortality rate of 14.1 per 1,000 in 2011. 

Overall, Norway ranked as the best country in the overall Mothers' Index Rankings, as Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden rounded out the top five. Somalia ranked the worst. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Thomas Rousing / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[ER Visits Continue To Increase, Despite Affordable Care Act]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 07:01:00 -0500
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"What about those parents whose kids have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep on going back to the emergency room because they don't have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming?" President Obama asked a crowd during a speech in Maryland. 

During his push for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president repeatedly cited expensive emergency room visits as one problem the ACA could solve. (Video via The White House)

But ER doctors say they've seen continued increases in visits, according to a new poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians, emergency physicians' professional organization. (Video via KOMO

The poll of 2,099 ACEP members found 28 percent of respondents reported significant increases, and 47 percent saw slight increases, while only 22 percent remained the same or decreased. 

While some responses to the poll's finding were a little extreme, it's worth considering the upward trend in ER visits was something that started before key parts of the ACA were implemented. (Video via Fox Business)

The ACEP's own site points to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that show ER visits increased by 13 million to 130 million in 2010.

The president and ACA supporters had argued once more people had access to health insurance and preventive care, ER visits would go down. (Video via Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

But the ACEP argues not enough doctors are accepting the coverage people have received under the ACA, leading them to instead turn to the emergency room. (Video via PBS)

<![CDATA[The Part Of Football's Concussion Problem Fans Never Witness]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 19:39:00 -0500
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Concussions are a known problem at all levels of football, and for high school and college players, the majority of those injuries occur on the practice field, according to a new study.

Research published in JAMA Pediatrics says 58 percent of concussions suffered at the high school and college level occurred during practice, compared to 42 percent during games. (Video via WEWS)

And while the numbers were closer to 50/50 for youth leagues, the study says, "Football practices were a major source of concussion at all three levels of competition."

Researchers used data, tracking more than 20,000 athletes over the 2012 and 2013 football seasons.

They found that for 2013, 3 percent of youth players, 5 percent of high school players and 6 percent of college players were at risk of suffering a concussion. This is reportedly the first study to compare those three groups. (Video via YouTube / Amanda Wood)

Football, of course, is wildly popular in the U.S. at any level. There are about 3 million youth football players in the country, 1.1 million in high school and 100,000 who play at the collegiate level. (Video via WEWS)

And at all levels, there have been attempts to reduce the number of concussions.

For instance, according to NPR, the University of New Hampshire has practiced without helmets.

"The biggest thing that we talk about is keeping the eyes and head up. And then you want to tackle chest to chest, not leading with your helmet or your face," said Wildcats head coach Sean McDonnell.

"The efforts of USA Football are critical in making the game better," Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said.

New Hampshire is not alone. USA Football, which helped fund the new study, has partnered with the NFL on the "Heads Up" football program, which gives youth players training on safer playing techniques.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[How The Black Market Could Aid Conservation Efforts]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 14:57:00 -0500
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One of the biggest threats to a lot of endangered wildlife — both fauna and flora — is the black market. (Video via International Fund for Animal Welfare)

The illegal wildlife trade constitutes billions of dollars in trade of products ranging from illegal ivory to exotic pets. (Video via Interpol)

Now, researchers say, the scientific community might need to get its hands dirty to help stave off the effects of this trade. (Video via BBC)

No, we're not talking about researchers going undercover, Ace Ventura-style. It's not quite that exciting. (Video via Warner Bros. / "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls")

Instead, researchers from Princeton University suggest in an upcoming paper that scientists should use the black market itself as a bellwether to see what animals are most at risk. (Video via YouTube / Free Animal Video)

The researchers looked at bird markets in Indonesia and identified a trend: As prices increased and availability in the market decreased, the population in the wild decreased as well.

Of the 38 species of birds the researchers examined, the 14 they listed as declining or severely declining were all regularly traded in the markets. (Video via Princeton University)

The researchers say one problem scientists face is in some areas where the illegal wildlife trade hits the hardest, there's a lack of population data for threatened species. (Video via The Humane Society of the United States)

They suggest information on prices in the market, like they used in their research, could help solve that problem. Their research is set to be published in the journal Biological Conservation.

This video includes an image from florador / CC BY NC 2.0 and music by Chris Zabriskie / CC by 3.0.

<![CDATA[Space Money: The Politics And Science Of NASA's Budget]]> Sat, 02 May 2015 16:30:00 -0500
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Congress’ proposed 2016 NASA budget rebalancing is getting pushback before it even goes to markup, because it puts the majority of the agency’s funds toward space exploration. Wait, what?

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee submitted a bill last week that would rearrange NASA’s 2016 budget to prioritize space exploration and spaceflight technology over the administration’s other science and research efforts.

The universally Republican-sponsored bill was held up as responsible insurance that America will continue to lead the world in space exploration.

But the boosts to the exploration budget would come at the expense of NASA’s wide-ranging earth sciences program.

NASA’s 2016 budget would dedicate $1.947 billion of its total funds to the official study of earth. The version in Congress would chop that allotment down to $1.45 billion.

NASA would probably feel a 25 percent cut. Yes, it’s a space agency, but it also works to understand our home planet. NASA currently operates a fleet of 20 Earth-facing satellites, which measure and study everything from ocean currents to rainfall to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Within the atmosphere, airborne science missions survey local climate features, such as earth’s changing polar ice, and help develop technologies to implement in future space missions. (Video via NASA)

In a statement this week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden decried the proposed “gutting” of these programs and warned the budget "threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate."

Ah, the magic words. Critics of the bill see this as a partisan political issue, some vehemently so. (Video via NASA)

At Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog, Phil Plait writes: "Republicans in the House and Senate don't want NASA studying Earth, because they think (or say) that global warming isn't real, or isn't a problem, or whatever talking point they’ve been told to use this week."

"The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate," President Obama said in his 2015 State of the Union address.  "And if we don’t act forcefully we'll continue to see rising oceans; longer, hotter heat waves; dangerous droughts and floods."

A writer at the Los Angeles Times called the bill "a clear swipe at the study of climate change."

And in an op-ed at The Hill, Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson wrote, "It’s hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet."

And any politically-driven changes, if that’s what these are, can have significant effects on NASA’s operations. The agency doesn’t really have money just sitting around.

While NASA’s actually set to receive more funding than it did this year, and more than it did in 2014, compared to the overall U.S. budget NASA's share is kind of pocket change.

According to numbers from the Office of Management and Budget, total U.S. outlays for 2016 are estimated at $3.99 trillion. NASA's request would earmark $18.529 billion, or 0.46 percent of the total. (Video via NASA)

Here’s a silly metaphorical example: If you represent the budget in pounds of thrust instead of dollars, and make 2016 U.S. spending a Saturn V rocket coming off the pad at full boost, NASA’s proportional share is approximately one of the two engines on a Lockheed Martin F22 fighter.

Not a lot, in other words. You can see how where it goes within NASA is a hot issue. A full House vote on the budget proposal is expected later this month.

This video includes images from NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Music by Planet Boelex & Mosaik / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Ebola Survivors Should Use Condoms Indefinitely, CDC Says]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 21:21:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing a new warning to male Ebola survivors: if you have sex, use a condom — every time. 

This new warning comes after a Liberian woman supposedly contracted the deadly virus from a man with whom she had unprotected sex. That man was an Ebola survivor who hadn't shown symptoms for months. 

The World Health Organization had released a similar warning last year about how male Ebola survivors should abstain from sex for at least three months after the onset of symptoms. The reason: the virus had been detected in semen 82 days after the onset of symptoms and viral RNA, which can lead to Ebola, was found 101 days after the onset of symptoms. 

This newest warning is particularly concerning because it almost doubles the timeline that Ebola has been detected in semen — there were 199 days between the onset of symptoms with the male survivor and the positive test for traces of Ebola in his semen.

The CDC report says researchers can't directly link the contact between the Ebola survivor and the woman as the reason for her positive Ebola test — and previous cases of Ebola have been equally difficult to pinpoint through sexual intercourse. 

But CDC researchers plan to continue researching how long Ebola stays in the bodily fluids of survivors to better understand the risk of transmitting the virus through sexual intercourse.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Rorro Navia / CC BY ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Artificial Pancreas Helps Diabetic Mom Give Natural Birth]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 20:51:00 -0500
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According to experts, a mother has made history. 

The mother, who participated in a study in the United Kingdom, became the first Type 1 diabetic woman in the world to give birth naturally while using an artificial pancreas. (Video via De Montfort University)

Three other diabetic women have given birth while using an artificial pancreas, but those births were via c-section.

"You have a lot of moms that are telling you, 'it was the best time of my life,' ...  it's not like that for me. It's not like that for many diabetics, I expect. For us it's really, really hard work." said Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins, the baby's mother.

Having diabetes can be difficult during pregnancy because hormone levels fluctuate. It can also be hard to predict the body's sugar levels.

An artificial pancreas helps carry out the functions of a healthy pancreas and automates insulin delivery to help control blood glucose levels. (Video via Al Jazeera)

This is important because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says uncontrolled blood sugar can cause birth defects, early births and can increase the chance a baby will be delivered via cesarean section.

The principle researcher on this study says the artificial pancreas could help treat diabetes during pregnancy and lead to healthier mothers and babies.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Climate Change Could Extinguish 16 Percent Of Wildlife]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 08:38:00 -0500
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If we don't get serious about protecting the world's environments we could see 16%, or one-sixth of earth's wildlife, go extinct. 

That's according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science. The study claims that for every increased degree in temperature, the rate of extinction will be accelerated.

Sky News reports, "Animals and plants in South America, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica are most at risk because they have nowhere to go if their habitats change." 

Amphibians and reptiles face the greatest risk of extinction. But animals like penguins that rely on packed ice could also be in trouble.

The study's author, Mark Urban, looked at every study on extinction ever published to reach his conclusion. He told The Verge it's important to realize animal species extinction would have negative consequences for every human being. 

That's because "Global biodiversity provides the foundation for economy, culture, food, and human health." This is the same issue that President Obama touched on in his weekly address last week. 

"Today there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change, 2014 was the planet's warmest year on record," Obama said. "The fact that the climate is changing has very serious implications about the way we live now, stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons." 

Urban says it will take the implementation of strict policies to stop the detrimental affects of climate change - something he hopes will be addressed at the UN Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Is A NASA Lab About To Crack Interstellar Travel?]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 07:59:00 -0500
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NASA has a well-deserved reputation for making the unthinkable a reality. So what are we to make of it when a handful of NASA scientists quietly leak the news that they've defied the laws of physics?

A recent post on summarized a discussion that's been happening among physicists on the site's forums. The site isn't affiliated with NASA, but NASA scientists have been participating. 

The news from the forums is that a team of those NASA scientists, working at the Eagleworks lab at NASA's Johnson Space Center, has found new evidence for two incredible ways of traveling through space. Either one of them could let humans explore the rest of the galaxy, and both are at the absolute fringe of scientific thought. 

Let's tackle the first one. Last year we learned the Eagleworks team, headed by Dr. Harold "Sonny" White, tested engines called the EmDrive and the Cannae drive and were able to measure thrust coming from both. (Video via NASA)

But they shouldn't have, at least according to Newton's laws of motion. In order for something to be pushed forward, something else has to be pushed backward. In the vacuum of space without air to push against, spacecraft have to use propellant or fuel to maneuver. (Video via University of Southern California, NASA)

The EmDrive doesn't use propellant. In fact, nothing is being pushed out the back of it at all. It supposedly gets its thrust by bouncing microwaves around inside a closed chamber, which physicists say absolutely should not work. A popular analogy is trying to move your car by sitting inside of it and pushing the steering wheel. 

One explanation other physicists came up with last year was that the air around the EmDrive must have been interfering with Eagleworks' measurements, so this time they measured it in a vacuum. Guess what? It still seems to be working. 

