Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[One Senator Is Going After Big Pharma Over The Opioid Epidemic]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 09:22:00 -0500
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U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to know if drug companies played a role in fueling America's opioid epidemic.

The Missouri Democrat is launching an investigation into the top five opioid manufacturers: Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Insys, Depomed and Mylan.

McCaskill wants information on what each company knows about opioid addiction and how each marketed the drugs to the public.

She told reporters she wants to know why the drugs have suddenly been "handed out like candy in this country."

SEE MORE: This Life-Saving Opioid Antidote Device Now Costs $4,500

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the number of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999.

Overdose deaths involving opioids — including those from heroin — have also quadrupled since 1999.

According to the most recent data, more than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2015.

McCaskill is in the minority party. So if the companies don't want to hand the documents over, she doesn't have the power to subpoena them.

But she said she hopes her Republican colleagues will step up.

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<![CDATA[A Woman's Job: The Chemist]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 05:00:00 -0500
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A lot of women use beauty products for their hair and skin. But not many women make those products. Erica Douglas, also known as "Sister Scientist," realized that and decided to bring a fresh perspective to a cosmetic chemistry industry that's mostly men. 

Hosted by Noor Tagouri, "A Woman's Job" is a six-part original series focused on women who are paving their own way in industries dominated by men. New episodes are available each Wednesday morning anywhere you watch Newsy.

SEE MORE: A Woman's Job: The Woodworker

Original theme by Mike Shinoda.

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<![CDATA[Kansas And Other Red States Push To Expand Medicaid Under ACA]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 19:02:00 -0500
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Lawmakers in Kansas want to expand Medicaid — something that's becoming more and more common, even in conservative states. 

The bill would extend coverage for up to 180,000 adults under the state's existing Medicaid program. The program is intended to help cover medical costs for people who are poor or elderly or who have disabilities. 

The momentum for expansion is partially due to a number of Democrats and moderate Republicans beating out Republican incumbents in the state. 

To date, 31 states — including Republican strongholds like Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana — have expanded Medicaid or health coverage under Obamacare. 

The Affordable Care Act made it possible for states to expand Medicaid coverage by offering to cover most of the expenses. 

The District of Columbia also expanded Medicaid coverage. 

SEE MORE: GOP Pulls Obamacare Replacement Bill After Failing To Muster Votes

North Carolina, another state that supported Trump, is also trying to expand Medicaid coverage.

And now that the Republican's health care push has stalled, governors in Georgia and Virginia say they'll try to expand the program in upcoming months.

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<![CDATA[Trump Signs Order To Roll Back Obama's Clean Power Plan]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:43:00 -0500
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President Donald Trump's latest executive order rolls back climate change initiatives put in place by former President Barack Obama.

Trump's far-reaching energy independence plan puts the Clean Power Plan, as well as a power plant rule made under the Clean Air Act, up for review and possible elimination.

The Obama administration's Clean Power Plan was first introduced in 2015 to help cut carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants. The initiative set a goal to reduce greenhouse emissions up to 32 percent by 2030.

Trump's order also tells every executive agency to identify any regulations or rules that "impede" energy production.

That part of the order is in line with the administration's goal of reducing regulations wherever possible. 

SEE MORE: Here's What You Should Know About Executive Orders

But that's not all. The order also reviews some restrictions on fracking, opens the door for new coal mines on federal land and rescinds some Obama-era rules made under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The National Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1970 and required all branches of government to consider the environment before taking any major action that could affect it. 

In January 2016, the Obama administration put a moratorium on any new leases for coal mining on federal land. 

In 2015, the fracking restrictions on federal lands were put in place by the Obama administration, but they were immediately contested, and a federal judge struck down the rule in June 2016.

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<![CDATA[The US Will Battle Climate Change Without Washington's Help]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:17:00 -0500
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The Trump administration is keeping its campaign promises to roll back environmental regulations. With weaker federal enforcement on CO2 limits and with a shrinking budget for the Environmental Protection Agency, it will be up to states and independent groups to run their own climate-friendly energy policies.

The good news is they've been doing this for years. States have teamed up to reduce carbon emissions. There are university programs and public funds for renewable energy research. Nonprofits rank each state based on energy efficiency. All of these programs work without oversight from Capitol Hill.

And some states plan to put more time and energy into climate work in light of President Donald Trump's cuts. California, for example, is ready to do its own research if it must.

"If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite," Gov. Jerry Brown said. "We're going to collect that data."

SEE MORE: Solar Energy Is Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels

The economics of energy don't always align with the policy signals from Washington, either. Trump might have promised to bring back coal jobs, but the money just isn't there anymore. Coal plants are shutting down as part of a decadelong slide. Natural gas is cleaner and cheaper, and it's already producing more power than coal nationwide.

And even cleaner renewable energy is becoming too big to stop. Wind and solar power are already competing with and sometimes undercutting fossil fuels. U.S. companiescities and whole states plan to be fully powered by renewable sources — whether the Trump administration is on board or not.

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<![CDATA[Check Out The Biggest Dinosaur Footprint Ever Discovered]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2017 12:03:00 -0500
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Talk about leaving a mark. Meet the world's biggest dinosaur footprint.

It was discovered in a remote region of northwest Australia by a team of paleontologists from The University of Queensland.

The track measures nearly 5 feet 7 inches, and it belonged to a sauropod.

According to CNN, that's about two feet bigger than the previous record holder, which was found in Bolivia last summer.

SEE MORE: In Case You Forgot, Dinosaurs Were Actually Feathery

The massive footprint was just one of the interesting discoveries the team made in the area, otherwise known as "Australia's Jurassic Park."

"This area preserves one of the most diverse dinosaur track faunas anywhere in the world," the study's lead author, Dr. Steve Salisbury, said.

Researchers uncovered 21 different prints across the Dampier Peninsula coastline. And these tracks were found in rocks up to 140 million years old.

The team's findings were recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Grow Beating Heart Cells On Spinach Leaves]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:56:00 -0500
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What do spinach leaves and human tissue have in common? 

Veins. Lots and lots of veins. 

That led researchers to try to graft human cells onto the leaves in hopes of creating artificial heart tissue. 

The study was carried out by researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro.

WPI graduate student Joshua Gershlak said, "So the idea here is we have this very thin, flat piece of tissue that already has that vascular network in there, and so we should be able to potentially stack up multiple leaves and create a piece of cardiac tissue." 

First, a detergent was used to remove the plant cells. 

Next, human cells were grafted onto the leaf. After five days, the cells were able to contract and move a blood substitute through the leaf's veins. And those cells kept beating — for three weeks. 

"The major limiting factor for tissue engineering or graft and getting it to be into the clinic is the lack of a vascular network," Gershlak said. "So techniques can't fabricate microvasculature the way that the body needs it."

The researchers hope to eventually create tissue that could survive on its own within a human host body. 

SEE MORE: Smoking Pot Might Increase Your Risk Of Stroke And Heart Failure

Scientists have also tried grafting human cells onto parsley, peanut hairy roots and certain types of wormwood. 

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<![CDATA[The Mysterious Cause Of Humans' Big Brains May Simply Be A Fruity Diet]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:55:00 -0500
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No matter your IQ, you still have a larger brain than most animals. But scientists still don't know exactly why that is. According to a new study, it could be what we eat.

A team of researchers found a link between diet and brain size across primate species. Fruit-eating primates and omnivores had significantly larger brains than those who ate mostly leaves. The scientists say this may be due to the difficulty of finding fruit and hunting for meat. Basically, the harder it is to find your food, the bigger your brain needs to be. 

The new study calls into question the current theory for explaining why humans and other primates evolved large brains: the social brain hypothesis.

SEE MORE: The Brain Might Be 10 Times More Active Than Previously Believed

That theory suggests primates evolved big brains due to their social structures. Scientists have observed complex social behaviors — like the ability to form relationships — in certain primates. Proponents of the social brain hypothesis argue that those behaviors are only possible with a big brain. But previous research and conflicting results raise questions about the theory's reliability.

The new study isn't free of criticism, either. Critics point out that the challenge of finding food isn't unique to primates, and neither is their diet. Based on the new theory, other animals should have evolved large brains, too.

But whether it was diet, social pressure or something else entirely, scientists can at least agree on one thing: We have some pretty impressive brains.

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<![CDATA[Trump Will Sign Executive Order To Undo Obama Power Plant Regulations]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 07:47:00 -0500
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EPA director Scott Pruitt confirmed President Donald Trump will sign an executive order to roll back Obama-era power plant regulations.

"We've made tremendous progress on our environment, and we can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment. And the executive order's going to address the past administration's effort to kill jobs across this country through the Clean Power Plan," Pruitt said on ABC's "This Week."

The Obama administration's Clean Power Plan was first introduced in 2015 to help cut carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants. The initiative set a goal to reduce greenhouse emissions up to 32 percent by 2030.

SEE MORE: EPA Gives Michigan $100M To Help Fix Flint's Water Issues

But it's been on hold since last year. A federal appeals court is considering a challenge on the plan from coal-friendly, Republican-led states and more than 100 companies. 

Pruitt said with this new executive order, Trump hopes to bring back coal mining jobs and reduce the cost of electricity.

And undoing the Clean Power Plan could help Trump keep his promise to "cancel job-killing restrictions" on the production of American energy.

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<![CDATA[The Healthiest Country In The World Is ...]]> Sat, 25 Mar 2017 15:26:00 -0500
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People in Italy are apparently really, really healthy.

The Bloomberg Global Health Index tallied 163 countries across the world and found the country that invented "modern" pizza is actually the healthiest in the world.

Scoring was based on a few things: life expectancy, causes of death and common health risks like smoking and high blood pressure.

But another factor behind Italy's high rank could be its people's access to health care.

SEE MORE: Reeling From Health Care Loss, Trump Administration Turns To Taxes

Italy's health care system is universal; it covers the cost of many medications and has a lot of doctors.

Other countries that top Bloomberg's list are more or less the same; Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia all have universal coverage.

The U.S., however, came in at No. 34. The U.S. also doesn't have a universal health care system, but it's one of the world's most overweight nations due to poor diet and lack of activity.

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<![CDATA[The Keystone XL Pipeline Still Faces At Least One Big Roadblock]]> Sat, 25 Mar 2017 10:30:00 -0500
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The Trump administration might have signed off on the Keystone XL project, but the pipeline's still got at least one big hurdle to overcome.

Nebraska — a key state involved in the Keystone expansion — has yet to approve the project, and it doesn't look like the fight to build will be easy.

Part of the original Keystone pipeline runs through eastern Nebraska. But opponents argue the new expansion could pollute fresh water throughout the state.

That's because the proposed route would hit the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground natural water reserve that covers almost the entire state.

Landowners and environmentalists are also concerned about upsetting Nebraska's natural habitats and emitting more greenhouse gases.

SEE MORE: Rex Tillerson Won't Make Any Decisions On The Keystone XL Pipeline

That's sort of where the fight starts — the Nebraska Public Service Commission is going to review TransCanada's proposal as well as hear comments from the public.

A final decision likely won't be made until September, at the earliest, but Keystone opponents have already filed petitions to halt approval.

If that doesn't work, they'll protest. Which could end up looking a lot like the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline last year.

TransCanada has been trying to expand the Keystone pipeline for more than eight years.

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<![CDATA[A Majority Of Smokers Have A Low Socioeconomic Status, Study Finds]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:24:00 -0500
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More than 36 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, and a majority of those adults are of a low socioeconomic status. 

A new study from the Colorado School of Public Health found nearly three-fourths of smokers have "one or more low-socioeconomic disadvantages."

The study found that about one in four adults without a high-school diploma is a smoker. And about 28 percent of people who smoke live in poverty. 

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

Additionally, around 40 percent of Medicaid recipients and adults with disabilities are smokers. 

Researchers say this can raise ethical concerns when it comes to U.S. tobacco control.

A separate study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there's a higher density of tobacco retailers in low-income neighborhoods. 

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<![CDATA[GOP Pulls Obamacare Replacement Bill After Failing To Muster Votes]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:56:00 -0500
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House Speaker Paul Ryan initially vowed the American Health Care Act, his party's bill to replace Obamacare, would go to a vote Friday.

But after Republicans failed to secure enough votes to guarantee the bill's passage, that vote never came.

Speaker Ryan told reporters, "We were on the cusp of achieving an ambition that we've all had for several years, and we came a little short. We were close, but not quite there."

In addition to unanimous opposition from Democrats, the AHCA faced strong headwinds from some very conservative and moderate Republicans.

SEE MORE: CBO: New GOP Health Care Bill Is More Expensive, Not More Effective

The Washington Post tallied 36 committed "no" votes from Republicans. Twenty-two GOP defections would have been enough to scupper the bill.

President Trump threw his support behind the health care bill, but several outlets report the president asked Ryan to pull the bill after being informed it might not have enough votes to pass.

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<![CDATA[Spacewalk Prepares ISS For Commercial Crew]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:34:00 -0500
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Astronauts took a spacewalk Friday, gearing up the International Space Station for future commercial crew missions.

