Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[Cuba Is The First Nation Certified For Eradicating HIV]]> Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:36:00 -0500
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Cuba was in the headlines quite a bit this week: First for reopening diplomacy with the U.S., and then for announcing it eradicated mother-to-infant transmission of HIV.

Yes, Cuba is the first country certified by the World Health Organization for eradicating mother-child transmission of the disease that causes AIDS — but hold on. 

It was also the first country to apply for certification, and certification only means that the rate of mother-to-child transmission is less than five percent — so not completely eradicated. 

Other countries have since followed in Cuba's footsteps and applied for certification. The New York Times reported the next ones in line are Bulgaria, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Thailand.

Not coincidentally, all of these countries are in need of an image boost, like the one Cuba got in the last week. 

Economic woes have hounded Bulgaria since 2009, which hasn't been helped by rampant corruption in the formerly Soviet nation. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, fighting political instability and a lack of public resources. 

In 2011, Turkmenistan reported only two — yes, two — cases of HIV in the country. But that impressive number is likely fixed by the autocratic government, which was developed under the rule of eccentric former dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, noted for a poor record of public welfare. 

Thailand was an HIV-prevention success story in the '90s, but the 21st century has seen increased risk for STDs in the country, brought on by weakened prevention programs. 

The country is also recovering from a political crisis in the last two years that caused violent protests and a coup.

All these countries could benefit from same good press Cuba has gotten, which likely motivated them to apply for eradication certification in the first place. Other developed countries, like the U.S., could pass the WHO's test, but don't plan to in the near future. 

This video contains images from Getty Images and Pixabay/ CC0. Music by Skill Borrower / CC BY NC Sampling Plus 1.0.

<![CDATA[Global Warming Has Likely Caused Permanent Damage To Oceans]]> Fri, 03 Jul 2015 11:36:00 -0500
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What would it take to save the oceans?

Thirty percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the world’s oceans, and the authors of a new study say we need to focus on these ecosystems before it’s too late. (Video via CBS)

An international team of researchers published evidence Friday that suggests preventing permanent damage to the oceans would require “immediate and substantial” cuts to worldwide carbon emissions.

The Copenhagen Accord, which calls for drastic emissions cuts all over the world to keep global warming below two degrees celsius through 2020, was a start. (Video via NASA)

But even under that model, the researchers expect habitat loss from hotter, more acidic oceans to drag down ecosystems and tropical fisheries. (Video via NOAA)

The researchers’ models suggest if carbon emissions stay on their current trajectory, fish, coral and krill ecosystems the world over will all be at high risk of permanent damage by 2100.

In other words, it’s too late to prevent some damage because it’s already occurring.

Reversing the impacts of manmade CO2 entirely would take enormous amounts of time, and adapting to it will cost enormous amounts of money.

Studies suggest if you turned off worldwide CO2 emissions tomorrow, it would take a thousand years for the global accumulation to dissipate. (Video via NASA)

Put another way, that’s how long it took oceans to recover from the climate swings of the last ice age.

And the World Bank estimates it will cost $70-100 billion per year to adapt to a two-degree-warmer climate by 2050 — remember, that’s the best case, under the Copenhagen Accord. (Video via NASA)

The good news here, according to the scientists, is more and more governments seem to be waking up to the problem.

See the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has set a 2100 deadline for cutting emissions to avoid planetary damage. (Video via United Nations)

And the sooner stakeholders act to protect the oceans, the better. The scientists warn “As the ocean warms and acidifies, the range of protection, adaptation, and repair options—and our confidence in those options—dwindles, while the cost of remaining options skyrockets.”

These findings, like a lot of other recent climate research, are expected to factor into the UN’s climate conference later this year in Paris. (Video via the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development)

This video includes images from NOAA, NASA, and Getty Images. Music by MasterClass & BlendyCello / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Which App Gives The Best Soundtrack For Your Run?]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:38:00 -0500
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This video contains music by Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0Ray Rude / CC BY NC 3.0 and Alex Fitch / CC By NC 3.0.

<![CDATA[Birds Can Teach Us Something About Language]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:51:00 -0500
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When you step outside in the morning, you might hear this, and, while it sounds pretty, it's probably pretty meaningless to you. (Video via YouTube / dry0shi)

But to a bird, it might sound more like this. (Video via YouTube / 17muses's channel, YouTube / Booning on YouTube)

And that makes sense. Language relies on "rearranging combinations of meaningless sounds" to make meaning.

From cuneiform to emojis, we've kind of always thought that was our thing, but now, some scientists think birds can do it, too. (Video via Youtube / Matthew Woodyard)

Researchers listened to this bird, the chestnut-crowned babbler — seems like an appropriate name.

They listened to its different calls and noticed how it made this sound to say it's flying — but added in another note when in its nest.

But the big thing here isn't just that birds can do it, it's what that tells us about the evolution of language. (Video via Youtube / Ari-Matti Nikula)

And considering language is, "the most powerful, dangerous and subversive trait that natural selection has ever devised." That's kind of a big deal. (Video via TED)

Especially because it's a struggle to figure out how we evolved languages. Historical linguists have to use a wide range of tools to figure that out, looking at similar words across languages to find their roots. (Video via University of Exeter)

Now consider that there are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world, and any single species can have a vocal range with more pitches than a piano, and you start to see how birds could easily put our human languages to shame.  (Video via Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

We can only make so many sounds, but from them we've created close to 7,000 different languages, and we're bamboozled when people figure out how to speak more than a couple of them, like Tim Doner. (Video via University of Michigan, THNKR)

Admittedly in terms of the meaning we can convey, our languages are way more complex, but the scientists note the bird vocalizations they observed roughly resemble emerging human languages, so it's possible birds are just getting started. (Video via New Line Cinema / 'Rush Hour', Big ThinkSmithsonian Channel

This video includes images from Jodie Crane and Liza / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Young Saber-Toothed Cats Relied On Parents While Teeth Grew]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:51:00 -0500
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There's something you may not know about those fearsome prehistoric predators with the two very distinctive facial features.

Saber-toothed cats have drawn fascination for how they lived and hunted prey, inspired cheesy PR stunts from museums and somehow even made their way into the hearts of children. (Video via BBCLa Brea Tar Pits and Museum and 20th Century Fox / "Ice Age")

But it turns out what those ferocious ancestors of our big cats really needed in their young lives was mommy.

In a study published this week, researchers looked into just how long it takes for those massive canine teeth to develop.

Researchers examined the various colors of enamel in fossils to determine how far along each animal was in its tooth development.

While they found the massive teeth had typically begun growing not long after the cats turned a year old, the teeth didn't finish growing until they were 3.

The study says that could have meant saber-toothed cats were especially reliant on parental support for hunting and protection until their teeth fully developed. (Video via BBC)

Previous studies had indicated for all the impressive teeth features, the cats actually had a fairly weak bite and were much more reliant on their powerful body to wrestle and overpower prey.

Reliant on that and, we now know, their mothers.

This video includes images from Getty Images and 2015 Wysocki et al / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[What We Could Learn From Comet 67P's Sinkholes]]> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 09:23:00 -0500
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The tails of comets are made up of dust and gas ejected as the nucleus circles the Sun. (Video via NASA)

Now, for the first time, the orbiter studying comet 67P/C-G, Rosetta, has figured out where these gases are coming from: sinkholes. The largest of these pits could be more than 650 feet wide and deep. (Video via European Space Agency)

Researchers think the sinkholes might form the same way they do here on Earth: the material under the surface gets eroded until the ground collapses into the hole. (Video via WFMZ)

in 67P’s case, this could happen specifically through sublimation, where ice under the surface heats up and erodes its surroundings.

Or the pits could be the result of low-velocity impacts early in the comet’s formation.

Or it could be space slugs. You never know. (Video via 20th Century Fox)

One of the researchers writes: “Regardless of the processes creating the cavities, these features show us that there are large structural and/or compositional differences within the first few hundred metres of the comet’s surface.”

The team says they should be able to use the pits to determine how old and weathered specific regions of the comet are.

And over the next month there should be even more opportunities to measure the active pits. Sublimation activity on the comet will peak when 67P/C-G makes perihelion, or its closest approach to the sun, in mid-August.

This video includes images from the European Space Agency and Iwan Gabovitch. Music by Suplington / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Is Suing Governments The Future Of Climate Change Action?]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:02:00 -0500
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Something interesting has happened in the Netherlands. A group of Dutch citizens sued their government to get it to act on climate change. (Video via Judiciary of the Netherlands)

Even more interesting: They won, and a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut emissions by at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. (Video via RTL

Now, some observers say it could serve as a precedent, but is it repeatable elsewhere? To answer that, we have to look at how the Dutch did it. 

First off, the Urgenda Foundation, a climate-change advocacy group representing some 886 individuals in this case, sued the Dutch government, saying it wasn't doing enough to curb its emissions. (Video via Urgenda Foundation)

While the Netherlands is a relatively minor contributor when it comes to climate change, it is among the top 25 emitters per capita in the world, and Urgenda said the state was undercommitting. (Video via YouTube / Film Against Fossil)

The court ruled the Netherlands' emissions reduction of 17 percent compared to 1990 levels was too far below the 25 percent scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, which the court says falls under the state's responsibility to protect its people. (Video via NOS 1)

When it comes to whether this truly sets a precedent for other parts of the world, the answer is: It kind of depends. 

For Europe? Probably. The E.U. has already committed to cutting emissions 40 percent by 2030, and climate science isn't as much of a political issue there as it is in the U.S. (Video via EU Reporter)

Lawyers in Belgium have filed a similar suit, and NPR reports lawyers from Canada and Australia have been in touch with the Dutch plaintiffs. 

Australia would probably be more of an uphill battle. While the Dutch government has yet to announce if it will appeal the court's ruling, Australian government officials, led by climate contrarian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, likely would. (Video via ABC AustraliaOffice of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott)

A similar suit would be a tall order in the U.S. as well, as an environmental-law specialist from New York University told Nature:

"There is no federal constitutional right to environmental protection. ... Some state courts may recognize such a right, but the remedy might at best be limited to local sources."

Still, even if it's not an option in the U.S., more stringent and court-mandated commitments to cuts in Europe could be a bargaining chip for advocates when the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris rolls around in December. 

<![CDATA[Family Uses Billboard To Find New Kidney For Their Dad]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:51:00 -0500
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"The hardest thing is seeing him not be able to do the things that he likes to do," JoAnna DeSmith told WRTV

JoAnna DeSmith's father, Paul, is currently on transplant list for a new kidney after he was diagnosed with kidney disease several years ago. 

But none of Paul's family members were a match, and he's yet to receive a new kidney from any of the lists he's currently on. So the DeSmith family decided to get creative.

"So rather than wait, JoAnna and her family looked up. And now after getting a billboard company to donate some billboard time around Indianapolis, hope someone driving by will look up, too," a WRTV reporter said.

Newsy's partners at WRTV report while several people have reached out to the DeSmith's since the billboard was put up in June, the family is still waiting for a match.

According to a website about kidney transplantation, "The average waiting time for a kidney is three to five years, depending on blood type."

The National Kidney Foundation says there are currently more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for kidney transplants. In 2014, about 17,000 Americans were successfully awarded a kidney — which sheds some light on why wait times are so long.

The DeSmith's billboard comes down July 7, so there's still time for someone to see it and donate a kidney to Paul. 

"He's amazing! He's always there for us. He's been such a — He's just such a good role model," JoAnna DeSmith said.

<![CDATA[2 Chocolate Bars A Day Might Keep The Doctor Away]]> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 10:29:00 -0500
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Chocolate is delicious — and science now tells us it's also nutritious. 

According to a study published in the journal Heart, people who ate chocolate, even up to 100 grams a day, had a lower risk of future cardiovascular, or heart, events. 

"That's about two Hershey bars, or 20 Hershey kisses a day," a Fox News anchor said.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and other schools looked at 20,951 men and women and found in a follow-up about 11 years later that 9.7 percent of people with higher chocolate consumption had coronary heart disease, compared to 13.8 percent with low chocolate consumption. 

The rate for stroke in chocolate-eaters was 3.1 percent, and for low chocolate-eaters, it was 5.4 percent.

Eat chocolate and lower your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke? Researchers' calculations also showed chocolate-eaters had an 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Could make a great campaign for Hershey's

Although researchers mentioned the data could be skewed because people with a high risk of heart disease may avoid chocolate in the first place, meaning those who do indulge in it may be healthier from the start.

But good news for those with a high risk of heart disease? The study concludes there's no evidence that people concerned about cardiovascular issues should avoid chocolate. #ChocolateForAll.

And to add to everyone's chocolate fantasies, it seems both milk and dark chocolate are good for you. 

This video includes images from Everjean / CC BY 2.0Siona Karen / CC BY 2.0 and Golden_ie / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Google Has A Cool New Wearable, But It's Not For Consumers]]> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 08:46:00 -0500
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Google has created one of the most accurate and complex health-tracking wearables ever, and you’re probably not going to get the chance to use it.

Google X — the firm’s experimental research division — created a device you wear on your wrist that measures pulse, heart rhythms, skin temperature and a number of external factors; like noise levels and the amount of light in the area surrounding a wearer.

Sounds like the perfect fitness tracker, and maybe even sleep monitor? Too bad it isn’t ever going to hit the consumer market.

Andy Conrad, Google’s head of life sciences, told Bloomberg, “Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that’s prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials.” (Video via The Wall Street Journal)

Google does offer similar health-monitoring features in its Android Wear software — so does Apple using HealthKit  — but those just can’t hack it when it comes to research.

A Medidata Solutions blog post outlines a talk one of Pfizer’s R&D leaders gave, when he explained just how poor wearables can be at collecting data for study.

"[He] cautioned against the use of wearable devices in clinical trials without a clear plan in place, which he likened to 'using a hammer to look for nails.'"

Conrad’s vision for the future of the project is simple: physicians could one day give the wearable to all their patients — healthy or otherwise — and maybe even use the devices to spot early signs of sickness. (Video via Pfizer)

That might’ve seemed far-fetched a few years back, but thanks to people’s general acceptance of the wearable market, now might actually be the perfect time for Google X’s holy-grail of wearables to take the health industry by storm. (Video via Google)

Google has said it will be collaborating with academics and drugmakers in testing the device’s accuracy beginning this summer.

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Rodents Dream Of The Journey To Their Next Meal]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0500
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Researchers at the University College London have discovered what rodents dream about.

And it turns out Disney Pixar wasn’t that far off.

In a press release the university said, "When rats rest, their brains simulate journeys to a desired future such as a tasty treat.” (Video via National Geographic)

Think of it like preparing for vacation. You could be so excited about the trip, you might dream about being there well ahead of time. (Video via Expedia)

The research team made the discovery by keeping four rats in a T-shaped pathway. Inside the tiny labyrinth, the rats could see food but weren’t able to get to what we can only assume was cheese.

Then, electrodes used to record the rodents' brain activity while they snoozed, indicated the rats' hippocampus was prepping a path. The hippocampus just also happens to be the area of the brain that "replays journeys" and may also be responsible for the content of some dreams. (Video via TED)

But an author of the study said, "What we don't know at the moment is what these neural simulations are actually for. … Something we'd like to do in the future is try to establish a link between this apparent planning and what the animals do next."

Clearly this study has some pretty interesting findings when it comes to dreams, but it’s also kind of — "Inception"-ey.

If we’re able to tell whether or not an animal is dreaming about a path to the food we’re keeping from them, how far are we away from incepting an idea into an animal’s dreams? Turns out we've kind of already done that, too. (Video via Animal Planet)

“The work that Xu and I have done found that we can not only artificially reactivate memories in the brain, but we can even create false memories in the brain.” (Video via Smithsonian Magazine)

That was Steve Ramirez, at the time a 24-year-old neuroscientist at MIT. Ramirez and his colleague Xu Liu successfully planted a false memory in a rat’s brain in 2013.

Don’t worry; no one will be hacking your dreams any time soon. Many — if not all — dream researchers want to use their findings for good; the MIT researchers had planned to tackle psychiatric disorders.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Failed Rocket Launches Cloud The Future Of Space Travel]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 14:31:00 -0500
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SpaceX's rocket explosion Sunday marks its first mishap during a contracted launch.

While it has lost rockets in testing and lost first stages as it developed reusable launchers, this is the first time supplies for the International Space Station have been on the line. (Video via KWTX, SpaceX)

Several minutes after launch, the Falcon 9 rocket experienced what SpaceX called "an anomaly on ascent." But SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell says initially the flight went as planned. (Video via SpaceX)

"First stage flight remained nominal. We do not expect this to have been a first stage issue. We saw some pressurization indications in the second stage, which we’ll be tracking down and following up on there," Shotwell said. (Video via NASA)

SpaceX now joins an unfortunate club: The last launch of Russia's unmanned Progress spacecraft ended with it losing control and burning up before it could deliver its supplies to the ISS, and Orbital Sciences' Cygnus capsule made it less than a minute into its launch last year before it blew up. (Video via NASA)

The SpaceX rocket was carrying provisions for the ISS crew, a new docking adapter intended for use with future commercial missions and a new spacesuit. While the loss is a setback, NASA's William Gerstenmaier says it's a recoverable one and says critical supplies for short-term operations are still at acceptable levels. (Video via NASA)

"We're in good shape from a food standpoint, from a water standpoint. We need to watch the multifiltration bed that purifies water. There was a replacement bed on this flight, and we’ll have to watch water levels," said Gerstenmaier. (Video via NASA)

Space News reports food supplies aboard the ISS will enter reserve level July 24 and won't be fully depleted until September.

