Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[Over 700 Texas Infants Exposed To Tuberculosis At Hospital]]> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 16:45:00 -0500
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Health care workers at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas are scrambling to give tuberculosis screenings after more than 700 newborns and dozens of employees were exposed to the disease.

KDBC: "A test confirmed a healthcare worker who works in postpartum and the nursery with newborn babies had an active case of tuberculosis."

DR. ENRIQUE MARTINEZ: "The employee was immediately placed on leave and has not worked in the hospital since then." 

The worker tested positive on August 25. The hospital conducts annual TB screenings on employees, but officials believe the infected worker contracted the disease after their most recent screening.

The more than 40 employees who came in contact with the sick worker have all tested negative, but now hospital officials are tasked with screening and, if needed, treating the hundreds of exposed infants. 

In order to identify patients who might have been exposed, hospital officials matched the infected worker's schedule to the dates newborns were at the facility between September 2013 and August 2014.

In a press release from the City of El Paso Health Department, officials confirmed, "The families of each patient are being contacted via telephone and certified letter with proactive screening instructions. ... Post-exposure screen and follow-up will be provided free of charge. ... Public Health officials are collaborating with state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to facilitate these screenings."

According to WebMD, TB, which typically affects the lungs, often doesn't show symptoms. The disease is transmitted through the air. 

NHS Choices: "It's usually caught when other people cough up the germs and they then get breathed in and infect the lungs. ... If the immune system is depressed in any way they're more likely to progress to get active disease and become ill with TB." 

And that's one reason this outbreak is so troubling — newborns have suppressed immune systems until they're about six months old, making them more susceptible to infection. 

But in a press conference last week officials attempted to ease some of the concern.

KGBT: "I want to say off the bat that the hospital is safe." 

Regardless, Eva Moya, a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and an international expert on tuberculosis, told the El Paso Times, there's more work ahead — especially in finding out how the worker contracted the disease in the first place. 

"You need a contact investigation to break the circle of infection. The source of tuberculosis could be anywhere. ... As long as you breathe, you are at risk for catching TB." 

Only active TB can be spread, and while the disease can be fatal if left untreated, Moya stresses it is curable. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere]]> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 14:55:00 -0500
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NASA sent their MAVEN spacecraft to Mars 10 months ago to study the planet's atmosphere and — 10 months later — the craft has almost reached its destination. 

MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, will collect data scientists will use to try to paint a picture of Mars' past. Its current atmosphere is so low, any water on the planet's surface would instantly dissolve, but scientists theorize it wasn't always like that.

Earlier missions have presented evidence that Mars once had at atmosphere that could support flowing water. Now, scientists want to know what happened to that atmosphere and why.

Researcher Bruce Jakosky said in a press release, “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”

Right now, the biggest theory is that the sun simply eroded Mars' atmosphere over time. MAVEN will be looking at how the sun influences the ​planet, while also studying the atmosphere's composition. 

NASA hopes to get MAVEN on a ​consistent 35-hour orbit around Mars to accomplish this research. 

NASA's Curiosity rover is already providing data from the surface. 

The Denver Post reports NASA's social media team is planning on promoting MAVEN's arrival to the fullest. The team selected 25 people from across the country to live tweet, Instagram and post on Facebook throughout the event. They will be using the hashtags #JourneyToMars and #MAVEN.

The official MAVEN Twitter account will also be posting updates and the arrival will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

And NASA isn't the only one sending a satellite to study the Red Planet. India's Mars Orbiter Mission will arrive just two days after MAVEN and will be studying methane on Mars — something they hope will give them information about possible biological activity.

NASA says it hopes to compare data with India. MAVEN will fall into Martian orbit Monday. 

<![CDATA[3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier]]> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 13:43:00 -0500
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Toolmaking has been a defining characteristic in human evolution. And now we're bringing the practice to space.

A SpaceX cargo ship launched toward the International Space Station overnight was carrying a 3-D Printer in its cargo marking the first time that technology has left the earth's atmosphere. (Video via NASA)

California-based company Made In Space was contracted by NASA to manufacture the 3-D printer capable of functioning in zero gravity. And it isn't just for show. 

In a press release, CEO Aaron Kemmer said the technology "will fundamentally change how the supply and development of space missions is looked at."

That's because at the moment, tools and replacement parts needed in space must be manufactured here on earth and then delivered by rocket. (Video via NASA).

The capability to build those parts on the spot with a 3-D printer would only require the blueprints to be transmitted, essentially by email. And the printer launched Sunday is a step in that direction.

Its task is to build sample parts that will be returned to earth and subjected to quality tests. But as CBS reports, building reliable items from plastic is only the current goal.

SUMI DAS FOR CBS"The next challenge is to print objects using materials found in space. Regolith...that covers the moon could hold the key."

MICHAEL SNYDER VIA CBS: "Imagine you could just go up to the moon and build your habitat."

And while inhabiting other planets still seems a distant aspiration, manufacturing will allow us to live long and prosper once we get there.

This video includes images from  Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY-SA 2.0; Wendy / CC BY-SA 2.0; and Flavio~ / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?]]> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 11:36:00 -0500
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Thirty thousand people turned out for a climate change rally in Melbourne, Australia. It's part of a global day of protests ahead of the United Nations' summit in New York Tuesday. 

The protests are part of a movement called People's Climate Change March, which aims to push leaders at the summit to make a meaningful agreement on capping emissions. 

A number of world leaders are expected to attend the U.N. summit, including President Obama, who has often urged action on climate change. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA THE WHITE HOUSE: "Climate change is a fact, and when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."

Nevertheless, The Guardian reports the president won't be pledging any U.S. money to a fund the U.N. has put together to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change. 

One project that is expected to be agreed upon is the Africa Clean Energy Corridor, which aims to develop renewable energy across Eastern and Southern Africa. (Video via International Renewable Energy Agency)

But, as with climate treaties in the past, some are skeptical about the effectiveness a potential agreement could have in making a meaningful dent in greenhouse gas emissions. 

The New York Times argues that ineffectiveness comes down the wealth gap between rich countries producing those emissions, and the poorer countries facing the brunt of the consequences. "The rich countries of the world will say how concerned they are about the damage their emissions of heat-trapping gases are causing. The poor countries ... will point out that this professed concern never seems to translate into sufficient action."

The march in New York, which organizers have promised to make the biggest in history, will be bolstered by the presence of U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who pledged to link arms and march alongside the demonstrators. (Video via Democracy Now!)

More than 2,500 events were planned for Sunday, including that march in Melbourne and London's climate march which drew close to 30,000 people. (Video via YouTube / Matthew Bell

The New York march was reportedly planned over the course of eight months. The U.N. summit starts Tuesday. 

<![CDATA[What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 11:47:00 -0500
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MIT researchers have discovered the answer to our USB woes, and it's all thanks to a visual technology called GelSight.

GelSight is a sensor that combines lights, cameras and a rubberized pad to give robotics "unprecedented dexterity" by enabling them to feel objects with sight.

Yeah, it's a little confusing. Basically the GelSight sees through the use of a rubber pad with metallic paint on its back surface. Light shines in on the paint, and as pressure is applied to the front side of the pad the light bounces off the paint in different ways. The cameras read these changes in light to give the computer a very detailed understanding of the object it's holding.

And here's where that whole saving-us-from-USB-woes comes into play. The sensor can be used in conjunction with a robotic arm to help it more precisely control objects. Watch what happens when the robot doesn't have GelSight ... now that's just disappointing. (Video via Melanie Gonick, MIT News)

MIT says its GelSight is “100 times more sensitive than a human finger.” So to be fair, the technology could be used for a whole lot more than just plugging in USB devices.

A writer for reminds us it might seem like a super-simple task — and therefore could seem kind of unimpressive — but grabbing and positioning objects like this is unheard of in robotics. We've made up for this in the past by pre-positioning objects for bots, but now “they’ll no longer be limited to picking and placing objects that have a fixed position.”

And we'd be remiss if we didn't include the robots-will-destroy-man speculation from Gizmodo. “This could allow assembly-line robots far more ability to pluck things from one conveyor belt and plug them into corresponding parts ... Or, y'know, allow them to pick up knives and kill us all with millimetric precision.”

Maybe just keep those kitchen knives in the other room? You know, just to be safe.

<![CDATA[Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 08:48:00 -0500
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The government of Sierra Leone has started a three-day curfew to combat the spread of Ebola — emptying the streets in the capital city of Freetown.

Aid workers and volunteers are conducting a door-to-door campaign across the nation of some six million people, warning residents of the dangers of Ebola and searching for new cases. (Video via Al Jazeera)

“They have decided that three days’ lockdown would be effective, because the incubation period of the virus is between two to three days.” (Video via CNN)

“The lockdown itself has started in earnest and people are generally complying. The streets of Freetown are completely deserted, and there are only police vehicles and vehicles transporting those volunteers as you can see on the streets.” (Video via BBC)

But according to the BBC, critics of the plan say the quarantine measures could erode public trust in doctors and health workers fighting the disease. As The New York Times highlights, enthusiasm for the campaign is high — for better or for worse.

“At one house, several volunteers talked loudly at once about hand washing, leaving the residents visibly dazed. At … another, one gave out questionable information about the Ebola virus — seeming to contradict some basic precautions.”

Sierra Leone’s campaign also comes amid active resistance to aid initiatives to in the region: in Guinea, eight aid workers were killed when they visited a remote village to raise awareness about the disease. NBC reports authorities have since made six arrests in the case.

Even if the curfew works and doctors can collect patients for treatment, space is at a premium.

A medic told The Guardian aid centers could end up quartering known Ebola cases right next to suspected ones.

"It is a worry. There is a quite rigorous testing process before you can confirm the cases, and many of the early symptoms are the same as ordinary illnesses like malaria or food poisoning.”

According to CDC statistics last updated on Thursday, there are more than 1,600 cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, and 562 deaths attributed to the disease.

Sierra Leone’s curfew will continue through Sunday.

This video includes an image from Getty Images / John Moore.

<![CDATA[Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:40:00 -0500
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You might just need one of these to treat depression... least according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. 

The researchers scanned the brains of 22 healthy people who had never taken antidepressants and randomly choose some to take an SSRI — a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.  

SSRIs boost the mood of someone suffering from depression by changing the balance of serotonin in the brain. 

Just hours after the participants were given the medication their brains were scanned again, and researchers found a dramatic change had already occurred in the brain's connectivity.

This is big news. Before this discovery, researchers thought it could take days, weeks, even months for antidepressants to kick in

“We were not expecting the SSRI to have such a prominent effect on such a short time-scale and the resulting signal to encompass the entire brain.”

Researchers are saying they hope these findings will eventually help them predict who would benefit the most from antidepressant medication. 

But there are some holes in this study. For one, they focused only on healthy patients, instead of people currently suffering from depression. 

People with depression have brains that are chemically different from someone who is healthy, so it's possible they would react differently if given a drug. 

Also, the study does not touch on how effective taking a single dose will be. Most antidepressants require time to build up in the body to take full effect. 

Although the brain scan showed changes quickly, we don't know if it would actually make people feel better. 

The authors of the study do say they plan to continue researching the topic. 

This video includes images from Steve Snodgrass / CC BY 2.0, Wyglif / CC BY SA 3.0, / CC BY 2.0, Nils Geylen / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Sander van der Wel / CC BY-SA 2.0. 

<![CDATA[Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:44:00 -0500
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For the elderly, grief can be not just an emotional experience but also a physically damaging one. Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. found that age changes how the body's immune system responds to grief. 

They found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation.

The study states around age 30 an important stress hormone called DHEAS begins to decline, and the elderly only have about 20 percent of the DHEAS they did when they were younger.

Researchers think this shortage of hormones might be what causes the immune system to respond so negatively to stressful situations. In this case, we mean the development of infections as a result of a weakened immune system.

Studies have previously linked heart failure to grieving adults as well. The American Heart Association calls this "broken heart syndrome."

And whether it's the immune system or the heart, researchers say grief-related illnesses could even lead to death. 

Which is why some have suggested cases like this are related: the passing of Don and Maxine Simpson, a California couple who made international headlines when they died just hours apart. 

Maxine was suffering from cancer when Don broke his hip and experienced a series of health problems as a result.  

According to their granddaughter, the two lived out their last few weeks together before dying four hours apart.

DHEAS does come in supplement form, and researchers say they're considering looking into whether these supplements would help elderly people suffering from grief. 

<![CDATA[How The 'Angelina Jolie Effect' Increased Cancer Screenings]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:02:00 -0500
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Celebrities are often influential on their fans, but Angelina Jolie took it a step further with her global impact on breast cancer screenings.

In May last year, the actress penned an op-ed piece in The New York Times about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy after learning she carries a gene mutation that's said to increase breast cancer risk.

Many celebrities, including her now-husband Brad Pitt, spoke in support of Jolie's preventive decision — calling it "heroic." (Video via Orange British Academy Film Awards)

NBC"The Pink Lotus Express Center applauds Angelina Jolie's bold choices regarding her BRCA mutation."

Now research shows Jolie's story did more than just inspire.

Dubbing it the "Angelina Jolie Effect," studies show the number of referrals for evaluation of breast cancer risk had more than doubled in the U.K. and Canada since Jolie's story was published.

And they had good reason to. According to the National Cancer Institute, female breast cancer is the second leading type of cancer, with more than 200,000 estimated diagnoses this year alone.

Although experts say only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, the risk for those who do have the gene mutation rises by as much as 90 percent.

Experts say double mastectomies aren't always a solution in preventing the disease, and it can often become a difficult decision to cope with for those who do undergo the procedure.

But researchers say Jolie's "glamorous image" likely influenced other women not to be as fearful of the procedure.

In one study, researchers wrote: "This may have lessened patients' fears about a loss of sexual identity post preventative surgery and encouraged those who had not previously engaged with health services to consider genetic testing."

Other celebrities said to have made an impact on public health include Katie Couric with her decision to have her colonoscopy performed live on the "Today" show. 

<![CDATA[MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:35:00 -0500
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It's gotta be hard for an astronaut to move in space. Space suits are big and bulky, in part because they're gas-pressurized. (Video via NASA)

Enter MIT's BioSuit, which NASA helped fund. See how lightweight it looks? The idea is to replace gas pressurization with coils of wire that are actively compressing the material.

Or — as Gizmodo put it — "shrinkwrapping" our astronauts.

It's actually a borrowed technique from this heat-activated robotic worm MIT introduced in 2012.

MIT calls it a "second-skin" spacesuit and explains the coils tighten — and stay tight — when heated to a toasty temperature.

Which begs the question — would the suit overheat the astronaut wearing it? Possibly, but MIT researchers say big battery packs could help counteract that. Then again, that would defeat the mobility advantage of a lightweight suit.

Second option: Researchers could figure out a way for the coils to stay tightened by locking or clipping them in place.

Which is what they're planning to pursue next. So there's obviously some work still to do, but the idea's pretty cool.

This video includes images from Jose-Luis Olivares and music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[U.S. Food Makers Surpass Calorie-Cutting Pledge]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:26:00 -0500
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In an effort to stave off America's obesity problem, a group of 16 high-profile food and beverage companies that committed to cut calories in their products have far surpassed their target.

As part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation Pledge, big manufacturers like General Mills, Kraft Foods, Pepsi and Coke trimmed 6.4 trillion calories from their products from 2007 to 2012 — much higher than their original pledge of 1 trillion.

One of the study's authors says that's about 78 calories per person per day. Now, upfront, these figures might appear pretty significant but some health writers have a different interpretation.

PNC Voice says the study started "about the time recession began," so people probably didn't spend as frivolously. Also, the amount of calories in those products did not decline from 2011-2012, which the researchers even noted as a concern for the future. 

And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the same period of the calorie decline, the number of obese adults in the U.S. increased from 34 to 35 percent. (Video via WWSB)

So what gives? Is there a link between calories and weight gain or should these companies be focusing on reducing something else?

Well, a writer for Medical Daily points to another possible culprit. "The findings could prove once and for all that calories are not as big a problem as sugar and physical inactivity. ... More and more evidence seems to suggest that sugar, not calories, fat, or carbs, is the real enemy of weight loss.

And a CDC report from May mirrors that thought. The report says consuming added sugars has been enabling people from receiving essential nutrients and has contributed to weight gain.

The full analysis of the 16-company pledge was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Wednesday.

<![CDATA[Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:24:00 -0500
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According to new research, women with post-traumatic stress disorder are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. 

The study showed that women who showed the most symptoms of PTSD were likely to turn to eating as a method of coping with that trauma. 

49,000 female nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 were examined for the research, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday. 

10 percent of those women were showing 6 to 7 symptoms of PTSD and 18 percent of that group also showed signs of a food addiction. That's almost three times as much as women who did not have PTSD.

Common symptoms of food addiction include frequently eating despite not being hungry, feeling sluggish or fatigued from overeating and having physical withdraw when cutting back from certain foods.

It's important to note, not all health experts agree that food addiction is a real thing. 

A Cambridge University professor of health wasn't convinced by available research when he told The Guardian: "We are finding that 'addiction' is a handy term to be applied to lots of human behaviors now: sunbed addiction? Facebook addiction?"

But one doctor says this study is a major step in validating food addiction, explaining that these latest findings prove it is brought out by trauma and PTSD.

But the research did not determine if food addiction developed after PTSD symptoms and so, as LiveScience points out, it cannot be directly proven that PTSD leads to food addiction.

Other studies, such as this one published in Psychology Today, have also found people who have experienced trauma are more likely to overeat. 

One health official explained to DailyRX News why people with PTSD might be more prone to food addiction; "Food can be used as a substitute for the inner healing needed, but it is never sufficient and this can lead to food addiction in an attempt to soothe inner pain."

In the future larger groups of people will be studied to see if a link between overeating and PTSD holds up in a broader sample.  

<![CDATA[Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:34:00 -0500
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Mark Twain couldn't have been further from the truth when he wrote in an essay, "Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War."

Scientist and chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall documented that humanity's relatives could commit acts of violence against each other when, back in the '70s, she detailed a conflict between chimpanzee communities in Tanzania.

"We used to think it was only humans who waged war, but we find that chimpanzees, like humans, have this rather unpleasant ability to create an in-group and an out-group."

And a new study published online in the journal Nature Wednesday is renewing the debate on why chimpanzees injure, maim and even kill other chimps. 

The study examined instances of violent behavior in chimpanzees and bonobos — species believed to be the closest relatives of humans — to see whether that behavior occurs naturally or is instead the result of human interference. (Video via BBC, National Geographic)

They wrote in their study, "Variation in killing rates was unrelated to measures of human impacts"  or, humans had little or nothing to do with the rates at which chimpanzees attacked and killed each other. 

Study co-author and organizer Michael L. Wilson from the University of Minnesota told Discovery most killings were gang attacks and males were the most frequent attackers and victims. 

But other scientists say the study's results aren't conclusive, with many questioning how the information was collected. One anthropologist from Washington University in St. Louis told Science, "I am surprised that [the study] was accepted for publication.”

Aside from the evolution-vs.-human-interference debate, there's also disagreement on what implications this study has about human behavior.

Wilson told the Los Angeles Times chimp violence suggests warfare has "a long evolutionary history." 

But a writer for Nature not associated with the study commented, "Humans are not destined to be warlike because chimpanzees sometimes kill their neighbours."

Wilson and his study's critics both agree you can't jump to conclusions about why humans fight based just on these findings.

This video includes a images from Daniel / CC BY NC 2.0 and Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:34:00 -0500
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How often have we been faced with this decision? Artificial sweetener or real sugar ...

