Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[Just A Half-Hour Of Lost Sleep Could Lead To Weight Gain]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:04:00 -0600
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The next time you're thinking about staying up past your bedtime, you might want to reconsider. A new study found just a half-hour of lost sleep during the week could lead to weight gain.

According to the study's author, many people sleep less during the week, then try to make up for it on the weekends. 

But this study found that skimping on sleep during the week could really mess with your metabolism.

And the study found losing even small amounts of sleep could set people up for type 2 diabetes later on.

The study took 522 people who had newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes and observed them for 12 months while having them keep diaries of their sleep habits.

After six months, patients who got less sleep during the week were significantly more likely to be obese and have insulin resistance. And after 12 months, the researchers found a significant increase in likelihood of those problems with each half-hour of missed sleep.

Now, the press release about the study didn't say how long the participants were supposed to sleep for, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults.

So this might sound kind of scary considering how many of us probably miss out on sleep. 

But the solution to this problem is simple: sleep more. The study was funded by Diabetes UK and UK National Institute for Health Research and will be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego.

<![CDATA[Suicide Rates Up For Young Women In U.S.]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:01:00 -0600
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released startling data Thursday on suicide rates among young people.

The report looked at men and women ages 10-24 and compared data from 1994 through 2012. Some of those key points include:

Suicide rates among girls and young women have significantly increased in the U.S. — with suffocation being the method most often chosen. The uptick went from 2.7 to 3.2 per 100,000 girls and women. 

But those numbers are still relatively low when compared to the number of men who take their own lives. Though the suicide rate among boys and men has declined, there are still around 11.9 per 100,000 boys and men in the U.S. who commit suicide. That's down from 15.7 at the beginning of the study.

While the findings could prove to be very important in the way of suicide prevention, according to the lead author, the report is missing at least one key aspect. 

"The data don't allow us to determine why. ... Is it social media? Is it conventional media? Is it access to other methods?"

Or maybe it's something else. "Some who work in suicide prevention believe poor U.S. economic conditions are partly to blame. ... What you see is people losing jobs. ... Those life stressors are increased." 

The CDC's numbers also showed about 17 percent of high school students reported they have seriously considered suicide, with 8 percent saying they'd tried to kill themselves at least once in the past year.

<![CDATA[NASA's Dawn To Make Low-Key Ceres Approach Friday]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 08:53:00 -0600
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NASA engineers expect to have confirmation of Dawn’s arrival at Ceres by Friday afternoon.

Ceres is the final and most distant stop for the probe, which launched in 2007 to investigate protoplanets in the asteroid belt for clues to the formation of the early solar system.

Thanks to the time it spent around Vesta in 2011, Dawn will be the the first spacecraft to orbit two different celestial bodies.

It might be notable, but NASA says arrival at Ceres will be relatively boring: one of the lowest-key events in space exploration.

That’s thanks in part to Dawn’s xenon ion engines, which owe their enormous efficiency to their being slow to accelerate. (Video via NASA)

Really slow. They can get spacecraft going faster than traditional rockets, but it can take thousands of hours to build up that speed. 0-60, for example, takes four days. (Video via NASA)

The upside is Dawn won’t need any kind of high-risk insertion burn. Thanks to its long, slow deceleration it should more or less coast into capture orbit.

At a news conference Monday, Project Manager Robert Mase said “There will be literally nothing to watch at the time that it happens, so there won't be the type of dramatic Mission Control room event that you've perhaps seen on some other missions."

It will take six weeks or so for Dawn to enter a low-altitude orbit, at which point it will start mapping the surface of Ceres and breaking down the elemental composition of the dwarf planet. (Video via NASA)

NASA scientists will hunt for explanations for the bright spots Dawn saw on approach, and for the vapor plume spotted last year.

The mission will continue through July of 2015, which is expected to be a busy month for dwarf planet exploration: New Horizons will make its Pluto flyby the same month.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Little Glass Men / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:15:00 -0600
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2015 is officially an El Niño year. That's when the eastern Pacific warms up and starts messing up weather patterns around the globe. 

Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared that the long-awaited weather phenomenon has begun.

But this one is so unusual, forecasters aren't quite sure how it will impact global weather, if it will at all. That's only the latest bit of uncertainty this time around. 

Ever since last spring, weather experts and the media have been declaring the event would start any day now, and it would be a big one. 

Big El Niños, like the one in 1998, can result in warmer global temperatures and widespread flooding along the West Coast.  

Obviously, the much-hyped 2014 El Niño didn't happen. And in a bit of bad news for drought-stricken California, the 2015 El Niño is hitting at a time of year when it's unlikely to bring much rain. 

So how were the scientists off by this much? 

In large part, it's because the whole El Niño cycle isn't very well understood — or at least not well enough to make surefire predictions. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association)

"It sounds like we have a lot of record, 100 years or so. But in the scheme of things, we know El Niño oscillates and those patterns are very hard to characterize," El Niño expert Helen McGregor told ABC Australia.  

And it also comes down to how you define the phenomenon. The Pacific did warm last year, but has hung out just below the benchmark for what counts as an El Niño until now. (Video via NASA)

Scientists believe the event will last through the summer, and any effects will be mild. 

This video includes images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, FEMA and Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Hubble Sees Rare 'Einstein Cross' Image Of Distant Supernova]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:16:00 -0600
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Astronomers have compared it to finding a four-leaf clover. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope show a distant galaxy framed by four images of the same supernova, a kind of mirage that's been dubbed an "Einstein cross." Yep, that's the same supernova on all four sides of the galaxy. 

The unusual phenomenon comes from the fact that light can be bent, like in a magnifying glass. Only instead of glass lenses, it's gravity that does the bending, like the gravity from galaxies or even galaxy clusters. 

It's called gravitational lensing, and it's a common trick of the light that shows up in tons of deep space images. 

In this case, light from a distant supernova was warped on its way to Earth when it passed through a galaxy cluster, splitting the image into four. 

Now, although the lensing effect is common, seeing multiple images of the same object at once is actually pretty rare. 

It's been observed a few times with things like this quasar, the first object to earn the "Einstein Cross" nickname. But a Johns Hopkins University astronomer says this is the first supernova

"Eventually, someone was going to find a supernova that was multiply imaged. It is really quite remarkable that the first multiply imaged supernova was not a double or a triple but an Einstein Cross," astronomer Steve Rodney said. 

Aside from just looking cool, the new image lets astronomers study a supernova from multiple angles, which is a first. And they may see the same exploding star show up again in future lensed images when the light from the explosion passes behind another galaxy cluster in 5 to 10 years. 

This video includes images from NASA, the European Space Agency and Auntie P / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[Toddlers Drinking Coffee? Why You Shouldn't Share Your Joe]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:57:00 -0600
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One-year-olds drinking coffee? Well, as it turns out, it happens. A group of researchers found while some parents are having their morning cup of joe, they are sharing the drink with their toddlers. 

A study found that about 15 percent of Boston two-year-olds drink coffee, and 2.5 percent of one-year-olds were given coffee.

The statistics about coffee consumption were discovered during a Boston Medical Center survey of 315 mothers and infants in the Boston area. Researchers studied infant weight gain and diet.

Researchers found that the toddlers were given between one and four ounces of coffee each day. (Video via Starbucks)

The trend could be associated with cultural practices. The study found that Hispanic mothers were more likely to give infants and toddlers the beverage. Girls were also given coffee more often than boys.

And previous studies discovered that children in Australia, Cambodia and Ethiopia sometimes drink coffee as well.

But young coffee drinkers may be in for more than a buzz. Coffee and caffeine consumption among children has been linked to depression, Type 1 diabetes, trouble sleeping, substance abuse and obesity. 

A separate study has found that two year olds who drink tea or coffee had triple the risk of obesity by the time they entered kindergarten.

The Boston study only looked at mothers who had toddlers and infants in Massachusetts, but researchers say the trend could hold true for the rest of the U.S. as well.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[What An Ancient Jawbone Could Tell Us About Human Evolution]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 09:09:00 -0600
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This ancient jawbone could present an important clue in our understanding of how humans evolved. 

Researchers found the bone at a dig site in northern Ethiopia and dated it to around 2.8 million years ago. (Video via Arizona State University)

ASU professor Kaye Reed said, "We don't have very many other hominid species at all between the time period of 3 million and 2.5 million years ago."

When it comes to understanding how our genus, Homo, evolved, there's a gap in the fossil record, which makes the jawbone find even more significant. (Video via Smithsonian Institution)

At 2.8 million years old, the jawbone is closer to the latest-known fossils of Australopithecus afarensis, a pre-Homo species also found in Ethiopia, famously in the form of the Lucy skeleton. (Video via PBS)

But through detailed examination of the jawbone, the researchers noticed important differences in the teeth, which much more closely resemble later species of Homo than Australopithecus. 

Those differences have led to that description of the jawbone as representing the first human that we know of. (Video via BBC)

The researchers' findings were released alongside another paper that looked at how the changing ecology of the region of Ethiopia where the bone was found could've played a role in human development. (Video via University of Bristol)

That paper says the region, known as the Afar, gradually switched from a forest environment to grassland, which could've led to the development of the genus Homo. (Video via Discovery)

Despite the declarations that this jawbone represents the first human, the researchers want to hold off on naming it a new species until more bones are found. 

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

<![CDATA[New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain]]> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:13:00 -0600
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Scientists at the University of Southern California discovered a hormone that has some of the same benefits as exercise.

The newly discovered hormone protects against diabetes and weight gain, even in the face of high-fat, Western diets.

It was found in the DNA of mitochondria, which are green in this picture. That's the part of the cell that converts food into energy.

The hormone protects against diabetes and weight gain by restoring insulin sensitivity in muscle tissue, which allows the body to do a better job processing glucose.

This could especially help older people who have developed age-dependent insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. The hormone actually reversed those effects while normalizing metabolism and protecting against weight gain.

Scientists studied the effects by feeding mice a high-fat diet and injecting them with the hormone. The researchers found the mice were less likely to gain weight and less likely to develop a resistance to insulin.

Pinchas Cohen, Dean of the USC Davis school, said, "This represents a major advance in the identification of new treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes."

The researchers point out that the mechanisms that made this hormone work in the mice are present in all mammals, including humans. Clinical trials in people could start in the next three years.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Zeiss Microscopy / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say]]> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 07:55:00 -0600
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Nausea, coughing, runny nose, fever ... probz the flu, right? (Video via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Eh. It's probably just a cold, you big baby. 

Scientists behind a new study published in the journal PLOS Biology concluded an average adult only gets the flu once every five years.

Scientists tested blood samples from 151 participants from southern China between the ages of 7 and 81 to see how often they actually got the flu. 

The researchers from Imperial College London tested the samples for antibodies for nine different influenza strains. This was to determine whether they had gotten the flu, since antibodies are only produced in response to germs like viruses.

And the wide age range they tested is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older people and young children have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu.

Researchers gathering data on both old and young is something scientists say hasn't really been done before. 

The BBC writes, "[This] should help experts better understand who is at risk of infection, and how often, as well as how far the disease spreads through communities."

Researcher Dr. Adam Kucharski said not only did they analyze how a person's immunity builds up over their lifetime, but they wanted to see how often people noticed they had the flu.  

"Symptoms could sometimes be caused by common cold viruses, such as rhinovirus or coronavirus. Also, some people might not realize they had flu, but the infection will show up when a blood sample is subsequently tested," Kucharski said.

The study found kiddos got the flu about every other year. Adults, aged 30 and up, about twice every decade.

This was a field study in China, so it's unclear if the findings apply to other populations. However, one researcher pointed out the flu they studied included strains that spread in the U.S. 

Although, as the Daily Mail comically points out, "The study, failed to find evidence for man flu, with the frequency of infection similar for both genders." If only...

This video includes an image from Getty Images and a sound effect from

<![CDATA[Long-Lost Ship Found? Microsoft Co-Founder Uncovers Wreckage]]> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 07:33:00 -0600
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The ship on the right in this photograph is the battleship Musashi, which, along with its sister ship Yamato, was the heaviest-armed battleship ever built. 

Now, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he's found the Musashi about 3,000 feet under the Sibuyan Sea, in the central Philippines. 

An unmanned submersible called the Octo ROV took this video, which Allen says shows various parts of the Musashi's remains, including multiple gun turrets and a plane catapult. (Video via Vulcan Inc.)

American forces sunk the Musashi in October of 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, killing more than 1,000 members of its 2,400 crew

It had been built as one of only two Yamato-class battleships, and was armed with the heaviest guns available. Japan's navy tried to use heavy armament to counterbalance the fact that it was outnumbered by American naval forces. (Video via History Channel

The Musashi, and ultimately the Yamato as well, was sunk by planes launched from aircraft carriers, a technological advancement that would ultimately render battleships ineffective. (Video via PBS)

Allen has loaned his ship out on other scientific expeditions in the past, including one to the wreckage of another WWII ship — the HMS Hood. (Video via CBS

The director of Japan's Kure Maritime Museum told CNN although it's an exciting find, they will need images of the entire ship's body to be 100 percent sure it's the Musashi.

<![CDATA[Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:54:00 -0600
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More than 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and on average those who do develop it tend to be around 65 years old. 

But a new study out of Northwestern University says an abnormal protein associated with the disease has been discovered in the brains of people as young as 20. 

Researchers studied neurons from the brains of 50 deceased individuals between the ages of 20 to 95. Of those, 21 had Alzheimer's. 

And what they discovered is that not only was the protein, called amyloid, discovered in the neurons of those with the disease, it was also found accumulating in clumps in some of the younger patients. 

The BrightFocus Foundation explains amyloid is a protein that's produced by everyone. But in Alzheimer's patients, it's been found that amyloid builds up around the brain's neurons, creating a plaque that interferes with the nerves. 

"Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented. ... We know that amyloid, when present for long periods of time, is bad for you," the study's lead researcher said in a press release

Now, the amyloid plaque found in the younger patients was smaller than those found in the older ones and the ones with Alzheimer's. 

HealthDay spoke with a neurology professor who is cautious about the findings, pointing out the Northwestern researchers only looked at a small group of brains and at a specific type of neuron. 

Time reports the researchers believe that removing the amyloid plaque early on, even in those who have a history of Alzheimer's in their family, could slow down the disease. 

The study was published in the journal Brain

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA['Doomsday' Vault Stores Tree Seeds In Case Of Armageddon]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 14:05:00 -0600
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At the top of the world, on a frozen island called Svalbard, there's an underground bunker called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, more commonly known as the "doomsday" vault. (Video via Google Earth)

In that "doomsday" vault there are lots and lots of frozen seeds of crops from all over the world, just in case humanity ever needs to start over. (Video via General Electric)

Last week, the vault added two types of forest trees: the Norway spruce and the Scots pine. 

The trees' seeds are being added as part of the vault's broader mission to not just safeguard the plants, but also to monitor changes in genetic diversity over time. (Video via Kino Lorber / 'Seeds of Time')

The vault was opened in 2008, the product of a collaboration between two conservation groups: the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, along with the Norwegian government, which footed the $9 million construction bill. (Video via National Geographic)

It's the brainchild of a handful of conservationists including Cary Fowler, who explained the need for the vault in a 2009 TED talk

"In recent years, we lost the gene bank, the seed bank in Iraq and Afghanistan — you can guess why — in Rwanda, in the Solomon Islands. ... We needed a really safe place, and we went quite far north to find it," Fowler said. 

Fowler argues preserving biodiversity in plants, especially in agricultural plants, is just as important as preserving biodiversity in animals. (Video via BASF)

The basic argument is, in the face of climate change, the more diversity, the more resilient the agriculture, because some seeds that aren't economical now, may be better equipped to withstand challenges in the future, or vice versa. (Video via Global Crop Diversity Trust)

The vault contains tens of thousands of seeds from thousands of different seed types and has the capacity to store 4.5 million different seed types. (Video via Svalbard Global Seed Vault)

The vault expects more tree seed donations from participating countries — all of which retain ownership of the seeds they donate. (Video via Ancient Forest Alliance)

This video includes images from Global Crop Diversity Trust / CC BY NC SA 2.0, Jim Champion / CC BY SA 2.0, and abejorro34 / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:45:00 -0600
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Migraines suck. There's no other way to put it. But thanks to some smart researchers, migraines might not suck as much.

Researchers at Albany Medical Center found that delivering lidocaine, a common anesthetic, straight to the nerves in the back of your nasal cavity offers some serious relief from those migraines.

But getting to the back of your nasal cavity means going up your nose. Sounds uncomfortable, but it's better than a pounding headache, right?

In the study, the medical team used 112 participants, who were about 45 years old on average. All of these patients had been diagnosed with migraines or cluster headaches. During treatment, patients had a small catheter inserted into each nostril and up into the nasal passage, where a dose of lidocaine was released. 

Before treatment, participants were asked to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most painful. The pain rate average was about eight. The day after the treatment, pain scores were around four.

For the most part, the test was a success, with 88 percent of people in the study reporting they needed less pain medication.

However, researchers acknowledged the procedure is just a temporary solution to migraines but say they will continue studying the nasal spray approach and review the results after six months.

For now, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says there's "no absolute cure" for migraines.

This video includes an image from 19melissa68 / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Treadmill Test Can Predict Chance Of Death Within A Decade]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:47:00 -0600
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Researchers say just by having you run on a treadmill, they can predict your chances of dying in the next decade. Scary stuff, right? 

Johns Hopkins cardiologists analyzed 58,000 heart stress tests to come up with an algorithm called the FIT Treadmill Score. The score factors in peak heart rate and metabolism. 

Scores ranged from negative 200 to positive 200 — the more positive the score, the lower your mortality risk in the next 10 years. Patients with scores from 0 to 100 had a 3 percent chance of death in the next decade, while patients scoring 100 to 200 had a 2 percent chance. 

But the numbers were much, much different for those who scored less than 0. Patients between 0 and negative 100 had an 11 percent chance of dying in the next 10 years, while those in the negative 100 and below range had a 38 percent chance of death. 

The researchers hope this treadmill test will not only serve as a mainstream test for cardiologists around the nation since it's relatively accurate, simple and cheap, but also motivate people to get in shape.

Senior study author Michael Blaha added, "The notion that being in good physical shape portends lower death risk is by no means new, but we wanted to quantify that risk precisely by age, gender and fitness level, and do so with an elegantly simple equation." 

"Look, if this is in your power to change and improve your number, pump up the speed. It's all about getting a high heart rate. You can actually change a bit of your destiny on this," said ABC's Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who was not involved in the study. 

