Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA[$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit]]> Sun, 20 Jul 2014 18:33:00 -0500
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A Florida jury awarded a smoker's widow one of the largest ever legal wins against a tobacco company — a whopping $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

Cynthia Robinson sued the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, maker of Camel cigarettes and other tobacco products,  for not informing her husband that cigarettes are addictive and can cause lung cancer. Robinson told NBC, (Getty Images)

ROBINSON: "They concealed information that was harmful to a human for years. And still to this day have not admitted that they were wrong." (Via NBC)

Robinson's husband, Michael Johnson, died in 1996 of lung cancer at just 36 years old after smoking for most of his life. (Getty Images)

This award is the highest amount a jury in Florida has ordered since 2006. But, why such a high amount? (Getty Images)

Again, the jury ruled that Robinson be given the $23.6 billion in punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and are paid to the plaintiff. Then, $16.8 million was awarded for compensatory damages — damages for covering what was lost — in this case Robinson's husband. She gets those too.

A New York Times article included a quote from a high profile lawyer who explained a verdict this pricey is not typical. "There have not been multibillion-dollar punishments in [these types of cases] for one reason: We are afraid to ask for them. We are afraid of what will happen in the appellate process."

There aren't a lot of details out yet about what went on in that courtroom to make the jury decide on such a high amount. Robinson's layers are speaking out though. 

NPR reports attorney Christopher Chestnut said, ​"The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of ... the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes."

And attorney Willie Gary told WPTV, "We've made a difference already. I think less people are gonna smoke.  I think that the tobacco companies are going to get their act together. They're gonna make safer cigarettes. We know they can. They'll just make a little bit less money, but they'll save a whole lot of lives and that's what its all about."

Obviously, R.J. Reynolds is not thrilled about the verdict. Pensacola News Journal obtained a statement from Reynold's vice president Jeffery Raborn saying, "This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented."

CNN pointed out this case used to be part of a class-action lawsuit that was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court. In its 2006 ruling, the court cleared the way for individual lawsuits against tobacco companies.

R.J. Reynolds reps say they plan to appeal the ruling. 

<![CDATA[Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People]]> Sat, 19 Jul 2014 18:37:00 -0500
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Researchers are saying our prehistoric ancestors might have had a much better understanding of plants prior to developing agriculture than previously thought.

Extracting chemical compounds from calcified dental plaque on ancient teeth showed that an important part of our predecessors' diets was purple nutsedge because of it's nutritional and medicinal value. (Via Donatella Usai, Centro Studi Sudanesi and Sub-Sahariani (CSSeS); CC-BDYY)

The teeth were taken from a grave site in Central Sudan that contained specimens from before and after the development of agriculture. They all showed that people relied heavily on purple nutsedge. (Via PLOS ONE)

However, today the plant is known as a nuisance weed and it's been called the most costly weed to get rid of because of it's deep root system. (Via Jeevan Jose / CC By SA 4.0)

Our prehistoric ancestor's, on the other hand, loved the stuff. Its a good source of carbohydrates and it also helps prevent tooth decay, which led to the surprisingly low level of cavities in the specimens studied. (Via Science Daily)

Researchers also discovered those early humans ate several other plants and there is evidence suggesting they cooked and chewed plant fibers to prepare raw materials. (Via AlphaGalileo)

All of this has shown that long before developing agricultural, people had detailed knowledge of plants and those plants played a big part in their everyday lives. The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

<![CDATA[Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:40:00 -0500
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Perhaps we could all be scientists. A new study suggests mixing alcohol and energy drinks gives you — wait for it — more energy to stay up and drink more.

In that study from the Australian National University, 75 young adults were given either vodka mixed with soda water or vodka mixed with an energy drink. (Via Australian National UniversityGetty Images

You guessed it. The ones who had the energy drink wanted to keep the party going. (Via Getty Images for Belvedere)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the findings saying, "Drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink (based on breath alcohol levels) than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks."

The researchers went on to express their concern that this this increased desire could lead to dangerous actions like drunk driving or violence. Not to mention all of the health dangers that come along with binge drinking. 

Newsweek reported the drink's sweet taste could also be a reason why the subjects wanted some more. 

While Daily RX clarified having an energy drink mixed with alcohol does not actually make you drunker, it just makes you want to consume more. 

So, now we know alcoholic energy drinks can lead to binge drinking, but hey, we always knew energy drinks were not so great for you.

Harvard researchers found drinks packed with sugar to be one of the major contributors of America's obesity epidemic. 

And this recent study shows energy drinks by themselves can actually cause dangerous heart contractions.

Daily Mail did an article in March about energy drinks increasing the risk of mental health issues.

The study says alcoholic energy drinks only affect your desire to keep drinking, its up to you whether call it a night. 

<![CDATA[Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:49:00 -0500
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For the first time ever, scientists are getting a crystal-clear look at a fascinating and haunting piece of WWII history — the only submarine the Nazis lost in the Gulf of Mexico.

​Media outlets are taking a look back at a time when the Allies were struggling to enter the war, finding it nearly impossible to deliver oil past the Nazi navy, who sunk 56 Allied ships in 1942 alone. And Fox News highlighted this ship's fearsome reputation. (Via The American Oil and Gas Historical Society)

​"In 1942, this German U-boat terrorized the Gulf of Mexico, sinking commercial liners and even an American passenger boat –– the Robert E. Lee." (Via Fox News)

Twenty-five Americans on board the Robert E. Lee died. A Navy ship escorting the passenger boat then sank the submarine U-166 by dropping depth charges –– killing all 52 German sailors. 

WTVT reports a team of scientists under Robert Ballard, who famously discovered the location of the Titanic, is currently exploring the wreck using 3-D imaging. 

Fascinating pictures of both U-166 and the Robert E. Lee, which rest only two miles apart, are featured on a website affiliated with the Ocean Exploration Trust.

Research on the ship is nothing new, since both ships were discovered back in 2001 when a consulting firm for BP and Shell oil was conducting a deep-water pipeline survey. But this is the first time conditions have allowed for such clear views of what the wreckage has become. (Via Uboat.netYouTube / PAST Foundation)

Three-dimensional imaging is required because the ship, which is considered a military grave, cannot be touched out of respect for the fallen soldiers. (Via KWTX / Ocean Exploration Trust)

With the Gulf of Mexico's shallower waters compared to the Atlantic Ocean, the ship gives scientists an unparalleled glimpse into history.

<![CDATA[Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:16:00 -0500
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​Researchers found when sugary food was a reward, obese women weren't able to make the right decision or learn properly. (Via Getty Images)

So here's some background: Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, showing them "reward" cards and telling the participants they would be given whatever appeared on the card.

There was a pattern involved, and participants were asked to predict when a reward card would appear. (Via Current Biology)

Obese women didn't do well when the reward card involved food, overestimating how often chocolate or some other food item would appear. (Via Getty Images)

Note — it was just obese women — not thinner women and not men of any weight — who seemed to have what the researchers are calling "impaired associative learning."

The study's authors suggest: "Obesity may be linked to impaired reward-based associative learning and that this impairment may be specific to the food domain."

"Specific to the food domain" because — and here's the interesting part — researchers tried the reward pattern with money instead of food and found the same obese women who had trouble predicting food awards did just as well as everyone else when the payoff was money. 

The Los Angeles Times' Melissa Healy anticipates the study "inspiring offensive commentary from misogynists and fat haters."

But in fact in all the coverage of the study no one really addresses the question — why obese women?

No one, that is, except the BBC, which nonetheless vaguely points to the possibility that obese women have "particular concerns about food or because they feel more unhappy or dissatisfied about their body image."

But this study is definitely not conclusive — and leaves some questions unanswered. To start — Is this a chicken-and-egg issue: Does obesity causes the learning impairment, or the other way around? You can find the study in the journal Current Biology. 

<![CDATA[100-Plus HIV/AIDS Researchers On MH17: 'Devastating Impact']]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:37:00 -0500
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What was supposed to be a meeting of some of the greatest medical minds in the world fighting HIV turned into a place to eulogize fallen loved ones.

​As more and more information came out on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 apparently shot down over Ukraine, the International AIDS Society revealed more than 100 researchers on their way to a conference in Melbourne, Australia, were on board. The conference was set to begin this weekend. (Via YouTube / PainkillerBOH, Fox News)

Much of the early coverage of the deaths focused on Dutch researcher Joep Lange, a former International AIDS Society president. (Via ​The Sydney Morning Herald)

Colleagues said Lange was one of the first to fight the false stigma in the 1980s that HIV only affected gay men.

JOEP LANGE, FORMER INTERNATIONAL AIDS SOCIETY PRESIDENT: "There's a very good side about HIV activism, but there's also a very nasty and irrational side."

Current IAS president Françoise Barré-Sinoussi spoke to reporters about her colleage.

FRANCOISE ​BARRE-SINOUSSI: "Has been trying forever — for his life — to give for the benefit of mankind." (Via Sky News)

​The World Health Organization also revealed the death of Glenn Thomas over Twitter. Thomas was a WHO spokesman and focused on stopping the spread of tuberculosis in some of the world's poorest countries. (Via CCTV)

Ukraine and pro-Russian militants have denied shooting down MH17 and blamed each other for the crash. Even Friday morning nearly 24 hours after it went down, officials around the world were trying to confirm who was on board the flight. (Via Новороссия Новоросы,

Several media outlets continue to say "up to" or "as many as" 100 people on MH17 were en route to the HIV/AIDS conference in Melbourne, but reporters in Australia speaking with conference officials put the total at 108.

Barré-Sinoussi told reporters it was too early to estimate the impact of such a large loss to the HIV/AIDS research community, but others didn't hold back their assessment. (Via The Australian)

The federal president of the Australian Medical Association told Time“The amount of knowledge that these people who died on the plane were carrying with them and the experiences they had developed will have a devastating impact on HIV research. The amount of time it takes to get to a stage where you can come up with those ideas cannot be replaced in a short amount of time."

The International AIDS Society released a statement saying the conference in Melbourne would go on "in recognition of our colleagues' dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS."

<![CDATA[Chikungunya Virus Contracted In U.S. For First Time]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:26:00 -0500
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No, we're not here to talk to you about dino DNA or West Nile. "Chikungunya" is loosely translated to "contorted with pain" — and it's also the name of a virus that's now being spread in the U.S.

"Tonight the state department is confirming the first locally acquired cases of chikungunya fever. One in Palm Beach County, a second in Miami Dade county. The disease is spread through the bite of a mosquito." 

Dozens of cases have been reported in Florida this year, but all were contracted outside the U.S. Now, a man and a woman have contracted chikungunya locally. So, what does it mean for them? According to the World Health Organization...

-Chikungunya causes fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, rash and more

-"Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions, with considerable morbidity and suffering."

-No cure, symptoms are just treated

The CDC notes the disease has made its way to the U.S. just seven months after it was recognized in the Western Hemisphere.

But, some good news...

-Infection is rarely fatal, though pain can be "severe and debiilitating"

-The virus is not spread person to person

-"Infection is thought to provide lifelong immunity."

"The individuals who could have more concern are the very young, newborns, and of course the elderly, over 65."

It's unclear how quickly the virus might spread in the U.S., but in June NBC's senior health writer reported it was spreading "rapidly" through the Caribbean.

Though she later added that strain of the disease only spreads through one type of mosquito, and that type of mosquito is only found in the Southern U.S.

As CBS notes, the CDC and other health agencies had issues travel warnings for several popular vacation destinations over the past few months because of the virus.

But, that's a bit of a moot point now. The CDC advises seeking medical care right away if you show symptoms of chikungunya. 

<![CDATA[Niacin Could Be More Harmful Than Helpful]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:39:00 -0500
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​It turns out niacin, one of the most popular cholesterol-lowering supplements available in the U.S., might actually be doing more harm than good.

"For every 200 patients we are treating with niacin, it is possible we are causing one excess death related to the drug, and that, for me, is a level of toxicity that is just not acceptable." (Via WPTV)

Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined niacin, also known as vitamin B3.​ One looked at extended-release niacin and the other looked at the combination of niacin with laropiprant.

Neither found significant benefits to niacin but instead showed the vitamin increased adverse effects such as bleeding, stomach ulcers, heartburn and diarrhea, as well as a 32 percent increase in diabetes and a 9 percent increase in death risk. (Via e-Magine Art / CC by 2.0)

Niacin is intended to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, and while it accomplishes both of those, the study found it doesn't actually reduce risk of stroke, heart attack or chest pain.

It wasn't all that long ago that institutions like the Mayo Clinic and the University of California-Berkeley were praising niacin's cholesterol-lowering abilities.

LiveScience reports niacin use has nearly tripled over the last 8 years and the U.S. spends more than $900 million on it annually.