The astronauts are preparing an adapter for a second special docking collar — what's basically a parking spot for visiting spacecraft. It updates the ports the space shuttle used to dock with the station. The first one was installed last year.

SEE MORE: Germs Love The International Space Station

Commercial crew vehicles like SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule and Boeing's Starliner, which will transport future astronauts to the ISS, will use the adapter to dock at the station.

This is the first of three spacewalks. The second spacewalk, scheduled for April 2, will move the adapter to a new location on the ISS.

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<![CDATA[The Trump Administration Gives A Thumbs-Up To The Keystone XL Pipeline]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 11:04:00 -0500
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The Trump administration issued a permit for construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on Friday.

This is a major reversal from the previous administration — former President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada's request to build in November 2015.

But when President Donald Trump took office, he signed executive orders to further both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. 

Both pipelines have sparked massive protests and sit-ins.

Keystone in particular pitted environmentalists against many Republicans and oil companies who said expanding the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline would create jobs. 

It's expected to carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada.

Those against the pipeline argue it puts fresh drinking water at risk of contamination and its oil extraction method emits more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil collection.

SEE MORE: Polluted Environments Are Killing Millions Of Children Worldwide

The company behind the pipeline still has more hurdles to clear before building starts. The pipeline requires approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission and local landowners.

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<![CDATA[Most Cancer-Causing Mutations Might Just Be Bad Luck]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:31:00 -0500
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Most cancer-causing mutations are just really bad luck, according to new research.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say two-thirds of mutations in human cancer are caused by naturally occurring changes within the cell.  

Those mutations occur when a cell replicates itself. The process isn't perfect, and sometimes, errors occur while DNA is being copied. 

But those mutations don't always result in cancer, and they can even be beneficial to an organism.

SEE MORE: Joe Biden Pushes For Collaboration In Cancer Research

The study's results do not apply to all kinds of cancer equally. Environmental factors, like smoking, are still the main cause of lung cancer. 

Some scientists aren't convinced this study tells the whole story, and they worry it may be ignoring the fact that a lot of factors have to align for cancer to manifest.

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<![CDATA[How To Thwart Thieving Baboon Gangs]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:00:00 -0500
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Scientists are helping South Africa track a band of persistent criminals: baboons.

South Africa's baboon population is feeling the pressure of a shrinking habitat. With fewer traditional food sources available, the animals have resorted to stealing food from nearby humans. They raid homes, gardens and trash. Some even approach cars and steal food right out of people's hands.

A team of researchers has developed a tracking collar. It allows them to monitor the baboons' behavior and track their movements more closely than ever to try to help the government address the growing problem.

SEE MORE: Trackers Used To Monitor Animals Can Also Be Used Against Them

The baboon raids got so bad, people began shooting and killing baboons that entered their property. But the government soon got involved amid pressure from conservationists who were concerned about population decline.

It established a baboon management system to better control raiding baboons. Last year, officials erected a virtual fence around residential areas — the fence emits the noise of a predator to scare off approaching baboons.

But some baboons are still getting around the system. The scientists hope their new tracking collars will tell them exactly how.

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<![CDATA[New Theory Turns 130 Years Of Dinosaur Doctrine On Its Head]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:48:00 -0500
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Dinosaurs might be getting a new origin story. And the new theory turns 130 years of dino doctrine on its head. 

Scientists have assumed dinosaurs originated somewhere in the southern hemisphere. But researchers writing in the journal Nature think a Scottish fossil better fits the bill for the dinosaurs' common ancestor.

This shake-up would also rework how dinosaurs are classified. Originally, they were put in two categories: bird-hipped — like the stegosaurus — or lizard-hipped — like the T. rex. 

SEE MORE: New Dinosaur Fossil Has A Lot In Common With Its Bird Relatives

But the scientists noticed many dinosaurs in the two categories shared a lot more similarities than differences. That could mean some lizard-hipped dinos need to be relabeled.

The new classifications mean dinosaurs' earliest ancestors were probably omnivorous. It also means the beasts may have originated almost 15 million years earlier than originally thought.

The new theory also helps iron out some wrinkles in dino evolution. Now, the dinosaurs that birds likely evolved from are grouped with bird-hipped dinosaurs. 

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<![CDATA[This New Treatment Could Make Your Cells Look Young Again]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:38:00 -0500
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Scientists have made a potential breakthrough that could reverse the signs of aging.

They tested a treatment in mice that improves a cell's ability to repair its DNA when it's damaged by things like radiation or old age. Human trials are set to begin in six months.

"Effectively, this restored the DNA capacity of the old mice back to that of a young mouse and also removed the DNA damage that was accumulating in their tissues," said lead researcher David Sinclair.

After just one week, the treatment had removed DNA damage in mouse cells. The treatment worked so well that the cells from older mice were indistinguishable from those of younger mice.

SEE MORE: DNA Actually Looks Like A Big Ball Of Yarn

The research is based on the theory that DNA damage is the primary cause of aging. This drives most of today's anti-aging research. But there may be other, more important factors. Some scientists think that a process called DNA methylation, or gene-silencing, is the likely culprit.

Other research on DNA damage has tried to prevent damage from the start. A Harvard study found that raising levels of an enzyme called telomerase slowed aging in mice. However, it could also increase the risk of cancer.

But whether or not the new treatment really could help you live longer, NASA is still interested. The scientists say astronauts could use the treatment to maintain good health on deep space missions by repairing the effects of cosmic radiation.

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<![CDATA[This Bee Species Is Finally Listed As Endangered]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:30:00 -0500
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The rusty patched bumblebee is now officially an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was in the process of giving the bee species federal protection back in January.

But after Donald Trump took office, he placed a freeze on some regulations issued under the Obama administration in order to review them.

This resulted in the rusty patched bumblebee not being listed as endangered until March 21.

Shortly after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the new listing date, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Trump administration. It argued the delay was illegal.

On the flip side, multiple industry groups, like the National Association of Home Builders and Independent Petroleum Association of America, petitioned the agency to delay the listing even further until January 2018.

Rusty patched bumblebees were once seen pollinating crops across the country. But more farms, increased use of pesticides and climate change have resulted in the bee population dying out.

Now, the rusty patched bumblebee can only be found in nine states, including Minnesota, Maine and Ohio.

SEE MORE: Congress Voted To Abolish A Rule Protecting Some Alaskan Wildlife

There are scatterings of the bees in Ontario, Canada, as well. The rusty patched bumblebee has been listed as "endangered" on Canada's Species at Risk Public Registry since 2010.

It's the first bee species in the contiguous U.S. to receive such protection.

The first bees to be listed as endangered in the U.S. were seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added them to the list in 2016.

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<![CDATA[Why NASA's Mars Rover Has Only Moved 10 Miles In 4 Years]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:53:00 -0500
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NASA's Curiosity rover has been investigating Mars for more than four years now. So why hasn't it even traveled 10 miles on the red planet yet? 

Well, for starters, you're probably overestimating the cart's abilities. Even though it's an extremely innovative craft, its top speed isn't even a tenth of a mile per hour. 

And that's in ideal, flat conditions. In reality, Mars is full of cliffs, craters and cracks. NASA notes unpredictable winds complicate things even more.  

The wheels on the rover have seen some wear and tear over the years. Scientists recently noticed some new spots where the wheels are broken. But the project manager says the wheels still have enough life in them to finish the mission.

The good news is a lot of Curiosity's missions haven't required much travel. 

SEE MORE: Trump Gives NASA The Go-Ahead To Get Humans To Mars

The very first thing the rover was supposed to do was see if Mars could have ever supported life. The answer is yes, and Curiosity confirmed it years ago in an area pretty close to where it landed. 

Another key mission has simply been monitoring weather patterns and radiation to see what kind of health risks future astronauts would be put through. 

NASA's current goal is to have people orbiting Mars in the early 2030s. If, or when, we have astronauts walking on Mars' surface, we can bet they'll be moving a lot faster than Curiosity. 

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Curiosity rover relies on solar power. The story linked the rover's short travel distance to limitations based on sunlight. The rover actually relies on radioisotope power, which doesn't require any sunlight. This story has been updated.

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<![CDATA[Big Breeds Top The American Kennel Club's Most Popular Dogs List]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:23:00 -0500
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The American Kennel Club has released its annual list of the most popular purebred dog breeds.

And the bigger pups were definitely the top dogs this year.

For the 26th year in a row, the Labrador retriever took the No. 1 spot on the list.

The AKC credits the breed's intelligent, family-friendly characteristics for its staying power at the top of the list. And it doesn't hurt that these pups are pretty stinking cute.

German shepherds, golden retrievers and boxers also made the top 10.

And loyal, protective Rottweilers took the No. 8 spot — their highest ranking in almost 20 years.

SEE MORE: A San Francisco Law Makes Rescue Dogs And Cats A Priority

The AKC's vice president says owning a larger dog breed has become somewhat of a trend these days.

She told Mashable she believes people prefer having a canine companion that can protect them. 

And she thinks the changing economy might be allowing pet owners to take on the financial responsibilities that a bigger dog requires.

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<![CDATA[Congress Voted To Abolish A Rule Protecting Some Alaskan Wildlife]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:30:00 -0500
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The Senate voted to abolish a rule on hunting in Alaska, and it's got animal activists up in arms.

The rule was enacted during former President Barack Obama's time in office. It restricts hunters from using certain practices — like luring or aerial shooting — for predator control in national wildlife refuges across the state.

Supporters of the regulation say it protected wildlife populations and prevented unethical hunting methods.

Some have even painted the picture of "slaughtered baby animals" and "whole families" of wildlife being baited.

SEE MORE: Wild Animals Are Figuring Out City Life

But advocates for the repeal disagree.

Alaskan lawmakers claim the repeal is about subsistence. They point out some of the ban's provisions can be problematic for Alaskans who live remotely and hunt for food. 

And ultimately, they argue these kinds of decisions should be left up to the state.

The Senate voted 52 to 47 to repeal the rule. The bill has now passed both houses of Congress, and it just needs a signature from President Donald Trump.

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<![CDATA[You Can Hang Out With 900 Dogs At A Sanctuary In Costa Rica]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 11:59:00 -0500
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Dogs as far as the eye can see: Nope, it's not a dream; it's a real dog sanctuary.

Translated in English as "Land of Strays," the pooch paradise is a no-kill shelter on a farm in Costa Rica. 

Over 900 dogs live there, and probably the best part is anyone can visit and go hiking with them. 

The dogs — who are all named — are up for adoption. And in a country with over a million stray dogs, the shelter likely won't be downsizing anytime soon. 

The massive sanctuary has gotten some complaints, though.

SEE MORE: Wild Animals Are Figuring Out City Life

The shelter faced neighbors' concerns that the dogs' waste was getting into the local water supply, even though others in the area own cows.

But that hasn't discouraged those running the shelter, who would much rather have dogs out of cages. 

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<![CDATA[Germs Love The International Space Station]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:04:00 -0500
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Microgravity can wreak havoc on the human body, but it lets microbes thrive. Space-based research studies just how zero gravity affects our tiniest microorganisms.

Bacteria grow more rapidly in the low-stress environment of space than on Earth. That poses a threat to astronauts who already suffer from a weakened immune system in microgravity.

Bacteria also mutate more rapidly in space, becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. The Nanobiosym Genes experiment studies two strains of bacteria on the ISS and compares how they mutate in space to how the same organisms mutate on Earth.

SEE MORE: Looks Like Our Backs Really Aren't Made For Space Travel

The Microbial Tracking-1 investigation is monitoring the types of microbes on the ISS. The study will help scientists determine which microbes threaten crew health and why some microbes are more virulent in space.

And bacteria aren't the only things that flourish in space. Previous research found stem cells grow very well in microgravity. Astronauts are studying their progress with the Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells experiment, which lets them grow human stem cells on the ISS for use in clinical trials and medical therapies.

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<![CDATA[Trump Gives NASA The Go-Ahead To Get Humans To Mars]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 14:27:00 -0500
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President Donald Trump signed a law that will let NASA focus on sending humans to Mars someday.

It's called the NASA Transition Authorization Act, and it gives the agency a $19.5 billion budget for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.

A good portion of the act focuses on sending a crewed mission to Mars in 2033. In fact, the red planet is mentioned dozens of times.

NASA is already working toward that goal.

It will use part of its budget to fund its Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System rocket. The end goal for those systems is sending astronauts to Mars.

SEE MORE: Whether It's To The Moon Or Mars, NASA Wants Astronauts Flying Soon

But before it can do that, NASA plans to launch a crewed mission to an area near the moon in 2021.

The law also prioritizes robotic mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, and it encourages NASA to continue working with companies like Boeing and SpaceX to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.

This law is separate from Trump's proposed budget unveiled last week.

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<![CDATA[Climate Change And Overfishing Lead African Penguins Into Deadly Traps]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 13:14:00 -0500
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It's hard out there for young African penguins looking for a bite to eat. They can't adapt quickly to rapid changes in climate and fishing. Juvenile African penguins travel thousands of miles along the South African and Namibian coasts, searching for breeding grounds. The birds follow signs for sardines and anchovies, their favorite cuisine. 