Treadmill stress tests generally consist of a patient walking on a treadmill and gradually increasing speed and incline. The test normally runs until the patient is exhausted or has met a predetermined goal. 

But as Shape Magazine points out, this one doesn't take into account countless other variables, like electrocardiogram readings, so it's much less time-intensive. 

The study was released in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:18:00 -0600
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Construction work on a dike in Canada gave hundreds of slumbering snakes a bit of a rude awakening last week.

Workers unearthed a den of more than 500 garter snakes hibernating under rocks in British Columbia. Although garter snakes are harmless, relocating that many of them presented a bit of a problem. (Video via CBC)

The snakes were delivered in buckets and bins to the Wildlife Rescue Association of British Columbia near Vancouver, which is storing them in tubs until temperatures rise outside.

To survive the winter, the cold-blooded garter snakes hibernate together, sleeping for months on end with no need for food and only occasionally waking up for water. (Video via National Geographic

The behavior, known as brumation, is especially common in parts of Canada, where the geology allows for sinkholes to develop, which present the perfect place for the snakes to hibernate. (Video via Nature North)

The dike where the snakes were living — at Boundary Bay, near the border with Washington state — is being repaired, and once the work is finished, the rocks where the snakes were living will be replaced.

The Wildlife Rescue Association plans to return the snakes to the site in the spring.

This video includes an image from Susannah Anderson / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:43:00 -0600
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Can't eat gluten? Your dietary restriction might lead to a tax break.

A tax analyst told Kiplinger, "If you are on a restricted diet for a particular disease and if you have a doctor's certification that you should be on such a diet, you can treat it as a medical expense."

So there's the caveat. You actually need to have a doctor tell you to stop eating gluten if you want the tax break. You can't simply decide you want to strip it from your diet just because. 

Those who have problems with gluten might have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the lining in the small intestine, according to WebMD

This tax break is in place to help cut down on some of the costs of purchasing gluten-free foods. 

The New York Times reported in 2014 that Nielsen found 11 percent of American households are now purchasing gluten-free products. That's up 6 percent since 2010. 

So that's a lot of people spending a lot more money on gluten-free products. A 2008 study found gluten-free products are on average 242 percent more expensive than their gluten-filled counterparts. 

So what do you need to do to get the deduction?

First off, the Celiac Disease Foundation says"The amount of allowable medical expenses you must exceed before you can claim a deduction is 10 percent of your adjusted gross income." That threshold is 7.5 percent of AGI if you or your spouse is over the age of 65.

If you qualify, you then need to send in a doctor's note along with the medical deductions form, which is Form 1040, Schedule A. 

You'll also need to keep all your receipts to help figure out the difference between what you spent on gluten-free products and what you would have spent if you'd purchased the regular items. The difference between the two is what is deductible. 

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports that if you purchase gluten-free products online, the price of shipping can also be deducted. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Doctors Often Give In To Vaccine-Wary Parents]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 08:03:00 -0600
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Your doctor may be a pushover. 

That's according to a new survey published in the journal Pediatrics by the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It found docs gave in to parents' requests to delay giving their children vaccines, despite feeling it wasn't in the child's best interest.  

The survey asked 534 primary care physicians in 2012 how often parents postponed vaccination for their children under two years old. (Video via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In any given month, doctors said 93 percent of the time, they were asked at least once to delay vaccines. One third of the time, the medical professionals said they gave in, another third said they did sometimes.

The New York Times spoke with a pediatrician not involved with the study, who said it's today's doctoring style. 

He said: "At some level, you’re ceding your expertise, and you want the patient to participate and make the decision ... you have to be willing to stand back and watch them make a bad one."  (Video via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The doctors involved in the survey said they gave in to parents' requests in order to build trust with the families or prevent losing them as patients altogether. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends several different vaccines within the first two years of a child's life.

The CDC is also clear: vaccines are not associated with a risk of developing autism. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[WHO: 1.1 Billion At Risk Of Hearing Loss, Will They Listen?]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 03:41:00 -0600
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The World Health Organization has placed a staggering number on the whole “you’re ruining your ears with that loud music” warning.

The number? 1.1 billion. That’s the number of teens and young adults at risk of hearing loss.

The organization pulled data from studies in several countries around the world and found nearly half of people between the ages of 12 and 35 are exposed to unsafe sound levels from devices like headphones and earbuds.

And about 40 percent are risking their hearing while attending harmfully loud concerts and nightclubs. (Video via YG Entertainment / Psy)

The report says unsafe sound levels depend on multiple factors, but it gives a few examples. You start to risk hearing loss if you spend eight hours or more listening to sound levels above 85 dB (comparable to a running blender). (Video via Vitamix)

Bump that level up to 100 dB (the sound of a running lawn mower), and it only takes 15 minutes before things start to get dangerous for your hearing. (Video via YouTube / SmallEngineTech95)

A doctor with the World Health Organization explains why it’s important to play it safe with your hearing, warning, "once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk."

So what can we do to keep our hearing sharp and intact for years to come? The same thing that’s always been suggested: turn down the volume, limit listening, visit the ear doctor, etc.

The problem with these suggestions — and the warning as a whole — is that teens and young adults have been cautioned to turn down the volume for years. 

And yet, according to the World Health Organization, half of the 360 million people with “moderate to profound hearing loss” could have avoided it. Clearly the message isn’t getting through.

An audiologist quoted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission says advancements in technology might be to blame. 

"In the past you had to turn your stereo up so the whole family was affected and [they would] say 'turn the stereo down.'"

Now we’re able to listen to music through personal headphones, earphones and in-earphones, so families aren’t listening in. And as the devices get closer to the sensitive parts of our inner-ear, the risk of damage goes up. (Video via YouTube / Sensaphonics)

The World Health Organization recommends listening at 60 percent the maximum volume of your device, and limiting “use of personal audio devices” to one hour per day. That’s bound to be an unpopular suggestion, given Americans alone listen to music for an average of more than four hours each day.

It also says concert venues should limit sound to safe levels. But we’ve got to say, it’s pretty difficult to imagine a concert where the music’s only as loud as a lawn mower. (Video via Black Hole Recordings / Andain)

Short of making a change through government regulation of audio listening — another recommendation by the organization — this latest report might just end up becoming part of the noise. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Rodrigo Senna / CC BY 2.0 and music from Lee Rosevere / CC BY NC 4.0.

<![CDATA[Spacesuit Water Leaks Not An Issue On Latest ISS Walk]]> Sun, 01 Mar 2015 12:34:00 -0600
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Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are making good progress in the last of three spacewalks to prepare the facility for new hardware installations.

NASA's latest report put Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore an hour ahead of schedule, and Mission Control is surely happy to report their suits are working properly.

Terry Virts said a small amount of water leaked into his helmet at the end of the second spacewalk last week.

The spacesuit techs say the suit Virts was wearing has a history of water trouble. They call it "sublimator water carryover." In even more technical terms:

"A small amount of residual water in the sublimator cooling component that can condense once the environment around the suit is repressurized following its exposure to vacuum during a spacewalk, resulting in a tiny amount of water pushing into the helmet."

Water in spacesuits has been a recurring issue for the ISS crew, and in one instance, it was more than just a tiny problem. (Video via NBC)

"I feel a lot of water on my head, but I don’t think it's leaked from my back," ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano said on a spacewalk in 2013.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano was mid-spacewalk when his helmet began to fill with water. He and his partner immediately canceled the job, but Parmitano lost vision and radio communications in the time it took him to get back inside.

NASA has since inspected and replaced the suits' cooling systems and installed low-tech backup safety measures: an absorbent pad to soak up wayward water and an emergency "snorkel" the astronauts MacGyvered together from plastic tubing and Velcro.

Luckily, none of this has been necessary on Sunday's spacewalk. By the time they're done, Virts and Wilmore will have spent more than six hours extravehicular, running the last 400 feet of cable needed to connect new docking collars to the station and installing two new communications masts.

Those antennas will help direct spacecraft around the ISS. Traffic to and from the station is expected to pick up in 2017 when the Commercial Crew Program gets underway.

This video includes images from NASA / CC BY NC 2.0 and music by Lasswell / CC BY NC 3.0

<![CDATA[How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes]]> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:07:00 -0600
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Between cavities, plaque, gingivitis and about a thousand other things, people have a lot to worry about when they go to the dentist's office.

And according to a new study from researchers at New York University, diabetes could soon be added to that list.

The study took the blood of 408 people who were either diagnosed with or at risk of of diabetes. They took blood in two ways: first using the traditional "finger-prick" technique and then again using a new technique, taking blood directly from the patient's mouth.

They tested both samples for diabetes, and voila: Blood taken from the mouth matched the "finger-prick" results 99.1 percent of the time.

Diabetes is a growing health concern. It's the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S., costs Americans an estimated $245 billion a year and afflicts an estimated 29 million people.

And "by 2050, 1 out of every 3 Americans will have diabetes," according to the film "Fed Up."

That makes the study a big deal for public health officials. Of those 29 million Americans, about 8 million of them aren't officially diagnosed and don't receive treatment. 

The researchers say the study could make your dentist an important ally in the fight to identify diabetes — before the disease leads to more serious problems. 

So the next time you're sitting in the dentist's chair and you feel a little prick, don't worry. They might be trying to save your life.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[New FDA-Approved Diabetes Medicine Might Save Drugmaker]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:55:00 -0600
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A new diabetes drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday. It doesn't sound like breaking news, but for the company behind the drug, it's a pretty big deal.

The French drugmaker Sanofi is now able to sell its drug Toujeo in the United States. And Sanofi is likely thanking its lucky stars.

The Wall Street Journal described it as a "crucial launch" for Sanofi as it struggles "to keep a firm grip on the all-important diabetes market."

Diabetes keeps the body from properly absorbing blood sugar. Blood sugar is essentially food for the cells in your body.

There are two types of diabetes, very originally named Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas — the organ responsible for insulin, which gets that blood sugar into your cells for energy — produces very little insulin or none at all. There's no cure, but it can be managed.

Type 2 diabetes is when your body resists insulin or simply doesn't make enough. The condition is usually manageable with a healthy lifestyle.

The diabetes market generates $38 billion yearly in sales, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing an evaluation group. So it's a lucrative industry to have a hold on. 

Sanofi already has an insulin drug on the market, Lantus. It treats both types of diabetes. But really, there isn't a huge difference between Lantus and Toujeo. 

Lantus is the world's top-selling diabetes drug. It lowers glucose, or sugar levels, in the blood. It's a long-acting form of insulin.

Toujeo is dosed differently than Lantus and is also a long-acting form of insulin. 

Sanofi is expected to lose its U.S. patent protection on Lantus later this year. And without any real reason for the health care industry to switch from Lantus to Toujeo, there needs to be some kind of incentive, right? (Video via U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Well, there might be. Some are already questioning if a price war will get people to switch to Toujeo. FierceBiotech writes:

"That is likely to set up some early price discounting that will further roil the huge and growing diabetes market for all the key players."

Sanofi hasn't said how much Toujeo will cost, but it's expected to be available in the U.S. in April. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Sanofi Pasteur / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:38:00 -0600
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Like to get more than eight hours of sleep a night? Well, a new study just discovered that could lead to as much as a 45 percent higher chance of stroke. 

University of Cambridge researchers followed 9,700 people between the ages of 42 and 81 for almost a decade to study their sleeping patterns. 346 of the participants suffered a stroke during that time period. 

Looking at factors like age and sex, the researchers found those who slept for less than six hours each day were 19 percent more likely to have a stroke. Those who slept for more than eight hours daily had a 45 percent greater chance of stroke.

The Los Angeles Times explains the research team looked at what types of strokes these participants were more at risk for, with those who get less than six hours being more susceptible to ischemic strokes and those who slept more than eight hours more susceptible to hemorrhagic strokes. 

Ischemic strokes, which are the most common, occur when something blocks a blood vessels that sends blood to a person's brain. On the other hand, hemorrhagic strokes take place when a blood vessel "ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain."

To study this correlation further, the Cambridge researchers looked at information from 11 other studies to try to determine what the exact relationship is between sleep and risk of stroke. 

That's something they still aren't sure about. In a press release, one of the researchers said: "It's apparent ... that there's a link between sleeping longer than average and a greater risk of stroke. What is far less clear, however, is the direction of this link, whether longer sleep is a symptom, an early marker or a cause of cardiovascular problems."

It's already known that a lack of sleep is associated with several health problems, including strokes. In fact, WebMD reported of all the people who have insomnia, about 90 percent of them suffer from another health condition. 

What's really interesting about this study, which was published in the journal Neurology, is that it conflicts a bit with the sleep recommendations set out by the National Sleep Foundation.

While it advises older adults over the age of 65 to get around seven or eight hours of sleep, it actually recommends that adults between the ages of 26 and 64 get between seven and nine hours of sleep. 

If you're one of those long sleepers, HealthDay spoke with a neurology professor who suggests maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy diet to combat the possibility of a stroke. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and osseous / CC BY 2.0

<![CDATA[This Little Red Dot Is Sign Of Impossibly Huge Black Hole]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:24:00 -0600
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This little red dot astronomers have discovered is actually the quasar from a black hole approximately 12 billion times the mass of our sun. That's pretty hard to take in on its own, so allow us to help. 

First off: No, it doesn't pose a threat to us. It's so far away that the light from the quasar — luminous spirals of gas going into the black hole — takes billions of years to get to us, and it's moving away from us as the universe expands. (Video via European Southern Observatory)  

With that out of the way, we have to do some stretching to understand what something 12 billion times more massive than our sun actually means. 

The first part of that is understanding our sun is already really, really big: 333,000 times the mass of our cozy little planet and about 1.3 million times the volume. (Video via NASA)

So when you take a sun with the mass of 333,000 earths, and the fact that your average quasar-associated black hole has the mass of a billion suns, it gets a little hard to comprehend. 

Then you take into account that this black hole is 12 times bigger than average and comprehending the size of it just kind of seems like a lost cause. So how about its scientific significance? 

Well, that might be a more worthwhile venture, seeing as it's not just super big, but the paper writes it developed super quickly — when the universe was less than a billion years old. That "presents substantial challenges to theories of the formation and growth of black holes and the coevolution of black holes and galaxies."

Considering the fact that NASA's WMAP satellite has estimated the age of the universe at around 13.7 billion years old, this black hole developed in the universe's infancy. (Video via NASA)

But even its age, and the amount of time it has had to suck in material doesn't explain its size or the brightness of its quasar — one of the researchers told National Geographic it's about 40,000 times brighter than the entire Milky Way. 

So that leaves scientists looking for new theories to explain it. One of those theories is that right after the Big Bang, stars much more massive than any of the ones we know about existed and inevitably collapsed, leading to the black hole. 

Right now, scientists haven't seen any evidence that stars that big ever existed, but the farther we look into space, the farther we can look into the past, thanks to the amount of time it takes for light to travel. (Video via NASA)

And NASA plans to look pretty far with the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's successor. NASA says it will be able to see as far as 13 billion years back, putting it as close to the start of the universe as scientists have ever gotten. 

That's still a ways off, though: NASA plans to launch the JWST in October 2018. 

<![CDATA[NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Spots Two Bright Points On Ceres]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 08:27:00 -0600
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The Dawn spacecraft has spotted not one, but two bright points on the minor planet Ceres.

Newly enhanced images from the probe show two shining spots on the surface. It’s not clear exactly what they are, since we can’t get a closer look.

Ceres is a minor planet in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn is speeding its way toward a rendezvous, but it’s got a way to go. These latest images are from 29,000 miles away.

NASA’s Chris Russell theorizes the two spots might be volcanic in origin, since they both sit in the same crater.

Or, as he tells NBC, they could be ice: especially since “the material reflects 40 percent or more of the light falling on it.”

In any case, the images are a significant improvement over what scientists were working with before. Until Dawn got into range, all they had to go on were low-resolution shots from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Ceres will be Dawn’s second target during its now eight-year mission. In 2011 the spacecraft orbited Vesta, another ancient protoplanet thought to carry clues to the formation of the early solar system.

Dawn is scheduled to arrive at Ceres on March 6.

This video includes images from NASA and music by Little Glass Men / CC BY 4.0.

<![CDATA[Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 14:04:00 -0600
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New bionic prostheses are giving more options to people with nerve damage.

Research published in The Lancet took three patients who had lost control of their hands and worked on training them to control a bionic hand with their minds. (Video via The Lancet)     

Their damaged hands were then amputated and replaced with the prostheses, and the damaged nerves in their spinal cords were reconstructed with nerves from their legs. 

The actual nerve signals are too weak for the prosthesis to pick up, so the researchers used muscle tissue to amplify those signals and sensors on the patients' skin to detect them.  

The researchers expect progress on this type of prosthetic replacement will be slow. (Video via SuperMed)

Professor Oskar Aszmann explained, "The timeframe will definitely be very slow because we're dealing with human beings, and we need to be very sure that what we do doesn't harm the patient."

The technology here isn't new: Researchers have been developing ways for people to mentally control prosthetic hands and limbs for a while now, with varying degrees of success. (Video via Discovery)

What's new is amputating a damaged extremity to replace it with a prosthesis, allowing the damaged nerves to be repaired in the process, something the researchers say could be replicated at other medical centers. 

<![CDATA[Rare Big Cat Numbers Rising On The Russia-China Border]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 12:29:00 -0600
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There's something of a revival happening on the Russian-Chinese border.

First, World Wide Fund for Nature camera traps showed a family of Amur tigers in China, 18 miles in from the border — the first evidence that the critically endangered cat was breeding on the Chinese side of the border. (Video via World Wide Fund for Nature

Then, less than a week later, a census of Amur leopards in the same region found the world's most endangered big cat had close to doubled its population in Russia, from 30 in 2007, to 57. (Video via World Wide Fund for Nature)

While both species have a long way to go before they're no longer considered endangered, their recovery is significant, and it's worth asking why it's happened. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's affinity for big cats is well documented, but despite the ridicule, his public appearances have been part of a larger effort to attract attention to the country's endangered cats. (Video via RT)

Putin's push for big cat conservation has included Russian airline Aeroflot carrying an image of the Amur leopard on one of its planes and information about the leopard onboard. (Video via Channel One Russia)

Another important factor has been the creation of the Land of the Leopard National Park, a swath of more than 1,000 square miles of protected land that covers the leopard's breeding grounds and is home to some tigers as well.

It's there that the leopard's numbers have almost doubled, and the park's camera traps have allowed scientists to better monitor the leopard's population. (Video via Land of the Leopard National Park)

The biggest threat both the Amur tiger and leopard face is poaching, with their pelts going for tens of thousands of dollars, but they can also be threats to each other. (Video via Al Jazeera)

"In this case it seems, the death was caused by a tiger," an Al Jazeera reported said.