If propulsionless drives were proven to work, it would be revolutionary. Fuel is heavy, it's expensive and it takes up a lot of room. Plus, once it's gone, that's it: you're officially adrift. But a drive that only needed electricity could go on indefinitely. (Video via NASA)

What's more, it can keep moving faster. Without air to slow it down, a tiny amount of thrust — applied for a long time – can carry a spacecraft to another star system in just a few decades. It would take thousands of years with current technology. (Video via NASA)

The other Eagleworks discovery announced at doesn't need much introduction. Thanks to the Star Trek franchise, most people already know what warp drive is. (Video via Paramount Home Video / "Star Trek: The Motion Picture")

In 2011, Dr. White made national news when he claimed warp drive might actually be feasible.  

"In principle, a space warp would allow you to go to places like Alpha Centauri in time periods measured in weeks, months, as opposed to decades or centuries or millenia," White told Bloomberg.

Ever since, White has been working on a proof of concept, trying to create a tiny warp bubble at the Eagleworks lab. According to the forum post, he finally got a reading just a few weeks ago. 

It would be hard to overstate just how amazing either one of these findings would be if they're confirmed. 

In fact, they almost sound too good to be true, and that's why a lot of physicists think they probably aren't. 

White based his warp drive theories off of a formula by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who's been outspoken that he doesn't think warp drive is likely to ever be built. For one thing, it requires something called "exotic matter" which has negative mass, and so far that only exists in theory. (Video via Once Noticias)

As for EmDrive, critics accuse White of doing some handwaving in his paper on the topic last year. It said the thrust could come from "quantum vacuum virtual plasma," which isn't a thing in mainstream physics. 

Critics also say White has been more than happy to reinforce the media's overhyping of his work, giving talks on how warp drive could take us to the stars. (Video via Students for the Exploration and Development of Space)

He even worked with a graphic artist to create mock-ups of a warp-ready spaceship, which were somewhat misleadingly reported as a new NASA spaceship design. 

Physicist Sean Carroll told Jalopnik the images were just "very pretty pictures" and called White's EmDrive explanation "nonsensical sub-Star-Trek level technobabble."

In the end, though, White's work is at least intriguing enough to get physicists to read it, and even his most vocal critics say they hope they're wrong. (Video via NASA)

And yes, the most likely explanation for his findings would be some kind of glitch, like when teams at the Large Hadron Collider saw particles move faster than light, and it turned out to be caused by a loose cable. 

But come on! How can you not be excited about warp drive? And how hard would it be to take an EmDrive into space and see if it moves? What have we got to lose? Can you imagine zipping around in space ships like it's no big deal? 

This video includes images from NASA, Getty Images, Daniel Oines / CC BY 2.0, Image Editor / CC BY 2.0 and Ars Electronica / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music by Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Mutations That Lower Diabetes Risk Can Spark New Research]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 18:42:00 -0500
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Over the past few decades, genetic testing has opened up new ways to study disease. And while you may be used to hearing "this gene variation raises the risk of this disease," it can also work in reverse. (Video via National Institutes of Health)

A new study on diabetes risk is a good example: An international team of scientists headed by researchers at Los Angeles hospital Cedars-Sinai found a new genetic mutation that seems to lower people's risk of getting Type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.

It's hardly the first mutation found that protects against the disease. Another study last year found a rare genetic variation that lowered Type 2 diabetes risk by a whopping 65 percent. 

And there are mutations that can protect against other diseases as well, like heart disease, Alzheimer's and even HIV. 

The hope is that these discoveries will lead the way to new treatments, but it's tricky to go from finding the genetic data to learning how to exploit it. (Video via National Institutes of Health)

After last year's study, Pfizer, the drug company which helped fund the research, warned it could take 10 to 20 years to get a new drug to market based on genetic findings.

And the genetic variants can be a double-edged sword, lowering risk for one disease while raising risk for another. For instance, a mutation that protects against HIV was found to make people more susceptible to West Nile Virus. 

The researchers behind the new study don't yet know why the mutation protects against Type 2 diabetes, but said it doesn't seem to lower people's risk of obesity. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Space Freighter Could Be A Rare Loss, But Not A Critical One]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 10:54:00 -0500
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A resupply freighter bound for the International Space Station is unresponsive in orbit, and it might not stay there for long. (Video via NASA)

Progress 59 is an uncrewed resupply vehicle carrying more than 3 tons of food, supplies and fuel for crew aboard the International Space Station. It launched from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday, then stopped responding to commands. (Video via NASA)

"Due to sporadic telemetry from Progress 59, inconclusive data, and trouble uplinking commands to the spacecraft, controllers were unable to confirm the status of the systems."

The original mission called for a space station rendezvous within six hours of launch. Flight controllers bumped it out to two days and then put it on indefinite pause while they try to sort out the trouble.

At time of writing, the spacecraft is in a slow spin and still unresponsive. If flight engineers can't get it to follow commands, it's expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry and burn up in the atmosphere. (Video via NASA)

This is big news and not just because there's a spaceship spinning out of control: In the 15 years Progress spacecraft have been supplying the ISS, this is only the second mishap.

To date, there have been 58 Progress flights to the International Space Station and 57 successful dockings.

In 2011, Progress 44 suffered a third-stage shutdown failure — just minutes before achieving orbit — and crashed in Russia. (Video via NASA)

Losing Progress 59 would be a setback but not a critical one. NASA notes there's nothing irreplaceable aboard the freighter and told the ISS crew is "adequately supplied for well beyond even the next planned cargo flight."

According to CBS, the ISS is still stocked for four months of normal operations.

The next supply launch is slated for June, contracted to SpaceX. The company is 6-for-6 on resupply runs to the ISS.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Planet Boelex & bad loop / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Loggerhead Turtles And The Conservationist's Dilemma]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:56:00 -0500
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Chili powder, red flags, physical barriers — these are a few of the measures conservationists have taken to protect the endangered loggerhead sea turtle in Australia. (Video via Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service)

But they're not trying to protect the turtle — and specifically, its eggs — from poachers or other human threats. They're trying to stop its natural predators. 

Specifically goannas — large monitor lizards which often steal eggs from the turtles' nests. (Video via YouTube / Adrian Morgan)

While it seems odd to see conservationists intervening in the natural process of predators hunting prey, that intervention has its limits.

Because the turtle's previous threat, foxes, were an invasive species, conservationists were allowed to just kill them off. But now, as a biologist from the University of Queensland told The Guardian"that’s probably not a solution because goannas are native-protected animals." (Video via ABC Australia)

So why are humans trying to intervene to protect the turtles from their natural predators? Well, humans are to blame for the turtles' current conservation problem. (Video via GPB News

The turtles are listed as threatened because humans across the globe hunted them, and although that hunting has tailed off, they are still often accidentally caught by fishing equipment. (Video via GoPro)

So now, with humans trying to preserve as many of the eggs as possible to restore the population, the turtles' case exemplifies a major dilemma for conservationists. 

As a writer for Conservation Magazine laid out, on "one hand, rapid population increases often via controlled or assisted breeding are necessary to avoid extinction." But on the other, by eliminating the competitive element — the survival of the fittest — conservationists could encourage defective traits and genes. (Video via National Geographic)

In the meantime, The Guardian reports, the researchers have found that a mesh barrier surrounding the nest is the best way to keep the goannas at bay.

This video includes an image from Getty Images and music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0

<![CDATA[Climate Warming Could Boost The Odds Of Severe Heat Events]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 07:30:00 -0500
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A new study shows increases in global temperatures could significantly increase the odds of extreme heat events.

Climate researchers at ETH Zurich report global warming as a result of human emissions has quadrupled the likelihood of some extreme heat events and, if left unchecked, could make such heat waves more than 60 times more likely. (Video via NASA)

It’s the latest in a number of studies which show human-generated climate warming increased the risk of extreme temperature events.

But this is one of the first studies to examine how those odds might change if climate warming continues unchecked.

“People can argue that we had these kinds of extremes well before human influence on the climate — we had them centuries ago. And that’s correct. But the odds have changed, and we get more of them.”

The researchers ran a long computer simulation of a climate without human influence, to establish what the weather of an unmodified earth would look like. Then they compared it to current climate information, with the humans.

“We find that what used to be a one-in-1,000-days event or a one-in-three-years event becomes, for instance, a four-in-three-year or five-in-three-year event.”

The authors are careful to note their data does not suggest human warming causes more extreme temperature events, but that human warming makes them more likely to occur.

All the same, the research could raise the stakes for talks on limiting human contributions to climate change, such as the U.N.’s climate conference in Paris later this year. (Video via The Guardian)

The Washington Post notes while industrialized nations favor a warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius, a number of other countries call for a 1.5-degree limit and could hold up this study as evidence for stricter limits.

<![CDATA[Tyson Antibiotic Announcement Is Huge And Already Criticized]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 11:44:00 -0500
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The heaviest hitter in the meat industry yet has pledged to get some antibiotics out of its food. Tyson says by 2017, the company will have stopped giving its chickens human antibiotics.

Tyson is the largest meatpacker in the country, selling one of every five pounds of chicken, beef and pork by some estimates.

"We're confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they’re needed to treat illness," CEO Donnie Smith said in a statement. (Video via Tyson Foods)

This continues a massive paradigm shift for the meat industry over the last decade as the public and even government agencies pressured companies over antibiotics use. (Video via PBS)

"Twenty-three thousand people die each year from these infections, many more by complications they cause," a CDC spokesman said.

A 2013 study by the CDC warned the overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture was contributing to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. (Video via CDC)

And while the move is certainly significant just based on the size and scope of the company making it, some have already dubbed Tyson's decision as insufficient.

A writer for the Natural Resources Defense Council called on Tyson to further clarify what the company meant by "human antibiotics" as drugs only used by humans or drugs important to humans.

The Wall Street Journal also pointed out two of Tyson's competitors have already pledged to eliminate all antibiotics from a portion of their chicken production.

Many restaurant chains have begun making various pledges to only serve such food. Those include Panera Bread, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and McDonald's.

The Journal reports McDonald's actually based its decision to drop human antibiotics from its chicken in part on conversations with suppliers, including Tyson. (Video via McDonald's)

Tyson says human antibiotics will be fully eliminated from its chicken flocks by September 2017, and it also plans to have groups begin meeting this summer to discuss antibiotics use for cattle, hogs and turkey. (Video via Tyson Foods)

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[How A 7-Year-Old Helped Find A Brand-New Group Of Dinosaurs]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 10:29:00 -0500
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It's not every day a seven-year-old discovers a dinosaur. Obviously that would be ridiculous. 

But 11 years ago, Diego Suarez did exactly that, and the dinosaur he discovered could prove to be pretty significant. 

Suarez was out on a dig in southern Chile with his parents, who are both geologists, when he found the fossil of the animal that would be named Chilesaurus diegosuarezi in his honor. (Video via Google)

In the intervening years a group of researchers, including Diego's parents, have worked to classify the odd-looking, snub-nosed dino, and what they've found is interesting to say the least. 

Chilesaurus is a member of the clade Tetanurae, which means it's a theropod, and a distant relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. (Video via National Geographic)

Steve Brusatte is a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh who's done extensive research on theropods. 

 "When you think of theropod dinosaurs, you think of t-rex, you think raptors, you think of allosaurus, you think of the meat eaters. And the vast majority of theropods, hundreds of species that we know of, were carnivores," Brusatte said. (Video via BBC)

But aside from being much smaller than its famous, meat-eating cousin, Chilesaurus has another major difference: it was probably a plant-eater. 

Brusatte explained, "The shape of the skull and also the shape of the teeth are classic plant-eating dinosaur features ... It has teeth that are a lot simpler, more peg-like, a little leaf shaped, and that's what we see in plant eating dinosaurs." 

And that means that discovery 7-year-old Diego made 11 years ago represents a brand new group of dinosaurs: plant-eating theropods from South America. 