Well, it might not matter. According to a recent study published in the journal Nature, using a zero-calorie sweetener isn't any better for you.

Researchers in Israel found that consuming these artificial sweeteners can disrupt microbes, or good bacteria, that lives in the gut. This can cause higher blood sugar levels and eventually diabetes. 

This is pretty big news for the diabetic community. Artificial sweeteners have previously been recommended as helpful for those with Type 2 diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners first became popular over a century ago as a "healthier" alternative to sugar. To this day, they are heavily used and can be found in diet sodas, sugar-free candy and cereals.

But several studies are now suggesting they do more harm than good. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to cancer, heart disease and now diabetes. 

USA today reports researcher Eran Elinav said in a telephone news conference he used to use artificial sweeteners because he thought they were "at least not harmful and perhaps even beneficial," but he gave them up after this study. 

The study has been stirring up some controversy. The Guardian points to some scientists who doubt the outcome because many of the findings came from studying mice. The director of the Metabolic Diseases Unit at Cambridge University said, "It mostly reports findings in mice, accompanied by human studies so small as to be difficult to interpret."

Researchers did note their work needs to be repeated before they can be certain artificial sweeteners can cause diabetes. 

This video includes images from Larry & Teddy Page / CC BY 2.0 and Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:34:00 -0500
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The obesity rate in the U.S. remains relatively steady, but that doesn't exactly mean Americans are slimming down. 

In fact, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans are actually going up in size. The study says women's waistlines are getting bigger, with the average increasing 1.5 inches between 1999 and 2012. During that same period, men didn't see quite as big of an increase, rising just 0.8 of an inch. The national average waist size went from 37.6 inches to 38.8 — up 1.2 inches.   

Still, it's important to note the study mentions obesity rates have remained fairly steady. So how does that happen, yet waistlines expand? 

Turns out, even the researchers lack an answer. Dr. Earl Ford, CDC medical officer and lead author of the study, told NPR, "We're a little bit puzzled for explanations."

But, as HealthDay points out, they at least have an idea: "Researchers speculated that sleep disruption, certain medications and everyday chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors may possibly play a role." Also, a doctor from Washington University in St. Louis says aging baby boomers with slower metabolism and decreased muscle mass might also be a factor. 

The Boston Globe writes an increase in medications like antidepressants, not being active enough and sleep deprivation could all be causes for "increased belly fat."  

The health issues linked to obesity are widely reported, but researchers say waist size also plays a significant role. 

 The Mayo Clinic notes "apple shaped" individuals, those with bigger waist sizes and smaller hips, have more health problems than "pear-shaped" individuals, or those with smaller waists and bigger hips.

But a bit of good news  — a study earlier this year also from the CDC reported obesity in children has dropped significantly in the past decade. Eight percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012 compared to 14 percent in 2004. 

To get an accurate reading of your waistline, researchers say stand up and place a measuring tape around your stomach, just above your hip. 

<![CDATA[As U.S. Pledges Aid, Health Workers Criticize Ebola Response]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:54:00 -0500
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On the same day President Barrack Obama announced sweeping measures to help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa ...

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA CNN: "The world is looking to the United States and it's a responsibility that we embrace. We're prepared to take leadership on this."

... some medical experts are criticizing the slow global response. It's now September, about seven months after the Ebola outbreak started spreading in West Africa.

One health expert told The International Business Times"We wouldn’t even be talking about an epidemic today," if the President's plan would've been rolled out in March. And another: "Clearly, it’s too little, too late, but ultimately we will contain it. It’s a matter of how many lives are lost in the mix."

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the American aid workers for Liberia who survived Ebola after receiving an experimental treatment, met with President Obama Tuesday and said he's now healthy and "completely Ebola-free." 

But that's mainly because he got his treatment in July, well before there was a serious push to ship any of those experimental serums abroad. Brantly addressed that when he spoke before a congressional panel Tuesday. (Video via The United States Senate)

KENT BRANTLY VIA NBC: "This unprecedented outbreak received very little notice from the international community until those events of mid-July when Nancy Writebol and I became infected. ... The response to date, however, has remained sluggish."

Brantly also told the panel"The disease was spiraling out of control and it was clear we were not equipped to fight it effectively on our own. We began to call for more international assistance, but our pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears." 

Though, it's worth noting, Brantly later praised Obama's new plan and even offered up a more "unorthodox" approach to make it more effective. It includes, "supplying individuals with personal protective equipment, disinfectant and hand sanitizers so they can more safely care for patients at home."

Another American doctor wasn't as kind when Public Radio International asked her why she thought the response from the international community has been so slow.

"I think it's racism. ... I think it’s easy for the world — the powerful world, who are largely non-African, non-people of color — to ignore the suffering of poor, black people."

On Tuesday, Obama went on to spell out his 4-tier plan to fight the epidemic, including 3,000 additional U.S. troops to West Africa and $750 million dollars in relief.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Boeing, SpaceX Deal Means Return Of U.S. Manned Spaceflight]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:09:00 -0500
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NASA handed out two contracts worth $6.8 billion Tuesday and with them announced the imminent return of human spaceflight from the U.S. 

NASA ADMINISTRATOR CHARLES BOLDEN: "The Boeing corporation ... and Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, have each presented to us designs that will allow us to fly crews to the International Space Station in just a few years."

The companies have been working on their manned spacecraft since 2010, a year before the NASA Space Shuttle program was retired. 

Ever since the space shuttle Atlantis touched down in July 2011, the U.S. has had to rely on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for trips to the International Space Station. (Video via Russian Federal Space Agency)

The private craft are meant to carry their first travelers to the ISS by mid-2017, ending a six-year gap in U.S. manned spaceflight. So let's take a look at what America's astronauts will be traveling in.

Boeing's crew capsule is the CST-100, a roomy seven-person ride designed to be reused up to 10 times.

NASA astronauts suited up and hopped inside in 2013, and they seemed to prefer it over the Soyuz.

"It's an upgrade?"

"It's an upgrade. It's an American vehicle. Of course it's an upgrade."

SpaceX's Dragon, which also seats seven, has tended to get a bit more press than Boeing's offering, but that could have to do with its charismatic CEO Elon Musk, its penchant for big press events and its much cooler name.

SpaceX's Dragon also has the advantage of already having flown five missions to the ISS, carrying supplies and cargo but not people.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said handing low-Earth orbit missions over to private industry allows NASA itself to focus on bigger missions, like manned flights to Mars.

<![CDATA[Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:08:00 -0500
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Research published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology might have men checking their hairlines.

The study says men who have a certain pattern of baldness at age 45 are 39 percent more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than men who have no baldness.

Now, before you worry about your thinning hair, The Wall Street Journal says, "The hair-loss pattern associated with a higher risk was frontal baldness plus moderate baldness on the vertex, or crown of the head."

And that's it. As for baldness in general, Time reports, "No type of baldness was linked to a higher rate of overall cancer, and male-pattern baldness was not linked to non-aggressive prostate cancer."

The new finding came from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Researchers asked 39,000 men participating in the study to identify if they had experienced hair loss at 45, and if so, which pattern.

Researchers kept up with the participants, who had an average age of 70 years old at the time of the study. A few years later, about 1,100 of those men had prostate cancer – 600 of those were classified as "aggressive."

The only significant link as it related to baldness was with those men who reported having frontal plus moderate vertex balding.

The co-author of the study told CBS, "It is conceivable that, in the future, male pattern baldness may play a small role in estimating risk of prostate cancer and may contribute to discussions between doctors and patients about prostate cancer screening."

But researchers are hesitant to make baldness patterns part of the screening process, saying the findings need further research.

USA Today points out some potential holes in the study, including that it relied on 70-year-old men to recall their baldness patterns at 45. Instead of worrying about your hair growth, the article suggests controlling what you can, like your waistline.

Ultimately, Bloomberg reports, this link might be due to male androgens, or sex hormones. "High levels of androgens can affect hair follicles, causing thinning and loss of hair. ... Androgens can also cause prostate cancer cells to grow."

Of course, we can't say anything for certain just yet. Only the correlation exists in this study. Oh, and maybe, don't freak out just yet, guys.

This story includes images from Getty Images and Welshsk / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:48:00 -0500
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The Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of activity, and for the first time ever, two foreign scientists are being given access to study the massive volcano. And they've got a lot of work ahead of them.

CBS"This is such a big volcano that we know very little about."

CBS explains the two British volcanologists were "seemingly chosen at random and invited by the reclusive government" after eruptions beneath the volcano made residents fearful.

As The Guardian points out, the volcano is getting attention not only for its potential to do a lot of damage but also because the secretive country of North Korea has asked for international assistance.

Which is probably a smart move. More than 1,000 years ago, the volcano erupted, and it was one of the largest ever recorded. Rock and magma emerged, and a layer of ash covered much of the region. (Video via YouTube / Jan Frieder-Hain)

The landscape was transformed, and the eruption left behind this 3-mile hole in the earth, now known as Heaven Lake. 

CBS"It's hard really to imagine the scale, but you're talking about something like a million nuclear weapons going off at the same time."

International Business Times reports the scientists are currently "looking to find out what happened when the volcano last erupted, what effect it had on the surrounding ecosystems and whether it will erupt again."

With the volcano sitting on the border of North Korea and China and the new involvement of scientists from the U.K., this volcano is making people across the globe put their political differences aside.

One of the chief scientists involved with this project told Imperial College London: "A volcano that may erupt can have local impacts, it can have regional impacts and it can have global impacts. It's something we really need to understand. There is nothing political about it. Understanding a volcano, that's just good for humanity."

The U.K. scientists have visited the volcano three times so far. Although it's active, researchers and scientists don't know yet if or when it will erupt.

<![CDATA[East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:43:00 -0500
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Those living along the East Coast might have seen a large meteor flash across the sky Sunday night.

News 12 New Jersey even managed to capture video of it. 

WCAU reported people in Pennsylvania and Delaware also said they saw the meteor. 

In fact, Just In Weather, which mapped out where reports of the meteor came from, says it was also seen by people in Maryland, Virginia and even New York City. 

The American Meteor Society determined the meteor was "most likely a random occurrence" since there have been no reports of active meteor showers recently. 

News 12 New Jersey spoke with an astronomy professor at William Paterson University who said the meteor was traveling up to 100 miles above the planet. 

JASON KENDALL: "It probably did not hit the ground, but rather skipped off the Earth's atmosphere."

According to NASA, meteors start out as meteoroids, which are bits of rock floating in space. It's when those pieces fall from space that they're called meteors. 

The flash of bright light they create is why they're commonly known as shooting stars. 

Experts believe about 10 to 50 meteorites — the debris found after a meteor falls — are dropped on Earth every day. Of course, the majority of these meteorites and their meteors aren't seen because they occur over oceans or uninhabited places.  

The operations manager for the American Meteor Society told, this is why it's "rare for people to see them because they only last a few seconds. You'll be lucky to see one in your entire lifetime."

It's difficult to predict where you could see a meteor, but there are a few meteor showers that happen every year. If you want to see some shooting stars, head over to The University of Texas McDonald Observatory's website to learn when those meteor showers occur. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Ed Sweeney / CC BY 2.0, David Kingham / CC BY NC ND 2.0, and Shan Sheehan / CC BY ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:25:00 -0500
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U.S. troops appear to be the latest part of the effort to fight Ebola in West Africa — 3,000 of them, in fact. (Video via U.S. Department of Defense)

That's according to multiple reports on Tuesday morning, like this one from The Washington Post, which specified many of those will be medical personnel and engineers, who will "set up 17 treatment centers in Liberia — each with a 100-bed capacity."

Although it's not uncommon for the U.S. to deploy engineers to disaster zones, both at home and abroad, the deployment of 3,000 military personnel would be a big commitment to a crisis the U.S. has so far mostly kept out of. (Video via U.S. Department of Defense)

The U.N. security council is set to meet later this week to discuss the international response to the outbreak, after a request from the U.S.'s ambassador Samantha Power. 

U.N. AMBASSADOR SAMANTHA POWER, VIA DAILY MAIL: "Without immediate international action, we are facing the potential for a public health crisis that could claim lives on a scale far greater than current estimates and set the countries of West Africa back a generation."

And the president's expected announcement of troops will likely constitute the U.S.'s part of that international action. (Video via The White House)

BBC: "The United Nations is calling for $600 million to deal with the crisis and is asking countries to send supplies including trucks, beds and doctors to the worst affected areas."

The decision comes amid fears from some sectors that the virus could mutate to become airborne and subsequently more contagious.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: "Now we've been telling you for weeks that this virus has been mutating and Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is worried it's not long before it could — could — become airborne."

But some experts have termed such a mutation extremely unlikely, as one researcher told Time, "Practically speaking, it is not likely. ...  it’s not impossible. But it’s very unusual for a virus to change how it’s transmitted.”

The virus hasn't needed to mutate to infect thousands of people across West Africa with Liberia — where the U.S.'s efforts will reportedly be focused. The WHO reports the area has the highest total number of infections and deaths. (Video via CNN)

According to the WHO, more than 4,000 people have been infected with the virus in West Africa, and more than 2,300 have died. 

<![CDATA[Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:27:00 -0500
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When you take your child to the doctor for the flu or a sore throat, chances are you'll walk away with a prescription for an antibiotic. A new study says that's a problem.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital found just 27 percent of acute respiratory tract infections, 65 percent of ear infections and 20 percent of strep throat cases in children are caused by bacteria.

The underlying assumption being the rest of those infections are viral and can't be treated with antibiotics. This adds up to about 11 million unnecessary prescriptions per year. (Video via YouTube / Antabio

These findings are consistent with this 2013 Harvard study, which found for acute bronchitis, 73 percent of patients were prescribed antibiotics — a disturbing figure, considering antibiotics aren't even recommended to treat that condition.

Now here's why all of this is concerning: Overuse of antibiotics has increased the number of drug-resistant superbugs out there. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 23,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections. (Video via U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Health providers say they are aware of the risks associated with antibiotic overuse, so it's puzzling why, despite the warnings, they're still overprescribing them.

Patient demand has a lot to do with it. CNN explains: "People ask for antibiotics because they think these drugs will make them feel better. The other side of the coin is that many doctors have been prescribing antibiotics in abundance for years and are following old habits."

Oftentimes doctors also don't have the tools to test whether infections are caused by bacteria or a virus. When in doubt, they might end up prescribing an antibiotic anyway because the alternatives are expensive.  

That's the case with vancomycin. It's a fairly inexpensive antibiotic used to treat the common bacteria MRSA.

A CDC official told The Wall Street Journal over 20 percent of the time, patients given intravenous vancomycin never had MRSA to begin with.

For more on the researchers' findings, check out their study published in the journal Pediatrics.

This video includes images by Sheep purple / CC BY 2.0 and Mrgreen71.

<![CDATA[NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:02:00 -0500
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This week NASA hit a milestone with the Curiosity Rover. After more than two years, the interplanetary robot has finally reached its long-term goal.

HLN: “The rover Curiosity has arrived at what’s being called Mount. Sharp. It will go up the side of the mountain analyzing it as it goes. NASA hopes to learn more about the history of Mars as a result.”

Getting to the base of the three and a half mile high mountain hasn’t been a quick feat for Curiosity. Moving just 660 feet a day it took two years to travel the five and a half miles from the original landing spot in Gale Crater. (Video via KSTU)   

And in August NASA decided to shift the rover’s path due to rough terrain tearing holes in Curiosity's wheels.

But now that the robot has finally made it, Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said,  "Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world. ... After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us."

So what does part two entail? Well just as Curiosity discovered proof the red planet once held freshwater — the rover will continue to look for what could be signs that life once existed on Mars.

As you can see on this map, the yellow line is the route the rover will take – it was rerouted to speed up the arrival to Mount Sharp and to have a more scientifically interesting path. The green star is Curiosity’s current location. 

NASA: “At this location we’re looking forward to obtaining our first drilled sample of Mount Sharp. ... As originally planned, we’ll be exploring Mount Sharp layer by layer. Along the way we’ll be encountering a number of interesting geologic features.”

For this phase in the mission a NASA Planetary Senior Review panel has suggested the team do less driving and more drilling.

This video includes music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 19:48:00 -0500
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The rare virus that was first reported in the Midwest and has been suspected of infecting children across the country with severe respiratory illness is now migrating to the Northeast.

The respiratory virus known as Enterovirus D68 that experts say typically pops up around back-to-school time has spread to both New York and Connecticut.

The virus continues to make its rounds. In total, ABC says at least 21 states have reported cases of Enterovirus D68 and health experts caution that it's on the move and could potentially hit every U.S. state.

This marks the first mass outbreak on record for the virus. It typically affects young children with asthma and other breathing problems. 

CNN health correspondent Jacque Wilson says there are many different kinds of enteroviruses — such as some common colds. But D68 is a different breed that's more severe. She points to one of the larger outbreaks at Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.

They've had more than 400 children in the hospital with signs of this virus. 60 of those children have ended up in intensive care. And here's the important part. That's been in less than a month."

According to the CDC's website, some mild symptoms of enterovirus D68 to be on the lookout for include: "fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches." And Dr. Richard Besser told ABC some cases are treatable. 

ABC: "What can you do if you believe your child has this?"
DR. RICHARD BESSER: "Well, you want to get them some help. There's some medicine that they can give your child that will open up those airways and help the breathing. It's the same medicine for children who have asthma."

And, despite the scare, one health expert told Fox News the virus is typically not life threatening. 

FOX NEWS: "Most of the time, this Enterovirus 68 is mild. It's only when kid has underlying asthma or a tendency for breathing problems. In very young kids, you want to act fast."

As a quick refresher, some preventative measures for Enterovirus D68 include: washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and disinfecting any dirty surfaces you may come in contact with. It also worth noting the CDC says — for as large as the outbreak is — this virus is seasonal so it's likely to go away by winter.

<![CDATA[SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 16:45:00 -0500
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If it wasn’t already apparent that SpaceX CEO and Telsa co-founder Elon Musk is one of today's more ambitious visionaries, let's remember: he wants to build a city on Mars.

We knew this back in 2012 when Musk gave a rough outline of what colonizing Mars would need, like a small pioneering group of 10 or so brave souls with construction materials followed by more folks at $500,000 a ticket.

But more recently, he elaborated on why he wants to colonize Mars on the Colbert Report:

ELON MUSK: “I really think it’s important that we’re on multiple planets and a spacefaring civilization so that sort of preserves the future of humanity, it’s sort of life insurance collectively.”

And then there’s this:

The Falcon Heavy — capable of carrying the biggest payload into space since the Apollo program’s Saturn V and what Musk sees as humanity's ticket to Mars.

While SpaceX has yet to do any test flights with the Falcon Heavy, Musk told CNBC earlier this year he’s hopeful his space company will get people to Mars by 2026.

ELON MUSK: “I’m hopeful that the first people can be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years. I think it’s certainly possible for that to occur.”

But SpaceX isn’t alone in its space-faring dreams. The space company is currently competing with Boeing and Sierra Nevada for a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station by 2017.

According to Bloomberg, winning the contract would be a “pivotal step” in Musk’s master plan of colonizing the Red Planet, though an analyst told the business news site that a joint award between Boeing and SpaceX is most likely.

Of course, just because we'll be able to get to Mars doesn’t quite mean we’ll be ready to move in yet — colonizing a barren planet 140 million miles away does have its challenges.

A writer at ExtremeTech says the most likely scenario is that we’ll be doing flybys of the planet before actually being able to set up shop on its surface.