China's conservation efforts haven't focused as heavily on the Amur cats, and the country has its own critically endangered big cat to contend with: the South China tiger. (Video via Save China's Tigers)

Although the tiger is considered extinct in the wild in China, the country has been funding efforts to reintroduce individuals in some areas.

Those conservation efforts have drawn some criticism from members of the WWF and other conservation groups, who say the efforts to restore the Amur tiger's numbers are more realistic.

The Amur cats' recovery comes in the wake of positive signs from India — home to more tigers than anywhere else in the world — that tiger numbers there are on the rise as well.

This video includes an image from J. Patrick Fischer / CC BY SA 3.0.

<![CDATA[The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:44:00 -0600
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The Amazon rainforest owes at least some of its lush greenery to the Sahara Desert.

That’s according to a new study by NASA scientist Hongbin Yu and a team of researchers, who used satellite imagery to build the best look yet at how dust makes its way from the Sahara to the Amazon.

The data came from NASA's Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation: CALIPSO for short.

It uses a laser tool called Lidar to track clouds of aerosols, or airborne particles. This includes dust blown from the Sahara Desert, which is the largest such cloud the planet ever kicks up.

CALIPSO tracked a yearly average of 182 million tons of dust coming from the Sahara, which traveled 1,600 miles. More than 27 million tons of that dust makes it to the Amazon each year.

The phosphorous content of this dust is especially important. The researchers explain the Amazon’s soil lacks important nutrients, including phosphorus, because rain washes it away before plants have a chance to absorb it. (Video via National Geographic)

The phosphorus delivered in the Saharan dust offsets that washed away by rain. The researchers say without this dust, “the hydrological loss would greatly deplete the soil phosphorus reservoir over a time scale of decades or centuries.”

The researchers used six years of CALIPSO data to make their conclusions. But they say it still isn’t a large enough sample for reliable long-term models.

Earth itself is also skewing the data. A large band of semi-arid land at the southern edge of the Sahara called the Sahel also acts like a giant filter.

Lead author Hongbin Yu explains: “When the Sahel was dry, the dust transported to the Amazon the next year would increase. When it was wet, the transport would decrease.”

All the same, says Yu, CALIPSO’s data is an important first point for comparison in understanding how dust transport impacts global climate.

Yu and his team have published their findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

This video includes images from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 03:36:00 -0600
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Strike up another small victory for marijuana supporters.

No, another state hasn't legalized it... yet. But there is yet another study out saying weed isn't nearly as dangerous as a slew of other drugs.

Researchers studied a handful of legal and illegal substances including alcohol, marijuana, meth and heroin. They found, by a sizable margin, weed was the least deadly of them all. The most deadly? Alcohol.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers compared what is considered a toxic dose to how much of a certain drug people usually take.

Of the grouping, scientists say marijuana was the only one labeled a "low risk," and that it was about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. (Video via The National)

Meanwhile, excessive boozing was found to be more dangerous than all the other substances analyzed including meth, cocaine and even heroine.

The long-term health risks associated with alcohol abuse are no secret. The CDC says excessive alcohol use contributes to about 88,000 deaths every year in the U.S. (Video via KHON)

As for pot, according to a widely-cited 1988 Drug Enforcement Administration briefing, a person would have to consume "20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana [in a single joint]" to reach a potentially fatal level.

Of course, that's not to say smoking weed isn't harmful. It can negatively affect the respiratory system and could create mental health problems. Regardless, the new research couldn't come at a more appropriate time for marijuana supporters as more states continue to remove regulatory hurdles.

And as a Medical Daily writer points out, it gives more "ammo for marijuana legalization." 

Alaska became the third state to legalize recreational marijuana Tuesday, joining both Colorado and Washington state. A similar initiative in Oregon was passed in November, but the law won't take effect until July. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Retinal Prosthesis Helps Man See Wife Again After A Decade]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 11:55:00 -0600
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That's what it sounded like when Allen Zderad saw his wife's face for the first time in a decade, thanks to a retinal prosthesis installed at the Mayo Clinic. (Video via Mayo Clinic)

The Argus II is the retinal prosthesis the clinic used, and it allows some people who have lost their sight to regain their vision, in a way. 

Zderad suffered from an inherited disease that damaged photoreceptors in his eye and, over the course of 20 years, gradually reduced his vision. (Video via Mayo Clinic

What the Argus II does is relay images from a camera on the device to a little portable computer, which translates them into visual images a transmitter can then send to an implant in the user's retina. (Video via Second Sight)

The brain has to learn to interpret those signals, so what the user tends to see is primarily light and changes in light, although the brain's ability to interpret the signals improves over time. (Video via Al Jazeera)

The Argus II uses technology primarily developed at the Duke Eye Center starting in the 1980s. The university used it on its first patient back in October. (Video via Duke University)

The FDA approved the Argus II in February of last year, but it warns the device isn't effective for some visual impairments including optic nerve disease, central retinal artery or vein occlusion, or for people with a history of retinal detachment. 

Second Sight's CEO told Bloomberg the company is looking to address that. 

"With this new fundraising, we're planning on doing additional R&D not only to improve the quality of vision for folks like Larry but to expand it to other forms of blindness, eventually to all forms of blindness," Robert Greenberg said. 

Zderad is the first person in Minnesota to use the device and only the 15th person in the country. 

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

<![CDATA[Infants Who Eat Peanuts Might Not Develop Allergies]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 09:57:00 -0600
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Long, long ago, in the year 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics told parents to keep their kids away from these little buggers: peanuts.

But that was then; this is now. Welcome to 2015. Now, the nutshell is getting cracked in the other direction. 

A trial included around 600 babies younger than a year old who were considered at risk of developing peanut allergies. It found their risk of developing the peanut allergy was cut by more than 80 percent when they ate the food earlier in life. (Video via NY1)

The randomized trial was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which first notes that in the past 10 years, peanut allergies in children have doubled in Western countries. 

The babies were randomly assigned into a group that ate peanuts or didn't. They continued to be fed peanuts until they were 5 years old. 

The research found early exposure means less chance of developing peanut allergies. (Video via WHBQ)

The basis of the study started several years ago when researchers found peanut allergies in Jewish children in the U.K. were 10 times higher than Israeli children of similar ancestry. Peanuts are introduced into Israeli children's life earlier than they are for children in the U.K. 

The BBC says specialists think the findings could change diets but warned parents not to experiment at home.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes peanuts as one of the top eight most common allergic foods. It's classified as a "major food allergen."

This video includes images from Daniella Segura / CC BY 2.0 and Martin L / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 08:02:00 -0600
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When we hear about the "black death," a couple things come to mind: the death of tens of millions of people, and ... 

Rats. Our history teachers taught us that the epidemic from 1347-1353 was likely spread by rats carrying fleas infected with bacteria. 

But rats may have been getting a bad rap the last 650 years or so. The real culprit behind spreading the death?

Gerbils. Actually to be more specific, a species of squirrel-sized gerbil from Asia called the great gerbil. OK, then ... 

Researchers in Norway involved in the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, studied tree-ring records from Europe and Asia to determine what the weather was like at the time of the outbreaks. 

The study found the climate was warmer and wetter in Asia during outbreaks, which meant more plague among the great gerbil population there. But more research needs to be done before we start pointing fingers at Mr. & Mrs. Gerbil. 

"Now, the team is planning to analyze the DNA of plague bacteria from ancient skeletons across Europe to see if their theory is correct. If it is, it could cast this fluffy little pet in a whole new light," the BBC anchor reported. 

Or maybe not. It seems the rats still aren't gonna catch a break. Gizmodo broke the news to its viewers by saying the plague was spread by "cute gerbils" and not "dirty rats."

The study says rats were probably responsible for maintaining the plague on ships, which would have spread it to ports across Europe. We're thinking we're going to just get a pet cat or dog instead.

This video includes images from Matthieu Aubry. / CC BY NC SA 2.0Jean-Jacques Boujot / CC BY SA 2.0Sergey Yeliseev / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Sergei Golyshev / CC BY NC SA 2.0

<![CDATA[Getting More Sun Could Help Ward Off Diabetes]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:44:00 -0600
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Spending more time in the sun could help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

A new study finds that people with lower levels of Vitamin D are more likely to have diabetes, a disease that occurs when blood sugar levels are too high for the body to manage. 

And the easiest way to get Vitamin D is simply hanging out in the sun. The nutrient is usually formed underneath the skin in sunlight, but it's also in milk, fish and eggs. 

The study's author said in a press release, "The average person may be able to reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough outdoor activity."

The vitamin helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, while also aiding cell growth and the immune system. (Video via CBS)

Obesity is commonly attributed as a cause of diabetes, but the study found that people who were not overweight but had low levels of Vitamin D were more likely to have the condition.

However, the study did not determine if low Vitamin D levels caused diabetes. It merely suggested the two are associated.

"Thank God we have vitamin D because it's one of the most important vitamins out there," said one medical expert on Fox News.

Higher levels of Vitamin D don't just help prevent diabetes. Other studies have suggested that the vitamin could lower the risk of heart issues, colon cancerAlzheimer's disease and lead to a longer life.

The most recent findings were published Monday in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

This video contains images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[More Acidic Oceans Mean We Might Eat Less Shellfish]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:33:00 -0600
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Shellfish, and the communities that live off them, could be under greater threat from climate change than we thought.

An increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more ocean acidification, and it could spell disaster for some species of shellfish. (Video via South Carolina Department of Natural Resources)

Ocean acidification, or OA, happens when carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed into the ocean, causing a chemical reaction, lowering the pH level of the water and stunting the development of shellfish, particularly mollusks' shells. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Now a study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, says some communities are particularly vulnerable because OA will happen more quickly than projected, due to local amplifiers.

The study lists communities on the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast as the most socially vulnerable to this acidification.

For example, in the Gulf, the study points out over reliance on one species of oyster, the eastern oyster, could hurt communities there if they don't diversify. (Video via National Wildlife Federation)

But on the East Coast, some communities have already mobilized. And in Maine, the state government has even created a commission to study the effects acidification will have on its shellfish industry and better prepare for it. (Video via America's Heartland)

Other regions are already feeling the effects of acidification, especially the Pacific Northwest. 

The Seattle Times has reported extensively on the huge impact acidification has had on Washington's shellfish industry, and the state estimates OA has cost the region some $110 million and jeopardized 3,200 jobs.

Diani Taylor, of Taylor Shellfish Farms told The Story Group: "It's something that we truly experience and deal with on a day-to-day basis. It's not something that's going to happen potentially in five to 10 years."

But the study's authors argue the region has been able to identify and adapt to the threats of acidification through science, and that could serve as an example for other threatened communities. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 09:37:00 -0600
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Followers of Buddhism have built statues honoring the Buddha for thousands of years, but one statue from China is attracting special attention.

This Buddha statue, which was on display in the Netherlands, has a mummy inside of it. CT scans revealed the presumed remains of a Chinese monk who was thought to have achieved the highest levels of meditation. (Video via RTV Drenthe)

The statue had been part of a mummy exhibit at the Drents Museum in Assen for more than a year but was taken out of the exhibit in September for more scans. (Video via Drents Museum)

The scans reportedly revealed scraps of paper with Chinese characters written on them where the mummy's internal organs should have been.

Multiple outlets report the mummy is thought to be a master meditator known as Liuquan, and it could be an example of self-mummification. (Video via RTV Noord)

As CNET explains, that process involved monks essentially starving themselves before consuming a toxic tea and being shut behind a boulder until they died.

The Buddha mummy will be on display next in Hungary as part of a Hungarian Natural History Museum exhibit. 

This video includes an image from Andrea Schaffer / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[One Reason You Might Not Want Squeaky-Clean Dishes]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 06:42:00 -0600
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There are plenty of reasons to love dishwashers. There’s the convenience, of course. And, well, it works. (Video via Cascade)

Then again, dishwashers might work too well. A study published in the journal “Pediatrics” suggests kids whose families wash dishes by hand are actually less likely to develop allergies.

That’s because hand washing, in general, can be less effective than machine washing. 

The findings support what’s called the “hygiene hypothesis.”

“Which in its simplest terms states that the rise in allergy and asthma is an unintended consequence of modern hygiene,” explains Dr. Home Boushey of the University of California-San Francisco.

In other words, we’re too clean, people!

“The modern world has become so clean that it’s deprived us of contact with microorganisms that we co-evolved with, that have always been with human beings,” Dr. Charles Raison of Emory School of Medicine said in a 2010 video.

The thinking goes — kids need some exposure to bacteria to build up their immune systems. (Video via Raising Arizona Kids)

It’s a theory that’s gained a lot of traction in recent years. But it is just a theory. (Video via euronews)

And one that has its competing opinions — with researchers disagreeing about what kinds of microbes we should be exposed to.

Still — this latest study in the journal Pediatrics doesn’t get into all that. It merely found — through a questionnaire of the families of more than 1,000 children — that dishwashing by hand was linked to a lower risk of allergy development.

Take eczema, for example: 23 percent of kids of handwashing families had a history of it. That’s compared to 38 percent of kids with machine dishwashing families. You can read the full study by checking out the link in our transcript.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Noted Climate Change Skeptic Took Corporate Payouts]]> Sun, 22 Feb 2015 15:34:00 -0600
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This is Wei-Hock Soon, a prominent climate-change skeptic, fielding questions from a Greenpeace member at a Heritage Foundation event in 2013. (Video via Greenpeace)

Now, records Greenpeace obtained through the Freedom of Information Act have revealed Soon, who works for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, took more than a million dollars in funding from sources with ties to fossil fuels.

The more than 100 pages of documents include emails between the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and companies like Exxon Mobil and the Southern Company, as well as the Koch Foundation, among others.

Groups skeptical of climate change have lauded Soon's research; The Heartland Institute presented him with an award for courage and even called him a savior of the nation. 

But Soon's connections to fossil fuel interests haven't always been disclosed, and, as The New York Times writes, that's problematic. 

"At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work."

The Times argued, like tobacco companies did starting in the 1960s, fossil fuel companies have tried to create the illusion of scientific doubt to protect their interests. (Video via Camel

Soon's research has been cited by politicians in turn, who point to it as evidence that there is scientific doubt about the influence of human activities on climate change.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe told CNN, "When you say the science is settled, and the overwhelming scientific analysis comes to that conclusion, frankly that is just not correct." 

That's despite the fact that several studies have affirmed that more than 90 percent of climate scientists agree human activity is causing climate change, and a majority of international scientific groups agree as well.

And The Guardian says those scientific bodies, which include NASA and The National Science Foundation, provided grants for Soon's colleagues at the Harvard—Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics but never funded any of his work.

<![CDATA[International Space Station Is Getting More Parking Spaces]]> Sun, 22 Feb 2015 13:18:00 -0600
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If you think hunting for a parking space at the mall is bad, try finding one at the International Space Station.

ISS crew members have just finished the first of three spacewalks that will free up more room for docking spacecraft in the future.

"Commander Barry Wilmore and flight engineer Terry Virts just started installing 233 meters (or 764 feet) of new cabling to connect two new parking spaces for the station." (Video via BBC)

Wilmore and Virts worked on Harmony, which is one of the station's utility nodes. It's loaded with power and communications gear, and connector ports for other modules or docked spacecraft.

But first, they had to get there from an airlock on the other side of the ISS, and doing work in space is about as far from a walk in the park as you can get. NASA carefully plans out each move astronauts make outside the station. All told, they spent six hours and 41 minutes on the job.

The new adapters themselves will arrive at the station later this year. They'll serve as parking slots for spacecraft from SpaceX and Boeing.

SpaceX's Dragon 2 and Boeing's CST-100 are part of NASA's commercial crew program, an initiative to bring NASA's manned launches back to the U.S.

The last manned mission from U.S. soil was the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis in July 2011. It was the final flight of NASA's shuttle program. (Video via NASA)

Since then, NASA astronauts have hitched rides aboard Russian rockets, where a round-trip seat costs more than $75 million.

Manned launches from U.S. facilities are expected to be at least a bit cheaper when they start in 2017: NASA’s mission budget breaks down to about $70 million per seat.

But the ISS has to get its docking rings first. The next maintenance spacewalk is planned for Wednesday, Feb. 25.

This video includes images from NASA and Daniel Oines / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Drug-Resistant Malaria Strain Alarms Researchers]]> Sat, 21 Feb 2015 19:49:00 -0600
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Researchers have voiced a new concern about malaria — the mosquito-born disease that could be deadly if not treated.  

And that's just the concern  — treatment. According to a recent study a drug-resistant strain of the illness has been spreading through Myanmar and bordering countries. 

"Resistance to nearly all majorly antimalarial drugs started in these poorest boarder areas. No one knows quite why, but migrations, conflict, poverty and fake drugs have probably all played a part," reports NBC

Authors of the new study, published in The Lancet, say the drug-resistance strain is spreading and researchers are calling it a disaster in the making. 

Writing, "The pace at which the geographical extent of artemisinin resistance is spreading is faster than the rate at which control and elimination measures are being developed and instituted, or new drugs being introduced."

Artemisinin is the drug that doctors have relied on to cure malaria, and while treatment used to take just 24 hours, it now takes days. Signs of resistance to the drug have slowly become more prominent over the last decade or so. 

According to The New York Times, we've been through this with the malaria virus before. Artemisinin is showing a similar pattern to drugs "like chloroquine. Such drugs were, in their time, mainstays of malaria treatment but are no longer considered useful because the parasite became resistant." 

As of now, treatment is working when other drugs are used in combination with artemisinin. But as Dr. Charles Woodrow, who was involved in the study, told NPR introducing those supplementary drugs could add to future problems.   

"If the parasites were to evolve in a way that made them entirely resistant to artemisinins, this would be disastrous over a short time scale. Because you'd be left with the remnants of all the other drugs we'd tried to use in the past."

That's what Woodrow calls the nightmare scenario; but it's not something we need to worry about just yet. Best case scenario — researchers will be able to develop a new treatment, as they have in the past. 

The current resistant malaria strain is known to have spread from Myanmar to parts of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. 

Globally, some 600,000 people die from the Malaria every year. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, historicair.

<![CDATA[NASA Wants To See If There's Life On One Of Jupiter's Moons]]> Sat, 21 Feb 2015 13:27:00 -0600
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NASA astronauts may soon be headed to Jupiter to research if there could be life on one of the planet’s icy moons.