But when they arrive at what they thought would be a buffet, jellyfish and other less nutritious fish are all that's left. Low ocean temperatures and the smell of plankton used to be reliable signs of food, but climate change and overfishing have depleted fish stocks. 

New research has shown that this ecological trap is responsible for reducing penguin breeding numbers by 50 percent. That's especially bad news since African penguins have been endangered since 2010. 

SEE MORE: The US And World Took Key Steps For Animal Conservation In 2016

Researchers say catch limits and other conservation efforts could help the penguins, but more research needs to be done to protect them from the forces that affect their prey. 

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<![CDATA[Boston Public Schools Are Ditching The Classic World Map]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 11:42:00 -0500
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The Boston public school district is changing the maps in its classrooms.

The district previously used the Mercator map, which makes North America and Europe appear bigger than they are. Critics say it's biased toward former imperialist nations.

Take Greenland, for example. On the map, it's about the same size as Africa, even though it's really 14 times smaller.

It's not like 16th-century Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator was trying to mislead you. When a 3-D world is projected on a 2-D piece of paper, some truth is sacrificed.

SEE MORE: The Map That Shows How Complicated Syria's Front Lines Are

The benefit of the Mercator was the way its grid-system guided sailors, but that kind of navigation isn't needed anymore because of airplanes and GPS.

The Boston district is switching to the Gall-Peters map, also known as the Gall-Peters projection. It shows the continents in their true proportions.

But some cartographers say the Gall-Peters projection is misleading in a different way because the shapes of the continents are off.

There are a number of maps that try to accurately represent the world, but each one has its pros and cons.

Maybe classrooms could just avoid the whole issue by buying globes instead.

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<![CDATA[The Low-Cost Medical Devices That Are Making A Difference]]> Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:01:00 -0500
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Health care often comes at a steep price, but some scientists want to change that by developing cheap alternatives to expensive medical tests and equipment.

Researchers are harnessing sunlight to make low-cost medical devices. Solar Ear created a solar-powered hearing aid for children in developing countries that costs about $100 and can last up to three years. Some 20,000 people use Solar Ear's hearing aids.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed SolarClave, a solar-powered autoclave that uses sunlight to sterilize medical equipment in remote clinics. The device is currently being tested in Nicaragua.

SEE MORE: CBO Projects GOP Health Care Plan Will Cut Coverage And Taxpayer Costs

Other researchers want to turn your smartphone into a hand-held medical device. MobiSante created a small ultrasound that can attach to your smartphone. The device has been used in developing countries, military settings and even on Mount Everest.

Similarly, researchers developed a microscope attachment for smartphone cameras to help spot bacteria and viruses.

And because most hospitals can't afford robots, researchers created FlexDex, a tool that mounts to a surgeon's arm to help perform precise medical procedures, such as making small incisions and stitching. The device gives doctors some of the same capabilities as a $2 million robotic system.

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<![CDATA[Australian Spider's Venom Might Prevent Brain Damage From Stroke]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 18:19:00 -0500
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The venom from an Australian funnel web spider can kill a person in about 15 minutes. It might also prevent brain damage after a stroke.

Scientists noticed a molecule in the spider's venom looks a lot like another chemical known to protect brain cells.

So they did what scientists do — they tested the molecule on rats. The results were pretty impressive. The scientists found the chemical could help prevent some brain damage if administered as many as eight hours after a stroke.

Strokes occur when a blockage or a hemorrhage in the brain deprives the brain of oxygen, and brain cells begin to die.

Most strokes occur from a blockage or narrowing of arteries in the brain, and that's the kind scientists looked at in this study. 

They still need to test the chemical's effectiveness at treating strokes that result from ruptured blood vessels. And human trials probably won't start for another two years.

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<![CDATA[Basic Solar Panels Are Now About As Good As They're Going To Get]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 16:07:00 -0500
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There are plenty of ways to capture solar power, but the cheapest, most common tool by far is the crystalline silicon solar panel. Researchers in Japan have created the most efficient version yet — it can convert more than 26 percent of sunlight to usable electricity.

It doesn't sound like much, but it's getting close to the physical limits of efficiency for these kinds of basic panels. The behavior of photons puts a hard cap on the amount of power we can squeeze out of them.

We can get around this limit by stacking more semiconductors in the cells, or using concentrators that focus more sunlight in less space, which gets us closer to 86 percent efficiency.

But these high-tech options are nowhere near as common or as cheap as basic silicon panels, especially in developing markets. Costs have plummeted, and investment has rocketed. Under the right conditions, solar power from silicon panels is now cheaper than fossil fuels.

SEE MORE: Solar Energy Is Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels

So there's not much incentive to replace all of that progress. It's almost always more efficient to keep doing what you're doing than to change a whole industry over to a new technology at once.

But energy firms are optimistic that tech is going to keep improving. Silicon cells have gotten drastically cheaper in the last decades. They think concentrators eventually will, too.

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<![CDATA[Dwight Clark 'Suspects' Playing In The NFL Gave Him ALS]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 14:26:00 -0500
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Former 49ers wideout Dwight Clark, recipient of "The Catch," announced Sunday that he has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. 

Clark made the announcement on his website, saying he first noticed symptoms in 2015 and he suspects his playing days in the NFL might've caused his diagnosis. 

SEE MORE: The NFL Will Spend Another $100M To Protect Players From Concussions

According to the ALS Association, the disease is a "progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord." The disease makes it hard for people affected to walk, get dressed or even breathe. 

The ALS Association says around 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS annually. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70, and life expectancy after diagnosis averages between two and five years. 

Clark's diagnosis, and his suggestion that his playing days might've caused the disease, plays into the link between professional football players and diseases caused by severe head trauma. 

Since 2011, more than 5,000 former NFL players have filed lawsuits against the league for failing to protect players from severe head trauma. Many of those players showed symptoms of ALS or another disease called CTE. 

Clark wrote on his website that he encourages the NFL and the league's players association to work together to make the game safer, "especially as it relates to head trauma." 

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<![CDATA[30 Years Ago, The FDA Approved The First AIDS Treatment]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2017 07:48:00 -0500
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Thirty years ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved AZT for the treatment of AIDS. At the time, it was a miracle drug that gave patients up to a year of life.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known as AIDS, is the last stage of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. There is no cure for HIV, but the disease can be controlled with treatment.

Treatments for HIV and AIDS have progressed since the approval of AZT. Patients can choose from dozens of medications to fight the disease. Now antiretroviral drugs make it possible for people diagnosed with HIV to live longer lives. 

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 6,700 in the U.S. died from HIV or AIDS in 2014. 

SEE MORE: Meet The People Battling For Better Access To HIV-Fighting PrEP Drugs

And the World Health Organization estimates about 1.1 million people died from AIDS in 2015. 

In 2015, President Barack Obama updated the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.

It set goals to reduce new infections, increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, among other objectives.

And, despite proposed funding cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Trump administration says HIV/AIDS programs should be the department's "highest priorities."

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<![CDATA[Critics Say Cheerios' Bee-Saving Campaign Could Hurt Some Ecosystems]]> Sun, 19 Mar 2017 15:57:00 -0500
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The maker of Cheerios is facing some controversy over its "Bring Back the Bees" campaign.

To help declining bee populations, General Mills recently gave out 1.5 billion wildflower seeds meant to be planted across the country.

But the company appears to have chosen a one-size-fits-all approach for the campaign instead of focusing on region-specific seed mixes.

Critics have pointed out that some of the wildflowers included in the "Bring Back the Bees" mix are potentially invasive and could cause damage to some local ecosystems.

General Mills says the seeds were chosen for how attractive their nectar is to bees. It also said the seeds "are not considered invasive" but didn't give further details.

SEE MORE: Are Conservation Efforts Really Saving Pandas?

The company has been devoted to bee conservation for years. One program dedicated to planting bee habitats around oat crops is expected to double local bee populations.

But some critics argue it's ironic that General Mills has taken on a conservation role at all.

They point to a recent study by Food Democracy Now! — a grassroots organizations dedicated to sustainability — which says some of the fields General Mills buys oats from used herbicides suspected of hurting bee populations.

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<![CDATA[EPA Gives Michigan $100M To Help Fix Flint's Water Issues]]> Fri, 17 Mar 2017 18:38:00 -0500
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The Environmental Protection Agency is giving the state of Michigan $100 million to improve Flint's drinking water infrastructure.

Flint's water became dangerously contaminated with lead and other toxins after the city switched sources to cut costs more than two years ago. This forced thousands of residents to rely on bottled water for months on end.

Last December, then-President Barack Obama called on Congress to provide emergency funds for the city. He also signed the funding into law. The EPA then had to review a plan detailing how Flint intended to use the money.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said the state had already allocated nearly $250 million to fix the issue. Now, the state is providing an additional $20 million to match the EPA grant.

SEE MORE: The Lead Levels In Flint's Water Are Finally Going Down

Much of this money will go toward replacing lead service lines that contributed to the water contamination. 

In a press release, new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, "The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government." 

It's worth noting the EPA's budget may soon face big cuts. The Trump administration has proposed slashing funding for the department by 31 percent. 

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<![CDATA[As A Red Giant Dies, Astronomers Watch In Awe]]> Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:51:00 -0500
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This red giant is in the process of dying — and it couldn't be any more beautiful. 

This astounding phenomena is helping astronomers learn about star systems.

A team of international astronomers observed LL Pegasi and its companion star with the help of high-powered telescopes. 

The stars, which are a binary system, are surrounded by dust and other gases. 

SEE MORE: As A Star Slowly Dies, The Rotten Egg Nebula Is Born

As the stars orbit each other, LL Pegasi loses its mass to the smaller star, and the material forms into a spiral shape.

Astronomers estimate that each new "layer" appears every 800 years — about the same amount of time it takes the two starts to orbit one another. 

Researchers noted that these images offer some insight into the life cycle of stars, particularly those in binary systems. 

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<![CDATA[Your Nose Shape Is A Clue About Where Your Ancestors Lived]]> Fri, 17 Mar 2017 13:30:00 -0500
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If you've ever wondered about the shape of your schnoz, you might be able to blame it on where your ancestors lived.

Specifically, the climate they lived in.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University used 3-D facial imaging to to map a variety of nose measurements, including the length of the ridge, the height of the nose and the width of the nostrils.

They think that last one — nostril width — correlates with the temperature and absolute humidity of the climate your ancestors lived in.

Besides giving us our sense of smell, the nose also heats up and cleans the air we breathe.

Narrower nostrils warm air more efficiently than wider ones. That's essential because the researchers found people with narrower nostrils on average had ancestors who lived in cold, dry climates.

Others have said they believe climate could affect the shape of the nose. Charles E. Woodruff, a U.S. Army physician, wrote in 1905: "In the tropics were the air is hot and therefore rarefied, more of it is necessary and it is essential that there should be no impediment to the air currents so the nostrils are open and wide and the nose very flat. Such a nose is unsuited for cold countries."

SEE MORE: What You May Not Know About The Climate Change Basics

The study points out where your ancestors lived probably isn't the only reason your nose is shaped how it is.

They found men tend to have larger noses than women because, duh, dudes are generally larger people than ladies are.

And sexual selection probably had a bit to do with it, too. After all, if everyone in your family has narrow nostrils, the chances of you having wider ones are pretty slim.

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<![CDATA[You Can Thank Government Research For Most Of Our Basic Science]]> Fri, 17 Mar 2017 13:09:00 -0500
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President Donald Trump's proposed budget would cut money from most national science departments — and it's not easy for private industry to take up the slack. If there's one thing the government is really good at, it's driving basic scientific discovery.

NASA probes and missions enable our space exploration and planetary science. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works with other governments to get weather and climate data from a fleet of satellites.

Scientists are also testing the boundaries of known physics and confirming relativity with publicly funded partnerships and experiments. Our most advanced energy research is done in national labs.

SEE MORE: Einstein Was Right: Scientists Just Showed Gravitational Waves Exist

This is the sort of basic research the private sector isn't all that interested in because it's really hard to profit from basic discoveries when you have no idea what the applications will be.

Private research can and does advance science. Transistors came from Bell Labs, for example, and those are indispensable in modern tech. Bill Gates intends to eradicate malaria. Today, Elon Musk runs his own space program with some contract help from NASA.

But scientists have endorsed a division of labor, even before science budgets were on the chopping block. Researchers in every field, from physics to neuroscience — even economics and social science — have called for strong support for basic science.

If anything, they say the climate and health problems on the horizon will make that work more important than ever.

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<![CDATA[The Slow Demise Of NASA's Plan To Take Humans To An Asteroid]]> Fri, 17 Mar 2017 09:55:00 -0500
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President Trump's proposed 2018 budget calls for an end to NASA's controversial Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Congress and the science community deemed it a failure from the start.

Former President Barack Obama first mentioned the asteroid mission in a 2010 speech, when he announced the cancellation of a Bush-era program to return humans to the moon. Instead, Obama wanted to focus on Mars and called for a manned mission to an asteroid as a stepping stone to the red planet.