And while a Discover Magazine writer was a big fan of getting out and colonizing Mars, he warned that humanity should try to stay a little closer to Earth until we figure out what the long-term effects of life in low gravity does to the body and reproduction.

In any case, NASA is set to announce the winner of its space ferry contract later this month.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[10 Liberian Officials Fired For Avoiding Ebola Crisis]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 15:47:00 -0500
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Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has fired 10 of her top officials because they did not return to the country to help deal with the Ebola crisis. 

Six assistant ministers, two deputy ministers and two commissioners were told to return to the country in August but failed to do so. 

The president's office says the leaders "showed insensitivity to our national tragedy and disregard for authority" and were dismissed for being "out of the country without an excuse."

And Eight junior officials who are out of the country have had their pay suspended until they return. Johnson Sirleaf says they will be paid once "they return home to join in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.”

Ebola has already killed more than 1,200 people in Liberia and shows no signs of slowing down. 

The World Health Organization has warned the disease is spreading especially fast in the country. 

Resources in the country are limited, and it has been reported hospitals have been too full to accept any new patients. And because of poor sanitary practices, there is a shortage of healthcare workers, as they themselves are contracting the disease. (Video via Sky News)

Last week, Johnson Sirleaf wrote U.S. President Barack Obama asking for the U.S. to build and operate at least one treatment center, saying, "Without more direct help from your government, we will lose this battle against Ebola."

President Obama has not yet responded to the letter, but is flying to the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta Tuesday to be briefed on the outbreak. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 13:27:00 -0500
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Of all the animals in need of protection, sharks, the ocean's most iconic apex predator, probably seems pretty far down on the list. 

But the recent repeal of a shark cull in Australia, coupled with new regulations on the trading of shark parts, has shed light on just how much danger the fish is in. (Video via ABC Australia)

Those new regulations come from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wilde Fauna and Flora, or CITES, and specify five shark species as subject to regulations. 

Those new regulations stipulate that fishermen looking to bring in sharks to sell their body parts will need permits to do so, and comes with a pledge from the European Union to fund conservation efforts in developing countries. 

That's because a large part of sharks that are killed by humans are hunted for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a Chinese dish that has seen higher demand as the Chinese middle class expands. (Video via National Geographic)

DAVID MCGUIRE, VIA WIRED: "So where once there were a few people eating shark fins, now there are literally millions of people eating shark fins, and it's decimating the species, literally around the world ocean."

As National Geographic reports, conservative estimates in 2013 showed at least 100 million sharks are killed each year, nearly twice the rate needed to keep populations stable.

But conservation efforts face an uphill battle, not just because of that growing demand, but also the fear that many people have of sharks. 

As The Washington Post writes, "Sharks kill about five people a year, far fewer than deer, ants and dogs. But humans kill nearly one million tons of sharks every year..."

And yet when a deer kills someone it doesn't make international news:

ITV: "As the 50-year-old British ex-pat took a morning swim in Byron Bay, he was attacked by what's thought to be a great white shark. This is the three to four-meter-long shark believed to have killed him."

BBC: "The authorities are continuing to investigate this tragic death."  

And when deer, ants and dogs kill people, they don't inspire culls to those species like the ones sharks off the coast of Western Australia have seen since February. (Video via ITN)

Some point to movies like 'Jaws' that highlight, and often exaggerate, sharks' hunting prowess, as one reason people might have a disproportionate fear of the animal. (Video via Universal Pictures / 'Jaws')

The new regulations apply to some 180 countries, across the world. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 17:26:00 -0500
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When you think of which professionals drink more coffee than anyone else...what comes to mind?

Would it be police officers?

Plumbers? Or maybe...

*sips coffee* Journalists? 

Yup. Well, at least according to a survey by press release distributor Pressat. Journalists and media staff apparently consumed more cups of joe than any other profession.

The survey covered 10,000 people in the United Kingdom, 85 percent of which said they drink at least three cups of coffee a day.

So what’s the cause of this coffee-fueled workday for journalists? 

Maybe, as The Huffington Post points out, its the fact that CareerCast found being a newspaper reporter was the worst job in 2013 because of the low pay and high amounts of stress.

Or maybe it's that in 2013 TV and Newspaper reporters were seen as some of the least ethical or honest professions, ranking just below local politicians. At least they came out above members of Congress.

It’s worth noting that Pressat is a press release distributor, so they may have had a pretty large journalist demographic in their survey. That, and their results only covered the U.K.

A 2012 survey by Dunkin’ Donuts and CareerBuilder found that, out of 4,100 U.S. workers surveyed, food prep employees were at the top of the coffee-drinking ladder with journalists down at number six.

A more recent survey by the duo didn’t mention any specifics about professions, but did find 34 percent of U.S. workers felt less productive without coffee — which is quite a big jump from Pressat’s 70 percent who answered the same thing.

While there’s not much data out there to suggest which profession drinks the most coffee worldwide, Quartz collected data in 2014 showing the Netherlands in the lead for actual coffee consumption per person at just under two and a half cups a day. The U.S. ranked way down at number 16.

Regardless of whether its journalists or the Dutch who drink the most coffee, a study done last year by the University of South Carolina found the daily recommended dose of caffeine shouldn’t exceed four cups of coffee a day.

But, *sips coffee* coffee has been linked to more than a couple health benefits such as decreasing the risks of some cancers, possibly protecting against Alzheimer’s disease, and lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:59:00 -0500
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Scientists now know what a single atom sounds like. But sorry, you can't hear it.

Here's what the setup looked like. To put the sound captured in musical terms, researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden said it would be a D28 – "about 20 octaves above the highest note on a grand piano."

Which begs the question, why research this? Well for one, because they could.

But more importantly, Gizmodo notes, "It's also a gateway to understanding the world of quantum sound."

Scientists have used photons in quantum experiments in the past, but the phonons — or particles of sound — captured through this research might lead to new developments in quantum computing.

The head of the research group said if this could be used to create electrical circuits that obey quantum laws, we could see extremely fast computers.

And phonons might have a better shot at it than photons because, as The Huffington Post says, "Sound has a short wavelength and travels 100,000 times slower than light, which means it's much easier to control."

Let's back up to exactly how researchers captured this inaudible sound.

Scientists placed a chip on an artificial atom — seen on the right. This absorbed energy from the chip and sent out what's known as a "surface acoustic wave" — a vibration that was picked up and amplified by the microphone on the left.

A co-author of the study told Motherboard"Basically, when you excite the atom, it creates a sound, one phonon at a time, according to theory. It's the weakest possible sound possible at the frequency [that it vibrates]."

The results from this study were published Thursday in the journal Science.

This story includes images from Martin Gustafsson and Maria Ekström / CC BY 3.0David Niepce / CC BY 3.0; and Philip Krantz, Krantz NanoArt / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[Health Care Workers 'Chasing' Ebola Outbreak]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:10:00 -0500
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As the Ebola epidemic continues to grow across West Africa, the World Health Organization has come forward to admit the virus is out of control and efforts to contain it are failing. 

CTV: "The WHO says the death toll has now risen to more than 2,400 people out of almost 4,800 cases." 

AL JAZEERA"Here's a graph showing the number of new cases each week since the beginning of the year."


And thousands of new cases are expected to arise by the end of the month. 

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement Friday: "The number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them. ... Today, there is not one single bed available for the treatment of an Ebola patient in the entire country of Liberia."

In fact, the outbreak is so bad in Liberia, The New York Times did a piece called "Dying of Ebola at the Hospital Door." This scene took place outside JFK Hospital — the county's largest hospital. 

"I will die, I will die." 

"It's heartbreaking. There's nothing I can do about it." 

"Ten to 15 die each day here, but their beds are quickly filled." 

BBC: "You have at least two of the countries affected, Liberia and Sierra Leone, on the verge of collapse. ... The feeling is that we're chasing the disease. We're not on top of it. We're not able to control it." 

So what now? Well, WHO says more than anything, it needs people to fight the epidemic. There is a shortage of health care workers in the affected areas. 

Upon the call for more aid, Cuba has come forward to offer help. The country has said it will send 165 health care workers — 63 doctors and 102 nurses. 

To that news, Chan said"I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Cuban government and these health professionals for doing their part to help us contain the worst Ebola outbreak ever known. ... Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses and for its generosity in helping fellow countries on the route to progress."

Tuesday the U.S. also promised to send an additional $10 million to help fight the virus. That's on top of the $100 million Washington has already pledged.

<![CDATA['Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 21:12:00 -0500
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There are several ways to quit smoking cigarettes. Patches. Gum. Cold Turkey. But new research from Johns Hopkins University says heavy cigarette smokers might need to take a trip to kick the habit. 

And by "take a trip," I mean take shrooms. Like, psychedelic shrooms. 

The more technical term is psilocybin mushrooms, more affectionately known as "magic mushrooms." 

For the study, researchers used 10 men and five women who smoked, on average, 19 cigarettes a day for more than 30 years. Study participants were given two 20 mg psilocybin pills each, in two separate sessions, and then spent six-seven hours per session with researchers in a "homelike" setting. 

The drugs were coupled with behavioral therapy sessions where participants were asked to write in a diary to keep track of cigarette cravings. CBS writes, "After six months, 80 percent of participants who were given the psychedelic drug were still not lighting up." 

According to researchers, that's more than double the cessation rate of smokers who use varenicline, an anti-nicotine addiction drug better known as Chantix. 

What's interesting is that researchers don't exactly know if the shrooms or the behavioral therapy sessions contributed more to the participants quitting smoking. 

But we do know magic mushrooms have been used for therapeutic purposes before to treat disorders like depression. David Nutt, co-author of a previous psilocybin study, told CNN back in 2008, "We have found that these drugs turn off the parts of the brain that integrate sensations – seeing, hearing, feeling – with thinking." Somehow, this leads to successful, long-lasting treatments.

The most recent study's lead author Matthew Johnson told Bloomberg the hallucinogens in the psilocybin pills aren't addictive and added, "The fascinating thing is that the experiences with these hallucinogenic compounds can change people."

Johnson says this study isn't an endorsement of taking drugs at home to quit smoking. His next study will compare the quit rates of smokers using psilocybin to smokers using nicotine patches. 

<![CDATA[Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:48:00 -0500
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A solar storm is headed our way after the Sun produced a pair of solar flares aimed at Earth over the past couple days.

One of the flares, which occurred Wednesday afternoon, is considered an X-class, the most severe kind. They can sometimes interfere with communications and the power grid, but scientists say they're not worried this time. (Video via NASA)

KELLY BEATTY VIA THE WEATHER CHANNEL: "We're not really sure what's going to happen. Chances are there won't be any big effects from this one like disruptions of power. That's not going to happen."

You might remember Earth got hit by another back-to-back solar flare in June.

But if it seems like we're seeing a lot of these events lately, it might surprise you to know the Sun is actually being quieter than scientists expected.

The Sun has an 11-year activity cycle, and it was supposed to hit its "solar maximum," a period with lots of sunspots and flares, last summer.

Now, after a year-long delay, it's finally reached what NASA is calling a "mini-max," but it's still not a very big one.

"In the historical record, there are only a few solar maxima weaker than this one."

Of course, solar storms aren't all bad. They do cause the spectacular northern and southern lights. This round's display will be visible as far south as Pennsylvania.

The upcoming solar storm will arrive this weekend, not that you're likely to notice. One NOAA space-weather researcher claims we could see a few more big solar flares before the sun's activity starts to wind down again in 2015.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:08:00 -0500
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Spinosaurus, the largest of all carnivorous dinosaurs, may have been just as well-equipped for life in the water as on land.

The Cretaceous-era dinosaur was even bigger than T. Rex and measured in at 50 feet long with a sail on its back as tall as an adult man. And a new fossil construction suggests the creature likely stalked prey by moving through the water like a crocodile.

The report, published Thursday in the journal Science, says new fossils show Spinosaurus had rake-like teeth perfect for pulling in fish, had nostrils part way up its snout making it easier to breath in the water and was likely incapable of standing on two legs.

A dinosaur expert explains to National Geographic that the creature's narrow hips and short thighs are big clues that it likely spent a lot of time in the water. "This doesn't make much sense for a land animal that makes a living chasing other land animals. But if it is an animal that doesn't spend most of its time on land, but instead in the water, it doesn't need strong leg muscles."

A paleontologist told The New York Times the evidence that the creature lived a semi-aquatic lifestyle was "quite convincing" but only added to the animal's strangeness, referring to the way it moved on land with four legs.

LiveScience says that while this discovery answers a lot of questions about the Spinosaurus, it still doesn't provide an explanation for the enormous sail on its back. The most accepted theory is that it served some sort of display function.

It's pretty crazy this research happened at all. The most complete skeleton of Spinosaurus was destroyed in 1944 when the British Royal Air Force accidentally bombed a Munich paleontology museum during World War II. 

The Guardian says this led to a sort of dry spell for research on the creature until Nazir Ibrahim, the new study's lead author, got lucky when a stranger handed him a box of fossils that happened to be from a Spinosaurus. 

The first bones of a Spinosaurus were discovered in an Egyptian desert in 1911.

<![CDATA['Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:30:00 -0500
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"Fat shaming" is something millions of overweight people say they experience daily. It's a term that can mean many things, from being treated disrespectfully by doctors, to receiving poor service at shops or restaurants, to being called names by strangers. 

Now, a study by University College London has found fat shaming overweight people is actually linked to weight gain.

Researchers studied nearly 3,000 obese adults who felt discriminated against and watched how their weight changed over four years. 

The results showed those who reported experiencing fat shaming gained more weight than those who did not. 

Lead author Dr. Sarah Jackson explained"Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food. Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it."

The findings might seem counterintuitive. The subtext of most forms of fat shaming is that the person should lose weight or that they're only overweight because they're lazy and have an unhealthy diet.

Urban Dictionary's first definition of "fat shaming" is, itself, an example of those stereotypes. The site calls fat shaming "a term made by obese people to avoid the responsibility to actually take proper care of their body."

But in recent years, body acceptance has gained traction as the real way to motivate healthy lifestyle changes. WebMD explains having a positive view of your own body makes it easier to make healthy choices and that facing stereotypes and negativity tends to just make things worse.

A Huffington Post blogger wrote an article in May about "thin shaming," stereotypes that skinny people are sickly or unhealthy. She advocates ditching any one-size-fits-all view of beauty and health, writing: "All bodies are good bodies. All bodies are real bodies. All bodies are worthy of love and respect."

The authors of this recent study also say "weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution" and ask that people stop shaming those they care about and offer support instead. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Even An Extra 10 Pounds Could Raise Blood Pressure]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:15:00 -0500
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Vacations, holidays and even a bad breakup can add a few pounds to your waistline, but according to a new study, just a bit of weight can actually play a role in your blood pressure.

A preliminary study presented to the American Heart Association says gaining just 5 pounds can increase your blood pressure, although it does not seem to affect cholesterol, insulin or blood sugar levels. 

The author of the study told the American Heart Association, "Our research suggests that healthy people who are more likely to gain weight in the stomach area are also more likely to have their blood pressure increased."

To conduct the study, researchers fed 16 healthy adults a generous meal with dessert — or in other words, an extra 400-1,200 calories each day. The goal was to raise participants' weight by 5 percent. They took participants' blood pressure before and after those eight weeks.

They compared the results from those on the new diet to 10 healthy adults who maintained their weight over the eight weeks. The study concluded those who gained an extra 5-11 pounds pushed their systolic blood pressure — the higher number in a reading — on average from 114 to 118. 

To be fair, 118 is still considered normal blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association; 160 or higher is considered severe high blood pressure. 

Although the unhealthy effects of major weight gain are well-documented, those involved with the study say this small weight gain is much more common.

"This is an important finding because a five- to seven-pound weight gain may be normal for many during the holiday season, the first year of college or even while on vacation."

It should be noted the study's findings are considered preliminary because they have not been reviewed and published by a major medical journal. The sample size of 16 test subjects compared to 10 controls is also incredibly small.

<![CDATA[International Space Station Crew Returns Safely To Earth]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:54:00 -0500
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Three crew members of the International Space Station Expedition 40 returned to Earth Wednesday after a 169-day stay in orbit.

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev touched down in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan.

By the end of their six-month mission, they'd traveled more than 71.7 million miles and completed more than 2,700 orbits around Earth.

EURONEWS"During their time on board the International Space Station, the returning crew tackled a record number of science experiments, upgraded Robonaut — the station's humanoid robot — and repaired broken equipment."

"We did a lot of maintenance, which is good and bad," CBS quotes Swanson as saying. "I love doing maintenance, but it means things broke."

The crew also conducted microgravity physiology and human health research to gather data on long-duration space flight. U.S. and Russian space agencies are planning to send two crew members to the ISS for an entire year in 2015. (Video via NASA)

To date, the longest single mission to the ISS was 215.4 days, when Soyuz TMA-9 carried an astronaut and a cosmonaut to orbit. The mission lasted from October 2006 to April 2007.

The ISS itself has been continuously occupied since 2000. Right now there's a three-person crew aboard the ISS, which will expand to six astronauts and cosmonauts after the launch of the next Soyuz capsule Sept. 25. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[FDA Approves Contrave, Third Weight-Loss Drug In 2 Years]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:22:00 -0500
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The Food and Drug Administration has approved another weight-loss drug — the third new obesity-related drug in the past two years.

The drug, called Contrave, is made by pharmaceutical Orexigen Therapeutics, and it's a combination of an anti-depressant and a drug used to treat addiction. Doctors on the morning shows explained why that combination might work.

DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC: "It works in the brain to fight those central signals that drive hunger, reward, impulse and send those signals of satiety." 

DR. ROSHINI RAJ, NBC"I think we're finally reaching the point in this country when we realize obesity is not just about people eating too much. It really has to do with brain chemistry, and just telling them, 'Go on a diet, exercise,' may not be enough for a lot of people."

But diet and exercise are still important if users want to see the full benefits of the drug, which in testing helped some users lose more than 5 percent of their body weight.

According to the FDA's press release, side effects could include suicidal thoughts from the anti-depressant; seizures; nausea, headache and vomiting, which are all common with weight-loss drugs; and increased blood pressure and heart rate.

Increased blood pressure and heart rate are symptoms commonly associated with obesity — so a drug made to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate in the long run might also increase it? (Video via CNET)

According to NPR, Contrave was originally rejected by the FDA back in 2011 because regulators had doubts about the drug's safety directly related to those increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

The drug was later tested specifically to look at the heart risks before being cleared, and although the study is ongoing, the preliminary results were enough to clear Contrave. 

But it now faces an uphill task — the two previous weight-loss drugs to be approved haven't exactly thrived.

As The New York Times reports, "Two drugs approved in 2012 — the first new prescription obesity drugs in 13 years — have had disappointing sales." Analysts say that might be because "many doctors and many obese people do not think of obesity as a disease to be treated by medicine."

The drug will be marketed by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, although it's not yet clear when it will hit the shelves. 

<![CDATA[The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 05:26:00 -0500
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For the first time in decades, Earth's ozone layer is actually showing signs of recovering! Hooray! (Video via NASA)

A United Nations report found the levels of ozone in the stratosphere — where the ozone layer is located — are increasing, as the number of ozone-depleting substances, ODSs, decrease. 

The ozone layer came to public prominence in the 1980s, when scientists warned it was decreasing due to the popular use of ODSs in aerosol cans and some appliances. Then with the Montreal Protocol in 1987, almost 200 countries signed on to stop using them, and in the next decades the decrease leveled off. (Video via NASA)

So the news that it is actually increasing now is cause for celebration, right? Some outlets certainly took it that way.