Still, the string of high-profile failures is leading to some murkiness for the immediate future of space travel.

A BBC science analyst notes, "Depending how long it takes engineers to isolate and rectify the cause of the problem, SpaceX's timeline to that first crew launch could also now be set back by many months."

Gerstenmaier says it's too early to speculate on what this might mean for crew programs but also hints at how this failure could still be useful.

"This learning can actually kind of expedite things. We can actually learn from this failure; understand a weakness or a flaw in a design that we might not have seen for a while," Gerstenmaier said. (Video via NASA)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says more immediate information will come after a thorough analysis.

NASA lists Progress flight 60 as the next launch to the ISS, still on schedule for July 3.

This video includes images from SpaceX / CC0.

<![CDATA[SpaceX Resupply Mission Breaks Up Minutes After Launch]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 10:44:00 -0500
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SpaceX has lost its first contracted resupply rocket. It’s not yet clear what went wrong during its Sunday launch for the International Space Station.

"We stopped receiving data at about 2 minutes and 19 seconds from the vehicle. All of the video is being looked at, and the telemetry. At this point, it's not clear exactly what happened," said NASA's launch narrator following the incident. (Video via NASA)

NASA's launch live-blog reported confirmation of vehicle breakup, but until investigators have a chance to review data, that's as specific as the space agency will get.

NASA aircraft are now searching for debris from the rocket, which fell downrange into the Atlantic Ocean.

This is the first major blemish on what has been an otherwise stellar early career for SpaceX.

Of 18 launches to space, 18 have made it to space, and only one has encountered complications thanks to a faulty engine. (Video via SpaceX)

CRS-1's primary resupply mission to the International Space Station went flawlessly.

But a secondary payload from communications company Orbcomm fell out of orbit less than four days after it hitched a ride aboard the launch. (Video via SpaceX)

Note we're not counting SpaceX's experimenting with reusable launch vehicles in this tally. So far, its automatic landings haven't worked out, but each rocket has fulfilled its intended mission first. (Video via SpaceX)

SpaceX competes in the ISS resupply field with Russia's Progress program, which uses robotic capsules derived from Soyuz tech.

Fifty-seven of its 59 resupply flights have been successful. The most recent — and likely most notable — exception is Progress 59, which lost control and eventually burned up before it could reach the ISS. (Video via NASA)

SpaceX is scheduled to start carrying human crews as early as 2017, at which point the stakes get higher. There haven't been crewed launches from the U.S. since the shuttle program ended. (Video via NASA)

In 135 shuttle flights since 1981, four were cut short due to equipment or weather complications. Two failed, resulting in the loss of shuttles and their crews: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. (Video via NASA)

The Russian Federal Space Agency has made 58 manned Soyuz flights since 1992, with no fatalities. (Video via NASA)

With two years to go, SpaceX is already preparing its safety measures for manned flights. Last month it tested the abort rockets built into its crew capsule and anticipates in-flight abort tests later this year. (Video via SpaceX)

NASA is preparing for a press conference later this afternoon to discuss preliminary findings in its investigation of today’s failed launch.

On Twitter, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company will issue more details when it has a chance to review the launch data. Stay with Newsy for more updates.

This video includes images from SpaceX / CC0 and NASA.

Correction: A previous version of this video misstated that this was SpaceX's first rocket loss. It was the company's first loss of a contracted resupply rocket. The video has been updated.

<![CDATA[New Evidence For Saturn’s Age, Thanks To Hydrogen]]> Sat, 27 Jun 2015 10:56:00 -0500
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New tests on the lowly hydrogen molecule appear to confirm some old theories about the gas and could have big implications for one of our biggest planets. Brace for some science.

An 80-year-old theory first floated by physicists Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington suggests that when you put a lattice of hydrogen molecules under enough pressure, the gas starts behaving like a metal. It breaks into individual hydrogen atoms and releases electrons that can carry a current.

Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratory just obtained the first experimental evidence for the phenomenon. They used their high-energy x-ray generator to to magnetically compress hydrogen without heating it up, and it did just what Wigner and Huntington thought it would. (Video via Sandia National Laboratory)

The researchers say this could patch a hole in what we know about Saturn — specifically, its age. One of our existing computerized models determines the age of Jovian planets based on the radiation and heat they emit. As they age, they get cooler.

It pegs Jupiter at 4.5 billion years old — right in line with most theories of planetary formation. But the same model indicates Saturn is only 2.5 billion years old.

One possible explanation — supported by Sandia’s new findings — is rain. Six years ago, researchers suggested metallic hydrogen helped condense the helium in Saturn’s atmosphere into rain.

This process warms the planet and could account for why the computer models are coming up two billion years short.

To be clear, scientific consensus still puts Saturn at 4.5 billion years old or so, and Sandia researchers says it will take time to work the laboratory’s new hydrogen evidence into planetary age models.

In the meantime, they’ve published their findings in the journal Science.

This video includes images from NASA and The Nobel Foundation. Music by Nicholas Cheung / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[California Goes From Soft To Hard On Anti-Vaccine Movement?]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 09:39:00 -0500
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The same state that led the charge in the controversial anti-vaccine movement is now passing one of the strictest mandatory vaccine laws in the country. 

On Thursday, the California assembly approved SB 277, a bill that would eliminate the state's "personal belief" exemption and require children to be vaccinated before they're enrolled in school. (Video via CBS)

The personal exemption loophole previously allowed parents to skip their child's vaccinations for religious or personal beliefs. For instance, if parents felt vaccines were harmful or unsafe— a theory that gradually gained steam after a now disproven study linked vaccines to autism in 1998. 

California's anti-vaccine movement was blamed for a measles outbreak last January at Disneyland, which spread across California and even affected other states. 

The bill's supporters rallied around the case of Rhett Krawitt, a 7-year-old leukemia patient who was kept out of school because he couldn't risk being around unvaccinated children. (Video via the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Northern California Chapter)

People who protested the bill argued less about the specifics than the slippery concept they say the bill represents — state-mandated health care. 

The bill was voted through by a bipartisan vote of 46-30, and it will now return to the state Senate for final approval. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NASA Taps Microsoft For Latest Augmented Reality Tests]]> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 07:43:00 -0500
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NASA Astronauts are getting one of the first cracks at Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality headsets.

They’ll test the gadgets aboard the International Space Station as part of Project Sidekick, a program intended to increase task efficiency and reduce training time for astronauts on assignment. (Video via NASA)

Hololens can operate in remote expert mode, which connects a controller on Earth via Skype, who can see what the wearer sees through Hololens’ cameras. (Video via Microsoft)

Or in procedure mode, which uses local instructions and animations. NASA says this mode could be especially useful for long-duration missions away from the planet, where real-time video communication is less feasible. (Video via NASA)

NASA will run another set of Hololens tests during NEEMO expedition 21, aboard the underwater habitat NASA uses to replicate spacelike conditions. (Video via NASA)

If this sounds familiar, it’s because NASA has something of a fixation on augmented reality headsets.

NASA and ESA astronauts have run similar tests on headsets from Osterhout Design Group and on Google Glass. (Video via NASA, European Space Agency)

Glass especially got middling scores: astronaut testers found its portability generally wasn’t enough to outshine the limitations of its tiny display.

Hololens offers a fuller field of view, at least. Testing will begin when two headsets launch aboard SpaceX’s next planned resupply mission to the ISS, on June 28. (Video via SpaceX)

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[UN Says The World Needs To Do More To Fight AIDS]]> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:08:00 -0500
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We’re winning the fight against AIDS... But not fast enough. (Video via UNAIDS)

A commission made up of experts from the United Nations and The Lancet medical journal released a new report Thursday detailing how far the world has come in fighting AIDS. (Video via UNAIDS)

It’s somewhat sobering. According to the report, the world isn’t doing enough to combat the AIDS epidemic — at least not quickly enough. (Video via UNAIDS)

Essentially, the report says the world has the next five years to step up its fight against AIDS. If it does, the epidemic could be gone by 2030. If it doesn’t, then the progress made up until now will revert.

The human and financial consequences of that happening, says the executive director of UNAIDS, will be catastrophic. (Video via UNAIDS)

The United Nations has issued this warning before. Another report released last year bore the same message — ramp up the fight against AIDS by 2020 or else the epidemic will rebound. (Video via UNAIDS)

Of course, it’s not all bad news. The world has made big strides in its 34-year fight against the epidemic.

From 2001 to 2013, total annual HIV infections dropped by 38 percent. And from 2002 to 2013, annual HIV infections in children dropped by 58 percent. (Video via UNAIDS)

AIDS-related deaths dropped 35 percent between 2005, when the most deaths were recorded, and 2013. (Video via UNAIDS)

But there are signs more needs to be done. Of the estimated 35 million people living with HIV, 13.6 million are receiving the medicine they need to combat it. (Video via UNAIDS)

And 19 million do not know they have the virus. The United Nations says all 35 million will need to be on treatment if the epidemic is to end. (Video via UNAIDS)

The goal is to reach what the United Nations calls 90-90-90 status by 2020 — where 90 percent of those with HIV know their status, 90 percent of those who know their status are on medication, and 90 percent of those on medication are getting better.

This video includes music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Flushed Goldfish Prompt Invasive Species Scare In Canada]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:10:00 -0500
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Goldfish and rabbits probably don't have much in common, but one Canadian province is comparing the reproductive abilities of the two species to describe a goldfish problem that just keeps multiplying — literally. 

The Alberta, Canada, government is asking goldfish owners to refrain from tossing their fish in bodies of water or flushing them down the toilet. The warning comes after dinner plate-sized goldfish were found in an Alberta storm pond. 

Alberta Environment and Parks officials are concerned these fish are reproducing in the wild because they could disrupt aquatic environments. Take for instance this goldfish invasion in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this year. 

"The pet fish is upsetting the natural balance, draining resources for native fish and birds," KMGH reporter Jaclyn Allen said. 

"It won't take long for it to really ruin the fishery," Colorado wildlife official Jennifer Churchill said.  

And goldfish aren't the only problem. Alberta's government has plans for a campaign this summer to stop the spread of invasive species, which it defines as non-native species with "little to no natural predators" and that pose a risk to the "economy, environment or human health." 

Zebra and quagga mussels, like those in this photo, can spread quickly, survive out of water for 30 days and damage boats and pipes. The Alberta government is asking boaters from other provinces and states to thoroughly inspect and clean their gear to prevent invasive species from spreading. 

As for goldfish owners, their jobs are much easier: Dignify your presumably dead fish by giving it a proper burial instead of flushing it down the toilet — where it could later reappear in the wild. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and SabrinaDan Photo / CC BY NC ND 2.0

<![CDATA[Energy-Efficiency Improvements Might Not Pay Off]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:35:00 -0500
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Upgrading your home to be more energy efficient may cost more than it's worth. A study from the University of Chicago and University of California says the benefits may not be as big as you think

The study focused on the Weatherization Assistance Program, the nation's largest residential energy efficiency program helping about 7 million low-income families since 1976. The program generally helps families get insulation installed, weather stripping laid down or furnaces updated, among other things. (Video via Idaho Power Company)

The problem is, the study says, "The upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings."

We should note this working paper hasn't yet been peer reviewed. The study's authors said their research focuses on Michigan and shouldn't be applied to other states or programs. However, there could be some interesting takeaways for future research.

The homes received on average about $5,000 worth of upgrades paid for by the government program, at no cost to the home owner. The upgrades reduced month-by-month costs by about 10-20 percent but only saved about $2,400 by the end of the upgrades' lifetimes. 

It's a problem those in the industry are aware of. The research director for Resources for the Future told The Washington Post"There's a lot riding on energy efficiency programs, and we need to understand better what we know and don't know about them."

The study didn't address a few of the newer and more advanced forms of making homes energy efficient as weather technology, along with the weather itself, constantly changes. Products like Nest can help control a home's temperature without manual adjustments. (Video via Nest)

And new smartphone and smartwatch technology aims to give you more control over household items. 

"Going out," said the narrator in a Samsung promotional video.

"Going out. Look at that. Her lights dim down, her air conditioning starts to turn off, the robot vacuum cleaner is alive."

One of the study's researchers said energy efficiency could be key to fighting climate change, but he called for more field testing of efficiency programs to see which offer the most potential.

This video includes images from Getty Images.


Correction: A previous version of this video failed to state that this working paper's findings should not be generalized beyond the sample studied in Michigan. This video has been updated. 

<![CDATA[Drug Testing With Microchip Organs: No Living Things Needed]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:19:00 -0500
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As the worlds of medicine and tech continue to merge, the Wyss Institute at Harvard University has created a device that could change — and maybe completely do away with — animal testing in modern medicine.

Organs-on-chips is the name of the this new piece of tech, and according to the Wyss Institute, it functions like a living organ, like the human lung. Here's what goes on inside these microchips.

"We introduced bacteria in the air channel ... and we introduced white blood cells in the blood channel. We then saw white blood cells migrate across the capillary cell layer through the central membrane and into the airspace where they engulfed the bacteria."

Along with lung on a chip, there's bone marrow on a chip, kidney on a chip and researchers hope to continue making these separate devices until they have enough to mimic whole-body physiology or in other words, "human-body-on-chips."

Researchers say this new method limits many of the problems facing the pharmaceutical industry when testing new drugs. First, it's less expensive – according to the Wyss Institute, testing a single compound the traditional way can cost upwards of $2 million.

Second, because the organ-on-chips devices use human cells, researchers say they can better predict human responses to drugs during tests. 

"One of the things the pharmaceutical industry is finding is very high failure rates and often it's because the animal models being used to develop these drugs are not predictive of the human situation," Wyss Institute Researcher Geraldine Hamilton said.

And third: This option could be more sustainable than testing new potentially dangerous drugs on animals. 

And it seems the Organ on Chips device has already gained some interest across the medical field. In June, Emulate Inc., the private company selling the tech, partnered with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is owned by consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson. 

Before that, Emulate received more than $40 million in grant money from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. 

The Organ on Chips design is also the recipient of the London Design Museum's Design of the Year for 2015, which called the Organ on a Chip not only beautiful but a "design that can significantly impact society now and in the future."

<![CDATA['Hellboy' To 'Thunder Thighs': How Dinos Get Their Nicknames]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:06:00 -0500
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It seems like it shouldn't take much to make dinosaurs cool — especially considering the latest movie loosely based on them is breaking all sorts of records right now. (Video via Universal Pictures / 'Jurassic World')

And yet when you look at dinos in the news, you get headlines describing "Hellboy" dinosaurs, "Jar Jar Binks" dinosaurs and even a "chicken from hell." (Video via BBC)

Those descriptions often have a tenuous connection with reality, as evidenced by that "Jar Jar Binks" dinosaur, Deinocheirus, which basically looked nothing like Jar Jar Binks. (Video via University of Alberta20th Century Fox / "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace")

And that makes it seem like someone is trying to make dinosaurs — which, again, are already cool — even more eye-catching. But who?

While Jar Jar appears to be a press invention, other monickers — like the "chicken from hell" — come straight from the scientists themselves, who gave it that nickname as a joke.

Same goes for the "Hellboy" dinosaur, the "platypus" dinosaur, and the "thunder thighs" dinosaur, who actually got the nickname worked into its scientific name.

Seeing how easily these nicknames translate into headlines, the notion that giving your dinosaur an outlandish descriptor could help get it noticed doesn't seem like a stretch — given how hundreds of new dinosaurs are discovered every year.

But little nicknames don't compare to some of the sensationalizing that went on during paleontology's early modern history.

The race to collect and discover new fossils in the U.S. during the 19th century was such that science took a back seat to self-aggrandizing, with high-profile figures — like Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh — resorting to theft and bribery to try to outdo one another.

In that context, a couple outlandish nicknames don't seem so bad, especially when one objective of paleontologists, and scientists in general, is to draw more people to the sciences. (Video via The Salt Lake Tribune)

As paleontologist Steve Brusatte explains, "Jurassic Park" — the original one — kind of played that role, too. "It inspired a huge number of people to study dinosaurs," and it "led many museums and universities to hire dinosaur experts, and catalysed [sic] a burst of funding for palaeontological research." (Video via Universal Pictures / "Jurassic Park")

So even if the "chicken from hell" doesn't look that much like a chicken, if the name gets people looking, that might be enough. 

This video includes images from Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural HistoryJulius T. Csotonyi, Gabriel Lío, and Emily Willoughby / CC BY SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Telescope Construction On Sacred Hawaiian Ground Will Resume]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 09:30:00 -0500
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Protesters are opposing the construction of a new telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii — again.