But when NASA formally announced ARM in 2013, it was scaled back to a robotic mission. It was scaled back again in 2015 when NASA announced that the spacecraft would collect part of an asteroid, rather than the entire thing, and place it in orbit around the moon for humans to study on future missions.

By 2014, NASA had yet to build the spacecraft or identify a target asteroid. People began to question the mission's scientific merit, including NASA's Small Bodies Assessment Group and the National Research Council. Even Buzz Aldrin spoke out against it.

NASA continued to promote ARM's value in future missions to Mars, claiming it would test critical propulsion and navigation systems for manned flights.

SEE MORE: There's Little Room In Trump's Budget For Climate Science

But at a 2016 House Committee on Science, Space and Technology meeting, Congress members questioned the mission's relevance to Mars. They also criticized the mission for not having a clear timeline. Rep. Lamar Smith called it "uninspiring" and "misguided."

Congress recently passed a bill that gave $19.5 billion to NASA for 2017. The bill asked NASA to find alternative missions to ARM that would be more cost effective and scientifically beneficial to the agency's Mars efforts.

And Trump's budget would force NASA to do just that. The proposal would officially cancel ARM, putting an end to the mission that never could.

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<![CDATA[Senator Says The EPA Is 'Brainwashing Our Kids']]> Thu, 16 Mar 2017 13:50:00 -0500
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That's U.S. Sen. James Inhofe accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of brainwashing children.

"But we want to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that's brainwashing our kids, that is propaganda, things that aren't true," Inhofe said Thursday morning on CNN.

But part of the EPA's mission is to study environmental issues and teach people about the environment.

What that mission will look like under President Trump is a little unclear. The president's proposal suggested cutting the agency's budget by 31 percent. And the new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt previously sued the agency multiple times and doubts climate change.

SEE MORE: EPA Chief Says Carbon Dioxide Doesn't Cause Climate Change

That's something he and fellow Oklahoman Inhofe have in common.

In 2015, Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor to try to argue against climate change and warming temperatures.

"So it's very, very cold out," Inhofe said. "Very unseasonal, so here, Mr. President, catch this."

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<![CDATA[A River In New Zealand Now Has The Same Rights As A Person]]> Thu, 16 Mar 2017 12:34:00 -0500
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The Whanganui River is the third-longest river in New Zealand. And, as of Wednesday, it's a legal person.

Yep, I said "person." If you're really confused, you aren't alone.

Since the 1870s, a Maori tribe living along the river has petitioned New Zealand's parliament to recognize its relationship with the Whanganui in order to protect it.

Beginning in the early 1900s, tourists flocked to the river. They cruised down it on boats. The river even served as the setting for the movie "River Queen."

Eventually, the river got so polluted that almost all of the fish in it disappeared.

"There were 169 outfalls discharging directly into the river. Those were the ones we knew about. It was 150 years of nonstop pollution," Phil Gilmore, a wastewater treatment plant operator, told the Wanganui Chronicle in 2011.

SEE MORE: Pollution Can Affect Even The Most Remote Ecosystems In Big Ways

Cleanup efforts have picked up over the past couple of years. But now that New Zealand's government views the Whanganui as a person, the river can be represented in court if someone harms it.

The Whanganui will be represented by two people: a member of the Maori community and someone from the country's government.

As part of the settlement, New Zealand's government is setting aside $21 million ($30 million New Zealand dollars) to help further cleanup efforts. The Guardian reports it's the first river in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person.

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<![CDATA[There's Little Room In Trump's Budget For Climate Science]]> Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:50:00 -0500
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Climate science would see major funding cuts under President Donald Trump's 2018 federal budget.

The proposal reduces the Environmental Protection Agency's budget by 31 percent and ends funding for international climate change programs and research. It also seeks to eliminate more than 50 EPA programs.

NASA's Earth science efforts will lose $102 million in funding. The budget also cancels climate research missions, like PACE and DSCOVR.

SEE MORE: What You May Not Know About The Climate Change Basics

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will lose more than $250 million in grants and programs that support coastal and marine management and research.

The budget would also eliminate payments to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund, a key part of the Paris Climate Agreement.

But despite these cuts in funding, climate science will still get some support. The proposed budget grants NASA $1.8 billion for its Earth science research. Some of that money would go toward creating environmental satellites that can give us critical weather data.

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<![CDATA[Private Experimental Stem Cell Trial Left Three Patients Blind]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 16:27:00 -0500
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A new report says three people were blinded after receiving an unproven stem cell treatment that was touted as a clinical trial. That's according to a piece in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Biotechnology company U.S. Stem Cell administered the treatment in which doctors injected stem cells into the patients' eyes. Within a week, the participants had vision loss and detached retinas.

It's still not clear what went wrong, but the report says the treatment raised several red flags from the beginning. The trial lacked almost all the aspects of a proper clinical trial, like evidence of prior lab experiments, data collection and plans to follow up with the participants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration monitors every federally funded clinical study to minimize research risks. But this trial was privately funded and wasn't subject to FDA approval at the time of treatment. The FDA has since expanded its oversight to include these types of procedures.

SEE MORE: What We'll Never Know About The Study In Which Black Deaths Mattered

U.S. Stem Cell no longer does the treatments but is still seeing patients for other health issues.

In a 2016 NPR article, the company's chief scientific officer did say a few of the clinic's patients had detached retinas but defended the company's safety record and said there are always risks in research.

While the government protects human test subjects from unethical and harmful studies, there is less oversight of privately funded research. The report recommends consulting your doctor before participating in any study.

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<![CDATA[Trackers Used To Monitor Animals Can Also Be Used Against Them]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 16:13:00 -0500
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Radio collars and GPS transmitters make it easy to track exactly where an animal is and how it moves. That's really useful for conservationists — but researchers warn poachers and hunters can use that same data to track down at-risk animals, too.

Fishermen have tried to access movement data from tagged pike so they could catch more fish, for example. The Australian government drew ire from scientists when it followed a GPS tag to cull a vulnerable white shark and reduce human-shark conflict.

And the report says some poachers might have turned to plain old cybercrime: Someone tried to get into an email account that held GPS collar data for an endangered Bengal tiger. 

Not all unauthorized tracking is as dangerous as poaching. But some parks have banned photographers from tracking animals via their radio collars anyway because it puts wild animals at risk of acclimating to humans.

Even legal hunters are raising new questions about the role of technology in the wilderness. Some hunting and fishing groups say using drones to track game is against the spirit of the sport. In the U.S., a lot of states ban their use.

The good news is conservationists can use these same high-tech tools to protect their subjects. The GPS tags in rhinoceros horns, for example, will send alerts if they start moving too erratically.

SEE MORE: Culling Wild Animals Is Still A Controversial Subject

Drones are useful for spotting poaching activity and preventing it in the first place. After the Bengal tiger email incident, researchers deployed drones to keep an eye on the tiger's habitat.

One conservationist even commissioned fake elephant tusks with GPS trackers hidden inside to map out the illegal ivory trade. But they were a little too convincing — customs officials detained him overnight for trafficking.

Combating the new technical side of poaching doesn't have to be so complex, though. Conservation data carries basic security risks we haven't considered much before — and researchers say the best time to start is now.

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<![CDATA[There's Nothing Itsy Bitsy About The Number Of Bugs Spiders Eat]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 15:10:00 -0500
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Spiders eat a lot — like, as much or more than humans do.

A study found the arachnids down between 400 million and 800 million metric tons of prey every year.

Let's put that in perspective. Whales are thought to eat about 280 million to 500 million metric tons of prey a year. And humans eat around 400 million metric tons of meat and fish annually.

SEE MORE: Who Needs Beef When You Can Eat Bugs?

If you're wondering why all of this matters, imagine if spiders didn't get rid of at least 400 million metric tons of bugs every year. Enough said.

But in more serious terms, this matters because scientists have quantified how big of a role the eight-legged critters play in the global ecosystem.

And spiders are apparently pretty difficult to track. Some are nocturnal, and others are just really good at hiding.

Ultimately, the authors point out, these findings show spiders are "major natural enemies of insects" and help limit population sizes.

Another fun fact: Spiders have a population density up to 1,000 spiders per square meter. So there are probably a few around you right now.

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<![CDATA[This Woman Wants To Change The Way We Perceive Kids With Diabetes]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 14:18:00 -0500
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Having diabetes can suck. It can suck even more if you're a kid.

Fortunately, those kids might have a new superhero.

A 19-year-old college student is on a mission to help kids with diabetes.

Meghan Sharkus founded ExpressionMed, which provides colorful, practical stickers to keep insulin delivery devices in place. 

SEE MORE: Meet The Girl Representing All Of Africa In This Year's Spelling Bee

A 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states more than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Sharkus says she wants to change the perception of people with the illness.

"People see their devices and they see like sick. … Your personality and confidence as a kid can follow you for years and years in the future," Sharkus said.

So far, she's been making the ExpressionMed tapes by hand, but recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for machine manufacturing. Sharkus says she wants other young women to feel inspired to go into business despite the gender gap.

"I walk into a business meeting and I'm like the only girl there. … It's hard to be young and in business, but it's definitely doable," she said. 

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<![CDATA[Goldfish With Bladder Disorder Gets Personalized Wheelchair]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 12:23:00 -0500
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Human ingenuity at its finest: An aquarium worker built a tiny underwater "wheelchair" to help this disabled fish swim.

Taylor Dean, 19, told Buzzfeed her friend Derek made the tiny apparatus for a goldfish in need. Derek works at an aquarium, and Dean makes educational videos about animals on YouTube. Dean posted a screen shot of their conversation about the fish on Twitter.

The goldfish has a common disorder called swim bladder disease. It makes the fish unable to control the air going in and out of the swim bladder, an organ. In this case, it meant the goldfish always sunk to the bottom of the tank and couldn't stay upright.

That's where the wheelchair comes in. It's made of Styrofoam, valves, tiny weights and tubing. And it's not only creative, but it also works. Dean's most recent update on March 15 said the fish is doing well.

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<![CDATA[Perceptions Of Black Men Don't Equal Reality]]> Wed, 15 Mar 2017 11:55:00 -0500
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Historically, black men have been stereotyped as more threatening than men of other races.

"I'm putting my hands down now," Jazz says to a bailiff in an episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." 

A new study found that people viewed black men as larger and stronger than white men of the same size — even if they weren't actually larger or stronger.

Researchers conducted multiple experiments using nearly 1,000 online participants. Among other things, the participants estimated the height and weight of black and white men based on their faces, determined their ability to cause harm and  described the extent to which police use of force would hypothetically be appropriate in subduing those people.

Even black participants perceived young black men to be more muscular than young white men. 

SEE MORE: Even Black Police Officers Can Have Implicit Bias

This study ties into previous research findings that black boys were viewed as older and less innocent than white boys. That study was published the same year 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer. The president of Cleveland's police union called Rice "menacing" and described him as having an "adult body." 

The researchers behind the new study don't say their research should be applied to face-to-face interactions. But they do hope their findings will be used to examine when police choose to use force. 

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<![CDATA[B Vitamins Might Help Our Bodies Deal With Pollution]]> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 13:37:00 -0500
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Around 3 million deaths a year are linked to outdoor air pollution, but new research might have found a way to combat the problem.

new study found B vitamins could offset the negative health effects that come from breathing fine particulate matter. The research focused on PM2.5, a pollutant that can cause sinus irritation, heart attacks and even premature death in some cases.

Researchers exposed 10 volunteers to polluted air from downtown Toronto for four weeks without vitamins. The air samples were fed through a face mask.

Then, subjects were given a series of B vitamins while being exposed to the same pollution for another four weeks. The results showed the supplements reduced the negative effects by 28-76 percent.

SEE MORE: Air Pollution Could Be Contributing To Millions Of Premature Births

Pollution is a growing health hazard, and cities across the globe struggle with levels of PM2.5 well above what's considered safe to breathe.

The World Health Organization reports over 90 percent of people live in a place where PM2.5 is above the recommended threshold.

While this study did have encouraging results, the team behind it acknowledges the trial's limitations. Aside from the small sample size, the researchers don't know the exact dose of vitamins needed to halt the negative health effects.

The researchers say they think future studies should increase the sample size and focus on areas with even higher pollution, like China or India.

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<![CDATA[Cheerios Is Trying To Bring Back The Bees — And It Wants You To Help]]> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 10:56:00 -0500
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Cheerios is on a mission to #bringbackthebees — and it's looking to its customers to help. 

According to Honey Nut Cheerios' promotional video, bees have been in decline since World War II. In fact, hundreds of North American bee species may be heading toward extinction

SEE MORE: Backing Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For Bees

Cheerios and General Mills are doing their part. The company plans to plant "3,300 acres of nectar- and pollen-rich wildflowers" on their oat farms by 2020

To help generate buzz, the company is giving away 100 million wildflower seeds for its customers to plant. All participants have to do is fill out an online form to receive their free packet of seeds. 

So far, the project seems to be successful. Cheerios says it's 80 percent of the way to its 100-million-seed goal. 