MSNBC: "And a rare piece of good news for the environment: a United Nations environmental panel says the earth's ozone layer is beginning to recover!"

STEPHANIE ABRAMS, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: "For the first time in 35 years, the earth's ozone layer is recovering—"

AL ROKER: "Great news!"

ABRAMS: "I know!"

But in ozone-news tradition — it's not all good.

As The Independent reports, by looking to avoid the use of ODSs, we've been using substitutes that, "are potent global warming gases, contributing emissions growing at a rate of about seven per cent annually, and can be expected to 'very significantly' affect climate change."

A decade after the Montreal Protocol, the U.N. coordinated the Kyoto Protocol, which looked to reduce those gas emissions, but it wasn't nearly as successful.

KIKO ITASAKE, NBC: "Many say the U.S., the world's largest polluter, should agree to higher targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases."

The U.S. didn't, and only a fraction of the countries from the Montreal Protocol ratified it. One reason could be that greenhouse gas producers are much more prevalent than ODSs.

ROGER HARRABIN, BBC: "It's so much more difficult: our cars, homes, factories all contribute to heating the planet. This problem may not get solved at all."

Scientists predict the ozone layer will be back to 1980 levels by the middle of the century. 

<![CDATA[Gates Foundation Donates $50 Million To Combat Ebola]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 19:14:00 -0500
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As world leaders continue to scramble to try and thwart the massive Ebola outbreak that continues to spread in West Africa, one of the wealthiest couples in the world is pumping up their contribution in a big way.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will put up $50 million to support relief efforts in the beleaguered West African region to fight the deadly virus that has now killed almost 2,300 people. (Video via BBC)

The foundation held a Q&A session on Twitter Wednesday morning, laying out the specifics of the funding plan. It will take a broad approach, spreading the money across several kinds of aid.

In a press release, CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann said the foundation is working with partners "to accelerate the development of treatments, vaccines and diagnostics that can help end this epidemic and prevent future outbreaks.” She also spoke with CNN.

"Our goal with this money is to gather with United Nations and U.S. agencies to put funds to use where it's needed the most, on the front lines. ... In addition, we want to support long-term diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics."

The Gates Foundation had previously pledged $10 million toward various agencies, and this $50 million chunk will include that amount.

That aid went to the World Health Organization and the U.S. fund for UNICEF. The philanthropist group said it will also immediately send $2 million to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention for treatment and to help strengthen the health care system. (Video via WABC)

This additional funding announced Wednesday, which is a little over half of what the U.S. government is proposing to send over, could make headway particularly with Ebola-fighting drugs.

A Forbes contributor says "lack of funding" is one of the main hurdles in getting them produced.

And, of course, the Gates Foundation isn't alone in its efforts to combat the outbreak. 

Recently, the White House announced a $88 million funding plan though House GOP members may reduce the amount before it heads to a final vote. The U.S. is also adding to the already 1,400 aid workers in West Africa and the Pentagon announced a plan to build a 25-bed field hospital in Liberia for any aid workers who contract the deadly virus.

<![CDATA[Gel Injection Could Be Vasectomy Alternative]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:21:00 -0500
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A new option for birth control, and this one's for guys. If a vasectomy is too big of a commitment, how about a little gel?

It's called Vasalgel. The company behind it says the gel would be injected into a man's genitals and calls the process "similar to a no-scalpel vasectomy." The hope is the gel will be "more reversible" than a vasectomy — the substance would get "flushed out" with another injection.

A writer for Techcitement went into more detail about how the gel works. It clings along the sides of the vas deferens and tears apart the man's sperm when it flows through. The gel would last for at least 10 years before the procedure has to be repeated.

Currently the birth control is still in the research phases and is being tested on a set of male baboons. 

Earlier this month, the company behind Vasalgel said the baboons had each been placed in a pen with at least 10 female baboons, none of whom have gotten pregnant yet. 

So, is gel the future for male birth control? Well, if you live in India, you might already have access to this type of contraceptive.

The Male Contraception Information Project has info on a gel called RISUG, an acronym for Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance. It helped inspire Vasalgel. 

Vice says the World Health Organization still hasn't approved RISUG, but it is "available to Indian men who live within range of the testing facilities and agree to the testing."

Though pills might still come into play. Last year, Men's Fitness reported researchers in Australia were testing a men's birth control pill on mice.

If all goes to plan, the pill would stop the muscles in the genitals from releasing sperm.

This seems like a promising idea, since the female form of the pill is incredibly popular. The Guttmacher Institute says more than one-fourth of women between the ages of 15 and 44 take a contraceptive pill. 

The company behind Vasalgel hopes to make it on the market by 2017. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:24:00 -0500
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Commonly prescribed sleeping and anxiety pills, known as benzodiazepines, are now under scrutiny. Researchers found those who take drugs like Valium and Ativan have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. 

KXAS"Researchers followed a group of elderly adults who take Valium, Xanax or similar medications to treat insomnia and anxiety. Those who took these drugs for longer than three months were 51 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease."

The study looked at the medical records of more than 1,700 Alzheimer's patients over the age of 66 and 7,000 similar people without Alzheimer's. Researchers found those who had taken the drugs over long periods of time were far more likely to be in the Alzheimer's group.

To be clear, those involved in the study had been using benzodiazepine at least five years before they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's. 

Researchers seem confident benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's, writing in the study, "The stronger association observed for long term exposures reinforces the suspicion of a possible direct association."

However, as NBC points out, not so fast — the medication might not be to blame.

"It’s not clear whether the drugs are causing the Alzheimer’s directly, or if people perhaps use the drugs to treat other symptoms that may be early signs of Alzheimer’s, such as depression or insomnia."

And the age of the participants may also have something to do with it. The National Institute on Aging says most people develop Alzheimer's after the age of 60, which is within the age range of the people researchers looked at in the study.

The study says "unwarranted" long term use should be a "public health concern." That could be worrisome, as millions of people take these types of drugs daily.

<![CDATA[Greenhouse Gases Rising At Fastest Rate In 30 Years]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:46:00 -0500
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Fueled heavily by a huge upswing in carbon dioxide levels, a new report says greenhouse gases in the atmosphere jumped to record heights in 2013.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide surged to their highest year-over-year concentration in 30 years. (Video via BBC)

In particular, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have swelled substantially since before the industrial era.

WMO's Secretary General urged leaders to take action fast. “We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities. ... We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board. We are running out of time.”

As expected, the usual skeptics were out to try and discredit some of the findings.

LIZ MCDONALD VIA FOX NEWS: "What makes a trend? Is it 19 years of cooling? Is it 20 years? ... I don't think anybody is in agreement right now about where global warming and where global cooling is." 

That's referring to a United Nations report from last year that says the Earth has actually hit a cooling period as of late, and it appears the jury is still out on what exactly is causing it. 

Regardless, 97 percent of the scientific community still believes human activity has affected the ebb and flow of the climate in some way.

JIM EMBERGER, SPOKESMAN OF NEW BRUNSWICK ANTI SHALE GAS ALLIANCE VIA CBC: "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we have about five to fifteen years to get this right or basically we're facing a calamity, a disaster."

Tuesday's WMO report says greenhouse gases aren't the only problem. It also warns against a thing called ocean acidification — basically, those emissions that find their way into ocean waters.

It says a portion of carbon dioxide emissions end up essentially as ocean pollutants — which can have a number of negative affects on aquatic wildlife. (Video via National Geographic)

President Obama and other world leaders are expected to negotiate a new climate initiative to replace the Kyoto protocol at a summit in Paris next year.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Prediabetes Increases Cancer Risk By 15 Percent]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 18:20:00 -0500
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A new study says people with high blood sugar have more to worry about than the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes: they also have a 15 percent higher chance of developing many different kinds of cancer.

The study, which analyzed data from 16 earlier studies and nearly 900,000 participants, found people with prediabetes are at greater risk for cancers of the stomach, colon, liver, pancreas, breast and more, even after controlling for obesity as a common factor.

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough for the patient to be considered diabetic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of U.S. adults have it, and most don't know it. (Video via National Institutes of Health)

The connection between cancer and full-blown diabetes has been known about for a while, but not necessarily understood. The American Cancer Society confirmed the link in 2010.

But the new study shows it doesn't have to be full-blown. Just the elevated blood sugar that eventually leads to diabetes is enough.

As for why, LiveScience reports the researchers could only make educated guesses at this point, ranging from some mechanism connecting insulin resistance and cancer growth to common genetic mutations that may make people more open to both diseases.

Luckily, lifestyle changes are usually enough to control or eliminate prediabetes. The CDC says modest weight loss, healthy eating and increased physical activity can halt or reverse the condition.

This video includes images from the National Institutes of Health.

<![CDATA[Short Walks Can Offset Damage Of Prolonged Sitting]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 14:44:00 -0500
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All right. So we've been told sitting is bad, but now there's a ray of light for our fellow office workers. New research suggests short walks could offset the damage done by prolonged sitting.

Researchers looked at 12 healthy men who took part in two trials. In one they sat for three hours and didn't move their legs — that must have been really boring. In another, they sat and also walked on a treadmill at various points.

The study was done by Indiana University, and according to its press release"Study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same. ... It is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this."

The release also said when people sit, "slack muscles do not contract to effectively pump blood to the heart," which means blood can just sit there and pool in the legs. Indiana University calls the findings "the first experimental evidence of these effects." (Video via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

HealthDay really summed it up in a short, sweet way ... that could also make you fear for your life: "Get moving, even if it's just for a bit, to prevent blood clots."

Because blood clots are actually a really big, bad deal. They form when blood doesn't circulate right ... kind of like when you sit too long. WebMD says they can even cause heart attacks or stroke. 

But we might have a solution. Maybe all offices should be equipped with these ... treadmill desks. Yeah, walk and type at the same time! 

Although just taking five-minute walks around the office would be a heck of a lot cheaper. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Sharyn Morrow / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Trout Could Be As Clever As Chimps When It Comes To Hunting]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 08:51:00 -0500
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As it turns out, trout could be as clever as chimpanzees — at least, when it comes to choosing the best hunting partners to help them nab some grub.

According to a new study, coral trout not only solicit the help of moray eels to improve their chances of getting their next meal, but they also are pretty picky when it comes to choosing the best eel for the job. (Video via YouTube / huntingnq)

Wired quotes Alex Vail, one of the researchers involved in the study. "Prior to our study, chimpanzees and humans were the only species known to possess both of these abilities. I think the evidence is mounting that fish have more going on in their heads in terms of cognition than they have been given credit for."

To investigate this behavior a little more closely, the researchers decided to mirror an experiment that was originally conducted on chimpanzees back in 2006.

In that experiment, one chimp had to free another from a cage so they could both tug on a rope together and release food that couldn't be reached by just one chimp's efforts. (Video via BBC)

The chimps were able to figure out when they needed help getting to the food and when they didn't — an assessment that, until then, was considered to be unique to humans.

So, in the adapted version of that chimp experiment, researchers placed coral trout in an aquarium containing a decoy moray eel and a frozen baitfish.

Sometimes, the researchers left the baitfish out in the open, and other times, they hid it in a crevice. And just like the chimps, the trout learned only to employ the help of the fake eel when they really needed it. (Video via Alex Vail)

An evolutionary anthropologist who worked on the original chimpanzee study told Wired he thinks these new findings are "exciting" and that they challenge the idea that "only animals that look like us can be smart."

In fact, dozens of studies conducted over the years have found that fish are indeed intelligent — there's evidence that they can use tools and that they have impressive long-term memories and sophisticated social structures.

But the study's authors say they still don't know exactly what's going on inside the trouts' brains when they join forces with eels to get their fins on some food.

They could be thinking along the same lines as us when we cooperate with other human beings, but it's possible they have a different thought process all together. (Video via Australian Museum)

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.

This video includes images from Getty Images, richard ling / CC by NC ND 2.0burna10 / CC by NC SA 2.0

<![CDATA[Health Officials Say Ebola Outbreak About To Get Worse]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 17:40:00 -0500
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The Ebola epidemic that has ravaged western Africa this summer is showing no signs of slowing down — and in fact, researchers say it's about to get a whole lot worse

"It is the world's first Ebola epidemic and it's spiraling out of control. It's bad now, it's going to get worse in the very near future."

That was Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control. And he's not alone — the World Health Organization last week told officials to "prepare for an 'exponential increase' in Ebola cases in countries currently experiencing intense virus transmission."

The reason? WHO suspects that the normal containment strategies aren't working because Ebola victims and their communities don't trust the medical experts.

The New York Times: “Now, armed gangs chase health workers away from villages while the sick hide." 

A report by the World Health Organization released on Monday says the virus has so far killed 2,105 people — half from Liberia, and the rest mainly from Guinea and Sierra Leone. (Via Google)

So what's WHO's solution? It's simple: Scale up community engagement. But it's also expensive: The organization is asking partners to increase their efforts by three to four-fold

“The whole world is responsible and accountable to bring the Ebola threat under control. Let’s do it. Action, action, and action."

The United States, at least, seems on board: President Obama on "Meet The Press" this Sunday announced the U.S. military would soon begin deploying its resources and logistical expertise to help aid workers on the ground. 

NBC's "Meet The Press": “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads … there is the prospect then that the virus mutates ... and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.

Of course, it's a lot easier to contain a disease when there's a cure for it. Currently, 53 percent of people diagnosed with Ebola die of it. 

It's a problem that U.S. government scientists have been working on all year, and on Sunday The Guardian reported a potential breakthrough, saying that human trials were underway for a vaccine that worked on monkeys.

But even in a best-case scenario, delivering vaccines to victims will take months — which means, for now, the victims of Ebola and the people trying to help them are on their own. 

This video contains an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Sleeping On Animal Fur As A Baby Could Prevent Asthma]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 14:29:00 -0500
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A new study has shown that babies who sleep on animal fur early in life have less of a chance of developing asthma later on.

The research, presented Monday at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Munich, looked at nearly 3,000 children. It found those who slept on animal fur in their first three months of life had a 79 percent lower risk of asthma at age 6 and a 41 percent lower risk at age 10. 

One of the authors cites previous studies that found microbes in rural settings can protect individuals from developing asthma. "An animal skin might also be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments."

Asthma cannot be cured, but currently there are ways to treat the symptoms. One expert tells The Telegraph these findings, though not conclusive, pave the way for greater understanding of the condition.

"This is interesting, although previous studies have not shown a consistent impact of exposure to animal fur in early life on asthma outcomes later on. Asthma is a complex condition so we welcome any new research that helps us understand what causes asthma as it brings us one step closer to curing asthma."

HealthDay was also a tad skeptical, noting that while this does show a relationship between exposure to animal fur and asthma development, it does not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

It should be noted these findings have not yet been presented in a peer-reviewed journal, so they haven't been verified just yet. But there are others that have had similar results.

This study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found exposure to pets at a young age is associated with less sensitivity to allergy-causing agents.

So maybe it's worth a shot to shell out the extra dough for a sheepskin blanket for your baby's crib. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Waist-Height Ratio Key To Long Life: Study]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:09:00 -0500
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As if you need more reasons to watch your weight, a new report says the key to a longer life is all in the waistline.

In a study, researchers from City University London looked at two decades' worth of data from about 300,000 adults. They say your waistline measurement should be no more than half your height in order to live a prolonged life.

According to their developed formula, this would mean the waist of a male adult who is 5 feet 10 inches should be no larger than 35 inches. Similarly, a 5-foot-4-inch woman's waist should measure 32 inches. An increase of as many as 7 inches can trim more than one and a half years off his or her life.

Research linking waist size and mortality has been done before, and all have come up with the same conclusion — that excess fat around the waist can contribute to premature death.

But all the studies have also determined body mass index, which is used in most current health predictions, is not necessarily an accurate representation of health by itself.

BMI is a tool used to measure the health of an individual by looking at their weight relative to their height. But it's often seen criticisms in the health community. (Video via YouTube / KidandParent)

The Daily Mail quotes the study's lead author, who says the new formula could better determine how the fat around the waistline affects high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. "People are living in false hope if they rely on their BMI figure. We have got to measure the right thing."

Other experts say BMI doesn't distinguish between fat and muscle. Because muscle weighs more than fat, the index might determine a muscular person to be obese. It also fails to account for the fact taller people might take up more space without necessarily being overweight or obese.

The study was published in the Public Library of Science.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Meteorite That Hit Nicaragua Might Have Broken Off 2014 RC]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 08:16:00 -0500
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Nicaraguan officials say they feel lucky no one was hurt from the possible meteorite that touched down over the weekend. 

Local outlets report citizens of in the capital city of Managua first heard a loud boom Saturday night, and government officials announced Sunday afternoon they'd located a crater and believed a meteorite was responsible.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: "Officials believe it was either an ice or rock meteorite."

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: "The impact of whatever it may have been left behind a crater — even registered on the seismic instruments, which register earthquakes."

While officials tried to figure out if there was anything left of the meteorite Sunday, they did announce it left a crater about 40 feet wide by five feet deep. El 19 Digital estimated it struck the Earth around 670 miles per hour.

The impact also inspired speculation from Nicaraguan officials that it broke off a much larger piece of space rock.

Over Labor Day weekend, NASA says it detected a 60-foot-long asteroid named 2014 RC. The NEO — or Near-Earth Object — grabbed headlines because of its relatively close pass by Earth, though NASA cautioned its shortest proximity to us Sunday would still be 25,000 miles away.

Managua is a densely populated city, and officials stressed they "thank[ed] God" the suspected meteorite hit where it did — only a few hundred meters from a hotel. (Video via YouTube / Central America Vacations)

<![CDATA[Humans Test New Ebola Vaccine After Promising Monkey Trials]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 19:54:00 -0500
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Dubbed the worst Ebola outbreak in history, more than 2,000 people in West Africa have died from the virus.

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT JOANNE LIU VIA PBS"Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it."

But the fight against the deadly outbreak could be gaining a new weapon: a vaccine is being tested on humans for the first time.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health says animal trials using macaques showed the vaccine can make recipients much less vulnerable to the virus, though the effect began to wear off around the 10-month mark. (Video via BBC)

But the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the BBC,"The good part of this vaccine is that at five weeks or earlier you get full protection. The sobering news is the durability isn't great, but if you give a boost, a second shot, you make it really durable." 

The NIH along with the World Health Organization and several U.K. agencies all partnered with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to create and test the vaccine.

But it will still be some time before it goes into widespread use. GSK says on its website: "Clinical development for a new vaccine is a long, complex process, often lasting ten or more years. It is difficult to accelerate this process because of the many important steps that a candidate vaccine must go through to ensure that it is safe and effective."

Health officials worldwide are trying to speed things up as best they can, because of just how severe the West African outbreak is.

Last month, the WHO approved the use of experimental drugs to help combat the disease. And last week it added a new experimental treatment to the list: using blood from Ebola survivors to help new victims. (Video via Euronews)

The NIH is also collaborating with at least two other companies that are working on their own vaccines, though none of the rest are up to the human stage of testing yet.

<![CDATA[Respiratory Virus Affecting Thousands Across U.S.]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 15:42:00 -0500
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Alright parents, here's one to watch out for. There's a mysterious respiratory illness that has affected more than 900 children and teenagers in Colorado just in the past month — some even have to be put in intensive care. 

KCNC: "The name is human enterovirus 68... We've not seen it in Denver previously."

"What doctor Meyappan is seeing is how quickly this virus becomes life threatening especially in kids with even mild asthma." 

HLN: "Doctors think a virus related to one of those that causes the common cold is creating the outbreak." 