Scientists plan to research the surface of Europa, which NASA has long thought has the liquid water, chemical elements and energy source needed to sustain basic lifeforms.

The current plan would involve a spacecraft orbiting Jupiter and snapping photos of the moon’s surface. (Video via NASA)

But scientists are also searching for ways to collect and analyze plumes of water vapor erupting from Europa’s surface. (Video via NASA)

The Hubble Space Telescope first spotted those plumes in 2012.

Europa’s icy shell is widely believed to be covering an ocean of water, and the plumes could be a way to sample that water.

But what exactly would researchers be looking for in the vapor samples?

It seems there are a variety of opinions. One NASA astrobiologist told National Geographic researchers should look for amino acids, which organisms use to build protein.

But a researcher at the University of Glasgow also told the publication complex molecules made up of different types of atoms typically indicate signs of life. (Video via NASA)

The White House included $30 million in NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2016 to plan the Europa mission. The entire mission is eventually expected to cost much more — $2.1 billion — and could launch as early as 2022.

This image includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[India's Pollution May Shorten Life, But Clean Fuel Limited]]> Sat, 21 Feb 2015 11:21:00 -0600
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India's severe pollution problem could be shortening the lifespans of more than half of its total population by three years — that's according to a new report from researchers at the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale.

According to the study, 660 million Indians live in areas of the country that exceed the country's acceptable levels for fine particulate pollution.

The report estimates getting pollution levels under control would add a total of 2.1 billion life years to the population.

Research conducted in the last year shows India's pollution has reached critical levels. According to the World Health Organization, 10 of the world's 20 most polluted cities in 2014 were located in India.

When President Obama visited India back in January, he warned the country was key in the fight against climate change.

"But here's the truth. Even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if countries that are growing rapidly like India, with soaring energy needs, don't also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don't stand a chance against climate change," President Obama told an audience in New Delhi.

And while there were high hopes for Obama's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it failed to produce the kind of progress Obama's climate agreement did with China.

That agreement got both nations, who produce 45 percent of the planet's carbon emissions combined, to agree to curb greenhouse gas production.

Ultimately, India's energy problem can be traced back to what the developing nation has on hand to power its growth.

Renewable sources of energy are expensive, making them hard to come by in the country. (Video via NDTV)

In contrast, India has the world's fifth largest coal reserves. The nation's coal secretary told The Washington Post, "The question is, what do you have in hand? We have coal. There isn’t much choice available."

According to the study, the highest concentration of pollution in the country is around New Delhi. Pollution is less concentrated in the southern regions of the subcontinent.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[New Report Could Hit U.S. Meat And Grain Industries Hard]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 21:03:00 -0600
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If Americans want to get healthier and protect the planet simultaneously, they should eat less meat – that's according to a new report from America's top nutritional experts.

The report issued by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends that Americans lower their intake of red and processed meats and up their intake of fruits, veggies and seafood to live a healthier lifestyle. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The committee also says eating less meat could help our planet. Animals generate a lot of methane and tend to leave behind larger carbon footprints than plants. (Video via National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum)

But meat interest groups have been quick to question the accuracy of the report. A spokesperson for the National Pork Producers Council told Politico the report was "off-base," while a dietitian with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called it "misleading."

It may not come as a huge surprise that meat producers are unhappy with the report. But the consequences of these recommendations could reach other massive sectors of U.S. agriculture.

If Americans choose to eat less meat, grain growing operations could also take a major hit.

Corn is a major source of feed for cattle farmers — it's cheap and it helps cows bulk up quickly for slaughter. (Video via How Farms Work)

So a potential decrease in demand for meat could contribute to a decreased demand for corn. That's bad news for an industry that relies on government subsidies.

These subsidies have made growing corn and other grains a less risky option for farmers. As one Washington Post contributor writes, "What’s important about how we subsidize farms isn't necessarily the overall dollar amount ... it's that it takes some of the risk out of farming grains and oil seeds, but not fruits and vegetables."it's that it takes some of the risk out of farming grains and oil seeds, but not fruits and vegetables."

But these corn subsidies actually contribute to the poor American diet the new report addressed. According to the USDA, more than 90 percent of domestic high fructose corn syrup deliveries go to the beverage industry.

And domestic production of the syrup has increased from 2.2 million tons in 1980 to an average of 9.2 million tons in the 2000s.

The panel's report also indicated that cholesterol intake among healthy adults may not increase the risk of heart disease, directly contradicting the findings of the same committee just five years earlier.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Cancer Survival Rates Improve For Some Groups]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 13:30:00 -0600
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Survival rates for people with cancer are improving, according to a new study. But the results are not the same for people of different age groups, races and genders. 

Overall survival rates for people being treated for breast, prostate, lung, liver and colon or rectal cancers have all seen improvement, but people diagnosed at a younger age saw the biggest change.

The study's lead researcher told HealthDay"Although survival rates for most cancers have improved over the past few decades, the improvements were less remarkable among elderly patients."

There were also differences based on race, with African-Americans seeing worse results than whites. African-American women with ovarian cancer actually saw a decrease in survival over the past 20 years for reasons that aren't yet clear.

The study looked at more than 1 million patients diagnosed with various types of cancers between 1990 and 2009. 

People in the 50-64 age group diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005 and 2009 had a 52 percent lower risk of death, compared with data from 15 years before. 

However, patients aged 75-85 only saw risk reduced by 12 percent for breast and colon or rectal cancers.

The study, published in JAMA Oncology on Thursday, cited advances in radiation, chemotherapy and targeted treatment as factors contributing to the improved survival rates.  

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Experimental HIV Molecule Protects Monkeys From Virus]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:04:00 -0600
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We might be one step closer to stopping the spread of HIV thanks to an experimental vaccine. 

Scientists say they have created a new molecule that can prevent HIV from infecting cells. It works by blocking the points where HIV would normally bind to cellular receptors.

The molecule was injected into monkeys that were later injected with a HIV-like virus. None of the monkeys treated with the molecule were ever infected with the virus.

The BBC points out this particular vaccination method is unusual; it uses gene therapy to strengthen DNA, while most vaccines protect against disease by training the immune system to fight against them. 

But the immune system method does not always work because viruses can mutate, leaving the previously vaccinated body once again vulnerable.

According to Newsweek, researchers say the vaccine should work even if HIV strains mutate because it is based on cellular resistance instead of building up immunities. 

Researchers say they believe the molecule could prevent HIV in humans as well as treat people who already have the virus. 

"It would allow you to lower the number of drugs you would have to take to control the virus, in the best case, to zero," Dr. Michael Farzan told the The Wall Street Journal

Researchers say trials need to be performed on humans to fully know how it will affect them.

This video includes an image from the National Institutes of Health.

<![CDATA[What A 10-Second Video Of Rare Tigers Could Mean For China]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 13:17:00 -0600
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This is a family of Amur tigers, captured on video by a World Wildlife Fund camera trap in a nature reserve in China. (Video via World Wide Fund for Nature)

A 10-second black-and-white video of the tigers — also known as Siberian tigers — might not seem like a big deal, but given the fact that the family had two juveniles, it is.

The WWF says because there are two juveniles in the group some 18 miles from the Russian border, that shows the tigers are breeding in China. (Video via Google Earth)

It's not the first time an Amur tiger has been captured on film in the Wangqing Nature Reserve. A camera trap snapped a picture of one there in 2012.

But the majority of the remaining Amur population in the wild, which conservationists estimate totals around 400, live on the Russian side of the border. (Video via International Fund for Animal Welfare

Tigers crossing the border aren't rare. Two tigers Russian President Vladimir Putin released were spotted in China late last year after reportedly attacking a goat farm in the area. (Video via RIA Novosti, NBC)

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society's Russian program estimates 15 to 20 Amur tigers live in forests near the border between Russia and China. (Video via Wildlife Conservation Society)

Poaching drove the tigers to the brink of extinction, and it's still a big problem, but government protection and efforts to rehabilitate tiger populations have raised numbers from about 40 in the 1940s to 400 today. (Video via Al Jazeera)

In particular, the WWF points to its work in restoring the Amur tiger's natural prey, including wild boar, as one reason the population has found a foothold in China.

Tigers, in general, are one of the most endangered species in the world. They have been eradicated in 93 percent of their natural range, and their numbers in the wild reduced from 100,000 at the turn of the 20th century to just above 3,000. (Video via National Geographic)

As The Guardian reports, Russia is currently conducting a tiger survey with more than 2,000 people and hopes to see Amur tiger numbers rise to 600, while the WWF has set a goal of doubling global tiger numbers by 2022.

This video includes an images from Getty Images and Smithsonian Wild / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

<![CDATA[Lake Erie Is Almost Completely Frozen Over]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 11:57:00 -0600
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Record cold temperatures sweeping across the country have left Lake Erie almost completely covered in ice. 

WEWS reports more than 94 percent of the water in the Great Lake is currently frozen.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports the ice coverage has been a recent development. There was little to no ice covering the lake back in January.

Ice coverage across the Great Lakes has been monitored since the early 1970s, and if Lake Erie freezes completely this year, it will be only the fourth time it's happened.

Still, reports Lake Erie was even more frozen this time last year. It was 95.6 percent ice then. 

But the current ice coverage is predicted to increase. Cold weather hitting the Northeast isn't expected to let up any time soon.

In fact, an meteorologist says all five Great Lakes could be completely frozen in just a few days. On Tuesday night, ice formed over about 4,750 square miles on the lakes.

According to the National Weather Service, the current water temperature for Lake Erie is 32 degrees. That's the exact temperature at which water begins crystalizing into ice.

And all this ice isn't good for the fish. A blogger for Lake Scientist reported in 2014 that when snow falls into lake water, it sinks to the bottom and can kill plant life. And when those plants die, some oxygen is removed from the water, causing fish to die. 

The last time Lake Erie was completely covered in ice was back in 1996. 

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

<![CDATA[New Horizons Spacecraft Takes First Images Of Pluto's Moons]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 09:14:00 -0600
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NASA's mission to Pluto. (Video via NASA)

NASA launched the New Horizon spacecraft in 2006 to learn more about the icy dwarf planet Pluto. Here are some of the first photos from that mission, taken from between 125 million and 115 million miles away.

The two objects in orange and yellow diamonds are Nix and Hydra, respectively. They're two moons of Pluto, which is there in the center, and this is the first time we've gotten an extended look at both of them. 

NASA released the long-exposure images on Feb. 18, exactly 85 years since Pluto was first discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in Flagstaff, Arizona. 

Both Nix and Hydra were first discovered in 2005 using the Hubble Space Telescope — one year before Pluto was ultimately downgraded from a full planet to only a dwarf planet. 

These won't be the only images we pick up from New Horizons, either. After waking from its hibernation period in December last year, the spacecraft began its primary mission to collect data as it slowly approaches Pluto. 

As it gets closer, New Horizons will be able to provide more detailed photos of both Nix and Hydra. It'll also catch a glimpse of Pluto's even smaller moons Styx and Kerberos. (Video via NASA)

New Horizons is set to reach Pluto's system this summer on July 14. 

This video includes images from NASA and music by Skill_Borrower / CC by NC Sampling Plus 1.0.

<![CDATA[Superbug Outbreak Linked To 2 Deaths At UCLA Hospital]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 22:42:00 -0600
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More than 100 patients might have been exposed to a potentially deadly superbug bacteria at a California hospital.

According to multiple outlets, the superbug, known as CRE, has been linked to the deaths of at least two patients and has infected seven others at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

In a statement, UCLA said the exposures occurred "during complex endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015."

Medicals officials say the problem occurs when the device is moved from to patient to patient, as it's hard to sterilize the scope after it's been used. (Video via USA Today, KING-TV)

"CRE, this superbug, lives in the gut. ... They detected it on endoscopes which are used to do upper GI studies. ... The manufacturer says it's hard to disinfect that scope," Dr. Bruce Hensel told KNBC.   

According to a previous press release from the CDC, the superbug bacteria can "kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them." 

CRE has also popped up several times in recent years all across the country. It's what CDC director Dr. Anthony Fauci has referred to as a "nightmare bacteria."

"It's resistant to virtually all antibiotics. So, when an individual gets this microbe and it invades the blood or invades tissue, curing them becomes very difficult," Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said.

UCLA says the contaminated endoscopes have been removed from the facility and all patients subjected to possible infection have been sent a free home-testing kit — which will be analyzed by the university.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Drug Given To Smokers Could Help Them Gradually Quit]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 19:40:00 -0600
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Hoping to kick the habit down the road? A new study suggests getting on medication now might help.

The study in Journal of the American Medical Association found those who use the drug varenicline, or Chantix, for an extended amount of time before they quit smoking have a higher chance of quitting for good than those who quit without taking the drug. 

This is significant because most doctors currently only prescribe varenicline for people who are serious enough about quitting to set a quit date. But, it makes sense when you think about it. (Video Via CNN)

Varenicline works by reducing a smoker's urge to smoke, so even current smokers taking the drug won't want to smoke as often. (Video Via CBS)

And those who don't smoke as much and have less of an urge to smoke may have an easier time quitting completely. (Video Via Fox News)

Tobacco expert Dr. David Abrams told The New York Times"Sometimes serious addiction needs to be coaxed down the stairs one at a time, not thrown off the top floor."

Researchers looked at more than 1,500 smokers who had no immediate plans to quit smoking. 

It's important to mention Pfizer Inc. funded the study. Pfizer is the maker of Chantix.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates smoking is responsible for one in every five deaths in the U.S. but says some of the risks dramatically drop after quitting the habit.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Martian Plumes Stump Scientists]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 12:46:00 -0600
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Massive, towering plumes stretching into the martian sky. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, right? Well, they could be, because scientists are pretty stumped.

The plumes, which reportedly reach more than 150 miles above the surface of Mars and spread between 300 and 700 miles wide, have appeared at least twice on the red planet.

The first time was in March of 2012 when a plume appeared and stuck around 11 days. In April another plume appeared and lasted 10 days.

But it wasn’t astronomers in a multibillion-dollar observatory who first laid eyes on them.

That credit goes to patent attorney by day and amateur astronomer by night Wayne Jaeschke, who first spotted the plumes and posted images of them on his blog.

The Pennsylvania man told National Geographic, "I sent a couple of frames to some guys I know in Australia and asked, 'Am I seeing things?'"  

He wasn't, and now scientists are looking into it. One letter published in Nature raises some possibilities, but no solid answer.

And a planetary scientist at the European Space Agency told BBC, "It raises more questions than answers."

Not a lot of help, but there are some theories floating around. One is it was a giant cloud of carbon dioxide, water or dust — though it rose to a higher altitude than clouds normally appear on Mars.

Another is it was a giant aurora, kind of similar to the Northern and Southern Lights we see here on Earth.

Whatever it is, scientists aren't entirely sure, but you can read their best guesses over at

This video includes images from Wayne Jaeschke / CC BY NC ND 3.0 and Bill Dickinson / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

<![CDATA[An Ancient Star Gave Earth A 'Close Call,' But How Close?]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 10:35:00 -0600
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We don't tend to think of stars moving through space like comets, but scientists have found evidence that a red dwarf star, like this one, passed through our solar system just 70,000 years ago. (Video via NASA)

This is an artist's rendition of the visitor, a red dwarf binary system whose official name is really long and kind of hard to say, but it's also known as Scholz's star, so that's what we're going to call it from here on out.

Stars, like planets, have their own orbits; our sun orbits around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. But the thing is, galaxies are huge, so those orbits take a long time — 250 million years in the sun's case. (Video via NASA)

Researchers at the University of Rochester calculated Scholz's star's past trajectory and found that it would've passed through the Oort cloud, in the farthest reaches of our solar system.

The Oort cloud is a huge field of icy objects surrounding what we generally think of as our solar system — the sun, the planets, etcetera — and stretching on for thousands of astronomical units. 

To understand what a close call means in astronomical terms, we have to do some math. Scientists estimate Scholz's star passed some 52,000 Astronomical Units — AUs — from the sun. One AU is the distance from the sun to Earth, 93 million miles. So 52,000 AUs means Scholz's star passed about 4.8 trillion miles from our sun.

How far is 4.8 trillion miles? Well it's close to 2,000 times as far as our nearest planet: Neptune — so far. (Video via RLScience)

In fact, if we go back to that artist's illustration of Scholz's star, that bright star out on the left, that would be our sun. 

Still — despite being so, so far out — the star's flyby could have posed a threat to the Earth, specifically in the form of comets. (Video via NASA)

Scientists believe the Oort cloud is the birthplace of many of the comets that pass by the Earth, so the passage of a massive body, like a star, through the cloud could've set off comet showers, which can cause extinction events on Earth. (Video via European Southern ObservatoryDiscovery)

The researchers believe flybys, like the one Scholz's star did, happen every 100,000 years or so. So if you want to catch the next one, just stick around for another 30,000 years. (Video via NASA)

<![CDATA[Nature's Strongest Material Comes From Sea Snails]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 08:02:00 -0600
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Researchers at the University of Portsmouth may have found the strongest natural material humankind has ever known.

And it's a ... sea snail. Specifically, it's a sea snail's teeth. Didn't see that one coming, did you? (Video via Horiba / Gaiapress Channel

It's known as a limpet, a small aquatic snail with a distinctive cone-shaped shell. 

Its teeth are so small, they had to be examined under a microscope. No matter the size of the limpets' teeth, they all had the same amount of strength. 

The University of Portsmouth professor who led the study said that's a big deal:

"'Generally a big structure has lots of flaws and can break more easily than a smaller structure, which has fewer flaws and is stronger. The problem is that most structures have to be fairly big so they’re weaker than we would like. Limpet teeth break this rule as their strength is the same no matter what the size.'" (Video via BBC)

So, small, but really, really strong apparently. So strong, the material could be used to make the "cars, boats and planes of the future."

Limpet teeth have beaten out the previous record-holder for the strongest biological material found in nature: spider silk.

Researchers found the limpets' teeth contain goethite, which is a hard iron oxide mineral. The teeth also contain chitin, a stretchy fiber material that makes up for geothite's brittleness. 

Scientists said the limpets need such high-strength teeth because they need to withstand the force of waves crashing against them as they cling on to rocky surfaces to eat when the tide is in. 

The research was published in the Royal Society journal Interface.

This video includes images from Getty Images, University of PortsmouthTim Green / CC BY 2.0, Ian Geoffrey Stimpson / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Mark Anderson / CC BY NC 2.0.

<![CDATA[Tobacco's Plain Packaging Deters Australia's Smokers]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 16:20:00 -0600
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Smoking rates have been decreasing over the past few years, and now several studies say plain packaging has something to do with that decline.

