Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[Astronomers Spot Largest, Brightest Solar Flare Ever]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:04:00 -0500
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Astronomers at NASA spotted a solar flare from a nearby red dwarf star earlier this year — the largest ever recorded.

The flare came from one of a pair of binary red dwarf stars about 60 light-years from our solar system. It's designated DG Canum Venaticorum — DG CVn for short.

They used the SWIFT gamma ray observatory — an orbital telescope designed to spot and map high-intensity bursts of radiation. And this one was very high intensity.

"The largest solar flare ever recorded happened on Nov. 4, 2003. It was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it. DG CVn's flare, however, was much larger."

The scientists say if there were instruments measuring the flare from the same distance Earth's telescopes monitor the sun, DG CVn's burst would have appeared more than 10,000 times more powerful than any flare ever recorded.

NASA says the flare was 12 times hotter than the core of our own sun and temporarily drowned out all the other light coming from the star system.

So what causes these things? Long answer, the rotation of the star causes its magnetic field to build up unsustainable levels of stored energy. Short answer, think of it like a rubber band.

DG CVn completes a revolution in less than 24 hours, which NASA says is more than 30 times faster than the spin rate of our own sun. The star's magnetic field gets torqued and twisted by the rotation, accumulating energy until something eventually snaps.

It's the same phenomenon that causes flares from our own sun, but lucky for us, not as explosively.

NASA researchers say flares from DG CVn are a common occurrence and plan to use SWIFT to monitor the system for more of them. You can learn more about the recent flare on NASA's website.

This video includes images and video from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:17:00 -0500
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Researchers say the chances of your child being born with autism could depend on pregnancy spacing. 

A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says children born less than one year or more than five years after the birth of a sibling are more likely to be diagnosed with autism. 

 

So, having a child between that two to five year gap could result in a decreased chance of autism. 

Researchers for the study say they can't definitively say why this is, but stress the bigger picture of the study. 

Study leader Keely Cheslack-Postava says, "The importance of this finding lies in the clues that it can provide in terms of understanding how the prenatal environment is related to outcomes after birth."

Cheslack-Postava published a similar study in early 2011. That one focused more on how closely spaced pregnancies related to autism. 

Epidemiologist Michael Rosanoff, who was not involved in this study, told Autism Speaks this most recent study, "...is in line with studies suggesting that depleted folic acid or iron during pregnancy may increase autism risk." 

A study published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association says women who take folic acid supplements around the time of conception can reduce the risk of autism in their child. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 children have an autism spectrum disorder. 

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<![CDATA[Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 08:08:00 -0500
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Scientists have made an unprecedented observation about the way that chimpanzees transmit knowledge from one individual to another in the wild — a building block of chimp culture. 

Dr. Catherine Hobaiter, of Saint Andrews University caught the activity on camera as chimps sat to drink at a watering hole. Chimps often use leaves like sponges to drink water — but here you can see the alpha male chimp grabbing moss to add to his leaf to absorb more water. Over time, Hobaiter observed how other chimps who saw that innovation started doing it themselves, until it had spread across the group. (Video via Hobaiter et al.)

Hobaiter and her colleagues mapped the spread and created a model for it In the study, which you can find online in the journal PLOS One. She told the BBC:

DR. CATHERINE HOBAITER, VIA BBC: “We’ve never actually been able to see the start of something new in a wild group spread from individual to individual. And that was the final piece in the puzzle to be able to say, ‘yes, these differences in chimp behavior are cultural.’”

Chimps have particularly interested humans since Jane Goodall’s discovery some 50 years ago that chimps — our closest genetic relatives — use tools in a way we previously thought only humans did. (Video via Yale University)

Cultural transmission — the way animals share knowledge and teach behaviors to one another — has long been a point of interest, especially in primates.

One of the older studies has to do with macaques in Japan, learning to wash sweet potatoes given to them by researchers, and even using saltwater to season them. (Video via Yoshida Wildlife Photo Museum)

And other Japanese macaques who lived near a mountain resort and were fed by patrons, over time developed leisure activities like bathing in the resort’s hot springs. (Video via The Guardian)

But in both of those cases there was human intervention of some kind — where this most recent discovery was purely in the wild. And it’s also worth noting macaques and chimps are pretty distant relatives.

This most recent discovery follows another breakthrough in chimp research this past summer — which also came from a team led by Dr. Hobaiter. (Video via National Geographic)

They studied the way chimps communicate with one another and were able to chart as many as 66 different gestures which the apes use to communicate some 19 different meanings.

Scientists have known for awhile that chimps were capable of cultural learning, having previously observed it in captivity.  

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<![CDATA[Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:58:00 -0500
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Following confirmation of the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S., Texas health officials held a separate press conference Tuesday to reassure the public Ebola will not become widespread in the states.  

Much of what was said in the second press conference has already been said before:

DR. EDWARD GOODMAN VIA KDFW: “It is not an airborne disease.”

“We’re not talking about a chronic illness, like HIV. … We’re talking about an illness with a well-defined incubation period and well-defined symptoms.”

But we also learned that the patient first went to the hospital Friday with non-specific symptoms and was given antibiotics. He was then brought back to the hospital by paramedics Sunday after symptoms worsened.

Health officials said they were ready for something like this and have already begun the process of tracking down people who might have come into contact with the patient — which CDC Director Tom Frieden said was one of the next steps in stopping the virus in its tracks.

Dallas Fire-Rescue told a KXAS reporter the paramedics crew that came into contact with the patient over the weekend will be monitored for 21 days, the virus' incubation period.

Texas health officials also said the patient is not being treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, which was given to earlier U.S. patients. Supplies of the drug were exhausted in August. (Video via Euronews)

WFAA: "The treatment is really the normal things that you would do with infectious diseases, like influenza: you'll give them fluids, you'll maintain their blood pressure. If they need blood products, you'll get that." 

Frieden told reporters during his press conference there's little chance anyone on the flight with the patient, who was traveling from Liberia to the U.S., is at risk of being infected. He said Ebola is only contagious once someone begins showing symptoms and can only be spread through bodily fluids.

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<![CDATA[Some Positive Ebola News: Outbreak 'Contained' In Nigeria]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:45:00 -0500
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Finally, there's a hint of good news regarding the deadly Ebola disease. 

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on Ebola in Nigeria released Tuesday says, "No new cases had occurred since August 31, suggesting that the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria might be contained."

Though, that timeline might not be exact. 

Elsewhere on the CDC's website, the health institute also writes, "Nigeria and Senegal have not reported any new cases since September 5, 2014, and August 29, 2014, respectively." — different dates than reported in the CDC's release just a day later.

And the timeline is important. The CDC says those who suspect they have Ebola should be medically monitored for 21 days. Since no cases have been reported in the area since the beginning of the month at the latest, it appears the spread of the disease could be coming to an end in the region. (Video via EuronewsBBC

But, as PBS reports, it's not necessarily all good news.

REPORTER FRED DE SAM LAZARO VIA PBS"Nigeria could attract Ebola patients from nearby countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea."

DR. FAISAL SHUAIB: "We've had record levels of people surviving the Ebola virus disease and they might start feeling, 'Well, maybe this is the place to come.'"

The Ebola outbreak started in March of this year and has spread through much of West Africa, with the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia being some of the hardest hit. 

President Obama, among other world leaders, spoke at an emergency U.N. meeting on Ebola last week. 

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE"The Ebola virus is spreading at alarming speed. ... If ever there were a public health emergency deserving an urgent, strong, and coordinated international response, this is it."

Already, at least 3,000 people have died due to the disease, and estimates by health experts say, if not contained, at least half a million people could be infected in just a few months. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[New Breast Cancer Drug Extends Lives In Clinical Trial]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:19:00 -0500
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Here's some potential good news for breast cancer patients.

Patients with advanced breast cancer were given the drug Perjeta in a clinical trial conducted by Roche pharmaceuticals, which also manufactures the drug. The results were promising. 

KTVK"Clinical studies reveal patients treated with this drug Perjeta lived, on average, 16 months longer than those who were not."