But then healthcare professionals began questioning its use after a study in 2011 found patients taking niacin had strokes more often than those who didn't. And now many are calling for doctors to halt its use entirely. (Via National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

In an editorial published alongside the new studies, one doctor wrote: "On the basis of the weight of available evidence showing net clinical harm, niacin must be considered to have an unacceptable toxicity profile for the majority of patients and it should not be used routinely."

That official did go on to say that it could be helpful for patients at a "very high risk for cardiovascular events" who have complications with other supplements, but that's a decision doctors and patients should make carefully.

<![CDATA[Scientists Investigating Mysterious Giant Hole In Siberia]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:47:00 -0500
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Scientists have now launched an investigation into a giant crater that suddenly appeared in a remote part of Siberia.

"That hole is 260 wide and nobody knows exactly how deep that thing is. It just goes down, and down, and down and it's a dark hole." (Via Fox News)

"It's still a mystery as to what caused it." (Via MSNBC)

"Russian scientists will arrive today to try to determine what caused the hole." (Via The Weather Channel)

Even stranger— the area of Russia where this crater is said to have formed is ominously called "the end of earth". (Via YouTube / Bulka)

This new footage from a local television station shows the expedition team and the first close-up look inside the crater. Russian scientists, along with members of the country's Emergencies Ministry, gathered soil and water samples for testing. (Via Ямал Регион)

But while we wait for the team to finish its investigation, speculation about what may have caused the hole is all over the Web. 

Perhaps the most popular and believable Internet theory is that a large meteor — similar to the one that flattened a Siberian forest in 1908 — struck the remote area. (Via CBS)

This idea certainly isn't that farfetched given recent, large meteor strikes in Russia and the physical nature of the newly-discovered hole. (Via Fox News)

But according to RT, a spokesperson from the Emergencies Ministry ruled out that theory out — but didn't explain why. 

As to be expected— when unexplainable things appear on our planet's surface, people jump to the conclusion that a UFO landed, crashed, drilled or exploded out of the earth. 

But The Siberian Times explains: "Experts are confident that a scientific explanation will be found for it and that it is not ... evidence 'of the arrival of a UFO craft' to the planet."

Even scientists can't agree on a single, probable reason for this massive crater. 

One Australian scientist told The Sydney Morning Herald it's a "pingo." It's a geological phenomenon caused when "a block of ice [grows] into a small hill in the frozen arctic ground. The ice can eventually push through the earth and when it melts away it leaves an exposed crater." 

But a Russian researcher in Siberia tells NBC the region is "rich in natural gas, and a pocket of this combined with water and salt could have produced quite a large explosion if the permafrost were punctured by climate-change-induced thaw."

It's possible scientist may never figure out what caused the hole. 

This crater found in Siberia more than 60 years ago is still puzzling researchers who have not been able to give a definitive statement on its origin. (Via Twitter / @JPMajor)

Although the latest crater was discovered just recently, researchers say the permafrost surrounding it indicates it could be several years old. 

<![CDATA[Do Asthma Inhalers Stunt Growth In Children?]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:28:00 -0500
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Inhalers are an important long-term treatment for those diagnosed with asthma, especially children. But according to new reports, inhalers might actually be stunting kids' growth. (Via NIAID / CC BY 2.0)

Researchers have tried to observe the effects of inhalers on growth before but either discovered only minimal effects or did not monitor growth regularly over time. (Via KDKA, The New York Times, European Respiratory Journal)

But in two recent studies, researchers looked at the trials of about 9,000 children with mild to moderate asthma. Some of those children were given inhaled corticosteroids, and some were given either placebos or nonsteroidal treatments.

After a year, those who were treated with the corticosteroids averaged a growth rate half a centimeter, or about 0.2 inches, less than the average rate of six to nine centimeters per year. (Via The Cochrane Library)

In fact, Medical News Today says those who received lower doses of inhaled corticosteroids had a higher average growth rate of around a quarter centimeter. But this doesn't necessarily mean inhalers are all that bad.

According to the Daily Mirror, the effects were more prominent in only the first year of treatment. The studies' lead author says that effect "seems minor compared to the known benefits of the drugs for controlling asthma and ensuring full lung growth."

In a press release, the researchers note the observed effects on growth could be caused by a variety of factors such as the kind of asthma medication used and the dosage. (Via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost 7 million children currently have asthma in the U.S., and it's unclear why some develop asthma while others don't. (Via Nationwide Children's Hospital)

But it should be noted the researchers say each study varied in the rate of growth suppression, and only some of the trials regularly monitored growth for more than a year.

<![CDATA[How Mutant Worms Could Help Alcoholics]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:26:00 -0500
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Scientists say they may have found the key to coming up with new ways to help treat people with alcohol problems — Worms.

Yes, worms! Neuroscientists who created mutant worms that don't get intoxicated by alcohol say their research could help doctors develop new drugs to treat humans with drinking problems. (Via Getty ImagesYouTube / How to Fish)

Cool, right? So, how did these researchers manage to make worms that can't get drunk? 

According to a new study published Tuesday in The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists with The University of Texas at Austin inserted a modified human alcohol target — or a molecular channel that binds alcohol in the brain — into the worms.

Now, when you normally stick a worm in a petri dish with alcohol in it, it won't move from side to side as much and will crawl much more slowly. But when scientists put these mutant worms in the same dish, they acted as they did without the alcohol.

HealthDay points out his is the first time scientists have modified a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal without affecting other important functions, like regulating the activity of nervous system cells.

One of the study's authors told The Verge, "...the way we tweaked it did not perturb the normal function of the target, allowing it [to] continue functioning normally in the worm's brain."

And researchers say they hope they can use the same idea to develop drugs to treat people who are addicted to alcohol by counteracting its intoxicating and potentially addictive effects. (Via Getty Images)

The study's co-author even suggested this alcohol target could be used to develop a "James Bond"-type drug that could allow someone to out drink another person without feeling intoxicated. (Via MGM / "The World Is Not Enough")

But even the study's authors don't know exactly what that treatment could look like. One said in a press release from The University of Texas at Austin"Our findings provide exciting evidence that future pharmaceuticals might aim at this portion of the alcohol target to prevent problems in alcohol abuse disorders. However, it remains to be seen which aspects of these disorders would benefit."

Researchers say any drug of this nature is way off from human trials. But they say they will conduct further studies into the topic in the near future.

<![CDATA[Largest 'Four-Winged' Dinosaur To Date Unearthed In China]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 09:21:00 -0500
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Scientists have discovered what they say is the largest-known feathered dinosaur, and its fossil could provide new insight into prehistoric flight.

Meet the ​Changyuraptor yangi, which Slate describes as a meat-eating, raptor dinosaur with long feathers that grew on both its tail and feet. 

Researchers reported Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications that after unearthing and studying the new fossil in China, they determined the nine-pound, four-foot-long feathered dino most likely preyed on early birds and mammals by swooping down on them from the skies.

National Geographic reports the ​Changyuraptor and other dinos from the raptor family are often thought to have had four wings because their long feathers make their legs look like two extra wings.

The lead researcher on the study examining the new find told The Washington Post, "I’ve never seen anything like it. It is a stunning specimen and it was stunning to see the size of the feathers. This is the dinosaur with the longest known feathers — by far. There is nothing like this by a very good distance."

But the new dino is more than just a cool find.

The Nature Communications paper says its fossils could help them test hypotheses explaining the origin and evolution of avian flight. "The lengthy feathered tail of the new fossil provides insight into the flight performance of microraptorines and how they may have maintained aerial competency at larger body sizes."

Basically, the researchers suggest the ​Changyuraptor could have been able to slam on the brakes and change direction midflight by altering the pitch of its bony tail as it plummeted toward the ground. This action also could have helped with landing, too.

An ancient feather expert told National Geographic via email the ability to control airborne trajectories like that "likely played an important role during the origins of flight as well."

Whether these dinos could actually fly or just glided through the air is still unclear.

But it does sound strikingly similar to the Archaeopteryx, a tiny dinosaur with bird-like characteristics that LiveScience notes is often considered to be the first true bird.

Whether it flew or not, scientists say they were surprised to come across something so big that could be seen in the skies so early in the history of flying creatures.

<![CDATA[Bee Colony Collapse Disorder One Of Summer's Big Stories]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:08:00 -0500
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If you know anything about bees, you've probably heard of Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. It's not a new phenomenon — the problem of bees abandoning their hives has been continually observed over the past decade. (Via Getty Images)  

And yet, if you picked up The New York Times, or The Washington Post this past week... 

Or watched National Geographic... 

"We're looking for really pretty bees..."

Or the BBC... 

"There's a great saying among beekepers which is that bees don't read the same books that we do..." 

...You will have seen or read something about bees.

Bees are all over the media right now, and most of the stories have to do with that aforementioned CCD, which first made international headlines back in 2006, when bees started dying off in unprecedented numbers. (Via Youtube / Jolie Bee UK, CNN)

So why are all these major outlets writing about bees now? There are a couple possible answers. 

As The Washington Post feature points out, bees have been in the national conversation lately, as studies released at the end of June pinpointed a possible cause of CCD in Neonicotinoid pesticides. 

Also at the end of June, President Obama got involved, signing a memo to push for the first ever federal pollinator strategy, "to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels." (Via The White House)

For its part, The New York Times column opts to focus on what humans can learn from the bees' demise, writing, "There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature."

But interest in bees, and why they're dying out, could also be a seasonal thing. 

Bees are more active over the summer months, and Google Trends shows searches with the keyword "Bee" seem to spike around May and June each year. 

<![CDATA[Novartis Joins Google To Make Smart Contact Lens]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:56:00 -0500
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Google and healthcare company Novartis see eye to eye.  The duo struck a contract Tuesday to make the search giant’s futuristic contact lens a reality.

​​In January, Google first teased its smart contact lens project and began looking for partners to bring the idea into the consumer market.  It focused on creating non-invasive biometric sensors and wireless data transfer for the thin clear circle so many people depend on.  (Via Novartis | Google)

This new partnership will fuse Novartis’ expertise in biology and Google’s ability to produce cutting edge technology on a miniature scale.  Bloomberg explains the project’s key goals, (Via Novartis)

“The lenses will be able to monitor insulin levels for people with diabetes and offer focus for people who can no longer read without glasses.” (Via Bloomberg)

Those living with diabetes must constantly measure their glucose levels, which is normally done in a blood test.  However, Google notes the same glucose can also be measured in our tears, something a smart contact lens could monitor around the clock. (Via Novartis)


Ideally, all the information processed by the smart contact lens could be sent wirelessly to a connected device, like your smartphone, and displayed in an app.  In a press release Novartis says, (Via Google)


“This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.” (Via Novartis)

Meanwhile, both companies hope to develop a smart contact lens that will assist more practical vision problems, like improving focus or cataract treatment.


Novartis is parent company of Alcon, the eyecare manufacture working with Google.  Mashable reports it produces some of the “most-widely used contact lens products on the market, including Air Optix, FreshLook and Dailies.”

This announcement also comes on the heels of Babak Parviz’s departure from Google.  According to CNET, He was one of the leaders behind Google’s “ocular” projects like Google Glass and the Google smart contact lens.  Parviz will be joining Amazon next. (Via CNET)

There’s no reported timeline for the smart contact lens and the terms of the deal have not been disclosed..  Bloomberg speculated the lens could be market-ready by next summer.

<![CDATA[Researchers Discover 'Recipe' For Preventing Alzheimer's]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 09:04:00 -0500
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According to a new study, preventing Alzheimer's could be as simple as following a recipe. (Via bucaorg / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

A team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland found older people who exercise, eat healthy and participate in brain-training activities are less likely to develop memory loss. (Via Getty Images, Getty Images)

The researchers presented their findings Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, where they told the audience there isn't just one thing people can do to prevent memory loss.

But a combination of those three healthy lifestyle choices seems to do the trick.

"This is the first time we actually have a recipe that we can say, 'This recipe works.' You can try to follow this, and you should be able to see some results." ​(Via WTVA)

NBC reports the study looked at 1,260 volunteers between the ages of 60 and 77. Researchers gave the participants a memory test once at the beginning of the study and again two years later.

They discovered those who exercised, changed their diet, made an effort to socialize and participated in memory training did significantly better on that second memory test than those who didn't. (Via Getty Images)

Time quotes one of the study's lead researchers: "These findings show that prevention is possible, and that it may be good to start early. With so many negative trials for Alzheimer's drugs reported lately, it's good that we may have something that everyone can do now to lower their risk."

Exactly how this healthy recipe prevents memory loss is still unclear, but of course eating healthily and exercising are often designated as choices with good outcomes.

And the director of science initiatives for the Alzheimer's Association told HealthDay it might be because people who participate in more mentally stimulating activities have a bigger "cognitive reserve" in their brains to lean on once brain changes related to Alzheimer's set in.

Previous research has shown exercise in midlife appears to be effective at preventing against dementia later on, as can maintaining a healthy diet. (Via YouTube / Nathaniel Mitchell Sr.)