Progress on the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, stalled earlier this year after some protesters were arrested on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island.

The mountain ticks all the boxes for a perfect astronomy location. It's more than 12,000 feet up, above much of the visual interference from Earth's atmosphere. Air and light pollution are minimal, skies are clear some 300 days a year and Hawaii is close to the equator, meaning a wide arc of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres is visible from the ground. (Video via National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

From there, officials say the TMT's 492 hexagonal mirror panels will be able capture images more detailed than even those from the Hubble Space Telescope. (Video via Thirty Meter Telescope)

But there are already 12 scopes at or near the summit of Mauna Kea, and some native Hawaiians have opposed new construction on ground they hold sacred.

Protesters interrupted the TMT’s groundbreaking ceremony in October of last year. (Video via Big Island Video News)

More demonstrations in March and April led to arrests, and protesters have returned to the summit ahead of Wednesday's planned construction. (Video via KHON)

In a statement, TMT officials say they've spent the recent idle months in dialogue with stakeholders.

"We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land." (Video via Thirty Meter Telescope)

If construction proceeds, the TMT will be on track to come online sometime in 2022.

This video includes images from SiOwl / CC BY 3.0 and Alan L. / CC BY 2.0. Music by Planet Boelex / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Pakistani Heat Wave Leaves Nearly 800 Dead]]> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:42:00 -0500
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Pakistan is suffering from a deadly heat wave that's already killed hundreds of people.

Dawn, a Pakistan-based news organization, reports there have been nearly 800 deaths in the nation’s southern province of Sindh. (Video via Dawn)

Power outages and water shortages have only exacerbated the situation as temperatures soared to around 113 Fahrenheit over the weekend. Since then, the temperatures have stayed above 100 degrees. (Video via ARY News)

Add in the fact that this is the fasting month of Ramadan and you have dangerous conditions for those not able to get access to water or cooler conditions.

“A little while ago I was about to collapse. It’s so hot I can barely speak. What can I say? We sometimes have to break the fast out here in this heat,” a laborer told BBC.

Speaking to Time, a meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department said the heat wave was unprecedented and that “It has never been this bad.” (Video via Dunya News)

In an interview with Dawn, one doctor from Sindh’s provincial capital Karachi, said “We are continuously receiving people in a critical condition or dead; there has been no let-up.”

Temperatures have been gradually dropping and rain is expected to improve the weather. 

But a Karachi-based BBC reporter says the city’s population is angry at the government for its apparently slow response to the heat wave. (Video via Geo TV)

Pakistan joins India in dealing with heat waves, where last month more than 2,500 people died amid high temperatures.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Invasive, Gross Flatworm New Threat To American Snails]]> Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:44:00 -0500
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For whatever reason, most people probably don't find snails as cute as this woman apparently does. (Video via Youtube / ck12321212)

But cute or not, snails in the U.S. are facing a threat that anyone would struggle to find cute: the New Guinea flatworm. 

This is a picture of the flatworm, Platydemus manokwari, and it's significant because it was taken in Florida, making it one of the first records of the flatworm in the continental U.S.

The problem for snails is flatworms are voracious snail predators, and Platydemus has the added threat of being extremely invasive. (Video via Youtube / Nico4nicola)

It's the only flatworm on the Invasive Species Specialist Group's list of the 100 worst invasive species on the planet, and its arrival in France prompted fears about the country's precious escargot.

Luckily for French chefs, the researchers say the invasion there has been mostly contained to a greenhouse in Normandy, highlighting one way the worm gets accidentally spread: plants. (Video via

It's not clear exactly how it got to the U.S., but the researchers say the worm can get transported with plants and plant soil, which means they could hitch a ride on plant imports. 

And the U.S. faces some unique problems when it comes to containing the invasion, as the researchers explain:

"While most of the infected countries and territories reported until now are islands, from which the spread of the species through human agency is limited by means of transportation and various business and biosecurity protocols, our new record, Florida, will not be subjected to these limitations."

If the species establishes itself in the U.S., it would pose a threat not only to snails but also to native earthworms, which are already threatened by more than 60 other invasive earthworm species. (Video via Colgate University)

This video includes images from Dave Huth / CC BY 2.0Shinji SugiuraMakiri Sei / CC BY 4.0 and Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Following A Trend: General Mills Removing Artificial Flavors]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 12:55:00 -0500
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"We're embarking on this journey to update our recipes in our cereal products and to remove artificial flavors and artificial sources of color," said a General Mills representative in a video. 

Cereal giant General Mills announced Monday it would be making some big changes. The company pledged to remove all artificial colors and flavors from the remaining 40 percent of its cereal products that still have those items. 

The company has a history of focusing on key ingredients. In 1930, the company began adding vitamins and nutrients to cereal. And in 2005, it launched a major campaign to beef up its products with more whole grains. 

So what will the newest makeover look like? 

According to General Mills, teams have been working to replace chemically created colors and flavors with spices, fruits and vegetables. For instance, Reese's Puffs will now be flavored with natural vanilla.

The company said the change is a result of consumer preferences. A 2015 Nielsen report found more than 40 percent of people said an absence of artificial colors and flavors is important when purchasing food.

It's a trend many restaurants and food chains are following, too. Kraft, Nestle, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Panera and Subway have also put the axe on artificial ingredients in recent years. 

For General Mills, Reese's Puffs and Trix are up first for renovations. The marshmallows in Lucky Charms, however, are proving to be a bit more difficult to alter. The company said changes to that cereal will begin next year.

General Mills plans to have its entire updated cereal stock on grocery store shelves by the end of 2017.

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

<![CDATA[The Future Of Wind Farms Could Hinge On Owl Wings]]> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 10:05:00 -0500
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One of the primary complaints from opponents of wind power is the noise turbines produce. (Video via Youtube / Dani McGriffith)

Another complaint is they kill birds, although researchers say they're probably responsible for a tiny fraction of the bird deaths existing cell towers and cats cause.

But there's reason to believe birds could hold the key to solving wind power's problems. Well, one type of bird in particular. (Video via Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

With a rig of highly sensitive microphones, the BBC, in its "Unexpected Wilderness," demonstrated just how quiet owls can be compared to other birds. (Video via BBC)

Now, researchers say owls' unique aerodynamic wing design has yielded a material that could help make quieter wind turbines — and quieter planes for that matter. (Video via Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust)

Lead researcher Nigel Peake explains, "The structure of an owl's wing serves to reduce noise by smoothing the passage of air as it passes over the wing — scattering the sound so their prey can't hear them coming."

The researchers said their final design could reduce wind turbine noise by 10 decibels, which would bring the average noise produced down to 30 decibels at 300 meters — the closest wind turbines usually get to residential areas. That's basically imperceptible. (Video via Campbell Associates)

Even more promising, the researchers found using patterning that resembled wedding-veil material reduced noise by 30 decibels, although they say that material isn't suitable for turbine design. (Video via Percy Handmade)

And while there isn't peer-reviewed evidence that the noise wind farms produce is substantially louder than, well, the wind itself, it has been a sticking point for opponents, something quieter turbines could brush aside. (Video via PBS)

This video includes an image from Theshelfs / CC BY 3.0.

<![CDATA[What Are You Supposed To Do On The Summer Solstice?]]> Sun, 21 Jun 2015 10:50:00 -0500
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Earthlings in the Northern Hemisphere: Are you hot enough yet? Well, Sunday we're welcoming the longest day of the year.

Right, summer solstice! So besides it being opposite of the winter solstice, how do we explain this annual event?

To understand the summer solstice, you've got to understand the Earth's tilt. It might not feel like it, but the Earth is skewed at a 23.5-degree angle. It's also spinning while spinning — but that's for another day.

"The overhead sun is over the Tropic of Cancer. It receives the largest amount of solar radiation. … On this day, the length of daytime in the Northern Hemisphere is the longest of the year," according to an explanation in a video from the Kurdistan Planetarium.

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points out, the name itself speaks to the length of day: "The word solstice comes from Latin solstitium or sol (the sun) + -stit-, -stes (standing)." Basically, it'll feel like the sun is standing still.

Since most places up north can expect somewhere around 16 hours of daylight on the summer solstice, it’s a good time to soak up some rays. But the annual event also coincides with many formal traditions.

In Scandinavia, for example, they celebrate Midsummer, a historically Pagan celebration in which people feast and dance around a maypole. (Video via

They also drink and sing — at the same time. "We recommend two beers per nube. This will improve both your singing and your Swedish," a participant said.

In some Christian traditions, people celebrate the nativity of St. John the Baptist through feasts and bonfires.

If you’re confused on what to do for summer solstice, just eat or take a picture of the sun. You'll have plenty of time for both.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Bartolomeo Veneto and music by Bensound / CC BY ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Cassini Probe Has Close Encounter With Saturn Moon Dione]]> Sun, 21 Jun 2015 10:35:00 -0500
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The Cassini space probe just grabbed some of the closest images yet of Saturn's moon Dione.

The probe passed within 321 miles of the surface and captured its craters with a visible-light camera.

This is Cassini's second-to-last planned visit to Dione and its second-closest approach to date. In 2011, it was just 60 miles above the surface.

Cassini made orbit at Saturn in July of 2004, where it started a four-year primary mission. Mission planners have since extended the probe's operations through 2017. (Video via NASA)

They hold it up as the most ambitious planetary exploration mission ever. In its now nearly 11 years of science, Cassini has studied Saturn's rings and moons, its atmosphere and its magnetic field.

Early in its visit it also dropped the Huygens probe onto the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. (Video via NASA)

"By studying the satellites in the Saturnian system we begin to understand something also about the origin of the Solar System," said a NASA scientist. (Video via NASA)

2017 is the end date because encounters with Titan will eventually alter Cassini's orbit enough to send it into Saturn's atmosphere.

Until then, it will be collecting more images of the planet and its moons and setting up for a final orbit that sends it between Saturn and the planet's rings.

This video includes images from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

<![CDATA[How Humans Can Try To Prevent Sixth Mass Extinction]]> Sat, 20 Jun 2015 11:57:00 -0500
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Scientists have a dire warning for us; that we are in the beginning stages of a mass extinction that could threaten humanity's existence. (Video via NASA)

"We are now entering another one of these events that could easily, easily, ruin the lives of everybody on the planet," said Stanford professor Paul Ehrlic.

Before, some scientists had challenged theories that extinction was happening at a rate that hasn't been seen for millions of years, saying researchers overestimated the crisis.

But new research published in Science Advances found that even by extremely conservative measures"species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate."

The last mass extinction the earth saw was 66 million years ago — the demise of dinosaurs. That extinction and others before it are believed to have been caused by large-scale natural disaster. (Video via Discovery)

Now, the researchers say we're already seeing the beginnings of what would be the first mass extinction that was caused by a species on Earth. And it's not just species being completely wiped out that poses a problem, but also populations dwindling to the point they can't fill their niche in an ecosystem.

"We are not likely to lose the honeybee as a species, but we're already losing it in lots of places were it's very important say for pollinating your almond orchards," said Ehrlich.

Researchers say we could avert this crisis through more intense conservation methods.

In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, one of the study's researchers, Anthony Barnosky, gave some tips for the extinction crisis that he says is very real. (Video via University of California, Berkeley)

One of those suggestions is to eat less meat. Barnosky says if land used to grow food for animals was instead used to grow food for people, there would be less deforestation to make room for farmland.

And he suggests supporting conservation organizations, like the World Wildlife Fund, by symbolically adopting an endangered species.

Barnosky also says we all need to try to reduce our carbon footprint to try to slow global warming. That advice comes as earlier this month scientists at NOAA found what was thought to be a hiatus in the rise of global temperatures could be explained by problems with the way temperatures are measured. The hiatus has been a major argument touted by global warming skeptics.

Barnosky says people should also make sure they are buying products that don't threaten species, whether that be indirectly through deforestation or directly from products like ivory from elephants. Just Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to raise awareness about the ivory black market by crushing one ton of it in New York City. (Video via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

If humans fail to act, the lead researcher said, "life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on."

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NASA's SOFIA: Why A Plane Is A Good Place For A Telescope]]> Sat, 20 Jun 2015 08:29:00 -0500
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Your traditional telescope is anchored to the ground under a big dome.

But sticking one on a plane works better than you might think.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which is a joint venture between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, is a 100-inch infrared telescope mounted to a heavily modified Boeing 747. (Video via NASA)

SOFIA just started five weeks of science in the southern hemisphere, flying out of an airport in Christchurch, New Zealand.

And at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, it has a better vantage point than even the highest ground-based observatories in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

At that height, the telescope is above 99 percent of the water vapor in the atmosphere, which makes for some of the clearest images short of orbiting observatories.

On this deployment, astronomers will focus SOFIA’s instruments on the births and slow deaths of massive stars.

Project Scientist Pamela Marcum says such giants are so rare “even the nearest examples are more than a thousand light years away.” SOFIA’s telescopes are perfect for the high-precision job.

It will also collect observations of Pluto’s atmosphere less than a month before NASA’s New Horizons probe is scheduled to pass the protoplanet. (Video via NASA)

SOFIA is perhaps the best observatory for that task, as well, since it’s easier to put in the right place in the right time than even orbital telescopes. It did the same thing back in 2011. (Video via Smithsonian Channel)

The rest of SOFIA’s observations will continue through July. The plane is expected to return to its home airport in California on July 24.

This video includes images from the European Southern Observatory, NASA, and music by Broke For Free / CC by NC 3.0

<![CDATA[What Agent Orange Does To The Body]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:37:00 -0500
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More than 2,000 U.S. airmen who suffered from Agent Orange exposure will receive a total of about $47.5 million in benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A January report on the herbicide is getting much of the credit for the decision announced Thursday.

Vets have to prove they worked on a C-123 aircraft contaminated with the substance during the Vietnam War and that they're showing symptoms. 

In Vietnam, America dropped more than 19 million gallons of herbicides, with Agent Orange being the favorite. The hope was that the chemicals would strip Vietnam of its dense trees and give U.S. soldiers the upper hand.

The reason Agent Orange is so dangerous is because of the chemical dioxin. Once in the body, it can hit just about everything — including the nervous, respiratory and circulatory systems.

"Dioxin remains toxic for decades," a spokeswoman for Make Agent Orange History said.

It's also not water-soluble, meaning it doesn't degrade easily, and genetic effects can be passed down through generations after one person's exposed.

For some vets, the first symptoms began with blurred vision, memory loss and lack of concentration. From there, the symptoms can get a lot worse. 

Agent Orange has been linked to prostate cancer, lung cancers, Parkinson's disease and birth defects. After coming back from the war, soldiers and their children born after the war began to show symptoms. (Video via Java Films / "The Children of Agent Orange"

Vets began protesting as effects showed, but the VA said there was a lack of evidence to support their claims. (Video via The New York Times)

"We don't mean to say there isn't an Agent Orange effect, but at this point in time we don't seem to see anything that confirms that there is something there specifically," Dr. Alvin Young from the VA Agent Orange Task Force said in media clips compiled by The New York Times.

The VA eventually backtracked, and in 1991, the Agent Orange Act was passed — allowing vets to receive benefits. 

On Thursday, the secretary of the VA said in a statement, "Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do." 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Last Month Was The Hottest May On Record — Again]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 08:44:00 -0500
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Last month was officially the hottest May on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA tracked temperatures 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit above the worldwide average of 58.6 degrees.

NOAA says the heat is thanks at least in part to El Nino. The cyclical warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean can lead to what we're seeing now: record temperatures and record rainfall. (Video via NOAA)

Not only did May mark the warmest spring and the warmest first five months of the year ever recorded worldwide, but in the U.S., it was also the single wettest month ever. (Video via CNN, ABC)

This is a trend. May set the same record in 2012, and a new one in 2014. Both years set new records for the hottest in modern history. (Video via NASA)

In fact, according to U.N. data, 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have all come in the 21st century, and the heating trend is expected to continue.

This video includes images from NASA and Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Why Is The US Crushing 1 Ton Of Ivory In Times Square?]]> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 07:28:00 -0500
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Importing ivory in the United States is almost completely banned. And to highlight just how serious it is about the ban, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is crushing one ton of ivory in New York City's Times Square on Friday. (Video via roger smith / CC BY NC 2.0)

The idea is to spread awareness about the illegality and consequences of wildlife trafficking. It's also meant to send a message to any traffickers that the U.S. doesn't welcome the illegal trade. (Video via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services)

This isn't the first ivory crush either — the first was done in Denver, Colorado in 2013 when six tons of elephant ivory was destroyed. 

The bulk of ivory in Friday's crush will be what the U.S. government seized from Victor Gordon, a Philadelphia man who in 2009 was found to have smuggled more than 400 pieces of carved elephant ivory valued at almost $800,000.

The World Wildlife Fund says as many as 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory. In the past, much of that illegal ivory came to the states with a 2008 study saying the U.S. only lagged behind China as one of the largest ivory markets.

Since then, the U.S. government has implemented stricter laws that almost entirely ban imported ivory. Only non-commercial sport-hunted trophies are allowed, and even those may soon be limited.