At least in Australia, where back in 2012, the government began requiring all tobacco packs to no longer have logos, trademarks, pictures or colors.

Now, we should point out the term "plain packaging" is really a bit of a misnomer. 

Australia's government does allow health warnings to be placed on the packaging, some of which are pretty tough to look at. 

Several studies determined regular packaging with the colors and images act "as an unconscious trigger for smoking urges," and that removing those triggers draws more attention to the health warning on the packaging. 

Last year, The Independent reported Australia's smoking rate decreased by 15 percent between 2010 and 2013. 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare discovered other changes in smoking trends. 

In 2013, it reported the average age a person first started smoking went from 14.2 years old to 15.9 years old between 1995 and 2013. It also found the average person smoked 96 cigarettes a week in 2013, compared with 111 in 2010.

"Even if standardized packaging had no effect at all on current smokers and only stopped 1 in 20 young people from being lured into smoking it would save about 2,000 lives each year," the editor-in-chief of the journal Addiction said in a press release

These findings are now even more important as the U.K. is set to follow in Australia's footsteps. 

Health advocates, like Cancer Research UK, have been pushing for plain packaging reform for several years now. 

"It just makes you almost happy by looking at it," a child says in the organization's video.

While UK's government put out a press release in January stating it backed the bill, others aren't on board, like right-wing politician Nigel Farage who tweeted, "Plain packaging is an appalling intrusion into consumer choice and the operation of the free market."

Parliament is set to vote on whether or not to move forward with plain packaging in May. If approved, it would take effect in 2016. 

<![CDATA[Why Mars One's Mission Looks A Lot Like Reality TV]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 12:46:00 -0600
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It plays more like a movie trailer than anything else: This is how Mars One announced the 100 finalists for its 2024 mission to Mars.

Of these 100 people, as many as 40 will ultimately be selected for the privately funded mission, and their bios on the website read something like those of participants in a reality TV show.

There's a reason for that. Mars One wants to make the entire process of the mission, from selecting its astronauts to landing on the red planet, an "on-going global media event" in order to draw in funds for the project.

And the cast of characters it's selected for the final 100 is very, very broad: The group includes representatives from 36 different countries, with ages spanning from 19 to 60 and occupations ranging from stand-up comedy to astrophysics.

A quick look at the final 100 reveals the U.S. provided the most candidates with 33, followed by Australia, with seven; South Africa, with six; and the United Kingdom and Russia tied with five each. 

The diversity is partly down to the fact Mars One issued an open invitation to anyone in the world who met its base criteria, including this man from Poland, who says he is a Martian. (Video via YouTube / Mikolaj Zielinski)

Of all 100, only four have ever worked with a space program, and all four of those have worked with NASA in some capacity. (Video via RTE, Manifest Motion Pictures, NASA, YouTube / oskirrii)

On top of that, seven members of Mars One's 24-member advisory board have worked with NASA in the past.

But NASA as a whole hasn't really gotten involved directly in Mars One's mission, and it seems the agency thinks the project is, at the very least, harmless.

NASA officials said last year that although the agency doesn't really have any regulatory power, it would speak out if it saw a company doing something it saw as risky. (Video via The Royal Institution)

Still, a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students put out a paper last October saying the project wasn't only risky, but with current technologies, it would also be deadly. 

The paper found without supplementary oxygen, astronauts would suffocate just 68 days into the mission, but Mars One's plan to counterbalance that using crops to provide both food and oxygen for the colony would create unsafe levels of oxygen within the colony. (Video via Mars One)

Despite this, Mars One's timeline currently has the project beating NASA to Mars by at least 10 years, although that's subject to change. (Video via NASA)

The project originally aimed to reach Mars by 2023, instead of 2024, and not only planned to select its 40 final astronauts by 2013 but also planned to have them in training by 2014.

<![CDATA[Thundersnow, Freezing Rain And Sleet: What's The Difference?]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 11:37:00 -0600
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The Midwest and Northeast have been getting their fair share of winter these past few weeks, with the Northeast getting pounded with some of biggest snowfall amounts in history. And it's all creating some pretty amazing natural phenomena.

"Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! We got it, baby! We got it! We got it! Woo! Woo! We got it! Yes! Listen to that," exclaimed The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore.

That's what's commonly known as thundersnow — similar to the more common thunderstorm but with snow. AccuWeather explains it's all about instability, which is why it's so rare in the winter. 

"The air near the ground needs to be warmer than the air aloft, yet cold enough to produce snow. This happens when storms intensify rapidly," AccuWeather reports. 

Thundersnow, just like thunderstorms, are associated with heavier precipitation. One study from 2002 suggested thundersnow usually coincides with about 6 or more inches of snowfall. (Video via CNN

"The lightning at night may well appear brighter because it's reflected by the snowflakes, but the snowflakes may muffle the sound of the thunder," BBC reported.

But this winter's troubles are stretching further than just snow and thundersnow. Freezing rain and sleet are also affecting the masses. 

The difference between freezing rain and sleet is that freezing rain is rain when it hits the ground, while sleet is more like pellets of ice coming down. (Video via The Weather Network)

Freezing rain freezes on any surface that's 32 degrees or colder, meaning roadways, sidewalks and more can be particularly dangerous to maneuver on.

Winter in the Northern Hemisphere ends March 19.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[High-Fiber Diet Can Help Shed Weight, Study Finds]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 10:09:00 -0600
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Scientists spent who knows how long figuring out that increasing your fiber intake can help you lose weight. 

But it's long been known that a high-fiber diet makes you shed the pounds, 'cause you know what fiber does? It makes you, well, poop. 

But let's get to the nitty-gritty of this particular study. University of Massachusetts researchers compared 240 obese adults with metabolic syndrome, which is when people have higher blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels, along with excess body fat. People were divided into two groups, and each group followed a different diet. One diet was the standard American Heart Association, or AHA, diet. The other was a high-fiber diet. 

The AHA diet is a little involved. It requires counting calories, burning more calories than you take in, cutting saturated fat, et cetera.

The other group of dieters only had to boost their fiber intake by 30 grams a day. That means more fruits, veggies and whole grains in the diet. No calorie counting, no calorie limit. 

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the results show simply increasing your fiber intake could help you lose weight. Participants weren't asked to change anything else. 

Researchers followed the 240 participants for a year. Those who followed the AHA diet did lose more weight, but the fact that the other group also lost weight simply by increasing fiber was concluded to be "a reasonable alternative for persons with difficulty adhering to more complicated diet regimens."

So if you're hungry, maybe don't grab that Snickers. An apple is better for you, could help you lose weight and is said to keep that pesky doctor away, anyway. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NASA Predicts 'Megadroughts' Due To Climate Change]]> Sat, 14 Feb 2015 18:48:00 -0600
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A new NASA study found that parts of the U.S. are at risk for Megadroughts during the second half of this century because of climate change.

These droughts would hit the American southwest and great plains, and would be the worst the country has seen in the past 1,000 years.

Over the past four years, droughts in California and the southwest have cost the area billions of dollars in agricultural losses, fire damage and lost jobs.

NASA climate scientist Ben Cook says these naturally occurring droughts typically last 10 years at the most, which will be short compared to what this study predicts.

“Our projections of what we’re seeing is that with climate change many of these types of droughts will last 20, 30 sometimes even 40 years,” said Ben Cook, NASA climate scientist.

According to the study, if we don’t act on climate change the likelihood of megadroughts between 2050 and 2099 is 80%. And, even if we can find a way to dramatically cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, the likelihood of a megadrought is still as high as 60 percent.

The study looked at tree rings from the past 1,000 years and other soil dryness measures. Scientists then used supercomputers to combine many different drought predictors to find what is most likely.

Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate scientist who was not involved in the study said, "It is rare to see all signs pointing so unwaveringly toward the same result, in this case a highly elevated risk of future megadroughts in the United States."

This video includes music from Kevin MacLeod / CC by 3.0.

<![CDATA[U.K.'s Prime Minister Wants Benefits Cut For Addicts, Obese]]> Sat, 14 Feb 2015 16:57:00 -0600
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The United Kingdom's prime minister has made a bold proposal to cut unemployment benefits. David Cameron says far too many benefits go to addicts and obese people who neither work nor receive treatment.

In a statement Cameron says, "It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work."

BBC reports"There are almost 100,000 people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction or obesity who are claiming sickness benefits of about 100 pounds a week. Although they face regular assessments ...there's no requirement for them to undertake treatment."

That amounts to more than $15 million in aid. Cameron's conservative Tory party has said it would like that number to drastically drop to about $35,000. 

But the prime minister's proposal to cut financial assistance to people who are not in treatment definitely has its opponents.

One campaigner told Sky News, "That isn't going to suddenly snap people out of their condition. It's punitive and it's savage." 

Cameron's announcement comes just as news from health experts in the U.S. suggested diet and exercise are not always effective methods in helping obese people battle their condition. 

The Los Angeles Times quotes one of the authors of that study who says, "Once obesity is established, however, body weight seems to become biologically 'stamped in' and defended. ... Few individuals ever truly recover from obesity. ... 'Those that do, they add,' still have 'obesity in remission." 

The takeaway — there's no set treatment for obesity that will work for everyone, which is another criticism of Cameron's announcement. 

But Cameron has enlisted the help of Professor Dame Carol Black, an adviser to the Department of Health, to look into the workings of his proposal. Of Saturday's announcement Dame Carol had a bit of a different take, not even mentioning monetary concerns she said, "These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society."  

Currently there's not anything in the works to change the system, but after Dame Carol's review is complete, the change could be a real possibility for U.K. citizens.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Non-Browning GMO Apples Get The OK In U.S.]]> Sat, 14 Feb 2015 11:53:00 -0600
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Well, it’s official, folks. You can now buy apples that won’t brown.

Specifically, two “Arctic” apple variants produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in British Columbia, Canada. As you can see here — they do not brown. At all. It’s kinda weird.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave them the green light for production on Friday. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)

What makes Arctic apples different is that the genes responsible for browning ordinary apples are essentially turned off in this GMO version. The company explains that’s really the only difference between both types of apples. (Video via Okanagan Specialty Fruits)

Okanagan told The Wall Street Journal the company thinks its apples will be popular in places where sliced apples are displayed and sold such as grocery stores, airlines or restaurants. (Video via Kin Community)

Now, Okanagan Specialty Fruits is just waiting on an approval letter from the Food and Drug Administration determining whether the apple is safe for consumers.

But not everyone is on board with the idea of buying GMO produce, let alone a non-browning apple.

Speaking to The New York Times, the co-owner of Rice Fruit Company says he doesn’t think there’s any room in the marketplace for genetically modified apples. There’s also concern whether GMO apples will sour the image of non-GMO apples.

That’s because GMO products don’t exactly have a fresh image in the consumer world and are prone to protests, especially when larger corporations like Monsanto are involved. (Video via ReasonTV)

Particularly in parts of Europe, where governments and consumers alike have come out against GMO crops. (Video via YouTube / Ewinia1)

This actually isn’t the first non-browning piece of produce to seek approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture either. In November, a GMO potato being developed by J.R. Simplot received approval.

Whether people decide to buy them or not, Arctic apples will most likely be here to stay if they get FDA approval. Okanagan says they won’t be available until at least 2016 in small amounts with larger quantities being rolled out later.

<![CDATA[Prehistoric Mammals Looked Like Something From A Nightmare]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 10:15:00 -0600
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Furry and fluffy and definitely not something you'd want to cuddle up next to — these are drawings of what some of the earliest prehistoric mammals probably looked like.  

And according to new research, that's not all that makes these little guys special. Both of the ancient animals were apparently pretty good at escaping the wrath of their colossal carnivorous counterparts.  

The fossils, discovered in 2011 and 2012 in China, are about the size of a shrew, making both mini mammals the perfect prey for dinosaurs.  

But judging by its claws for climbing and teeth adapted for a tree-sap diet, Agilodocodon scansorius found hiding spots in the treetops. And Docofossor brachydactylus looks to have been well-adapted for hiding underground. 

It's pretty cool when you take a closer look at the fossils — both are extremely well-adapted. Just look at their claws: One closely resembles a shovel while the other has long fingers, perfect for scaling trees. 

Of the findings, the study's author said"We consistently find with every new fossil that the earliest mammals were just as diverse in both feeding and locomotor adaptations as modern mammals. ... The groundwork for mammalian success today appears to have been laid long ago."

Both fossils, which are believed to date back about 160 million years, are on display at the Beijing Museum of Natural History. 

<![CDATA[The Oceans' Plastic Problem Gets 8M Tons Worse Every Year]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 09:24:00 -0600
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Plastic in the oceans is a big problem — one getting worse by an average of 8 million tons a year, according to new research.

A team of environmentalists and engineers broke down waste data in 192 countries and found they send anywhere from 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans each year.

The researchers calculated waste per capita for people living within a certain range of coastlines, found the percentage of that waste that's plastic, and the percentage of that plastic waste that's mismanaged — plastic that could make it into the oceans instead of a recycling center, in other words.

A country's contribution, then, is to a certain degree dependent on how developed its waste processing is.

"The main culprits: Asia and Africa, where economies are growing but garbage collection and recycling lag way behind. The plastic is washed or blown out of landfill sites, or simply littered on beaches," said the CBC's Margo McDiarmid.

The same durable qualities that make plastic useful to us humans make it a big problem for the oceans, or rather, make it a lot of very, very small problems.

The NOAA's Dianna Parker explains: "Plastics never really go away. They just break down over and over and over again until they become smaller and smaller from sunlight and other environmental factors [like] waves, big storms, those kind of things."

The New York Times reports: "Research into the marine food chain suggests that fish and other organisms consume the bite-size particles and may reabsorb the toxic substances. Those fish are eaten by other fish, and by people."

Researchers maintain the best way to deal with these fine particles is to not let them get to that point in the first place. Filtering the plastic dust out of the oceans would filter out a lot of marine life, too. Management has to happen on land first. (Video via Midway Journey)

And the sooner, the better. The researchers' data suggests the oceans' trash problem will continue. Thanks to ongoing development, "We will not reach a global 'peak waste' before 2100."

The team has published its findings in the journal Science.

This video includes images from Getty Images, NASA and Kevin Krejci / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Forensic Artist Tackling Mystery Of 86 Unidentified Skulls]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 04:14:00 -0600
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One forensic artist in Florida is trying to solve a mystery that involves a back room full of human bones. (Video via WPTV)

Eighty-six boxes of bones, to be exact. And each one holds an unidentified human skeleton.

But Paul Moody of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is focused on one piece in particular: the skull.

"The skull is the roadmap for what each one of us looks like," Moody said.

Moody is analyzing each one of the skulls using advanced computer programs and other electronic gadgets to help him draw sketches and create a digital image of what those people looked like.

One woman, Holly Marth, had sent Moody this photo of her sister, Tina Beebe, who disappeared in 1981 — in the hopes Moody would be able to find her sister among the remains.

And sure enough, Moody was able to use the image to match it with a skull and reconstruct Beebe's face.

"Her photo and then we're going to take it back to the skull itself and you can see how it lines up perfect. ... And, it watch, everything moves but the teeth. That was the tell-tale sign of the whole thing," Moody said.

Interestingly, Moody isn't alone in this kind of forensic endeavor. 

The New York Times says students at the New York Academy of Art are using similar methods using clay molds to help police identify murder victims and maybe even their killers, too.

To view more sketches Moody has created using other unidentified skulls visit the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office website.

<![CDATA[What To Expect From The Large Hadron Collider's Second Run]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:43:00 -0600
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By finding the Higgs boson in 2012, CERN's Large Hadron Collider made the discovery it was built to make.

But with a machine capable of simulating what the universe looked like less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, physicists have plenty left to discover.

Tara Shears, a physicist working on experiments at the LHC, told New Scientist, "We're doing this because we've got unfinished business when it comes to understanding the universe."

The Higgs boson was the last missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics, a theory that's been making accurate predictions about the subatomic world for decades.

"It explains how the atoms that make up the world around us — this table, these chairs, the fruit in this bowl — how they're held together and interact," says a BBC science reporter.

But there are problems the Standard Model doesn't address, like gravity or dark matter. So what's beyond the Standard Model?

The LHC went offline in early 2013, so it could be upgraded. Workers spent nearly two years refitting the powerful magnets that control the particle beams and testing the new equipment. 

The upgrades mean the LHC's second round of experiments, beginning in spring 2015, will be able to smash protons together with around 60 percent more energy than before. Higher energy means more opportunities for CERN physicists to discover something new.

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

One of the more important things the LHC could discover this time around is evidence for supersymmetry, a popular idea that expands the Standard Model and makes some interesting predictions. (Video via CERN)

The main prediction is that all of the particles we know of from the Standard Model should have nearly identical twins out there somewhere. When physicists assume supersymmetry is true, some of the toughest problems in physics work themselves out. That makes the idea really attractive.

Stephen Hawking said at a 2013 conference, "I think the discovery of supersymmetric partners for the known particles would revolutionize our understanding of the universe." (Video via The Guardian)

There's just one problem: To date, not a single supersymmetric particle has ever been detected, either in the LHC or any other particle accelerator, and many physicists are starting to abandon the idea in search of a better one. (Video via CERN)

In a way, the LHC's second run puts supersymmetry on trial. If no evidence of it turns up, a majority of physicists might move on to something else. And even if evidence is found, it's likely supersymmetry doesn't work the way physicists first thought.

CERN physicist John Ellis said, "I believe that whether we discover supersymmetry or not, there is potential for a rich new spectrum of particles to be discovered at the LHC."

This video includes images from CERN, Frank Weber / CC BY SA 2.0, NASA, Heiko S / CC BY 2.0Nuno Castro / CC BY NC SA 2.0, Luigi Selmi / CC BY 2.0 and Getty Images and music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0 and Lee Rosevere / CC BY NC 4.0

<![CDATA[Smoking Is Even Worse Than We Thought, Study Finds]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:10:00 -0600
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As if there weren't already enough reasons to quit smoking, a new study suggests the habit might be even more harmful than previously thought. 

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine connects several more diseases to smoking.

The study found smokers are more likely to develop breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney failure, infections and several other diseases.

These diseases are in addition to illnesses already associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and a whole list of others. (Video via KDVR)

Adding these diseases to the list of smoking-related illnesses would tack on another 60,000 deaths to the toll caused by tobacco use in the U.S.

The study followed nearly a million people — 89,000 of whom were smokers — for nearly 10 years to study the effects of smoking. 