The positive results came when the drug was used in combination with Herceptin. 

The study looked at more than 800 patients from 25 countries who had metastatic breast cancer tumors that were HER2-positive. That means it's a type of breast cancer that tested positive for a protein that promotes cancer cell growth. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, "These cancers, which produce too much HER2-receptor protein, are a particularly aggressive form of the disease and account for approximately 20 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses."

But as The Guardian points out, Perjeta is expensive. 

"A new but very expensive breast cancer drug has shown 'unprecedented' benefits. ... The results will raise the stakes in the battle in the UK over the funding of cancer drugs."

To break it down, Perjeta costs about $3,900 per 420mg vial. To start, patients need double that, then it's one vial every three weeks. The first double dose would bring the total to about $7,800 alone. Then, an entire year's supply would be about $70,000. 

This video contains an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:52:00 -0500
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Dolphins can jump. They can shake. Make friends with NBA all-stars. And according to new research released Monday, they might have an even cooler trick.

The study, conducted by researchers in France, provided evidence of magnetoreception in dolphins. Basically, that means dolphins might be able to sense Earth's magnetic field.

If that were the case, researchers say the animals could use this sense as a means of navigation — a sort of biological Google Maps. (Video via Green Works)

The study looked at six bottlenose dolphins. Researchers set up two barrels — one contained magnetized blocks; the other had demagnetized blocks. Dolphins swam toward the magnetized one more quickly. (Video via GoPro)

Researchers say, "This is, to our knowledge, the first experimentally obtained behavioural evidence for sensitivity to magnetic stimuli in cetaceans."

That said, all other behavior remained consistent between the barrels, so researchers say further study is needed to provide conclusive findings.

Time reports"If the findings hold up to scrutiny, it would be a momentous discovery. Although many animals are suspected to orient themselves using the Earth's magnetic pull, there's precious little proof that this is the case."

A previous study from researchers at Baylor found pigeons also use the Earth's magnetic field as a GPS.

LiveScience says animals that do this might have "ferromagnetic" particles, like magnetite, in their bodies. "Although magnetite has been found in the brain membranes of dolphins, it doesn't prove the animals use it to sense magnetic fields."

Researchers say it is possible dolphins were simply intrigued by the magnetized blocks, rather than physically drawn to them.

This story includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[How To Battle Stink Bug Season]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:06:00 -0500
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It's a smelly time of the year for homeowners in 33 states.

That's because we're officially entering stink bug migration season, when the pesky insects transition from their outdoor residences to our climate-controlled homes to stay warm through the winter.

According to Plow & Hearth, this has only become a problem in the past 15 years, as the stink bug variety that creates such a fuss is native to eastern Asia. This species was first sighted in Pennsylvania around the turn of this century and has been spreading rapidly nationwide since.

Stink bugs become a problem for two reasons. First, they're resistant to many common pesticides. Second, the odor they emit when squashed actually attracts more of them, which can double your problem. So what can you do?

Thankfully, you're not in the fight alone. Many sites, including Stop Stink Bugs!, cover both outdoor tips to keep the bugs out and a few indoor tricks to kill them once they're inside. 

Multiple sources agree the best defense is a good offense. Try to seal the nooks and crannies of your home, the same way you'd do weatherproofing. And use silicone caulk around windows and siding.

More important than the do's are the don'ts: Don't crush them or their putrid smell will be released. Using pesticides in your home will also produce an odor as the bugs decay. Stink bugs are also attracted to light and the color yellow, so it's best to leave outside lights off at night.

Once they're inside, though, the strategy changes. You can vacuum them, but make sure you use a vacuum with a bag that you can empty "immediately to prevent odor from permeating the area," says PestWorld.

Best of all? The most effective method for killing stink bugs is also one of the cheapest, according to WikiHow. Simply flick stink bugs into soapy water. The soap penetrates their shield-like bodies, and the water drowns them within minutes — no stink involved.

This video includes images from the U.S. Department of Agriculture / Stephen Ausmus and Mandy Gambrell.

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<![CDATA[Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 09:56:00 -0500
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While life for humankind has no doubt improved since 1970, it turns out the past 40-plus years haven't been as good for our planet's wildlife.

According to a new "Living Planet" study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the populations of Earth's vertebrates — mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds — have declined by 52 percent since 1970.

MARCO LAMBERTINI VIA WWF: "We are cutting trees faster than they can regrow, we are catching fish faster than they can reproduce, we are emitting more CO2 than oceans and forests can absorb. So we are on a total unsustainable path."

The study is based off of 10,000 populations of a little over 3,000 different species from data kept by the Zoological Society of London.

From those numbers, the WWF found that freshwater wildlife was hit the hardest at an average decline in populations of 76 percent. Terrestrial and marine wildlife both showed a 39 percent average decline since 1970.

Three of nine "planetary boundaries" defined by the study — climate change, biodiversity loss and Earth's nitrogen cycle — have already been crossed. Any more could do irreversible harm to the planet, the report warns.

And if you thought that was it, it gets worse. Scientists say humanity's ecological footprint — or amount of resource consumption — is in bad shape as well.

Nations such as Qatar and the U.S. are consuming large amounts of the planet's resources. If everyone on Earth consumed as much as the average person in Qatar, the WWF says we would need 4.8 planets. If it were the U.S, we'd need 3.9 planets.

But, as bad as the Earth losing half its vertebrate wildlife in the past 40 years sounds, it's not all doom and gloom.

Marco Lambertini, the WWF's director, says awareness of the planet's state has never been higher at both the corporate and local levels.

And a columnist for The Guardian noted the importance of studies like this one and the stories that follow, saying: "It may not 'matter' to me that the gibbon or the viper become extinct, any more than it matters that a park I never visit goes under housing or a coral reef disappears to mass fishing. What does matter is my awareness of my relationship to nature."

The study, which was last published two years ago, showed a 28 percent decline in vertebrate wildlife between 1970 and 2008.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:09:00 -0500
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We've all heard how we should be keeping our brains active, and there are no end of services dedicated to helping you accomplish that, promising to make you smarter or improve your memory by training your brain.

But instead of making 15 minutes of "brain training" part of your normal routine, what if you could get that mental boost from games that are meant for fun rather than exercise?

A recent study pit Portal 2, Valve's critically-acclaimed puzzle game, against Lumosity, one of the top-selling brain training programs.

Participants were assigned to spend eight hours playing one of the games over two weeks. They were given cognitive tests both before and after their gaming homework.

And the researchers say Portal 2 is king. While the Lumosity group saw no changes in their scores, the Portal 2 group saw gains in problem solving, spatial skill and persistence tests.

Of course, saying Portal 2 is the new brain training champion is a bit of a stretch. Lumosity advertises itself as helping your brain improve over time, not just with the handful of sessions described in the study.

But this does highlight something interesting: lots of recent studies have shown that video games do affect the brain in some positive ways.

One study found that gamers who were assigned to play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day saw gray matter increases in parts of the brain related to spatial reasoning, problem solving and fine motor skills.

Another found that having older adults play Blizzard's popular World of Warcraft online game boosted cognitive abilities — particularly in those seniors who scored the lowest on the initial tests. One of the researchers said"The people who needed it most ... saw the most improvement."

Video games seem particularly good at strengthening areas of the brain related to spatial reasoning and problem solving — not surprising, since so many games focus on navigating virtual worlds and solving puzzles. 

But, oddly enough, the jury is still out on those games meant specifically to train your brain. While some studies have shown they can improve brain function, most have found either no benefit or mixed results.

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing: studies have also shown that spending too much time on video games can influence mood and social skills. For the moment, most experts recommend limiting gaming to around an hour a day.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Report Reveals Late NFL LB Javon Belcher Had Signs Of CTE]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:00:00 -0500
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The life of former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher ended tragically one December afternoon in the parking lot of his team's practice facility. 

KSHB: "Whatever drove Jovan Belcher to kill the mother of his child drove him here in remorse. ... As police started to arrive, Belcher started walking away, fell to his knees, and ended his life."