Though as a writer for Forbes points out, there are still some big questions here that need answering, like what are the long-term results of this recipe? And will it work as well, for example, in the U.S. as it did in Sweden?

The study's authors say they will continue to follow the participants for seven years to find the answers.

<![CDATA[SpaceX Gets Good Luck Rolling Again With Orbcomm Launch]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:56:00 -0500
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For Space X founder Elon Musk, it might as well be: if at first you don't succeed try, try, again and again ... and again. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In its fourth attempt and after months of delay, Space X's Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida and successfully delivered six commercial satellites into orbit Monday.

Well, the launch was at least halfway successful. Space X said it was also meant to test if it could reuse Falcon rocket boosters. And that portion of the project didn't fair so well.

Musk tweeted that the boosters didn't fare too well around the time the hull hit the splashdown zone. Or, as he puts it: "aka kaboom."

Though he seemed uncertain over whether the damage came from the splash itself or from the "subsequent body slam." Thanks for putting it in terms we can understand, Elon.

Aside from Falcon 9's rough landing, Space X has had a lot to be happy about lately.

Monday's launch was part of a huge $230 million deal between the upstart spacecraft company and satellite company Orbcomm to create a "17-satellite constellation" projected to float in space by the end of year. (Via Youtube / ORBCOMMAIS)

And, according to the Los Angeles Times, last week the U.S. Air Force certified Space X's Falcon 9 rocket after mulling over data from three successful missions over the past year. 

That, and the Falcon 9 apparently has more muscle than its competitors to carry the government's heavier satellites. (Getty Images)

This would at least put Space X on a level playing field for some high-dollar government contracts with a couple major league players.

​Previously, the Pentagon exclusively used Boeing and Lockhead Martin — operating together as United Launch Alliance. The corporate giants have held a de facto monopoly for the government's spy satellite contracts, but Elon Musk wants to end that.

Bloomberg says Space X filed suit against the Air Force in April saying it should breakup the stranglehold United Launch Alliance has on the market.

The lawsuit is also kind of ironic because the Air Force could potentially be — if Musk has his way — the upstart company's biggest customer down the road.

<![CDATA[Genetically, Close Friends Are Like Distant Cousins]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:30:00 -0500
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Best friends — you grow close to those special people in your life by sharing emotions with them, going through tough times with them and much more. But did you know you might be somewhat related to them, too? (Via Getty Images) (Via Getty Images) (Via Getty Images

A new study from researchers at Yale and the University of California San Diego says we're most likely to make friends with people who share a bit more of our DNA. The study claims close friends share about 1 percent genes on average than strangers. That's about equal to fourth cousins — those who share great, great, great grandparents.

The study also examined the DNA of strangers, and found they didn't have quite as much of a genetic similarity. 

Study co-author Professor James Fowler, told KPBS

"We were really interested in how social networks evolved, how we make friends, where did all this come from. We were really interested in this evolutionary tendency for us to choose friends who are like us."

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. looked at 1,932 people and involved analyzing 1.5 million markers of gene variation. 

Using information from the study, USA Today writes, "The researchers also can only speculate about why evolution might favor friends with more genes in common. When friends help friends, perhaps more survive to pass those genes along."

Researchers also found friends are most similar in genes related to our sense of smell, which they suggest our smell may bring us to the same environments. (Via Getty Images

<![CDATA[Risk Factors For SIDS Vary With Baby's Age]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:08:00 -0500
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A new study reveals some of the biggest risk factors when it comes to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. (Via Getty Images

And although it's not uncommon to want to cuddle your baby while he or she sleeps, the results show bed sharing is the number one no no. (Via Kelly Sue DeConnick / CC BY-SA 2.0

"Researchers looked at over 8,000 SIDS related deaths from 24 states, they found almost 70 percent of the infants were sleeping in an adult bed or near another person." (Via KKCO)

That percentage was higher for infants younger than four months old — just to clarify, it's not a risk to have the child in the same room, just the same bed. Now, what's interesting is the divide between ages. As a CBS medical contributor points out, older infants have different risks factors. 

"For babies older than four months, their predominant risk factor had more to do with the crib environment, if there were dangerous objects in the crib or blankets around them." 

These findings are important because although we don't know a lot about what happens in the moment the baby stops breathing in SIDS cases, knowing the risks factors is the easiest way to prevent the mysterious deaths. (Via YouTube / Phillips

The Mayo Clinic also has a few other tips to keep babies safe during bed or nap time. First, do not place them on their stomachs or sides, as that can make breathing difficult. It's good to have babies in the same room as their parents, just no co-sleeping. Also, make sure you keep an eye on premature babies, those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, those with brain abnormalities and infants with respiratory infections. 

A SIDS specialist told HealthDay more testing needs to be done "to identify why parents are ignoring safe sleeping advice. ... Is it because of poverty and they simply have no safe place for their baby to sleep, or is it because they are receiving incorrect advice from their parents, family members or medical professionals?"

Thousands of infants die from SIDS in the U.S. every year. Most of them are four months old or younger. 

<![CDATA[Blood, Eye Tests Could Reveal Early Signs Of Alzheimer's]]> Sun, 13 Jul 2014 13:48:00 -0500
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There is no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease, but new research is geared toward detecting the disease before a patient begins to experience symptoms. 

A new study presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Denmark focused on the eye. Researchers used imaging systems to detect beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brain with Alzheimer's. To detect the florescent protein the eyes are stained the day before, making it easier to see in a scan. (Via NBC, YouTube / AlzheimerUniversal)

So, how can a protein connected to dementia that builds in the brain be detected in the eye? Turns out, it's not actually present in the structure of the eye.

The proteins show up in the retina, which is a part of the body's central nervous system and shares characteristics with the brain. (Via YouTube / Armando Hasudungan)

While the possibilities of this study are exciting, it is important to note that the technique was only tested on 40 people and it's currently not available to the public.

The eyes are not the only new possibility for finding the proteins. Another study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia focused on proteins that could be detected in blood tests. (Via Proteome Sciences)

The study  identified 10 proteins in the blood connected with Alzheimer's. Simon Lovestone is a professor at King's College and the senior author says earlier detection could make it possible to better manage the disease. (Via The Guardian)

SIMON LOVESTONE: "You take a drug, and in effect you would have the clinical symptoms prevented even if the disease had already started in your brain."

Researchers started with 26 proteins that have previously been associated with brain shrinkage and took blood samples from over 1,000 people. Around 40 percent had Alzheimer's, 20 percent had mild cognitive impairment and a little under 40 percent were elderly without dementia. The tests were 87 percent accurate. The next step is larger trials. (Via Alzheimer's & Dementia)

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference is set to run through July 17, other detection studies making headlines include a possible smell test for the disease.

<![CDATA[Kansas Girl Dies After Contracting Rare Brain-Eating Amoeba]]> Sat, 12 Jul 2014 08:13:00 -0500
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A nine-year-old Kansas girl is dead after doctors say she contracted an extremely rare brain-eating amoeba earlier this week.

"Hally Yust passed away on Wednesday after an amoeba, known to inhabit lakes in this area, made its way into her body." (Via KCTV)

According to KCTV, Hally was an avid water skier, and doctors say she contracted the deadly infection after swimming in several local lakes during the last two weeks.

She was taken to the hospital earlier this week with meningitis-like symptoms, and testing revealed she had been infected. She died soon after.

The amoeba that took Hally's life is called Naegleria fowleri (Nay-Gleer-ee-a fowl-err-ee). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it can be found in fresh water sources, like lakes, rivers and hot springs. 

The infection is extremely rare. Fox News reports less than 200 cases in the U.S. have been reported in the last 50 years. But once it's contracted, the amoeba is more often than not fatal.

"The ameoba go into the nose and go directly in the brain. And then it causes infection in the spinal fluid all around the brain. And then the fact that there is swelling in the whole brain causes seizures, coma, and that's what leads to death." (Via KSHB)

A fact sheet from the CDC says Naegleria fowleri infections are more common in young boys. Exactly why is unclear, but officials claim boys are often more likely to participate in more fresh water-related activities and, therefore, have more chances to contract the amoeba.

Swimming in bodies of warm freshwater is the most common means of infection. But people using contaminated drinking water to rinse their sinuses using a neti pot are also at risk. (Via YouTube / AshleysGreenLife)

Doctors say prevention is as easy as using nose plugs while swimming in bodies of warm freshwater and making sure to use distilled water when rinsing the sinuses. (Via YouTube / ShannieKM97)

But, again, chances of contracting the amoeba are extremely rare. And Hally's parents say they don't want their daughter's death to scare anyone away from enjoying the water because she loved it so much.

"It must have been a little boring in heaven the last few weeks, and so God looked around the Earth, and he found the most interesting, dynamic, fantastic person he could, and he said, 'Hally you've gotta come be with me.'" (Via WDAF)

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says additional testing on Hally's brain will be conducted by the CDC. This is the second known case of the infection in Kansas since 2011.

<![CDATA[Dutch Company Wants Users To Quit Facebook For 99 Days]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 22:28:00 -0500
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In response to Facebook's controversial mood experiment, a Dutch creative agency has started a study that asks users to log off the site for more than three months

Dubbed 99 Days of Freedom, the nonprofit group wants people to stay off Facebook for 99 days to see how it impacts their happiness.

The experiment was made in response to Facebook's recent study, where the social media site altered some user's news feeds to see if negative posts would make them post negative things and vice versa. (Via The Guardian)

99 Days of Freedom asks users to change their profile photo to this image and complete a survey on their emotional state on the 33rd, 66th and 99th day of the study. 

In a press release, the group's director wants to be clear this move is not anti-Facebook. "Facebook is an incredible platform, we're all fiercely loyal users ... But we also feel that there are obvious emotional benefits to moderation. Our prediction is that the experiment will yield a lot of positive personal experiences." (Via 99 Days of Freedom)

However, The Wall Street Journal points out this story is getting a lot more coverage than commitment. As of Friday evening, approximately 11,000 people had joined in which isn't even a noticeable number as far as Facebook is concerned.

Just in case people start feeling lonely, the project has created an online forum where participants can talk about their experiences and find out how quitting Facebook is affecting others. (Via ReadWrite)

And does no one see the irony in creating an online community for people attempting to escape that other online community?

<![CDATA[CDC Shuts Down Labs, Shipments After Contamination Scares]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 21:28:00 -0500
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After several exposure scares, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is temporarily shutting down two of its labs and suspending the shipment of biological materials between labs as a precaution. 

An internal review of the CDC updated Friday showed three incidents of possible exposure to diseases in the past few months, including a cross-contamination of an animal flu and a strain of bird flu. (Via Fox News)

Viral Global News wrote, "The good news is that neither incident has reported any inadvertent exposures to the infections during both accidental events. The bad news is that both incidents have exposed potential hazards and security holes in even the most safe health facilities and labs across the globe."

The review was prompted by an anthrax scare last month. Government auditors determined failures in the laboratory airflow systems could have exposed up to 75 lab workers to live anthrax.  (Via MSNBC)

At the time, one biosafety expert told USA Today"This new incident is not an isolated incident, but rather is part of a pattern."

And the internal review seems to have borne that statement out. In addition to the exposure incidents, scientists found deadly vials of smallpox last week in an unused storage room. (Via CNN)

The CDC has shown remorse for that incident:

Dr. Thomas Frieden: "​I'm disappointed by what happened, and frankly i'm angry about it. The American people depend on us 24/7 to protect them." (Via Al Jazeera)

These incidents have raised fears that the next major epidemic might occur from something like mishandled lab equipment. 

We've seen it happen before. In 1977, the H1N1 virus was accidentally released from a China lab and caused a large outbreak in the East. (Via Plos One)

And even with modern medicine, disease outbreaks still remain a frightening threat. In West Africa, an ongoing Ebola outbreak caused the death of over 500 people just since February.  (Via BBC)

Many are boldly speaking out asking for stricter regulations to protect the health of the general public. This Twitter user called the situation "a huge wake up call."

But why are these deadly samples being held in the first place?​ The Washingon Times reports the viruses are needed for testing to see if the illness could be a problem in the future. After the testing the samples are supposed to be destroyed. 

The CDC says its labs will remain closed until the new safety procedures are implemented. 

<![CDATA[It's The Summer Of Supermoons]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:53:00 -0500
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It's the summer of supermoons! No, the moon won't have any superpowers. It will look really big though. 

The three full moons of this summer all occur at the point where their orbit is closest to the earth ... making them look really, really big. 

Supermoons usually happen about every 13 months, so having three in a row is a treat. (Via Getty Images)

Get out your calendar because you don't want to miss this natural phenomenon. 

The supermoons will occur on July 12, August 10 and September 9. Scientists say the moon will be at its very largest on August 10 because that's when the moon will be at its closest to the Earth. 

NASA reports a supermoon that occurred last year was "14% larger and 30% brighter than most full moons."