And yet, in 2014 police told The Washington Post that for every crate containing trafficked goods discovered in New York's JFK Airport, about 10 get by. They just don't have the resources to catch everything.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, the executive vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society says the fact that older ivory from before an international ivory ban was implemented is still legal complicates the fight against illegal trafficking. 

"Elephants that were killed prior to 1989, fundamentally are okay. But the animals that were killed after 1989, you cannot use their ivory. Now here's the situation, you can't really tell the difference. It's really hard."

But, there may soon be more ways to combat illegal trafficking — a new study released this month suggests DNA from trafficked ivory may be useful in tracking where poachers kill elephants.

This video includes images from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

<![CDATA[NASA Hits Milestone For New Exploration Mission To Europa]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 08:51:00 -0500
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NASA’s planned mission to Europa has passed its first internal review and now enters the stage known as formulation.

This would be NASA’s first visit to Jupiter or its moons since New Horizons flew by on its way to Pluto, and the first dedicated science probe since the Galileo mission wrapped up its tour of Jupiter and its moons in 2003.

Europa is one of the leading candidates for worlds that might support life beyond Earth. The mission, which doesn’t have an official name yet, would send a dedicated probe to investigate Europa’s physical characteristics and evaluate its potential for supporting life. (Video via NASA)

The Galileo mission showed Europa exerted influence on Jupiter’s magnetic field, consistent with conductive fluid beneath the moon’s icy surface. The leading theory now is Europa is covered by a global ocean of saltwater. This new mission’s science payload is designed to explore that possibility.

“Cameras and spectrometers to collect high-resolution imagery, an ice-penetrating radar to measure surface thickness and look for subsurface lakes, and a magnetometer to measure the strength and direction of the moon’s magnetic field.” (Video via NASA)

One problem is the radiation. Jupiter emits high-energy electrons that can damage sensitive equipment aboard space probes.

“Any mission that goes in the vicinity of Europa is cooked pretty quickly. Instead we’re looking at a mission that would orbit Jupiter, make close flybys of Europa, and then zip out of the high-radiation region,” said project scientist Robert Pappalardo. (Video via NASA)

The probe would complete an orbit around Jupiter every two weeks or so, for an expected total of 45 flybys.

It will be a while, though. This early in the process NASA hasn’t even started assembling the spacecraft. A launch isn't expected until sometime in the 2020s.

This video includes images from NASA and music from Jenova 7 / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

<![CDATA[Pope Steers Church Focus To Climate Change With Encyclical]]> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 08:39:00 -0500
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Pope Francis’ first encyclical is out — so what does it say? (Video via Vatican Television Center)

Pope Francis has released his first encyclical, as was expected, the pontiff is taking a hard stance on fighting climate change.

The 184-page letter, released Thursday, seals the Pope’s position on a number of issues. In it, he calls for solutions to such problems as fresh drinking water shortages, deforestation, pollution, climate change and global inequality.

In one section, he writes “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution for goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

The encyclical offers an uncommon intersection between science and religion, and comes ahead of highly anticipated climate talks set to resume later this year in Paris. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

Speaking to The New York Times, a Catholic theology and culture chair at the University of Dayton said encouraging environmental concern is less about the church teaching policy and more about what lies at the core of the church’s teaching. (Video via GoPro)

A reverend who heads the German-speaking section of Vatican Radio told The Guardian, “Yes, we talk about justice and poverty. And now we also talk about ecology. There is now an added element to the official teaching of the church, and it is not something Francis has made up. It is in the Bible.” (Video via Vatican Television Center)

And while scientists may be satisfied knowing a global figure such as the Pope is reinforcing the danger of climate change, others have been less than pleased.

While answering an audience member’s question about the Pope’s encyclical at a campaign rally event Tuesday, Jeb Bush said he doesn’t get his economic policies from his pope.

And a recent Pew Poll found while more than 8 in 10 Catholic Democrats believe the Earth is warming, only half of Catholic Republicans agree, and only a quarter of Catholic Republicans says it's a man-made problem.

The Pope did work in a defense against abortion in his encyclical though, giving weight to some of the church’s more conservative beliefs.

<![CDATA[Who Knew Moon Dust Was So Important?]]> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 22:45:00 -0500
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Our own moon still has some mysteries, even after all these years of exploration. But who would have guessed that moon dust would be one of the most enduring? (Video via NASA)

A new study found that the moon sports a large, permanent cloud, even though it has no atmosphere, and the dust is most likely being kicked up by a constant stream of tiny particles hitting the surface. (Video via NASA)

The research used data from NASA's LADEE mission, which studied the moon from a low-altitude orbit. It found that the cloud got thicker when the moon went through, say, a comet's path or a meteor shower. (Video via NASA

The moon has been known to have some kind of cloud ever since the Apollo missions in the '60s and '70s. Astronauts saw a faint glow on the horizon, which wouldn't happen without either an atmosphere or a fairly dense cloud of dust close to the ground. (Video via NASA)

And the new findings don't actually solve that mystery. The particle impact theory only explains why the moon would have a large, thin cloud. If it also has a short, dense one, there would have to be some other phenomenon at work. (Video via NASA)

All of this sort of underlines an interesting fact about space exploration: dust is a big deal, and understanding dust could be the key to successfully colonizing other planets. 

Lunar dust is one of the factors making permanent moon bases a distant dream. NASA describes it as an abrasive, clingy threat, that can be contaminated with radiation, can be toxic, can build up static electricity and, some of the early astronaut photos show, it gets everywhere. They also say it smells like gunpowder. 

Dust shuts down Mars rovers by coating their solar panels. It gets on spacesuit visors and limits visibility. It can even clog sensitive equipment if it's allowed to float around inside the spacecraft. You can see why it's a big deal. (Video via NASA)

And to add insult to injury, it will eventually erase all of the human footprints on the moon's surface — unless we go make some new ones, that is. 

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[Fat Found In Avocado Could Help Fight Certain Cancers]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2015 21:52:00 -0500
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There may have been a time when avocados were thought of as nothing more than a guacamole ingredient, but those days are over. 

Now, if you see a list of "superfoods," foods with good fat profiles or high vitamin content, it's a pretty safe bet avocados will make the cut. 

And they may even be the key to fighting some types of cancer. Researchers at the University of Waterloo have been studying how a molecule found in avocados could one day fight off acute myeloid leukemia. 

The findings come from the lab of Paul Spagnuolo, where researchers test a variety of compounds found in common foods, looking for promising treatment applications. 

The research, published in the journal Cancer Research, details how the avocado-derived substance attacks the leukemia stem cells, combating the disease while leaving healthy cells unharmed. 

The findings don't necessarily mean eating avocados can directly fight acute myeloid leukemia, but they do mean that a new treatment option may be on the way for an aggressive disease that kills more than 10,000 Americans each year. 

This video includes images from Jaanus Silla / CC BY 2.0, Scot Nelson / CC BY SA 2.0 and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

<![CDATA[Why Plant-Eating Dinos Might Have Avoided The Equator]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2015 16:38:00 -0500
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It has long been known that large herbivorous dinosaurs did not populate tropical areas during the late Triassic Period, which was about 230 to 200 million years ago. But, oddly enough, no one knew why.

Well, according to a new study, it was the unstable climate that kept those herbivores from migrating to tropical areas. 

As one of the researchers from the study put it, "Large, warm-blooded dinosaurian herbivores weren't able to exist close to the equator — there was not enough dependable plant food."

Simply put: no plants, no plant-eating dinosaurs. Scientists say carbon dioxide levels then were four to six times what they are now, which made those regions more arid and unfriendly to plants. The study also suggests wildfires persisted during this period with varying intensity, which killed off more plants. (Video via BBC)

Two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs could survive in the tropical areas throughout the Triassic period, but the unstable climate kept the herbivorous dinosaurs out of tropical areas until the beginning of the Jurassic Period. 

In order to conduct the study researchers analyzed fossils, charcoal left by ancient wildfires and stable isotopes from organic matter and carbonate nodules that formed in ancient soils.

The study's lead researcher, Jessica Whiteside, said, "Each dataset complements the others, and they all point towards similar [climate] conditions."

Whiteside also points out that if the human race doesn't change as it relates to carbon emissions, we could experience similar conditions in the not-so-distant future. (Video via Ben Seese / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

This study was published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science."

<![CDATA[FDA Trans Fat Ban Could Hurt Those Who Didn't Heed Warnings]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2015 09:18:00 -0500
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A massive win for health experts as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration orders food producers to phase out the main source of trans fats over the next three years.

The FDA's ruling posted Tuesday morning read, "There is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids (IP-TFA) are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in human food."

This is huge news for the food industry, which uses a lot of trans fat, but it's not like companies didn't have time to prepare.

The Obama administration had warned of such a ban for some time, and many of the first lady's initiatives are health-based. The government hopes the ban helps fight cardiovascular disease. (Video via The White House)

But Politico notes those warnings have created some serious maneuvering even before the ban takes effect, from food producers altering the ingredients they use to lawyers ready to punish those who don't.

"Class-action attorneys are eager to use the ruling ... to file lawsuits against deep-pocketed food companies that have continued to use the ingredient, even as the rest of the industry has masterfully reduced its use of trans fat by some 85 percent."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Germany Sees First MERS-Related Death In 2 Years]]> Tue, 16 Jun 2015 09:10:00 -0500
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Germany has had its second ever documented death linked to the MERS virus, and the first in two years.

A 65-year-old man died Tuesday in Lower Saxony from what German media is reporting were complications stemming from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

According to the Lower Saxony Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Equality, the man had actually overcome the MERS virus after contracting it in the United Arab Emirates.

But a lung disease thought to have been caused by the original MERS infection eventually killed the man on June 6. His name has not been released.

There’s currently an ongoing MERS outbreak in South Korea, which has infected more than 150 people, according to the World Health Organization.

That outbreak began when a 68-year-old Korean man contracted the virus before returning from a recent trip to the Middle East and visiting multiple health care facilities. (Video via KBS)

The World Health Organization says 19 people have died from MERS-related symptoms in South Korea so far, but the number of new cases per day has been in decline, which may indicate the outbreak is slowing down. (Video via YTN)

MERS was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and is known to be transmitted from camels to humans. Around 36 percent of all cases have been fatal. (Video via World Health Organization)

Germany has only had two prior cases of MERS — one in 2012 and one in 2013. One patient died from the virus while the other fully recovered. A virologist told Deutsche Welle MERS posed "no immediate danger to Europe" since it's difficult to spread the virus from person to person outside a hospital setting.

This video includes an image from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases

<![CDATA[CVS, Target Merger Might Boost Health Of Both Companies]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 12:19:00 -0500
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CVS Health took another bold move toward drug store supremacy — while Target now has nearly $2 billion to go toward revamping its share in the discount retail market. 

In a deal announced Monday, CVS will acquire Target's pharmacies and health clinics for $1.9 billion. Those businesses will be rebranded under the CVS banner and will operate as stores within Target stores. 

At least initially, the deal appears to be a win-win. CVS now has the consumer reach of hundreds of Target locations, which opens up a new field of potential customers. 

Target, which has been recovering from a $5 billion misadventure in Canadian expansion, retains all the traffic-driving benefits of its pharmacy business, but now it doesn't have to deal with the costs of actually operating its own pharmacies and clinics. 

In a statement, Target CEO Brian Cornell said the partnership allows Target to offer industry-leading health care while focusing on delivering value to Target's wellness-product customers. 

CVS is looking for a leg-up on its industry-leading competitor, Walgreens, and its been gobbling up expansion opportunities over the last couple years.

Just last month, CVS bought nursing-home pharmacy Omnicare Inc. in a deal valued at $12.7 billion dollars. 

CVS plans to open 20 new clinics in Target stores within three years of the deal's closing. The clinics, which will be branded as CVS Minute Clinics, are part of its plan to operate 1,500 by 2017. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[A Man's Finger Length Could Reveal If He's A Good Date]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 11:04:00 -0500
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Forget his eyes. When looking for the perfect date, check out his hands. A new study says men with masculinized digit ratios show greater courtship-related consumption. 

In simpler terms, a man's finger — not shoe size — apparently matters. If a man's index finger is shorter than his ring finger, he's more likely to spend money to impress a woman, such as buying flowers or paying for dinner.

Let's give every guy a second to check their fingers.

"They seem to be equal in size," ABC's Dan Harris said. 

"Warning!" said Amy Robach.

"There was a reason I didn't get married until 38," Harris said. 

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, actually found the opposite effect for women. Women with longer index fingers compared to their ring fingers were more likely to make a greater effort to attract potential boyfriends.

Besides being more likely to give romantic gifts, the study says, "women with feminized fingers are more likely to wear makeup, wear stylish clothes, use a special perfume ... and wear jewelry to attract potential boyfriends."

The difference in finger length is caused by the amount of testosterone and estrogen one receives in the womb. More testosterone means a shorter index finger compared to the ring finger, and more estrogen leads to the opposite. 

According to the researchers, past studies have shown greater testosterone in men and greater estrogen in women prenatally leads to greater sex drives for both in adulthood. They're guessing this is the underlying cause for the use of romantic purchases. Yeah. All for sex.

Previous research also found men with shorter index fingers were more likely to have children. And a study from McGill University earlier this year found this same group of men had more harmonious relationships with women. 

And to pour on the benefits, a study back in 2011 found men with shorter index fingers are perceived to have more attractive faces, again thanks to the increased testosterone. Some guys really do have all the luck. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Poll Finds Most Adults Are In Favor Of Powdered Alcohol Bans]]> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 10:54:00 -0500
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While powdered alcohol's already been approved for sale by the Food and Drug Administration, it's been banned or is on the verge of being banned in several states. Now, a new poll suggests most adults agree with those bans. 

Researchers from the University of Michigan found 60 percent of adults surveyed in the U.S. are in favor of a ban on powdered alcohol sales in their states. Additionally, 84 percent are in favor of banning online sales and 85 percent for restricting marketing of the powder on social networks.

"What that suggests is that there is a fairly high level of concern about powdered alcohol especially where kids might get more access to it, for example through online sales and hear about it through online marketing," said director of the National Poll on Children's Health Dr. Matthew Davis. 

Powdered alcohol, or palcohol, is exactly what it sounds like — alcohol in powder form. Add it to water and you've got an alcoholic drink. (Video via Chemical & Engineering News

It sounds almost too easy, right? That's where the concern lies as many believe it could be abused by teens looking to drink. 

ABC's Chief Health and Medical corespondent Dr. Richard Besser said"It's one thing to patrol for cases of beer and bottles of booze, but having to look for little packets? I worry it could lead to more underage drinking, making it easier."

There's other concerns, too, including those who may use the powdered alcohol to spike drinks or snort — two things a tester for Wired believes are unrealistic. 

"There's just no way someone would go through this much trouble to spike a drink with an ounce of alcohol. ... You'd have to do these 30 lines to get half a shot of alcohol," Wired writer Brent Rose said.

The University of Michigan survey also found 90 percent of adults believe the substance would be misused by people under the age of 21.

<![CDATA[Philae Lander Phones Home After 7-Month Nap On Comet]]> Sun, 14 Jun 2015 10:23:00 -0500
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The Philae lander has come back online and made contact with Earth after hibernating for seven months on the surface of comet 67P-CG.

The European Space Agency recorded 85 seconds of contact through the Rosetta orbiter, during which Philae passed on current and historical data it had collected on conditions on the surface of the comet. (Video via ESA)

Philae is reporting a charge of 24 watts, or a roughly 17 percent of its battery capacity. Controllers say it's enough to resume science operations, including drilling into the surface to analyze the comet’s composition in more detail.

Philae shut down in November of 2014 when complications during landing put it in the shadow of a cliff instead of direct sunlight.

This cut down on the vital solar exposure Philae needs to charge its backup power cells: Instead of the six-plus hours of daily sunlight its designers had initially planned for, Philae gets about 90 minutes.

So researchers reprioritized their science plans. Once Philae's initial 60-hour battery charge ran out, it entered hibernation, and the mission became a waiting game. (Video via ESA)

This first contact in months means scientists could get the chance to try some of their experiments again, but the connection is still spotty. After that 85-second message, ground stations lost contact again. (Video via ESA)

Still, it's looking good for the little lander. As Comet 67P-CG orbits closer to the Sun, controllers hope Philae will get more sunlight for longer period of time to keep itself going.

This video includes images from the European Space Agency and DLR German Aerospace Center / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[The High-Tech Tools Scientists Use To Track Wild Animals]]> Sun, 14 Jun 2015 10:10:00 -0500
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Science in recent years has seen an explosion of wildlife tracking-devices that are enabling new insights and scientific breakthroughs. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

That's the thesis of a recent paper in the journal Science, which argues tracking is essential in understanding how animals are reacting to the slew of environmental threats they face. (Video via Texas Parks and Wildlife)

But different animals require different tracking devices, and as the technology develops, those devices are getting increasingly specialized.