Now, ESPN reports the young linebacker, like many NFL players before him, showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

ESPN's investigative reporting show "Outside The Lines" says the neuropathologist who examined Belcher's brain after his death found, "detected neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein, which is identified with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The tangles were distributed throughout Belcher's hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with memory, learning and emotion." 

Belcher played college football at the University of Maine and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. There he played nearly three years until his death in December 2012 when he shot himself in front of then-head coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli. 

But, sadly, Belcher's story has the same ending as several other former NFL players who took their own lives after playing for years in the NFL and reportedly suffering traumatic brain injuries. 

In July, a federal judge approved a settlement between the NFL and former players and players' families. The original settlement of $765 million was agreed to in 2013, but a judge later halted that believing it wouldn't be enough money. The NFL agreed to remove the cap on the payout.

Belcher's case also highlights another big issue ongoing in the NFL — domestic violence. Belcher was 25-years-old when he died. His girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, was 22. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Why Is Big Tobacco Voluntarily Warning You About E-Cigs?]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:30:00 -0500
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If you've ever seen a cigarette pack, you might be familiar with the surgeon general's warning printed on the packaging.

E-cigarettes also owned by big tobacco companies come with warning labels, too, but they're not mandated by law.

Three of the largest companies — Philip Morris, Reynolds American and Lorrillard — all have their own e-cigarette brands.

Tobacco manufacturers have largely fought against tobacco legislation they say has hurt the industry since the first labeling and advertising mandate passed in 1965. But now they've voluntarily begun printing warnings for e-cigs, although there are no legal requirements to do so. So what's going on here?

The New York Times characterizes the elaborate labeling as a business strategy rather than a move that comes out of concern for public health.

"The e-cigarette warnings are a very low-risk way for the companies to insulate themselves from future lawsuits and, even more broadly, to appear responsible, open and frank."

Think about it. By including the same warning labels found on cigarettes boxes, large tobacco companies look like responsible corporate citizens. (Video via CBS)

Though that assumes the average customer would even know this was a voluntary effort by big tobacco companies.

And in any case, some experts say warning labels might not even matter anyway — claiming many times they're ignored by the smokers they target.

Although the warning labels on e-cigs admit they can be harmful for your health, there are studies that show the debate surrounding them is not going to burn out anytime soon.

The most recent surgeon general's report for the first time suggested nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, might be a better alternative — especially when someone cannot quit smoking entirely.

But many experts are challenging the e-cig health claims. Some states and countries are even considering expanding their smoking bans to include e-cigs.

Although the safety of e-cigarettes is still contested, it's widely accepted in the scientific community that smoking tobacco contributes to negative health effects.

This video includes images by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Debora Cartagena and Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Why Pediatricians Endorse IUDs, Implants For Teens]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:12:00 -0500
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The American Academy of Pediatrics says its top choices for teen birth control are implants or intrauterine devices. 

An implant goes under the skin of the arm. These devices are effective for years before replacements are needed. 

The intrauterine device, or IUD, is implanted in the uterus, and it also lasts for years.

Both are birth control methods teens wouldn't have to worry about "remembering." (Video via Planned Parenthood)

Keep in mind we're talking about teens here. They're still children — both legally and to their parents, too. In most states, the legal age for an adult is 18. Each state also has varying "ages of consent" when teens are able to consent to sex. The age varies between 14 and 18.

So why is AAP recommending this for a group that technically includes children? Well, mainly because it says anything is better than pregnancy at a young age. The group adds:

"Pediatricians are also encouraged to promote healthy sexual health decision-making, such as abstinence and proper condom use."

KTVU: "It also says IUDs are cheaper over the long run."

The IUD costs between $500 and $1,000 depending on your insurance, but again, lasts years. The pill costs between $15 and $50 a month. So the math works out — technically, the IUD would be cheaper. If the IUD only lasted three years and cost $500, it would be about $14 a month. 

And that's a modest example, as the device can last up to 12 years. But something already seems to be working to prevent teens from becoming parents.  

The Office of Adolescent Health says in 2013, the birth rate among teens was 26 out of every 1,000 — so 2.6 percent. It also notes over the past 20 years, there has been a continuous decline in teen births. 

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<![CDATA[Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:22:00 -0500
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While any cancer diagnosis is devastating, pancreatic cancer can be especially so. It's the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.

The cancer is very hard to detect. According to the National Cancer Institute, there aren't tried-and-true symptoms and many times a diagnosis isn't given until the cancer is advanced. 

Both Apple founder Steve Jobs and actor Patrick Swayze. died from pancreatic cancer complications. 

The organ is also hidden behind others, including the liver and stomach, making it hard to reach. (Video via YouTube / Pancreatic Cancer Action Network)

That's why the news scientists may have found an early marker for the deadly cancer is so promising. Scientists think an increase in amino acids may be an early sign of the cancer. 

According to the press release: "Although the increase isn't large enough to be the basis of a new test for early detection of the disease, the findings will help researchers better understand how pancreatic cancer affects the rest of the body."

Researchers examined 1,500 people's blood samples, which were collected years ago, and then made note of who did and didn't develop pancreatic cancer. (Video via YouTube / CancerCouncilNSW1)

One researcher said the findings did seem to indicate that the increase in branched chain amino acids, which help build protein, means there could be an early pancreatic tumor. 

"The length of time between having elevated levels of these types of amino acids and pancreatic cancer diagnosis ranged from two to 25 years, the study authors reported."

So while the new findings won't lead to any sort of early diagnosis test, any progress is more than welcome for a disease like this one.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[5 Babies Test Positive For TB After Texas Nursery Exposure]]> Sun, 28 Sep 2014 13:29:00 -0500
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The El Paso, Texas Department of Public Health has confirmed five positive cases of tuberculosis infections in babies.

The department says the disease was spread by a nursery unit healthcare worker who exposed more than 700 babies and 40 employees between September 2013 and August 2014. 

A statement by the hospital explains the five positive results came from skin testing. Four of the babies were given a vaccine that can generate false positives in this kind of testing according to the hospital, but all will be treated as a precaution. 

It's important to clarify the babies tested positive for a tuberculosis infection, not the full blown disease which can destroy the lungs and be potentially fatal. 

DR. ENRIQUE MARTINEZ VIA KVIA: "These individuals do not have active tuberculosis. They are not sick. They are not contagious." 

And doctors say the babies' infections are treatable. "There is treatment available and the treatment the detection that we have has reduced the rate of tuberculosis in the U.S. and all around the world."

Last week, the El Paso Department of Public Health was given a list of babies who were exposed to TB and the department notified the parents via mail or a phone call. Parents are still bringing in their children for testing, so more positive cases could be found. 

El Paso Times reports the exposed babies are now located in Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. 

We saw a tuberculosis scare in another U.S. state last year. In Wisconsin, it is estimated up to 200 people were infected with a strain that was resistant to the drugs usually used for treatment.

The state ended up appropriating $5 million to help with healthcare efforts. 

An estimated 22,000 tuberculosis cases are reported each year in the U.S.

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<![CDATA[Ebola Death Toll Grows Amid Both Optimism And Conspiracy]]> Sat, 27 Sep 2014 18:25:00 -0500
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Just days after President Obama warned the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a "growing threat to regional and global security" ... 

... the World Health Organization has released a report showing just how fast the deadly virus is growing. At the beginning of September the death toll in West Africa was at 2,400. 

Now, just weeks later, the WHO reports 3,083 people have lots their lives due to the hemorrhagic fever. 

And although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1.4 million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone could be affected by January, there are some signs of hope. 

CNN went to an Ebola isolation unit in Liberia were Dr. Gobee Logan has successfully been treating patients with an HIV drug called lamivudine. 

CNN: "Dr. Logan has tried the drug on 15 patients so far and remarkably only two have died. Across West Africa the outbreak is killing at a rate at 70 percent but in this group of patients, just seven percent." 