That 2013 supermoon was actually one of three in a row as well, but was the only one big enough to grab the world's attention. (Via Getty Images)

CNN covered how people all over the world took artsy and creative pictures of that supermoon. 

And photographers know the best time to snap the supermoon is when it is on the horizon. The best time to grab a pic of this week's supermoon will be early Saturday morning. 

<![CDATA[Polar Vortex: Summer Edition]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:01:00 -0500
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Chill out, Midwest. Record low temperatures are coming your way in a matter of days, dropping into as low as the 50's and 40's. What's causing this drop? Many are calling it a polar vortex.

"On the flip side we are talking about a polar vortex, a summer version of the polar vortex."

The drop in temperatures follows a pattern similar to January's polar vortex — a large air mass that caused brutally cold temperatures.  But, experts say a polar vortex isn't to blame this time around.

<![CDATA[Mississippi Baby Has HIV Again, Cure Hopes Take A Hit]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 19:46:00 -0500
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Disappointing news Thursday as doctors say the baby pronounced "functionally cured" of HIV last year once again has detectable levels of the virus.

The story of the girl, known only as the Mississippi baby, was major news in March of 2013 after doctors declared the toddler had no trace of live HIV virus in her system after 10 months off her medication. (Via The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times)

DR. HANNAH GAY: "I was very much surprised. Almost in a panic."
HALA GORANI: ​"In a panic? Why?"
GAY: "Because my first thought was 'Oh my goodness, I've been treating a child who's not actually infected.'" (Via CNN)

The baby was born prematurely to a mother who was HIV-positive. Her doctor, Hannah Gay of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, began aggressively treating the infant with powerful HIV drugs. (Via ABC)

But then the baby disappeared. Her mother dropped off the radar for several months and the girl's HIV was left untreated. When doctors found the child again, they were shocked to see the virus hadn't come back and declared the girl "functionally cured." (Via Getty Images)

The finding prompted headlines like "Is the End of AIDS Near?" and "Hope raised for HIV babies." (Via Time, The Times)

But even then there were doctors urging caution when proclaiming the girl cured.

"You don't want to say, 'Well, the ballgame's over. We've done it.' Because we haven't. Because it is entirely conceivable that there's virus hidden away somewhere in that child that is undetectable." (Via NBC)

Sadly, the skeptics were right. The National Institutes of Health says the girl recently tested positive for the virus once again.

But researchers aren't giving up. They say the fact that it took almost two years for the virus to reemerge is still unprecedented.

And last month the NIH said it would launch a trial to see how other HIV-positive babies respond to the same aggressive treatment the Mississippi baby received. (Via Getty Images)

To date, there's still only one person believed to have been cured of HIV: the "Berlin Patient" Timothy Ray Brown, who overcame the virus thanks in part to a bone marrow transplant from a donor with HIV-resistant genes. (Via Getty Images)

<![CDATA[Too Much Screen Time And Not Enough Exercise For Teens]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 21:51:00 -0500
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Well, this is kind of obvious. Ok, really obvious. New research says teens are still spending too much time in front of screens. (Via Eric Rice / CC BY NC SA 2.0)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked kids between the ages of 12 and 15 in nationwide studies and found 73 percent watched TV and used a computer for more than two hours a day — what health experts caution is excessive screen time.

As for the battle of the sexes, boys edged out the girls in TV consumption by five percent. Girls, on the other hand, point-and-clicked their way through computer screens 11 percent more than boys. (Via Getty Images)

And to no surprise kids from both genders that were overweight were more likely to ease into an excessive couch-potato routine compared to kids with normal weight. (Via Michael Cramer / CC BY NC 2.0)

Interestingly, the study didn't include time spent on smartphones, so who knows how much higher those numbers could have been. (Via Getty Images)

The American Academy of Pediatrics has known for awhile such excessive screen-time is linked to several health problems.

They include: higher blood pressure, increased cholesterol, obesity, attention problems, sleep loss and problems in school.

And dropping the age brackets even lower, medical experts say kids 2-years-old and under should avoid TVs and computers completely because the brain develops so rapidly in the first stages of life. (Via Yoshihide Nomura / CC BY ND 2.0)

A pediatrician who helped pen the AAP guidelines told HealthDay shes advises a "'healthy media diet.' ... It's all about moderation and choosing wisely." And another health professional suggests guardians, "create an environment where kids have choices other than TV and computers."​

The new study could also go hand-in-hand with a CDC study in May tracking physical activity in young people.

According to The New York Times, researchers found "less than a third of young peoples ages 12 to 18 are said to achieve recommended levels of physical activity." And a CDC health professional said the long-term health effects could be very severe.

<![CDATA[Your Reading Genes Are Also Your Math Genes: Study]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:28:00 -0500
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Good at reading? Well, you're probably good at math, too, then.

That's according to a group of scientists who say around 50 percent of the genes that affect reading also affect math skills.

Researchers looked at 12-year-old children, including twins, from nearly 2,800 British families and had them take a series of tests. What they found was a significant overlap of genes that helped with a child's ability in math AND reading.

The University of Oxford and King's College London study was published in the journal Nature Communications. One of the study's authors, Robert Plomin, explains just why this finding is so important.

He says, "Children differ genetically in how easy or difficult they find learning, and we need to recognise, and respect, these individual differences​.​" (Via University College London

But before schools change lesson plans based on a kid's family tree, a few outlets say pump the breaks. 

The Guardian points out, "The study did not identify specific genes linked to numeracy or literacy, and researchers do not know what the various gene variants do."

And the BBC quotes Dr. John Jerrim of the Institute of Education as saying, "Until researchers are able to identify the specific genes that are thought to influence children’s reading and math skills, and show that such associations are robust in numerous academic studies, then such work has little relevance for public policy."

Still, if the findings pan out, they may help better identify which children will need extra help getting up-to-speed with classmates. But that kind of accuracy is a long way off, so don't go trying the "it's not in my genes" excuse on your next assignment.

The researchers noted schooling, home life and other domestic factors are equally as important. 

<![CDATA[Will A Combo Approach Really Help You Quit Smoking?]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:29:00 -0500
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A new industry-funded study found combining two anti-smoking approaches helps users kick the habit. According to the study, using both Chantix — a prescription drug — and a nicotine patch improved the odds of quitting over a short term. (Via Miles Willis / Stringer / Getty Images | Flickr / Julie Vazquez | Flickr / Joe Plocki)

But before we go any further, we should mention the study was funded in part by Chantix, as well as makers of nicotine patches. 

446 smokers, mostly women, were randomly assigned to two groups. One took Chantix and a nicotine patch. The other group had just the patch with a placebo.

HealthDay reports after six months, there was still a 49 percent quit rate amongst the group with the combo of Chantix and the patch, and a 33 percent quit rate amongst the placebo group.

As far as side effects, the study says the group receiving the combo treatments had issues with nausea, sleeplessness and constipation to name a few. 

And then there's the question of whether combining the two is even a good idea in the first place. Two licensed pharmacists on Sharecare recommended against combining Chantix with any other nicotine replacement therapies.

And according to the Food and Drug Administration, those who take Chantix may be at a higher risk for stroke and heart attack. However, continuing to smoke is a major risk for cardiovascular disease, the FDA said.

An expert told HealthDay more studies need to be done to confirm it's safe to combine Chantix with a patch, but did mention the combo appears to be safe. 

Although a writer for The News Ledge pointed out: "That should tell you all you need to know about trying this method. 'Appears to be safe' aren't the words you want coming out of your doctor's mouth."

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's July 9 issue. 

<![CDATA[Behold The Anchovies: Tiny Fish Swarm Calif. Coast]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:04:00 -0500
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As a pizza topping, you probably either love them, or you hate them. (Via KGTV)

“... and I mean no anchovies. You put anchovies on this thing and you’re in big trouble.” (Via New Line Cinema / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

But if you were off the coast of La Jolla, California, early this week — you likely couldn’t escape them. (Via KGTV)

Millions upon millions of anchovies — no that’s not an oil spill — swarmed the California coast Monday — the most scientists had seen in around 30 years. (Via Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

The tiny, finger-sized California anchovies were reportedly spotted by researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Monday. (Via Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego / David Checkley)

But, why they’re so close to shore, scientists aren’t so sure.

See, these kinds of anchovies are known to gather in schools but normally stick to cooler waters than the 75-degree shores of the San Diego Coast. (Via Google)

Which has Oceanographer Philip Hastings of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography a bit confused. (Via KGTV)

“Seems more likely that warmer water would force them off shore. So it’s really kind of a mystery.” (Via KGTV)  

The swarm, which was reportedly about 15-feet-deep and as wide as a football field, had apparently dissipated by Tuesday, but scientists did manage to reel in a few samples.

According to San Diego’s KSWB, anchovies are now primarily harvested for use as bait and in feed for other fish.

Oh, and of course for pizza, that is, if you can stomach it. (Via Flickr / Mecandes)

<![CDATA[Are Ginger Genes Going Away?]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:48:00 -0500
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Say what you will about those with red, or "ginger," hair. But the gene that causes the unique hair color may be on its way out. 

The UK's Daily Record reports researchers in Scotland have claimed, due to more sunny days in the notoriously cloudy country, the recessive gene that causes red hair may be carried in fewer people.

Dr. Alistair Moffat, the managing director of Scotlands DNA, explained to The Independent he believes red hair is a genetic adaptation to the cloudy weather in Scotland. 

Moffat said, in part: "I think the reason for light skin and red hair is that we do not get enough sun and we have to get all the Vitamin D we can...If the climate is changing and it is to become more cloudy or less cloudy then this will affect the gene..." (Via The Independent)

Another scientist involved in the research, but refused to be named due to the "theoretical nature" of the work, told Scotland Now“I think the [regressive gene] is slowly dying out. Climate change could see a decline in the number of people with red hair in Scotland." 

The same scientist, though, also notes it would take "many hundreds of years" for any kind of change like the one he described and also pointed out the research is still a theory. (Via Scotland Now)

While a previous study by ScotlandsDNA notes 40 percent of people in southeast Scotland carry three of the common gene variants that cause red hair...

Ph.D student Lilian Hunt, who studies gene variants at the National Institute of Medical Research, told The Weather Network“It would be necessary for a complete u-turn of the weather, to the point where people with pale skin, freckles and red hair can no longer survive under the sun’s harsh rays.”

The Washington Post is also skeptical about the researchers' claims, noting only two of them are speaking to the press, and listing four flaws in their argument about the gene, namely the idea people need light skin to soak up more Vitamin D, which has been challenged by researchers at the University of California. 

The Post also notes Moffat, the lead researcher speaking to the press, claimed in 2012 to have found the "grandson" of Eve...from Adam and Eve. He also says he located direct descendants from the Queen of Sheba. Other geneticists were, naturally, skeptical. (Via The Washington Post / BBC)

<![CDATA[Tiny Hedgehog Fossil Could Answer Climate-Change Questions]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0500
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What could make a hedgehog, one of the cutest animals known to man, even cuter? Imagine one the size of your thumb. (Flickr / Tiffany Bailey)

A team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder turned up the 52-million-year-old fossil remains of an ancient hedgehog species in British Columbia. 

​Researchers have named it Silvacola acares​, which adorably translates to "Tiny forest dweller." 

There's still no illustration of what Silvacola might have looked like, but it would've been about a fourth the size of the African pygmy hedgehog, which are popularly kept as pets. (Via Flickr / Jesus Duarte)

Researchers also uncovered fossils of a miniature tapir, belonging to the extinct genus Heptodon. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Smokeybjb)

Tapirs are occasionally adorable pig-sized mammals with trunks that can be found in the jungles of South America, and Southeast Asia. (Via Youtube / Rachel25058)

The Los Angeles Times reports the hedgehog and the tapir were the first mammal fossils ever to be discovered at the site, which has yielded insect and plant fossils in the past. 

The pair both would have lived in an upland rainforest in Canada, similar to those found in the Pacific Northwest. (Via Flickr / Chase Dekker)

The researchers say the Eocene period when the two species lived –some 13 million years after the dinosaurs died out– was one of the warmest in the history of the planet, and studying it could help scientists understand how the world may change as the global climate warms.  

<![CDATA[$1.4B E.U. Brain Project Has Scientists Slug It Out In Media]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 07:09:00 -0500
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European scientists are threatening to do something practically unheard of: turn down a billion dollars in funding. (Via Flickr / British High Commission, Ottawa)

Hundreds of scientists have signed an open letter calling for Europe’s massive Human Brain Project to be reevaluated and, if necessary, scrapped, and it’s set off a brainy brawl unfolding in the media. (Via

The Human Brain Project is a $1.4 billion European Union initiative to build a supercomputer simulation of the human brain that’s accurate down to the molecular level within 10 years.

The project got off the ground last year and is finishing its “ramp up” phase. It’s undergoing a review before its next round of funding, so this is when the critics have pushed hardest to get their voices heard.