Researchers also found that the longer it had been since a person quit smoking, the less the risk of dying from infections or breast cancer. (Video via CBS)

And the more people smoked, the more likely they were to develop these diseases.

The study only proved these diseases had some association with smoking, and it did not prove that smoking caused these illnesses.

The surgeon general told NPR that the official list of the 21 diseases caused by smoking won't change based on this study alone but did say the findings will be taken into consideration during future assessments. 

<![CDATA[Oceans Played Big Part In Ending Ice Age, Scientists Say]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:34:00 -0600
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From around 100,000 years ago up until 12,000 years ago, much of the world was covered in ice. (Video via NASA)

But as anyone who's seen "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" knows, that ice age eventually came to an end, and the glaciers largely retreated. (Video via 20th Century Fox Film Corporation / "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown")

The event, known as glacial termination, was driven by a number of factors, but now scientists think one of them might've been a huge release of carbon dioxide from the depths of the ocean. (Video via NASA)

Just like water has a cycle — evaporation, condensation, etc. — carbon has a cycle, too, and the ocean plays a big part.

The ocean absorbs about one third of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and the balance between atmospheric and oceanic carbon is constantly shifting. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Now, scientists think a major swing in that balance happened at the end of the ice age, moving carbon from the ocean to the atmosphere, which would have accelerated warming.

Scientists used biological material found in sediment, which has accumulated on the ocean floor for thousands of years, to track the shift in carbon storage. (Video via NASA)

They were able to find the big carbon release probably came from a carbon reservoir deep in the Southern Ocean, the area of ocean around Antarctica. (Video via University of Oxford)

The researchers say the paper's findings might not completely account for the recorded carbon exchange, and other sources of carbon might still be found.

<![CDATA[Why Adults With Measles Are Especially Dangerous]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:04:00 -0600
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Thousands were potentially exposed to the measles virus last week when a LinkedIn employee with the disease commuted through the San Francisco public transportation system.

Health officials are warning anyone who rode the trains near same times as the infected passenger or came into contact with the infected person at work to contact a doctor immediately if symptoms appear. (Video Via KTVU)

It's unknown how many people may have been exposed. Measles can stay in the air for as long as two hours after someone with the virus sneezes or coughs. (Video Via KPIX)

"That line is our busiest line... right after 9 a.m., those trains are distributed elsewhere in the system and so there is a possibility that even if you rode, lets say, the Richmond line, that you could have been on the same exact train this person was on," Alicia Trost said

Most of the population is vaccinated and protected from the measles. But health officials say those who are unvaccinated or have suppressed immune systems are at risk.

While we don't know how the infected LinkedIn worker contracted the disease, experts are saying unvaccinated adults are likely major contributors to the current outbreak.

Since the outbreak first began, parents who did not vaccinate their children have shouldered most of the blame.

But, adults make up more than half of California's confirmed measles cases, most of whom were never immunized.

The Los Angeles Times explains infected adults may pose a greater public threat than children because adults travel more and come into contract with more people.

Experts recommend those born after 1957 get the measles vaccination. Anyone born before then likely had the measles and is immune.

This video includes images from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Scientists Use Sunlight To Make Liquid Fuel]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:23:00 -0600
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Someday soon, we could be filling the gas tank with some help from the sun and some bacteria. Harvard researchers have developed a method to turn solar power into liquid fuel.

The first step involves using a solar panel to drive a chemical reaction. The panel powers a special catalyst that reacts in water to separate it into hydrogen and oxygen. (Video via BBC)

Harvard researcher Daniel Nocera created just such a catalyst — which he calls the artificial leaf — a few years ago. (Video via MIT)

One problem, he told National Geographic"it makes hydrogen. You guys," meaning us average fuel-using consumers, "don't have an infrastructure to use hydrogen."

Now Nocera and a team of researchers at Harvard University have engineered bacteria to convert the hydrogen into isopropanol.

That's rubbing alcohol, basically. It's a household solvent, and it's added to gasoline to keep it from getting diluted by water in the gas tank.

And the researchers say it's also a step closer to something consumers could use someday. "This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel."

But for now, it still doesn’t have the infrastructure it needs to be a viable alternative fuel. And some critics don’t think it’s addressing the real issue. CBS quotes Stephen Mayfield, director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology:

"Our problem is not that we have too much H2 and O2 sitting around generated by PV cells that we need to convert it to liquid fuels. Our problem is that fossil fuels were cheap so we burned a boat load of them and now we have problems with our climate."

Nocera, for his part, is undaunted. He told CBS, "If we used his argument, we would stop working on renewables."

In less than two years Nocera and his team have equalled the efficiency of photosynthesis in plants, which converts about 1 percent of available sunlight to usable energy. Their goal is 5 percent efficiency.

They have published their latest findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This video includes images from kris krüg / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Angelo DeSantis / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[SpaceX Launch Successful, But No Rocket Landing This Time]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 21:50:00 -0600
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SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday, carrying a DSCOVR deep space satellite. (Video via NASA)

The satellite will track solar winds and storms, two potential threats to our satellites and electronics. But it was the rocket itself that was supposed to be the most exciting part of the mission. 

After the Falcon 9 launched the satellite into space, it was supposed to land safely on an unmanned barge, allowing the company to reuse it. Rockets are usually one-time use, so being able to recover them intact has the potential to save a lot of money.

This would have been the second attempt to land a rocket that was used in a real mission, following a less-than-successful attempt in January that failed due to problems with the rocket's fins. 

Unfortunately for SpaceX, extreme weather in the Atlantic Ocean meant the unmanned landing barge couldn't get into position safely, so there was almost no chance for the rocket to survive this time. 

Instead, the rocket made a soft landing in the ocean. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted it was "within 10m of target & nicely vertical! High probability of good droneship landing in non-stormy weather."

But practice makes perfect, and each launch is more practice for SpaceX. Musk has said the company will keep trying until it gets it right, and there are more than a dozen launches scheduled later this year. 

<![CDATA[Committee Drops Cholesterol From Dietary Guidelines]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 16:46:00 -0600
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Bring on the omelettes! The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has changed its stance on high cholesterol food.

The committee says cholesterol is no longer considered a "nutrient of concern" and dropped its recommended limit of 300 milligrams per day for adults.

The panel points to findings showing high cholesterol foods don't actually have much affect on cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. While that understandably sounds confusing, the panel warned saturated fats are the real culprit.

The American Heart Association says saturated fat is known to lead to high cholesterol in the blood. And high cholesterol is linked to heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in the U.S.

Cardiologist Steven Nissen told USA Today"It's the right decision. ... We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They've been wrong for decades."

The panel's new stance on cholesterol is dramatically different from its opinion just five years ago when it called excess cholesterol in the American diet a "public health concern."

The government has warned against consuming too much cholesterol since the '60s, but many cardiologists now say most of those recommendations were based off of weak research.

Of course, not everyone is eager to jump into eating cholesterol-laden foods.

"I haven't touched an egg yolk since I was nine. ... I see it, I appreciate it, but I'm not gonna eat the yoke," Nicolle Wallace said on "The View." 

The Advisory Committee's new "Dietary Guidelines" report will be published later this year.

This video includes images from William Jones / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Puerto Rico Might Start Fining The Parents Of Obese Children]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 11:10:00 -0600
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Well, here's one way to fight childhood obesity: Fine the parents. 

A Puerto Rican senator introduced a bill Monday that calls for forcing the parents of obese children to pay a $500 fine. (Video via Fox News)

Local outlet El Nuevo Dia explained the bill, saying first the U.S. commonwealth's Department of Education would identify children it believes to be obese and talk to their parents about ways to improve the child's health.

It says if within six months there's been no improvement in the child's weight, the case will then be sent over to the Department of Family "under complaint of abuse." The next step could be a fine of $500 for parents or guardians, and that fine can increase to $800 if there's still no progress.

Now, the fine is one thing, but the complaint of abuse is what's really upsetting some.

Especially because several studies in the past decade have proven obesity can sometimes be tied to genetics.

Fox News Latino reports a Puerto Rican nutritionist said: "The fact that these childhood obesity cases are rooted in lifestyle does not give one the right to step into people's private spaces. This is not abuse, it's a disease. ... Obesity is the result of many factors and what we need to do is find solutions."

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, a child is defined as obese if he or she has a body mass index-for-age in the 95th percentile.

Time reports 28 percent of children in Puerto Rico are considered obese. That figure is higher than the most recent U.S. numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012 the CDC estimated around 18 percent of children ages 6-11 were obese and almost 21 percent of adolescents ages 12-19 were obese.

<![CDATA[How Scientists Might Have Found An Inner-Inner Core]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 09:22:00 -0600
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If you were to venture down through Earth's many layers to the very center of the planet, you'd find some interesting things. (Video via Google Earth)

You almost certainly wouldn't find Brendan Fraser, although if you did, it would explain a lot. (Video via Warner Bros. / "Journey to the Center of the Earth")

No, instead you'd find the Earth's inner core — a super-hot and super-compressed ball of iron smaller than the moon, which helps generate the Earth's magnetic field and, by extension, the aurora borealis. (Video via Science Channel, Visit Finland)

But scientists now think there's more to it than that — researchers think they've found an inner-inner core. 

Iron at the Earth's core forms into crystals. The scientists found within the inner core, there's another region where the crystals don't line up with the rest of the inner core. 

Specifically, while the inner core's crystals are lined up north to south, the inner-inner core's crystals line up east to west. 

The discovery could shed light not only on how exactly the Earth's core works but also on how the core and the Earth itself developed billions of years ago. (Video via History Channel)

Obviously, scientists aren't able to actually drill to the center of the Earth to see the core and confirm their findings — that would entail some 4,000 miles of digging, withstanding millions of atmospheres of pressure, thousands of degrees Kelvin of heat and, of course, Brendan Fraser. 

So instead, geologists tend to use seismological data — measuring how waves of energy generated by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions travel through the Earth's layers. (Video via Sternalia Productions)

The researchers measured the ways those different seismic waves were distorted as they travel to establish the orientation of the iron crystals. (Video via Wolfram Research)

An earth sciences professor at Cambridge told the BBC the researchers' model will now face further testing using other methods of seismic analysis.

This video includes an image from Waifer X / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Simple Breath Test Could Help Detect Parkinson's Disease]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 07:49:00 -0600
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There's currently no cure for Parkinson's disease, but researchers say they could be on their way to identifying it via a simple breath test. 

Cambridge researchers say a small group of people tested — 57 — showed breath could differentiate those with Parkinson's from those without it. 

The idea is certain molecules in a person's breath could help researchers detect early stages of the disease. Currently, researchers say, tests involve invasive procedures, normally only produce semi-accurate predictions and sometimes still don't detect Parkinson's until too late. 

Parkinson's disease is a neurological condition that affects nerve cells. It can produce shaking or tremors of the body and can often hinder a person's ability to walk and talk. (Video via Butler Hospital

The idea of sniffing out Parkinson's isn't too farfetched though. 

Breath tests have already successfully worked in prior studies for detecting heart failure, liver and kidney diseases and cancer

Clinical leader of the study, Professor Roger Barker, said, "We're hoping it will not only improve diagnosis, but also that it will tell us more about how Parkinson's develops and whether there are different types of Parkinson's." (Video via European Consortium for Stem Cell Research

According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, an estimated 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year. About 10 million people are living with it worldwide. 

Researchers say their next step is to test more people over a three-year span. The research was funded by the Parkinson's UK and the British Council. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and CC by 2.5 / PLOS.

<![CDATA[Energy Drinks Make Kids Hyperactive, Inattentive, Study Says]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 16:00:00 -0600
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A new study says middle schoolers who drink sweetened energy drinks are more … well, energetic. But not in a good way.

According to this study by the Yale School of Public Health, middle-school children who drink these drinks are 66 percent more likely to exhibit hyperactivity or inattention symptoms. (Video via Yale University)

In 2011, more than 1,600 children from 12 Connecticut schools were surveyed. The children were in fifth, seventh and eighth grade, and their average age was 12.4 years old.

The students were asked which sweetened energy drinks they consumed and how much of each they'd had in the past 24 hours. For every drink a kid consumed, the chances that kid had hyperactivity or inattention issues increased by 14 percent.

It was also found that boys drank more of these beverages than girls, and African-American and Hispanic students drank more than Caucasian students.

In the end, the researchers suggest that parents limit the sugary drinks their kids consume and avoid giving them energy drinks altogether.

But, as a New York Magazine writer notes, the study doesn't prove a definite link between hyperactivity and energy drinks.

There's also the possibility that kids with hyperactivity are just prone to drinking more energy drinks.

The Yale researchers also give other reasons for limiting children's intake of energy drinks, including that the drinks' ingredients increase the chance of caffeine dependency.

That's in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which also discourages parents from allowing their children to consume energy drinks.

In fact, the American Beverage Association recommends that energy drink companies don't market to children under 12.

A January report from three U.S. senators argues the majority of energy drink companies aren't following those guidelines, though the ABA suggests the report is misleading.

The Yale study was published in the journal Academic Pediatrics on Monday and was co-authored by researchers from Community Alliance for Research and Engagement, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and the New Haven Public Schools.

<![CDATA[What's Driving Australia's Unparalleled Extinction Rate?]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:25:00 -0600
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Australia may be known for its native mammals, like the koala or the kangaroo, but it's also apparently the best continent at driving those mammals to extinction. (Video via Youtube / KOALAS)

That's according to a survey that found Australia has lost more than 10 percent of its land mammals since Western settlement started some 200 years ago.

In all, 28 species have gone extinct since the first colony of New South Wales was established in 1788. For perspective, North America has lost only one land-dwelling mammal species since its colonization started, much earlier, although it has lost several subspecies. 

All of those extinct species could only be found in Australia, with the exception of the long-beaked echidna, which can still be found in New Guinea and in Australian zoos. (Video via Taronga Zoo)

Because Australia is remote and has been isolated from other continents for so long, it has a high number of endemic species, so when they go extinct in Australia, they're often gone altogether. (Video via Tourism Australia)

Beyond hunting and habitat loss, there are two main culprits of the extinctions, and they're both from the old country.

The first is the red fox, which settlers originally introduced for sport hunting and now has an estimated population of more than 7 million, and often preys on small mammals. 

The second, and more familiar to U.S. viewers: the feral cat.

Cats are very good at killing small mammals such as rodents, and it's no coincidence that a large number of the mammals that have gone extinct fit that profile. (Video via PestSmart)

Free-ranging cats, both feral and domestic, are a big threat to wildlife the world over, with a separate study from two years ago, finding domestic felines alone kill as many as 4 billion birds and 22 billion mammals every year. (Video via BBC)

Although methods to control fox populations in Australia have seen some success, the researchers note no such solution has been found for feral cats. They wrote finding a way to control feral cats should be a conservation priority. 

A separate study this year suggests dingoes could be a solution to the cat problem, although dingoes have also been cited as a cause for pre-Western settlement mammal extinctions. (Video via ABC Australia)

This video includes an image from Stevage / CC BY SA 4.0, 3.0, 2.5,2.0,1.0.

<![CDATA[How Much Fat Should You Eat? Researchers Disagree]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 13:26:00 -0600
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For almost 30 years we've been told limiting fat intake lowers the risk of heart disease, but now some researchers are questioning some of the original studies.

The US and UK governments introduced national dietary advice on fat consumption in the '70s and '80s and recommended reducing overall fat consumption to 30 percent of a person's total energy intake and saturated fat to 10 percent to lower the risk of heart-disease.

Now, researchers say the studies behind those recommendations aren't valid because they only included men and found no solid connection between reduced fat intake and a lower risk of heart disease. 

They wrote"Dietary advice not merely needs review; it should not have been introduced."

They say the recommendations made saturated fats the "main dietary villain" for cardiovascular disease, while an abundance of other foods, like carbohydrates, could also pose a threat.

But these modern researchers are facing some criticism from the scientific community. 

The Telegraph calls the new research "controversial" and quotes experts saying the link between saturated fats and heart disease should not be diminished.

And Science Media Centre cites a scientist who calls the new research "potentially dangerous" saying the original recommendations have caused improvements in the population's cholesterol levels over the past 30 years.  

The American Heart Association says eating foods with saturated fats can raise cholesterol, which then can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Google Teams Up With Health Pros For Medical Searches]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:20:00 -0600
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If you're the type who, at the first sign of a cough or sniffle, scours the Internet for possible ailments, then Google's got something for you — a revamped search page for everything from whooping cough to shingles.

Google announced Tuesday it will be rolling out improved medical information for its Knowledge Graph search page. This is what it'll look like on a phone.

Knowledge Graph, for those unfamiliar, was introduced by Google in 2012 and uses information from sources such as the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia to enhance search results.

The goal is to speed up searches so it doesn't take you too long to figure out if your friend has a concussion or whether your kid has pink eye. (Video via Google)

If either of those do happen, and hopefully they don't, you'll now get an information box full of more related symptoms, treatments and critical facts than you can shake a thermometer at.

Speaking to USA Today, Google's vice president of search says an average of 11 doctors vetted each fact and the Mayo Clinic reviewed all 400 conditions.

This isn't Google’s first foray into health care, either. The tech giant experimented with giving users a digital hub to manage health information with Google Health back in 2008. It was eventually discontinued in 2012 due to lack of use.

In October last year, Google also revealed it was testing a doctor video chat service similar to its Helpouts service. There's been no word on that since, so it's most likely still in testing.

This is just the latest in a string of updates to Google's search results page. Earlier this month, a mortgage calculator was quietly launched, and in January it was reported Google was readying itself to provide car insurance in the U.S.

Of course, even with the new search result information, Google still recommends calling your doctor if you have any medical concerns. The enhanced search results are being rolled out Tuesday.

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

<![CDATA[Tilapia Isn't Really Bad For You, But It's Not Off The Hook]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 09:20:00 -0600
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Tilapia production is on the rise as demand for the fish continues to grow. 

Dutch bank Rabobank has pegged Latin America — Brazil and Mexico in particular — as the next big producer of the fish as China, the current biggest producer, slows exports. (Video via Regal Springs Tilapia)

But the fish's nutritional value has come under some scrutiny, with claims that it's actually worse for you than bacon popping up online here and there. 

That's mostly down to a paper from 2008 that found the fish has a much higher proportion of omega-6 fatty acids than other popular fish and can therefore cause more inflammation than bacon or burgers. (Video via eHow)

But those omega-6 fatty acids are counterbalanced by the fish's low saturated-fat content, so while eating a lot of tilapia isn't a great idea if you have a heart condition, it's not really worse for you than bacon. (Video via Allrecipes)

That doesn't mean the fish is really off the hook, though — it does still pose something of a threat as an invasive species. 