The outlet reached out to an American scientist who said the treatment makes sense, saying Ebola and HIV are very similar viruses but that more research would need to be done in order to make the treatment widespread. 

And Voice of America reports people in Monrovia, Liberia — one of the worst effected areas in Africa — have "a growing sense of optimism the epidemic can be contained in Liberia, where citizens said they welcomed the help of the United States." 

Last week Obama promised to send 3,000 American troops to West Africa over the next six months, also committing hundreds of millions of dollar to help combat the virus. 

But within the growing optimism, there are also seeds of suspicion, especially due to articles like this in Liberian newspapers. The information from this piece came from a professor in the U.S. 

Dr. Cyril Broderick, an associate professor at Delaware State University, claims the virus was engineered by the U.S., France, Canada and the U.K and is being tested on Africans. 

The Washington Post reports much of Broderick's research came from several conspiracy websites

And unfortunately, Ramen IR notes, "Rumors like these ... become strengthened through mass dissemination and the credibility gained through publication. The public is then mobilized through misinformation. This tendency is especially high in a post-conflict zone like Liberia."

And in Guinea, distrust of foreign aid workers and conspiracy theories over the spread of the disease has led to violence.

 Within the past week a team of eight journalists and healthcare workers were murdered by villagers in the country. 

Then Tuesday, also in Guinea, six Red Cross volunteers were attacked as they were trying to collect the body of a victim of the disease. 

As of Saturday, there were 6,553 people infected with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone combined. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun]]> Sat, 27 Sep 2014 12:12:00 -0500
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Astronomers at the University of Michigan believe about half the water in our solar system is older than the sun itself. 

As it turns out, there are two types of water — the kind we're all used to, H₂O, and a heavier kind with an extra neutron in the hydrogen atom. We'll call them regular water and heavy water. According to the University of Michigan, "comets and Earth's oceans hold particular ratios of heavy water—higher ratios than the sun contains."

Our solar system was created in what the researchers call a planet-forming disk billions of years ago — dust and gas moved around our sun, eventually forming into our planets. But even before the creation of our eight planets (sorry, Pluto), the sun, and the planet-forming disk, were created in an even older cloud. (Video via NASA / GSFC)

So in a question that's a whole lot like the "chicken or the egg" conundrum, the researchers were curious if the heavy water came from the older, sun-creating cloud or the younger, planet-creating cloud. 

How'd they find out? Chemistry, of course. The researchers mimicked the chemistry used in the creation of our planets (the chemical processes in the planet-forming disk), and looked for the appearance of heavy water. 

"We let the chemistry evolve for a million years—the typical lifetime of a planet-forming disk—and we found that chemical processes in the disk were inefficient at making heavy water throughout the solar system ... if the planetary disk didn't make the water, it inherited it."

Which means the researchers believe the water had to come from the older, sun-creating cloud. Thus, some water in our solar system is absolutely ancient.

CNET quotes one of the researchers who says the study matters because it gives us potential insights into life on other planets. "If water in the early Solar System was primarily inherited as ice from interstellar space, then it is likely that similar ices, along with the prebiotic organic matter that they contain, are abundant in most or all protoplanetary disks around forming stars."

Translation: other solar systems likely have some of the same water we have, as well as all the stuff in that water.

This video includes images from Tom Wachtel / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Sherrie Thai / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 17:37:00 -0500
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Want to get ahead at work? Well, an awesome spouse might just help you do that. 

A study by Washington University found that workers with conscientious spouses moved up more in their career than those who do not. And researchers have some theories why this may be the case. 

First, a conscientious spouse is likely to promote healthy outsourcing by assigning their husband or wife chores around the house. That kind of outsourcing may be copied by the employee in the workplace.  

And researchers say employees might copy some of their spouse's other good habits as well like diligence and reliability.  

Finally, having a smooth and organized home life, makes a worker less stressed and more likely to be productive in the office. 

To reach these conclusions, researchers studied nearly 5,000 married workers and their spouses. 

Researcher Joshua Jackson said, "This is another example where personality traits are found to predict broad outcomes like health status or occupational success."

We have seen how a well functioning marriage can have positive implications in other areas of life before. 

A recent study published in Journal of Marriage and Family found that the saying "Happy wife, happy life" is pretty true. 

That study looked at around 18,000 individuals and found men who's wives were content had more pleasant overall lives. 

Researchers noted women who are happy tended to do things that made their husbands happy like provide emotional support and take care of the home. While when men were happy and women were not, the opposite was not true. 

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<![CDATA[Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:35:00 -0500
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There is currently no definitive predictor for the development of psychosis, but now scientists say that might change with a simple blood test.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina analyzed blood samples from patients with symptoms that are believed to suggest a risk for psychosis. In the study, they found those with the markers in their blood later developed psychosis within two years.

According to the researchers, psychosis is an umbrella term that includes the most commonly associated condition, schizophrenia, and describes the loss of contact with reality an affected person experiences.

Currently, doctors use MRI scans, interviews with the patient and other screenings to first rule out any other diseases or disorders before reaching a diagnosis. (Video via Wesleyan University)

Health experts say early detection and intervention might be key to providing long-term treatment for chronic psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the population.

Measures for early detection are exactly what the researchers had in mind. In a press release, they note although more research is needed, the findings pave the way for future preventative interventions.

A separate but similar test four years ago also tested for the same biomarkers in the blood to detect risk of schizophrenia. The test was made commercially available but was suspended for further testing.

The recent study was published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

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<![CDATA[France Takes On Tobacco, E-Cigs In Controversial Move]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 09:51:00 -0500
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According to French health officials, some 73,000 people in the country die every year from smoking cigarettes — the country's No. 1 cause of death. 

But in an effort to combat what officials believe is a growing epidemic, especially among teenagers, the government has announced new proposals for packaging regulations. 

The announcement was made Thursday by French Health Minister Marisol Touraine. She explained all packaging will be neutral — same size, shape and color — in an effort to "take away the attractiveness of the packaging." 

BBC: "The new packs will look something like this. ... France has often been seen as a paradise for smokers due in part to a vibrant cafe culture." 

According to the World Health Organization, France has one of the highest rates of smoking in Europe  — with 31 percent of the adult population dealing with the addiction.   

Once the regulation makes it through the national assembly, it will be illegal to smoke in public parks or in cars with children under 12 years old. 

But it's a controversial move coming about a year and a half after Australia implemented a similar regulation in 2012 — which has gotten mixed reviews. 

In Australia, cigarette packages are a plain olive color; France will still allow brand names to be shown in a standardized font. 

SKY NEWS: "Everything in Australia so far have shown that plain packaging is really positive. ... The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association here in the U.K. claim that previous studies have found the opposite."  

But The Wall Street Journal notes"Antitobacco groups, for their part, have pointed to a study in the Medical Journal of Australia, which reported a 78% increase in the number of calls to Quitline, a smoking-cessation helpline, in the weeks following the introduction of plain packaging."

However, the president of the French National Committee Against Smoking told French public radio RFI it's hard to compare Australia's program results with French smokers.  

"The number of people who smoke in Australia dropped by bit more than 3% over last year. But you have to compare what can be compared and right now in France you have 30% of young children between 15 and 17 who smoke while in Australia it's below 15%."

France's new proposal will also place regulations on e-cigarettes — a trend Touraine says is growing among young people. 

However, France 24 reports this past May the French Office for Tobacco Prevention came out with a report admitting little is known about the risk of electronic cigarettes. The study's author wrote, "Right now, we don't know enough about the products [in e-cigarettes] ... [but] to our knowledge, appropriately made and used, it presents infinitely fewer dangers than [regular] cigarettes."

But still, France's new regulation would make it against the law to smoke e-cigarettes or vaporizers in public places like schools, public transportation and inside office buildings.  

No timeline has been set on when the French government will begin implementing the changes. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Third American With Ebola Released From Hospital]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 19:08:00 -0500
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Dr. Rick Sacra, the third American infected with ebola during the recent epidemic in West Africa, has just been released from the hospital after being cleared of the virus.