The letter says, “We wish to express the view that the HBP is not on course and that the European Commission must take a very careful look at both the science and the management of the HBP before it is renewed.” (Via

The debate between that group of scientists and those that support the HBP has started to break into the media, and the two sides seem more than happy to slug it out in the pages of publications like Scientific American or The Guardian.

The critics say the project as it stands now is a boondoggle, and that not enough is known about the brain to even attempt a simulation. (Via Getty Images)

One researcher who signed the letter told The Guardian, "We are left with a project that can't but fail from a scientific perspective. It is a waste of money, it will suck out funds from valuable neuroscience research, and would leave the public, who fund this work, justifiably upset."

Ouch. On the other side, Henry Markram, HBP’s director, has consistently described the project in grand terms like “methodological paradigm shift” and “asking the whole world of neuroscience to come together.” (Via TED)

And Markram told Scientific American the critics just don’t get it. “This is such an exciting direction that can bring everyone together to take on this grand challenge. Just so sad that it gets torn apart by scientists that don’t want to understand, that believe second-hand rumors and just want money for their next experiment.”

At its core, the disagreement seems to stem from two different ideas of what the Human Brain Project is actually for. The critics say it was sold to the public as a neuroscience project.

“Human Brain Project is a 10-year effort to advance our understanding of the human brain and to develop new treatments for medicine and new technologies based on the brain.” (Via Bloomberg)

But a recent change to the project shows otherwise. Cognitive Architectures, the one part of the project dealing with higher brain function, was recently canceled. (Via Human Brain Project)

According to the critics, that decision shows the project is more about supercomputers and computer modeling than about advancing our understanding of the brain. But here’s the kicker: Markmar openly says they’re right

He told the BBC the project’s core resources come from funds set aside for information technology. He said, “It's a computing project. … The money doesn't even come from neuroscience."

So, they agree. Huh. At any rate, it’ll likely be several weeks until we learn whether the boycott will get neuroscientists what they want.

<![CDATA[Long-Forgotten Smallpox Vials Found In FDA Storage Room]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 22:18:00 -0500
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Here's something scientists don't stumble upon every day. Several long-forgotten vials of one of humanity's deadliest viruses were discovered in an FDA storage room in Maryland.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the vials contained "variola" — the most common form of smallpox — and likely date back to the 1950s. (Via CBS)

CDC employees found them earlier this month at an FDA lab in Bethesda, Maryland, while packing to move the lab to a new location. (Via ABC)

They immediately isolated the vials in a containment lab and called the CDC's branch that handles toxic materials. Tests verified the liquid was indeed smallpox. The vials have since been safely put away at CDC laboratory in Atlanta. (Via Getty Images)

The history of smallpox is pretty terrifying. 

The deadly virus killed 500 million people in the 20th century alone. Fortunately, it was eradicated worldwide in 1980 by the World Health Organization and there hasn't been a single case reported in the U.S. since 1949. (Via The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Getty Images)

But it doesn't look like the CDC is taking any chances, especially because there's ongoing fear that smallpox could be used as a bio-terrorist threat.

The Washington Post reports the CDC is working with the FBI to investigate how the vials were even stored at an FDA facility in the first place. CDC Spokesman Tom Skinner said, “We’re trying to find out. ... This certainly is an unusual event.”

In fact, the virus can only be housed at two locations across the globe: a facility in Atlanta and another spot at a research center in Russia. And both are closely monitored by the WHO. (Via The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

NBC points out its the second mistake from a federal agency laboratory in two months. In June, 80 employees at the CDC were exposed to live anthrax when safety procedures were not followed properly.

No evidence suggests anyone has been infected by smallpox and the CDC is now testing whether the virus could spread. Results aren't expected for a couple weeks.

<![CDATA[Severe Obesity Might Reduce Lifespan Up To 14 Years]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:40:00 -0500
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It seems like every week we're learning about a new study revealing the negative health effects of obesity — and this week is no different.

In fact, today's study published in the journal PLOS One, gathered evidence from 20 previous studies in Sweden, Australia and the United States.

Researchers found people with a body mass index above 40 — deemed severely obese — were more likely to die early from heart disease, cancer and diabetes compared to people with normal weight, with as many as 14 years cut off the average lifespan. (Via Euronews)

The study also concluded these deaths from obesity were similar to the increased death rate among normal-weight smokers.

The lead researcher, who works at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, told HealthDay, "Death rates in severely obese adults were about 2.5 times higher than in adults in the normal weight range."

The researchers said they tackled extreme obesity specifically because it's becoming a "major public health problem" — particularly in some high-income countries, though it used to be pretty uncommon.

For example, in the United States six-percent of all adults are now classified as Class III or morbidly obese. And that's a big figure compared where it was three decades ago.

Bariatric News shows a recent study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health that found a huge 350% jump in severe obesity over the the past 30 years while normal obesity has somewhat leveled off.

But future generations might have it a little better. CBS reported in February that healthier habits and smarter parenting are helping kids buck the trend.

"Number one: more women are breast feeding. ... We're taking in fewer sugary drinks, but also there's been a huge amount of public awareness which has improved activities for kids both at home and in day care."

<![CDATA[Moldy Recalled Chobani Yogurt Could Be Harmful To Consumers]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:20:00 -0500
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Another setback for Chobani 10 months after moldy yogurt prompted a nationwide recall. Turns out the mold is more dangerous than previously thought. (Via Flickr / messycupcakes)

Back in September, the Greek yogurt giant voluntarily recalled all of its products after receiving reports of consumers developing sicknesses and gastrointestinal issues after eating the yogurt. (Via ABC)

In a blog post, Chobani explained its products had been tainted by a mold "commonly found in the dairy environment" and said the mold was "unlikely to have ill health affects."

And Chobani's CEO said at the time the mold developed due to the absence of preservatives in its products. (Via Chobani)

A link between the more than 400 reported illnesses and the moldy yogurt have not been confirmed.

It's called mucor circinelloides and Nature World News reports researchers have identified that mold as a more dangerous subspecies of the otherwise harmless fungus, and it could cause infections in people.

In a press release, the researchers say although the effects of the identified mold strain on humans are currently not yet fully understood, tests of the strain in mice lead to death.

According to NBC, a Chobani executive rejected the findings — saying, "To our knowledge, there is no evidence ... that the strain in the recalled products causes illness in consumers when ingested."

<![CDATA[Fossil Of Largest Flying Bird ID'ed ... And It's Terrifying]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:05:00 -0500
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A massive fossil unearthed near an airport in South Carolina more than three decades ago is being called the ultimate big bird.

And no, we're not talking Sesame Street here, people.

"You're looking at an artist's rendition of the Pelagornis sandersi. The gigantic bird soared over the ocean about 25 to 28 million years ago. It supposedly had a wingspan of 21 feet." ​(Via WOLO)

As a writer for the BBC put it, this bird probably looked like "a seagull on steroids." To put things into perspective, its estimated wingspan is equal to the average height of a giraffe or the size of a particularly small plane.

Speaking of planes, the gigantic bird's fossil was first found near Charleston Airport in South Carolina back in 1983.

NBC reports the bones were taken to the Charleston Museum and left there for years until a team of researchers decided to study the remains.

Scientists estimate this new find would have been twice the size of the royal albatross, which is the world's largest living bird. (Via National Geographic)

On top of being unbelievably huge, the researchers say they believe the Pelagornis sandersi's long wings and hollow bones would have made it a powerful glider.

The BBC quotes the lead researcher on the fossil's find. "Computer models suggest that it had high lift-to-drag ratios, which would allow it to glide for a very long distance for every unit of altitude it could attain. It could likely glide at speeds over 10m per second — faster than the human world record for the 100m dash."

And it apparently looked pretty scary too.

"The mouth was filled with these spike-like projections, and they looked like teeth, but they're actually made from the same material as the jawbone. So there, it would have been a really kind of dragon-like appearance when it was alive." (Via ​YouTube / sciencecomedian)

Yikes! Massive birds like these used to be a common sight in the skies millions of years ago, as a writer on SciLogs notes. But scientists say they vanished about three million years ago, and no one really knows why.

Researchers say this new fossil could help them determine what happened to giant birds. The researchers' findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Tuesday.

<![CDATA[Are Raju The Elephant's Tears Of Joy The Real Deal?]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 19:45:00 -0500
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Elephants are well known for their intelligence and excellent memories, but here’s another trait that may surprise you — they apparently also cry in emotional situations. (Via Getty Images)

Take this story for example. According to the Daily Mail an elephant held for decades in painful, spiked chains reportedly teared up after being freed from captivity.  

"After 50 years of being abused and held in chains, Raju the elephant cried tears of joy when he was rescued by a wildlife charity." (Via Al Jazeera)  

"The elephant had been chained up and living off handouts from tourists for the last half a century. … After taking him off his chains they noticed Raju had tears rolling down his face." (Via WDIV

As International Business Times reports, Raju had been held captive by a drug dealer in Uttar Pradesh, India, before he was freed by wildlife charity group Wildlife SOS UK on Thursday.

The outlet quotes a member of the group saying, "[We] were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed.”

We’d be the first to admit it makes for a lovely story, but are elephant tears the real deal? Turns out they could be.

Researchers are still looking into the phenomenon, but speaking to LiveScience, University of Colorado-Boulder Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Marc Beckoff says, "Available information supports the view that other animals do cry and weep and that they can be closely associated with various emotions, including, perhaps most likely, sadness and grief."

Similarly, the BBC reported on a young elephant that appeared to grieve after seeing her mother killed.

“Elephants are just like children, they all react differently. She might take months or even years to recover from the sadness and the trauma.”

And other animals might experience similar emotions.

Barbara King, an anthropologist and author of the book “How Animals Grieve” told the Los Angeles Times, "Baboon, elephant, dolphin, dog and house cat survivors ... may withdraw from social relationships, fail to eat or sleep properly, and/or express highly unusual body language, vocalizations or gestures in the days and weeks after a relative or friend's death."

Researchers do note that animal tears may be more hard-wired than emotional, but if Raju's tears are the real thing, we doubt he'll be tearing up again anytime soon. He's reportedly been taken to an animal sanctuary in Northern India where a charity campaign has been launched to help him live out the rest of his days in comfort. 

<![CDATA[Concert Headbanging Caused Patient's Brain Bleeding: Doctors]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:43:00 -0500
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The next time you plan on rocking out and do some headbanging, German researchers say you might want to keep this rare case in mind.

According to recently published research in The Lancet, scientists studied the case of a 50-year-old man who complained of a worsening two-week-long headache that just wouldn't go away.

Upon investigating, doctors found the man suffered from a subdural hematoma, or blood clot in his brain. As to how he got that? Well, headbanging at a Motorhead concert four weeks earlier the doctors said.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine says common causes of the subdural hematoma are long-term alcohol abuse, head injuries and frequent falling. Not surprisingly, headbanging didn't make the list.

"So if you're comparing concert battle scars with other music fans, and they show you, let's say, a serious gash they got from a mosh pit, you can say, 'well, do you have a really sick headache?'" (Via KGW-TV)

"One of the doctors says he isn't against headbanging, but if the man had gone to a classical concert, his injuries would not have occurred." (Via WZZM)

Surgeons removed the blood clot from the man's brain and released him from the hospital six days later. CBC notes, as many other news outlets have, that this reported injury is extremely rare.

It's so rare, the BBC reports headbanging has been tied to bleeding in the brain in just three other cases.

So, no, you probably don't need to quit headbanging altogether. Instead, a writer for Time says you should simply ​"headbang with care."

<![CDATA[Hookah On Rise With Teens, More Dangerous Than Cigarettes?]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 10:44:00 -0500
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Cigarette use among youths might be declining, but another kind of unhealthy smoke is blowing in. (Via Getty Images)

New research shows a 21 percent increase among high school seniors over the past year in the use of hookah, a water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco. (Via Getty Images)

People might think hookah is a healthier option, but health experts say hookah can pose the same, if not more, dangers to your health as cigarettes.

USA Today reports one common misconception is that there are no toxins because the tobacco isn't actually burned, it's heated and then filtered through water. But that's just not the case.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toxins are still present in hookah smoke. And the toxic smoke is said to actually be more harmful since hookah users inhale about 90,000 milliliters of it in a single session compared to just 500 milliliters from a cigarette.

One hookah user tells the New York Daily News the appeal of smoking it as a teen was the social aspect. "Hookah allowed us to have a space for something to do — and unlike drinking or smoking weed, we weren't going to get in trouble for it."

Another cigarette alternative, e-cigarettes, have also come under fire recently for questionable health claims. (Via blu Cigs)

Now — a similar battery-operated device, called the hookah pen or e-hookah, consisting of flavored vapor that the user inhales is also growing in popularity. (Via YouTube / Shishaa)

Because e-cigarettes and other similar devices have not been fully researched and have yet to be regulated by the FDA, their health affects are not fully understood.