What's troubling about this virus is it starts out with cold-like symptoms including fever, sneezing, coughing and body aches — making it difficult to properly diagnose until more serious symptoms show up.

KMGH: "To go from a cold to being probably minutes away from death, that's kind of scary."

That was the father of Will Cornejo, a teen with asthma who contracted the virus.

Will's Mother via KRDO"He just passed out, had his eyes rolled back in his head."

And although Colorado is one of the states experiencing the most severe outbreaks — the rest of the U.S. isn't in the clear. Just like the common cold,  enterovirus 68 seems to spread easily. 

CNN: "Health officials in ten other states from North Carolina to Oklahoma have also reported suspected outbreaks." 

Al Jazeera: "Some states are reporting seventy new cases a day. Kansas, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana are among them but Colorado and Missouri have been hit the hardest." 

Because viruses are not treatable with antibiotics, doctors have been giving patients steroids and medication to help improve breathing — as respiratory problems seem to be the most threatening symptom. But the majority of the emphasis is being put on prevention. 

That includes washing your hands, disinfecting items that are touched often and avoiding touching your face,  especially your eyes and nose. 

Fortunately, there are no reports of any deaths from this outbreak. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Neil Mclntosh / CC By 2.0.

<![CDATA[Scientists Use Internet For Brain-To-Brain Communication]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 11:37:00 -0500
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Ah, the internet. It lets us do so many things: from ordering pizza to browsing endless cat pictures and now... telepathy?

A study by a group of international scientists published in PLOS One found a brain could transmit a message to another brain through internet channels, and as if that weren't enough — they did it across continents. 

CHANNEL 4: "The experiment involved two people: one in India, and the other in France ... The signal is then translated into a code and sent via the internet to the cap of a receiver."

So the mental message of the transmitter was sent through email then translated back into brain signals in France and delivered through flashes of light in the receiver's peripheral vision to stimulate the brain activity.

Not exactly as efficient as a text or a Facebook message, but considering how early the technology is in its development, there are a number of possible applications and implications.

The scientists who conducted the study said hyperinteraction — one brain communicating directly with another — "will eventually have a profound impact on the social structure of our civilization and raise important ethical issues." 

And futurists like Michio Kaku have predicted this kind of direct networking of human minds before. (Video via Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

MICHIO KAKU, VIA BIG THINK: "A brain-net whereby you would exchange not just information like typing, but also emotions, feelings. Because these are also part of the fabric of our thoughts."

Late Night host Seth Meyers also took a stab at an application:

MEYERS: "The scientists decided to create this technology because it was easier than explaining email to their moms."

This development hasn't really come out of the blue: last year a similar study conducted on rats made headlines as well.

Researchers at Duke University linked two rats' brains and observed that the signals from one of the rats could help the other complete a task and receive a reward. (Video via Pais-Vieira et al.)

If you were wondering about what message exactly they went through all that work to transmit from India to France, it was just two words: hola, and ciao.

<![CDATA[Fla. Girl Commits Crime In Honor Of Slender Man]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 18:15:00 -0500
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The ​fictional character Slender Man is reportedly the inspiration of yet another violent crime. 

Authorities say a 14-year-old Florida girl set her home on fire while her mother and young brother were sleeping inside in an effort to please Slender Man.

The incident reportedly took place after the girl had an argument with her mother. Her mother woke up in time to get her son out of the home and said she later received text messages from her daughter admitting to setting the fire. 

The girl told authorities she was motivated by a Slender Man website and was also inspired by the two Wisconsin girls who attempted to stab their friend to death. 

So, what is it about this fiction figure that's prompting so much violence?

The Slender Man websites and social media pages depict the character as mythical and villain-like. Those pages include some pretty creepy language that encourages violence. 

However, after these recent child crimes, a lot of those same sites are including disclaimers saying that it is all fictional and that the site is meant for adults. 

Most experts agree that children viewing violent websites is not good for their development. 

And a study published in Pediatrics shows young people who are exposed to violent forms of media are much more likely to exhibit violent behavior themselves. 

Here are some websites that WFTS warned parents contain violent Slender Man information:

"First the Slender Man wiki gathers urban legends describing the character and gathers internet users who want to talk about him. Also, an entire page on the site Creepypasta rounds up erie photographs and myths about Slender Man. Finally, you may see Slender Man tied to the viral online book Soul Eater."

The Florida girl has been charged with arson and two counts of attempted murder. Local authorities have not said whether she'll be charged as an adult.

<![CDATA[WHO Recommends Using Ebola Survivors' Blood To Treat Others]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 08:57:00 -0500
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The World Health Organization announced Friday it has approved the use of blood transfusions to combat Ebola.

Blood from survivors contains antibodies that could help current patients fight the disease. The decision comes after a two-day meeting of WHO officials in Geneva, where they discussed the use of experimental treatments. (Video via Euronews)

Voice of America quotes the WHO’s assistant director-general, who says the organization is moving faster than usual— having developed its latest treatment protocols in just days.

“With any other clinical trial that I know of, you would talk about weeks and months.  …the timelines change of all the processes that we know for this particular Ebola outbreak.”

The WHO blames Ebola for nearly 4,000 infections in West Africa since the outbreak began in March. So far the disease is known to have killed over 1,200 people.

And while transfusions could help combat the disease, they’re no guarantee.

ABC reports Kent Brantly, an aid worker who contracted and later recovered from the virus, received a blood transfusion from a child donor who had also survived.

But he also received the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp. At this point, doctors simply aren’t sure which treatment was most effective.

And as of Friday, the WHO says it still hasn’t officially tested ZMapp or other drugs for viability. A Forbes columnist says “the consensus was that it was too early to deploy these even for human safety studies.”

Affected regions, meanwhile, are taking drastic steps to cut down on the spread of Ebola. Al Jazeera reports Sierra Leone is preparing to institute a three-day countrywide curfew later this month.

Citizens will be “confined to their homes” starting September 18 to prevent disease transmission and to give aid workers time to spot and address new cases.

The WHO says more rigorous trials of experimental drugs will begin as soon as pharmaceutical companies can turn out enough supply.

<![CDATA[Calif. Blue Whales Back To Historic Population Levels]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:01:00 -0500
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They're being called a "conservation success story." California blue whales are back to near historic numbers, according to new research by the University of Washington.

The study found there are now about 2,200 California blue whales. That number might not sound large, but researchers say that's 97 percent of the animal's historic population. (Video via NBC)

Of course, in order to figure out just how impressive the whales' recovery has been, researchers had to find out exactly how many were lost.

Between 1905 and 1971, an estimated 3,400 California blue whales were killed due to whale hunting. The practice was banned in 1966, but Russian fleets reportedly continued hunting the whales illegally.

The BBC reports"Most of the data on the catches was kept secret under the Soviet regime. Scientists have only recently been able to get access to this information in the archives."

But since 1971, the nearly 200-ton creatures have been making a comeback.

It's an impressive feat, considering what happened to other blue whale populations. Discovery writes, "This is the only population of blue whales in the world known to have recovered from whaling."

But why? Hint: It's not the California sunshine. The study's lead author says, "The recovery of California blue whales from whaling demonstrates the ability of blue whale populations to rebuild under careful management and conservation measures."

However, there are still some concerns over ship-whale collisions off the California coast. Reports indicate about 11 blue whales are struck per year.

Researchers say those collisions are not expected to significantly impact whale populations right now. But it's a bad habit that could get worse in the long term.

New findings say the number of ships could increase by as much as 11-fold. If that happens, the study's authors say there's a 50 percent chance the whale population could decrease significantly.

For its part, California launched a program last month that will give shippers money for slowing down when traveling through the Santa Barbara Channel, a popular feeding spot for the blue whales.

The Los Angeles Times reports, "Lower speeds are expected to reduce the risk of ship strikes that are fatal to whales and could give the giant marine mammals more time to swim away from approaching ships."

This video includes images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Mike Baird / CC BY 2.0 and Ronald Woan / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[UN Report Shows Extent Of Child Abuse Worldwide]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:53:00 -0500
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The largest-ever report on violence against children has been released by the United Nations, and the findings are truly heartbreaking. 

The report, called "Hidden in Plain Sight," is a statistical analysis of violence against children. It draws data from 190 countries.

It shows about 1 in 10 girls has been sexually abused and says 1 in 3 adolescent brides has experienced some kind of abuse. According to the report, about half of teen girls believe it's acceptable for a man to hit his wife under certain circumstances. 

"Hidden In Plain Sight" also says 17 percent of children receive severe forms of physical punishment and 30 percent of adults believe physical punishment is needed to raise children.

The report notes the children who are abused generally have lasting effects: Later in life, they're more likely to become unemployed, live in poverty and exhibit their own violent behavior. 

In addition, it says 1 out of every 5 homicide victims is a child. 

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake says: "Violence against children occurs every day, everywhere. And while it harms individual children the most, it also tears at the fabric of society — undermining stability and progress. But violence against children is not inevitable. It is preventable — if we refuse to let violence remain in the shadows."

And the way the statistics are being reported by media, it's clear many of us didn't recognize the extent of these issues. 

AL JAZEERA"The United Nations children's agency has revealed some startling figures."

BBC: "Drawing on data from 190 countries, the report contains some grim statistics."

"Startling," "grim" and "shocking" were often used to describe the report in the media coverage, and that's likely the reaction the UN hoped for. 

The release makes it clear the UN believes creating awareness is crucial to tackling this issue: "These are uncomfortable facts — no government or parent will want to see them. But unless we confront the reality each infuriating statistic represents ... we will never change the mind-set that violence against children is normal and permissible. It is neither," Lake said. 

It's worth noting most media outlets chose to highlight the sexual assault statistic in their headlines, with the homicide statistic being the second most popular choice. 

<![CDATA[Perceived Link Between Bras, Breast Cancer Prompts Study]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 11:50:00 -0500
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Could wearing a bra increase your risk of getting breast cancer? 

Researchers at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center were prompted to study the issue after "lay media" suggestions the undergarment traps lymphatic fluids in the breast, impeding the removal of waste and toxins which could cause cancer.

According to Time, that perception most likely comes from a 1991 study that found younger women who didn't wear bras had a lower risk of breast cancer.

"The authors were quick to attribute that to more obvious, well-established risk factors like obesity. Thinner women with smaller breasts, after all, are those most likely to go braless."

According to the Los Angeles Times, this latest study, which studied more than 1,500 postmenopausal women both with and without a history of breast cancer, found "no aspect of bra-wearing" was positively linked to breast cancer rates.

"Not cup-size, not preference for soft-cup vs. underwire, not the age at which bra-wearing was initiated or the duration of daily bra-wearing."

Uplifting news for the bra-wearers among you, which is apparently nearly all women.

The researchers found at least 75 percent of women wear a bra for at least eight hours per day. In fact, researchers didn't include a control group of women who didn't wear bras at all because they could only find one such woman among their subjects. 

This isn't the only common misconception about breast cancer risk. Susan G. Komen for the Cure listed several other factors that don't increase breast cancer rates, including:


- Abortions or miscarriages

- Breast implants

- Caffeine

- Cellphone use

The study was published Friday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

This story includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[E-Cigarette Debate Gets Even More Confusing]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 11:16:00 -0500
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We just can't get a straight answer on the safety of e-cigarettes. 

Last week the World Health Organization called for more regulation of the increasingly popular e-cigs. The report recommended a ban on use indoors because they might contain toxins that are harmful to humans. It also suggested more regulations on whom they can be marketed and sold to. (Video via Blu eCigsCNN

But a group is now challenging that report, saying it uses "alarmist language."

In an article posted in medical journal Addiction, researchers say WHO's findings were inaccurate. The Independent quotes the lead author from the National Addiction Centre at King's College London, Professor Ann McNeill, as saying: 

"We were surprised by the negativity of the commissioned review, and found it misleading and not an accurate reflection of available evidence."

E-cigarettes are still fairly new to the game, and so is the research on health risks associated with them. Researchers tend to agree that the battery-powered devices are safer than the traditional tobacco- and nicotine-filled cigarette. (Video via BBC)  

But it's also raised several questions. How safe are they? Do they prevent smoking or provide a gateway to it? Should minors have access to them? 

Although it's tough to answer every question regarding e-cigs, their safety, and their regulation, it appears they are saving lives. The same group that criticized WHO's findings says e-cigs could save 50,000 smokers each year in the U.K. alone. 

And, to be clear, WHO isn't necessarily against them. An overview of the report posted to its website reads in part, "While e-cigarettes represent an 'evolving frontier filled with promise and threat for tobacco control,' regulations are needed."

The World Health Organization plans to present more information about its report on electronic nicotine delivery systems at the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Oct. 13-18 in Moscow.

<![CDATA[Is Genetically Modified Coffee Coming?]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 09:12:00 -0500
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That morning cup of joe is sometimes the only thing that can get a pep in our step before work, but what if that coffee was genetically modified?

That's the talk of the town — coffee that wasn't made by nature, but by science. 

"Scientists just sequenced the coffee bean genome."

"Yeah, science!"

"Which basically means we know how to genetically modify it." (Video via KDAF)

"They now say they have the keys to genetically modifying coffee. ... That's just great. Always looking for stronger coffee."

"I don't think it's great. I don't think it's great." (Video via ABC)

Scientists say they have the genome sequence of the Robusta coffee bean, which supplies roughly a third of the world's coffee. And they could possibly change things like its flavor and even modify it to ward off pests that commonly harm the crop. 

The Washington Post spoke with Victor Albert, the lead author of the study. He made an interesting note about how scientists could use the findings for decaf coffee:

"This might make it possible to knock off caffeine production in a variety of coffee plant. ... So to make decaff coffee, you wouldn't have to go through the process of extracting the caffeine. You could just grow coffee beans that don't make it at all."

It sounds pretty great, but as you heard concern from one ABC anchor, are genetically modified foods really the way to go?

The Non-GMO Project, as you can tell by its name, is against them:

"Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. ... In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale."

But The U.S. National Library of Medicine points out some potential benefits of genetically modified food, like more nutritious and better-tasting food, less pesticide use and plants that grow faster. It also lists cons on a much shorter list, like: "Modified plants or animals may have genetic changes that are unexpected and harmful."

Despite the debate over whether genetically modified food is good or bad, scientists who decoded coffee's genome did find out something very interesting

"The project showed that coffee evolved its ability to make caffeine independently from tea and cacao."

That's basically saying that while both coffee and tea make caffeine on their own, they aren't related. 

And while this is all fascinating, Vice makes a good observation: "In a world where you can get a completed genome for a couple hundred bucks, it seems absurd that, until today, a completed genome of one of the world's most economically important crops didn't exist."

And it is economically important. The world consumes 2.25 billion cups a day. And I'm pretty sure I account for half of that. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Lava Heading Toward Hawaii Homes, Emergency Declared]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 08:36:00 -0500
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Areas in Hawaii are facing a serious but confusing threat as lava flows near homes. 

KHNL: "The lava is now less than one mile away from the Kaohe Homesteads. Some livestock that could be in harm's way is being moved as a precaution. ... Hawaii Civil County Defense went door-to-door today alerting residents."

KGMB reports, the threat level has been raised from a watch to a warning.

Sounds scary. This is on Hawaii's Big Island, flowing from the Kilauea volcano. Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi signed an emergency proclamation Thursday. 

But while an emergency has been declared in the area, authorities are also saying the lava isn't something to panic about. 

"It's a very slow-moving surface flow. It's progressed just under 100 yards since yesterday, to give you an idea of how slow it is moving."

Residents have attended community meetings at area schools to get the latest information. From what we saw on local outlets, it was obvious that latest information had caused some confusion. (Video via Big Island Video News)

RESIDENT: "I understand your role is not to project and plan too far ahead, but can you plan ahead here?"

KGMB noted an evacuation has been talked about, but it's "unclear when that might happen."

Kenoi said his emergency proclamation was to ensure residents would have time for a safe evacuation if the lava flow continues. If it does continue, the lava could possibly reach homes in five days to a week. The lava has been flowing from this vent since late June. Kilauea has continuously erupted since 1983.

<![CDATA[Ebola Could Spread To U.S. By End Of Month]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:28:00 -0500
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As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to worsen at an alarming rate, health officials have issued increasingly dire warnings about the possibility of a global outbreak.

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT JOANNE LIU VIA PBS: "Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it."

CDC DIRECTOR TOM FRIEDEN VIA CNN: "Every day this outbreak goes on, it increases the risk for another export to another country."

Now, a new analysis published this week in PLOS Currents: Outbreaks has shed some light on the possibility of Ebola traveling outside of West Africa.

Using WHO data, researchers simulated potential situations where Ebola could spread to other countries by studying air traffic patterns and mobility between infected and non-infected countries. They ran simulations on two dates — Sept. 1, and Sept. 22.

Their predictions show a sharp increase in the probability of another country getting infected — at the beginning of the month, the U.S. had only a five percent chance of importing an outbreak. By the 22nd, the probability jumps up to 18 percent. (Video via Voice of America)

Study author Alessandro Vespignani told NPR, "What is happening in West Africa is going to get here. We can't escape that at this point. ... Sooner or later, they will arrive."

Now, there are a couple of important caveats to the researchers' findings. For one thing, an Ebola case reaching a developed country with an efficient healthcare system probably won't cause the mass epidemic levels we've seen in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

What's more, the numbers come with a pretty high probability range — so while the U.S. could have a 18 percent infection risk at the end of the month, that number could also be as low as 1 percent. Contrast that with the U.K., which has an infection risk of 25-28 percent by the end of the month. (Video via Euronews)

And while there haven't been any accidental Ebola exports to the U.S. yet, three confirmed Ebola cases have been transported inside the country. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were cured of the virus last month — and a third patient, Dr. Rick Sacra, is currently en route to Nebraska after contracting Ebola in Liberia.

The Ebola outbreak has already claimed more than 1,900 lives — that's more than all other previous outbreaks combined. WHO officials estimate controlling the spread of the virus could cost over $600 million.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Meet Dreadnoughtus, One Of The Most Enormous Animals Ever]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 19:20:00 -0500
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Scientists officially announced the discovery of a new dinosaur Thursday, and if there's one takeaway here, it's that this thing was huge.

Ken Lacovara via Drexel University: "Everything about this dinosaur is giant: the femur is six feet tall, the upper arm bone, the humorous, is almost as tall as I am, the tail bones are gargantuan with huge muscle scars."

The team at Drexel University — which coincidentally has another huge lizard as a mascot — spent four years unearthing the bones of the huge dinosaur, which they named Dreadnoughtus, meaning it feared nothing.

We first heard about the colossal dinosaur in May. Back then, it hadn't been given a name and the analysis of the bones wasn't complete, but it was being touted as a contender for largest land animal ever. (Video via BBC)

They've revised their early estimates down a little bit since then, but plenty of stories about the discovery still call Dreadnoughtus the largest dinosaur ever.

WPVI: "At 85 feet long, weighing in at 65 tons, it is the largest prehistoric animal to ever be discovered."

KYW-TV: "What has a tail that stretches around a room and a leg bone taller than most men? Only the biggest land animal to ever grace this earth."

Well, maybe. The researchers themselves don't claim this is the biggest land animal ever found. There are a few other contenders for that title. 

Another species, which lived in the same region around 20 million years before Dreadnoughtus, could be upwards of 100 tons.

And back in the late 1800s, bones from another much older species hinted at a body weight of 122 tons, though those bones have since been lost.

What the researchers do say is that Dreadnoughtus is "the most complete skeleton ever found of its type." They've managed to unearth over 70 percent of its skeleton while those other two species are known from only a few bones.