DR. RICK SACRA VIA KMTV: "I never felt like I was not going to make it. The care was so excellent, so speedy, so prompt, that I'm just thanking God for that."

Sacra was released from Nebraska Medical Center Thursday, where he's been isolated since Sept. 5. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed Sacra's blood is free of the virus. (Video via WOWT)

Sacra was infected with Ebola while working in Libera to deliver babies. He's the third American to contract the disease; the first two patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, both made full recoveries from the disease.

His treatment included a blood transfusion from Dr. Brantly, containing antibodies which might have helped battle the illness. (Video via NBC)

And Sacra was also receiving an experimental drug treatment, TKM-Ebola, which is designed to stop the virus from spreading.

Last week, President Obama announced the U.S. would send 3,000 personnel and build 17 treatment centers to help address the outbreak. 

In a speech at the United Nations Thursday, Obama exhorted other nations to do more in the fight against Ebola.

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE: "Right now, everyone has the best of intentions. But people are not putting in the kinds of resources that are needed to stop this epidemic."

But the world still has a long way to go before the Ebola outbreak is contained. The World Health Organization reports over 6,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths from the virus so far, and CDC estimates say the number of infected people could grow to 1.4 million cases by the end of January.

So far, four Americans have contracted Ebola during this outbreak. The fourth patient, whose name has not been disclosed, is currently being treated at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

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<![CDATA[A Growing Waist Size May Increase Breast Cancer Risk]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 15:33:00 -0500
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A new study suggests women whose waist size increases with age have a greater risk of developing breast cancer. 

We already knew that excess body fat increases the chance of developing breast cancer, but this study found that where that fat is located may make a difference.

Researchers say this may be because extra stomach fat can boost levels of estrogen, a hormone the breast cancer cells rely on for fuel.

Researchers from University College London found that women between 20 and 60 had a one third greater chance of developing breast cancer after menopause if they went up a skirt size every 10 years. 

To come to these results, researchers questioned over 90,000 women over 50 about their current and past skirt sizes. 

Researchers hope these findings will encourage women to take steps to cut down on belly fat in order to decrease their risk of developing breast cancer.

Co-author of the study Usha Menon said“Given that obesity is now emerging as a global epidemic, from a public health prospective our findings are significant as they provide women with a simple and easy to understand message."

Researchers noted an increasing waistline has also been linked to pancreatic and ovarian cancers. 

Other unrelated studies show stomach fat can also increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and depression. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and AbcKolyya / CC BY SA 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Alzheimer's Researchers Watching Early Forgetfulness]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 13:25:00 -0500
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There is no definitive test to diagnose a person with Alzheimer's, but research published this week in the journal Neurology is giving scientists a tool for early recognition of the disease.

Healthy subjects with an average age of 73 were studied over a period of 10 years at the University of Kentucky. They were asked each year to simply report any memory changes they felt.

It turns out self-reporting is key to early detection. Subjects who first reported small signs of forgetfulness were about three times more likely to later develop dementia than those who did not have signs of forgetfulness. Cognitive impairment in the affected individuals began at nine years into the study, and a diagnosis of dementia could be given at 12 years.

This development gives scientists a chance to detect memory issues earlier, even if larger issues aren't showing on cognitive tests. The study's lead author, Richard Kryscio, says, "Right now we are catching this in the mid-stage or when people already have Alzheimer's, and we don't have a lot of tools in our arsenal yet to help you."

It's important to remember that is a fine line between dementia and normal aging. According to geriatrician Dr. Thomas Loepfe, "Age is the biggest risk factor for forgetfulness."

That means forgetting where you placed your phone, or that you had scheduled a last-minute meeting could be completely normal behavior. Half of the subjects of this study reported memory changes, but only about 17% were eventually diagnosed with dementia.

Researchers want to take this new indicator in stride, though. Rebecca Amariglio, a neurology professor at Harvard, says "We’re never going to cure or delay Alzheimer’s if we don’t start to identify what goes on early in the disease. Early intervention is where things are headed."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is the sixth-leading cause of death for people in the United States. 

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<![CDATA[Marine's Mother Accuses VA Of Covering Up Son's Death]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:13:00 -0500
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A former Marine scheduled a doctor's appointment at a local VA office, but died before he could make it to the appointment. Four days after his death, though, he supposedly changed the appointment. 

That's what the mother of Corporal Jordan Buisman says. 

YOUTUBE / LISA RILEY: "He served honorably in the Marine Corp before being discharged due to his epilepsy." 

His mother, Lisa, says Jordan was was forced to wait 70 days to get an appointment regarding the recent seizures he'd been having. Buisman died on November 26, 2012. 

USA TODAY / KARE: "Four days after his death, on the following Friday, November 30, someone wrote in these official VA records that Jordan Buisman cancelled his neurology appointment scheduled in late December, and, as amazing as it may seem, requested another date."

Jordan's story is, unfortunately, one of many throughout the country involving veterans and their issues with Veterans Affairs. 

The issues came to a head in April 2014 when a report about the VA hospital in Phoenix indicated as many as 40 U.S. veterans died while waiting for care.

Head of the Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned shortly after the allegations started making headlines. (Video via Democratic National Convention)

CNN: "A few minutes ago, Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation. With considerable regret, I accepted."

Although the VA has made changes and fired many staff involved in the scandal, it's also denied several claims made against it, saying long wait times weren't the primary cause of death in many cases. 

In an investigation into the claims, the VA denied veterans died due to waiting for care, but instead blamed it on the quality of care

CBS: "The report does not answer specific charges raised by widows of veterans like Debbie Vijay."

...

"It took two months to see ... his cancer doctor when they found out he did have cancer." 

And Buisman's story about records possibly being falsified isn't a new claim either.

USA Today reports workers at the VA Department in Fort Collins were told to falsify records so it would appear doctors were seeing patients within their goal of 14 days. 

KARE reports an NYU doctor who reviewed Buisman's records said he had "more than a 50% chance he would be alive now."

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<![CDATA[Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:42:00 -0500
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For the first time, scientists have found traces of water on a planet smaller than Jupiter.

The planet, named HAT-P-11b, is about the size of Neptune. And here's why it's important: before this planet, scientists had been stuck when it came to smaller, warm planets. 

They'd all been covered in clouds, and researchers couldn't see the planets' atmospheres to study them. Researchers were starting to think all small, warm planets formed with that thick cloud cover.

But this planet, about 120 light years away, has proved otherwise. Now, it is not thought to support life — it's a ball of gas. Researchers used the Hubble space telescope to check it out.

And here's what's really key —The Guardian quotes the study's first author: "Although this planet is not classically habitable, it reveals to us that when we find Earth 2.0, we will be able to use this technique, transmission spectroscopy, to understand its atmosphere and determine the quality of life available on its shores."

For comparison's sake, this planet is roughly four times the diameter of Earth. And size does matter. The more scientists understand about water on different planets, the more they can know where and how to search for it.

The BBC quotes one researcher who didn't work on the findings, but helps explain their importance, "We'd like to be able to look at an Earth-sized planet and measure its gaseous composition. So this is a step on the ladder; we're stepping down the ladder towards smaller and smaller planets."

The findings were published in the journal Nature.

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<![CDATA[Is Soda Companies' Vow To 'Cut Calories' A Marketing Ploy?]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 17:37:00 -0500
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This week New York is hosting the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative

And just three days into the meeting, an announcement made Tuesday by former President Bill Clinton has dominated headlines. 

Soda giants Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group have pledged to cut 20 percent of the calories Americans consume from their sugary beverages by 2025. 

KPRC: "The recommended daily allowance of sugar is 6 teaspoons. That's one box of apple juice or a half can of most sodas. Right now the average American consumes roughly 40 teaspoons a day." 

The voluntary agreement between the American Beverage Association and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is part of the effort to help lower obesity rates in the U.S. (Video via ABC)

Now, when you take a look at the headlines, it sounds like the soda companies will be reducing the number of calories in their beverages, right? 