​But according to Medical News Today, one of this new study's authors says hookah pens might be pushing people toward using an actual hookah by "normalizing" smoking as an acceptable thing to do.

And since hookah users inhale more nicotine than they would with a cigarette, hookah can be more addictive and pose the same or more health risks to the younger audience it attracts. (Via CNN)

The study surveyed more than 5,000 high school seniors between 2010 and 2012. It also found adolescents who live in a big city, have educated parents, and earn a higher income were more likely to use hookah.

<![CDATA[Scientists Find 'On/Off Switch' For Human Consciousness]]> Sun, 06 Jul 2014 13:19:00 -0500
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For more than a century, scientists have been trying to figure out exactly what consciousness is, how it works and where it comes from. And while many questions remain to be answered, it appears for scientists have now discovered an "on/off switch" for human consciousness. 

A group of scientists at George Washington University say they were able to switch-off a woman's consciousness by electrically stimulating a single area of the brain. 

The research was published this week in the Journal of Epilepsy & Behavior, and claims the scientists discovered the "switch" on accident while working to pinpoint the cause of a patient's seizures. 

New Scientist reports:

Gizmodo explains: ​"Unexpectedly, when the researchers sent high frequency electrical signals to the claustrum, the patient lost consciousness: unlike a seizure, where a person's activity immediately stops, the patient seemed to "slow down," speaking more quietly and moving more slowly until she was silent and still, unresponsive to voice or visual stimulation."

<![CDATA[Scientists Translate Gesture Language Of Chimpanzees]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 19:38:00 -0500
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Scientists have cracked the chimpanzee code, deciphering part of the system of gestures and interactions by which our genetic relatives communicate.

Researchers at the University of St. Andrews studied the behaviors of a tribe of chimpanzees in Uganda. They were looking for specific gestures performed when one chimp wanted something from another chimp. (Via National Geographic, Flickr / Dan Moutal)

The researchers recorded 66 different gestures, and 19 desired outcomes — most of the gestures had multiple meanings. From there, they narrowed the list down to 36 intentional actions used with 15 purposes outside of playing around. (Via Current Biology)

One of the lead researchers, Dr. Catherine  Hobaiter, told the BBC this study is significant because it demonstrates chimpanzees communicate intentionally, with a desired outcome.

"We can finally say for the first time that another animal communication system has meaning. Not just information, or not just complicated communication, but actual meaningful communication."

But as Wired points out, the study was limited to blunt physical interactions between animals. "Those that convey something more subtle — two chimps talking about the weather, for example, or reminiscing about the good old days — can't now be interpreted."

<![CDATA[Another Earth-Like Planet Discovered, Again]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 11:14:00 -0500
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It sounds all too familiar — an Earth-like planet has been discovered light-years away. But it seems each discovery is giving scientists more and more insight into other potentially habitable planets and where to find them. (Via NASA)

The newest find is 3,000 light-years away in a binary star system, where two stars very close to each other orbit a common center. (Via Ohio State University)

This certainly isn't the closest discovery. That title goes to Gliese 832, a "super-Earth" about five times larger than Earth. As reports, it's only 16 light-years away.

So where does this planet fall in line with the dozens of other recent Earth-like planet discoveries?

As we reported back in April, some things astronomers look for in determining an Earth-twin is its size and distance from a star, its orbit around a similar star and a similar atmosphere.

This planet is reportedly twice the mass of Earth and orbits its star at the same distance Earth orbits the sun. Although it sounds like it fits the description of an Earth-twin, it can't exactly be called one. (Via Science Channel)

That's because its host star is much dimmer than our sun, making it a frozen planet even colder than Jupiter's moon Europa. (Via NASA)

Still, researchers say the find is important because it's the first evidence that terrestrial planets can actually form in a binary star system, which apparently makes up half the stars in the galaxy.

One researcher explains: "Normally, once we see that we have a binary, we stop observing. The only reason we took such intensive observations of this binary is that we already knew there was a planet. ... In the future we'll change our strategy." (Via Ohio State University)

So that means we can expect even more Earth-like discoveries to come.

<![CDATA[Chikungunya: The Mosquito-Borne Virus Explained]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 10:32:00 -0500
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The picnics, the bug spray warnings, the macro-focused pictures of mosquitoes. Get ready, America. The latest mosquito virus scare has a name as you sit down for that Fourth of July barbecue. (Via Flickr / Camponotus Vagus / Daniele Benucci)

"Coupled with the sonovial thickening in the joints, I think we're looking at the chikungunya virus."

"Chik-V? That's found in Africa, isn't it?" (Via TNT / "Bones")

Fair to say if you first hear of a virus through a basic cable medical drama, it hasn't reached the American mainstream yet. There's a reason for that. Chikungunya so far hasn't reached much beyond southern U.S. states like Florida.

DEIAH RILEY, WFTS ANCHOR: "Health officials are now telling us Pinellas County has its first confirmed case of this virus. This latest victim had recently traveled to the Caribbean like many others already diagnosed. ... This virus is rarely deady, but it can severe and even disabling pain."

While the virus appears to have originated in Africa, countries in Central America and the Caribbean like San Salvador and Haiti are now trying to fumigate neighborhoods to control chikungunya's spread. (Via CNN)

Al Jazeera noted in April U.S. states might see the virus soon because of its makeup and travelers not realizing they were carriers.

TOM ACKERMAN, AL JAZEERA REPORTER: "Because it's been observed in temperate climates, the virus is expected to eventually reach the U.S."

DR. KRISTY MURRY, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: "It more than likely will be introduce here into the United States and be our next West Nile."

And there's the phrase no one wanted to hear.

NBC reports since West Nile reached the U.S. in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented roughly 40,000 cases and 1,668 died from infection.

It remains to be seen whether chikungunya will cause the kind of massive media coverage we saw with West Nile or something closer to the false panic of the Africanized or "killer" bees from the 1970s.

CHEVY CHASE, NBC / "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": "Wait a minute ... you must be the —"

ELLIOTT GOULD: "That's right, gringo. The killer bees!"

Jokes aside, the virus is a serious health concern in areas where fumigation isn't working and access to health care isn't as abundant as the U.S. (Via TeleSUR)

NBC reports chikungunya got its name from the word in Mozambique that describes the intense joint pain caused by the virus. There is no current cure for the virus, though the National Institutes of Health gave the University of Texas Medical Branch a four-year, $3 million grant to try to find one in 2011.

<![CDATA[People Prefer Electric Shocks To Thinking Alone, Says Study]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 22:19:00 -0500
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You really are your own worst enemy. A new study found people will do anything to avoid being alone with their own thoughts, to the point of actually physically hurting themselves.

University of Virginia researchers actually conducted 11 experiments testing people's ability to keep themselves entertained and focused without any external distractions. No matter the age, environment, or background of the participants, each study turned up the same results — nobody likes to be alone in their head. (Via The Washington Post)

In the most extreme study, participants were given a choice between six to fifteen minutes of "me time," and a painful electric shock. Surprisingly, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women opted for getting zapped over quiet contemplation. One participant even shocked himself 190 times over the course of 15 minutes.

Study lead Timothy Wilson says the results came as a complete shock. "We have this huge brain and it's stuffed full of pleasant memories, and we have the ability to construct fantasies and stories. We really thought this [thinking time] was something people would like." (Via Science)

So why is doing nothing such an awful experience for many people?

Well, our growing tech obsession has long been a prime scapegoat.

LOUIS C.K.: "You need to build an ability to be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there." (Via TBS / "Conan")

It came up again in the reporting on this story, too. A Healthline writer says "Spending so much time shooting at angry birds and texting our friends could deprive us of opportunities to practice entertaining ourselves with plans and daydreams."

And this NPR headline leaves little doubt where the blame for our meditation aversion lies.

But while Wilson and his team don't have a clear answer for why people find contemplation so awful, he told The Atlantic it might have more to do with our distant past than our technological present.

"Mammals have evolved to monitor their environments for dangers and opportunities, and so focusing completely internally for several minutes is unnatural. 'It would be a little odd to see a chimpanzee posed like Rodin's thinker for extended periods of time.'"

The study did come up with some good news: people with meditation experience held up slightly better than their peers.

<![CDATA[Dino's 'Feather Trousers' Show Evolution Of Feathered Flight]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 20:17:00 -0500
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So, it's not as big of a discovery as the answer to "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?" but scientists are now saying they're confident that the feather emerged before flight.

The evidence is a recently-unearthed Archaeopteryx fossil. Archaeopteryx lived 150 million years ago and is thought to be one link between dinosaurs and modern birds. (Via Flickr / Howard Stanbury)

This is the best-preserved fossil of the raven-sized dino to date, and scientists writing in Nature say the details "contradict the hypothesis that the flapping flight of modern birds were preceded by a four-winged gliding stage."

Paleontologists have long debated what drove the evolution of feathery wings: were ancient animals already trying to fly by gliding between trees, or did they only take to the air once the nuts and bolts, like feathers, were already in place?

The new fossil helps sway the debate because, while Archaeopteryx was already known to have had feathers to help it fly, the specimen also has feathers the researchers say wouldn't be useful to any sort of air travel. (Via National Geographic)

Basically, it has what are being called "feather trousers" on its legs, and the most likely explanation is that they had some purpose other than flight, like insulation, camouflage or mating displays. (Via Flickr / Bryan Jones)

It builds the case for what National Geographic calls the "ground up" approach to flight: first, feathers, wings and other avian features evolve for other reasons, then are refined once animals start using them to actually take off.​

The researchers also say this means the origin of flight likely wasn't a single event. There were lots of flightless feathered dinosaurs on the evolutionary tree, and each one of them could have eventually learned to fly at different times.

<![CDATA[Mars Liquid Theory Apparently Holds Water, Evidence Suggests]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:55:00 -0500
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Researchers at the University of Michigan say they’ve discovered one way liquid water might flow on Mars, despite temperatures way below water’s freezing point.

The scientists used pressurized capsules to simulate the climate and cold temperatures of the martian surface — specifically, its polar region.

There is water there — NASA’s Phoenix lander is sitting near Mars’ north pole and has spotted water ice during its investigations.

The key to liquid water is a salt in the Martian soil called Calcium Perchlorate. Researchers found when this salt mixes with ice, it melts the ice to liquid, even at extremely cold temperatures. (Via

It’s much the same way we melt ice on the sidewalks in winter here on earth.

The results appear to confirm earlier theories of how droplets of apparent liquid water got splashed onto Phoenix — it’s the salt’s fault. (Via Universe Today, National Geographic)

This is also the wettest news from the Red Planet in some time.

Recent discoveries have been meteorites that suggest ancient water movement, discovery by the rover Curiosity that Martian soil it sampled was about two percent water by weight, or dried lakebeds that suggest there used to be much more running water on the red planet’s surface. (Via Mashable, CNN, Scientific American)

This news holds more immediate promise, according to one of the researchers.

“By studying the formation of liquid water on Mars we can learn about possibilities of life outside Earth and look for resources for future missions.” (Via American Geophysical Union)

The team has published its findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

<![CDATA[Turns Out Kangaroos Have A 'Fifth Leg']]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:33:00 -0500
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So, how many legs does a kangaroo have? Four, right? (Via Flickr / semuthutan)

Well, according to new research, the right answer is actually five. Yes, five.

A study published online Thursday says, when walking on all fours, kangaroos use their tails as a powerful fifth leg to help propel themselves forward. (Via Biology Letters)

To come to this conclusion, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder studied five red kangaroos in a lab in Sydney, Australia, and measured the force their tails exerted on the ground. (Via BBC)

They found, while the roos were walking on all fours, their tails acted as a fifth leg of sorts, working harder to propel the marsupials forward than their front and hind legs combined. Talk about getting a leg up. (Via University of Colorado Boulder)

One of the study's authors said in a statement, "We went into this thinking the tail was primarily used like a strut, a balancing pole, or a one-legged milking stool. What we didn’t expect to find was how much power the tails of the kangaroos were producing. It was pretty darn surprising."

As National Geographic points out, scientists aren't aware of any other animals that use their tails like this.

The study's authors believe that the kangaroo's use of its tail as an extra leg evolved to make its trademark hop faster and more efficient. (Via National Geographic)

But, as it turns out, walking and hopping aren't the only things the kangaroo's muscular tail is good for.

Red kangaroos are notorious for getting into scuffles with other roos. As Animal Planet notes, during a fight, the animals will deal out some nasty kicks while supporting all of its body weight on its tail.

And LiveScience points out kangaroos' tails help them balance and turn while they're hopping along.

Quite a "tail," right? The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.