"I hope this is really just the tip of the iceberg, and there's a whole lot more discoveries from this time period in South America that will tell us more about different dinosaurs living all around the world at that time," Brusatte said. 

You can see the researchers' findings in the journal Nature.

This video includes images from Dr. Fernando Novas and Gabriel Lío.

<![CDATA[Looking Good, Mercury: NASA Releases Colorful New Images]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 09:10:00 -0500
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Looking good, Mercury. NASA has produced these stunning images of one of Earth's closest planetary neighbors thanks to MESSENGER, or MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging.

The space probe — the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury — has collected over 250,000 images since it started orbiting in March 2011.

Here's why Mercury looks like it's been tie-dyed. On board the MESSENGER probe is a system that captures spectral data. That data was overlaid onto monochrome images showing the planet's terrain. NASA visualized the wavelengths of light by converting them into colors. 

All this just before MESSENGER crash lands. The space probe is almost out of the helium fuel it uses to hold its line against the gravity of Mercury and the sun. NASA says MESSENGER's demise will be just a matter of time.

And speed. MESSENGER will be doing 8,750 mph when it spirals into Mercury's surface. The impact is expected to be on the far side of the planet, hidden from the view of Earth.

And yes, Mercury's minimal atmosphere means MESSENGER actually will hit the surface instead of burning up.

"Rest in pieces" seems a suitable epitaph, considering the spacecraft will be ramming the planet at Mach 12. 

We humans won't leave Mercury alone for long: European and Japanese space agencies are planning new Mercury-orbiting probes to launch in January 2017.

This video includes images from NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington and the European Space Agency.

<![CDATA[Vatican's Opinion On Climate Change Is Getting Political]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 08:27:00 -0500
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The pope is weighing in on climate change and, as expected, it's ruffling a few feathers. 

Vatican officials are urging people to pay attention to climate change more and its effect on the world's poor. 

Tuesday is the Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity meeting in Rome and, as The Guardian writes, it's expected to serve as a preview for Pope Francis's environmental encyclical due out in June or July. 

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences says Tuesday's goal "is a joint statement on the moral and religious imperative of dealing with climate change in the context of sustainable development, highlighting the intrinsic connection between respect for the environment and respect for people."

Climate change skeptics predictably aren't on board with the Vatican's mindset though. One of the most outspoken opponents is the conservative think tank Heartland Institute, which released a statement criticizing the pope. It reads, in part,: "If [Pope Francis] is truly committed to advancing science, the poor and creation, he should reject climate chaos claims unless and until alarmists can provide solid evidence to back up their assertions and models." 

Mother Jones, a more liberal news outlet, practically scoffs at Heartland's effort though, saying in its headline: "Good Luck Going After the Pope, Climate Deniers."

Regardless, The New York Times notes this is still a bit damaging to conservatives' current mindsets, especially with the pope's visit to the U.S. coming up in September where he's expected to speak before Congress. The outlet says that could be a "potent moment." 

Pope Francis hasn't shied away from the issue of climate change in the past. In December, the pope told negotiators at a climate summit in Peru time is running out to find solutions, again pointing to the threat it posed to the poor — a major focus of his papacy. (Video via VaticanCCTV)

<![CDATA[How Exoplanets Rebooted NASA's Search For Life Beyond Earth]]> Sun, 26 Apr 2015 11:34:00 -0500
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NASA just announced a huge cooperative effort to analyze other worlds for possible life.

The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or NExSS, brings together scientists from three different NASA research centers, the SETI Institute and teams at 10 different universities.

But this isn't exactly a rebooted search for extraterrestrial intelligence. NASA hasn’t funded that goal since 1992, when it deployed the High Resolution Microwave Survey to search for extraterrestrial transmissions. Congress killed its budget less than a year later.

The nonprofit SETI Institute is keeping up the search, using independently funded tools such as the Allen Telescope Array.

 But NASA's new NExSS initiative is focused more on life than intelligent life, using verifiable scientific data from a relatively new field: the study of exoplanets, which orbit stars other than our own. (Video via NASA

The first definitive detection of a pair of exoplanets came in 1992. Researchers found evidence of the first exoplanet orbiting a G-type star, like our own sun, three years later.

The Kepler mission launched in March of 2009 and really opened the floodgates. Since it started scanning distant stars, researchers have compiled a list of more than 1,000 confirmed exoplanets, plus thousands of additional candidates.

In fact, some research based on gravity data now indicates there's at least one exoplanet for each star in the Milky Way. Researchers found "stars are orbited by planets as a rule, rather than the exception."

But the mere presence of a planet doesn't mean much. Finding Earth-like life on another planet would require that planet orbit within its star's habitable zone, a certain set of distances at which water on the surface is a liquid.

There are a number of other variables to consider as well, which is where the brain trust at NExSS comes in. The goal is to develop a sort of equation to evaluate a given exoplanet for the possibility of life: a way to learn about and classify its formation, interior, geology, atmosphere, tidal dynamics, ecosystem and the effects of its host star.

At NExSS, Earth scientists will contribute their knowledge of how life works on our home planet. Planetary scientists will compare that Earth baseline to other worlds in our solar system. Heliophysicists will explain the interactions and effects stars have on their orbiting planets. And astrophysicists will give NExSS exoplanet targets to analyze using these rules.

Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science, says this "provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life. The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well."

And NASA will keep NExSS well-stocked with data to sift through. Missions over the next decade are expected to lengthen our list of exoplanets. The earliest dedicated mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is set to launch in 2017.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Blazo / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Top 3 Frog Stories Of The Week]]> Sat, 25 Apr 2015 14:52:00 -0500
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This week, slimy green things were taking over. You know ... frogs.

First, we'd be remiss if we didn’t talk about the most popular frog of the week: a new species of glassfrog discovered in Costa Rica.

It gets its name for its translucent belly that allows you to see its organs. The Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center says it's the first time a new type of glassfrog has been discovered in the country since 1973.

Now, the discovery of this new frog is great, but what really turned heads this week is that it sort of resembles a green Muppet we all know and love: Kermit the Frog.

The ladies of "The View" later spoke with Kermit about his newly discovered lookalike, and it seems like he’s taking the high road when it comes to another frog stealing his thunder.

"I want to assure them that the controversy about the legal action because of copyright infringement — ugh, that will not happen. They may all have to wear mouse ears during the summer," Kermit said.

Kermit did tell a Disney blog later that he probably has it easier than his doppleganger: "When you're transparent, folks really look right through you. It's almost like you’re invisible … which might come in handy around Miss Piggy. I take it back. I want to be transparent."

Next, bad weather can't stop a soccer match, but apparently an invasion of frogs can.

A soccer match between two teams in Zurich was abandoned after 41 minutes of play because the field was "swarming with thousands of frogs."

One of the clubs’ vice presidents told a local paper it’s not uncommon to see frogs making their way across the field, but they’d never seen so many at once before.

A rematch between the two teams has been scheduled for May 11. And hopefully security at that game will be more worried about catching any possible streakers than any possible frog invasions.

And finally, want to be able to understand frogs?

The University of South Dakota has got you covered. It's hosting a training session to teach people all about frogs and the different calls they make. 

Like distress and warning calls, as well as release calls, which the University of Michigan says is made "when one male needs to tell another male to let go." The university explains that frog mating "can be a bit hectic."

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[The Volcano Under Yellowstone Is Way Bigger Than We Thought]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:22:00 -0500
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Remember Yellowstone? It's the one with the bison, the geysers, the scenery and, oh yeah, the giant supervolcano. 

That last part isn't as well-known, but it's there: an enormous magma chamber stationed directly under the nation's oldest national park.

And here's the news: Scientists at the University of Utah have discovered another reservoir below the old one, and it's much, much bigger.

The new blob of magma measures about 30 miles long, 44 miles wide and at least 12 miles deep. Put together, it's enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over. (Video via The World From Above and The Smithsonian

And for now, it's just sitting there, helping the upper chamber heat up the water that gives Yellowstone its hot springs and famous geysers like Old Faithful. (Video via National Parks Service)

The chamber also pushes on the ground above it, causing the ground of Yellowstone to rise or fall up to 3 inches a year — between 2004 and 2011, Yellowstone was pushed almost a foot higher. 

But the volcano is capable of much more — its last full eruption was 640,000 years ago, in an event that covered most of the American West and Midwest in feet of toxic volcanic ash. (Video via CBS)

The supervolcano's epic scale and potential for destruction has made it a popular subject of conspiracy theorists and "what if" movies — something that this newest discovery is unlikely to change. (Video via Naked Science)

But the scientists stress the actual hazard is still the same and the upper chamber we already knew about would be responsible for an eruption. Researchers put the chance of a large eruption in any given year at just 1 in 700,000. 

This video includes an image from National Park Service / Ed Austin / Herb Jones.

<![CDATA[Hubble Telescope: 25 Years Of Revealing The Universe]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:15:00 -0500
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The Hubble Space Telescope turns 25 Friday. In its quarter century in orbit, it's given us some of the best views we have of the observable universe.

Hubble takes its name from astronomer and cosmologist Edwin Hubble, whose research helped build our understanding of the universe beyond our home Milky Way galaxy.

It operates like any other optical reflector telescope, just scaled up and orbiting at 343 miles overhead. (Video via ESA/Hubble)

A primary mirror nearly 8 feet across (7 feet, 10.5 inches) captures light from billions of light-years away and feeds it into six sensors, which between them measure visible, ultraviolet and infrared light. The telescope uses reaction wheels and gyroscopes to orient itself with extreme precision: if Hubble were a laser pointer, it would be able to light up a dime 200 miles away. (Video via ESA / Hubble)

Hubble launched aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in April 1990.

But once it powered up in orbit, Hubble almost immediately showed trouble with its primary mirror. The glass had been ground incorrectly, and anything astronomers pointed Hubble at came out blurred. It was better than ground-based imaging, but not as sharp as they'd expected.

So the first maintenance mission to Hubble corrected the mirror with specialized hardware — space glasses, basically. The results were as striking as any visit to the optometrist.

Hubble would get four more service missions to upgrade and expand its cameras, replace stabilizing gyroscopes and install new computers for faster image processing. Since the last maintenance flight in 2009, Hubble has been running smoothly. (Video via NASA)

And to date, for clear visible-light images of distant cosmic objects, there's basically no better instrument in science. (Video via NASA)

Hubble has the best vantage point on — or off — the planet. From above the interference of Earth's atmosphere, it's captured some of the most detailed visible-light images ever recorded. (Video via ESA / Hubble)

Hubble effectively looks into the past: Its deep field projects capture light that is billions of years old. Scientists use the data to track the age and development of the visible universe and its rate of expansion. (Video via NASA)

On a smaller scale, Hubble has discovered and tracked planets outside the solar system, such as this first-ever visible-light image of an extrasolar planet, known as Fomalhaut b. Hubble's detectors can spot clues in the spectral emissions of such planets to tell scientists what they're made of.

Along the way, it's generated iconic real-color images of distant nebulae, dense star clusters and nearby neighbors. Scientists have used Hubble to watch the rare impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter and to capture high-resolution images of our own moon.

One of the few things Hubble isn't suited for is looking back at Earth, which it's orbiting at 5 miles per second. Even with its fastest cameras, all it would see is Earth-colored blur. (Video via ESA / Hubble)

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute hold Hubble up as one of the most useful astronomy installations ever built, not to mention one of the most prolific. Scientists have published more than 10,000 articles based on Hubble data and images.

And for the moment, not even Hubble can see an end to the science it will enable. There's no concrete end date for Hubble operations; officials have said they'll keep it running as long as economically feasible or until something breaks.

Hubble's "scientific successor," the James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in October 2018.