If you want to participate — and help save Honey Nut Cheerios' famous bee mascot, Buzz — you can sign up to receive your own packet of seeds here

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<![CDATA[The Brain Might Be 10 Times More Active Than Previously Believed]]> Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:24:00 -0500
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Our brains may be 10 times more active than they've been given credit for. This isn't some evolutionary leap, but a change in what we know about one of the brain's simplest tasks –– passing along information. 

The nerve cells in our brain are called neurons. And while it's a little more complicated, think of them communicating to each other through two parts: somas and dendrites. 

Previously, scientists thought somas were the active ones, creating electrical signals that the dendrites then just passively sent along to the next soma. 

We've long thought spikes in the somas are how we learn and form memories. 

But researchers at UCLA directly studied dendrites for the first time and found they produce almost 10 times more electrical spikes than somas. 

SEE MORE: You Might Be Aging, But That Doesn't Mean Your Brain Stops Growing

And the way they fire is different, too. Somas are believed to follow an "all or none" principle, meaning they either give all their energy or stay silent.

But while the researchers found dendrites can behave based on the "all or none" principle, they also can spike at varying voltages.  

"This is a major departure from what neuroscientists have believed for about 60 years," said Mayank Mehta, a UCLA neurophysicist and senior author of the study.

One of the researchers told CBS it's like discovering neurons communicate in a completely different language. 

He added understanding this new language could lead to breakthroughs in treating neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's. 

And it could help us create computers that think more like humans. 

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<![CDATA[Natural Causes Could Be Partly Responsible For Record Low Sea Ice]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:42:00 -0500
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Arctic sea ice is melting — that, scientists can agree on. But why it's melting is a trickier question.

Climate change is part of it. But Arctic ice seems to be melting faster than climate models predicted it would.

Now, a group of scientists think they know why that is: variations in the temperature of the air circulating above the Arctic. 

SEE MORE: What You May Not Know About The Climate Change Basics

The key to the finding is a weather pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation.

At times, the oscillation pushes the jet stream high, keeping the Arctic cool. But when it reverses, cool air can escape, and things begin to heat up.

The researchers think a reverse oscillation could be responsible for 30 to 50 percent of Arctic sea ice melt. But that still leaves climate change responsible to 50 to 70 percent.

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<![CDATA[CBO Projects GOP Health Care Plan Will Cut Coverage And Taxpayer Costs]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 19:46:00 -0500
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A new analysis of the Republican health care bill says it won't cost nearly as much as Obamacare, but it won't insure as many people. 

The Congressional Budget Office released a report Monday estimating the GOP health care replacement would cut federal deficits by $337 billion over 10 years, mainly by eliminating Obamacare subsidies. But the plan would leave 24 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 than there would be under Obamacare.

The report says if the Affordable Care Act were left in place, 28 million Americans would still be uninsured by 2026. If it's replaced with the Republican's American Health Care Act, that number jumps to 52 million people. The report also says 14 million more Americans would be uninsured next year under the new act than under the existing law. 

The CBO reviews legislation to analyze its impact on the economy and the federal budget. It claims to be strictly nonpartisan and independent. 

Republicans supporting the bill seemed prepared for the CBO's report to be negative. Some have hit the airwaves hard in the past week to hedge against the report's upcoming release. 

"The one thing I'm certain will happen is that CBO will say, 'Well, gosh, not as many people will get coverage,'" House Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday on Face the Nation. "You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate."

"If the CBO was right about Obamacare to begin with, there'd be eight million more people on Obamacare today than there actually are," Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said on ABC's This WeekPolitifact rated that statement as "half true."

"We will get a score next week. CBO will do what they need to do," Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on Fox News Sunday. "In the past, the CBO's score has really been meaningless. They've said that many more people would be insured than are actually insured."

SEE MORE: Pence Defends GOP Health Care Plan In Ky., Where Obamacare Had Success

That skepticism isn't entirely misguided. 

Critics say the CBO's definition of "insured" excludes people who might only purchase the kind of bare-bones coverage eliminated under Obamacare.

To qualify as "insured" in the CBO score, a person must have coverage that provides a certain baseline of care. The agency notes its score "excludes policies with limited insurance benefits ... policies that cover only specific diseases; supplemental plans that pay for medical expenses that another policy does not cover; fixed-dollar indemnity plans that pay a certain amount per day for illness or hospitalization; and single-service plans, such as dental-only or vision-only policies."

And the CBO's projections are only estimates. Last year, the CBO cut back its estimate on how many people would sign up for the Affordable Care Act from 21 million down to 13 million.

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<![CDATA[Smoking Pot Might Increase Your Risk Of Stroke And Heart Failure]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 18:34:00 -0500
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The American College of Cardiology has some bad news for pot smokers: The drug might increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study looked at the health records of more than 20 million patients from more than 1,000 different hospitals. Of those, 316,000 patients reported using marijuana. 

In those patients, pot use was linked with obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and alcohol use — all things that are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

SEE MORE: A 'Congressional Cannabis Caucus' Forms To Support Pot On Capitol Hill

So the researchers corrected for those factors. After the adjustments, they found that with marijuana use, a patient's risk for stroke went up by 26 percent and their heart failure risk increased 10 percent.

There's an important limitation, though. The study relied on people who'd recently been in the hospital, so it might not apply to the general population.

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<![CDATA[DNA Actually Looks Like A Big Ball Of Yarn]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 14:54:00 -0500
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Textbooks have taught us that DNA is structured like a long, winding staircase. But we haven't known what it actually looks like — until now.

Scientists created the first 3-D structures of intact genomes — complete sets of DNA as they actually look in the cell. The images show how DNA folds to fit inside a cell's nucleus, which makes it look more like a wadded-up ball than the spiral strand we're used to seeing.

The 3-D structures add to previous research about how cells tightly wind DNA in order to fit it inside. 

SEE MORE: This Breakthrough In DNA Editing Could Help Cure Diseases

It's a delicate process. Each DNA molecule is about 6 feet long, but cells have to cram DNA into a tiny area without tangling it so that DNA can unfold and refold when cells read their genes.

The researchers say knowing exactly how DNA folds inside the cell will give them a better understanding of how specific genes interact and how the cell functions.

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<![CDATA[How Pi Helps Astronomers Locate Habitable Planets]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 14:24:00 -0500
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To help find habitable planets and alien life in our universe, astronomers are using a fundamental mathematical idea — pi.

Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. We don't think pi ends. Instead, we just define it more and more precisely. Mathematicians usually write it as 3.14, which, by the way, is why we celebrate Pi Day on March 14.

Astronomers can use pi to measure a planet's size. They observe how much a star dims as a planet passes in front of it. Combine that percent with the planet's area, and you can calculate how large it is.

Pi is also key in modeling the exact size and shape of an exoplanet's orbit. That can tell scientists if it's in the "habitable zone" of its host star, the area where life might be possible.

Scientists say the best chances at finding alien life will come from locating planets similar in size and composition to Earth. Astronomers use pi to find a planet's density, which helps determine if it's gaseous, like Jupiter, or rocky, like Earth, and what its atmosphere is like.

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<![CDATA[Joe Biden Pushes For Collaboration In Cancer Research]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 14:12:00 -0500
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During a speech at South by Southwest, former Vice President Joe Biden urgently stressed the need for collaboration in cancer research. 

"Guess what — the only bipartisan thing left in America is the fight against cancer," Biden said. 

Biden's son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. 

Soon after, then-President Obama tasked Biden with putting together the Cancer Moonshot Task Force

The group helped link researchers, agencies and hospitals together — connecting vast patient data with the supercomputers able to crunch the numbers. 

It's created a website to connect more cancer patients and drug companies looking to conduct new treatment trials. 

SEE MORE: Double Exposure: How One Breast Cancer Survivor Reclaimed Her Identity

And it's worked on establishing licensing agreements between drug companies, so it's easier to combine and compare drugs. 

Now out of the White House, Biden and his wife, Jill, launched the Biden Foundation. One of its goals is continuing the research that started with the Cancer Moonshot.

"We need everyone — survivors, family members, health care practitioners, philanthropists, innovators — to have a seat at the table. ... Only together can we seize the moment to defeat cancer," Jill Biden said. 

The former vice president added he hopes the Trump administration makes the fight against cancer a major issue, as well. 

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<![CDATA[What You May Not Know About The Climate Change Basics]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 13:00:00 -0500
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By now, there are lots of things about climate change you probably think you know, like how carbon dioxide could lead to a warmer atmosphere or how melting ice could raise sea levels. Those ideas are more right than wrong, but the truth is it's complicated.

While certain natural functions need CO2, too much could throw off the planet's carbon-cycle balance. A 2014 study, for example, showed plants can absorb more CO2 than we thought — about 1 trillion tons. And more carbon dioxide can even help plants grow. But too much atmospheric CO2 can ultimately hinder plant growth because it can influence weather patterns, like longer droughts.

Although human activity is driving the increase in CO2, we might only partly contribute to other climate change phenomena.

SEE MORE: EPA Chief Says Carbon Dioxide Doesn't Cause Climate Change

In a recent study, scientists found things that happen naturally, like temperature flux and solar radiation, make up as much as half of the overall decline in sea ice. So, sea ice melt isn't entirely our fault, but we do still contribute at least half — and that's a problem.

Sea ice reflects sunlight, which keeps Earth cool. Less of it means the dark ocean can absorb more light, which heats up the planet.

But melting sea ice doesn't raise sea levels. Research attributes that to land ice, from mountain glaciers and ice sheets that flow into the ocean. Think of it like adding water to an already full glass — eventually it will overflow.

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<![CDATA[Boaty McBoatface Is Heading Off On Its Very First Mission]]> Mon, 13 Mar 2017 08:26:00 -0500
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Boaty McBoatface is heading off on its very first mission.

About a year after an online competition came up with the unique name, Boaty is making its way to Antarctica.  

There, the unmanned sub will investigate water flow and underwater turbulence in the Orkney Passage, a deep and narrow gap connecting Antarctic water to the Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers hope the information Boaty collects during its maiden voyage will help them understand how the ocean is responding to global warming.

SEE MORE: This Town Let The Public Name A Gritter Truck, And Things Got Punny

If this little submarine doesn't look familiar, that's because it isn't the vessel the public originally voted to name Boaty McBoatface last year.

After the contest, embarrassed officials at the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council decided to name their new polar research ship after Sir David Attenborough instead.

Boaty is expected to leave for Antarctica at the end of the week.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Speculate Mysterious Radio Bursts Are Powering Alien Ships]]> Sun, 12 Mar 2017 11:45:00 -0500
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Somewhere out there, aliens might be using huge, mysterious bursts of energy to sail ships through space.

No, this isn't some UFO conspiracy. It's a new theory from a pair of Harvard scientists who've been studying fast radio bursts. Those are sudden flashes of radio pulses from beyond our galaxy that our radio telescopes only catch glimpses of.

And the bursts are really weird. Astronomers have only ever found fewer than 20 of them. Sometimes they repeat, but other times they're a one-off burst of energy lasting only thousandths of a second.

SEE MORE: If We Ever Do Find Alien Life, Here's How It Might Happen

The new theory goes something like this: A super-advanced alien species is using these incredibly powerful bursts of energy to push themselves around the universe on light sails.

Essentially, these theoretical aliens are riding a sailboat through outer space, and they're creating wind for their sails. But scientists think the sailboat might be the size of a planet, and that's why the bursts of energy are so big.

It's not as crazy as it may sound. Solar sails are a project we humans have been working on for a while, and some scientists think they're the best option we have for interstellar spaceflight.

The theory is pretty fantastical; even the authors admit that. They say they just want to put the idea out there and let the data "judge" it later.

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<![CDATA[Pence Defends GOP Health Care Plan In Ky., Where Obamacare Had Success]]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 15:52:00 -0600
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Vice President Mike Pence pitched the new American Health Care Act to a small group of invited guests in Kentucky on Saturday.

"The truth is, Kentucky is a textbook example of Obamacare's failures," Pence said.

But that claim doesn't necessarily align with the facts.

The number of Kentuckians without health care dropped from 13.6 percent in 2012 to 6.1 percent in 2015 — one of the biggest drops in the country.

SEE MORE: Speaker Ryan Tells Rebel Republicans Health Care Bill Is Only Step 1

But Pence had a pretty good reason to tout the AHCA in the Bluegrass State: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been a vocal opponent of the GOP health care replacement and called it "Obamacare Lite."

"There are many things that were in Obamacare that are still in this bill," Paul told Bloomberg Politics on March 7.

And former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear gave the Democrat's response to the president's recent congressional address mainly because of his success implementing the Affordable Care Act in his state.

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<![CDATA[Soda Is No Longer America's Most Popular Beverage]]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 15:17:00 -0600
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Bottled water is now more popular in the U.S. than carbonated beverages.

Beverage Marketing Corp. reports Americans downed 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water in 2016 — that's about 400 million more gallons than they consumed in soda.

The popularity of packaged water started when Perrier was introduced in the 1970s. Since then, it's been on a pretty consistent — albeit slow — climb to the top.