Tilapia is a very popular fish to farm because it grows fast and it's relatively easy to farm, so aquaculture of the fish has been growing. (Video via Tropical Aquaculture

But the fish's reproductive speed, one of the reasons it's such a popular farm fish, also means when tilapia gets out of the farm, it can overwhelm local species. 

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has even listed one species of the fish, Mozambique tilapia, as one of the 100 worst invasive species on the planet. 

Because tilapia can only typically survive in warmer environments, the fish hasn't posed a threat in much of the United States, but it is present in the wild in Southern states like Texas and Florida and has caused extensive problems in Australia. (Video via Fox SportsABC Australia)

In 2015 alone, tilapia production is projected to reach between as much as 5 million metric tons, up from 4.6 million metric tons in 2014. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[Tracking Solar Wind With NASA’s DSCOVR Satellite]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 14:03:00 -0600
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NASA is gearing up to launch its latest weather satellite. But instead of watching the weather on Earth, DSCOVR’s main target will be the wind from the sun.

DSCOVR, which stands for the Deep Space Climate Observatory, carries new instruments it will use to sample the solar wind and investigate how and why its charged particles keep their heat as they travel through space. (Video via NOAA)

That’s important for us Earthlings because the solar wind can and does affect the planet. Its activity gives us pretty things like the Aurora. More powerful gusts — such as solar flares — run the possibility of damaging our electronics. (Video via NASA)

Back in 1859, the fallout from a strong flare set telegraph offices on fire. These days we use a lot more than telegraphs, and it’s safe to say we don’t want the sun setting any of it on fire.

The more scientists know about how this wind behaves, the more warning we’ll have, and the better we can protect infrastructure. NASA says DSCOVR will give us as much as an hour of time to shut things down in the event of a big flare.

The satellite will orbit from Lagrange point 1, or L1. It’s one of the five stable zones where the gravity of the sun and the gravity of Earth keep satellites and other objects orbiting in perfect sync. Anything occupying those points will stay fixed relative to the planet and the star it orbits.

Launch is scheduled for Sunday morning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is running a liveblog of the proceedings, and NASA will be broadcasting the launch on its website.

<![CDATA[UK Arrest Shows Female Genital Mutilation Still Common]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 21:41:00 -0600
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A woman traveling to Ghana was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport after UK border agents discovered she was taking an 8-year-old girl with her so she could undergo female genital mutilation.

The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation, or FGM, as the, "partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."

The practice is most common in the Western, Eastern and Northeastern regions of Africa and in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Many migrants still practice the procedure outside of those regions.

The World Health Organization reports FGM isn't tied to a particular religion, but cultural traditions dictate the procedure helps reduce a woman's libido, decreasing the chance that she will give in to sexual urges and that the procedure removes parts of female anatomy that make women and girls "unclean."

A youth worker told UNICEF, "I always feel men are kind of imposed to feel, to think that they need a woman who has gone through FGM." 

The woman's arrest coincided with the U.N.'s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The day is intended to raise awareness of the dangerous consequences of the practice, which include hemorrhaging, infertility and an increased chance of childbirth complications and infant deaths.

In 2014 The Guardian launched a campaign to end FGM worldwide by calling on UK Education Secretary Michael Gove to inform parents and teachers about the practice.

The British government is now closing loopholes in its anti-FGM legislation that would stop at-risk girls from being taken out of the country to be mutilated.

But statistics show cases of FGM in the United States have been on the rise.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of women and girls in the U.S. at risk of FGM reached more than 500,000 in 2013. That's more than double the women and girls estimated to be at risk in 2000.

But recent efforts have lead to the discovery of this information, including a petition that inspired the Obama administration's to investigate how many women and girls are at risk of FGM in America.

"I have cousins that were born here in the United States and I have friends here that were born in the United States that have been through FGM...'Does this really happen in America?' It does happen in America," said Jaha Dukureh an FGM survivor turned activist living in Atlanta.

Other American movements to address women's health have spoken out against FGM. The Vagina Monologues, a play which features the individual experiences of a series of women, includes monologues that deal with FGM as a way to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

This video includes images from Getty Images

<![CDATA[Canada's Supreme Court Strikes Down Assisted-Suicide Ban]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:41:00 -0600
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Canada's Supreme Court struck down a ban on physician-assisted suicide Friday.

Adults who are mentally sound and have a "grievous and irremediable illness" can now choose to end their lives. They don't necessarily have to be terminally ill. (Video via CTV)

The Supreme Court's decision won't take effect for a year. That way, Canada's parliament has enough time to make laws to regulate physician-assisted suicide. (Video via CPAC)

Canada's decision comes at a time when medically assisted death is becoming a subject of national dialogue in the U.S.

Brittany Maynard's decision to go public about ending her life sparked a national debate in November. The 29-year-old moved to Oregon to end her life after finding out she had terminal brain cancer. (Video via Compassion and Choices)

"I was diagnosed with cancer and told I was terminally ill," said Maynard.

The U.S. currently has five states that allow physician-assisted suicide. Since Maynard's death, six states and Washington, D.C., have introduced right-to-die legislation.

Before Maynard went public with her story, a Gallup Poll found that almost 70 percent of Americans believe physicians should be able to legally and painlessly end a patient's life.

<![CDATA[NYC Subway Study Shows Half Of DNA From Unknown Organisms]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 07:16:00 -0600
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Germaphobes, you’ve been warned. Every fear you’ve probably ever conceived is in the subways of New York City.

But don’t worry too much — there are still a whole lot of things keeping you healthy are down there, too.

A mapping project from Cornell University researchers wanted to document both microorganisms and DNA recovered from everyday surfaces on a city-wide scale.

And what better place to get samples representing the full gamut of the population than the subway? The results? (Video via Discovery / "Build It Bigger")

“Nearly half of the DNA (48%) does not match any known organism.”

Researchers wrote that data “[underscores] the vast wealth of unknown species that are ubiquitous in urban areas.”

If you’re not sufficiently freaked out just yet, the lead researcher Chris Mason says traces of bubonic plague were found uptown.

And in the southern part of the city? Mason told The Wall Street Journal bacteria found there had only previously been seen in Antarctica. That likely has something to do with Superstorm Sandy in 2012 which slammed South Ferry Station. (Video via Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

Speaking of the astounding amount of dust and other DNA researchers found, Mason also told The Wall Street Journal, “Essentially, all of the rats or mice that you might see in the subway — as the train goes through, it kicks up the air and then it coats the entire subway system like snow of their DNA.”

Now, everybody just calm down. While the scary or gross microorganisms and DNA are going to make headlines, there’s also an astounding number of microbes essential for positive things like consuming waste.

“One of the most important notes of this entire research project is that we’re surrounded by hundreds of millions and trillions of bacteria, and yet most of us are just fine," Mason told The Wall Street Journal"They’re just dust. They’re not this alien invasion force of evil bacteria.”

Researchers say they’re hopeful mapping systems can lead to major cities being able to tell how and whether diseases spread through the population, detect bioterror threats and maybe even how to predict areas people should avoid if there is an outbreak.

But so far, the city doesn’t seem overly pleased with Mason’s research — probably based on unwanted attention and an “ick” factor associated with city infrastructure.

The transportation authority stressed to The New York Times microbes were found at levels that posed no threat to human life, and the city’s health department called the research flawed and misleading.

Mason said not reporting the full findings would have been irresponsible and he “would rather confront our environment with knowledge rather than fear.” (Video via Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Dutch Chimps Learn New Dialect At Scottish Zoo]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 06:30:00 -0600
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It's been a long-held belief that humans were unique for our ability to learn a foreign language, but a new study says one of our closest ancestors might be challenging that theory.

When a group of chimpanzees was moved from a zoo in the Netherlands to one in Scotland, researchers found the traveling chimps assimilated the dialect of the ones already living in the Scottish zoo. (Video via Edinburgh Zoo)

Scientists studied the chimps over a three-year period and discovered the foreign chimps added some bass to their grunts over time when calling for a specific object. In this case: an apple. (Video via YouTube / Erin Galbraith)

Here's how one traveling chimp sounded in 2011.
*chimp sound (high pitch)
Fast forward three years, and here's the chimp again sounding like his new neighbor.
*chimp sound (low pitch) (Video via New Scientist)

The researchers say this is a pretty big deal because it's the first time scientists have heard a primate species other than humans do something like this.

One of the study's co-authors, University of Zurich's Simon Townsend, says, "These findings might shed some light on the evolutionary origins of these abilities. The fact that both humans and now chimpanzees possess this basic ability suggests that our shared common ancestor living over 6 million years ago may also have been socially learning referential vocalisations."

The scientists are still curious as to why the tone of the chimps' grunts changed, but they say the relationships formed and the desire to fit into their new social circle could both be factors. 

Still, one Wisconsin zoology professor is skeptical of the findings because of how long the study took. He's quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, "The slow pace of social integration reported suggests that these calls are really about affiliation and not about semantics."

Meaning, according to him, the chimps only shifted their grunt tone because the other chimps were doing it, and they're not necessarily picking up a new language.

This also isn't the first time scientists have tracked chimps' learning patterns. In 2011, a study suggested that chimps's genetic makeup was setup to evolve language.

The new chimpanzee study was published in the journal Current Biology.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Measles Outbreak Discovered At Illinois Daycare]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 21:38:00 -0600
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 people in 14 states have been affected by the measles virus since last month.

That number rose Thursday after an Illinois daycare was hit by the outbreak. Five infants are now believed to have been infected. Two cases have been confirmed so far. 

"Illinois public health officials are investigating the outbreak at KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine. ... This news comes after Cook County's first case of measles was confirmed as an adult,"WHOI reported

However, that case is not believed to be related to this most recent outbreak. Test results for three of the five possibly infected babies are still pending, but officials say there could be as many as 10 more children who were exposed. Those children are being asked to stay home, and anyone else not vaccinated is being asked to stay away from the daycare for at least 21 days. 

But this outbreak is different than the more than one hundred previous cases. The infected children in Cook County, Illinois, are all under one-year-old and are too young to receive the measles vaccine. 

"The reason we recommend 12 months to 15 months in children is because they usually carry their mothers' antibodies against the virus. ... Now they're still at risk because these antibodies go away over time," Fox Business contributor Dr. Robert Lahita said. 

A lack of vaccinations is a major factor that contributed to the spread of the measles virus in California. Although Illinois has about a 95 percent vaccination rate, NBC explains children who can't be vaccinated have a high risk of contracting the potentially deadly virus.

According to NBC, "Four million kids in the U.S. are similar situations, not old enough for the vaccine. If exposed to the virus, nine in 10 of those babies will get sick."

"There are likely to be more cases ... The cat's out of the bag," Cook County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Terry Mason said. 

But as the Chicago Sun-Times points out, Mason also "stressed that the vast majority of suburban Cook County residents have been vaccinated and, therefore, have a very low risk of contracting measles." There have been 10 cases documented in Illinois the past five years but never in a cluster like this outbreak. 

This news follows a Tuesday measles scare at a daycare in Santa Monica, California, that left 14 babies in quarantine. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[FDA Calls New Breast Cancer Drug A 'Breakthrough']]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 15:03:00 -0600
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling a newly approved breast cancer drug a "breakthrough."

That drug is called Ibrance and treats advanced-stage breast cancer.

The drug is manufactured by Pfizer and targets proteins involved in cancer cell growth. It's intended for postmenopausal women. 

The FDA says it's calling Ibrance a "breakthrough" because it showed "substantial improvement" in treatment during clinical trials over currently available therapies.

Trials showed Ibrance was able to stop tumors for 20 months — twice as long as current treatments. 

Fortune points out this drug could be a big opportunity for Pfizer, which has been working to replace lost revenue from formerly prominent drugs which now have expired patients.

A contributor for Forbes calls the drug "very good news" for people with breast cancer but said a high price tag could make it too costly for some consumers.

It should also be noted that side effects of Ibrance include low white and red blood counts, fatigue and hair loss. 

Ibrance will be used in combination with Letrozole, another drug used to treat postmenopausal women with breast cancer.

This video includes images from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Cancer Institute, Getty Images and MindZiper

<![CDATA[Under Armour Buying Health And Fitness Apps To Sell Apparel]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 12:38:00 -0600
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Under Armour is looking to be known for more than its tight-fitting athletic gear. 

The company is now diving into the fitness app market by snatching up two fitness-tracking apps Wednesday: Endomondo and MyFitnessPal. The combined purchases cost the company $560 million

The announcement from Under Armour came alongside its earnings report Wednesday where the company beat analysts' expectations. The athletic apparel giant earned $895 million for the quarter and just over $3 billion for the year. 

It's also not the company's first venture into the fitness app market. It purchased MapMyFitness back in 2013 for $150 million.

The move will certainly beef up Under Armour's increasingly aggressive venture into health and fitness apps.

MyFitnessPal boasts some 80 million users, and Endomondo has 20 million. Add those numbers to the 20 million users in 2013 from MapMyFitness, and you're looking at over 120 million people with eyes on those Under Armour-owned apps alone.

And Under Armour just recently launched its own fitness app called Under Armour Record, which allows you to "track, analyze and share your fitness activity" and bills itself as the "world's first social network for athletes and fitness enthusiasts."

The health and fitness tracking market is getting increasingly crowded. Apple debuted its HealthKit with the release of the iPhone 6 last year.

Here's some of the banter from Apple's promotional video:

"I climbed 11 flights of stairs." 

"Well, I drank a smoothie that had 362 calories in it."

And then there's the huge market of wearable technology: Fitbit, Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone and Garmin  — just to name a few. (Video via Fitbit | Nike | Jawbone | Garmin

But Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is making one thing clear: The company isn't abandoning the athletic apparel it does so well. 

"The more that someone exercises, the more they work out, the more athletic apparel, the more athletic footwear they're going to buy. ... Our goal with all these acquisitions was to sell more shirts and shoes. That's our core business," Plank said in an interview with Bloomberg

Plank says the acquisitions help give Under Armour a global perspective and touts the company's 120 million users as the world's largest digital health and fitness community.

This video includes images from Getty Image.

<![CDATA[Smartphone App Can Detect HIV, Syphilis In 15 Minutes]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:04:00 -0600
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We don't suggest you skip your next doctor's appointment, but researchers have found a new way to detect HIV and syphilis in just 15 minutes — from your home. 

From anywhere, actually. Researchers at Columbia University's Engineering School have developed a new smartphone app that can detect HIV and syphilis with a finger prick. 

The researchers came up with a dongle — an accessory that attaches to your smartphone or computer — that uses an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). ELISA is basically a test used to detect antigens — proteins the viruses produce — in the body. (Video via  YouTube | Biology / Medicine Animations HD

The dongle costs just $34. That's much cheaper than similar ELISA lab equipment that can cost upwards of $18,450 by researchers' estimates. (Video via Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

The app has already been tested by the researchers in Rwanda. The country has long struggled with HIV and mother-to-child transmission rates of the disease are high. (Video via UK Department for International Development)

In addition to being cheaper, quick, and convenient, using a smartphone app is also helping doctors and researchers learn more about the diseases and patients. 

The smartphone test allows patients to upload the information to the cloud and automatically update medical records — providing doctors up-to-the-minute information from patients all over the world. (Video via YouTube / drchrono

Lead researcher Samuel K. Sia said, "Coupling microfluidics with recent advances in consumer electronics can make certain lab-based diagnostics accessible to almost any population with access to smartphones. This kind of capability can transform how health care services are delivered around the world."

<![CDATA[Why NASA's Proposed Mission To Europa Is A Big Deal]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 21:27:00 -0600
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A proposed NASA mission announced this week is pretty much destined to capture the public's attention if Congress approves its funding: a mission to Jupiter that will see if one of the planet's moons could support life. 

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Monday in his "State of NASA" address"We're planning a mission to Jupiter's fascinating moon Europa, selecting instruments this spring and moving toward the next phase of our work."

Europa is becoming one of the most talked-about objects in our solar system and for a very simple reason: It's one of two places, aside from our planet, known to have liquid oceans. 

A promotional video from NASA says, "It's an ocean that is global and may contain two to three times the volume of all the liquid water on Earth."

Along with Saturn's moon Enceladus, Europa is thought to have an icy shell housing a huge ocean and a rocky core, kept warm by the gravitational pull of the massive home planets. That means life could be possible, even though both moons are far away from the sun.

The prospects for life there are so tantalizing, the moon is even working its way into pop culture. 

"I can't believe I'm here. This is incredible." (Video via Magnolia Pictures / "Europa Report")

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said of the moon in a 2007 lecture"I want to go to Europa and go ice fishing. Cut through the ice, lower a submersible, look around and see what's there, see what swims up to the camera lens and licks it."

NASA's planned mission doesn't go quite that far. Dubbed Europa Clipper, the mission would send a probe to take close fly-by images of the moon and study its oceans using radar and other instruments. 

It's not the up-close-and-personal mission space fans might have hoped for, but it's a first step that would give scientists a closer look at an alien ocean than they've ever seen before. 

And NASA won't be alone. The European Space Agency is planning to send its own probe to Europa. If fully funded, both missions would launch in the 2020s.

This video includes images from NASA.

<![CDATA[A Closer Look At The Anti-Vaccination Debate]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 20:38:00 -0600
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Vaccines are all over the headlines this week, but there's been a back and forth between the medical community and vaccine-skeptical parents for well over a decade. Here are some of the high points to get you caught up.

In 1998, a now-famous study in the journal The Lancet claimed to have discovered a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and developmental disorders like autism. 

"Without a doubt in my mind, I believe vaccinations triggered Evan's autism," Jenny McCarthy said.

The study lead to a campaign, made famous by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, which lead to a drop in childhood vaccinations that continues today, even though the '98 study was quickly discredited. 

Other controversies have surrounded the preservatives used in vaccines — specifically, mercury-based preservatives that were used for most of the 20th century and were also blamed for causing developmental disorders. 

The medical community also says there's no evidence for those claims, although in 2001 the FDA stopped issuing licenses for vaccines that contain mercury for children under six as a precaution. 

The only exception is the flu shot, which still contains small amounts of mercury. 

Vaccines are expensive because of the research and distribution involved but are by no means a big money-maker for doctors when labor, office needs and vaccine costs are considered. 

A study published in Pediatrics in 2009 found a third of doctors actually lose money by vaccinating their patients. 

The current measles outbreak is a good example of how diseases, once thought to no longer be a problem, can make a comeback. 

Although the measles was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, we have seen several outbreaks since then because travelers can carry it into the country.