Wrong. No ingredients will be tampered with for this initiative. Instead, the companies have said they will alter the way they market and distribute the sugary products — drinks that admittedly make up the majority the soft drink giants' revenue. So how will this work? 

HLN: "Think of that soda machine at a fast food restaurant. ... Maybe you're looking for a diet soda and can't find one, and water is kind of hidden. And those ... are directly controlled by the soda company." 

Changing that setup could be one potential way to help the companies keep their promise. 

But The Wall Street Journal points out the companies also "have committed to providing calorie counts on more than 3 million vending machines, self-serve fountain dispensers and retail coolers in stores, restaurants and other points of sale."

Some outlets are calling out the soda-makers for what could easily be a misleading story for consumers, especially with the direct promise of "cutting calories." 

FOX NEWS: "It is a little, I don't want to call it shady, but I think it is more symbolic than it is significant."

There's also another reason analysts are a bit skeptical — this promise from Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper might be coming a little late in the game.

An expert on obesity and the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University told The New York Times"I suspect they're promising what's going to happen anyway. ... All the trends are showing decreased consumption of high-calorie beverages, and so what better way to get a public relations boost than to promise to do what's happening anyway?"

Beverage Digest reports in 1998 the average American consumed 56 gallons of soda per year. As of 2013, that number has dropped to about 42 gallons. 

But the pledge could still be seen as a big deal coming from companies like Coke that have, in the past, encouraged consumers to exercise more instead of cut back on sugary beverages — as well as opposed the many failed attempts to regulate soft drinks. (Video via Coca-Cola

The new program is expected to begin in Los Angeles and Little Rock, Arkansas. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Earning Calories? Study Links Workouts, Alcohol Consumption]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 14:44:00 -0500
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According to research published this week, we start hitting the booze more heavily after we've had a hefty gym session. That goes for the wide range of ages studied — from 18-89 years old.

That's right. Even mall walkers might be cracking open a cold one after a few laps. (Video via YouTube / DrBobShow1)

Study subjects recorded both their physical output and their alcoholic input through smartphone apps over 21-day stretches throughout a year. But wait a second — how are these two activities related?

According to researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, people increase both their physical activity and their alcohol consumption on certain days of each week, specifically Thursday to Sunday.

Also known as the weekend. You know, that favorite period of each week when you have more time to run around outside, play tennis with an old friend and have a cocktail or two at dinner.

According to the lead author of the study, David E. Conroy, another reason for the link "could be that people who are more physically active on a given day have to use all their willpower and cognitive resources to get themselves to be active, and they don't have enough willpower left to resist the temptation of a drink at the end of the day."

The study was published in the journal Health Psychology.

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<![CDATA[Here's Why India's Mars Mission Is Cheaper Than NASA's]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 12:08:00 -0500
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India made history by becoming the first country ever to make it to Mars on its first attempt. 

The country's orbiter, called the Mars Orbiter Mission but nicknamed Mangalyaan, made Mars orbit early Wednesday morning, and its success was hailed by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Video via DD National)

PRESIDENT NARENDRA MODI, VIA INDIA MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING: "We have dared to reach out into the unknown and have achieved the near impossible." 

Near impossible not only for the orbiter to make orbit on its first try, but also on its budget. 

ADAM JOHNSON, BLOOMBERG: "It was developed with only $75 million bucks, amazing. $75 million you can send a satellite to mars—"

TOM KEENE: "You spend that on martinis in a weekend."

SANJOY MAJUMDER, BBC: "India's home-grown mission is almost a tenth of the cost of the U.S.'s MAVEN program. Even cheaper than the Hollywood blockbuster 'Gravity.'"

ROBIN MEADE, HLN: "Now compare this — the mission cost India $74 million, we're told the United States paid a whopping $671 million when it did it..." 

That's definitely an attention-grabbing comparison to make, and it's been widely reported India's orbiter is the cheapest interplanetary mission ever — but why exactly was it so much cheaper than NASA's MAVEN? 

An Indian analyst told The Washington Post it's down to a couple factors. "'We kept it low cost, high technology. That is the Indian way of working ... Our goal was to reach Mars and send few pictures and scientific data.'"

NPR looked into exactly how low-cost, comparing the salaries of engineers in India to the U.S. While an aeronautical engineer in the U.S. will make on average $105,000 a year, their Indian counterpart will make less than $20,000. "In general, it seems safe to say engineers in India make between one-tenth and one-fifth of what their U.S. counterparts do"

Then there's the difference in equipment and mission scope — MAVEN's mission is long term, and it's loaded down with equipment. (Video via NASA

To be more specific, Rice Space Institute Director David Alexander told Deutsche Welle, where India's orbiter is loaded with about 30 pounds of equipment, MAVEN is carrying more than 140 pounds. 

Still, despite the comparisons, it's not a competition.

NASA tweeted to congratulate the India Space Research Organization on its achievement, and the two bodies will reportedly be working together to pool their findings.  

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<![CDATA[Should Obama, U.S. Push Other Countries On Carbon Emissions?]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 09:46:00 -0500
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In the wake of U.S. airstrikes in Syria and the president's statements about them, it would've been easy to overlook another speech he gave Tuesday — on climate change. (Video via U.S. Department of Defense)

President Obama spoke at the United Nations Climate Summit where he talked about the urgency of the issue and specifically pressed China — the largest current emitter of greenhouse gases — to commit to change. (Video via The White House)

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE: "As the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. ... That's what big nations have to do." 

But, as The New York Times writes, he might've been preaching to the choir, as China is already "struggling with air pollution so extreme that it has threatened economic growth, regularly kept millions of children indoors and ignited street protests."

And China has already taken steps to go greener, investing in renewable energy like solar power on a large scale across the country. (Video via The Financial Times)

In fact, Forbes reports the country was the biggest investor in renewable energy in 2013, with a whopping total of $56.3 billion spent as part of its 12th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development. 

So, with that in mind, it's worth asking — does the president really have a leg to stand on when it comes to pushing other countries to act on climate change?

He was careful to list off the U.S.' credentials.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office. ... Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth."

He made that last claim, verbatim, during his State of the Union Address in January, but it's a little misleading, seeing as until recently the U.S. had the most emissions to reduce. (Video via The White House)

As PolitiFact points out, a more useful way of looking at it is by proportion. The U.S. has reduced emissions by 6 percent. Compared to the United Kingdom, which saw a 13-point reduction, and Greece's 15 percent reduction, it's not quite as impressive. 

Couple that with the president's support of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," for natural gas, which critics say is worse than coal mining for all the methane it releases. Suddenly, the administration's credentials don't look quite so strong. (Video via The Telegraph)

The president's comments at the summit echo those of then-President Clinton at the U.N.'s last major climate summit in Kyoto in 1997. Facing a Republican-controlled Congress, though, Clinton wasn't able to get the agreement ratified. A new agreement is expected for 2015. 

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<![CDATA[Why Is Russia Going To The Moon?]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 21:24:00 -0500
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Russian officials confirmed Tuesday they plan to put Russians on the moon, with a lunar expedition beginning "at the end of the next decade."

Russian news agency ITAR-TASS quotes the country's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who said, "We plan to complete tests of a super-heavy-class carries [sic] rocket and begin full-scale exploration of the Moon." Another official said prep work had already begun.

This is the most definitive news yet about the Russian-men-on-the-moon project, which has been discussed for at least the past two years. Rogozin was quoted earlier this year as saying, "We are going to the moon forever." 

But isn't that celestial body kinda "been there, done that"?

Yes, but Russia's lunar exploration mission could be a stepping stone to something bigger. RT quoted a leaked document from Russia's Federal Space Agency back in May which read, "In [the] XXI century there might be a geopolitical competition for lunar natural resources." 

Our guess is the document is talking about regolith, the powdery substance on the moon's surface. This week, we reported on SpaceX sending the first 3-D printer into space with the ambitious goal of eventually printing materials using regolith.

With that kind of capability, space programs could start basing their construction actually in space, meaning new equipment wouldn't have to be rocketed up from Earth.