<![CDATA[Flawed Stem Cell Study And The Problems With Peer Review]]> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 19:35:00 -0500
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Well, this is disappointing. An exciting study published in January that claimed to have found a cheap and easy way to create stem cells from adult skin cells has been retracted after an investigation found the lead author guilty of plagiarism and misconduct. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Schaaf S. et al, Ryddragyn)

​The papers, published in Nature, were big news earlier this year, called a "breakthrough" and a "game changer" for offering a way to get embryonic stem cells without the embryos. (Via CNN, CBS)

"This is something that us science nerds have been watching and waiting for for more than a decade. ... If it works, I should say. If it works. This is the first step." (Via CNN)

Turns out it probably doesn't work. The papers have been out for five months but were criticized from the start for not quite adding up, and other labs have had no success trying to replicate the findings.

Back in April, the Riken Institute in Japan, where much of the research took place, released a report saying lead researcher Haruko Obokata had falsified some of the images used in her paper, recycled data from an old study that was unrelated and had taken its methods section from another paper. (Via Kyodo News, BBC)

Obokata has denied any misconduct and is being given another chance to prove her method works, though her lab will be under surveillance this time around. (Via Mainichi Shimbun)

But how did a paper with so many problems make it into one of the most prestigious journals in the world in the first place?

Well, Nature itself says in a statement on the retractions that it doesn't check every image for signs of tampering, but adds, "Editors and referees could not have detected the fatal faults in this work."

A writer for The Wall Street Journal sums up the problem, saying "Referees who examine papers typically must take the data they are given on trust."

Some writers, commenting on situations like this, have said it's more of a media problem than a peer-review problem, in that the most strenuous test of a study has always come after it's published, not before.

But, as was the case with, say, the story in 2010 about an arsenic-based life form, it's the initial publication that gets most of the media attention. (Via NASA)

That's frustrating for many scientists, and an Atlantic writer said of the arsenic life story, "This story demonstrates the large problems with the process of how science is packaged and delivered."

But then again, these stories can also be seen as a success, not necessarily for peer review, but for the scientific community as a whole.

Reviewer site Publons says, "​By no means is peer review an infallible system, and it’s the job of the scientific community to critically examine papers after publication," adding that it's encouraging that the process worked that way in this case.

As for Nature, it announced a few reforms to its review process that should hopefully cut down on the number of fraudulent studies that make it to publication in the first place.

<![CDATA[Painkiller Prescriptions Highly Varied From State To State]]> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:13:00 -0500
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Big inconsistencies in the amount of powerful painkillers prescribed from state to state are worrying officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

In a recent study, the CDC reported "Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills." ​(Via CDC)

The report pointed out that the doctors in Southern states prescribed more painkillers than other states. Alabama and Tennessee saw the most prescriptions: 143 for every 100 people in the state. 

Health officials are worried because an increase in painkiller prescribing is a key driver of the increase in prescription overdoses.

In fact, NPR reports prescription drug overdoses now kill more people in the U.S. each year than car crashes.

USA Today points out that Hawaii, the state with the fewest prescriptions wrote 52 for every 100 people compared to those numbers in Alabama and Tennessee which were nearly three times higher. 

So where can the CDC go from here? Officials point to Florida as a possible example to follow. 

The New York Times reports Florida started making legal and regulatory reforms back in 2010 to curb deaths from prescription drug overdose. And the CDC says the reforms worked as deaths from overdose fell by 23 percent over the following two years. 

The drug that varied the most from state to state was oxymorphone, prescribed 22 times as much in Tennessee as in Minnessota. (Via Flickr / e-Magine Art)

The CDC issued a list of recommendations to reduce irregularities, including monitoring patients who might be abusing prescription drugs and screening patients for mental health problems. 

<![CDATA[Was Bigfoot A Bear? DNA Raises Questions]]> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 08:47:00 -0500
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Stories of the yeti have long been the stuff of fiction, but now Bigfoot is taking a big step into the scientific community and it's not looking good for believers. 

Professor Bryan Sykes, a geneticist at Oxford, analyzed the DNA of supposed Bigfoot hair samples collected over the last 50 years and found that for the most part it was just evidence of dogs, cows and other mundane non-Yeti animals. (Via Big Think)

"Like most people, I've always been curious about what these really are. It's highly unlikely that we will find an entirely new species, but we might." (Via NBC)

And Time reports that the professor's investigation did turn up a potentially new species of bear, collected from India and Bhutan. 

But, as ever in science, skepticism reigns supreme and even that mystery bear claim is being questioned. 

A columnist for The Guardian did some digging and turned up that there could be a scientific explanation for the unrecognized DNA writing, "polar bears hybridised with brown bears long ago in the late Pleistocene so that may be the reason for Sykes and colleagues' genetic findings."

Still the Bigfoot study does what a lot of studies seem to do: it raises more questions than it answers. (Via Flickr / Joe Penniston)

Could the DNA evidence point to a previously unknown population of brown bears in central Asia? Could the legend come from a group of polar bears living in the Himalayas?  (Via Flickr / Eric Gorski, Flickr / Nathan Rubert)

And for all you Mulders out there, if you want to believe, Professor Sykes told NBC, "I don't think this finishes the Bigfoot myth at all. What it does do is show that there is a way for Bigfoot enthusiasts to go back out into the forest and get the real thing."

And remember: the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. 

<![CDATA[With Measles On The Rise, Study Touts MMR Vaccine Safety]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:03:00 -0500
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Contrary to some opinions about vaccinations, a new study has found the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is indeed safe for children. (Via Flickr / U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers In Europe District)

The journal Pediatrics released a report Tuesday that analyzed more than 20,000 studies and 67 papers on the topic. The research determined vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, do not lead to autism.

The study comes on the heels of a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates a rise in measles across the U.S. Most years only have 60 cases of measles, but in 2014 there have been 539 cases and 17 outbreaks across 20 states.

"Recently we've heard about these huge measles outbreaks. And really the reason for them is people are choosing not to vaccinate their children." (Via CNN)

Time points out researchers hope the study will help dispel fears MMR vaccines are linked with autism. While the vaccines can occasionally have side effects of fevers or seizures, the report concludes the "MMR vaccine is not associated with autism."

The autism-vaccine link started with a 1998 study linking the MMR vaccine and autism. Despite that study being debunked and retracted, public figures such as Jim Carrey and Michele Bachmann have been vocal about their opposition to vaccines. (Via The Lancet, ABC, The Huffington Post)

​One co-author of the Pediatrics' most recent study told USA Today: "There is a lot of misinformation out there about vaccines. With the rise of the Internet and the decline of print journalism, anyone can put anything on the Internet." Another co-author said, "This report should give parents some reassurance."​

​This year's measles outbreak in Ohio is the largest outbreak since 1989 in Houston, where pediatrician Dr. Carrie Byington witnessed the disease firsthand.

She told HealthDay"I saw myself about 1,000 cases of measles in children. I saw six pregnant women and their babies die. These things stay with you, because knowing it was all preventable, it is heartbreaking."

In 2000, the U.S. declared measles had been eliminated as a disease native to the country. 

<![CDATA[NASA's Atmosphere-Monitoring Satellite Will Measure CO2]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:27:00 -0500
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NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, is a satellite built to study carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. (Via NASA / 30th Space Wing, U.S. Air Force)

"The Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, NASA's first satellite dedicated to studying carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. ... Creating the clearest picture ever of global carbon dioxide ... not just as a snapshot in time, but as patterns over weeks, months and years." (Via NASA)

According to NASA, OCO-2 collects about one million measurements each day — about 100,000 of those are viable for data collection. The satellite "studies carbon dioxide by looking at the colors (or wavelengths) of sunlight that carbon dioxide absorbs."

OCO-2 was scheduled to launch Tuesday at 2:56 a.m. Pacific Time. Due to equipment failure, however, NASA was forced to scrub the launch.

According to OCO-2's Twitter account, the launch pad's water system failed, and the countdown was haulted at T-46 seconds. NASA has yet to announce a relaunch date. (Via Twitter / IamOCO2)

With a narrow launch window of 30 seconds, that's really no surprise. The team must launch the satellite within that time, because "the spacecraft needs to be precisely aligned within a series of Earth-observing satellites known as the 'A-Train.'" (Via NASA / Bill Ingalls)

NASA says it will take about six to seven weeks for OCO-2 to align with the A-Train satellites. The observatory will begin to collect data 45 days after launch. 

<![CDATA[Kids With ADHD More Likely To Abuse Drugs: Study]]> Mon, 30 Jun 2014 16:04:00 -0500
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Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more than twice as likely to abuse drugs, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study was a collaboration between researchers from Boston Children's Hospital and Miami Children's Hospital.

Although the study shows a connection between the disorder and substance abuse, researchers aren't sure why there's a link. The cause of ADHD is still unknown, but the researchers say those with ADHD and those with substance abuse problems do tend to have some behaviors in common, such as impulsivity. (Via American Academy of Pediatrics)

One possible explanation is related to academic performance and social groups. The researchers write, "Academic failures may also cause changes in peer groups, placing the individual with ADHD in social settings with others who have experiences school problems and are at a higher risk of alcohol and drug use."


And WDBJ points out treatment itself is also a potential threat.


"Many kids with ADHD are treated with stimulant medication that has the potential for misuse and addiction."

The analysis co-author stresses that although some stimulants used to treat ADHD can be addicting, "one of the main points [of the finding] is that treating ADHD both with behavioral techniques and medications seems to lower the risk of substance abuse." (Via HealthDay)

And WKYT points out another factor that could play a role:

"Children with ADHD are often approached to sell, buy or trade medications. The report suggest more monitoring and guidance for these children."

The study puts the number of children approached at about 23 percent. And past studies have also linked ADHD and substance abuse.

In 2013, a study of teens with ADHD found that "by age 17, about 13 percent of those with ADHD experienced marijuana abuse or dependence, compared with 7 percent of those without the disorder." (Via Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)

The authors of the most recent study say there needs to be more research to determine the cause of this link and more preventative counseling for the children at risk. 

<![CDATA[Fast-Acting, Inhaled Insulin Afrezza Approved by F.D.A.]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 17:03:00 -0500
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a fast-acting diabetes drug called Afrezza for use by adults with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

The drug is inhaled into the lungs using a small inhaler. MannKind Corporation, the creator of the medicine, calls it the Dreamboat Inhaler. 

The medicine comes in powder form, and should be inhaled at the start of a meal. "Afrezza dissolves rapidly upon inhalation to the deep lung ... Peak insulin levels are achieved within 12 to 15 minutes of administration." (Via MannKind Corporation)

Of note: MannKind says the drug is not for smokers or those who suffer from asthma. Inhaling the medicine with certain lung conditions can cause spasms in the passages of the lungs. (Via Flickr / wlodi)

Afrezza ran into several roadblocks before it received FDA approval — in fact, it had already failed to receive approval two times before. 

"The approval was delayed more than three years, though, after the FDA asked the drug maker to run additional clinical studies." (Via KUSA)

The Los Angeles Times reports MannKind spent $1.8 billion developing Afrezza, of which "a large portion of money was used to fund more than 60 clinical trials, which have involved about 6,500 patients."

And The Wall Street Journal reports MannKind's founder had to use a lot of his own money to keep the company afloat after years of delays. "Al Mann invested a considerable amount of his own fortune in the belief that Afrezza will find a wide audience among the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes."

MannKind says it will continue to study the long term effects of Afrezza. The company is looking for a marketing partner before the drug is made available to the public.

<![CDATA[NASA To Test 'Flying Saucer' Device For Future Mars Landings]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 13:20:00 -0500
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NASA is gearing up to test its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, which is set to lift off Saturday at 8:15 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time. (Via NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The device gives NASA the ability to use "atmospheric drag" to slow and maneuver spacecraft. Currently, slowing spacecraft requires lots of fuel and other resources. The LDSD would help astronauts conserve fuel during lengthy space travel and landing procedures. 

According to NASA, the LDSD will be carried to an altitude of 120,000 feet during testing, at which point it will use rocket boosters to climb to 180,000 feet. Traveling at Mach 3.8, the LDSD will deploy its Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator — a tube that will slow the vehicle to Mach 2.5. After slowing, the LDSD will deploy its Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute — a "mammoth parachute" that will carry the device to a controlled water landing. (Via NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Los Angeles Times reports that Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator is necessary to properly land a spacecraft on Mars. "The thin atmosphere can't provide substantial drag, yet it creates enough friction to burn up objects that enter it. ... This air bag will increase its area by at least 60%, creating more drag and slowing it down."

You've got to admit, it looks a lot like a flying saucer; it'd be right at home on the red planet. (Via NASA/JPL-Caltech)

While the test is meant to test how the device flies, NASA is calling the deployment of the mammoth parachute and decelerator tube a bonus, because "those landing technologies are not officially scheduled to be tested until next summer, in two additional LDSD flights."

The BBC quotes LDSD's lead researcher, who says the device will help NASA send more equipment to Mars — something that's necessary for human travel. ​"We're testing technologies that will enable us to land bigger payloads, much heavier payloads, at higher altitude and with more accuracy than we've ever been able to do before."