For birds and flying mammals, geolocators often take the form of a little solar-powered harness, which is fitted to the back of the animal and can weigh as little as half a gram. (Video via SongbirdSOS Productions)  

To collect data in the past, most of those geolocators had to be retrieved through capture, but an increasing number are able to transmit data remotely, which enables scientists to track a bird over its entire lifespan. (Video via Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Untamed Science)

For large mammals, like this mountain lion, collars are the preferred tracking device. But, beyond tracking where they go, a lot of these collars can also monitor the cats' metabolism and behavior, among other things. (Video via National Science Foundation)

Some trackers go even further — with one group of researchers using a miniature EEG cap to study how sloths sleep in the wilderness.

Other devices let us take a more literal look at the lives of wild animals, with camera-fitted collars giving us, in this case, a bear's eye view of the wilderness. (Video via Missouri Department of Conservation)

Beyond learning about animals themselves, the researchers argue these advances allow scientists to use wild animals as sensors to monitor the changing planet: (Video via World Wide Fund for Nature)

"Recent examples include the monitoring of arctic temperatures and vegetation changes during climate change and documenting ocean currents, and in the future may allow for the estimation of altitudinal wind profiles based on bird flight parameters."

More broadly, the researchers argue, tracking wildlife is important in understanding the unpredictable ways animals adapt to that changing planet — and a vital tool for ecology in the future.

This video includes an image from Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.

<![CDATA[Brace For The Vatican's Entry Into The Climate Change Debate]]> Sun, 14 Jun 2015 08:34:00 -0500
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Pope Francis' first encyclical  — a letter to the world's Catholics — is due Thursday.

A big focus is expected on man's influence on climate, the interplay between it and the world's poor, and humanity's moral obligation to protect the environment. (Video via the Vatican Television Center)

The New York Times writes, "By wading into the environment debate, Francis is seeking to redefine a secular topic, one usually framed by scientific data, using theology and faith."

The Vatican insists the encyclical is a theological message, rather than a political one.

Still, it comes as highly anticipated climate talks are set to start later this year in Paris. In January, Francis lamented what he called a lack of progress in December's Lima conference. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

Bishops are expected to be cautious with their support in the U.S., where they represent some 51 million Catholics and are wary of pushing too far into a contentious political issue.

Some from the conservative right seems to prefer Francis leave it alone, too.

"Oh, everyone's going to ride the pope now. Isn't that wonderful. The pope ought to stay with his job and let us stay with ours," Sen. James Inhofe said. (Video via The Guardian)

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, has long been vocal about his views on climate change. He's the senator who tossed a snowball across the Senate floor to illustrate the nonissue of climate change. (Video via C-SPAN)

At the same time, Pope Francis has plenty of supporters. One conglomerate of environmental activists in Brazil even put together a glitzy encyclical trailer. (Video via Observatório do Clima)

Pope Francis is also slated to address both Congress and the U.N. General Assembly on climate matters in September. (Video via United Nations)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA['Jurassic World' And Its Dino-Sized Inaccuracies]]> Sat, 13 Jun 2015 21:59:00 -0500
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You might have already heard this a time or two but sometimes Hollywood ignores science for spectacle and "Jurassic World" is no different. Scientists just can't decide whether that's a bad thing or not. 

Since the trailer dropped, there have been all sorts of thinkpieces on the inaccuracies in the movie. 

See that giant fish monster? That's called a Mosasaurus. However, scientists have written it shouldn't be that big, it shouldn't have that frill on it's back and it's not technically considered a dinosaur since it doesn't live on land. Those teeth, though. Those are real. 

Also, scientists say the Velociraptors are scaled up as well. Those should only weigh about 75 pounds and be about the size of a medium-sized dog. 

And another thing, paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara tells GQ that dinosaur brains are likely too simple to be trained the way Chris Pratt trains them in the movie.

"I would not try the Chris Pratt move there. The whole dinosaur whisperer thing is probably a good way to get yourself eaten," Lacovara said. 

The inaccuracy that seems to be drawing the most frustration is the lack of feathers. Since the discover that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, the scientific community agrees that the vast majority of dinosaurs had some kind of feathers somewhere on their body. 

We can forgive 1993's "Jurassic Park." This theory didn't pop until after that movie was made. 

A paleontologist writing for CNN is pretty irked by this detail calling it "a huge leap backwards and a bitter disappointment." 

Jack Horner, the paleontologist that consulted with the film's producers, tried to explain the lack of feathers are about preserving the franchise's continuity.

"The 'Jurassic Park' movies are all one story ... With new discoveries, we just kind of have to shelve them if they conflict with the way they look," Horner told Metro.

Regardless, not all scientists are upset by the errors. A pair of paleontologists told The Washington Post that the movies made dinosaurs much more popular and put a lot more interest in that area of science.

Matthew Mossbrucker, director of the Morrison Natural History Museum, told the Post, "It's true that from what I've seen, the dinosaurs in 'Jurassic World' are not the most accurate. But these are opportunities to have people ask great questions and to educate them —  not excuses to throw popcorn at the screen."

This video includes images from Getty Images, Ballista / CC BY SA 3.0 and Matt Martyniuk / CC BY 2.5.

<![CDATA[Google's Sidewalk Labs Could Ease Cities' Growing Pains]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 12:58:00 -0500
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Google wants to make cities more efficient — so it's throwing a company at the problem.

Its new startup Sidewalk Labs will be devoted to solving the growing pains of cities as more and more people move to urban areas.

Google cofounder Larry Page called the company a "modest" investment but says Google is committed:

"Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey [Brin] and I have always believed that it's important."

Google has tapped former New York City Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff to run the company. (Video via The University of Chicago)

In a press release on Sidewalk’s website, Doctoroff said, "We hope that Sidewalk will play a major role in developing technology products, platforms and advanced infrastructure that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world."

Google plans to tackle issues, such as improving governmental operation, cutting down on energy usage and increasing transportation efficiency.

That's a broad mandate, but if there's a company equipped to handle it, it's probably Google. It already runs apps and services designed to improve urban living — such as Waze and Google Maps — and has experience developing and investing in efficient energy solutions. (Video via Google)

These issues will be increasingly important in the next decades. The U.N. estimates 60 percent of the world population — some 5 billion people — will live in urban areas by 2030. It's a lot of people to keep fed, transported, employed and healthy. (Video via ABC)

And according to the U.N., food and energy infrastructure especially is already lagging. Food production might need to increase by 70 percent worldwide through 2050 to keep pace with urban hunger. (Video via The United Nations)

It's not clear what problem Google might give Sidewalk Labs first. The company has yet to announce when the new division will get down to business.

This video includes images from Getty Images. Music by Suplington / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[Australia On Course For Climate Change Showdown In Paris]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 12:07:00 -0500
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While Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott is busy warning the world about the dangers of ISIS, a French official is the latest figure warning the continent about climate change. (Video via Office of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott)

That French official is climate envoy Nicolas Hulot, who says Australia needs to double its current rate of cutting emissions to keep up with other countries. (Video via EurActiv)

As it stands, Australia's goal is to reduce emissions 5 percent by 2020, in relation to levels in the year 2000. (Video via ABC Australia)

Compare that to the U.S., which set a goal of 17 percent by 2020, in relation to 2005 levels, and Australia's goal looks pretty conservative. (Video via Al Jazeera)

Especially when you factor in that Australia has some of the highest per-capita emissions in the developed world. There's a reason for that. (Video via Lonely Planet)

Abbott has repeatedly said climate change isn't the biggest global issue: He's argued against international climate pacts, and his top business adviser has called it a global conspiracy. (Video via Sky News)

At the same time, Abbott has continually supported coal production, one of the country's biggest exports and a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia. (Video via Science Channel)

But climate change could worsen one of Australia's most destructive recurring disasters: bush fires. The massive wildfires cost the country millions of dollars on an almost yearly basis. (Video via BBC)

The CEO of Australia's Climate Council told The Guardian the country is already seeing longer fire seasons: "Put simply, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of very hot days and is driving up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather." (Video via HotHouse Sydney)

Australia still hasn't released it post-2020 goals, but on its current trajectory, Hulot estimated it would cut emissions 20 percent by 2030. (Video via Parliament of Australia)

It still has time to adjust that, though. The U.N.'s Climate Change conference in Paris doesn't start until Nov. 30. (Video via French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development)

This video includes music from Little Glass Men / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Classifying Cat Pictures Could Lead To Smarter Computers]]> Thu, 11 Jun 2015 10:58:00 -0500
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These aren’t just safari photos. The million-plus images of the Snapshot Serengeti project could be a significant boon to both conservationists and the scientists training our computers to recognize the abstract makeup of images: to know that’s a cheetah or those are giraffe knees.

The project started in 2010 when then-doctoral student Alexandra Swanson set up 225 automated cameras in a rough grid to capture wildlife moving around in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

In 2012, some of the cameras' collected images — about 300,000 shots of local wildlife — went online so people could help identify the subjects.

Visitors can narrow down which animals are in a shot by filtering for characteristics, such as body type, whether it has a tail and what its fur pattern looks like.

The data shows, on average, these volunteer naturalists are 97 percent correct. In case of ambiguous images, they cast majority votes.

What's more, the researchers say this is the perfect opportunity to train our computers to better recognize various animals.

Not only do they now have a huge pile of pre-identified images to work with, the Los Angeles Times explains the candid nature of each shot presents an important challenge:

"Camera traps often capture images with the critter out of focus, only partly in the frame or with other individuals — and computer programs must be trained to account for all these factors."

Computer vision is a relatively new field, but it's already making big strides.

"The computer, at the lowest level, begins to recognize very simple features, like the edges of objects," said The New York Times' John Markoff.

In one highly publicized experiment, Google's neural computer network taught itself to recognize cats.

More recently, researchers at Cornell University's ornithology lab have developed software that can reliably identify 400 of the most common species of bird in North America. (Video via Cornell University)

And computers are getting better at recognizing the abstract objects that make up a given image. (Video via TED)

Swanson and the rest of the team on Snapshot Serengeti expect their images will be used to push machine vision further along. In the meantime, their findings to date have been published in the Nature journal Scientific Data.

This video includes images from Snapshot Serengeti / CC BY NC SA 3.0 and music from Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0

<![CDATA[New Study Says Your Birth Month Could Help Predict Disease]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 09:40:00 -0500
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Some people swear by the predictive powers of zodiac signs. And while there's no scientific evidence to support Capricorns having better luck with Scorpios, this guy says the month you're born in could make a difference in your future health.

"We examined 1,600 diseases, approximately, and looked for birth month dependencies. We looked for significant deviations," lead researcher Nicholas Tatonetti explained.

The scientists looked at a massive amount of data studying 1.7 million Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital patients treated between 1985 and 2013.

The study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center says there are at least 55 diseases that are significantly dependent on birth month. The study confirmed 39 known associations and discovered 16 new ones.

But Tatonetti tells Time it's less about birth month and more about birth season, calling the season a baby's born a "proxy for variable environmental factors." (Video via Institute of Medicine)

For example, a baby born in late summer or fall may be at a higher risk for asthma because the mother spent many of her pregnant months during the winter.

"The lowest risk we found was in May, and the highest risk was actually in October and November, those months we associated with the most diseases," Tatonetti said.

But he also stresses for people not to be alarmed by the research and that factors like diet and exercise play a much larger role in your overall health. 

This study was published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association.

This video includes images from Remko van Dokkum / CC BY 2.0, Kristy Faith / CC BY 2.0, PlantronicsGermany / CC BY ND 2.0 and JamesJustin / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[New York's Latest Food Battle: Salt]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 08:33:00 -0500
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The New York City food and drink wars continue. 

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to ban big sodas in 2013.

A move that was ultimately shot down by New York's Court of Appeals.

But now there's a new agenda in NYC — against salt.

The New York City health department is set to propose a new requirement for chain restaurants Wednesday, requiring the restaurants to put warning symbols next to food items with a high sodium content.

"I don't see a problem with it. I mean, I think, it's better to be informed, right?" said one man on the street when asked about the warning symbols by a WABC anchor.

"I think it might be a good idea for people with health conditions," another woman said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, only recommends 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon of salt a day. The average American currently consumes about 3,400 milligrams a day.

So, a "Big Apple" margarita would definitely be labeled. 

Considering margarita recipes call for that recommended 1 teaspoon ... for a single glass.

The New York City Health Commissioner told USA Today the goal is to "reduce premature mortality."

And one thing contributing to people dying young? High blood pressure. And, depending on a person's diet, high amounts of salt can be a major factor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 3 American adults has high blood pressure. The nationwide cost of the condition is $46 billion each year.

But for restaurants to label all dishes over the daily recommended amount? They'd likely have to label a lot.

We checked out Applebee's pasta & seafood section of its menu. Of the eleven dishes, eight were over the recommended daily salt intake and  the remaining three accounted for more than half the recommended daily salt intake.

And of the 17 appetizers on Chili's menu, 12 were over the recommended daily salt intake, with the cheese fries actually being double the recommended amount. The other five appetizers were over half the recommended amount.

There are about 40 Chili's and 40 Applebee's locations in the New York City area. The proposal is expected to be introduced at the city's board of health meeting.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Jeremy Brooks / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Chimpanzees Like Drinking 'Alcohol' Too]]> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 08:14:00 -0500
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Researchers have found some chimpanzees in West Africa are habitual drinkers.

The 17-year study marks the first observations of repeated and habitual alcohol consumption by any wild ape.

Researchers observed chimpanzees using wadded-up leaves as sponges to drink raffia palm sap, which turns into an alcohol when it ferments. The sap is about 3 percent alcohol by volume, roughly equivalent to a really light beer. (Video via The Royal Society)

One researcher told the BBC "Some individuals were estimated to have consumed about 85 mL of alcohol" per visit, or an amount “[approximately equal to a bottle of wine]".

And while the researchers observed altered behavior in some chimpanzees after drinking, they say it's not clear if they got drunk in the traditional human sense. 

Importantly, they say there's no concrete evidence of this behavior in the wild. Chimps need humans to start the process.

The researchers wrote, "Raffia palm sap drinking is opportunistic, relying on a person having installed the specialized equipment to drain the sap from a mature palm."

Still, the study supports what’s known as the "drunken monkey" hypothesis: that some 10 million years ago, a common ancestor to humans and other primates evolved the ability to metabolize alcohol more effectively than other animals.

Not like moose. There's evidence moose in Norway might sometimes get drunk after eating piles of fermenting fruit, which could explain the shoe shopping. (Video via National Geographic)

Lorikeets are lightweights, too. (Video via National Geographic)

But not certain tree shrews. One study found they can drink enough to get a human tipsy, but they don’t appear to feel it. (Video via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Of course, even primates have their limits. In the Caribbean, some vervet monkeys who steal human alcohol show the apparent universal signs of intoxication. (Video via BBC)

Maybe they should take notes on the chimpanzees’ moderation. The new findings have been published in Royal Society Open Science.

This video includes images from Getty Images and M. Nakamura / CC BY 4.0. Music by Kratos Himself / CC BY NC SA 3.0.


Correction: An earlier version of this video said the amount of liquid in a bottle of wine is 85 mL, instead of the amount of alcohol in a bottle of wine. This video has been updated.

<![CDATA[Culture And Animal Rights Clash Over Yulin Dog Meat Festival]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:24:00 -0500
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The decades-old tradition of eating dog and cat meat during the summer solstice seems normal for residents in the southern Chinese city of Yulin. 

Each year, some 10,000 dogs are cooked and consumed in the name of health and tradition.

Legend suggests eating dog meat can dispel evil ghosts, cure disease and even boost men's sexual performance, according to the South China Morning Post

But animal rights groups angered by the tradition have tried to grab the attention of media outlets thousands of miles from the festival, and it looks like it's working.

Hashtag Stop Yulin 2015 is gaining power, and this year, activists in the western half of the world are joining the fight.

City government officials in Yulin said they shut down the festival last year in response to outside media pressure. But Vice reports locals participated in the customs anyway. So will they do the same during this summer solstice?

"Despite all this and spurred on by fierce backlash across China, some Yulin locals say this year they're even more set on plowing down man's best friend by the cageful," said a Vice correspondent.

Humane Society International's petition to stop the festival has hundreds of thousands of signatures, and another U.S. nonprofit based in California is asking for donations to help end the killing of dogs and cats for food in China.

"We have a growing team of dedicated activists but not nearly enough to take this festival down. We need investigators to track the dog thieves on the ground in China and lobbyists to push forward more humane laws," according to a report from an animal activists group.

Yes, you heard right — dog thieves. Activists say Yulin residents kidnap people's pets and scoop up strays to provide meat for this celebration and gain a little cash.

Media outlets — such as CNN and Vice — say activists' allegations of animal cruelty are backed by what reporters have seen on the ground.

Tiny cages, dogs still wearing collars and crying puppies are the norm during transport days leading up to the festival. 

In a country that currently doesn't have any animal welfare laws, Chinese activists have done their part to try to curb the tradition by emphasizing food safety threats. From street protests to paying for the release of captured dogs, the efforts might be working. The New York Times reports meat sales during the 2014 Yulin festival only reached a third of what they were the previous year. (Video via YouTube / Lisa Price, CNN)

However gruesome it might seem to some, tradition is tradition. For the nearly 7 million people living in Yulin, practicing their ancestors' rituals is an important part of their culture. 