Over all, the medical community says vaccines are safe and have been key in combating infectious disease.

But safety is only one part of the vaccine debate. There's also the political side: whether vaccines should be mandatory or whether parents should be able to choose not to vaccinate. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

<![CDATA[As People Live Longer, Cancer Rates Increase]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 14:44:00 -0600
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Cancer rates are increasing in Great Britain. Cancer Research UK says one in every two people in Britain will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Just 30 years ago, that stat was one in three. 

So with all of today's modern knowledge and technology, why are cancer rates increasing? 

Researchers explain the primary cause is age. The older you get, the higher your chances of genetic mistakes developing in your cells. Since people are living longer, more people are getting cancer. 

About 75 percent of of cancer cases in the U.K. come from people over 60, but the life expectancy is more than 80 years, allowing about 20 years of an elevated cancer risk. 

And experts say if life expectancy continues to increase, we could face even higher cancer rates in the future.

Researcher Peter Sasieni told The Telegraph, "Probably we would be talking about two in three … of today's children."

Now the question is: What can be done?

Researchers say the chances of getting cancer, even in old age, can be reduced by lifestyle choices. 

Not smoking, staying out of the sun, eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight can all lower your risk

And there is some good news. Although more people are getting cancer, more people are surviving as well.

Researchers found survival rates have more than doubled in the past 40 years in the U.K. Now, half of those diagnosed with cancer will survive for at least 10 years.

Most of this is believed to be thanks to early detection and increased knowledge about the disease. 

Last year, U.K. researchers said they would like to see the survival rate reach 75 percent in 20 years.

<![CDATA[Mysterious Booms In Kansas City Could Be Frost Quakes]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 11:36:00 -0600
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We’ve heard of snowpocalypse.

"Accumulation totals expected to reach eight feet by Friday," said a CBS anchor.


"Oh! Listen to that. Son of a …," said the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore.

Even snownadoes, apparently.

"A ghostly white whirlwind whips across a snowy mountain peak," said a narrator on "Strangest Weather on Earth."

But here's a new one — at least to us. A frost quake.

That was amateur video from Kansas City, Missouri. Those sounds have reportedly been going on for the last few months.

"To me it sounded like it was a fairly substantial Class B firework. Which is a lot bigger than what you sell at a fireworks stand," according to a KSHB report.

Local station KSHB has been digging into the source of the booms, even checking to see if a local air force base was running test operations — all to no avail.

A popular theory now? Frost quakes.

Also known as a cryoseism, Accuweather describes them as "a natural phenomenon caused from a sudden deep freezing of the ground," which then causes the ground to crack, creating the noise.

For the record, frost quakes are not like the earthquakes you're more familiar with, so don't expect any dangerous seismic activity. They're reportedly most common in the coldest part of the night, between midnight and dawn.

<![CDATA[Biggest Rodent Ever Used Teeth Like Elephant Tusks]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 11:00:00 -0600
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Groundhog Day was this past Monday, and on top of conflicting forecasts on how long the winter will last, it also produced this gem. 

That was Sun Prairie Wisconsin's groundhog, Jimmy, biting the town's mayor, Jonathan Freund. (Video via WISC)

But Freund should count his blessings it was Jimmy biting his ear and not Jimmy's giant extinct cousin, Josephoartigasia monesi.

J. monesi is the biggest rodent that we know to have walked the planet, and it would've weighed in at 2,000 pounds — more than an adult grizzly bear. 

If you couldn't tell from the picture, J. monesi had a powerful pair of incisors with a bite force of close to 1,400 newtons — on par with bite force measurements of Rottweilers. (Video via National Geographic)

The researchers used CT scans like these from lead researcher Dr. Philip Cox to model J. monesi's bite force. They then concluded the giant rodent probably used those incisors for more than just biting. 

Because the incisors could withstand a lot more pressure than the animal's muscles were able to generate, researchers theorize J. monesi could've used its incisors like elephants use their tusks.  

For elephants, their tusks are multipurpose tools, used for tasks ranging from digging and stripping bark off trees to fighting with other elephants. (Video via BBC)

And like the elephant, and its giant rodent heir — the capybara — J. monesi would have been a herbivore, using its molars, which could generate even greater bite force, to chew roots. (Video via Discovery)

For his part, Dr. Cox says he is interested in seeing how J. monesi's cranium relates to those of its modern relatives and whether the animal's size would have altered its skull shape, or if it just looks like a scaled-up version of extant rodents. 

<![CDATA[Probe Finds Popular Supplements Contain Rice, Houseplants]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 09:14:00 -0600
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Four major retailers are feeling the accusatory glare of the New York state attorney general’s office after being accused of selling fraudulent herbal supplements. 

The four retailers are GNC, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart.

"They found four out of five products did not contain any of the herbs that were on their labels," a CBS anchor said.

This news came after authorities tested the top-selling herbal supplements store brands. The New York Times says: 

"The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies."

The state of New York sent all four retailers cease-and-desist letters, citing "deceptive business practices" and "considerable health risks for consumers."

The testing was done on supplements supposedly containing ginkgo biloba, St. John's wort, ginseng, garlic, echinacea, valerian root and saw palmetto. 

The worst offender was Wal-Mart, which failed all six tests. The other retailers all had at least one that passed the testing. 

The Washington Post points out that since dietary supplements aren't considered food or drugs, they are loosely regulated. 

"Federal guidelines require companies ensure that their products are safe and accurately labeled, but the FDA has little power to enforce that rule."

In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services urged the FDA to require supplement manufacturers to adhere to the same scrutiny as regulated drugs. 

But for now, the FDA's hands are tied. A 1994 federal law exempts supplements from the FDA's approval process.

In response, Walgreens has agreed to remove the products from stores nationwide, Wal-Mart and GNC said they both plan to cooperate and Target had not yet commented.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[U.K. Passes Historic Vote On 3-Parent DNA Baby Procedure]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 07:22:00 -0600
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On Tuesday, members of the British parliament set their country on the path to making history by passing an amendment that will allow children to have not two, but three parents.

You may be wondering how that’s even possible. Essentially, doctors can now perform a procedure that will replace a mother’s mitochondrial DNA, or mDNA, with that of a second mother.

The goal is to avoid mothers passing on a wide range of debilitating diseases to their children through faulty mitochondria. (Video via Wellcome Trust)

Allowing three-parent babies will help ensure fewer people have to grow up with lifelong and crippling diseases that stem from a mother’s faulty mDNA. But this wasn’t exactly a straightforward vote.

British MPs in the House of Commons were allowed a “free vote” when voting on the issue, meaning they didn’t have to vote down party lines since this was considered an issue of conscience.

But they faced pressure from both sides of the issue. Those who wanted to allow three-parent babies were interested in preventing mitochondrial diseases for future generations.

“This is world leading science within a highly respected regulated regime and for the many families affected, this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.” Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told parliament.

The director of the Wellcome Trust centre for Mitochondrial Research had told the BBC, “This is research that has been suggested by the patients, supported by the patients and is for the patients, and that’s an important message.” (Video via Wellcome Trust)

Those who were against it largely opposed the measure for ethical reasons and said there wasn’t enough evidence to support whether the procedure was safe or not.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the program director at Bioethics and Medical Law at St. Mary’s University said, “Even if these babies are born they will have to be monitored all their lives, and their children will have to be as well.”

The Church of England, while open to the idea of altering embryos to help children, had came out against the procedure as well saying it would not be responsible. They were also opposed to the idea of destroying the unused embryo from the mDNA donor mother.

Now the vote will go to Britain’s House of Lords. If it passes there, the U.K. will become the first country to allow the mDNA procedure and the first baby could be born as soon as next year.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA['Black Beauty' Meteorite Reveals Secrets Of Mars' Surface]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 10:16:00 -0600
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A new study claims a recently discovered meteorite is a chunk of Martian crust and is like nothing else ever discovered on Earth.

The meteorite, known as NWA 7034, weighs just 11 ounces. It was discovered in the Moroccan desert in 2011 and eventually sold to a collector in the U.S.

According to the study by researchers from Brown University and the University of New Mexico, the meteorite, known as "Black Beauty," is about 4.4 billion years old. 

When researchers first examined the rock, its chemical makeup confirmed it was indeed from Mars, but it was completely different from any sample ever discovered before. 

The majority of the samples from Mars' surface are made from cooled volcanic material. Black Beauty, however, is made up of small fragments of different rocks all welded together — known as a breccia rock.

The planet has more than 400,000 impact craters of at least 1 km in diameter. Impacts of that magnitude are known to cause those brecciated rocks, leading researchers to believe this rock would be characteristic of much of the Red Planet's surface.

A press release quotes lead author Kevin Cannon as saying, "If you went to Mars and picked up a chunk of crust, you'd expect it to be heavily beat up, battered, broken apart and put back together."

The study was published in the journal Icarus.

This video contains images from NASANASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of ArizonaNASA/JPL and NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team.

<![CDATA[First Large-Scale Ebola Vaccine Trials Begin In West Africa]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 07:39:00 -0600
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It appears health care workers are winning the fight against Ebola in West Africa. 

Researchers will begin testing of a new Ebola vaccine Monday they ultimately hope will protect some 30,000 volunteers in Liberia. (Video via Al Jazeera)

The BBC reports the vaccines were taken to a secret location in West Africa and have been kept under tight security. From there, doses of the Zaire Ebola strain will be injected into 12 people to hopefully trick the body into building an immune system to the virus. 

"In order for one to be infected by Ebola it has to be the entire Ebola virus. ... A little piece of this virus that has been inserted here ... It cannot cause an infection,"  senior Liberian scientist involved in the trials Stephen Kennedy told the BBC

The first large-scale Ebola vaccine trial comes at a time when health care workers are making significant progress in the fight against the virus.

The World Health Organization announced last week that the fight against Ebola was in its "second phase," meaning workers are focused less on slowing transmission and more on "ending the epidemic."

And The New York Times wrote Saturday, a major Ebola drug trial by pharmaceutical company Chimerix was actually halted due to a lack of patients. 

More than 22,000 cases of Ebola have been reported worldwide as of late January, with most of those cases occurring in West Africa — more specifically in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. WHO says the virus has claimed the lives of 8,800. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[NASA's SMAP Satellite Will Measure Wet Dirt From Space]]> Sun, 01 Feb 2015 08:37:00 -0600
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The best way to track the moisture in the dirt under your feet is to scan it from space.

That’s the mission for NASA’s SMAP satellite, which just made it safely to orbit.

The orbiter launched aboard a Delta 2 rocket on Saturday. It was NASA's third try after rough weather, and then mechanical trouble forced delays earlier this week.

SMAP stands for Soil Moisture Active Passive. The satellite will create high-resolution maps of ground moisture distribution across the planet, so scientists have a better understanding of water reserves.

"We can use the data to help forecast crop productivity, conditions for floods to occur, the extent of droughts, risk for wildfires," says SMAP project manager Kent Kellogg.

NASA says: "Current climate models uncertainties result in disagreement on whether there will be more or less water regionally compared to today; SMAP data will enable climate models to be brought into agreement on future trends."

The satellite itself is effectively a giant wobbling space mirror. Its roughly 20-foot reflector will rotate like a lasso about 14 times a minute, scanning out a 650-mile-wide strip of Earth as it orbits.

An active radar and a passive radiometer will scan the top two inches of soil for water content. SMAP will be able to look past cloud cover and light vegetation, day or night.

The plans call for a three-year primary mission, but SMAP still has a bit of a wait in orbit before it can get started. NASA engineers expect it will take more than a month to fully deploy and test its instruments and rotating mirror.

<![CDATA[Athletes' Sleep Cycles Could Decide The Super Bowl]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:37:00 -0600
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The Super Bowl is the biggest American sporting event of the year, and you can bet coaches Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are going to need all the help they can get to win it.

But according to some scientists, the key to success might have been found across the pond — at ye olde University of Birmingham, where two researchers concluded that an athlete's sleep cycle has a major effect on performance. 

Their study is called "The Impact of Circadian Phenotype and Time since Awakening on Diurnal Performance in Athletes" and, if that sounds a little complicated, its conclusion really isn't: Don't sleep on sleep when it comes to athletic performance. 

Here's what they did: 20 athletes were selected and identified by "chronotype" — basically, whether they're night owls or early birds. Then, over the span of several weeks, the researchers put them through a series of fitness tests at different times of the day.  

And the results were stunning — "night owls" performed up to 26 percent better in the evening than in the morning or afternoon. The later you wake up, the later you hit peak performance. 

So what does it mean for this year's Super Bowl? HealthDay reports it would seem to give the Seahawks an edge over the Patriots. Sleep scientist Safwan Badr said, "If you're an East Coast team playing on the West Coast at night, you're really at a disadvantage."

But before you head to Vegas and put your life savings on the 'Hawks, keep in mind these results have a lot to do with the particular sleep patterns of the athletes. 

For example, Business Insider reports that Tom Brady hits the sack at 9 p.m. — suggesting he would be at his sharpest around dinnertime, not 4:30 p.m. Central time when he'll take the field for Super Bowl. 

On the other hand, who can forget the time Brady's opponent, Marshawn Lynch, appeared to doze off at 8:42 p.m. at last year's ESPYs — suggesting the fearsome running back could be an early bird and therefore a step behind on Sunday. 

Yet whether for better or worse, both teams will probably try to get plenty of sleep Saturday night. Our advice? Watch the game, and if your team does poorly, you'll at least have a brand new excuse. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Dom Crossley / CC BY 2.0.

<![CDATA[Discovery Of 'Dragon' Dinosaur In China Could Explain Myths]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:29:00 -0600
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Feast your eyes on China's "dragon" dinosaur. It roamed the earth 160 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period. 

"A member of the research team from the University of Alberta ... told CNN it was named Qijianglong, the 'dragon of Qijiang,' because farmers thought the bones resembled the shape of Chinese mythical dragons."

One researcher wondered if ancient Chinese actually found the remains and used them as inspiration for legends of dragons.

The dinosaur was 50 feet long with a neck length of around 25 feet — half its total body length.

It reminds us of another well-known dinosaur, the Brachiosaurus, which also had a long neck — about 30 feet long, according to LiveScience.

Both of these species are Sauropods, which explains their resemblance. 

Like something straight out of Jurassic Park. (Video via Universal Pictures / "Jurassic World")

A press release quotes one of the University of Alberta paleontologists who made the discovery. PhD student Tetsuto Miyashita says: "Qijianglong is a cool animal. If you imagine a big animal that is half neck, you can see that evolution can do quite extraordinary things."

He added, "It is rare to find a head and neck of a long-necked dinosaur together because the head is so small and easily detached after the animal dies." 

Although the long-necked dino was discovered in 2006, the findings were just published in a journal this month. 

This video includes artwork from Zhongda Chuang and an image from Shenna Wang.

<![CDATA[Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:06:00 -0600
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More evidence that birth order affects personality. (Video via Buena Vista Pictures / "The Lion King")

New research out of the U.K. polled people on how they compare to their siblings. 

For example, 54 percent of firstborns said they were more responsible than their siblings. Only 31 percent of youngest siblings said they felt the most responsible in their families. Of the youngests, 46 percent of them said they're funnier than their elders. 

Another notable trend: 38 percent of eldest children felt more successful than their siblings, though the researchers note that could simply be because they're older and have had more time to develop in their careers.

So this research was all about self-reporting, but it speaks to a larger trend. Birth order has long been thought to have some effect on personality — it's just hard to prove. 

Medical Daily also recently explored how birth order affects children, noting firstborns tend to be less risk-taking than younger siblings. 

The Guardian spoke to a clinical psychologist about this new study out of the U.K. Her take? "There is a lot of clinical evidence [about birth order]. ... But you can't clone people and put them in different birth order positions. So there isn't much of what we call hard evidence."

About 1,700 British adults were surveyed for the poll. 

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

<![CDATA[Obama To Outline New Plan For Personalized Medicine]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:24:00 -0600
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"I'm launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier. We can do this," said President Obama during the 2015 State of the Union Address.  

On Friday, President Obama is expected to elaborate on the Precision Medicine Initiative, which he first introduced during last week's State of the Union Address. Obama will ask Congress for $215 million to help get the project off the ground. 

The associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy explained, "Precision medicine is about moving beyond [the] one-size-fits-all approach to medicine and, instead, taking into account people's genes, their microbiomes, their environments and their lifestyles."

If the budget is approved, right off the bat it will mainly focus on cancer research and treatment. There are four major players in the initiative which would receive that $215 million.  

First, the National Institutes of Health would get the lion's share — $130 million to help create a database to track data of about 1 million volunteer donors.

"Now, that will of course include genomic sequencing. But it will also include things like lifestyle, things from their medical records, use of personal health devices, all sorts of things. So it's a really comprehensive project," explained a reporter for CNBC. 

$70 million would go to the National Cancer Institute to help discover if there are genetic factors that lead to cancer. 

The Food and Drug Administration would receive $10 million to create structures to better deal with personalized medicine and fast-track breakthroughs.

Lastly, $5 million is expected to go to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology  to create a better technological system for the new incentive.

At least four large pharmaceutical companies — including Illumina, which heavily focuses on genetic sequencing — are expected to attend a White House event Friday where more information will be released. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

<![CDATA[Calif. Health Officials Campaign Against E-Cigarettes]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:41:00 -0600
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California health officials say e-cigarettes are a public health risk.

The California Department of Public Health issued an advisory this week urging the state's residents to avoid or stop using e-cigarettes. (Video Via BBC)

The report said, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigs use cancer-causing chemicals and can lead to nicotine addiction.

It also attacked the commonly held belief that e-cigarettes only emit water vapor, saying the devices actually emit a "toxic aerosol" and that secondhand e-cig smoke is still dangerous. (Video Via CNN)

"They're marketing this as if it's a healthy alternative. They did this 50 years ago with low tar and light cigarettes and now they're doing this with e-cigarettes," Timothy M. Gibbs of the American Cancer Society said. 

E-cigarettes are particularly popular with young people, and the report accuses the industry of marketing the devices to teens and not mentioning they contain nicotine.

It also claims the widespread use of fruit and candy flavoring can entice small children to ingest the poisonous liquids. 

E-cigs were introduced in the U.S. in 2007 and have since taken off. 

 A 2014 study found twice as many U.S. adults reported using e-cigarettes in 2013 than in 2010.

And the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future survey found that of the 8th and 10th graders surveyed, twice as many used e-cigs than traditional cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing regulations that would require warning labels and ingredient lists on e-cigarette packages.

Monday, a California senator introduced a bill that would ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.