SEE MORE: Coca-Cola Gets Sued For Claims It Made About Obesity And Its Drinks

Soda is declining probably because more people know it's linked to weight gaintooth decay and other medical problems.

Despite soda consumption numbers going down, The Wall Street Journal reports it still made more money than water.

Researchers behind the study expect bottled water to keep trending up.

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<![CDATA[Trump's FDA Pick Is A Popular Choice In The Pharmaceutical Industry]]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 14:09:00 -0600
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President Donald Trump says he's picked a nominee to run the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a popular choice in the pharmaceutical industry.

He worked in the FDA under George W. Bush and is known and respected as a "constructive critic" of the agency. He's also written about the need for cheap medicine and more efficient regulatory processes.

But Gottlieb's critics point to the hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from big drug companies over the past few years and argue he would focus more on profit than patients.

Those in the industry saw Gottlieb's main competition for the nomination, Jim O'Neill, as too radical, and many said they worried O'Neill would diminish standards for testing drugs before approval.

Whoever is confirmed to run the FDA will have a major role in deciding what's allowed in the U.S. market, from medicine to cigarettes and some cosmetics.

Roughly 20 cents of each dollar Americans spend every year are on products the FDA regulates.

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<![CDATA[Hospitals Can Now Make New Doctors Work Shifts Longer Than A Day]]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 11:09:00 -0600
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If your attending physician yawns the next time you go to the hospital, a new rule might be why.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education said shifts for first-year medical residents can now go as long as 28 hours.

Previously, the cap was 16 hours. Now, the schedules will be more closely aligned with experienced doctors. Some surgeons criticized that cap because the doctors had to leave before they could finish long surgeries.

SEE MORE: Millions Of US Kids Aren't Seeing A Doctor Regularly

But some health advocates argued it could be dangerous if more doctors get less sleep. They cited studies that suggest doctors with better sleep have better patient outcomes.

The council noted that "24 hours is a ceiling, not a floor" and many residents probably wouldn't have to work that long consecutively, but the option is there if a hospital needs it. The new rule will go into effect July 1.

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<![CDATA[Some US Hospitals Are Dealing With A Potentially Deadly Fungus]]> Sat, 11 Mar 2017 10:58:00 -0600
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Some U.S. hospitals are fighting off a potentially deadly fungus that doesn't always respond to drugs.

More than 30 patients have been diagnosed with Candida auris, a fungal infection typically found in hospitals or similar places.

A majority of people diagnosed with the fungus have died, but it's tough to know exactly how dangerous it is because the fungus has affected people who were already very ill.

Candida auris is a type of yeast infection that can infiltrate the bloodstream and cause serious illness. The fungus can also survive for a long period of time on a patient's skin or other surfaces.

SEE MORE: This Fungus Is Bad News For The World's Bananas

One concerning thing about Candida auris is some strains have been resistant to the three main types of anti-fungal drugs.

Doctors are monitoring the fungus extra closely because we still don't know that much about it. The first documented case of Candida auris was found in a Japanese patient's ear in 2009.

Since then, it's been reported in several different countries, such as the United Kingdom, India, Kenya, Kuwait, South Korea and Venezuela. That means it's scattered across five different continents.

Cases are starting to become more prevalent in the United States, particularly in the Northeast. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 28 of the 35 documented U.S. cases were in New York state.

CDC officials said they're working to better understand Candida auris and told hospitals to keep an eye out for the fungus.

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<![CDATA[Radioactive Boars Have Overrun Fukushima, But Why?]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 17:38:00 -0600
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Nuclear disasters can have weird effects on animals — including making them thrive.

That's the case with boars across Fukushima. The prefecture's radiation levels rose drastically in 2011 after an earthquake destroyed part of a nuclear power plant in the region. 

Because of this, many people from Fukushima moved out. But the radiation didn't stop boars from moving in. 

This is an an issue because boars are known to attack humans and cause damage to local farmlands.

SEE MORE: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Turned On A Large Underground Ice Wall

A similar phenomenon occurred after the Chernobyl disaster. It's speculated that animals moved there because there's less of a chance humans will hunt them or ruin their habitat. 

As people look to return to their homes in Fukushima, many are hesitant to do so because of these boars.

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<![CDATA[A New Report On Pesticides Could Do More Harm Than Good]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 14:10:00 -0600
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A new report is warning consumers that many conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are contaminated with pesticides.

But the report might actually do more harm than good.

This is the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It ranks the best and worst produce when it comes to pesticide content.

For the second year in a row, strawberries topped the bad part of the list, also known as "The Dirty Dozen."

The nonprofit says just one sample of conventionally grown strawberries showed 20 different pesticides.

SEE MORE: You Should Be Eating Way More Fruits And Veggies Than You Think

And the other "Dirty Dozen" fruits and veggies didn't do too hot either.

According to the report, more than 98 percent of samples of spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide.

The annual list is meant to convince shoppers to buy organic when it comes to certain types of produce.

But critics say reports like these could be scaring people away from buying any fruits or vegetables.

And at least one study has found the level of pesticides consumers are exposed to via "The Dirty Dozen" is "negligible."

For its part, the EWG emphasized in a statement that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is "essential no matter how they're grown."

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<![CDATA[2016 Was A Bad Year For The Great Barrier Reef. 2017 Could Be Worse]]> Fri, 10 Mar 2017 10:36:00 -0600
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The Great Barrier Reef isn't doing so great.

Australia's government just said the reef is having a major bleaching event for the second year in a row. Last year, the same thing killed off 22 percent of its corals.

Bleaching happens when corals get stressed from rising water temperatures; the animals purge their algae and are left completely white.

An aerial survey showed the effects of climate change have now reached the central part of the reef, which remained relatively untouched in 2016.

SEE MORE: Warmer Oceans Kill Many Corals, But Some Have A Knack For Survival

A bleaching event won't necessarily kill corals, but it does make them more vulnerable — especially when they happen back-to-back. The corals don't have time to recover.

Australian officials are urging governments around the world to stand by the Paris Agreement and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the reef.

The Marine Park Authority will take another survey next week to assess over a thousand other reefs along the Great Barrier Reef.

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<![CDATA[Speaker Ryan Tells Rebel Republicans Health Care Bill Is Only Step 1]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 21:31:00 -0600
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Facing backlash from within his own party, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan turned to PowerPoint to make his pitch for the American Health Care Act — his replacement for Obamacare.

Ryan's main argument: The current bill is only step one.

Ryan told reporters, "There's a lot of stuff we would love to put in the bill. But the Senate rules don't allow us to do that."

To avoid a filibuster in the Senate, congressional Republicans plan to pass the act through budget reconciliation. That means their bill can only deal with matters that affect the federal budget.

SEE MORE: Republicans Just Took The First Big Step Toward Replacing Obamacare

Ryan said the other parts of his Obamacare replacement plan will come from the executive actions of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, as well as future legislation that can be filibustered.

Ryan's other point was urgency. He argued Republicans either have to pass this specific bill or take responsibility for the negative effects of Obamacare.

It's going to be a tough sell. The bill has faced Republican criticism for involving both too much government and not enough government.

But Ryan does at least have one big asset on his side: President Trump has defended the bill and is lobbying conservatives to send the proposal to his desk.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Take Step Toward Synthetic Life, Recreate Yeast Chromosomes]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 21:14:00 -0600
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Scientists are closer than ever to recreating complex life-forms out of completely synthesized DNA.

An international group of scientists announced Thursday that they've managed to build 30 percent of the chromosomes in yeast — the stuff used in baking or beer brewing.

Yeast is a single-celled organism, which means it's a pretty simple life form. Even so, it still has a complicated cell structure. It has tiny organ-like structures called organelles, and it stores its genetic information in a nucleus. 

The scientists built the new chromosomes using the same four chemical bases that make up all DNA — adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. They hope to be able to synthesis the whole genome by the end of the year.

There have been other forms of synthesized life in the past, but they've either been new genomes that have been injected into existing bacteria, or existing genomes edited down to bare minimums. 

SEE MORE: DNA Proves Chicken From These Fast-Food Places Isn't All Chicken

If they manage to meet their year-end goal, it will be a first for complex cells. The scientists are hoping they can use a fully synthetic genome to test evolutionary questions. 

One of the scientists working on the project told NPR yeast could be developed that might be able to produce new drugs or make more "useful products for us."

There are a lot of ethical issues when it comes to editing genes, but the study's lead scientist says there's nothing to worry about. If killer mutant yeast were a real possibility, nature would have already made it by now.

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<![CDATA[How Lasers Can Create The Coldest Spot In The Universe]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 16:01:00 -0600
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NASA wants to create the coldest place in the known universe — far colder than even the vacuum of interstellar space. In a new experiment aboard the International Space Station, it will hold a bunch of gas atoms in a magnetic field and fire lasers at them.

So how exactly do intense bursts of laser light make something colder? Wouldn't they add energy and make it warmer?

At first, yes: The atoms absorb photons from the lasers and gain energy. But then they emit those photons in random directions, which slows the atom down.

Eventually, the atoms slow down enough that the gas will be just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. When they get this cold and slow, atoms start behaving more like waves than particles.

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

Studying these waves could give scientists a chance to explore the rules of quantum physics and look for evidence of dark energy. It might help us develop super-precise computers and even better atomic clocks.

And it's actually easier to study them in space. When we make supercooled gases on Earth, gravity drags them down, so the experiments only last a few milliseconds. In orbit, that's less of a problem, so the atoms could hold their shape for several seconds.

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<![CDATA[Can Potatoes Really Grow On Mars?]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 13:32:00 -0600
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Astronaut Mark Watney (the character Matt Damon plays in "The Martian") might have been onto something.

The International Potato Center sponsored an experiment to see if spuds can grow on Mars. It seems they probably can.

Researchers planted a potato in a sealed container simulating Mars' climate. They used dirt from a Peruvian desert deemed "the most Mars-like soils found on Earth," and potato sprouts started growing in less than a week.

Beyond determining if taters could grow on Mars, researchers wanted to know if they could also grow in extreme climates on Earth.

The United Nations reports about 795 million people globally were undernourished in 2015. That number is down from previous years, but climate change could reverse that trend.

SEE MORE: Move Over, Mars — Everyone Wants To Go To The Moon

Ocean acidification, rising temperatures, land degradation and other effects can make it hard to grow crops and raise animals like we do now. Also, global food demand is growing.

That's not to say growing potatoes on the red planet will solve global famine, but it could be a step in the right direction if the effects of climate change aren't reversed or halted.

The next phase of the potatoes on Mars project is to test which kinds of tubers grow best.

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<![CDATA[Two Fault Lines In Southern California Are Actually One Big One]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 13:31:00 -0600
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It turns out two separate faults in Southern California really aren't separate after all.

A new study discovered the Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon faults, the majority of which are just off the coast of Southern California, are really just one continuous fault system.

And it's capable of producing an up to 7.4 magnitude earthquake.

The fault runs from Los Angeles to San Diego, and while its mostly underwater, the maximum distance from the shore is just 4 miles.

That puts the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault more on par with the famous San Andreas fault in terms of predicted earthquake strength.

SEE MORE: How The Strongest Earthquakes Can Rewrite Our Maps

Even though we witnessed the San Andreas fault trigger a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles via Hollywood magic in 2015, the last major quake in that region actually occurred in 1857.

Researchers investigated part of the San Andreas fault that runs north of Los Angeles and found that large-magnitude earthquakes occur on average there once every century.

And the U.S. Geological Survey found the fault could be overdue for another.

"Longer gaps have happened in the past, but we know they always do culminate in a large earthquake. There's no getting out of this," USGS research geologist Kate Scharer told the Los Angeles Times.

We're well past the 100-year mark. And the USGS says there's a 16 percent chance an earthquake with at least a magnitude 7.5 will occur in the area within the next 30 years.

The last major earthquake to strike along the Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon fault zone was in 1933. It was a magnitude 6.4.

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<![CDATA[Contagious Itching Is All In Your Head]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 13:10:00 -0600
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Sometimes mimicking another person's behavior doesn't come by choice.

Research has shown that certain actions are the result of social cognition. For instance, when we hear the sound of laughter, our brains automatically tell us to join in — even if we don't get the joke.

Behavioral mimicry often comes from visual cues, like when you look at a person who's cold and then suddenly feel chilly yourself or when you watch a person yawn and involuntarily yawn as well.

SEE MORE: You Might Be Aging, But That Doesn't Mean Your Brain Stops Growing

But this phenomenon doesn't just occur in humans. Scientists have seen contagious yawning in dogs and chimpanzees. And in a recent study, researchers found contagious itching affects mice.

Some scientists point to mirror neurons — brain cells that fire when we watch someone else do something. Others think it's tied to personality traits like empathy or neuroticism. But the short answer is we still don't know exactly why it happens.

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<![CDATA[EPA Chief Says Carbon Dioxide Doesn't Cause Climate Change]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 12:54:00 -0600
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Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says he does not believe carbon dioxide has a major impact on global warming.

In an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box" Pruitt said this: 

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."