This video includes images from RadioFan / CC BY SA 3.0, NASA and the European Space Agency and music by Planet Boelex / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Newest Pesticide Research Wades Into Debate Over Bee Decline]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:55:00 -0500
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Neonicotinoids are a group of pesticides that have long been the source of controversy — because they've been tied to the mass decline of bees. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Two new studies show neonics, as they're known for short, can not only have negative effects across the board for wild bees, but wild bees and honey bees alike can get hooked on them. (Video via Youtube / rockerBOO, paul pod / CC BY 2.0)  

Neonics are widely used in the U.S. as seed coatings for crops like corn and soybeans, among others. 

The way seed coatings are supposed to work is the pesticide coating the seed is absorbed into the plant as it grows, killing off the pests that eat it. 

What that means, as a bee researcher told NPR, "You get (neonicotinoid) residues in the nectar and pollen, even when the plant is flowering some months later, potentially" exposing bees to the neonics. (Video via University of Sussex)

The possible risks were enough for the European Union in 2013 to institute a two-year ban on the use of the three most common neonics. (Video via Al Jazeera)

But there's debate over how big a factor the neonics are in the increased death-rate beehives have seen in the past decade. (Video via Youtube / Beekeeping in Ontario)

There was a study last year saying not enough neonics to kill bees make it into plant nectar, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture report before that said neonics were a minor factor in bee decline.

One big argument opponents of banning neonics make is there aren't a lot of alternatives. 

Bloomberg reported in January, in the wake of the E.U.'s ban, some European farmers have turned to other older and more environmentally damaging pesticides like pyrethroids, which are also toxic to bees. (Video via Deutshe Welle)

So these newest studies, published in Nature, wade into a debate — not over whether neonics are harmful to bees, but over how harmful their current use really is, and what can be done about it. 

A panel created by the Obama administration to look into ways to protect pollinators like bees is expected to publish its findings next year. (Video via ABC

This video includes images from Getty Images, Edgar181NEUROtiker, Jim, the Photographer / CC BY 2.0, paul pod / CC BY 2.0 and music from Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Your Genes Could Influence How Much Mosquitoes Love You]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 11:20:00 -0500
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There might be a reason mosquitoes bug you every summer. According to new research, your genetic makeup influences how much mosquitos are attracted to you.

A study at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine tested 37 sets of twins, some fraternal, some identical. Each set of twins stuck a hand in a tube full of mosquitoes — for science.

The idea was to give the mosquitoes a choice. The insects had 30 seconds to smell each hand; then, they were let loose to fly toward the more appetizing twin. (Video via National Geographic)

"Volatiles from individuals in an identical twin pair showed a high correlation in attractiveness to mosquitoes, while non-identical twin pairs showed a significantly lower correlation," the researchers wrote.

"Identical twins are very similar in terms of how attractive they are to mosquitoes, compared to unidentical twins," study author James Logan said.

The researchers determined DNA influences between 62 and 83 percent of someone's "mosquito attractiveness." (Video via the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

The researchers say it might be possible to develop a pharmaceutical mosquito repellent, but they'll have to determine exactly what in our DNA causes the attraction.

Smell is a common factor: Earlier studies have investigated how mosquitoes can hone in on human skin odors and how the malaria parasite modifies mosquitoes' own sense of smell to make humans smell more attractive.

And there's good reason to investigate further. By some metrics, mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on the planet. (Video via Gates Notes)

According to data from the World Health Organization, mosquito-borne malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever cause millions of deaths worldwide every year.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[New Study Finds No Link Between Measles Vaccination, Autism]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:42:00 -0500
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A new study of close to 100,000 children shows no link between the Measles, Mumps & Rubella vaccine and an increased risk of Autism.

Researchers analyzed health insurance claims covering 95,727 children who had received either zero, one of the recommended two doses of MMR vaccine over an 11-year period since 2001.

The study found “no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder.”

“This was true even among those children who were at an increased risk of having autism spectrum disorders by virtue of having an older sibling with ASD,” said Dr. Anjali Jain. (Video via The Journal of the American Medical Association)

The study comes on the heels of an outbreak of Measles, which was traced to Disneyland in December 2014. Health officials documented 131 cases, and determined vaccination status for 81 of those affected. (Video via CBS)

“Of those 80 or so children that they could determine what the status was, they found that 70 percent of those kids had not been vaccinated at all,” said The Wall Street Journal’s Jeanne Whalen.

California health officials declared the outbreak over on April 17, but not before the issue got the attention of President Obama.

“The science is pretty indisputable. We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated. There aren’t reasons to not,” he said in a February NBC interview.

The latest vaccination study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[How New York's Chimp Rights Case Got So Confusing]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 21:55:00 -0500
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The confusing issue of where animal rights end and human rights begin got more confusing this week with the widespread headline that two chimpanzees were granted human rights by a New York court. (Video via The Humane Society of the United States)

The story stems from a lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project, a nonprofit dedicated to gaining legal rights for animals. 

The group filed for — and got — a court order challenging Stony Brook University's "detainment" of two chimpanzees. Representatives from the university will have to give the court cause for holding the chimps for medical research at a hearing in May. 

This is the same group that argued for a chimp named Tommy to be given legal rights last year. Judges denied Tommy a writ of habeas corpus — which is a challenge to one's detention — saying chimps can't have legal rights because they don't have legal responsibilities. (Video via WNYT)

The group trumpeted Monday's news as a victory on its website, saying, "Under the law of New York State, only a 'legal person' may have an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that [the chimps] Hercules and Leo are 'persons.'"

That's all true to a certain extent, and it's farther than the last case got, so it's not surprising that the news about chimps getting human rights spread quickly Monday. But the situation is, of course, a bit murkier. 

Other outlets were skeptical. The New York Times characterized the judge's order Monday as "largely administrative" and a law professor told The Huffington Post, "'The chimps are being treated, for the moment, as persons,'" but "The judge could later reverse the decision."

The Nonhuman Rights Project walked back its earlier language Tuesday in a cautiously-worded update about the legal status of the case. 

But it's easy to see why the group would be quick to declare victory. Its website makes repeated references to "breaking the legal wall" separating humans from nonhumans. 

"Right now, nonhuman animals are considered property, and while they have certain — usually very weak — protections, they have no more actual rights than a tennis shoe, a car or a DVD player," the group said in a video.

The group's immediate goal seems to be getting any court to grant any nonhuman animal any exclusively-human right. Basically, it's fighting for the legal precedent. 

The fact that the judge's order Monday included a writ of habeas corpus means it comes very close to satisfying that goal. But the near-victory didn't last long. 

Tuesday afternoon, the group tweeted that the judge who issued Monday's ruling had amended it by "striking out the words '& writ of habeas corpus' from the title of her order." 

But it will get to argue its case in court, at least. On its website, the group's president said, "Whatever happens, we will try again and win next time, or the time after that, or the time after that." 

That patience will likely be tested. Legal analysts told CNN they don't see any court giving chimps legal rights any time soon. 

"If you do believe that's what this is, you may be in for a rude surprise," Danny Cevallos said. 

"I think it's going to get thrown out after the hearing," Paul Callan said. 

If the group does win, it's asking that the chimps Hercules and Leo be transferred to a sanctuary in Florida. The hearing is set for May 6.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Research Says Complex Tools Might Not Be 'Our Thing' Anymore]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:24:00 -0500
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For a long time, the ability to do this — craft complex tools out of natural materials — has been seen as a uniquely human characteristic.

Sure, all sorts of animals from elephants to crows use basic tools, but complex tools like stone implements have long been the purview of humanity. (Video via BBC, Real Africa)

That's until a recent discovery researchers made in Kenya's Great Rift Valley. (Video via Turkana Basin Institute)

At a conference in San Francisco, a researcher from Stony Brook University presented evidence of stone tools dating back 3.3 million years. 

Seeing as the earliest records we've found of our predecessors in the genus Homo only go back some 2.5 million years, that could mean complex tool-making predates humanity. (Video via YouTube / John Hawks)

So who could have made the tools? One likely candidate lived in the area they were found: Australopithecus. (Video via Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Australopithecus, made famous by the Lucy skeleton, is thought to have lived in eastern Africa between 4 million and 3 million years ago

While Australopithecus walked upright like us and looked kind of like us, scientists generally believed it didn't use stone tools. (Video via California Academy of Sciences)

Even when researchers published evidence in 2010 of cut marks on bones that they say indicate some species of Australopithecus used implements to cut up meat, it became the subject of debate. 

But the newest findings seem to add credence to that 2010 paper, with researchers saying the tools are stone flakes, which could conceivably have been used for cutting. (Video via Emory University)

This video includes an image from Getty Images and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0

<![CDATA[Blue Bell Is Recalling All Of Its Products]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 07:32:00 -0500
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After two cartons of ice cream were found contaminated with listeria, Blue Bell Creameries is voluntarily recalling all of its products.  

"We are heartbroken over this situation. ... Our entire history has been dedicated to making the very best in high quality ice cream that we possibly could and we're committed to fixing the problem," Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said in a video statement. 

This is just the latest step Blue Bell has taken since the bacteria was found in its products earlier this year. So far, contaminated products have been linked to five patients in Kansas and three in Texas.  

In March, Blue Bell issued its first recall in its 108-year history. It included chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream cups produced at its Oklahoma plant. 

Then on April 7th, Blue Bell expanded that recall to include additional ice cream products produced at that plant that tested positive for listeria. (Video via KXAS)

Blue Bell, which distributes ice cream to about half of the U.S., announced the decision to voluntarily recall all of its products was made after listeria was found in several half gallons of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream produced on two separate dates in March. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average 1,600 people become infected with listeria every year and about one in five die, making it the third leading cause of death from food poisoning.

Listeria was linked to those tainted cantaloupes grown on a Colorado farm back in 2011, that sickened almost 150 people across the country. Thirty-three of them died. (Video via ABC)

Blue Bell isn't sure how listeria got into its facilities, but the company is now implementing what it calls a "test and hold" system in which Blue Bell will continue to produce ice cream but those products won't hit any supermarket shelves before they've been tested and shown listeria is not present. 

<![CDATA[Deepwater And Dolphins: The Oil Spill's Impact 5 Years On]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 11:12:00 -0500
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It's been five years since the biggest marine oil spill in U.S. history. (Video via U.S. Coast Guard)

The official cleanup ended more than a year ago, but while BP says the Gulf of Mexico is rebounding, scientists say it'll take decades to understand the spill's impact. (Video via American Military University)

The spill is linked to the Gulf's longest die-off of marine mammals, bottlenose dolphins in particular, in recorded history. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Studies have noted an overlap between areas that saw dolphin die-offs and areas affected by the spill. 

In the first breeding season after the spill, the Gulf saw 10 times as many dead baby dolphins wash ashore as usual, and research has pointed to the oil-induced death of their prey as one factor. (Video via Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

The most visible, and arguably one of the most heart-wrenching, impacts of the oil spill on the environment was the toll it took on seabirds. (Video via Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Between 600,000 and 800,000 birds are estimated to have died in the spill's aftermath, but the spill's effects are more pervasive than that. (Video via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Oil has suffocated mangrove forests along the Gulf, which — aside from already being threatened by climate change themselves — provide important nesting grounds for a range of birds. (Video via National Wildlife Federation)

Despite these impacts, BP's own report on the spill five years on says the Gulf is "rebounding." It points to water and sediment samples with low oil content and cites a range of factors that would affect the Gulf's environment that don't include the U.S.' biggest marine oil spill.

"Over millions of years, Gulf ecosystems also have adapted to consume and biodegrade oil released by the many natural oil seeps across the sea floor."

For comparison, the total natural oil seepage for the entire Gulf of Mexico is estimated at 154,000 tons a year. The Coast Guard estimates Deepwater Horizon spilled 735,000 tons in 87 days. (Video via RT)

Scientists say the scope of the disaster means it will take a long time to understand all of the impacts. 