This year, the festival begins June 22. 

<![CDATA[Criminalized Abortion: Ireland's Conservative Side]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 12:58:00 -0500
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When Ireland legalized same-sex marriage through a national referendum last month, many greeted it as a progressive victory. (Video via YouTube / Cian Mac Mahon

"Ireland has just taken bounds and leaps forwards to ensuring that everyone is equal in this country," one man told Channel 4

But an Amnesty International report released Tuesday says when it comes to abortion, Ireland is actually less progressive than almost everyone else in Europe. (Video via Vice)

The report, entitled "She Is Not a Criminal," argues Ireland's criminalization of abortion violates human rights and "only Andorra, Malta and San Marino have more restrictive laws, prohibiting abortion in all cases." 

The strongly Catholic country codified the church's opposition to abortion through a popular referendum in 1983, which led to a constitutional amendment equating the right to life of the mother and fetus. (Video via RTE)

For perspective on just how much influence the church has wielded in Ireland, the country wouldn't legalize divorce until 1996. (Video via EWTN Ireland)

There have been a couple high-profile cases that have drawn out opposition to the country's abortion law, such as the 2012 death of an Indian dentist in Ireland. The dentist died of blood poisoning after doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy. (Video via YouTube / Parentesidicristallo)

More recently, in 2014, an asylum seeker who said she was raped in a war zone told The Irish Times she was denied an abortion in Ireland, despite having allegedly expressed suicidal intentions. 

In most cases, the Amnesty report says Irish women seeking abortions travel to the United Kingdom, which has more liberal abortion laws. The report says 10 to 12 women make the trip every day. (Video via BBC)

Public opinion within Ireland on abortion isn't clear but seems to show growing support for legal abortion. A 2010 poll found 60 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds support it, and a 2014 poll found a majority overall favor a new referendum on the issue. (Video via Irish Examiner)

Nevertheless, late last year, Ireland's health minister said he opposed such a referendum. (Video via Dail Eireann)

<![CDATA[A Stroke Could Age Survivors' Brains By 8 Years Overnight]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 11:54:00 -0500
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Researchers from the University of Michigan have found that even if you're lucky enough to survive a stroke, the disease ages the brain by an average of eight years overnight. 

The researchers began testing thinking speed and memory scores in 1988 and examined individual differences in people who suffered one stroke and did not have dementia within 12 years of when the study started.

Now this eight-year drop in cognitive abilities is an average, and we should note the strength of the claim might be less clear-cut. 

A meta-analysis published last year from Qingdao University in China found the prevalence of post-stroke cognitive impairment ranges between 20 percent and 80 percent of stroke patients, depending on the study.

The reason for this disparity? Differences in the criteria for people examined included age, education level, occupation and heart conditions. Some studies also claim different races age more than others post-stroke.

Other studies in the meta-analysis claim strokes will influence just one cognitive aspect — such as attention or language — due to the specialized layout of the brain.

All participants included in the University of Michigan study were older than 65. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 34 percent of stroke patients are younger than that.

Also, University of Michigan researchers did not find a significant difference in cognitive impairment between black and white subjects.

More concrete answers among studies may be needed, especially since the CDC reports almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke annually.

This video includes images from James Heilman, MD / CC BY SA 3.0Intel Free Press / CC BY SA 2.0 and Getty Images.  

<![CDATA[High Heels May Be A Danger To Your Health]]> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 06:25:00 -0500
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Those fancy-shmancy high heels of yours might not be so great for your health.

According to a recent study from researchers at the University of Alabama, between 2002 and 2012, emergency rooms have seen a whopping 123,355 high-heel-related injuries.

The researchers collected data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks injuries in specific hospitals and uses that data to make nationwide estimates. (Video via Geneva General Hospital)

In other words, it takes a small amount of data — in this case 3,294 high-heel-related injuries — does some statistical calculations, and cranks out an estimate: the 123,355 injuries we mentioned before.

The study, published in The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, found most of the injuries were “sprains and strains to the foot and ankle” and happened mostly to women aged 20 to 29 years. (Video via YouTube / Michelle Phan)

One might assume high-heel-related injuries occur during a night out on the town, but the study’s lead investigator said the team found a particularly surprising tidbit:

“Nearly half the injuries occurred in the home, which really supports the idea of wearing the right footwear for the right occasion and setting.” 

According to the American Osteopathic Association, high heels can cause a lot more damage than just a sprain or a strain. Ingrown toenails, damaged tendons, nerve damage, osteoarthritis of the knee and low back pain are just some of the possible complications that can arise.

So how can you protect yourself when you’re looking to add an extra inch or two?

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society says you might want to cut back on those particularly high heels.

You should also limit the amount of time you spend in your favorite pair of heels, and opt for strapped shoes with an open toe — that will prevent you from getting ingrown toenails. (Video via Louis Vuitton)

You can learn more tips and tricks on the AOFAS website.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Chris Goldberg / CC BY NC 2.0 and Gerard Stolk / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Networks Of Kidney Donors Connect Strangers, Bypass Waitlist]]> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:18:00 -0500
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Imagine standing in a slow-moving line with 100,000 other people. It's frustrating, right? 

Now imagine doing that when your life depends on it. 

That's reality for about 100,000 Americans waiting for a kidney transplant. But that frustration has sparked a new loophole: the kidney transplant chain. (Video via Barnes-Jewish Hospital)

The simplest kidney chain involves four people: One person wants to donate a kidney to a loved one, but isn't a match. So that person donates a kidney to a compatible stranger in exchange for an immediate kidney — donated by a fourth person — for their loved one in need. (Video via Visual Health Solutions)

Last week, 18 people in San Francisco underwent surgeries that swapped nine kidneys in 36 hours. In 2012, the New York Times covered a chain between 60 people, and just this past April, 26 hospitals across the country connected for the largest chain yet — 68 people and 34 new kidneys.

Orchestrating a kidney donation is difficult: The donor and recipient must have matching blood types and antibodies, and they both need to be healthy. Even then, the body could reject the new organ.

A kidney chain helps someone's odds of finding a perfect match, even if it's from a complete stranger. But there are other challenges involved, such as transporting a human organ on an airplane to another hospital. (Video via The New York Times)

The first known four-person kidney swap was performed in 2000 in Rhode Island, but the first chain, involving 16 people paying it forward, was led by UCLA doctors in 2008. (Video via UCLA Health)

The concept has gained momentum since then, which is good news for Americans waiting for a transplant. (Video via The Doctors)

That 100,000-person line moves a lot faster when 60 people leave at a time.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[China's On Track To Beat Emissions Goal — Because It Has To]]> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 11:10:00 -0500
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One of the big topics for this week's G7 summit in Germany is climate change, but it's a country not on the G7 that could have the biggest impact on that issue: China. (Video via Italian Government)

China's the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world and, as such, has commitments when it comes to cutting greenhouse gases — commitments it might be on course to meeting. (Video via Arirang)

That's according to research from the London School of Economics, which says the country is set to level off emissions by 2025, if not earlier — five years ahead of its current goal of 2030. 

China committed to that goal in a joint deal with the U.S., which — at the time — critics alleged, "requires the Chinese to do nothing, at all for 16 years, while these carbon emissions are creating havoc." (Video via CBSThe White House)

But China has more motivation to cut back its emissions than just an agreement, because it stands to bear the brunt of catastrophic climate change. 

China's agricultural sector has already seen some effects of warming, with the country's north seeing increasingly severe droughts over the past years. (Video via Climate Reality)

There's also China's most publicized environmental problem: air pollution.

In 2010 alone, polluted air reportedly lead to the premature deaths of more than 1.2 million people in China, as much as 13 percent of GDP in costs. (Video via VICE)

"At the same time, they've got exposure to the climate change problem, and they're worried about their energy security issues. So they've been looking to diversify their energy sources ... that means getting off the fossil fuels," Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer told PBS.  

It's a priority China seems to realize, as its officials have spoken to that effect, and it's invested heavily in renewable energy. (Video via CCTV)

Six of the top 10 manufacturers of solar panels are based in China, and the country leads the world in solar panel installations as well. (Video via DuPont)

That's just one part of what the London School of Economics' report called China's turn away from the unsustainable growth of the past three decades: (Video via The New York Times)

"China’s 'new normal' will need to foster a dynamic process of structural transformation, in which sustainable growth, energy security, a clean environment and a steep decline in emissions all reinforce one another."

But how exactly China aims to implement that growth pattern won't be known for sure until it reveals its next five-year plan, set to start in 2016. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[LightSail Spacecraft Has Glitchy But Successful Test Mission]]> Sun, 07 Jun 2015 21:45:00 -0500
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On Sunday, a private organization of space enthusiasts was able to claim its first major victory in well over a decade of developing solar sail technology. 

For weeks, the project has seen glitches, software problems, repeated shutdowns and even an unlikely save by a passing bit of solar radiation, but The Planetary Society's Lightsail spacecraft was finally able to deploy its sails Sunday, condemning the budget solar sail to a swift and fiery death in Earth's atmosphere. 

That part, at least, was planned. The spacecraft that's been keeping so many Planetary Society engineers on their toes recently is a prototype, destined for a short mission that will help sort out the bugs before a longer mission scheduled for next year. 

Solar sailing is one of those technologies that's been around forever in theory but proven somewhat tricky in practice. The basic idea is simple: build a large, thin kite made out of reflective material that can literally use the gentle push of sunlight for propulsion. 

The appeal is that, even though sunlight only provides a tiny bit of force, it provides it all the time. That means solar sails can keep moving fast and faster indefinitely without having to carry fuel or propellant. Some scientists think they're humanity's best chance to ever send a spacecraft to another solar system. (Video via NASA)

But the history of solar sail technology is one of repeated failures and sheer bad luck. 

The Planetary Society saw two of its earlier spacecraft lost to rocket malfunctions. NASA also lost a solar sail prototype to a rocket failure and saw another one cancelled at the last minute. Its NanoSail-D2 is its only truly successful test, and it was limited to low Earth orbit. 

Japan's space agency seems to have had the most luck with solar sail technology. The IKAROS spacecraft has been going strong for five years, and was the first solar sail spacecraft to make the trip to another planet. 

But despite a history that a writer for Motherboard once described as "borderline cursed," The Planetary Society is going full speed ahead with solar sail technology. It has three more missions in the works after this month's successful test flight. 

The organization's CEO, Bill Nye the Science Guy, said in a statement, "We've learned a lot about perseverance on this test mission. Although it's in inertial space, LightSail has had me on a rollercoaster. I want to thank the engineering team; they've done fantastic work."

This video includes images from The Planetary SocietyNASALuke Duncan / CC BY NC 2.0 and Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Dementia May Be Part Of What's Killing Off The Bees]]> Sun, 07 Jun 2015 17:21:00 -0500
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Another day, another theory about what's behind the mysterious disappearance of the Earth's bees. (Video via BeesOnTheNet / CC BY 3.0)

This time it's dementia caused by aluminum found in nectar. Aluminum is considered a neurotoxin and some have linked it to Alzheimer's disease in humans, although that hasn't been definitively proven. (Video via / CC By 3.0)

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, said in human brains, aluminum content above 3 parts per million could lead to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found aluminum levels in bee pupae that ranged between 13 and 193 parts per million. 

The researchers in the study described aluminum as the "most significant environmental contaminant of recent times," adding to a long list of research citing aluminum's harmful effects.

The levels of aluminum present in acid rain are known to be incredibly harmful to certain species of fish, and the EPA warns it can even completely eliminate a species from a specific body of water. (Video via Christian Ashby / CC by 3.0)

The damage done to soil has also been linked to deforestation because it robs the soil of nutrients the vegetation needs in order to grow.

Aluminum in acid rain can also cause crops to deteriorate or stop growing because plants are able absorb nutrients and water naturally. 

And now biologists from Keele University and the University of Sussex want to add bee dementia to the list of aluminum's harmful effects. 

Bees have pretty complex brains. There is even some research suggesting they may have some capacity for memory. Since bees need their brains to collect pollen and nectar for food, dementia would pose a significant risk to their survival. 

There are a lot of theories out there on what could be killing off the bees, the most prominent being pesticides. 

One of the authors on this recent study says it could be a culmination of several things, "It is widely accepted that a number of interacting factors are likely to be involved in the decline of bees and other pollinators – lack of flowers, attacks by parasites, and exposure to pesticide cocktails, for example."

This video contains images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Quick Response And Low Infectivity Could Avert MERS Epidemic]]> Sat, 06 Jun 2015 10:12:00 -0500
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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has now infected 50 people in South Korea, and killed four. The virus, for which there is no known vaccine or treatment, has triggered a fierce crackdown.

“South Korean President Park Geun-hye has demanded that everything is done to stop an outbreak of the deadly virus MERS in her country.” (Video via Euronews)

“More than 500 schools have been shut down in South Korea to help prevent the spread of the MERS virus,” said CNN’s Amara Walker.

The outbreak has drawn comparisons to the 2003 SARS epidemic in China, which was blamed for 774 deaths. Both come from the same family of respiratory infections known as Coronaviruses, but the medical community thinks tackling MERS will be easier.

This time around, scientists can bring better identification, more accurate tracking and faster quarantine procedures to bear. One researcher told NBC, “As long as the virus hasn't changed, they'll be on top of it.”

Epidemiologists expect the heightened awareness and rapid response in South Korea means MERS won’t take off the same way SARS did. It also helps that this new version simply doesn’t have the same transmission potential. (Video via ABC)

That’s when a virus has — or develops — the ability to quickly spread through human populations. When its potential is at or above 1, epidemics become statistically more likely.

One analysis showed that absent containment procedures, SARS has a potential of about 3, meaning one case could spread it to roughly three other people. Studies have shown MERS typically spreads to 1.5 people at most, and usually fewer than 1.

That’s even accounting for so-called “superspreaders,” or those anomalous individuals who carry extremely high viral loads and can spread a virus to dozens of other people.

Health agencies traced the origin of South Korea’s outbreak to one such person.

The World Health Organization says as of now, “there is no evidence to suggest sustained human-to-human transmission in communities and no evidence of airborne transmission.”

That’s definitely good news: because while MERS doesn’t spread as easily as SARS, it is more deadly. Where the death rate for SARS topped out at 9.6 percent in its last major outbreak in 2003, MERS’ fatality rate is 36 percent.

Since 2012, MERS has infected more than 1,180 people, mostly in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia. Nearly 450 have died.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Eric Fischer / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[The EPA's Fracking Study Missed A Big Problem: Earthquakes]]> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 12:42:00 -0500
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Five years ago, environmentalists were concerned about water contamination when Congress commissioned an Environmental Protection Agency study on the effects of fracking.

Now that study is out — and the results seem stuck in 2010. 

While the natural gas industry celebrates the EPA's finding that drinking water was largely unaffected by fracking, the report disregarded an arguably bigger issue: earthquakes. (Video via WildEarth Guardians / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

In the five years the EPA has been looking at drinking water, fracking-heavy states like Texas and Oklahoma — not traditionally prone to earthquakes — have become some of the most active seismic zones in the country. 

Oklahoma averaged about one and a half earthquakes per year before 2009 — now the state is projected to have 941 earthquakes in 2015 alone. 

These quakes aren't directly caused by fracking but rather by the wastewater that fracking produces. 

Fracking works by pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to lift natural gas to the surface. But after it reaches the surface and workers extract the gas, there's nowhere to put the leftover liquid. 

So they pump some of it back underground — which has been linked to increasingly dangerous earthquakes in the Midwest. 

The EPA's report means good news for the booming natural gas industry. Fracking has helped the U.S. reduce dependence on foreign oil and become the world's leading petroleum producer. (Video via Marathon Oil Corp.)

There have been environmental concerns over fracking from the beginning, but water contamination just isn't the same issue it was five years ago — other studies have already found a negligible link between the two. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NOAA Study On Global Warming Hiatus Rubs Many The Wrong Way]]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 22:49:00 -0500
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Putting climate change research out into the media is a politically tricky prospect at the best of times, but it's an impressive feat when a headline gets both sides to cry foul. 

On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a new study saying the widely-reported slowdown in global warming over the early part of this century never happened. (Video via NASA)

The notion that temperature increases had taken a hiatus came to the forefront in 2013, when the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the planet warmed more slowly from 1998 to 2012 than it did in the preceding 50 years. 

Both climate scientists and skeptics latched onto the hiatus. For skeptics, it became the go-to fact for making the claim that global warming just isn't happening. 

"The climate is not a threat, and it's certainly not an imminent threat. In fact, it's been a decade and a half of a hiatus in global warming, and that is a fact," Fox Business' Eric Bolling said. 

"Satellite data demonstrate, for the last 17 years there's been zero warming. None whatsoever," Sen. Ted Cruz said on "Late Night with Seth Meyers."