SUMI DAS FOR CNET"Regolith ... that covers the moon could hold the key."

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

According to ITAR-TASS, Russia says it wants to begin colonizing the moon by the 2030s. The first stage of their plan — to send a scouting rover — could take place as early as 2016. 

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<![CDATA[Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:17:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a grim outlook on the Ebola outbreak sweeping West Africa. It says without further intervention, the number of cases of in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach 1.4 million by January. 

The agency estimates cases could total between 550,000 and 1.4 million by then. Officials think the current count is underreported, which is why their estimate is given as such a wide range. (Video via CNN)

But the CDC says it's not too late to stop the disease from spreading.

"The outbreak could be stopped if 70% of Ebola cases are cared for in Ebola Treatment Units or ... in a community setting such that there is a reduced risk of disease transmission, assuming that safe burial practices are in place in both settings."

But some additional measures are being taken. President Obama has promised to build more treatment units in Liberia, which would add more than 1,000 beds. (Video via The White House)

And The New York Times reports the World Health Organization brought the good news that a new treatment center with 150 beds opened in Liberia's capital. 

But those aren't the only obstacles officials are facing. Many health clinics and health workers helping those affected with Ebola are being attacked as some in the region believe the disease isn't real. 

The virus is spread through bodily fluids such as saliva, through contaminated needles or by infected animals such as fruit bats.

According to WebMD, Ebola kills up to 90 percent of those infected. 

The statistics for this outbreak have been lower, though. WHO said out of the estimated total of around 5,800 cases, around 2,800 have resulted in death. That means just under half who have contracted the disease have actually died.

But with news that up to 20,000 more could be infected by November and that the epidemic could go on for years without "rigorous infection control measures," the situation isn't looking good.  

However, there has been some breakthrough in treatment. 

There's ZMapp, an experimental treatment that might have played a role in the recovery of the Americans who contracted the virus while in Africa. However, this is not a readily available treatment option as it's still in the experimental phase.

Other than that, the CDC says catching it early can improve chances of survival. It also says it's important to get IV fluids, balance electrolytes, maintain oxygen status and blood pressure and treat other infections if they occur.

There currently is no medicine on the market approved to treat Ebola. The CDC's report says Ebola cases in Liberia are doubling about every 20 days. 

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<![CDATA[Dinosaur With Mysteriously Large Nose Discovered In Utah]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:43:00 -0500
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It seems like dinosaurs have been in the news a fair bit lately, but the newest dino to be discovered is beating out competitors by a nose.

This is Rhinorex condrupus, which was recently discovered in Utah. And that thing on the front of its head? That's its nose. 

Rhinorex was actually dug up in the 1990s, but it was never put together. It was just kept in storage at Brigham Young University. Finally, two scientists decided to piece the fossils together, and that's when they realized they had a new species on their hands. 

Rhinorex was a Hadrosaur, also known as a duckbill dinosaur, who were known for their distinct and widely varied crests and lived during the Cretacious period, some 75 million years ago. 

While the scientists say they're unsure exactly what purpose the duckbills' crests served, they've theorized the bills, which were actually extended nasal cavities, could be used as a resonating chamber for mating and warning calls. (Video via Discovery)

Those theories are backed up by the inner structure of the hadrosaurs' bills, which the Witmer Lab at Ohio State University reports was filled with loops and chambers that would have produced a powerful, deep sound.

In the case of Rhinorex, the scientists say its giant schnoz might have been used to attract mates, which might seem counter intuitive — but then, Adrien Brody and Barbra Streisand have done alright for themselves... 

And Rhinorex would've beat out the competition if that were the case. As LiveScience reports, it had the biggest nasal opening relative to its size of all its fellow duckbills.

The researchers also said comparing Rhinorex to other Hadrosaurs found a couple hundred miles to the south has helped paint a clearer picture of the Cretaceous period's geography. 

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<![CDATA[5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:21:00 -0500
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A new study suggests four out of five heart attacks can be prevented by maintaining a few lifestyle habits — at least for men.

Researchers from Sweden looked at more than 20,000 men. They say those who adopted just five healthy behaviors were less likely to develop heart disease. Not surprisingly, those behaviors include drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol, not smoking, exercising daily, and maintaining a healthy diet and weight.

Well ... yeah. Most of us already know a healthy lifestyle lends itself to fewer diseases. 

Even headlines are pointing out the obvious: Most heart attacks can be prevented; a healthy lifestyle might reduce heart attack risk.

Despite the repetitive reminders, researchers say most people don't actually maintain ideal cardiovascular health.

In fact, researchers estimate just 2 percent of Americans do so. Starting these lifestyle habits early in life can be more beneficial, but even adopting them later can significantly improve heart health.

Modern practices might be to blame here. One health expert tells HealthDay"People looking for a magic pill or a modern new technology to prevent heart disease need to be reminded how important lifestyle factors are."

Just think about it. The heart is a muscle. It needs to be worked out, just like all the other muscles in our bodies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. It's the leading cause of death among both men and women.

The recent study has its limitations, though. It did not look at how long the subjects lived. It also didn't look at different ethnicities.

The research was published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Will Living Glue Be A Thing?]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:40:00 -0500
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Mussels — to most of us they're seafood, but to some engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they're inspiration. 

The engineers were specifically interested in the mollusks' ability to attach themselves super tightly to things underwater, and that led them to investigate. (Video via YouTube / Perry Tang

According to MIT, the engineers identified proteins that let mussels stick, then engineered a bacteria that mixed that protein with some other bacterial proteins and resulted in an even stickier adhesive than the one the mussels themselves produce. The statement says it "could be used to repair ships or help heal wounds and surgical incisions."

They published their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, where they described how the big takeaway, aside from their new supersticky adhesive, is how the synthetic substance builds itself — through molecular self-assembly. 

So it's not just an inert glue made out of a handful of chemicals — it's an adhesive bacteria that builds itself, which the scientists say is much closer to how these things work in the natural world. 

As Tech Times points out, scientists have long taken cues from nature when it comes to engineering new technologies — citing how Velcro was inspired by the way burrs stick to fur.

But MIT in particular has been on something of a streak when it comes to nature-inspired engineering. 

In the last month, MIT's robotic cheetah made headlines for the way its movement mimics that of the original African predator, and the university's synthetic octopus skin — which opens the door to advanced camouflage technologies — also made waves. 

The engineers behind the adhesive say from here they hope to make a "living glue" that can identify wear and tear and ultimately repair itself. And we could also see a freaky creature Syfy movie coming out on this, too. 

This video includes music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 3.0 and an image from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[The Hyped-Up Big Bang Discovery Has A Dust Problem]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 22:21:00 -0500
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What was previously heralded as the most important, cosmically significant scientific discovery of the decade has just been dealt a crippling blow, and it's all thanks to a patch of space dust.

The story starts at the South Pole, where the BICEP2 telescope was busily scanning the background radiation which permeates the entire universe. Scientists were looking to detect tiny fluctuations in this radiation, evidence of a phenomenon known as gravitational waves.

In March, scientists announced they had found patterns left behind by those waves. The discovery was presented as proof of cosmic inflation theory – the idea that the universe went through a rapid, explosive expansion in its first few microseconds. (Video via Nature)

When we first reported the story, we did our best to explain the intricacies of the finding. But it's difficult to get a good grasp on what gravitational waves are, much less explain the concept.

So for now, what you need to know is that the research provided the first direct evidence supporting one theory about what happened after the Big Bang, and was announced with a lot of fanfare. 

MARC KAMIONKOWSKI VIA HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: "This detection is cosmology's missing link. It's something we thought should be there, but we weren't really sure. ... This is not something that is just a home run, but a grand slam."

But once the hype faded, doubts began to emerge. The team made their announcement before the results were peer reviewed or published, and some physicists started questioning the accuracy of the data and the analysis behind the discovery.

One of the most damning critiques came Monday, from a large team studying data collected by the European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft, which has been systematically examining the distribution of cosmic dust in the night sky.