"We kind of look at it as a 20-year plan. But there are going to be questions answered about the oil spill in two decades, still," the University of Southern Mississippi's Jessica Kastler told the Sun Herald

BP said in March it will continue to investigate potential environmental injury going forward and pay compensation, which it has and will continue to do as ordered by the Supreme Court. (Video via BP)

<![CDATA[Rocket Science: Building And Testing The Space Launch System]]> Sun, 19 Apr 2015 15:11:00 -0500
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NASA's Space Launch System isn’t off the ground yet, but the agency is hard at work getting it ready to send humans into the solar system in the next decade.

It will be the biggest advance for the U.S. space program since the space shuttle days, and the first exploration-class vehicle to carry humans out of low Earth orbit since the Apollo missions.

With the SLS, NASA is on track to build the most powerful rocket ever launched. For comparison, the space shuttle could take 53,600 pounds into low Earth orbit.

The Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon and is the single most powerful rocket ever constructed by man, could launch 260,000 pounds the same distance.

The final version of the Space Launch System is expected to beat even that monster by almost 30,000 pounds.

It won’t be breaking records immediately, though. NASA has three main development phases planned.

Block I will borrow the proven tech of engines and solid rocket boosters from the shuttle program, attach them to a newly developed core stage and stick a crew module on top. Total capacity it could take into low Earth orbit: 154,000 pounds.

The next phases, Block IB and Block II, will add the exploration upper stage and a larger payload fairing, respectively. The most powerful versions will be able to take almost 290,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, using advanced booster rockets that haven’t even been developed yet.

The goal is to eventually support enormous payloads. NASA is looking at everything from nuclear rockets for interplanetary travel, to deep space habitats, to the fuel and supplies astronauts would need for a trip to Mars.

Astronauts will ride aboard the SLS in Orion, NASA's new crew capsule.

Think of it like a modernized Apollo crew module. It's got the same basic shape and re-enters the atmosphere the same way, but it can carry four astronauts, and NASA says it can support them for more than 200 days. Perfect for long-duration missions. (Video via NASA)

We've already seen it in space during Exploration Flight Test 1 in December. NASA sent it to orbit aboard a Delta IV rocket to test its critical systems and demonstrate its space-worthiness.

But before Block I can launch, NASA's engineers have to make sure each component does its job. (Video via NASA’s Marshall Center)

The solid fuel mixes are working. 

The emergency crew capsule abort rockets are working.

Orion's parachutes are working.

And the booster housings are working as intended — technically.

Tests like this one subject parts to forces way beyond what they're expected to sustain during a rocket launch to make sure they'll hold up. That is to say, they can do this and be fine. (Video via NASA’s Marshall Center, NASA)

All of these parts are expected to come together within three years. NASA's planned Exploration Mission 1 will test sending an unmanned Orion capsule into lunar orbit.

And Exploration Mission 2 would send a crew of four astronauts to lunar orbit for four days to rendezvous with an asteroid that will be captured and placed in a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system. It marks the first of SLS' manned missions and is slated for sometime in the mid 2020s.

This video includes images from NASA, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA/Pat Rawlings, and music by TwodaystoAlaska / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Teen E-Cigarette Use Triples, Government Debates Regulations]]> Sun, 19 Apr 2015 10:45:00 -0500
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E-cigarettes are the hot new thing among middle school and high school teens. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says vaping has tripled for both age groups.

In numbers released by the CDC, 13.4 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2014. That's up from 4.5 percent in 2013 and a massive jump from the 1.5 percent in 2011. For middle schoolers, the stats were just as surprising; 3.9 percent had tried vaping within the past 30 days in 2014, up from 1.1 percent the year prior.

The e-cigarette market is a fluid one. The government is still a bit indecisive about how to regulate them. Even though the Federal Drug Administration has put restrictions on e-cigarette sales in the past, it's wavered on how strict those regulations should be.

Most states have restrictions on anyone under 18 buying e-cigarettes, but, as Forbes points out, "that's clearly not stopping teens from getting them."

The CDC report also says more teens were into hookah and e-cigarettes than cigarettes and traditional tobacco products.

While e-cigs don't contain tobacco, they do contain the addictive drug nicotine, which can have negative effects on an adolescent's brain and can even lead to overdoses.

"This is something that truly is going to have kids die from inadvertent overdoses.  ... It's worth getting the message out that this is a scary substance," Dr. Jennifer Barker told our partners at WRTV

Just a few weeks ago, the CDC released its first anti-smoking ad featuring an e-cigarette user.

"Then I tried using e-cigarettes, but I ended up just using both," the ad says. 

The CDC says this is the first time e-cigarette use has topped traditional tobacco among teens.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Elmo Teams Up With Surgeon General To Promote Vaccinations]]> Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:44:00 -0500
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"Elmo will get vaccinated," said Elmo. 

The Surgeon General said, "And tell all your friends on Sesame Street to get vaccinated too." 

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has paired up with Elmo to to urge Americans to get vaccinated.

Dr. Murthy has urged parents to get their children vaccinated before. But his recent collaboration with Sesame Street seemed to ramp up the effort a bit. 

When Elmo asked, "Why doesn't everybody get a vaccination?" 

Murthy replied, "That's a good question Elmo, that's a good question."

That video was released the same day California Department of Public Health declared an end to the measles outbreak that started in back December. 

HLN reports, "California health officials announced that no new measles cases have been reported for 42 days, that covers two incubation periods for the virus. ... Officials say vaccines are the best protection against measles."

More than 130 cases of the measles was reported to the California Department of Heath. As the spread of the sickness was mostly attributed to a lack of vaccinations, the outbreak really brought the immunization debate to the forefront of conversation. 

A study by JAMA showed the areas most affected by the virus had vaccination rates "as low as 50% and likely no higher than 86%."

Since that outbreak we've seen a crackdown on immunizations in a couple states. A school district in Spokane, Washington pulled more than 100 kids out of school Monday for lack of vaccination records. 

And in California lawmakers are working to pass a bill that would put an end to the state's personal belief exemption that allows parents to opt out of having their children vaccinated. If Senate Bill 277 were to pass "only children that have been immunized for various diseases, including measles and (whopping cough), [will] be admitted to a school in California. The bill will also require schools to notify parents of immunization rates at their child’s school."

In the past the Obama administration has said it does not support mandatory vaccinations, so the chances of us seeing similar measures on a federal level are slim as of now. 

According to the Surgeon General, for kids born between between 1994 and 2013 routine vaccinations could "prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Dr. Oz Under Fire For 'Quack Treatments' Yet Again]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 20:04:00 -0500
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"Today is all about miracles, revolutionary items big and small that could change your life," Dr. Oz said on his show.

The famous TV doctor calls some of his treatment suggestions "miracles," but 10 doctors around the country are calling them "quack" in a letter to Columbia University. 

The letter urges the university to drop Dr. Oz as vice chair of the department of surgery.

This is hardly the first time Dr. Oz has faced backlash from his medical claims, most of which he stands by. 

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal examined 479 of Dr. Oz's medical recommendations from 40 episodes and showed 15 percent of those contradicted scientific evidence. 

"You are still implying that drinking apple juice is exposing children to toxic arsenic, and you haven't even done that test. That is wrong. You are fearmongering. You are telling parents they are poisoning their children," Dr. Richard Besser told Dr. Oz.

Despite Dr. Oz's claim that arsenic in apple juice can cause long-term effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintains the level of arsenic in apple juice is safe.

Then, at the height of the Ebola panic, Dr. Oz went on TV with this claim: 

"What happens if it mutates and becomes like the flu so it can be passed on through air, not the way that Nancy described through direct contact with bodily fluids. Then it becomes a much more difficult beast to harvest," Dr. Oz said.

"We don't have any signs of that happening, let's be clear about that," NBC anchor Matt Lauer said. 

That — despite the medical community telling both the media and public the virus could not be contracted through the air.

Some of Dr. Oz's medical miracle claims actually sent him to the hot seat on Capitol Hill. 

"I don't get why you need to say this stuff when you know it's not true," said Sen. Claire McCaskill

The senator was referring to the weight loss products Dr. Oz promoted on his show, including green coffee bean extract, raspberry ketone and garcinia cambogia, all supplements sold around the world.

"These are the clinical papers, and we can argue about the quality of them very justifiably. I can pick apart papers that show no benefit as well, but at the end of the day, I have real subjects, real people being undergone trials," Dr. Oz said. 

After the doctor defended his claims in front of the Senate, researchers studying green coffee bean extract retracted a study that touted its benefits as a weight loss supplement.

And you can find an acknowledgment of the study’s retraction on Dr. Oz's site.

The Federal Trade Commission also sued sellers of green coffee bean extract, accusing them of "deceiving consumers through ... bogus weight loss claims."

For what it's worth, Dr. Oz says he gives his family the same advice he gives his audience. 

"I do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show. I passionately study them. I recognize that oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact."

Columbia University has no plans right now to take any action against the doctor, saying the institution upholds "faculty members' freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion."

<![CDATA[NASA’s MESSENGER Mercury Mission Is About To Crash Land]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:11:00 -0500
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NASA is about to lose a space probe.

MESSENGER, or MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, was the first dedicated space probe for Mercury, the closest planet to our sun. It started orbiting in March of 2011.

Now, it’s almost out of the helium fuel it uses to hold its line against the gravity of Mercury and the sun. NASA says after one last correction burn on Friday, April 24, MESSENGER's demise will be just a matter of time.

And speed. MESSENGER will be doing 8,750mph when it spirals into Mercury's surface. The impact is expected to be on the far side of the planet, hidden from the view of Earth.

And yes, Mercury's minimal atmosphere means MESSENGER actually will hit the surface, instead of burning up.

"Rest in pieces" seems a suitable epitaph, considering the spacecraft will be ramming the planet at Mach 12. But the focus was always on the science. John Grunsfeld, with NASA's Science Mission Directorate, elaborates:

"We are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission. It’s the beginning of a longer journey to analyze the data that reveals all the scientific mysteries of Mercury."

Over its four-year mission, MESSENGER built an unprecedented picture of the solar system’s smallest planet: its instruments carried out surface mapping, elemental geology, magnetic field detection and atmosphere probing.

In 2012, it found evidence of frozen water and organic materials at Mercury’s poles: enough to cover Washington state in ice more than two miles deep.

MESSENGER also helped develop and test heat-shield technologies. On the sunny side of Mercury, temperatures climb past 570 degrees fahrenheit. NASA says the ceramic cloth coverings it used to keep MESSENGER’s instruments from cooking will be useful on later missions to other planets.

We humans won’t leave Mercury alone for long: European and Japanese space agencies are planning new Mercury-orbiting probes, to launch in January of 2017.

This video includes images from NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington and the European Space Agency.

<![CDATA[Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:53:00 -0500
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A new study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente has given pregnant mothers something new to worry about: If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, your child might be more likely to have autism. 

The study was conducted between 1995 and 2009 and analyzed more than 320,000 children in California. It compared the prevalence of autism in kids with moms who had gestational diabetes with kids who had nondiabetic mothers during that same period. 

"Women who develop gestational diabetes before 26 weeks were at a 42 percent increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder," Dr. Tara Narula said on CBS.

"Forty-two percent increase, wow," anchor Norah O'Donnell said.

"What's the possible connection?" fellow anchor Gayle King asked.

"Right, so that's what everybody wants to know," Narula said.

Because even though gestational diabetes had already been linked to childhood obesity and other health problems in children, it was unknown whether it affected the fetuses' brains. Now these scientists think it does, and the big question is: Why?

The study was only an observational one, which means it didn't try to find out why — its only purpose was to find out whether the link existed.

But that's not stopping the scientists from speculating the fetuses' exposure to elevated blood sugar in the mother's blood could be decreasing the oxygen delivered to their developing brain or even changing the genome of the child, both of which could be linked to autism.

"Early in pregnancy, that first and second trimester, is where the fetal brain is developing. That's the period of time where the brain is most susceptible to insults. So having an elevated blood sugar is an insult to that fetus," said Dr. Edward Curry.

The message for mothers? There's no reason to panic. Kaiser Permanente says this should be a wake-up call and just another reason to get your health in check before pregnancy. 