For climate scientists, the hiatus was an anomaly to be studied and explained. They found a range of factors that could account for the temperature readings, like stronger South Pacific winds or warming oceans. (Video via Yale University, University of New South Wales, University of Reading)

So you can understand the reaction when the NOAA's lead author said, "The rate of warming over the first 15 years of this century has, in fact, been as fast or faster than that seen over the last half of the 20th century." Of course, the different parties were annoyed for different reasons. 

Climate change skeptics and conservative websites accused the researchers of cooking the books. The NOAA "corrected" many past temperature readings to account for what it called "data biases" in how those readings were collected. 

And the libertarian Cato Institute said the study's claims were overblown, and the study's own data didn't support the authors' conclusions. 

And, on that second point at least, mainstream climate scientists talking to news outlets like Mashable and the Los Angeles Times agreed, saying the NOAA researchers were being misleading. 

But there are other scientists who've been criticizing the idea of a hiatus all along, saying it only appears in surface temperature data. Sea levels, ice melt, ocean temperatures and many other measurements show a more or less unbroken upward trend. 

And whether there was a pause or not, it's over now: 2014 was the hottest year on record. (Video via NASA)

This video includes images from the U.S. Department of StateU.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA

<![CDATA[Framing Science With Spectacle In 'T. Rex Autopsy']]> Thu, 04 Jun 2015 14:58:00 -0500
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You'd be forgiven for thinking the trailer for National Geographic's "T. rex Autopsy," with its CGI and secret military bases, seems a little over the top. (Video via National Geographic)

Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist who consulted for and appears on the show, had similar concerns ahead of the project.

"You see these reality shows sometimes now, 'Finding Bigfoot' and mermaid autopsy and all this kind of nonsense," Brusatte said. (Video via Animal Planet)

"I did have a bit of a fear that it was going to be something like that, but then when I talked to them on the phone they made clear very quickly that no, this was something for National Geographic Channel. ... The science behind it is rock-solid," he continued.

And a lot of science went into recreating the 42-foot-long T. rex model used in the show, which starts Sunday night. 

Brusatte said: "It was insisted that the science be right. ... It took a lot of time and a lot of scientific expertise and also a lot of great artistry from the people at Crawley Creatures."

Crawley Creatures is a British production company that's worked on other dinosaur-centric projects, such as "Walking with Dinosaurs." It spent 12,000 man-hours making the autopsy model.

While some aspects of the model were well-known to science ... (Video via The Florida Museum of Natural History)

"We know a lot about how it fed from its skull, the teeth it had. ... We even know a lot about its senses by CAT-scanning skulls, looking inside the brain cavity," Brusatte explained. (Video via Witmer Lab at Ohio University)

... others had to be extrapolated.

Brusatte said: "What we did in those cases where we didn't have direct fossil information is we looked at the closest living relatives of dinosaurs. We looked at crocodiles, their close cousins, and we looked at birds, which are the descendants of dinosaurs." (Video via BBC, YouTube / Andrew Reago)

"We made a heart that was basically based on croc and bird hearts," he explained.

Ideally, the spectacle serves to draw people into the science. (Video via BBC)

"Maybe don't tell the kids it's educational; tell them it'll be blood and guts and dinosaurs, but they're going to learn a whole lot," Brusatte said. 

And for what it's worth, Brusatte said he took something away from the show as well. 

"It just made me see T. rex in a different light. ... Now, my mental image of T. rex is not a skeleton anymore. That's what I used to think when I heard T. rex, but when I hear the words T. rex now, I think of this incredible model," he said. 

This video includes images from National Geographic.

<![CDATA[Pentagon's Live Anthrax Error Bigger Than First Reported]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 15:17:00 -0500
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A Pentagon investigation found that shipments of live anthrax spores were sent to far more laboratories than originally reported. 

The spores came from an Army bio-defense lab in Utah and are now known to have been shipped to at least 51 labs in 17 states and three foreign countries — more than double the number reported last week. (Video via KXAN / DVIDS)

But that number could rise. It takes about 10 days to test a sample for live spores, and CNN reported one of the sites awaiting results is the Pentagon itself.

The shipments were supposed to contain dead anthrax samples, which are used in research. The Pentagon is still investigating how its process of deactivating the samples broke down but says there's no risk to the public.

This has happened a handful of times in the past decade. The most recent scare was last summer at a federal government lab in Atlanta. At least 62 CDC employees may have been exposed. The employees were treated with antibiotics.

The latest error hasn't yet led to any known infections, but at least 31 lab workers who may have been exposed have been put on antibiotics as a preventive measure.

This video includes images from Getty Images, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

<![CDATA[MERS Outbreak In South Korea Largest Outside Of Saudi Arabia]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 12:07:00 -0500
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South Korea is in the middle of a MERS outbreak. 

South Korea is in the midst of the largest outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, to ever occur outside of Saudi Arabia. (Video via KBS)

So far, there have been at least 30 confirmed cases of MERS since the outbreak began on May 20. The World Health Organization is reporting 25 total cases while reports came Wednesday of five more cases. Two people have died so far, and more than 1,300 have been put under various levels of quarantine, according to multiple reports. (Video via Yonhap News TV)

South Koreans aren't taking any chances, either. As of Wednesday, more than 500 schools had canceled classes. (Video via KBS)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has admitted her country could have done a better job responding to the initial outbreak, saying they misjudged the virus's ability to quickly spread. (Video via YTN)

So what's a virus with Middle Eastern origins doing in South Korea? 

MERS is a relatively new virus. First identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, it is known to be transmitted from camels to humans. According to the World Health Organization, 36 percent of all MERS cases have been fatal. (Video via World Health Organization)

The first diagnosed patient in South Korea was a 68-year-old Korean who had recently traveled to four countries in the Middle East. Before May 20, the man had visited two outpatient clinics and two hospitals in Korea, creating ample opportunities for him to infect others. (Video via Yonhap News TV)

There've only been two cases of MERS in the U.S., both in May 2014: one in Indiana and one in Florida. Both patients fully recovered after they were diagnosed in hospitals and were quarantined.

South Korea has created a task force to designate regional medical facilities to take care of MERS patients and better inform Koreans on ways to avoid infection. 

There is no known cure for MERS, and the virus is most deadly for people who have pre-existing illnesses that could develop complications.

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

<![CDATA[Would You Eat A 1,300-Calorie Omelette?]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 12:05:00 -0500
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Usually, winning an award is a good thing. (Video via Sony Pictures Releasing / "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby")

But there's really no pride in winning the "Xtreme Eating 2015" award from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. To even be considered, meals had to be around the 2,000-calorie range:

"Our winners have what it takes ... a total disregard for the obesity epidemic and the coming diabetes tsunami. Of course, you can't blame restaurants for that. That would be so unfair."

Ouch. Anyway, let's dig in.

One of the winners came from IHOP: the Chorizo Fiesta Omelette. The omelette alone is 1,300 calories. 

However, it also comes with three buttermilk pancakes, which are 410 calories combined. And you know what goes with pancakes?

Syrup. For some of us, lots and lots of syrup.

The entire thing comes to around 1,900 calories. And that's not including a drink.

Another winner, winner chicken dinner ... doesn't actually involve chicken. It's the 16-ounce Herb Roasted Prime Rib from Outback. That has 1,402 calories all by its lonesome. 

Throw in a couple of sides and half of that complimentary bread loaf they give you ... and you're looking at about 2,400 calories. 

And if you decide to top off dinner with dessert? Don't worry, Cheesecake Factory, you win an award, too. 

According to the center, the Cheesecake Factory's Warm Apple Crisp comes in at 1,740 calories. Although we couldn't confirm that number, a Cheesecake Factory employee told us the dessert is 1,000 calories without any ice cream or whipped topping. But it wasn't the worst offender. 

According to a video by the center: "This is a create-your-own-combination from Red Lobster. So, we paired french fries with two types of fried shrimp, a shrimp linguine alfredo with a caesar salad and just one cheddar bay biscuit. ... Just for that drink, it's 900 calories. ... The whole meal has 3,600 calories."

"As much as I like eating, we just don't need to do that. That's why we're a nation of Fatty McFatFats, really, for reasons just like that," Gayle King said on CBS

So, uh ... congratulations to the winners?

To be fair, IHOP, Outback, Red Lobster and Cheesecake Factory all have healthier options on their menus. Some even have entire menu sections devoted to lower-calorie fare.

And with more than one-third of American adults being obese, we probably need all the help we can get. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Hideyuki KAMON / CC BY SA 2.0 and QUOI Media Group / CC BY SA 2.0

<![CDATA[NASA Tests 'Flying Saucer' To Deliver Probes To Mars]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:25:00 -0500
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NASA is gearing up for its second flight test of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, because we don't wanna try to say that full name five times fast. But let's just call it what it is — a flying saucer.

The inflatable ring does look a bit like pop culture’s idea of an alien spacecraft, but it serves a very real purpose: NASA wants to use it to help slow down probes on their way to the surface of Mars. (Video via NASA)

NASA had originally scheduled a Tuesday test, but has since postponed it to Thursday due to rough seas that could complicate splashdown and recovery efforts.

This week’s test will run just like last year’s. Balloons and rockets will carry the LDSD to 180,000 feet and more than three times the speed of sound, where it will inflate to slow itself down for a parachute-assisted water landing.

Despite the parachute not deploying as intended, NASA got all sorts of data and called the test a success.

Since then, NASA has redesigned the chute to perform better, but as probes get heavier we’re reaching the limits of what they’re capable of. That’s what the LDSD test is about. (Video via NASA)

Current probes enter the Martian atmosphere at speeds in excess of 12,000 mph. Atmospheric drag — whether by inflatable ring or traditional parachute — is the most efficient way to slow them down. (Video via NASA)

Jet Propulsion Laboratory principal investigator Ian Clark said "We've been using the same parachutes for several decades now. If we want to eventually land a human on the surface of Mars, we realized we need to develop new technologies."

And to that end, LDSD is just a stepping stone. It could enable safe deliveries of probe payloads twice the weight of the 1,982 pound Curiosity, and to higher-altitude sites on Mars.

But human-scale missions will need more slowing power than LDSD can provide. One research paper suggests such missions need to land single payloads as heavy as 80 tons.

NASA’s plans don’t call for humans on Mars until the 2030s, though, so for now it has time to test the smaller-scale stuff.

The LDSD launch window runs through June 12, in the event seas are still rough on Thursday.

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

<![CDATA[Chimps Are Capable Of Cooking, Researchers Say]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:08:00 -0500
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Would you eat a meal cooked by one of these guys? We would. 'Cause we like to walk on the wild side.

And research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B says eating a chimp-made-meal is possible! — at least in theory.  (Video via National Geographic)

"No one actually gave the chimps an oven ... They tested the chimps in a variety of situations over two separate seasons," James Gorman, a New York Times science writer, said.

In the study, researchers had two slices of sweet potatoes — one raw and one cooked. They would give the chimps a raw slice. The chimps then learned if they put that raw slice in what was essentially a magical bowl, it would come out cooked. 

The researcher would shake the bowl after the chimp put a raw sweet potato slice in it. There was a cooked slice concealed in a separate bowl that was then given to the chimp. 

The chimps preferred the cooked food and would wait for it to cook. Yes, chimps have the propensity to be chefs. 

Anyone else think that's a bit of a stretch? Let's get into the science of it. 

Researchers did different experiments, nine total, with a different number of chimps each time. Once researchers found chimps like cooked food in one experiment, they introduced different "cooking" devices in another experiment. (Video via Animal Planet)

One would "cook" the food, the other wouldn't. The chimps again showed preference for cooked food by choosing the device that would "cook" the potato slice.

In yet another experiment, to really drive the point home, researchers tested the chimps themselves to see if they could "cook" the food on their own by putting it into the right device. In most cases, they were able to. 

This is a big deal because, as the researchers write, chimps have a hard time giving up food they already have. In these instances, they would give up the food ... just so that it would taste better. 

It sounds like at the next family cookout you may want to invite one of human's closest cousins, too. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Penn State / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Large Hadron Collider Officially Begins Second Run]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 04:23:00 -0500
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With some fanfare and a whole lot of scientists on hand, CERN's Large Hadron Collider officially began its second run Wednesday, approaching a feat more than 20 years in the making. 

The collider, famous for such headlines as the discovery of the Higgs boson and the conspiracy theory about a black hole apocalypse, was shut down in early 2013 to allow for a long series of upgrades. 

The work involved painstakingly reinforcing thousands of small but important pieces of the 17-mile engineering marvel, with the effect of making the LHC almost two thirds more powerful than it was in its first run. 

The extra energy means that the world's most powerful atom smasher can now smash atoms harder than ever before, and now that the data is officially flowing, physicists around the world are excited to see what the LHC uncovers. 

You see, for all the waves the Higgs boson discovery made, scientifically speaking, it was a little boring. Physicists were already all but certain that the Higgs existed and knew pretty much what it looked like. Being spot on is nice and all, but there wasn't much room to learn something new. 

The second run is a different story. There's no one thing physicists are out to find at the LHC. Instead, they're hoping for something completely novel to appear, anything that helps deepens humanity's understanding of the universe. 

CERN spokesperson Dave Charlton told the BBC in January: "We don't know, really, what new physics we're going to find when we switch on again. It's really a pure science endeavor."

It's also important to point out that, even with the upgrades, the LHC hasn't yet reached its full potential. From the project's early approval in 1994, it was intended to handle energies about eight percent higher than it's using right now. 

CERN explains the decision to start the machine before it was at full strength on its website, saying, thanks to some unexpected technical difficulties, it would have taken too long to eek out the extra power. But it's still possible the LHC could become even stronger at a later date. 

This video includes images from Nuno Castro / CC BY NC SA 2.0Luigi Selmi / CC BY 2.0 and Frank Weber / CC BY SA 2.0 and music from Lee Rosevere / CC BY NC 4.0

<![CDATA[Endangered Sawfish Capable Of Virgin Births, Scientists Find]]> Tue, 02 Jun 2015 07:27:00 -0500
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So this is a sawfish. They look kinda scary, like something out of a corny Syfy flick.

But the smalltooth sawfish is critically endangered, and scientists say the females are doing something rather drastic that species on the brink of extinction sometimes do: giving birth virgin Mary style.

This is according to new research published in the journal Current Biology. Researchers found seven of the female sawfish they examined in Florida were likely the product of asexual reproduction... which is weird for a species that usually reproduces sexually.  

Here's how it works: Scientists say an unfertilized egg absorbs "a sister cell" that is almost identical to the egg. The offspring usually don't survive, but the sawfish's did, and they appeared to be healthy to boot.

And scientists found this by chance. They were observing a sawfish population in an estuary in Florida to see if they would mate with relatives. So they essentially went searching for inbreeding and got virgin births. Huh. 

It's the first time researchers had seen this type of asexual breeding occur in the wild. Sky News reports these "virgin" births had only previously been seen in animals in captivity — and that this was the sawfish's way to "cheat extinction."

The discovery is important because it is causing us to rethinking what we thought we knew about reproduction in vertebrates. 

One scientist involved in the research said in a statement this discovery could "rewrite the biology textbooks." 

The smalltooth sawfish is currently listed as critically endangered. So, this extra reproductive help is needed.

This video includes images from Scott Ableman / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Andrew Kuchling / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Plane's 5-Day, Zero-Fuel Flight Means A Lot For Green Tech]]> Sun, 31 May 2015 08:47:00 -0500
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After a monthlong wait, Solar Impulse 2 is back in the air.

"Next stop, the Islands of Hawaii; six days and six nights away," said the BBC's John Sudworth.

This is the latest — and longest — leg of a trip that started two months ago. Solar Impulse 2 left Abu Dhabi in March in an effort to circumnavigate the globe using only solar power. (Video via Solar Impulse)

The upper surfaces of the plane are coated in solar cells to maximize its collection. Except for its sun-charged batteries, it doesn’t carry any sort of fuel.

The Solar Impulse team says its flight is to demonstrate the broader potential of renewable energy. They hold up the sun-powered plane as a proof of concept for how such clean tech can be made useful.

One thing is for sure: Solar Impulse won't replace any commuter planes anytime soon. It's got a top speed of a little more than 86 miles per hour, is a really lightweight at just over 5,000 pounds and still has a wingspan greater the Boeing 747. Crosswinds can be a bit of a problem. (Video via Solar Impulse)

This will be especially important during the multiday crossing to Hawaii. After flying all night, its batteries can run down to less than 10 percent, so it depends on recharging in clear skies in the morning.

So if the weather doesn’t provide ideal conditions, Solar Impulse can be forced to wait. It spent more than a month stalled in China until conditions aligned over the Pacific.

The more than 130-hour flight will be upwards of five times the duration of the longest previous leg. If it goes well, Solar Impulse II could set a record for the longest flight by a single-pilot aircraft.

And if something goes wrong, Pilot Andre Borschberg could have to ditch over the largest ocean on the planet.

He told The Guardian: "In the worst case we have a parachute, we have a life raft and we know how to use it. Of course, [we're] hoping that we will not need to do that."

After it touches down in Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 will be on the way to the mainland U.S. on a three- to  four-day flight to Phoenix. (Video via Solar Impulse)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Well, That Earthquake Nostradamus Predicted Didn't Happen]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 09:04:00 -0500
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Californians, you can breathe a sigh of relief. A disaster you probably didn't even know was supposed to happen ... didn't. 