SEE MORE: Trump's Cabinet Might Not Be Good For Climate Change

That statement actually goes against the EPA's website and previous stance on the causes of global warming.

On Twitter, politicians and scientists alike took issue with Pruitt's comments.

Despite the backlash, President Donald Trump — who nominated Pruitt to the position — might not disagree with the EPA chief. Trump himself has questioned climate change and global warming in the past.

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<![CDATA[This Sponge Could Be Key For Cleaning Oil Spills]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 15:07:00 -0600
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In an oil spill, the gunk near the water's surface can be skimmed or burned off, but oil farther below is harder to get.

Researchers with the Argonne National Laboratory may now have a solution: a sponge that absorbs oil in water.

The researchers started with a polyurethane foam, similar to what's in seat cushions or your home's insulation. The problem was oil wasn't always sticking to the foam.

So they tried putting metal oxide on the sponge's surface. Long story short, this layer attracts molecules that bind to both oil and the sponge at the same time.

SEE MORE: US Government Won't Look Into Gas And Oil Company Methane Emissions

And better yet, the material can be wrung out and reused.

The researchers haven't said if their invention is ready to clean up major oil spills just yet, but they mentioned a more reoccurring environmental issue.

Oil tends to collect in ports and harbors as ships move in and out. The sponge could be used, and reused, for routine cleaning.

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<![CDATA[Malta's Famous Azure Window Just Collapsed Into The Sea]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 14:15:00 -0600
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One of the most famous landmarks in the Mediterranean has collapsed into the sea.

According to several reports, the Azure Window in Malta disappeared after a heavy storm.

The iconic limestone arch served as a beautiful backdrop in several movies and TV shows, including "Game of Thrones."

SEE MORE: How Climate Change Could Affect Cultural Landmarks

And people are very sad to see it go, including Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat. He called the news "heartbreaking."

According to the Times of Malta, a 2013 study said erosion to the landmark was inevitable. But at the time, it wasn't in immediate danger of collapsing.

And last year, the government made walking across the natural bridge a crime.

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<![CDATA[Warmer Oceans Kill Many Corals, But Some Have A Knack For Survival]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 13:26:00 -0600
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Warming oceans might be bleaching the color out of corals, but for some, it's not as bad as it looks. New research suggests they have ways to cope with the heat — by making changes we can't even see.

When researchers dunked corals in warm water in the lab, they found at least some species changed how their cells behaved.

Some parts of their cells are especially sensitive to changes in heat and other outside stresses. This hot-water response is extra regulation to make sure the cell keeps up healthy activity. Think of it as cellular quality control.

A lot of other organisms do something like this — that's everything from yeast to invertebrate worms to humans and other mammals. If their cells detect inflammation, too much heat or not enough oxygen, they pay closer attention to how they're running.

SEE MORE: Australia Is Going To Spend A Lot Of Money On The Great Barrier Reef

If the extreme conditions last too long or get too severe, cells will self-destruct. It's better to lose a few unhealthy cells than to risk them affecting the whole organism.

And as long as conditions aren't too hot for too long, stress responses like these can help an organism live longer. Corals that deal with warmer waters in the short term could become hardier.

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<![CDATA[The Real Caveman Diet Was Mushrooms, Tree Bark And Moss]]> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 12:19:00 -0600
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We used to think Neanderthals ate mostly meat, but now, it turns out some were more gatherer than hunter.

A research team studied the dental plaque of Neanderthal fossil remains from Northern Spain and Belgium. At 50,000 years old, this is the oldest dental plaque ever analyzed.

The scientists found while the Neanderthals in Belgium ate rhinoceros and wild sheep, the Spanish Neanderthal had a vegetarian diet of wild mushrooms, pine nuts, moss and tree bark, but no meat.

SEE MORE: You Should Be Eating Way More Fruits And Veggies Than You Think

The finding adds to evidence that not all Neanderthals were carnivores. A 2014 study of their poop showed traces of plants. And in 2016, researchers found only 80 percent of the food some Neanderthals ate was meat.

The research also improves our understanding of how the Neanderthal diet may have changed as food became scarce. For instance, remains found in northern Europe suggest some Neanderthals turned to cannibalism when they lost their main meat sources. This new study suggests early humans found a healthier way to fill the gap.

But don't worry. Your Paleo diet is fine — as long as there's enough meat.

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<![CDATA[Poachers Broke Into A French Zoo And Killed A Rhino For Its Horns]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 20:31:00 -0600
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A zoo in France is mourning the death of its rhinoceros after he was killed by poachers.

Vince the white rhino was found shot to death in his enclosure at a zoo west of Paris. Authorities say poachers broke into the zoo, shot Vince and sawed off one of his horns with a chainsaw. 

Investigators think the poachers were interrupted — they left the second horn behind after starting to saw it off, as well. The zoo's two other rhinos were uninjured.

A former zoo official said, "It's not easy to kill a rhino weighing several tons just like that. It's a job for professionals." Other zoos around Europe were warned to take extra precautions.

SEE MORE: African Rhino Poaching Increases For The Sixth Year In A Row

In 2016, the ivory and horn trade was banned in France, but poaching can still be very profitable. A pound of rhino horn is worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market.

White rhino poaching is increasing worldwide. More than a thousand of them are killed annually for their horns, which are sometimes used in traditional Asian medicine.

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<![CDATA[Cuts In Coal Helped Lower UK Emissions To 1890s Levels]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 11:12:00 -0600
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The U.K. has reached a 122-year low for carbon emissions.

Carbon Brief reports that in 2016, the country emitted about 381 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That's almost a 6 percent drop from 2015. 

The only other significant carbon dioxide emission decreases were in 1921 and 1926. But those drops were due to miner strikes, not overt efforts to reduce emissions.

To put that in perspective, the country hasn't seen CO2 emissions this low since the 1890s. And it has a lot to do with major cuts in coal use.

SEE MORE: A Sharp Decline In Coal Use Fuels Drop In Carbon Intensity

U.K. coal use hit record lows the past three years. In 2016 alone, the country cut its use by 52 percent. 

In late 2015, the U.K. energy secretary announced plans to close all coal plants by 2025. 

The U.K.'s continued efforts to reduce coal use come as President Donald Trump tries to revamp the U.S. coal industry. 

The Trump administration's "America First Energy Plan" calls for "reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long."

The plan says the administration is committed to "clean coal technology" and protecting clean air and water. 

The U.S. is second to China for highest carbon dioxide emissions.

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<![CDATA[Move Over, Mars — Everyone Wants To Go To The Moon]]> Tue, 07 Mar 2017 08:02:00 -0600
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It seems everyone is turning their gaze from Mars to the moon. The latest — Jeff Bezos and his company Blue Origin.

According to The Washington Post, Blue Origin notified NASA leadership and President Trump's transition team about the company's interest in developing a lunar mission complete with a spacecraft and lander.

The memo urges NASA to support a series of cargo missions that would deliver experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020. Think Amazon, but for the moon.

The report comes days after SpaceX announced it will fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon in 2018.

SEE MORE: Don't Wait For SpaceX. You Can Take A Space-cation Now

Blue Origin and SpaceX have been battling for dominance in commercial space for years. Both have won government contracts, both are pushing for reusable rockets, and while so far only SpaceX has made it to orbit, both are developing heavy lift systems to reach deep space. But while SpaceX is preparing for a human flight to the moon, Blue Origin seems to be focused solely on cargo.

These aren't the only commercial companies setting their sites on the moon. United Launch Alliance wants 1,000 people living and working around the moon in 30 years. And Bigelow Aerospace is building an expandable space habitat to house humans in orbit around the moon.

Even NASA seems to be putting a hold on its Mars ambitions for a return to the moon. In early 2017, NASA leadership began to investigate the possibility of putting humans on the first flight of its new rocket, the Space Launch System, which is set to launch in 2018.

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<![CDATA[GOP Reveals First Draft Of Obamacare Replacement]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 20:29:00 -0600
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Congressional Republicans have released the first official version of their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a more conservative law.

The GOP plan strips away the Obamacare penalty designed to keep healthy people in the insurance market. Instead, customers who let their coverage lapse before buying a new plan could be charged up to 30 percent more.

It also changes the way Medicaid funds are allocated to states and replaces the insurance subsidies of the previous law with tax credits based on income and age.

The plan has an uphill struggle ahead of it. The far-right Freedom Caucus has previously opposed tying these tax credits to income.

SEE MORE: Trump Calls Obamacare A 'Disaster,' But It's More Popular Than Ever

And four GOP senators recently pledged to vote against the bill if it rolls back Medicaid expansion in their states.

The proposal's cost and its effects on the number of people covered have not been evaluated yet.

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<![CDATA[NASA Is Studying Greenland To Put A Timeline On Sea Level Rise]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 18:25:00 -0600
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How long before ice melt affects coastal cities? The Greenland ice sheet is melting and contributing to sea level rise — scientists are certain about that. What they're not sure about is exactly how fast it's happening. That's where NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland mission comes in. 

The OMG mission will help scientists put a more precise timeline on sea level rise. They're focusing their attention on Greenland because its ice sheet is the largest global contributor to rising seas. If the entire Greenland ice sheet melts, sea level would rise by an estimated 20 feet. That's enough to flood or submerge much of the world's coasts. 

SEE MORE: What Melting Arctic Ice Sheets Could Do To The World's Ocean Currents

Global warming has caused ocean temperatures around Greenland to increase. The OMG project is measuring the effects of that warm water on ice melt. When data collections wrap up in 2020, NASA scientists will be able to project the rate of sea level rise forward to 2100

Those projections could help coastal communities plan for sea level rise. It could also be a wake-up call for governments that aren't prepared to deal with consequences like soil and water contamination, flooding and wildlife displacement.

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<![CDATA[Israel To Decriminalize Cannabis, Fight Stigma]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 16:34:00 -0600
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In a bipartisan move, Israel's Cabinet moved to decriminalize recreational use of cannabis. 

But decriminalization isn't the same as outright legalization. Israelis won't be able to grow and sell their own herb. 

Smoking pot in public will now only catch you a fine. Repeat offenders could face rehabilitation, a suspended driver's license or prison time. 

Money collected from the fines will go toward drug rehabilitation efforts. 

Israel joins the list of more than 15 countries that are experimenting with marijuana laws, in part to fight the stigma that smoking cannabis is immoral or sinful. 

"It's a message that millions of Israelis who consume cannabis are not criminals," said Tamar Zandberg, a left-wing politician who serves as chairwoman of the Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 

The country has been at the forefront of the medical marijuana industry since the 1960s. 

Israel's parliament must approve the decision before it becomes official. 

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<![CDATA[Japan's Bunny Island And Fox Village Are Cute — But Hurt Ecosystems]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 14:58:00 -0600
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Rabbit Island, Fox Village, cat islands (yes, there are multiple) — Japan has plenty of places completely overrun by cute animals. 

These places have started attracting tourists. Some even charge for admission. 

Take Fox Village, where you pay an entrance fee and can buy food to feed the foxes yourself.   

Or there's Okunoshima, nicknamed "Rabbit Island" for the approximately 1,000 fluffy creatures that live there. A resort on the island advertises, "You can play with literally hundreds of wild rabbits." 

Sounds like a dream, right?  

SEE MORE: Wild Animals Are Figuring Out City Life

Overpopulation can seriously harm an ecosystem. When predator populations like cats and foxes increase, the birds and other small prey they eat are overhunted

The Japanese government is trying to humanely control feral populations — 140 animal hospitals are working to domesticate feral cats, rather than killing them as many places around the world do. 

Do you think these animal havens are worth the risks of overpopulation? Tell us on our social platforms.

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<![CDATA[Polluted Environments Are Killing Millions Of Children Worldwide]]> Mon, 06 Mar 2017 07:53:00 -0600
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Environmental pollutants are killing millions of young children around the world.

According to two new reports from the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 deaths among children under the age of 5 can be linked to environmental hazards. That's 1.7 million deaths every year.

These hazards include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, indoor and outdoor pollution, secondhand smoke and inadequate hygiene.

Officials say such unhealthy environments can lead to fatal cases of malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.

SEE MORE: Children Breathe Dangerous Pollution At Almost 8,000 Public Schools

As WHO's director-general said in a statement: "A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

The studies' authors agree that air pollution is the biggest problem.

separate report conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund last year found that nearly 600,000 children under the age of 5 die every year from diseases caused by air pollution. 

Experts warn these child deaths will only continue to increase if we don't reduce these environmental risks.

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<![CDATA[Wyoming's Wolves Could Soon Be Shot On Sight]]> Sun, 05 Mar 2017 15:54:00 -0600
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Wolves in Wyoming could soon be shot on sight after a new federal appeals court ruling.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stripped wolves of their federal protections.

The ruling allows the state to reintroduce its 2011 wolf management plan, which treats wolves as vermin. It also allows the animals to be shot on sight throughout most of the state.

SEE MORE: Humans May Have Tamed Wolves Twice Because Dogs Are Worth It

Gray wolves in the Western U.S. are still recovering from near extinction. Wolves once ranged over two-thirds of the United States; now they live in only about 10 percent of that original range.