And for soon-to-be mothers who are already diabetic, the good news is there was no link found between autism and mothers who had pre-existing Type 2 diabetes. (Video via WTNH)

Still, since the study stopped taking data in 2009, autism rates have only gotten worse. The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 American children born today fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[The Power Of Puppy-Dog Eyes Explained By Science]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 08:16:00 -0500
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Just look at that face. Could you ever say no to those puppy dog eyes?

Turns out, you probably can't. Japanese researchers say they've learned the reason we can never seem to resist those adorable eyes – gazing into them causes a spike in the hormone oxytocin. 

Sometimes called the "love hormone", oxytocin is the chemical in the brain that, when released, helps people bond with each other. Most notably, mothers and their children. 

What's interesting about this new study, according to NBC, is that it proves levels of oxytocin increase in both humans and the dogs. It had previously been believed that that hormone only rose in people. 

The Japanese research team conducted several experiments to come to that conclusion. In the first test, they had 30 dogs and their owners interact for 30 minutes and afterward collected a urine sample from both. 

Those with the highest levels of the hormone in their urine had actually gazed at each other for a significant period of time, which The New York Times said the scientists defined as "100 seconds in the first five minutes of the encounter." 

In the second test, researchers used a nasal spray to give the dogs an extra boost of oxytocin. It was discovered the female dogs looked at their owners for a longer period of time than the male dogs, resulting in a hormone increase in the female dogs' owners. 

While the study didn't have an explanation for why the female dogs gazed longer than the male dogs in that second experiment, the researchers do believe that when dogs became domesticated they somehow learned their ability to love. (Video via CBS)

That belief was further cemented when the same experiments were tested on a set of wolves and their handlers and the wolves couldn't hold a gaze. Dogs, of course, are thought to have evolved from wolflike ancestors thousands of years ago. 

"Evolution is a tinkerer ... and when humans and dogs came up with this even stranger, more unique relationship, it looks like oxytocin got co-opted for that as well," a Stanford University neurobiologist told the Los Angeles Times.

But not everyone is on board with this newly-discovered connection. NPR spoke with a psychologist from Arizona State University who notes that oxytocin can also be associated with feelings of emotional isolation and aggression in animals.

Wouldn't it just be great though to think your dog is staring at you because he or she loves you, and not because they want whatever food you're currently eating?

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:04:00 -0500
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A drug that dulls your minor aches and pains, like headaches, might also be dulling your emotions.

The Internet is having fun with the notion that a common pain reliever might also take away your joy.

A study published this month in the journal Psychological Science suggests acetaminophen can affect your response to positive and negative stimuli.

Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in Tylenol and is used as a pain reliever and fever reducer.

Researchers at The Ohio State University tested the drug's effect on 82 college students. 

Half of the subjects were given 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen and the others were given a placebo pill, but no one was told which pill they were given. (Video via WRSP)

An hour after taking the pill, the subjects were shown pleasant and unpleasant images.

Their emotional responses were recorded after seeing each picture. Those who took acetaminophen had little reaction to any of the photos.

"So this drug, when you see negative or positive images, it numbs your response to it," researcher Baldwin Way told NPR"It blunts your overall experience of feeling towards it."

Other studies have also focused on the drug's potential effects on emotion. In 2010, a professor at the University of Kentucky found that acetaminophen reduced the pain of rejection.

The study is still in the preliminary stages, and doctors and health care providers warn people to not use the drug to alter their emotions, pointing out overuse of acetaminophen can damage the liver. 

About 50 million Americans take acetaminophen each week, making it one of the most common over-the-counter drugs. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Shaun Martin / CC BY-NC 2.0, Jeffery Scism / CC BY-NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Knuckle-Pop MRI Helps Explain That Awful Sound]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:10:00 -0500
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Call it habit or arthritis-inducing or just plain annoying. Chances are you've heard or seen someone popping or cracking their knuckles. (Video via University of Alberta

But now, scientists are giving us a better look at a popping joint (than many of us probably would've asked for) and possibly settling the scientific debate on how that noise actually happens.

In a study nicknamed the "pull my finger study," a team of researchers led by the University of Alberta put a subject's finger in tube that slowly yanked on the digit. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging — or MRI — video to capture the formation of a cavity inside the synovial fluid, which is located between joints. 

Greg Kawchuk, the lead author of the study, explains what we see in the video, saying: "It's a little bit like forming a vacuum. As the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created and that event is what’s associated with the sound.'

The images from the "pull my finger study" go against the so-called bubble collapse theory of knuckle popping, in which bubbles were believed to form in the synovial fluid. When a person pops their knuckles, those bubbles were believed to collapse, causing the sound. (Video via Vox)

As for how unhealthy or healthy cracking a joint might be, other research outside of this University of Alberta study has found the force of a pop or crack can do damage, but there's no long-term link between popping and, say, arthritis.

So, naturally, that's one thing the University of Alberta researchers hope to explore next. The study can be found in the journal PLOS ONE

This video includes images from Jaysin Trevino / CC BY 2.0 and Greg Kawchuk et al. / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Study Suggests Link Between Alzheimer's And Immune System]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 11:01:00 -0500
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A study published Wednesday claims to have found a potential cause for Alzheimer's — and possibly a way to prevent it from happening.

The study, performed by researchers at Duke University, found the immune system was causing the debilitating disease in lab mice.

Certain immune cells called microglia that normally protect the brain began acting abnormally. The microglia, the researchers said, started to "divide and change." In parts of the brain where neurons had died, the researchers found these abnormal microglia along with arginase, an enzyme that breaks down an amino acid called arginine. They suspect this arginine consumption contributed to the mice's memory loss.

But then researchers used a drug called DFMO to target the arginase. Blocking the arginase, it turned out, also resulted in fewer of the abnormal microglia. When done before any Alzheimer's symptoms started to appear, the mice performed better on memory tests than other mice that didn't receive the drug.

DFMO is currently used for some cancer treatments but hasn't been tested as any sort of Alzheimer's therapy yet. The researchers are now trying to figure out whether DFMO can treat Alzheimer's in the lab mice after the symptoms appear. 

While not quite a cure, the team says the results are promising.

Speaking to Time, the study's senior author said, "Our approach is recognized as unique and opens new avenues to think about what causes Alzheimer's disease and new ways to treat the disease."

The London-based Alzheimer's Society released a statement saying the study offers new hope and that the next step will be to figure out if scientists can actually reduce the death of brain cells.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer's disease in 2013. The CDC expects that number to rise to 14 million by 2050.  

This video includes images from Getty Images and Siuki Wong / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[NASA Probe Captures First Color Images Of Pluto]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 08:05:00 -0500
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NASA’s New Horizons probe has returned the first color images of Pluto.

These blobs represent Pluto and Charon, the largest of Pluto’s moons. New Horizons captured these images from 71 million miles away.

National Geographic quotes Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science:

“You can see immediately a number of major differences: Pluto seems to be very bright. It seems to be redder. Charon [in the lower left] is now dimmer than Pluto.”

To be fair, the images aren’t much more than a few pixels at this point. But that’s all we’ve had to go on already. Our best orbital telescopes can’t get clearer pictures.

For that, we have to get cameras closer. New Horizons launched January 19, 2006 — when Pluto was still a planet — to do just that.

It’s traveled longer and farther than any space mission in history to reach its primary target: the probe has spent more than nine years and three billion miles in transit to get out to Pluto’s orbit.

It’s scheduled to arrive on July 14, during which it will take the most detailed images to date of Pluto. NASA says it will get within 7,750 miles; close enough to resolve ground characteristics just a few miles across.

New Horizons’ cameras, spectrometers and dust sensors will swallow as much data as they possibly can during the flyby, and send it home to earth over the course of 16 months following the encounter.

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[SpaceX's Rough Landing Isn't A Total Failure]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:24:00 -0500
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SpaceX's missions to the International Space Station are well on their way to becoming routine, but the company still manages to excite space fans with its attempts to land a rocket. (Video via NASA)

Tuesday's launch is the company's sixth cargo mission to the ISS, but it's also the second time SpaceX has tried to safely land a first-stage Falcon 9 on an unmanned floating platform in the ocean. (Video via NASA)

Sadly, success is still out of reach, as company CEO Elon Musk tweeted the rocket did arrive at the platform but didn't survive the impact.

The company's previous attempts haven't been perfect landings either, but they've provided invaluable data on the path to reusable rockets.

It's a long-standing goal for the company, which has carried out a string of landing tests with its Grasshopper engine. CEO Elon Musk has said many times that reusable rockets could slash the cost of space travel, opening it up to more companies and governments.

SpaceX's next attempt is slated for July, but this time, instead of a floating platform, the company will attempt to land on ... land. The current plan is to return the rocket to a launch pad near the one it used for liftoff.

This video includes images from SpaceX.

<![CDATA[Prescription Drug Sales Surged In 2014]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:06:00 -0500
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Spending on medicine reached a new high in the U.S. in 2014, as Americans spent nearly $374 billion on prescription drugs. 

That's according to a new report released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics Tuesday, which found 2014's spending rose 13 percent compared with the year before. 

Signed into law in 2010, 2014 was the first year the Affordable Care Act required Americans to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty, making it so many more were covered compared with previous years. (Video via The White House)

About 15.7 million Americans gained health insurance last year, resulting in a 5.1 percent decrease in the U.S.'s uninsured rate. 

The New York Times says states that expanded Medicaid under that law saw a 25.4 percent rise in prescriptions from 2013. Whereas there was only a 2.8 percent increase in states that didn't expand the program. 

But other outlets stressed the increase in healthcare coverage didn't contribute much to this new level of spending. 

Instead, the Los Angeles Times focused on IMS Health's discovery that more than $11 billion in spending went toward the new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which costs more than $80,000 for a 12-week treatment.

Time reports the number of patients seeking treatment for hepatitis C in 2014 jumped to 161,000 from just 17,000 in 2013. 

Quoted by the Los Angeles Times, the director of research development for IMS Health said he and his colleagues believe 2014 was "a bit of a one-off" and don't expect people will spend as much on medicine in the coming years. 

<![CDATA[Why Rainforests Losing Their Smallest Animals Is A Big Deal]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:27:00 -0500
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Malaysia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. 

On the island of Borneo, close to 80 percent of the Malaysian regions of Sarawak and Sabah have seen high-impact logging, and while the forests are resilient, there's a limit.

Logging has threatened Borneo's most famous resident, the orangutan, but it's also had a profound impact on its littlest inhabitants. (Video via Natural History Museum)

Rob Ewers, along with his colleagues, looked at how logging affects Sabah's forest invertebrates.

Invertebrates play three key roles in the forest's ecosystem. They break down leaves on the forest floor, releasing nutrients; they eat and disrupt seeds, maintaining tree populations; and they eat other invertebrates that could otherwise decimate vegetation.

All of those functions were reduced by logging.

"If you cut out ... all invertebrates, the rate of decomposition drops by about 25 percent," Ewers said.

But there's another important effect. When invertebrates are taken out of the picture, vertebrates step in. 

"I think what's happening is a logged forest has more resources for small mammals," Ewers said. "A logged forest tends to have a lot of new leaf growth, and because of that we have a lot of large insect herbivores ... big juicy meals for small mammals. There's a lot of food in that sense." 

The good news is the vertebrates are able to take over a lot of those invertebrate functions. But the bad news is, there aren't nearly as many vertebrates. (Video via Sabah Forestry Department)

"You go from relying on thousands of species ... once you start relying on vertebrates, you're talking about relying on 30 to 50 species,Ewers said. 

See, the sheer variety of species means there's redundancy. (Video via The Natural History Museum)

"So if you lose one of those species, there's another species on hand that can pick up the job, if you like," Ewers said.

So there's no other plan B: If the forests in turn lose those vertebrates, there aren't really any other animals that can carry out those functions. 