The famous French dude who published prophecies in the 1500s, Nostradamus, apparently predicted there would be some sort of catastrophic earthquake in the future.

Taking his prediction to heart, a random YouTuber then claimed he was contacted by a spirit, which revealed to him the massive quake would be on May 28 in California. 

Even our neighbors overseas were reporting on the tragedy that was or wasn't about to hit the good ol' US of A. 

Some 500 years ago, Nostradamus wrote"The trembling so hard in the month of May, Saturn, Capricorn, Jupiter, Mercury in Taurus: Venus also, Cancer, Mars, in Virgo, Hail will fall larger than an egg."

Huh? Sounds a little like bumbo-jumbo to us. But this YouTuber from the Netherlands showed the planetary alignments in this 25-minute video and tried to explain it all.  

He also claims he warned about the devastating earthquake in Nepal five days before it hit. 

But Californians awoke to find they were all still alive, disaster-free.

And the man behind the YouTube video did mention a lack of earthquakes Thursday morning on Twitter but hasn't commented after that, or how he was wrong about the 9.8 earthquake that didn't happen.

LA Weekly spoke to a seismologist who says 9.8 wouldn't exactly be plausible anyway: "The biggest we could have is an 8.3 that would rupture the whole length of the San Andreas fault."

The fact Nostradamus' name was tied in to the prediction may be one of the only reasons anyone really paid attention.

LiveScience says he's been credited with predicting the bombing in Hiroshima, the French Revolution and the first moon landing.

But he was apparently wrong about this one. If anyone wants to see what Hollywood thinks a superdisaster earthquake would look like, "San Andreas" is actually in theaters now. 

Maybe Nostradamus was just predicting this movie would be made. 

This video includes an image from César de Nostredame.

<![CDATA[Embattled Gay Marriage Study Retracted As Author Objects]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 18:39:00 -0500
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A controversial study that claimed a brief conversation with a gay canvasser could change people's minds about same-sex marriage has been retracted, despite the author's objections. 

The study appeared in the prestigious journal Science and made national headlines when it was published last December. 

The takeaway message was that talking to a gay person for 20 minutes could make people rethink their opinions about same-sex marriage — a very interesting finding for activists of all kinds. 

"Up to a year later, they had changed their beliefs, and they had even changed the beliefs of other people that they lived with," Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks said.

"Do you think that it can happen that fast? That somebody could reach out to somebody and within 20 minutes, open up their mind if they have the right message?" asked MSNBC's Thomas Roberts

"I mean, I can do it with my students in 30 seconds," said Nicholas Ferroni of Rutgers University.

But just a few months later, Stanford researchers announced their attempt to replicate the study had failed miserably.

What's more, they said study author Michael LaCour's data looked suspicious. They couldn't even get a response rate close to what LaCour had reported, let alone change as many people's minds.

Science issued an expression of concern about the study and began investigating the data, eventually issuing a retraction Thursday afternoon. 

Like all major retractions, this one lead to articles explaining why the peer review process isn't perfect, how journalists should be more skeptical and how academia gives scientists the wrong incentives. But what's interesting here is that throughout the controversy, LaCour said he could back up his findings.

After the Stanford paper criticized him, he said on Twitter he was gathering evidence for a comprehensive response and said in a statement on his website that he stands by his findings.

But now that journalists have begun digging into LaCour's work, they've found other inconsistencies. Institutions he claimed gave him grant money told BuzzFeed they'd never given him a penny, and New York Magazine found his CV listed a teaching award he never received.

The whole ordeal put Columbia University professor Donald Green, who co-authored the paper with LaCour, in an awkward spot. He's the one who ultimately asked Science to retract the paper. (Video via Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences)

He told The New York Times he never saw LaCour's data and gave the then-graduate student the benefit of the doubt. He told the paper: "It's a very delicate situation when a senior scholar makes a move to look at a junior scholar's data set. ... This is his career, and if I reach in and grab it, it may seem like I'm boxing him out."

Critics say Green was too trusting and that LaCour's findings were so extraordinary an experienced scientist should have taken a closer look. It's not clear what will happen to LaCour if he isn't able to answer his critics. He's currently a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[There Are Plenty Of Reasons To Keep Using Landers On Mars]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 09:36:00 -0500
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NASA has finished building its next probe to Mars. Now, it's stress testing time.

InSight will now undergo a battery of tests in the next seven months to make sure the probe can survive the transit to Mars.

It’s a lander, which is a rarity for NASA these days. In the last decade, only one of its four missions to the Martian surface was a lander — Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity were all rovers, meaning they could all drive around. (Video via NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Rovers get all the attention because they can move around and take selfies and whatnot, but there’s still a place in science for stationary landers.

InSight will drill into the Martian surface with seismometers and heat probes, a job that requires a static platform. (Video via NASA)

This will be the first dedicated measurement of Mars’ geological processes. Scientists are hoping to gain, well, insight into the formation of terrestrial planets.

“Seismology, for instance, is the standard method by which we've learned to understand the interior of the Earth - and we have no such knowledge for Mars.”

There are other benefits to a lander. InSight is based in part on Phoenix, which saves money on the development and testing of the platform itself.

And a lander is cheaper than your average rover. Where Curiosity rang in at $2.5 billion — not counting ongoing expenses for maintaining operations past the original timeline — InSight carries a relatively tame price tag of $425 million. (Video via NASA)

That said, InSight has run into some criticism. NASA decided to fund InSight instead of missions to comets or Saturn’s moon Titan. The continued spotlight on Mars has some wondering whether the agency is focusing too closely on just one neighbor. NASA officials say that’s not the case.

InSight is scheduled to launch in March of 2016.

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA['New Species' Of Possible Human Relative Found In Ethiopia]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 08:16:00 -0500
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Around three million years ago, a distant human ancestor walked Earth. And it's a mouthful. Australopithecus deyiremeda. 

"The name deyiremeda, 'dey' means 'close' and 'remeda' means 'relative' in the local Afar language," the curator of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, said.

According to findings published this week in the journal Nature., researchers in Ethiopia found remains that could belong to a new species of hominins.

"They found upper and lower jaws and teeth," a WKOW anchor said.

"They believe the species lived alongside the ape-like ancestor Lucy," another anchor said.

"Very cool," the anchor said.

Cool? Yes. But there are more questions. An article on Nature's website says:

"The find suggests that several distinct hominins — species more closely related to humans than to chimps — roamed eastern Africa more than 3 million years ago. A third species ... lived in what is now Kenya around the same time."

As one paleontologist said in Nature, the "$64 million question" is which of these species gave rise to the existing "Homo" genus, AKA ... all of us. 

Before, that ancestor was thought to be Lucy, who lived roughly 3.5 million years ago. The remains were found in 1974, and until recently we all thought she was the matriarch or our family tree.

The remains of the new species were found about 20 miles from where Lucy's were. So, we probably shouldn't get our ancestral panties in a bunch just yet. As The Verge notes"The researchers make a good case for a new species ... But there's still a chance that this fossil belongs to the Lucy species. Males and females can be very different."

Still, the big takeaway of all this is the fact that several hominid species might have walked Earth at the SAME TIME.

According to the BBC"It means this new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought."

Researchers say more fossils need to be found to further understand how we came to be ... and who we came from. WE JUST DON'T KNOW WHO WE ARE ANYMORE! 

This video includes images from Gerbil / CC BY SA 3.0  and Andro96~commonswiki.

<![CDATA[Osteoporosis Drug Brings New Hope To Breast Cancer Treatment]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 02:09:00 -0500
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Findings from researchers at England's University of Sheffield were published Wednesday that could be a serious game changer when it comes to treatment for the spread of breast cancer.

Like most cancers, breast cancer has the ability to spread throughout the body, making treatment all the more difficult and slimming chances of survival. One of the places it can spread is to the bones. And that is where this study comes into play — hopefully helping to stop cancer from spreading, especially to bones. 

According to findings published in the journal Nature, the spread "of breast cancer to the bone affects approximately 85% of patients with advanced disease and renders them largely untreatable."

The big takeaway here has to do with an enzyme called lysyl oxidase, or LOX. That enzyme is secreted from cancerous cells in the breasts and can cause the breakdown of bone, making the body more susceptible for cancer to spread. 

The researchers say the findings add "weight to the growing body of evidence supporting the role of bisphosphonates in stopping secondary breast cancer in its tracks." (Video via The University of Sheffield)

Bisphosphonates are a class of drug typically used to treat osteoporosis, or to slow the harsh impact chemotherapy can have on bones. (Video via Rexall)

A doctor not affiliated with the University of Sheffield said this: "Certainly a lot of the treatments we use for breast cancer do cause bone loss and the bisphosphonates are used to prevent that or to improve bone density," Dr. Sharon Giordano explained. 

Using bisphosphonates to not only strengthen bone but also prevent the spread of cancer is a method researchers in the University of Sheffield study found worked in animal tests.

According to Katherine Woods, from Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, "The reality of living with secondary breast cancer in the bone is a stark one, which leaves many women with bone pain and fractures that need extensive surgery just when they need to be making the most of the time they have left with friends and family."

According to Woods, the spread of breast cancer to other areas of the body kills about 1,000 a month in the U.K. 

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

A previous version of this video did not specify that approximately 85 percent of advanced breast cancer patients — not breast cancer patients with all stages of cancer — experience metastasis to the bone.

<![CDATA[Military Launches Would Be Good For SpaceX, Competition]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:38:00 -0500
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SpaceX has secured launch certification from the U.S. Air Force for its Falcon 9 rocket. Now it can compete for launch contracts in the defense industry, where it would carry military payloads. (Video via SpaceX)

This is an area currently monopolized by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture run by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ULA launch platforms include the Delta and Atlas rocket families, which until this week were the only ones cleared to boost the military's various communications and surveillance payloads into orbit. (Video via United Launch Alliance)

Now, SpaceX says it's ready to undercut ULA's bill to orbit. It's offering prices in the $100 million ballpark.

ULA reps say average launches cost $255 million each, but the organization says it has plans to drop prices to that same $100 million range SpaceX quoted.

And on paper, at least, it's got good reason to: SpaceX's Falcon 9 edges out the Boeing Delta IV in payload capacity.

So competition — and just the threat of competition — is already working. Defense News notes SpaceX's highly publicized tests have already caused changes within ULA. In April, ULA announced its next-generation Vulcan launch vehicle would incorporate new reusable technologies to cut costs. (Video via United Launch Alliance)

It's shaping up to be a lucrative competition. Defense launch contracts are expected to be a $70 billion industry through 2030.

And if it manages to get a share of that cash, SpaceX has plans for it. The company might already be profitable, but when your stated goal is a colony on Mars, every little bit will help. (Video via SpaceX)

This video includes images from NASA and SpaceX.

<![CDATA[NASA Rearranging Space Station To Make Way For Crew Missions]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 07:55:00 -0500
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NASA is moving the Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM, to a different attachment point on the International Space Station, freeing up more docking space for commercial missions.

Moving the PMM frees up parking space for Boeing and SpaceX, which will need these specific ports when they start flying manned missions. One will be for regular use, and another will serve as a prepared backup in case something goes wrong.

A writer at explains the ports make automatic power and data connections when a spacecraft attaches to them. The process is also automatic in reverse, which can save critical time in the event a crew ever has to evacuate. (Video via NASA)

Flight controllers on the ground will execute Wednesday’s mission via robotic arm, so no spacewalks are required. (Video via NASA)

This is the most significant modification to the station’s arrangement since the PMM was first installed in 2011.

It started life as Leonardo, one of the Multipurpose Logistics Modules space shuttles carried to and from orbit during ISS assembly missions. (Video via NASA)

When it was no longer needed aboard the shuttle, NASA left it attached to the ISS to serve as extra storage space.

Preparations for the new arrangement started as early as February. Astronauts performed a number of spacewalks to run power and data connections to new docking ports.

Boeing and SpaceX could start their flights as soon as 2017.

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

<![CDATA[Is Noise From Heavy Traffic Making You Fat?]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 11:34:00 -0500
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If your diet isn't working and you live next to a road with heavy traffic, researchers are saying noise could be your problem. Yep. You heard right.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal found living next to a busy road can be a significant risk for obesity because of noise pollution. As the New Zealand Herald notes, this is the first finding linking noise pollution to fat accumulation.

"Researchers say traffic can cause a lot of stress levels to go up, prompting the body to produce more fat because your body thinks it's preparing for a time of crisis when food might be scarce," Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News said. 

The study's lead author told The Telegraph the issue of noise pollution is due, in part, to increasing urbanization, and the effects can range from being a simple annoyance to affecting cardiovascular health.

According to The Telegraph, the study found normal traffic noise sits at 45 decibels. But for every increase by five decibels, the average homeowner's waistline gains two tenths of a centimeter.

So let's put this in perspective. Most online sizing charts said going up one pant size means gaining an inch around the waist. So for one increase in pant size, the noise pollution has to reach more than 100 decibels.

Considering a power saw operates at 110 decibels, that'd have to be some intense traffic. But any gain can be significant.

This is an even bigger issue for women, as the National Institutes of Health has cited excess weight around the hips as a risk indicator for cancer and heart disease. 

As some researchers are noting, though, this is the first study of its kind, and reviews will be needed before the finding is considered definitive. 

This video contains images by Getty Images, Pink Sherbert Photography / CC BY 2.0, Aardvark Ethel / CC BY-NC 2.0 and Morgan / CC BY 2.0

<![CDATA[NZ Government Stalls As Maui's Dolphin Nears Extinction]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 09:07:00 -0500
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The world's smallest known dolphin is in danger of going extinct. (Video via Green Party Of Aotearoa New Zealand)

Maui's dolphin, a subspecies of Hector's dolphin, is on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 50 left in the wild — all found in New Zealand. 

But the New Zealand government is reluctant to act, and has been, even though the dolphin's status has been well-documented for more than a decade, with the population decreasing by more than 90 percent since 1970. (Video via TVNZ)

One of the main threats to the dolphins scientists have singled out is set netting, where walls of net are suspended underwater, which can catch the dolphin and drown them. (Video via Seafood Watch)

Although the government has imposed bans on set netting in some areas, they've shied away from the total ban scientists have called for, partially in response to pressure from commercial fishermen who've spoken against it. (Video via The New Zealand Herald)

"[Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry] and [Department of Conservation] are currently working on a Maui's dolphin recovery plan. I will wait until that plan has been presented before making any decisions on set net bans in Taranaki," Minister for Primary Industries David Carter said.

Since at least 2007, the government's go-to move has been to create panels to create plans to save the dolphin, and then wait until those plans are announced to take action. (Video via New Zealand Parliament)

But that action hasn't gone far enough, according to groups like the International Whaling Commission, which said last summer the measures implemented so far have fallen "significantly" short of what's needed. (Video via International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Despite the new report's claim that if nothing's done the dolphin will go extinct in 15 years, a conservation ministry spokesperson told the BBC the government won't comment on it until after the Whaling Commission issues its own findings in June. 

<![CDATA[How Chameleons Could Help Save Madagascar's Rainforest]]> Mon, 25 May 2015 11:29:00 -0500
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This little guy is a panther chameleon, native to the island of Madagascar. (Video via YouTube / Vadim Ledyaev)

Since they were first classified in the 19th century, science has grouped all panther chameleons into one species until now. (Video via Nature)

The chameleon's coloration was known to vary widely according to where on the island it was found, but new DNA testing suggests the different colorations actually represent different species — 11 of them, to be precise. (Video via BBC)

But the researchers' discovery goes beyond clarifying the chameleon's taxonomy: It's about preserving Madagascar's rainforests. (Video via American Museum of Natural History)

Madagascar has one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, with a wide range of animals that can only be found there, most famously the lemurs. (Video via IMAX / "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar")

If the chameleons really are 11 different species, they characterize this diversity, because each is found only in certain parts of the Malagasy rainforest. (Video via Conservation International)

That rainforest faces the threat of deforestation, and while it's hard to measure, some estimates say as much as half of the island's forests have been felled since the 1950s, resulting in the extinction of nearly 10 percent of the island's species. (Video via Manchester Museum)

But that deforestation doesn't exist in a vacuum; it's driven by Madagascar's overwhelming poverty, with about 70 percent of the country's 22 million people living in poverty as of 2010. (Video via CCTV)

Some 80 percent of the country's population lives on subsistence farming, and that often means slash-and-burn agriculture, which can be devastating to the rainforest. (Video via Emory University)

So, in the face of that, what can a chameleon do? Well, chameleons are what the scientific community calls "charismatic." 

While not everyone would agree they're cute — even though they clearly are — they do stick with you, and as such could help raise awareness of their rainforest's precarious position. (Video via Florence Ivy / CC BY ND 2.0)

This video includes an image from kuhnmi / CC BY 2.0 and music from Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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

But many dolphins are not. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from NASA and Wikimedia Commons.

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

"They're infected!"

"Infected? Infected with what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But other scientists have called that conclusion into question. 

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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