In 2012, U.S. officials decided wolf populations had rebounded enough to de-list them as endangered. But in 2014, a judge sided with conservation groups, keeping wolves protected — at least until Friday.

Hunters argue that hunting wolves would be better for the species in the long run. And ranchers hope it might keep their herds safe.

But there's evidence to suggest that killing wolves might actually cause worse predation of livestock.

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<![CDATA[Lymphedema Isn't Just A Hereditary Disease — It Can Affect Anyone]]> Sun, 05 Mar 2017 15:52:00 -0600
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Monday is World Lymphedema Day. 

It's a disease you might not have heard of. But in the U.S., more people suffer from lymphedema and other lymphatic diseases than multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, ALS, Parkinson's disease and AIDS combined.

Lymphedema isn't life-threatening on its own but causes painful and disfiguring swelling in different places throughout the body. The swelling is caused by fluid buildup due to damage in the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is the main way your body filters molecules too large to travel in the blood stream. Those with chronic lymphedema can develop a complication called lymphangiosarcoma, which has a less than 10 percent survival rate over five years.

There are two types of lymphedema. Primary forms of the disease are all hereditary, and patients see its onset anytime from infancy through adulthood.

Those who suffer from secondary forms of lymphedema usually get the disease through an infection, traumatic injury, surgery, cancer or even cancer treatments.

SEE MORE: Double Exposure: How One Breast Cancer Survivor Reclaimed Her Identity

Unfortunately, that means the people who face the greatest risk of lymphedema are also some of the most vulnerable. Cancer survivors and veterans are especially susceptible to the disease.

There's currently no cure for the lymphedema. Treatments mostly focus on easing pain and keeping the swelling down — usually with compression. For extreme cases, surgery might be necessary. 

The Lymphatic Education & Research Network wants to make lymphedema the focus of World Health Day next year. There's a petition on change.org for the cause. 

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<![CDATA[Millions In Africa Are On The Brink Of Widespread Famine]]> Sun, 05 Mar 2017 12:03:00 -0600
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At least 110 Somalis died from hunger and diarrhea within a 48-hour time frame due to drought. 

Most of the deaths occurred in southwest Somalia's rural areas in the Bay region.

The deaths come just days after Somalia's newly elected president declared a national disaster due to widespread drought.

SEE MORE: In War-Torn Somalia, Yoga Can Offer Peace After Violence

Now, aid organizations say more needs to be done to prevent a full-blown famine. As of February, more than 6.2 million people were affected by Somalia's drought.

The U.N. says it needs at least $4.4 billion by the end of March to prevent a hunger catastrophe in Somalia, as well as South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.

Outside of Somalia, the risk of famine is a "man-made food crisis" caused by ongoing civil conflicts and warfare. Civil warfare led to two counties in South Sudan to declare famine last month. 

Since 2000, there's been only one major famine, and it was centered in Somalia.

More than a quarter of a million people died; more than half were children under the age of 5.

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<![CDATA[Island Mammoths Outlived Others, But A Gene 'Meltdown' Ended Their Run]]> Sat, 04 Mar 2017 15:07:00 -0600
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On an island in Siberia, a group of woolly mammoths survived around 6,000 years longer than the rest of the species.

Until they suffered a genetic "meltdown."

Something killed most mammoths on the mainland, but genomes of a 4,300-year-old islander mammoth show this later group had widespread genetic mutations before extinction. The mutations caused fewer smell receptors and urine proteins, two components likely used in mate selection.

Their coats also became shiny and satin-like, rather than "woolly."

SEE MORE: A Form Of Woolly Mammoth Resurrection Might Be Closer Than We Thought

Since the island housed between 300 and 1,000 mammoths at any time, natural selection couldn't flourish. Females chose their mates based on availability rather than fitness.

Now, scientists are looking at how those island woollies changed genetically in that time. They hope to learn more about how to save an endangered species.

Scientists say rare and endangered animals could face a situation like this in the future, where a small surviving population is responsible for maintaining the species.

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<![CDATA[This Stadium Is Invisible To Birds — And That Can Be Deadly]]> Sat, 04 Mar 2017 14:38:00 -0600
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A new NFL stadium is causing big problems for Minnesota wildlife. The Vikings' U.S. Bank stadium is reportedly a deadly obstacle for migrating birds.

The building is reflective. Some birds can't distinguish it from a wide-open sky and hit it at full speed, which can be fatal.

It's especially dangerous because Minneapolis is in a migration path called the Mississippi Flyway. Thousands of birds travel that route between South America and Canada.

SEE MORE: Conflicts Aren't Just Dangerous For People; Animals Suffer, Too

A new Audubon Society report found 60 dead birds from 21 species around the stadium during fall migration. That could be a fraction of the actual number.

But as far back as 2014, the team was warned about the dangers when 77,000 people signed a petition asking the Vikings to consider a bird-safe exterior.

But that didn't happen, and it doesn't seem like it's going to change. The Vikings haven't mentioned any plans to alter the stadium.

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<![CDATA[Wild Elephants Might Only Need 2 Hours Of Sleep A Night]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 19:01:00 -0600
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It seems wild elephants don't need a full eight hours of sleep every night to maintain one of the longest memories in the animal kingdom.

According to one team of scientists in South Africa, wild elephants sleep an average of just two hours a night — that's less than any other animal on record.

That's surprising because elephants are known for their incredible memories. And studies have shown that sleep and memory are connected.

The scientists used a tool similar to a Fitbit to track the elephants' movement. They attached the devices to the animals' trunks, which are almost constantly in motion. When an elephant's trunk was still for more than five minutes, the team determined the mammal was asleep.

The team also found the pair of wild African elephants it tested slept in bursts. They slept both lying down and standing up. And sometimes, they didn't sleep at all.

SEE MORE: Protected Land Isn't Keeping African Forest Elephants Safe

Sleep experts are taking the study into account, but others say it's possible wild elephants have evolved to thrive with little or no sleep. The enormous mammals are busy eating 17 to 18 hours each day.

In spite of the small sample size — just two female elephants — the scientists are confident the results represent most wild elephants. But more research needs to be done to confirm the study's accuracy.

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<![CDATA[Asian Pollution Contributes To US Smog Increase Despite Emission Cuts]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 18:05:00 -0600
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Smog is up 65 percent in the western U.S., according to a new study.

Researchers say it's because of Asian countries' emission levels of nitrogen oxides, which have tripled since 1990.

The findings come from pollution data collected in cities and national parks across the western U.S.

The Asian-made gases travel across the ocean. They've offset the 50 percent cut in emissions of nitrogen oxides made by the U.S. over the past 25 years. 

SEE MORE: Want To Fight Smog? Try Covering A Building In Plants

Researchers say a global strategy is necessary in order for the U.S. to meet air quality objectives.

High levels of these nitrogen oxides can be harmful to people and animals.

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<![CDATA[Meet The Goats Of Anarchy: A Rescue Farm For Baby Goats]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:50:00 -0600
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A former New York City corporate event planner is now a mom to dozens of goats.

"Goats just want to have fun," goat caretaker Leanne Lauricella said. 

Lauricella cares for them at her New Jersey home. She also built a barn for them. She calls her farm Goats of Anarchy.

She started with a few pet goats. Then, she decided to rescue others.

They're not just any goats. Many are disabled or need to be nurtured back to health. Others have been saved from being slaughtered.

SEE MORE: Wild Animals Are Figuring Out City Life

She doesn't have a veterinary background. But after she went vegan, she wanted to give animals a second chance.

Although raising goats can be profitable, Lauricella says it's not about the money. She doesn't sell meat, milk or the fiber from her four-legged babies.

Her popular Instagram account and crowdfunding have kept the donations rolling in.

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<![CDATA[Don't Wait For SpaceX. You Can Take A Space-cation Now]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:49:00 -0600
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Although you may not be one of the two people on SpaceX's planned trip to the moon, there other ways you could soon travel to space.

Commercial companies, like Space Adventures, will reserve your seat on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, which would take you to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay. You can basically do whatever you want there, including a spacewalk — but that costs extra.

And if you need a bit more space, companies like Bigelow Aerospace are building expandable space habitats. It currently has two prototypes in orbit.

SEE MORE: The Coolest, Weirdest Stuff Humans Put In Space

But if traveling on a rocket seems daunting, World View can take you close to space in a balloon. After the five-hour trip into the planet's stratosphere, the pilot releases helium from the balloon to float you gently back to Earth.

And if you'd rather stay even closer to home — and the ground — you can still experience what it's like to be in space. Companies like Zero-Gravity and Virgin Galactic let you experience weightlessness in free fall on a plane.

Finally, for those of you content to admire space from afar, NASA has a host of space-themed virtual-reality videos that let you tour Mars or even explore what an exoplanet light years away might look like.

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<![CDATA[This Clouded Leopard Cub Is One Of A Kind]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 13:24:00 -0600
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The Nashville Zoo's newest clouded leopard is the first of his species to be born via artificial insemination using cryopreserved semen. That means it was frozen and then thawed.

The procedure was a collaboration between the Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Researchers collected semen from a male clouded leopard at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and deposited it in a female clouded leopard from the Nashville Zoo after inducing ovulation.

It's good news for the clouded leopard population, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists as vulnerable.

SEE MORE: Cheetahs Are Dangerously Close To Becoming Extinct

Clouded leopards are hunted for their pelts, which feature spots much larger than traditional leopards. And their habitat — forests in Southeast Asia and the Himalayas — is quickly being cut down.

Both zoos hope the artificial insemination method used to create the new leopard cub will help maintain clouded leopard populations around the world, as well as captive ones in the U.S.

The cub has not been named yet. The staff at the Nashville Zoo will raise him.

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<![CDATA[US Government Won't Look Into Gas And Oil Company Methane Emissions]]> Fri, 03 Mar 2017 13:17:00 -0600
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is backing away from requiring oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.

The move comes after the new EPA Director Scott Pruitt got a letter from several states that produce oil and gas. Those states say it's a form of government "harassment" to request methane information from companies producing the commodities. They also say continuing this Obama-era climate effort puts extra financial stress on the industry.

Apparently that worked. Pruitt halted the inquiry and says he'll rethink what information to request from the companies.

SEE MORE: Germany — Yes, Germany — Wants To Ban Production Of Gas-Powered Cars

But some environmental advocates argue withdrawing the request lets oil and gas companies keep valuable information from the public.

Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; in some cases, it's about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Studies have also said methane emissions are a strong contributor to climate change.

Last year, California experienced the biggest methane leak in U.S. history in terms of its effect on the environment, as the BBC reported. The canyon burst released over 107,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.

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<![CDATA[Wild Animals Are Figuring Out City Life]]> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:02:00 -0600
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Cities are built by humans, for humans. But a lot of animals have figured out how to live in a concrete jungle. And it's not just bugs.

More and more research shows wild animals are adapting to city life. Changes in their behavior and even their bodies are making them permanently different from their rural counterparts.

Sometimes animals will adopt new habits. For instance, coyotes, which are already more active at night, shun the daylight even more when they live in cities. This makes them less likely to run into people and, more importantly, cars.

Birds are obviously no strangers to cities, but they have to adapt, too. Some birds are using higher-pitched calls so they can hear each other through all that traffic noise.

Sometimes the changes are even biological. The city mouse, it turns out, eventually develops a larger brain than the country mouse because city wildlife has to find new ways to gather food and avoid predators.

SEE MORE: Earth's Animals Are Dealing With More Roads Than Ever

There are some other common changes: Animals in cities tend to have smaller territories; they eat a broader range of foods; their populations are more dense; and they reproduce faster.

And if an animal spends enough time adapting to a city environment, the changes can start to guide its evolution. When conditions are just right — when, say, a city finch lives on a steady diet of sunflower seeds — it will end up with a brand-new beak to help it get by in its new home.

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<![CDATA[Humans Drastically Change The Environment — And We Always Have]]> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:29:00 -0600
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Our actions are doing more than just changing the planet. Some scientists say human activity has ushered in a new geological time period: the Anthropocene.

In 2000, scientist Paul Crutzen popularized the idea that we're living in a new epoch where humans are the driving force behind changes to Earth. Supporting research quickly followed, citing human activities such as habitat destruction and introducing invasive species.

Some scientists have called for official recognition of the Anthropocene, but it may be years before a decision is made.

SEE MORE: Sure, Nature Changes The Climate, But Not Nearly As Much As Humans Do

Whether you accept the Anthropocene idea or not, humans have changed the planet in striking ways. For instance, a team of geologists recently found more than 200 new kinds of minerals that never existed before Homo sapiens came along. We've apparently done more to create new minerals than any other event on Earth in the past 2 billion years.

And our changes don't all come from industry. In the Amazon, researchers found that today's rainforest is largely shaped by indigenous people over thousands of years. When scientists surveyed the trees, they found species that had been domesticated by pre-Columbian times are now five times more common than wild species.

But other scientists regard it as a fad and say it's misleading, noting things out of our control can affect the planet — like solar radiation and volcanic activity.

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