And what's even more impressive — research on Dreadnoughtus's bones show the individual wasn't done growing.

This video includes images from Sebastian Weigand / GFDL-selfEva K. / GFDLCope, E.D., and Charles Gould.

<![CDATA[Ga. Father Charged With Murder In Child's Hot-Car Death]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:22:00 -0500
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Justin Ross Harris has been charged with murder for the death of his toddler.

Harris has been in the public eye since police deemed his son's hot-car death in June suspicious.

Detectives say he had a motive for wanting his son dead, pointing to his troubled marriage and his alleged sexting with several other women. They also noted hot-vehicle deaths had been researched on his office computer. 

Which led to portrayals like this:

HLN'S NANCY GRACE: " ... the dichotomy of the public Justin Ross Harris and the private Justin Ross Harris. ... I noticed he cuts his wife out of the pictures he posts online."

And it's coverage like that that prompted Harris' wife to release a statement last month urging against a rush to judgement. 

Harris says he forgot his son was in the back seat when he went into work and the incident was a tragic accident. 

Harris is facing charges including malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children.

The prosecution argues Harris might have tried to kill his son in a way that many children accidentally die every summer to seem less suspicious. The highly publicized case has brought light to the number of children who die from this preventable cause. 

Jan Null from the San Jose State University Department of Meteorology and Climate Science reports so far this year 26 children have died in hot vehicles in the U.S., with most of those deaths coming from the Southern states.

If Harris is convicted of the murder charges against him, he'll face life in prison and possibly the death penalty. 

<![CDATA[Pilots And Flight Attendants Have Higher Risk Of Melanoma]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:07:00 -0500
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High-flying jobs such as flight attendant and pilot come with higher risk of melanoma — about double, in fact, according to a recent study that looked at years of research. 

The analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at a number of studies that examined the incidence of melanoma among pilots and said they are "exposed to higher levels of cosmic and UV radiation than the general population."

As you can imagine, if you're routinely flying on top of the clouds, you're going to get a little more sunlight than most people. 

One of the big points was what kind of radiation plane windows block, with both glass and plastic blocking more than 99 percent of UVB radiation but with glass only blocking 54 percent of UVA radiation. 

And that's particularly dangerous, as The Skin Cancer Foundation explains, because UVA light penetrates much deeper into the skin and can cause imperfections — which in turn can lead to skin cancer. 

And that has many outlets saying things like this:

WBOC: "People who make a living while flying are thought to have a greater risk of melanoma because of increased UV exposure at high altitudes."

Still, it's not immediately clear whether that increased exposure is the only cause of the melanoma risk, and there are some dissenting voices. (Video via KPHO)

A Finnish researcher told HealthDay"More frequent travel to sunny climates and sun-tanning by pilots and cabin crew members could explain the higher risk."

And another melanoma researcher who talked to The Huffington Post questioned the diversity of the sample group, saying, "While the authors point out that the comparison population was primarily northern Europeans ... the possibility of variation in this important risk factor remains unknown and therefore does introduce a limitation on confidence of the conclusion."

The analysis looked at 19 studies, which covered more than 266,000 participants.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Science Demonstration Leaves 13 Injured At Nevada Museum]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 07:24:00 -0500
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Thirteen people were injured and nine others were taken to the hospital after a science demonstration at a museum in Reno, Nevada, Wednesday apparently did not go as planned. 

It's not clear exactly what happened, but what is known is that it happened at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, the people who were injured suffered burns, and some of them were children. (Video via CBS)

And The Reno Gazette-Journal reports eight of the nine people taken to the hospital were children. The outlet cites officials who say a chemical mixture caught fire, causing burns and smoke inhalation. 

After the accident, the museum tweeted"preliminary reports of an explosion at the museum are inaccurate. A routine science demonstration didn't happen as usual causing a flash." 

But that didn't stop a number of outlets from reporting the incident like this:

WSYX"The group was watching a smoke tornado simulation when an explosion happened."

WOI-TV: "Eight children and one adult are being treated for flash burns after an explosion at a museum yesterday in Nevada."  

ABC: "Nightmare at the museum, more than a dozen people hurt in an explosion at a children's museum in Reno."

But for what it's worth, at least one account conflicted with the museum's tweet, with a witness telling local TV station KOLO, "The one tornado wasn't going, no one really thought anything of it and then she was like, I forgot to add this and added it, then everything exploded."

The fire tornado is a well known science demonstration that usually involves a mesh cylinder placed around the source of a fire on top of a spinning surface. It creates a tornado-like effect. (Video via

<![CDATA[Minority Languages Threatened As Economies Grow]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:50:00 -0500
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What do endangered species and minority languages have in common? Both face the possibility of going extinct. 

And, for the latter, researchers found at least one reason why. In a study published Wednesday in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B, researchers from the University of Cambridge in England found that economic growth contributes to vanishing languages. Here's how they did it: 

Dr. Tatsuya Amano is a zoologist — not a linguist — at Cambridge and the study's lead author. He and other researchers used criteria from an international conservation organization — typically used for endangered animals — to evaluate the extinction risk for the world's 7,000 human languages. 

By examining "geographical range sizes, small speaker population sizes and rapid declines in speaker numbers" in 9 percent, or 649, of the world's languages, the researchers found that, "economic growth and globalization are primary drivers of recent language speaker declines (mainly since the 1970s onwards)." 

Amano mentions Marie Smith Jones who died in 2008. She was the last native speaker of Eyak, an Alaskan language. (Video via YouTube / Eyak Language ~ dAXunhyuuga')

And it's not hard to find other languages that could face the same fate. Using language reference resource Ethnologue, the researchers found languages with only a few living speakers. In fact, 25 percent of the world's languages are threatened.

Emily Underwood for Science Magazine explains this sort of research has actually been done before: "It’s well known that economic growth or the desire to achieve it can drive language loss. ... Dominant languages such as Mandarin Chinese and English are often required for upward mobility in education and business, and economic assistance often encourages recipients to speak dominant languages."

But Underwood says this new study differs in that it shows the decline of languages is a global phenomenon and not occurring on a case-by-case basis. So, why does the loss of languages even matter? 

Well, when Marie Smith Jones died, a Guardian writer re-purposed a quote from late MIT linguist Kenneth Hale, who famously said losing a language is like bombing the Louvre. 

Amano notes on his blog that the preservation of "human cultural diversities" is so important, organizations like the World Wide Fund for Nature and the United Nations have even jumped on board with saving them. 

While this most recent study doesn't get into how to preserve endangered languages, Amano told LiveScience he hopes the results will help identify which languages are in trouble in the near future. 

<![CDATA[Google's Anti-Aging Venture Partners With Drugmaker AbbVie]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 18:58:00 -0500
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When we first learned Google was starting a side-project to fight aging, we didn't didn't get many details. Now, with an announcement Wednesday, we've gotten our first peek at how the tech-giant hopes to extend all of our lifespans. 

Google announced its anti-aging business Calico will join forces with drug maker AbbVie to build a $1.5-billion research lab dedicated to finding, developing and marketing new treatments for age-related ailments like cancer and Alzheimer's.

We first heard about Calico last year, a moon-shot project dedicated to understanding the science of aging and countering its effects, led by the chairman of both Apple and Genentech, Arthur Levinson.

Wednesday's announcement showed us what that project is going to look like, and it's clear the Google-backed venture will be diving into the science side headfirst.

The press release says the two companies will have different roles, with Google's Calico carrying out most of the basic research and early trials. AbbVie, maker of Humira, the best-selling drug in the world, will then take Calico's best ideas and bring them to market.

A New York Times writer called the partnership "a standard biotech deal. ... You could say that Calico will look for drugs in test tubes and, if they're successful, AbbVie will test them out and make them in factories."

The partnership also confirms some of the speculation from last year that Calico would act more like a research institution than a drug developer. 

A writer for MedCity News says, in the months after the company's announcement, several well-known researchers joined Calico, and, "Well over a dozen academics reached out to ask how they could get in touch with Levinson — we rarely see this level of interest for an early-stage venture."

The new research lab will be located in San Francisco, near the Google headquarters. The two companies will split the costs and potential profits 50-50.

<![CDATA[Study Says Most Diets Have Same Results]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 16:26:00 -0500
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If you're thinking about trying a dieting program, there's a long list of options. 

To name a few: Atkins, Jenny Craig, Rosemary Conley and Biggest Loser. All of those name-brand diets, along with about six others, were part of a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association

And according to the results, when it comes to weight loss, there's not much of a difference in which brand you choose, even though the brands differed in type of diet — whether that be low carb, low fat or low glycemic index. (Video via South Beach Diet

To get the results, researchers compared 48 past clinical trials — including more than 7,000 people on the different diets. Some included exercising in the plan, and some participants had access to behavioral counseling.  

One of the lead authors explained a takeaway of the findings"As compared to no diet, low-fat and low-carbohydrate dietary programs are associated with the most weight loss over a 12-month period. ... Behavioral support at six months and exercise at 12 months enhanced weight loss."

A little bit off key — an unrelated recent study actually claims low-carbs diets show more promise than low-fat diets. 

​But back on subject, when it comes down to it — a diet you can't stick to won't be effective. HealthDay talked to a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University who said: "The most relevant issue is to choose one that you can stick to indefinitely, since weight loss is only half the battle. ... Maintenance of weight loss is the ultimate victory."

However, researchers say that's the hardest part about being on a diet. During the trials, almost everyone lost weight — but after about a year, they began gaining it back. That's when exercise really helps. 

But it is worth pointing out the study only looked at weight loss without considering each individual's healthiest weight. And as one of the study's authors said, "Good health is more than weight loss or weight control."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Double Mastectomy Might Not Improve Cancer Survival Rate]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 15:15:00 -0500
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The number of women with breast cancer choosing to have a double mastectomy, which removes both breasts, is rising.

But new research suggests women who remove only the cancerous breast have just as high of a survival rate, about 82 percent over a 10-year period, as those who remove both. 

"It's what some doctors are calling an epidemic. ... There's no medical rationale for these double mastectomies in women without a genetic risk, and now a study showing it doesn't improve their survival."  (Video via CTV)

Some are calling it the Angelina Jolie effect. The star has been public about her decision to have a double mastectomy last year due to her high genetic risk.

Perhaps genetics is the key word here. 

As Time reports, "BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are said to increase a woman's risk for breast cancer by well over 50%." So one's decision to have a double mastectomy is oftentimes more preventative than anything else. 

The study looked at more than 189,000 breast cancer patients in California from 1998 through 2011. This most recent research found that although double mastectomies are increasing, patient survival rate is not. 

And CBS points out"The results raise concerns about riskier, potentially unnecessary operations that increasing numbers of women are choosing." 

In 1998, only about 2 percent of the women studied opted to have both breasts removed. In 2011, that number jumped to 12 percent. Keep in mind, that number is likely higher now, considering Jolie had her surgery in 2013. 

But perhaps it's not just women's fear of cancer occurring in their healthy breast that has them opting for surgery. HealthDay reports: "For some women, aesthetics are a key consideration, the researchers wrote. Some newer reconstruction techniques produce better breast symmetry if both are reconstructed at the same time."

It's important to note doctors agreed in the HealthDay piece that receiving a double mastectomy is very much a personal choice. What's important is for people to fully understand the pros and cons of whatever their decision may be. 

<![CDATA[Russian Zero-Gravity Experiment Killed The Sex Geckos]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:12:00 -0500
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Five geckos that were sent into space to mate have all died. 

In a statement Wednesday, The Russian Federal Space Agency said the lizards that were sent to space to see the effect zero gravity would have on their mating habits did not survive the trip.  

The satellite was launched July 19 and returned to Earth Monday. 

But come on, why did we need to know what geckos' sex lives would be like in space?

NBC explains the scientists' goal was to gather information about challenges humans might face if they were to spend an extended amount of time traveling in zero gravity, and yes, even reproduce in outer space. 

So ... would we die? Well, one potential explanation for the dead geckos is a possible problem with the satellite's heating system. They might have frozen to death. 

This isn't the first time Russia has put animals in space. Just last year the country sent lizards, rodents, fish and other small animals into space for a month, and about half of them made it home alive.  

The Russians called that their "Space Ark" mission. The longest space mission dedicated to a biological study, its goal was to study the long-term affects of space travel on cell structure. 

One piece of good news about this latest mission, though: Fruit flies survived and did successfully reproduce. 

<![CDATA[CVS Announces Name Change, Anti-Tobacco Push]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 11:40:00 -0500
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The first three letters will stay the same, but CVS announced a name change it hopes customers will see as a major shift for the better.

CVS HEALTH COMMERCIAL: “The wish we wish above all for ourselves and for those we love is health, so we quit selling cigarettes in our CVS pharmacies.”

CVS Health unveiled its new name Wednesday morning.

It had already announced in February it eventually planned to stop selling tobacco products — giving up about $2 billion annual sales. (Video via ABC)

But the name change announcement came with the revelation CVS managed to get cigarettes and other tobacco products off the shelves nearly a month before its Oct. 1 target date.

CEO Larry Merlo appeared on CNBC not long after Wednesday’s opening bell with a fairly predictable set of talking points.

MERLO: “We’re very proud of the decision that we made. Somebody had to be first to make that decision, and we’re proud to say that we were the first in the interests of our customers and our patients.”

CVS Health plans to use that space behind the counter for stop-smoking products and ads showcasing it has stopped selling tobacco.

Interestingly, the company does not plan to sell e-cigarettes because as Merlo told The Wall Street Journal, “We don't think it's consistent with everything that we've talked about.”

<![CDATA[Headlines Highlight Cricket 'Invasion' Of U.S. Basements]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 09:38:00 -0500
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There's a decent chance there's a cricket in your basement, according to a new study.

The greenhouse camel cricket is an invasive species native to Asia, but findings in a study from North Carolina State University suggest they are now more common in U.S. basements than domestic crickets.

The study requested photo and physical evidence from witnesses. Citizen reporting from 549 homes on Your Wild Life showed the greenhouse camel cricket was the most commonly spotted species.

And that's even after the researchers allowed for certain inconsistencies in reporting.


"For example, a large spider might bear a vague resemblance to a camel cricket for a participant wary of arthropods."

It being an invasive species — that is, non-native and with a tendency to spread — headlines warn of "invasion" and "takeover" and dwell on its "nightmarish" tendency to eat just about anything in a pinch, including its own legs. (Video via Discovery)

But LiveScience has good news for about half of you: The greenhouse camel cricket is more prevalent closer to the Atlantic.

"The scientists roughly estimated that there could be 700 million camel crickets, of all species, in and around homes across the eastern United States."

The results of the study have been published in the journal PeerJ.

This video includes an image from Thegreenj / CC BY SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:31:00 -0500
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If you're into watching action movies, you might want to start watching your waistline too. 

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests people are more likely to do a whole lot of snacking when they're watching those action movies. (Video via Lionsgate / "The Expendables 3")

Although we've known television and other forms of media can distract us from watching and limiting how much we eat, the researchers said they wanted to determine whether the type of content would have more or less of an effect on a person's eating habits. 

The study involved a group of 94 undergrad students. Students were divided up into "groups of up to 20 people," and each group was assigned to watch 20 minutes of one of three programs.

One program was talk show "Charlie Rose" — this was clearly the nonaction programming. And the other two programs were action movie "The Island," but one showing didn't include audio from the film. (Videos via PBS / "Charlie Rose", DreamWorks SKG / "The Island")

And here's where things get delicious. Researchers provided the participants with an unlimited amount of M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes to munch on while watching the shows.

Lo and behold, those who watched "The Island" snacked on 98 percent more grams of food than those who watched "Charlie Rose." And even without audio, participants still consumed 36 percent more grams of food watching "The Island" than those watching "Charlie Rose." That's 65 percent and 46 percent more calories, respectively.

So what should we take from this? The study's researchers say we should always be cautious and conscious when we eat food during media consumption — cautious of our body's signs, like "increased anxiety, agitation, and stimulation level," and conscious of how much food we're eating. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide some tips for maintaining a healthy weight. Getting active, monitoring your weight and maintaining a balanced diet can help keep you on track.

This video includes images from Westpark / CC BY NC ND 2.0, ChristiJohnstone / CC BY NC ND 2.0, Ebarrera / CC BY NC SA 2.0, and Nikita Kashner / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:16:00 -0500
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When we think of Neanderthals, we often picture long-haired, shaggy-looking prehistoric people with the intelligence of a buffalo.

But new artwork found in a Gibraltar cave suggests otherwise, and it looks very much like a game we're all familiar with. New Scientist reports no one can say for sure if the artwork was just "Idle doodle ... Stone Age tic-tac-toe, or the first evidence of Neanderthal art."

Regardless of what it is, it's making the Internet chatter because it would mean Neanderthals, our ancient ancestors, possibly weren't as primitive as we all thought

"Scientists say it could be the most compelling evidence yet for Neanderthal art." (Video via BBC)

BBC explains that's because art is abstract thought, which "was long considered to be the exclusive preserve of our own species. ... [and] the geometric pattern identified in Gibraltar ... was uncovered beneath undisturbed sediments that have also yielded Neanderthal tools."

So, artwork AND tools? Score one for the Neanderthals, zero for all those scientists who ever doubted them. 

And like all fine art, even if it is the upwards of 39,000 years old, it already has its critics. 

"It just looks like a bunch of lines, I don't know if I'd call it artwork."

​"Well, they're Neanderthals for gosh sakes!" (Video via WEAR)

 Nobody can catch a break these days. Scientific American says scientists have been excavating the cave since the late 1980s. The discovery was published in the journal PNAS

And if this is evidence that Neanderthals were smarter than we all thought, it wouldn't be the first. Other studies have sought to prove they were actually just as smart as modern humans, but that would be a whole other story.

This video includes an image from Getty Images / Amy Sussman.

<![CDATA[Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:30:00 -0500
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If only kale tasted like Oreos, right? Well, new research says you might be able to train your brain to eventually crave the healthy foods you don't like. 

According to a study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, a solution might be conditioning and an increased consumption of low-calorie, high-fiber foods. You could eventually be searching for more spinach and fewer sweets. (Video via Allrecipes)

Researchers looked at the brain activity of overweight individuals, some of whom underwent a diet program that included behavioral intervention. After six months, the researchers say those in the diet program responded more positively when shown photos of low caloric foods than those not in the program.

As the study's author explains in a news release"We don't start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta. ... This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly! - what is out there in the toxic food environment."

This idea of training your brain has been explored before. One other recent study suggests even portion control plays a large part in changing eating habits.

One medical expert equates junk food to drugs. She tells CBS the simple carbohydrates in processed foods trigger the same pleasure center in the brain as cocaine and heroine, causing you to come back for more.

The authors also say this conditioning would be more beneficial than, say, gastric bypass surgery, which causes people to eat less food in general rather than learn to love healthy food. (Video via Mayo Clinic)

So, the good news is, it seems you may be able to kick unhealthy cravings to the curb. But scientists warn this study is small — just 13 participants. They also don't know if the same effects would be observed in the long-term.

​​This video includes images from Getty Images / Sean Gallup​, Mauro Cateb / CC BY SA 3.0 and Media Cookery / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:13:00 -0500
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A study more than 20 years in the making reports a rapid rise in Antarctic sea levels. The cause? Melting ice shelves. 

That's an especially big deal for a continent covered in ice, and the scientists say the fact the glacial melt produces fresh water is significant. (Video via Discovery)

The study was published in the journal Nature and reports, "​On the basis of the model simulations, we conclude that this sea-level rise is almost entirely related to steric adjustment," or chemical changes, "rather than changes in local ocean mass."