The rainforest has been logged for development and to make way for palm oil plantations. (Video via The Seattle Globalist)

Palm oil is used in a wide range of products from food to cosmetics, and its production is highly profitable. (Video via Al Jazeera)

In light of the backlash from environmentalists and consumers, some palm oil companies are trying to minimize their impact on surrounding ecosystems through standards for sustainability. (Video via Greenpeace)

"If anything, I think we'll find the criteria are too weak."

But Ewers is realistic.

"We're obviously never going to get a perfect win where you get to convert to plantation and there's no effect on that ecosystem, but we want to try and work out how we can minimize that impact."

You can find the research in the journal Nature Communications.

This video includes images from Wakx / CC BY 2.0 and Rajeev Pillay, University of Florida. 

<![CDATA[Do Australian Financial Incentives 'Coerce' Vaccinations?]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 06:43:00 -0500
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"This is essentially a no jab, no pay policy from this government," said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government is making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children. 

"No jab, no pay," meaning Australian parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated can lose child care and welfare benefits.

"I'm just very pro-choice. It's a very complex issue," said one woman.

"I'm not sure. I gotta tell you I can see both sides of it," another told Australia's Prime7 News.

Though they've had some time to think about it. The Australian government has been considering financial incentives for years.  (Video via Al Jazeera

A petition calls the plan coercive and manipulative, saying it puts low income families in particular in the position of not legally consenting to immunizations. 

As much as $11,000 in benefits could be at stake — unless parents register as conscientious objectors or have medical or religious reasons for choosing not to vaccinate.

Though Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has noted there are no mainstream religious groups in Australia that officially object to vaccinations. 

There is, however, apparently a small religious sect that does — and Morrison wouldn't publicly reveal its name over fears parents would convert to avoid vaccines. 

Health experts say vaccines have made diseases like polio and diphtheria rare, and that immunizations are vital for public health. Vaccines work by prompting the body to make antibodies. (Video via TED Ed)

By government estimates, 39,000 Australian children haven't been vaccinated. Parents who opt out have varying reasons. Some think shots cause autism — a theory that's been widely discredited in the scientific community. 

<![CDATA[Increasing C-Section Rates Carry Health, Financial Costs]]> Sun, 12 Apr 2015 12:50:00 -0500
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The rate of cesarian sections is on the rise globally, exceeding longstanding guidelines from the World Health Organization.

Since 1985, the organization's recommended rate for C-sections in any given population has been between 10 and 15 percent. (Video via University of Massachusetts Boston)

 That recommendation was made because Northern European countries who had C-section rates in that range had good rates of healthy mothers and newborns. (Video via Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center)

But the U.S. rate is more than double the recommended rate. About one-third of all births in the nation are C-sections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the World Health Organization says populations with C-section rates higher than 10 percent don't have reduced rates of newborn and infant mortality. (Video via St. Mary's Health)

As a writer for Harvard Magazine explains, pregnant women have become heavier and are having children later in life, and they tend to undergo C-sections more frequently. (Video via BBC)

As more women have C-sections, the cost has also increased. A 2013 report from The New York Times says vaginal deliveries cost about $30,000 while C-sections are upwards of $50,000. 

And doctors have concerns about women who elect to have tummy tucks following C-sections, which is an involved procedure that can lead to complications.

As one Mount Sinai Medical Center obstetrician told Yahoo"Most OB-GYNs have zero plastic surgery training, and that's what this involves. It's a significantly bigger surgery than the name implies."

A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Women's Health showed roughly half of participants were satisfied with their post-pregnancy tummy tucks, while roughly one-third were unsatisfied with the shape of their abdomen.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[FDA Cites Diabetes Drug For Possible Increased Risk Of Death]]> Sat, 11 Apr 2015 18:55:00 -0500
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The Food and Drug Administration believes a Type 2 diabetes drug produced by AstraZeneca may increase overall death rates in patients.

According to the FDA's review of data on the drug, patients who took Onglyza were at a greater risk for hospitalization because of heart failure, along with an increased risk for all causes of death.

Onglyza falls into a class of drugs know as DPP-4 inhibitors. They can affect the body's production of glucose as a form of diabetes management. (Video via Boehringer Ingelheim)

The analysis of the drug didn't indicate the cause of the overall trend and also noted individual patients often had "morbid events" days or weeks before they died. Still, the FDA wrote it was not reassured "and we do not necessarily view this pattern of variable causes as evidence the mortality signal is due to chance."

One Bloomberg analyst wrote drawing "solid conclusions" from the study would be difficult given all those factors.

In 2008, the FDA started requiring drug companies to provide evidence their Type 2 diabetes drugs don't increase the patient's risk of cardiovascular disease. (Video via U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

The FDA is still waiting on results from Onglyza's competitor and the market-leading DPP-4 inhibitor, Merck's Januvia.

The FDA originally approved Onglyza in 2009. Last year, the drug had $820 million in sales. An FDA advisory panel is set to meet Tuesday to discuss Onglyza and another similar drug the FDA said did not pose any increased health risks.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

Correction: An earlier version of this video said the FDA was pulling Onglyza off the market. The video has been updated.

<![CDATA[Apollo 13: NASA's High-Stakes Learning Experience]]> Sat, 11 Apr 2015 10:13:00 -0500
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“Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Apollo 13 would have been the third mission to send humans to the surface of the moon, but it never made it that far.

Saturday marks the 45th anniversary of the doomed mission, which launched April 11, 1970. It’s often called “NASA’s most successful failure.”

200,000 miles from earth, during its approach to the moon, an oxygen tank aboard the spacecraft’s service module exploded. This represented two immediate problems: a loss of breathable air, and external venting that threatened to literally push the mission off course.

“It looks to me looking out the back that we are venting something. We are venting something out into the - into space,” Apollo 13 mission commander Jim Lovell said.

“Roger, we copy you're venting,” said NASA flight director Gene Kranz.

“It's a gas of some sort,” Lovell said.

“You say to yourself: ‘why did this happen on Apollo 12, or wait for Apollo 14?’ We didn’t know what caused the explosion at first, but the first thing we thought of: ‘perhaps a meteorite hit the lunar module,’” Lovell said at a Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum panel in 2010.

Within minutes of the explosion, focus had shifted from getting to the moon to getting safely back to earth.

Despite the lost oxygen tank, the crew had plenty of breathable air left. The issue was removal of carbon dioxide. The chemical scrubbers in the lunar module were designed to support two men for two days; survival of the crew required they support three men for four days while they returned to earth.

And since the air systems in the lunar module were designed differently than those in the command module, it meant literally fitting square pegs in a round hole.

“On the ground, an adapter was fashioned from materials the crew had available in the LEM: cardboard from a checklist, plastic bags and tape.”

It’s the quick thinking like this that gave Apollo 13 its reputation as such a successful learning experience for NASA.

Francis French, of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, spoke to NPR:

“They were ready to think about things that were way outside of their procedures they practiced, to run through checklists, to use their imagination and come up with ways to very calmly work out the best way to bring three people back to Earth alive.”

Jim Lovell says despite its aborted status, the mission still inspired a generation.

“I meet people now in their 50s, even some early 60s, that said “when I was a small kid, I watched you go up into space and this was the reason why I’m now an engineer, or scientist,’” he said. (Video via KMFB)

And while the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 never did set foot on the moon, they set a record of another kind during their slingshot around its dark side: to date, they have gone further from earth than any other human.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Master Class & Blendy Cello / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[What Happens During Baby Sea Turtles' Lost Years]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 17:37:00 -0500
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After baby sea turtles hatch, they crawl up out of the sand and make their way to the ocean. But what happens next was pretty much a big question mark.

"The little dudes are just eggs," said Crush in Disney's "Finding Nemo"We leave them on the beach to hatch, and then coo-coo-ca-choo, they're back in the big old blue."

The time between when the turtles hatch and enter the sea and when they show up again off the coast many years later is known as the "lost years," and scientists were pretty much just guessing what the palm-sized hatchlings were doing with their free time.

But now, researchers at the University of Central Florida's turtle lab have an answer for that question. 

At first the little turtles went to the Gulf Stream, which is what scientists predicted, but then they started to do some unexpected things. They dropped out of the current in the middle of the Atlantic in the Sargasso Sea. Before, scientists guessed they just let the water carry them along.

And when the turtles swam away from the stream, they spent a lot more time at the algae-filled surface of the Sargasso Sea than scientists thought before. The researchers think they may do that to help them grow. (Video via PBS)

The researchers learned all this by sticking special satellite tags on the tiny turtles and studying what they were doing.

So why didn't researchers just put satellites on the turtles earlier? That might have worked for a full-grown loggerhead, but the satellites were too big and the turtles were too small. And they were growing so quickly, the satellite would just peel off after a couple weeks.

But a technology breakthrough led to much a smaller solar-powered tag. And, after a recommendation from a manicurist, the researchers discovered using the glue that holds on acrylic nails as a base coat worked great on the turtle shells, which are made out of keratin just like nails.

"It was actually really, this is women in science. ... It was kind of a keratin connection. ... Marisol of Not Just Nails recommended an acrylic nail fill kit that we tried out, painted on the back of the turtles, and sure enough instead of one to two weeks tag attachment in the lab it lasted upwards of two to three months," said lead researcher Kate Mansfield.

These new findings are especially important because the loggerhead turtles, and many other sea turtle species, are threatened. And it's pretty hard to protect something when you're not even sure where it is.

This video includes music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Skull Shows Signs T. Rex-Like Dinosaur Was Cannibalistic]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:19:00 -0500
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Life for dinosaurs was dog-eat-dog — literally. Scientists say that an ancient predator similar to tyrannosaurus rex likely ate its own kind.

The findings are based on the skull of a Daspletosaurus, a cousin to the more famous T. Rex. 

What exactly killed the Daspletosaurus is still unknown, but scientists say some of the damage was done after it had died, evidence that it was likely eaten by its own kind.

The lead scientist for the study said, "This animal clearly had a tough life, suffering numerous injuries across the head including some that must have been quite nasty."

Some of the damage to the skull had signs of healing, leading researchers to believe the creature fought with other Daspletosaurus long before it was eventually killed. 

The dinosaur lived roughly 75 million years ago. It's skull was discovered near Alberta, Canada, in 1994. At the time of it's death, it was about 10 years old, measured in at 20 feet long and weighed over a thousand pounds. If it would have reached adulthood, it could have grown to 30 feet in length. 

At that time, Daspletosaurus would have been one of the larger predators in the area. T. Rex didn't arrive until about 10 million years later. 

The idea that some tyrannosaurs might have been cannibalistic isn't new. This is just the oldest case scientists have discovered. As if, the dinosaur wasn't already menacing enough, there is other evidence that T. Rexes fought with and ate others of their kind.

The most recent findings were published Thursday in the journal PeerJ.

This video includes images from Tuomas KoivurinneHone and Tanke / CC BY 4.0FunkMonk / CC BY SA 3.0 and Steveos 86 / CC BY SA 2.5.

<![CDATA[Examining Earth's DNA Supports New Origin Theory For Moon]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:56:00 -0500
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We don't know exactly how the moon started orbiting our planet.

The "giant impact" hypothesis has been a prevailing theory since the 1970s: It's thought some stellar body, about a tenth of the weight of Earth, rammed into the forming planet and knocked enough debris free to form what would eventually become the moon.

The theory held this early impact body would have a different chemical composition than Earth because we've seen the trait in other planets and planet-like masses in the solar system.

But a new study from researchers in Israel and France suggests the impact body was very similar, materials-wise, to Earth. Author Hagai Perets spoke to Nature:

"We see that other objects in the solar system have different composition from the Earth. So we should expect the moon, also, to have very different composition, which is exactly opposite what we see. They are almost identical."

A writer at says it's not totally unreasonable. The composition of protoplanets depended in large part on where they orbited in the solar system.

"The scientists found that as each planet assembled, the last protoplanet to collide with it probably shared a similar orbit. Thus, protoplanets that share similar birthplaces can also share a similar composition."