Their analysis shows that the Bicep team may have dramatically underestimated the amount of dust interfering with their telescope's vision. Distortions that were attributed to gravitational waves might have just been dust particles all along.

To be clear, the new study doesn't completely sink the original findings — the BICEP and Planck teams are currently working together to figure out how much cosmic interference might have fouled up the BICEP2's measurements.

But it's a kick in the teeth for proponents of cosmic inflation theory, and vindication for the study's skeptics. One cosmologist involved with the Planck study told Quanta, "They more or less assumed that they could find a piece of the sky with low dust emission. ... And the Planck result shows there is no part of the sky where you can ignore the dust."

Some BICEP2 scientists are keeping their spirits up, though: one study lead told The Washington Post they're working to refine the methods used in BICEP2 for future analyses. "So basically, if BICEP2 result doesn’t turn out to be a grand slam after all, we are still playing with the bases loaded."

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

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<![CDATA[Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:38:00 -0500
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These green balls washed up on the shore of Sydney, Australia's Dee Why Beach last week. And after seeing the photos, many are thinking ... extraterrestrial.  

FOX NEWS: "Bizarre green balls dubbed 'alien eggs.'"

WGN-TV: "Some are calling them 'alien eggs' and 'alien hairballs.'"

"Alien hairballs?"

"Yeah, that's what they look like."

But these foreign objects aren't exactly from outer space. 

A beachgoer told the Daily Mail Australia, "I picked one up and squeezed it and it was so squishy — but I wasn't sure if it was alive and was worried I might hurt anything inside!"

Turns out the balls, which are almost perfectly circular in shape, are a pretty rare type of living algae.

But, unlike the gross green goop that clings to rocks and forms on the top of water, this type of algae is "free living," meaning it forms into a ball shape.

According to the French Tribune, scientists believe seaweed comes together to form these circular shapes "to guard themselves from predators."

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reports Alan Millar from The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust says there's a very specific reason these balls came to land: "(It's) clearly another response to spring sunshine, and just the right wave conditions to tumble them. Obviously these biophysical conditions do not align every spring to produce these balls."

So, looks like they're native to Earth, not Mars. Maybe next time. 

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<![CDATA[Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:11:00 -0500
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By the end of the day Sunday, the People's Climate March in New York City had drawn more than 300,000 people — but you might not have known it from watching the news. 

The possibly record-setting rally didn't make it into any of the Sunday morning talk shows — cable or network — which instead opted to cover popular topics like ISIS and upcoming elections. (Video via People's Climate March)

The march stretched from Times Square up through Columbus Circle and to the American Museum of Natural History, shutting down traffic — the focus of some local coverage. 

WCBS: "The size of the march creating almost apocalyptic traffic conditions across Manhattan: Central Park West, shut down. Some of Columbus Avenue, 59th Street ... stalling drivers for hours in their cars."

That makes it sound a little more like a natural disaster than a protest, but even the massive scale of the march was dwarfed by some celebrity cameos when it came to media coverage. 

The presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting and Mark Ruffalo, among others, grabbed the headlines of tabloids including the New York Daily News and the Daily Mail while other outlets focused on more political celebrities such as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and former Vice President Al Gore, with the former grabbing headlines in Bloomberg and the BBC. (Video via United Nations)

Despite the march not getting the attention you might think a 300,000-person march in a major U.S. city would get, as CNN's Brian Stelter tweeted, the march started after the Sunday morning shows, and Sunday night coverage was a little more extensive. 

PBS: "On this edition for Sunday, Sept. 21, hundreds of thousands turn out in New York City and around the world to demand action to halt climate change."  

"PBS NewsHour" led with the story, and "NBC Nightly News" devoted a couple minutes to a segment on it, and ABC's "World News Tonight" gave it less than a minute.

A writer for The Huffington Post argues the lack of coverage — of the biggest climate march in history — shouldn't be surprising because "the topic of climate change [is] something that usually gets either ignored or badly handled."

And the whole time there's been skepticism over the effectiveness of the march.

TOM KEENE FOR BLOOMBERG: "How naive is that event we saw yesterday?"

PAUL BARRETT: "Well, protests are designed to be naive. ... They're designed to marshal popular opinion, even if that opinion is relatively crude."

The march came two days before the U.N. Climate Summit was set to start in New York. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[What Came Out Of Sierra Leone's Weekend Ebola Lockdown?]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 08:30:00 -0500
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Sierra Leone's three-day lockdown to combat Ebola is over. 

The weekend lockdown is the most drastic action any of the Ebola-affected countries has taken so far, and officials there have declared it a success. (Video via CBS)

Starting Friday, the government asked people to not leave their homes, as aid workers — the BBC reports 30,000 in all — went door to door to educate people, as well as identify and treat patients. (Video via BBC)

Officials were reluctant to call it a lockdown, instead saying:

PRESIDENT ERNEST BAI KOROMA VIA RT: "My government has declared a three-day stay-at-home house-to-house Ebola talk campaign."

As far as the numbers go, multiple outlets report authorities recovered more than 90 bodies over the weekend, with 123 people using the government hotline to contact the authorities. Around half of those callers tested positive for the virus. (Video via Press TV)

Cataloging those who might be infected or have come in contact with an infected person is known as contact tracing, and it's one of the most important parts in containing the outbreak. It has also proved one of the most difficult, as one CDC worker told CNN. 

REBECCA LEVINE VIA CNN: "We are not going to stop an outbreak if the contact tracing is not happening. It presents a whole new set of challenges. It's definitely an urgent, urgent problem." 

Despite fears of violence, there was reportedly only one such incident, when a burial team was attacked — but no one was reported harmed, and the team was able to resume its work later with the help of police. 

Burial teams have faced the brunt of the pushback as health workers try to prevent traditional burial ceremonies that would bring people in close contact with the dead and expose them to infection. (Video via The New York Times)

The World Health Organization reports at least 5,500 cases of the virus across West Africa and more than 2,500 deaths. More than 500 of the deaths have come from Sierra Leone. 

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<![CDATA[NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 05:42:00 -0500
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After a 10-month voyage through space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has finally reached Mars.

"Congratulations! Maven is now in orbit."
LOCKHEED MARTIN's GARY NAPIER: "What are you feeling right now?"
MAVEN FLIGHT SYSTEMS MANAGER TIM PRISER: "I'm about to pop. You know, it's a blender of pride and relief."

MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, will collect data while orbiting the Red Planet. Scientists believe Mars has changed a lot over billions of years and they'll use MAVEN to study the atmosphere and try to find clues as to why that's happened.

DIRECTOR OF NASA PLANETARY SCIENCE DR. JIM GREEN: "Way in its past, several billions years, we believe Mars had rivers, lakes and even oceans. It had an atmosphere that is much more extensive than it is now."

At a NASA press conference Sunday, the research team said they'll start collecting scientific data for the $671 million mission in early November. MAVEN will also exchange information with the Mars Curiosity Rover. 

Additionally, Mars is scheduled to a have a visitor while MAVEN is in orbit. In a side project of sorts, researchers will pull in data from a comet that's expected to race by the Red Planet.

MAVEN PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR BRUCE JAKOSKY: "We have what I'll call a bonus opportunity with comet Siding Spring. ... On October 19, it's going to miss by only 132,000 kilometers, which is almost nothing."

When the Siding Spring comet flies by, NASA's spacecraft will reportedly be on the other side of the planet so it won't be affected by any incoming comet dust. It'll essentially be "shielded by the planet."

NASA's satellite will have some company around the Red Planet shortly. India's Mars Orbiter Mission is set to arrive Tuesday and will study methane on Mars — something they hope will give them information on possible biological activity.

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<![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. 

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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. 

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<![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 Geek.com 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.

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<![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.

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<![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...

...at 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 chose 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, epSos.de / CC BY 2.0, Nils Geylen / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Sander van der Wel / CC BY-SA 2.0. 

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<![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. 

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.  

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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 NJ.com, 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.

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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 Space.com 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.

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<![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.

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<![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. 

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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. 

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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)

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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. 

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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<![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.

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