Basically, because fresh water is less dense than salt water, when it pours into the ocean surrounding Antarctica, it produces a dramatic rise in the sea levels around the continent. The melting freshwater ice shelves are raising sea levels.

The study also discounted other possible explanations for the rising sea levels like wind pushing water against the ice shelves, as lead scientist Dr. Craig Rye told the BBC

"We can estimate the amount of water that wind is pushing on to the continental shelf, and show with some certainty that it is very unlikely that this wind forcing is causing the sea level rise."

As Deutsche Welle reports, another unrelated study on Antarctic ice published in mid-August forecasted Antarctic ice melt will soon become a big threat. A researcher told the outlet, "Ice loss in the Antarctic could become the biggest contributor much earlier than expected, raising global sea level further by up to [about 15 inches] by the end of this century."

And just a few months before that researchers found a separate cause of the increasing melt — wind currents pushing warm water underneath the ice.

ABC AUSTRALIA: "Warm water melts ice much faster than warm air, and the research reveals subsurface warming at twice the rate previously thought."

It didn't take long for at least one outlet to see the consequences, as Bloomberg highlighted the risk the rising water poses to megacities such as New York and Shanghai. 

The lead scientist on this latest study also told the BBC the next target for research is why, throughout all of this, sea ice around the Antarctic appears to be increasing. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 20:02:00 -0500
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You know, sometimes coffee just isn't enough to get through particularly sleepy days. And a 20 minute nap might just make you feel more tired. 

So why not just combine the two together for a coffee nap? 

​​WNYW: "It sounds confusing but there's actual science behind this. Reserchers now say having a cup of coffee then sleeping for 20 minutes is an effective way to nap and feel refreshed." 

Yup, it's believed having coffee and then napping is better than just coffee or a nap alone. Vox just published an exhaustive examination of the practice.

According to the outlet, ​"if you caffeinate immediately before napping and sleep for 20 minutes or less, you can exploit a quirk in the way both sleep and caffeine affect your brain to maximize alertness."

KTLA: "And that's because it takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to work in your brain. So the nap ends just as the caffeine​ begins."  

This study out of Japan backs the coffee nap idea. Ten participants were involved and the findings showed those who took a coffee nap did better on memory tests than those who solely took a nap. 

And other studies, like this one, also back the findings, writing, "​Caffeine and nap significantly reduced driving impairments, subjective sleepiness, and electroencephalographic (EEG) activity indicating drowsiness."

Now, there are a couple important tricks to the who coffee nap experience. 

First, you have to drink you cup of Joe quickly because you don't want the effects to kick in before you even get to lay your head down. 

Second, quick nap — emphasis on quick. Anything longer will allow your brain to fall into a deeper sleep which in turn makes waking up a little more difficult. 

And you definitely want to be awake when the caffeine kicks in. So, now you know a quick tip that will hopefully make those Monday afternoons a little easier to get through. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Global Reations / CC BY 2.0 and Juanedc / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[New Drug Could Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:58:00 -0500
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Researchers have created a new drug believed to reduce cardiovascular deaths. 

​This new drug, LCZ696, was created by Novartis and was announced earlier this month. It's believed to reduce cardiovascular deaths by 20% when compared to other similar drugs. 

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women worldwide and an estimated 26 million people live with the illness. 

Novartis is applying for approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and hopes to complete the process by the end of the year. 

This success comes at a good time for Novartis as many drug companies are struggling to come up with new products. The Wall Street Journal did an article earlier this month on how Navartis's competitor Glaxo has experienced weak sales and disappointing drug launches. 

Industry analysts say Novartis could earn between $2 billion and $6 billion from this new drug. 

Head of Novartis's pharmaceuticals division told Businessweek, "This is going to become one of our key brands. It's clearly a multi-billion dollar opportunity."

As with most cardiovascular drugs, there can be side effects. LCZ696 can cause coughing and low blood pressure. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:22:00 -0500
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The space shuttle Discovery is one of NASA's most seasoned shuttles. It's flown to space more than any other orbiter. It was the first to retrieve a satellite and bring it back to Earth. And it helped launch a telescope that's seen deeper into space than ever before.

Saturday marks 30 years since Discovery's first launch. 

ABC: "We have SRB ignition, and we have liftoff. Liftoff of mission 41-D, the first flight of the Orbiter Discovery, and the shuttle has cleared the tower."

Discovery, the third space shuttle to join NASA's fleet, first launched on Aug. 30, 1984. Its mission: to deploy three communication satellites and test an experimental solar array wing.

But its first voyage didn't come without a few speed bumps along the way. Three previous launch attempts had been canceled just before liftoff due to last-minute problems. (Video via CBS)

Despite those setbacks, Discovery soon became the new hero of the space shuttle program. 

The shuttle went on to complete 39 missions between 1984 and 2011 — more than any of NASA's other four shuttles.

It launched the Hubble Space Telescope into obit in 1990 and took a trip to the International Space Station in 2005.

And it boasted some pretty impressive passengers over the years too. Discovery carried the first senator, Utah's Jake Garn; the first Latina, Dr. Ellen Ochoa; and the oldest astronaut, John Glenn. 

But arguably the most important thing Discovery did during its lifetime was act as what Gizmodo calls the "comeback champion for NASA."

The Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Columbia disaster in 2003 shocked the world and put a temporary halt to space missions. (Video via BBC)

Discovery was the shuttle that got NASA back into space after both of those tragedies.

In 1988, two years after the Challenger disaster, Discovery made its way into space as the nation's first "Return to Flight" mission since the tragedy.

And its STS-114 mission in 2005 was the first space shuttle mission following the Columbia disaster. (Video via CNN)

Discovery's very last flight was a little less challenging than its previous missions. But it was still pretty notable. 

In August 2012, the shuttle flew a victory lap of sorts around Washington, D.C., on top of a Boeing 747 on its way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Annex. (Video via NASA)

And now, after an impressive 27-year career, Discovery resides in the Smithsonian's hanger in Chantilly, Virginia.

And if you ever feel like checking up on the old shuttle, you can take a peek into the space hanger's live webcam 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

<![CDATA[We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 08:30:00 -0500
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Look, we're really sorry to be the ones to have to tell you this, but you've got mites living in your face — Demodex mites to be precise. 

According to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, "100% of people over 18 years of age appear to host at least one Demodex species." (Video via YouTube / TheDemodexsolutions)

Yeah, so there's that. Researchers at the University of North Carolina used a laboratory spatula to scrape the noses and cheeks of volunteers. They then placed the scrapings in mineral oil and inspected it for mites using a microscope. 

And here's where things get interesting, if they weren't already. When they looked at their samples under a microscope, researchers found mites present in 14 percent of adults.

Instead of stopping there, however, the group went on to test for Demodex DNA. Because "these mites may occur in patches around the body," researchers wanted to test for traces of the mites in case they simply weren't testing in a currently inhabited region. (Video via YouTube / Yong Ming Por)

And we kind of wish they wouldn't have, because Demodex DNA was found in 100 percent of the adult samples.

Not much is known about the little critters — Metro notes scientists don't even know how they spread, but the theory is mom's transfer the mites "to their children during breast feeding." Of course, that wouldn't explain how children who aren't breastfed get the Demodex mites. 

So again, we don't really know much about these little guys, or gals, or whatever they are. 

But Business Insider put together a list of some things we do know about them. Here are a few of our, uh, favorites:
- "They can't poop, so they just fill with feces until they explode all over your face."
- "They feast on your face cells and oils."
- "The bacteria they spew out when they explode could be the cause of rosacea."

If there's any consolation in this whole thing, a writer for NPR points out the study is kind of humanizing in the end. "In a way, that 100 percent number is strangely comforting. Not only do I have face mites, but so does Benedict Cumberbatch. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Beyonce."

O.K. Beyonce, I'll have my mites call your mites so we can all get together for lunch. (Video via YouTube / Neartownvet)

This video includes images from Getty Images, Chris Luzio / CC BY NC SA 2.0, and Isaac S. Ego / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Co-Authors Of Ebola Study Die Of Ebola]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:02:00 -0500
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In a tragic example of the risks health care workers take when dealing with Ebola, five co-authors of a study on the deadly virus have died after contracting the disease.

They include three nurses, one lab technician and one physician. They were part of an international team of more than 50 people who worked on the study, published Thursday in the journal Science.

The researchers tracked how the disease spread through Sierra Leone. They also sequenced and analyzed the genomes of the Ebola virus to track how it has mutated over the course of this outbreak.

In an article published alongside the study, Science reported the death of the health care workers and also noted more than 240 other health care workers have been infected and 120 have died so far.

But, these researchers did not die in vain. The Los Angeles Times writes the findings will help scientists learn more about the virus in order to develop more effective drugs and vaccines.

The Washington Post calls their study's findings "extraordinary" and said: "The study demonstrates just how effective an international research effort can be in the middle of a global health crisis."

Among the authors who never got to see their work published was Sierra Leone's top Ebola doctor, Sheik Umar Khan.

Al Jazeera reports the country's health minister called him a "national hero" and praised the sacrifices he made to help others. 

The World Heath Organization warns that Ebola is only spreading more. Forty percent of the total number of cases have occurred in the last 21 days and could eventually infect 20,000 people across West Africa.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:15:00 -0500
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The lethal Ebola outbreak is getting worse in West Africa; so far, the virus has caused over 1,550 deaths across five countries. But one of the most promising experimental treatments for combating the epidemic just got a boost.

In a paper published in Nature Friday, researchers testing the experimental drug ZMapp reported it successfully cured a group of monkeys infected with the Ebola virus.

​The scientists injected 18 macaque monkeys in the test group with an Ebola strain similar to the one at the heart of the current outbreak, then treated the monkeys with ZMapp at various stages of infection. The treatment saved all 18 monkeys, even when it was administered as late as five days past infection. By contrast, none of the three Ebola-infected monkeys in the control group survived. (Video via The Age)

Study author Gary Kobinger, who conducted the research with scientists from the San Diego firm behind ZMapp, told reporters the results exceeded expectations, noting the treatment even managed to reverse symptoms of a very advanced Ebola infection.

You might remember ZMapp as the treatment that's credited with saving two American health workers infected with the disease — Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were discharged from the hospital last week after being infected with the virus. (Video via NBC)

ZMapp is now being administered to a British health care worker infected with the virus, under the WHO's "compassionate care" exemption for experimental procedures. (Video via The Guardian)

But for all its successes, ZMapp hasn't been 100 percent effective against this Ebola strain. A Spanish priest and a Liberian doctor both succumbed to the virus despite being treated with ZMapp.

And then there's the production issue. According to the company which makes the drug, current ZMapp supplies are exhausted, and producing a fresh batch will likely take months.

The drug still needs to go through human trials before it can be approved for widespread use. Those tests are expected to begin in early 2015.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0500
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If you're a parent, you already know your role in your child's life is important. But a new study suggests your reaction to your child's nonsensical babbling impacts his or her language development.

Here's how the research was conducted – 12 mothers and their 8-month-old babies were observed during free play over the course of six months. The free-play sessions took place twice a month and were each 30 minutes long. (Video via American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)

​According to HealthDay, when mothers paid attention to the child's babbling, his or her language skills developed more quickly than those of infants who didn't receive that kind of attention.

But just like language itself, these findings are more complex than that. 

One of the authors for the study told The University of Iowa"It's not that we found responsiveness matters, it's how a mother responds that matters." 

So what exactly does that mean, and what's the best way to respond? 

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association provides some helpful tips:

--Imitate the child's sounds.

--Mimic his or her facial expressions and laughter.

--Talk through your everyday actions.

In short, engage with the child and be responsive to his or her actions and sounds.

Let's not forget, the first three years of an infant's life are very important for brain development, as the brain triples in weight and "establishes about 1,000 trillion nerve connections," according to BabyCenter. 

This study was published in the July/August edition of the journal Infancy.

<![CDATA[Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:54:00 -0500
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Researchers at Northwestern University believe stimulating the brain with electrical pulses might someday improve the memory skills of those who have had brain injuries, a stroke or even Alzheimer's.

A team of researchers found that stimulating a region of the brain with an electrical current improved memory and learning function in study participants. Researcher Joel Voss explained how it works:

"They get what's called high-frequency repetitive transcranial​ magnetic stimulation. It's this magnetic stimulator over the part of their brain that we want to stimulate, and it fires rapid pulses of electromagnetic stimulation that induces electrical activity in those superficial parts of their brain." 

For the study, the scientists recruited 16 young adults. Each participant received brain stimulation for 20 minutes a day for five days. At the end of the study, it was found the participants' memory and learning ability had improved.   

Researchers believe this technology could eventually take the place of some memory medication and might even have better results. 

JOEL VOSS: "One of the advantages of this kind of way of going about this is that we will be able to target the exact region people are having problems with as opposed to showering the brain with a bunch of chemicals."

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a somewhat new procedure and was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008. 

Before now, it was only used as a way to treat severe depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is usually tried when other treatments have failed. 

MS is currently pretty pricey. According to HealthDay, each session generally costs around $300.

​And Johns Hopkins Medicine warns the method is not appropriate for all patients and requires a doctor's recommendation. 

<![CDATA[3 Things To Know About The Ebola Outbreak's Progression]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:53:00 -0500
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The United Nations health agency said this week the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history is still spreading quickly and could infect tens of thousands of people before it's brought under control.

Here are three things you need to know about the progression of the deadly outbreak this week.

First, the World Health Organization says the actual number of Ebola cases in West Africa could be much higher than previously thought. (Video via Euronews)

According to statistics released by WHO Thursday, more than 3,000 both suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in four West African countries, and over 1,500 people have died from the virus.

But the agency says the number of cases in "areas of intense transmission" could be two to four times larger than that. (Video via BBC)

Al Jazeera reports this large discrepancy in numbers could be the result of families hiding infected loved ones and the existence of so-called "shadow zones" medical workers can't access.

Second, the Ebola outbreak is quickly spreading to other areas. Senegal is the latest country to report its first confirmed case.

The country's minister of health told reporters Friday an unidentified man from Guinea, which shares a border with Senegal, was confirmed to have the virus.

Senegal's capital is a major transportation hub for the region, and the arrival of Ebola in the area has some worried the virus will spread even farther. (Video via CCTV)

The BBC notes Senegal had previously closed its border with Guinea and blocked flights and ships from countries affected by Ebola to prevent something like this from happening.

And third, in an effort to prevent the deadly virus from spreading, college students from West Africa who are studying in the U.S. might be subject to extra health checks.

Although health and university officials say the threat of Ebola spreading at an American college is relatively small, some school are refusing to take any chances and will conduct screenings for the virus. (Video via University of Illinois)

According to The Washington Post, a number of schools, including the University of Illinois; the University at Buffalo; Mercer University in Macon, Georgia; Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the University of Akron in Ohio will be taking these extra precautions.

For up-to-date information about the Ebola outbreak, including the number of infections and deaths, you can visit the World Health Organization's website.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Google Maps.

<![CDATA[Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:28:00 -0500
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We now have an idea of what biblical kings' taste in wine was like, thanks to a recent archeological dig. 

An international research team found a huge wine cellar under an ancient Canaanite palace. They found 40 large jugs that still have traces of wine in them.

This is the largest and oldest personal wine cellar in the Middle East. If all those jars were full, the cellar would have been able to hold 3,000 bottles of wine.

The team found herbs, berries, and honey in the wine traces. Researchers called the beverage a "relatively sophisticated drink."

The palace has been excavated since the 80s, but the cellar was just recently found. 

It is located in modern day Israel and spans 200 acres. When the palace was in tact, a Canaanite community occupied the area and it likely housed some sort of leader. 

Archeologist Andrew Koh told The Smithsonian, ​"This was the patriarch's personal wine cellar. The wine was not meant to be given away as part of a system of providing for the community. It was for his own enjoyment and the support of his authority."

Pennsylvania Museum article notes elaborate wine vessels were a symbol of status and power during this time.

Although we don't really think of Israel as a wine country anymore... 

The Huffington Post reports the Canaanite wine was sought after throughout the Mediterranean and in Egypt during ancient times. 

And it turns out we might be able to sample the ancient wine someday. Researchers are currently trying to replicate some of the recipes to see what they taste like. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Plos ONE, and Wikimedia Commons.

<![CDATA[How A 'Rule Of Thumb' Could Slow Down Drinking]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:23:00 -0500
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​​Many of us have been there: We're drinking a glass of wine, and then somehow one glass turns into a few glasses ...

But could controlling the amount of wine in each of those glasses keep people from going from slightly tipsy to texting all their exes? (Video via YouTube / barexchange)

Researchers at Iowa State University and Cornell University set out to discover just that. They asked staff and college students to pour glasses of red and white wine.

They discovered the people who followed a "rule of thumb," like half a glass per pour, dispensed less wine than those who poured without a particular amount in mind. Overall, about 70 percent of participants used a half-glass guideline, and that group tended to pour about 20 percent less wine.

The researchers also considered the participants' body mass index, or BMI.

Interestingly, BMI seemed to affect the men but not the women. HealthDay reports men with a high BMI — meaning they're considered overweight — poured 31 percent more wine. And even those with BMIs that fell in the middle of the average range poured 26 percent more wine.

In a press release, the researchers said they were correct in assuming the men would pour more wine than the women. But they discovered there was one exception.

"What we found is that the rule of thumb effect is so strong that men using a rule of thumb at all levels of BMI actually poured less than women who were not using a rule of thumb."

Medical Daily reports the study concluded social norms might be coming into play here, saying women tend to compare how much they're drinking to other women around them.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard glass of wine is 5 ounces. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines moderate drinking as "up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men."

A study conducted by the same researchers last year looked into the impact of glass size and shape on how much alcohol people pour.

A writer for CBS says participants poured 12 percent more alcohol into a wide glass than a narrow one. More alcohol was also poured when the person was holding onto the glass.

This newest study is published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

This video contains images from Getty Images and Ryan Opaz / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 09:58:00 -0500
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Death Valley in California is known for a couple things: its extreme heat and its weird moving rocks. 

The latter has been a mystery since the 1940s, but scientists think they've finally figured it out. 

The Los Angeles Times breaks down the scientific paper and explains how scientists think it happens: 

First, rain comes down and wets the dried terrain. Then, with the chilly temps overnight, that water freezes. This magical combination, combined with the wind, makes the boulders move along the landscape like magic. 

The theory has been around for a while — NASA covered it in 2010 when 17 grads and undergrads from the Lunar and Planetary Science Academy took a trip to Death Valley.

"It's thought that collars of ice can form around the lower parts of the stones. ... When more water moves in, the collar helps the rock partially float, so even a heavy rock might slide when the wind blows."

And of course the media couldn't pass up a story solving the mystery, even if they didn't know it existed in the first place.

KTRK: "The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley has been solved. I didn't know there was a moving-rock mystery, but there is."

KCAL"After six decades of snooping around in one of the lowest and hottest and one most desolate areas of all of California, scientists say they've finally figured out the mystery of the slithering rocks."

XETV"It does seem simple, doesn't it?"

While it does sound simple, researchers had to work hard to find the answer. National Geographic explains there was also some luck involved because sometimes the rocks don't move for years:

"Scientists have long known that whatever it is that causes the stones to move, it doesn't happen very often. ...That's why it's a fantastic coincidence that the researchers not only recorded evidence of rocks shifting by way of their GPS tags, but also witnessed the phenomenon in person this past winter."