And this ties conveniently into other recent research. Two new investigations into moon rocks in the U.S. and Germany detail the "late veneer" hypothesis,

which states after the impact that formed the moon, both it and Earth collected a layer of additional material in the form of meteorite impacts. The greater mass and gravity of Earth suggests it should have a larger collection, which it does.

But analysis from both of those studies shows Earth and the moon were chemically similar before gathering their meteorite layers, a finding that both challenges older models of Lunar formation and lends support to the newest version.

All three studies are published in the journal Nature.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Thomas Prime / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Sabra Recalls Hummus After Tests Find Listeria Bacteria]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:22:00 -0500
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Sabra foods is recalling certain varieties of its packaged hummus after samples tested positive for traces of listeria. The recall affects certain packagings of its classic flavor, some 30,000 cases total.

Listeria can cause high fever, headaches, and nausea in healthy people and can be fatal to infants or the very old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant women are especially at risk; an infection can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there have been no reported illnesses or deaths tied to the hummus recall so far.

This is the second Listeria recall in recent headlines. In an unrelated case, Blue Bell Creameries is recalling a number of its prepackaged ice cream products after they first tested positive for the bacteria in March. (Video via CBS)

That recall has expanded several times since, and Blue Bell has suspended operations at a plant in Oklahoma to address the issue.

More information on the Sabra recall is available via the FDA. It's listing the UPCs for the specific varieties affected on its website.

This video includes images from Tanya Patrice / CC BY NC SA 2.0linda sellers / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Yael Beeri / CC BY-NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Venomous Toads Poisoning Florida Pets Is A Man-Made Problem]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 11:12:00 -0500
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WFTS anchor Laura Harris warned: "Seriously, an SOS, warning call right now for any pet owners out there: the bufo season, right now." 

That urgent warning is one Florida residents get around this time every year — about a toad.

The cane toad — Rhinella marina — is a species of toad originally found in South America up through Southern Texas. (Video via Al Jazeera)

It's become an invasive species in Florida, the Caribbean and Australia, thanks to human intervention. (Video via BBC)

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the toad was introduced to try to preserve sugar cane crops around the world, with producers hoping it would eat pests. (Video via This Week in Louisiana Agriculture)

While it failed spectacularly to control pests in almost every place it was introduced, in some environments, it succeeded in killing off indigenous species. (Video via Discovery)

In Florida, it's killed off pets. Dogs and cats can ingest the venom from eating or playing with the toads, and it can often be fatal. 

A veterinarian told WFTS, "It doesn't take very much of this toxin to cause the arrythmias and the seizure activity."

Authorities advise residents to keep pets on leashes and keep their food indoors. (Video via National Geographic)

<![CDATA[NASA's Claim We'll Find Alien Life Isn't Out Of This World]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 07:49:00 -0500
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Dr. Ellen Stofan said"I'm gonna say I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond earth within a decade and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years."

That's the line, from a NASA panel discussion Tuesday, that's grabbing all the headlines. An ambitious prediction from NASA's chief scientist Ellen Stofan that we're on the brink of discovering extra-terrestrial life. 

And if local news anchors are anything to go off, people think that's a pretty outrageous claim. 

"Researchers say recent discoveries suggest solar system and milky way galaxy can support life as we know it... mmm," said a KNSD anchor

KENS's Stacia Wilson said, "I don't know what else to say..." 

"We're not alone, get ready," warned anchor Mat Garcia.

"I wonder if this is like, another movie in the making," added anchor Jenny Suniga

A WPIX anchor said"So a NASA scientist has come out and said, 'yes we will come into contact with an alien life form within the next 10 to 20 years..."

Again, to clarify, Stofan predicted, "strong indications of life beyond earth within a decade and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years."

From NASA's perspective, there are a lot of important advancements that are going to happen in those 20 to 30 years that make it not so outrageous. 

For one, NASA's Kepler Mission, which has discovered more than 1,000 exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — keeps turning up potentially habitable ones. (Video via NASA)

And recent research suggests there are billions of those exoplanets that could support liquid water in our Milky Way galaxy alone

Liquid water is arguably the most important factor when it comes to supporting life, as we know it anyway, and it's got scientists looking even closer to home — Jupiter's moon Europa. (Video via NASA)

NASA is planning a mission to Europa, which is thought to house an enormous sub-surface ocean. A spacecraft will fly by the moon and take measurements using radar and other equipment. If funded, that mission would launch in the 2020s. 

That funding is key — and capturing the public's imagination would be a big boost when it comes to getting it. So it's not surprising that Tuesday's discussion ended with this invitation from Dr. Stofan.

"Don't just listen to us, don't just read about it. Come help us discover whether there's life in the solar system and beyond," Stofan said. 

<![CDATA[The Brontosaurus Is Back, But For Some, It Never Left]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:44:00 -0500
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The story of the brontosaurus is long and confusing, but it may finally be getting some clarification. 

If you've ever been scoffed at or condescendingly corrected for saying brontosaurus, today is your day. Scientists are bringing the bronto back into the fold. 

For a long time, brontosaurus was thought to be a misnomer, a name its discoverer O.C. Marsh applied to bones that really belonged to apatosaurus, which Marsh had named two years earlier in 1877.

This man, paleontologist Elmer Riggs, presented evidence in 1903 the so-called brontosaurus bones bore an overwhelming resemblance to apatosaurus, and from that point on, the two were considered one and the same. 

But that scientific distinction didn't really puncture the popular culture, and the brontosaurus lived on through movies, music and stamps. (Video via Universal Pictures / 'The Flintstones')

But the new research, hundreds of pages of it, exhaustively analyzed specimens of diplodocidae — the group to which apatosaur belongs — and determined brontosaurus was in fact its own genus. 

There's a reason the public at large didn't really seem to care whether the dinosaur in question was a brontosaur or an apatosaur.

Establishing what an animal's species or genus is falls under the purview of taxonomy, which kind of faces a double threat when it comes to attracting public interest. (Video via CSIRO)

For one, it's kind of a dry science. The Latin names and lack of pictures have long kept it largely in the purview of scientists. (Video via Crash Course)

And, like all science, it's fluid. Animals' classification can change according to a number of factors like genetic evidence or new discoveries. (Video via Curtin University)

As paleontologist Stephen Brusatte explains"Naming things is more art than science. There is no machine or experiment that can tell you whether two things are different enough to be called different."

But whatever the designation bronto or apatosaur, Brusatte probably sums it up best: "This dinosaur by any other name, or any name indeed, would still be just as fascinating."

This video includes images from Charles R. Knight, The Field Museum Libraryw:en:Levin Corbin Handy, Karen Horton / CC BY NC 2.0, and tadekk / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Researchers Track Effectiveness Of Diet Plans]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:10:00 -0500
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There are plenty of weight loss programs out there to choose from. 

"You can lose weight simply with Jenny Craig." 

"Order your 28-day NutriSystem plan right now." 

"With Atkins, now you can."

But there's not always a lot of reputable evidence as to which ones may work the best. 

A new study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine aimed to do just that and figure out what weight loss programs truly accomplish their goal of getting you to lose weight.

The researchers said there are some 4,200 studies involving commercial diet programs, but the Johns Hopkins University-led study focused on just 45 of them that follow science's gold standard of randomly assigning or not assigning someone a weight loss program and tracking their progress over time.

Three of the U.S.' most popular diets saw positive results over time in comparison to education and counseling — which was the control group. Weight Watchers participants lost about 8 pounds on average, or 2.6 percent more than the control group over a 12-month span. The Jenny Craig program boasted even better results with an average of 15 pounds, or 4.9 percent more than the control over the same time. Those using NutriSystem also achieved results with 3.8 percent greater weight loss over a three-month span. 

Positive results for those programs are huge, too, since those three alone control more than 70 percent of the $2.5 billion weight loss service market. 

While, on average, the weight loss numbers aren't huge, doctors say losing a few pounds and keeping it off can have big health benefits.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports those who lose weight gradually have a better chance of keeping it off and, while they may still be overweight or obese, the decreases in weight can improve blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars.

The researchers also pointed to the Affordable Care Act for making counseling and screenings more readily available for those who want it.

Researchers tested other diet plans aside from those main three, including Slimfast, Atkins, very low-calorie programs and others.

This video includes images from bark / CC BY 2.0 and chrisphoto / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[India's Latest Pollution Plan Won't Clear The Air]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:51:00 -0500
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Air pollution contributed to 620,000 deaths in India in 2010. (Video via YouTube / Fabio Campo)

Last year, the World Health Organization ranked New Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. 

Part of the problem may lie in the government's response, or lack thereof. (Video via DD National)

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of a national air-quality index to monitor pollution in 10 cities. 

Which sounds like progress. But in the announcement, Modi also denied India was one of the world's leading polluters and pointed to the country's low per-capita carbon emissions as proof. (Video via CBS)

That's despite the fact that The World Bank ranked India as the third biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2010, contributing more than 2 billion tons. 

Denying India's a leading polluter is par for the course when it comes to Modi's government. Officials also rejected that WHO report saying Delhi was the most polluted city in the world. (Video via Press TV)

And critics have called government action to combat pollution so far as ineffectual. 

For example, last year the government's National Green Tribunal banned cars 15 years or older from Delhi, something activists say missed the heart of the problem. (Video via NDTV)

"Average age of personal vehicles in Delhi is about 4 to 7 years ... So even if you get rid of them, I don't see that that's going to have a massive impact on air quality," Anumita Roychowdhury told Al Jazeera.

Cars are one of the leading contributors to air pollution in Delhi, and as the country prospers economically, the number of people driving them goes up. (Video via YouTube / soundspirit1's channel)

"Since I moved to Delhi, my breathing problem has gotten worse. I find it difficult to move around. The air is really filthy, and my asthma has aggravated and I feel worse," one man told the Financial Times

But the problems posed by increasing development go beyond exhaust emissions: Construction work contributes to emissions and industrial development has led to deforestation.

Mongabay estimates India has lost some 10.7 million acres of forest over the past 20 years, and when you consider that one acre of forest can sequester thousands of pounds of carbon, that's a big loss. (Video via TERI)

Nevertheless, Indian broadcaster IBN reports there's no plan to take action, regardless of what the new air quality index says. Instead, in his address Monday, Modi asked Indians to forgo using electric devices once a week.

This video includes an image from Onewhohelps / CC BY 2.0 and music from Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[The Large Hadron Collider Is Up And Running Again]]> Sun, 05 Apr 2015 08:23:00 -0500
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The Large Hadron Collider is back online.

CERN engineers restarted the particle accelerator Sunday, feeding beams of electrons into the collider for the first time since 2013.

"Since then, engineers have been upgrading the world's most powerful particle accelerator. It's able to operate at twice the energy as it was before," said the BBC's Pallab Ghosh.

Professor Tara Shears told the BBC the LHC's "run two" is entering new territory for science:

"With run one and the discovery of the Higgs, we've discovered everything that our existing theory predicts."

That theory is the standard model, or what scientists sometimes call "the theory of almost everything." It describes almost all the interactions of almost all known subatomic particles, electromagnetism, and weak and strong nuclear forces.

The Higgs Boson was the last piece of the puzzle of the Standard Model, and CERN researchers figured it out in 2012. So … now what?

Scientists there are especially interested in supersymmetry, or the theory that each of the elementary particles of the standard model has a yet-to-be-identified partner particle.

If such particles exist, they could help explain things such as dark matter or where the universe gets its mass. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

The beams won't be accelerated to collision velocities until June, at which point researchers will be recording more than a gigabyte of data per second in case elusive new particles show up.

A spokesman for CERN said: "If something interesting appears in this new window we will see it. It might be two months from now or two years; we're not able to say."

This video includes images from Getty Images, Amber Case / CC BY NC 2.0 and Luigi Selmi / CC BY 2.0. Music by Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.