Previous theories throughout the years have involved aliens (of course) and super high winds strong enough to push those heavy boulders that can weigh hundreds of pounds.

This latest research was published in the journal PLOS One

This video includes photos from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared']]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 07:59:00 -0500
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Strong words from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden. 

TOM FRIEDEN TO CNN: "No one has ever seen an outbreak of Ebola like this, with this kind of explosive spread in urban areas. Every day this outbreak goes on, it increases the risk for another export to another country."

Frieden told CNN of the outbreak: "It's even worse than I'd feared." He spoke to the outlet in Liberia's capital — just one of the areas affected by the largest Ebola outbreak on record.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 2,600 people have been infected with the deadly virus across Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in December. Of those infected, nearly 1,500 have lost their lives.

And even more ominous — it seems those who are trying hardest to help stop the spread of Ebola are starting to succumb to the disease as well.

WHO reported in its latest update Thursday more than 120 health care workers are among the dead and more than twice that number have been infected.

Health experts say there are many reasons for these numbers, including a shortage of protective equipment — like gloves and face masks — and improper use of the equipment they do have. (Video via Euronews)

And USA Today notes the "compassionate instincts" of those who rush to aid the visibly ill without taking proper safety precautions first also put health care workers at an increased risk of infection.

Before his interview with CNN, Frieden admitted the Ebola virus has the "upper hand," but he seemed optimistic that the outbreak can eventually be contained.

He said in a meeting Monday, "Ebola doesn't spread by mysterious means, we know how it spreads. So we have the means to stop it from spreading, but it requires tremendous attention to every detail."

Frieden's comments came just a day before the Ministry of Health for the Democratic Republic of Congo notified WHO of another possible Ebola outbreak. Health officials are currently investigating that claim.

<![CDATA[Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 07:48:00 -0500
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Taking fish out of water — it's an expression that describes something that literally shouldn't work. But for some scientists, it apparently has.

This is the Senegal  bichir... and it's walking. Researchers took the fish from a young age and forced them to live on land for 8 months, in conditions that were humid enough that they could survive. (Video via Nature)

The study found the fish — which were previously known to move on land only incidentally — could adapt to walking on land. 

Basically, what the study wanted to look at was how tetrapods — four-legged creatures — first pulled themselves out of the water and made that "Little Mermaid" switch from aquatic animals to terrestrial ones. (Video via PBS)

THE LITTLE MERMAID: "Look at you, there's something different!"
"She's got legs, you idiot!"

There are well-documented cases of fish — like the mudskipper — walking on land and even climbing trees. (Video via National Geographic)

But unlike the mudskipper the Bichir has lungs, and crucially, as the study found, their movement on land is much closer to that of the earliest tetrapods. (Video via Youtube / Joel Diaz)

Now that's due to a number of factors, including the positioning of their fins on their body, but one of the really interesting things the study charted was how the fishes' bodies adapted to life on land.

Scientists looked at the clavicle and a couple other bones that link the bichir's head to its body. They found the clavicle and one of the other bones changed significantly in the land-walking fish, adapting to accommodate its new motions. 

Those findings show the fish's anatomical plasticity — its ability to change and adapt its body, a trait that would've been crucial for the first fish to walk on land. 

The study has also raised some more profound philosophical questions, like "If a fish could walk, would it still be a fish?" 

Well the scientists who conducted the study don't really have an answer for that particular question ... yet. 

This video contains an image from Me and the Sysop / CC BY ND 2.0

<![CDATA[Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:17:00 -0500
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Ok — ready to have your mind blown?

A new experiment is testing whether our apparently three-dimensional universe is actually a 2-D hologram, some kind of Matrix-like projection we all perceive as real. 


Researchers at U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab are carrying out the experiment using a new device called The Holographic Interferometer, or "The Holometer" for short.

The machine uses lasers to try to measure a thing called quantum jitter — telltale movements spacetime might be making on a very, very, VERY small scale. (Video via YouTube / 'The Holometer')

The researchers use the analogy of how a TV screen looks more pixilated as you move closer to it.

The picture looks pretty sharp from a distance, but the more we zoom the blurrier it gets until we start seeing tiny pixilated blocks. Now, multiply that by ten trillion trillion times the size of an atom and that's what they're tracking. You know, no big deal.

The Verge says if the Holometer finds this "holographic noise," it would support one view in physics "that space is continually vibrating, sort of like a wave — a 2D wave, to be exact." And "that information about our universe is stored on tiny two dimensional particles​."

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: "In this view, our world is a three-dimensional projection of information that's written on a two-dimensional surface, an illusion much like a hologram."

Don't ask us to explain the specifics, but from a mathematical point of view a 3-D universe and a 2-D hologram are pretty much the same thing. And if the universe really is some kind of hologram, it would clear up a lot of confusion about some of the mysteries of physics. (Video via NASA

One of Fermilab's directors said“We want to find out whether space-time is a quantum system just like matter is. If we see something, it will completely change ideas about space we’ve used for thousands of years.”

The Holometer experiment is expected to gather data over the next year.

This video contains images from the U.S. Department of Energy.

<![CDATA[Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:22:00 -0500
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Think about the last time you were on a roller coaster. You probably remember the time, the place, who you were with — and might also feel either excited or terrified, depending on whether you love or hate roller coasters.

That's because our memories don't exist in isolation. Our brains attach a lot of context to any given memory — including any strong emotions that go along with it.

Now, neuroscientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been able to actually change those emotions in lab mice, thanks to a technique that lets researchers turn individual neurons on or off using blue light.

Basically, they were able to make the mice change their minds about a positive or negative memory. 

Let's go back to the roller coaster again: if you had a good time, you're probably more inclined to want to go back to that theme park. If the ride scared the heck out of you, you would probably rather stay away. That's what the researchers were able to overcome in the mice. 

You can read the details on MIT's website, but the team found by making a mouse relive a bad memory while something good was going on, the bad memory lost its sting. The process worked in the other way, too.

This isn't a technique we can run out and start performing on humans. The mice had to have their brains genetically altered and had fiber optics cable implanted inside their skulls. (Video via YouTube / eekolife)

But the new study helps shed light on how memory works, and maybe points the way toward new treatments for disorders like PTSD way down the line. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and National Institutes of Health.

<![CDATA[Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:51:00 -0500
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In a hot-tempered marriage? 

Well, apparently one thing you can do to cool the jets down is light one up. 

According to a new study, couples who smoke marijuana together are less likely to be aggressive toward each other. 

WNYW: "Researchers at the University at Buffalo looked at couples over the first nine years of marriage. They found husbands and wives who both smoked marijuana at least two to three times a month reported the least amount of spousal abuse." 

Considering factors like alcohol use, the researchers surveyed 634 couples. They didn't elaborate on exactly why pot usage might lower the risk of intimate partner violence but did note, "It is possible, for example, that — similar to a drinking partnership — couples who use marijuana together may share similar values and social circles, and it is this similarity that is responsible for reducing the likelihood of conflict." 

However, the findings are contradicted by past studies, one showing marijuana actually has adverse effects on mood — causing "hostility and relationship problems."

And other reports claim use by teens can lead to anxiety and higher stress levels during adulthood. 

But as this unrelated Harvard study pointed out in 2010, more is known about the psychiatric risks of pot use than the benefits. 

Now, as marijuana laws around the U.S. are relaxing, there's more room for in-depth research on the potential benefits. 

And that chance for increased knowledge is a move supported by the federal government. Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration approved an increase in marijuana growth for government research.  

According to The Washington Post, the new finding on violence in marriage "is a solid contribution to the marijuana literature, and we'll need a lot more like it as the country seems to move toward overall legalization." 

This was one of the first studies to measure the connection between smoking pot and domestic violence. However, the study's authors did say more research needs to be done and they would like to try to duplicate the findings. 

<![CDATA[Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:44:00 -0500
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When you're pregnant, you need to eat more because of that whole "growing-a-child-inside-of-me" thing. But fakin' it for food? Turns out a panda in China might have done just that.

Ai Hin, the panda on the right, seemed to be pregnant for about two months. She wasn't eating and moving around as much and even had a rise in hormone levels. (Video via YouTube / yumikaji さんのチャンネル)

And then experts from the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Center, which is where the panda lives, say the pregnancy symptoms just disappeared, and her hormone levels went back to normal.

The Independent reports it's believed Ai Hin was trying to get the special treatment given to pregnant pandas, like getting more food and being placed in air-conditioned rooms instead of being out in the heat.

Chinese news outlet Xinhua even said the center had planned to broadcast the birth, but that was quickly canceled after experts realized the panda was having a "phantom pregnancy."

It turns out this isn't really rare for pandas.

The BBC has reported it's difficult to determine whether a panda is actually pregnant because "an ultrasound scan is not guaranteed to help as a panda [fetus] is tiny, difficult to detect and develops late."

Suzanne Hall, a researcher at the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, says when pandas go through phantom pregnancies, they experience many of the physical symptoms they'd have if they were really pregnant. Hall suggests female pandas that experience pseudopregnancies are trying to "prime" their bodies for the real deal. Because pandas only mate once every two or three years, Hall concludes, "If you miss a year, it's a big loss to your lifetime reproductive output." (Video via YouTube / San Diego Zoo)

Another possible explanation, according to Hall: Some of these pandas might have miscarried, although some that experience pseudopregnancy have never even mated.

The topic of panda reproduction is of interest to researchers for conservation purposes — there aren't many pandas left in the world. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park says 300 are currently in captivity in breeding centers and zoos. About 1,600 live outside of captivity.

Xinhua reported only 24 percent of those female pandas living in zoos and breeding centers actually give birth. 

And LiveScience says phantom pregnancies have also been observed among bears and other carnivorous animals. Even human women have been known to experience them.

<![CDATA[Experiences Make Us Happy, Even Just Waiting For Them]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:11:00 -0500
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Wait for it ... wait for it ... no, seriously, wait for it.

A new study focused on waiting and found out what really makes us happy. Here's how: It found people waiting to purchase experiences, like a trip or concert tickets, were more excited than those waiting to buy a material item, like a TV.

It's one of the more fun studies we've heard of — it's even called "Waiting for Merlot."

Get it? Like Godot? ... We thought it was funny.

The study came to two conclusions: first, that people get happy just anticipating what they're going to get; and second, people who were waiting to buy experiences got happier thinking about them than people waiting to buy material things. The big takeaway:

"Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having)."

To figure all this out, researchers asked college students about purchases they planned to make, and also worked through

They also looked at newspaper articles about people waiting in line for things to see how those people were behaving.

This is, dare we say, in line with what other research has shown us about happiness. 

Some studies have shown that some of the poorest countries in the world have the happiest people. 

And there's a cap on the happiness money can bring. 

A 2010 poll of Americans showed the happiness level plateaus at a $75,000-a-year salary. Make more than that, and you have more stuff, but no more day-to-day happiness.

And if you want a little tip on putting a smile on your face: Lots of research has shown that giving makes people happy.

So wait in line, buy those concert tickets and give one to a friend? Enjoy the joy. 

<![CDATA[Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 17:56:00 -0500
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Deaths from prescription drug overdoses have spiked dramatically since the 1990s. Now new research suggests legal medical marijuana might contribute to a decrease in those deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than half of the drug overdose deaths in 2011 involved pharmaceutical drugs.

But according to a study published in the journal JAMA, as much as 25 percent fewer people die from prescription drug overdoses in states that allow medical marijuana than in the states that don't.

The findings suggest those with chronic pain in states with legal pot could be turning to marijuana instead of prescription drugs, which require a higher dosage that might be more dangerous. (Video via CNN)

And as the Los Angeles Times notes, past research has already indicated patients who take prescription drugs together with medical marijuana can experience greater pain-killing effects.

But the researchers warn the study's results don't necessarily prove that people choose marijuana over prescription drugs in states that have legalized it.

And experts don't agree on the interpretation of the results, either. One medical expert tells Newsweek not many doctors are prescribing medical marijuana to begin with, even in states where it is legal. He says the results could have also been affected by regulations in states cracking down on prescription drug abuse.

The study comes just days after the Drug Enforcement Administration announced new restrictions on the prescribing of hydrocodone. 

Federal officials believe these new regulations will help fight addiction to hydrocodone, which is one of the most prescribed and most abused prescription drugs in the U.S.

The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive class. And its supposed benefits in treating pain due to health issues such as cancer are also still a matter of debate.

The study was conducted between 1999 and 2010, when medical marijuana was legalized in 13 states. Currently, that total comes up to 23, with more states expected to follow.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[40,000-Year-Old Mammoth Skeleton Found On Texas Farm]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:21:00 -0500
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​An almost completely intact mammoth skeleton is being excavated after it was found buried on a Texas farm in May.

Wayne McEwen told the Dallas Morning News his son and grandson made the discovery while digging in a gravel pit on his property. They first unearthed one of the mammoth’s tusks, and then they just kept finding more and more bones.

WAYNE MCEWEN: "I believe it will be nearly 100 percent because there are two or three legs missing or leg bones. But I believe that when we get the bones that's there up, those other bones will be there."

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas was notified of the unearthing and sent specialists out to help with the digging.

And Monday the museum announced on Twitter the skeleton had been donated to the museum by the McEwen family.

The museum already has a mammoth skeleton on display in its T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall, which also showcases dinosaur skeletons.

KTVT spoke with Tom Vance, a Navarro College professor who says the animal found is a Columbian mammoth. The mammoth's skeleton is estimated to be about 40,000 years old.

According to the BBC, Columbian mammoths had incredible tusks that could grow to be 4.9 meters long, or a little more than 16 feet. The media outlet says these animals were probably less hairy than wooly mammoths and instead likely had some of their skin exposed.

Columbian mammoths were known to live in the southern half of North America.

Which might explain why Texas has its own museum dedicated to the animal, called the Waco Mammoth Site. It's built on the location where at least 22 Columbian mammoth skeletons were uncovered.

The long process of removing the mammoth bones from the gravel pit on the McEwen farm to a Perot Museum storage facility should begin sometime this week.

<![CDATA[Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 09:04:00 -0500
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Have you ever woken up disoriented, trying to figure out where you are and why you're using your cat as a pillow? 

No, we don't mean after a night of tequila shots, just an everyday awakening. Well, you may have been sleep drunk. It's a thing. 

Being sleep drunk means you have problems waking up after sleeping, and are often confused. Time called it "a serious and surprisingly common problem."

Serious because researchers say it can result in violent behavior. Researchers interviewed more than 19,000 people 18 and older and found 15 percent had experienced sleep drunkeness within the last year. 

The study, published in the journal Neurology sought to find out whether being sleep drunk, or having "confusional arousals," as it's also called, is due to "mental disorders and psychotropic medications." 

The study found 84 percent of confusional arousals, or sleep drunk episodes, were associated with either mental disorders or drugs. It also found too much or not enough sleep, bipolar and panic disorders played a role as well. 

And while it sounds like a fairly serious condition, New York Magazine noted some of the researchers got some laughs after hearing people's stories from being sleep drunk. 

"​One man picked up his alarm clock and mistook it for his phone, holding a two-minute conversation on it."

And since this is a rather quirky story, you better believe outlets picked up on it, too. For real, though, how can you not cover a story on being sleep drunk? Media gold. 

WBBM: "When you wake up and feel out of sorts ... you may be sleep drunk."

WJBK"I'm disoriented every morning."

"You might still be sleep drunk, Jay."

WCCO"Sleep drunk."

"Sleep drunk, that's what it is."

New York Magazine says people who are used to this sleep drunkeness and have it happen at least once a week, may have a different underlying health issue like an undiagnosed sleeping disorder. 

This video contains photos from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:02:00 -0500
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Another school year is starting up across the country, and that apparently means another conversation about start-times. 

In a statement Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said it's advocating start-times for middle and high schools be pushed back to 8:30 or later, writing, "Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty."

The report indicated the ideal amount of sleep for adolescents is between 8.5 and 9.5 hours a night, and that 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. don't get enough. That prompted this reaction from outlets:

HLN: "Teens apparently need more time to sleep, you know they say it— and they say they shouldn't have to start school until 8:30 or later, well guess what— doctors are saying the same thing!"

FOX NEWS: "Some good news for teenagers, doctors want you to sleep in!"

CNBC: "My kids are starting at like 7, 7:30 — it's ridiculous — Therefore high schools and middle schools should start no earlier than 8:30. That's because the group says the adolescents need more sleep. Yep, I agree with that, for sure."

But it's not really new news: this is an issue that has been discussed for years now, but it always seems to come up around the start of every new school year. 

As far back as the mid-1990s, the University of Minnesota conducted a study on a local high school that pushed its start time back by an hour, and found a number of a benefits, including increased attendance, less depression among students and fewer behavioral issues. 

Around this same time last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Susan Page on the Diane Rehm Show: "I think there's a lot of research, and again kind of common sense, that a lot of teens, you know, struggle to get up at 6 a.m. to get on the bus ... So often we design school systems that work for adults, not for kids." 

Duncan stressed later in that interview, though, that the decision should be up to individual school systems, but not many have jumped aboard, with only 15 percent of high schools starting at 8:30 or later, and a majority starting before 8 — according to the AAP.

The AAP is one of the biggest groups to get behind the issue, although it's not immediately clear what effects the group's statement will have in the long run.

This video contains an image from Alberto Vaccaro / CC BY 2.0

<![CDATA[Atlantic Ocean Might Be To Blame For Global Warming 'Pause']]> Sun, 24 Aug 2014 20:33:00 -0500
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The so-called "global warming pause" that's caused global temperatures to stall for the past fifteen years has been a thorn in the side of climate scientists for years.

Global warming skeptics say the pause pokes a hole in the concept of man-made climate change: after all, since carbon emissions have been steadily climbing, why haven't global temperatures risen to match?

Climate scientists have proposed many answers to that question, from El Niño to volcanic eruptions, and none of them have really stuck. But a new paper published in Science this week claims to have found the missing heat: turns out, it's been hiding in the Atlantic Ocean.

Study authors Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung say global warming's recent hiatus is tied to the circulation of warm and cool water in the Atlantic. Essentially, warmer, saltier water gradually sinks below colder fresh water as it travels north, trapping heat beneath the waves. (Video via NASA)

The researchers tested their theory using measurements from the network of Argo floats currently studying the ocean's temperature and salinity at depths of up to 2,000 meters. Those measurements show a sharp rise in the amount of energy stored between 300-1,500 meters over the past decade — right as the "pause" started. (Video via BBC)

The scientists also observed an increase in the Atlantic's salt content during the same period, which seems to go up and down on a 30-year cycle. The paper suggests the ocean's salinity has something to do with the increase in stored heat — since saltier water sinks faster, more heat gets trapped beneath the cool water.

The study could represent an important shift in how we view the global warming hiatus. A writer for The Economist points out most people had been looking to the Pacific Ocean for answers up until now.

"Because the Pacific has previously been thought of as the world's main heat sink, fluctuations affecting it are considered among the most important influences upon the climate. ... But if Dr Chen and Dr Tung are right, then the fluctuations in the Atlantic may be more important."

But scientists aren't ready to relinquish the Pacific's role in slowing global warming. One researcher told The Guardian"The hiatus really is a patchwork problem of lots of different things. ... This does suggest a role for the Atlantic but there's a lot more to it than that. ... It doesn't dispel the key role for the Pacific in the hiatus."

If the researcher's projections are right, we've got about ten years left before the cycle flips and the Atlantic starts releasing its heat. But the authors caution it's hard to predict what happens next with the climate, since there are so many variables involved.

This video contains images from Getty Images.