You can follow along with the test on NASA's website — check out our transcript section for a link

<![CDATA[Newly-Discovered Shrew And Elephant Are Long Lost Cousins]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:33:00 -0500
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Mice and elephants — 

For the record, they really are not the best of friends. (Via Discovery

And unfortunately for terrified elephants everywhere, scientists have discovered a little mammal with a striking resemblance to a mouse is actually a distant cousin of the gentle giants. (Via KYW-TV)

"It's official name is the Macroscelides micus, it's a new species of elephant shrew and the world may never have know about it if Galen Rathbun didn't stumble over it." (Via KTKA)

Galen Rathbun, Fellow and Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences ... 

... ran into the little guy while walking through a remote desert in Namibia. (Via Google Earth

According to the academy's press release only about a dozen new species of mammals are discovered every year — which highlight the importance of this finding. 

And the Academy’s Curator of Ornithology and Mammalogy explained how past discoveries played a huge role, "Several museum collections were instrumental in determining that what we had was truly new to science, highlighting the value of collections for this type of work. ... It’s exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored.”

Macroscelides micus is actually quite different from other elephant shrews, on a genetic level. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Elias Neideck)

"They're actually more closely related to elephants then they are to shrews or mice." (Via KRGV

According to researchers it eats insects similar to an ant eater and is monogamous, which researchers say is unusual for mammals. Oh yeah, how could we forget that trunk. Well, it kind of makes for a cute family picture. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Yathin skThomas Breuer)

Maybe the two will learn to get a long, ya know — for the sake of the family. 

<![CDATA[Olympian Completes 800-Meter Race While 8 Months Pregnant]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:06:00 -0500
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Finishing a championship race dead last might be a disappointing feat for most track-and-field Olympians, but one runner is being praised as an inspiration. That's because she is just six weeks away from her due date. Yes, she's pregnant.

The four-time reigning U.S. champion Alysia Montano says she knew she wouldn't qualify for the next round Thursday but wanted to take a stand for professional female athletes. (Via NBC)

The 28-year-old runner tweeted, "Thanks ... for acknowledging women who can be fit while pregnant, continue their careers and pursue having a family."

Montano received a standing ovation when completing the 800-meter race in about two and a half minutes, about 30 seconds behind the winner. (Via USATF)

But of course social media have been abuzz about whether it's even safe for her to run so far during a pregnancy.

Montano told NBC and other media her doctor and midwife both encouraged her to run, saying it's a perfectly healthy activity.

"I know there's a lot of stigma and really the word is ignorance behind pregnant women and exercising, and the truth is it's good for the mom and the baby." (Via KCBS)

Montano isn't the first to gain recognition for her pregnancy activities. Earlier this year, one expectant mother caught media attention after surfing through her 9 months of pregnancy. (Via YouTube / kristi olivares)

This is Montano's first pregnancy. She says her goal is to compete in championships and the 2016 Olympics after giving birth.

<![CDATA['Drastic Action' Needed To Stop Ebola Outbreak]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 09:59:00 -0500
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The World Health Organization says drastic action is needed to stop the Ebola outbreak that continues to claim lives in West Africa. 

So far the virus has infected more than 600 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, 367 of which have already died. (Via NBC)

​​That makes it the deadliest outbreak since Ebola was discovered in 1976, when it killed 280 people in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. And it's hard to say when the outbreak will actually be contained. (Via Flickr / NIAID)

"The numbers are still going up. The rate at which they're going up has slowed down a little bit, but it's important to point out that it'll be some time –about a month and a half– before you can even say the outbreak is over." (Via CNN)

Ebola is one of the scariest viruses out there because there's no known cure or vaccine and you can be infected for up to 21 days without showing any symptoms. 

This outbreak is also the first time Ebola has hit an urban area, with multiple infections reported in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, which has a population of more than two million. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Ppntori)

"I think the fact that this is the first time this has happened in West Africa works against us, because people don't understand very well how this epidemic can keep going on for a long time if everyone doesn't pull their weight." ​(Via Al Jazeera)

And that's why the WHO is meeting with 11 countries in Ghana in early July, "to discuss the best way of tackling the crisis collectively as well as develop a comprehensive inter-country operational response plan." (Via Flickr / United States Mission Geneva)

But according to NPR, Ebola is less contagious than other diseases like SARS that have seen outbreaks in the past, and an expert interviewed for the story said, "The chance of Ebola spreading out of West Africa is very, very low." ​(Via NPR)

The outbreak will be considered contained after 42 days with no new Ebola cases: that's twice the incubation period. 

<![CDATA[Could Binge-Watching TV Lead To An Earlier Death?]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 15:36:00 -0500
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So, if you didn't already know — sitting around for hours at a time to, I don't know, binge watch season two of "Orange Is the New Black," isn't exactly good for your health. 

I mean, even though you might feel a slight cardio boost at times with all the action and whatnot, a new study shows couch potatoes could be increasing their risk for an early death. (Via Netflix / "Orange Is the New Black")

"They believe that too much TV leads to a lifestyle that is not good. People who watch a lot of TV tend to ... eat too much, what they call mindless eating or snacking ... and that obviously leads to extra weight." (Via WTVT)

Yeah, maybe you're not so surprised. After all, studies like this one have been coming out for a while now. (Via BBC, WebMD, Forbes, NPR)

But the head turner in this particular study, conducted in Spain, is the numbers. (Via Wikimedia Commons / LAIntern)

According to the study, sitting for three or more hours a day increases your risk of death from cancer by 21 percent and death from heart disease by 44 percent. All other premature causes of death rose by 55 percent. 

Now, those are some pretty serious numbers — even the study's author calls it "a little bit surprising." HealthDay reports the researchers made changes to the study to try to weed out any outliers. 

"They wondered, for example, whether people already gravely ill might watch more TV because they weren't physically able to do anything else. So they ran the numbers a second time, excluding the 35 deaths that happened in the first three years of the study, hoping to knock out people who might have been very sick. But the results only got stronger."

Another surprising finding — the researchers didn't find the same connection with other sedentary activities such as sitting at the computer, driving or reading. (Via WGRZ)

Some are skeptical, saying the researchers failed to account for factors such as unemployment, alcohol use and mental health. 

<![CDATA[NYC Loses Appeal, Ban On Large Sodas Falls Flat]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 14:20:00 -0500
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It's a sweet win for the soda industry. The "Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule" has been shot down by New York's highest court.

The ban had already been declared unconstitutional by two lower courts, making this New York City's final appeal. (Via Flickr / Matt Green)

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg enacted the rule in 2012 in an attempt to take on the obesity epidemic. The New York Board of Health backed the reinstatement of the large-soda ban. If reinstated, the ban would have restricted vendors from selling sugary drinks in containers greater than 16 ounces. (Via Time Warner Cable News)

The portion cap rule stirred up quite a bit of controversy. The New York Times reports a majority of the city's residents opposed the rule, and the loss could bring the power of the Board of Health into question.

Court documents declared the board does not have legislative authority and that it "exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority by adopting the Portion Cap Rule." 

Many felt the rule violated rights. The National Review argued there were far more important problems for the city to focus on — like crime. 

When the case was in court last year, Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, told The New York Times"These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front."

On the other hand, public health advocates were thrilled that attention was finally being focused on the obesity problem. Amidst the debate, CNN reported 60 percent of the city residents were overweight, citing large portions as part of the problem.

While there is little doubt soda contributes to health issues, the ruling is final — the Board of Health doesn't have the power to enforce the regulation. Since the portion cap rule has officially fallen flat, soda lovers in New York City are now free to purchase whatever size soda they choose.

<![CDATA[Study Tracks Penguin Migration By Looking At Poop From Space]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 21:09:00 -0500
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A new study suggests emperor penguins in Antarctica are more likely to migrate in the face of changing climates than previously thought, thanks to researchers not only tracking the waddling birds but also following their feces.  

Of all the things you could spot with satellite imagery, researchers observed trails of dark penguin poop against a cold, white Antarctic canvas. What they found was that emperor penguins are adapting and relocating when the climate gets, well, crappy. (Via BBC)

So, why is that important? Well, according to Live Science, "Emperor penguins are a philopatric species, meaning they return to the same spot each year to breed." 

But University of Minnesota researchers, who conducted the study, found that's not quite the case. In a release on the school's website, researchers found that in six instances within a three-year span, emperor penguin colonies did not return to the same location mate. 

The study's researcher Michelle LaRue said the penguins' relocation has to do with receding sea ice. 

Emperor penguins forage in the water, but come back to their respective locations on the sea ice to breed. That sea ice expands in the winter and recedes in the summer. (Via Flickr / Eli Duke)

LaRue explained much of what we know about emperor penguins comes from the Pointe Geologie colony, which was featured in the National Geographic documentary "March of the Penguins." 

Researchers had believed that that colony was cut in half because of a change in climate and the penguins had nowhere to go. But, satellite imagery showed more colonies — and, yes, poop trails — within marching distance of Point Geologie, which challenges current theories about emperor penguins. (Via Flickr / sandwichgirl)

"Because of that, I don't think emperor penguins are not always philopatric. ... I think when times get tough, though, they have the ability to move." (Via ideacity)

LaRue shied away from making any other conclusions about emperor penguins but said more attention needs to be focused on colony fluctuations. The study will be published in an upcoming edition of the scientific journal Ecography.

<![CDATA[1 In 10 U.S. Beaches Rated Unsafe For Swimming]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:10:00 -0500
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Before you plan a beach day, you might want to see this list.

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its 24th annual beach report, and it’s not great.

According to the ​NRDC, 1 in 10 beaches in the U.S. aren’t fit for swimmers. This number comes after the council collected about 3,500 water samples from beaches on the East and West coasts, the South and the Great Lakes region. (Via YouTube / Pure Michigan) ​

But the NRDC tested the water a little differently this year. It used the Environmental Protection Agency’s new “Beach Action Value,” or BAV, to determine if the water was OK. (Via YouTube / 8K Next)​

Mashable reports, “BAV has a lower threshold for contamination than guidelines used in past years.”  

Salon says about 7 percent of beaches were considered polluted in 2012.  And using the old method, that number would’ve stayed the same in 2013.

Which has NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine telling USA Today, "We're stagnating in terms of progress of water protection."

But it’s not just about protecting the water. The NRDC’s report says, “The EPA estimates that up to 3.5 million people become ill from contact with raw sewage from sanitary overflows each year.” Beach water can cause illnesses like stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye and more.

So how can you avoid a bacteria-filled beach day? Do your research.


The Great Lakes region was the worst offender this year, with 13 percent of beach failing the test. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says, “Great Lakes beaches tend to have problems with water quality in part because they are a more isolated system without the water circulation.”

But that doesn’t mean ocean beaches are fine. Popular ocean spots, including the beach at Malibu Pier in California, showed up on the NRDC’s list of 17 repeat offenders. (Via Flickr / SaMoBiker)

That said, just down the coast in Orange County, Newport Beach made the NRDC’s list of 35 superstar beaches. (Via Flickr / Venessa Vancour)

Devine said the differences come down to the communities and beach managers and whether or not they’ve reduced polluted runoff.

Fast Company reports, “This year, NRDC is also pushing for another solution: Cleaning up the streams and wetlands that link up with beaches.”

But until you see a change, we’d suggest consulting the list at


<![CDATA[3-D Mammograms Might Significantly Improve Screening Results]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:40:00 -0500
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Some potentially exciting news in the fight against breast cancer.

"New research shows that 3D mammograms may improve scan results." (Via NBC)

To be more specific, a new study published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association found, when used along with standard 2D mammograms, 3D mammography boosted breast cancer detection rates by more than 40 percent.

Researchers also discovered, when using the new screening method, there was a 15 percent drop in the number of women who had to come back for additional imaging. (Via Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation)

To get these results, the research team analyzed data from 13 medical centers that had made the switch to 3D mammography — which is also known as tomosynthesis.

They then compared results from the years when the centers were only using mammograms to those from recent years when doctors used both mammograms and tomosynthesis. (Via YouTube / Scottsdale Medical Imaging Ltd)

In an editorial published with the study, one of the lead researchers said, "This is very positive. ... If you have access to [3D mammography], you should feel comfortable getting it." (Via The Journal of the American Medical Association)

But, as the leader of the Westside Cancer Center at the University of Southern California told CBS, it may be challenging for some women because of the additional cost.

"It's slightly more expensive, and so many centers are charging a premium, but a lot are charging a premium anywhere from $50 to $70."

The 3D scans also reportedly expose women to more radiation, which has made some doctors hesitant. A radiologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, told HealthDay, "We would like to see long-term outcomes."

3D mammography has been available in the U.S. since 2011, when the FDA approved it to be used alongside 2D mammograms. Last year, the administration approved a 3-D system that can be used by itself.

<![CDATA[Paralyzed Man Moves Hand For First Time In 4 Years]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:11:00 -0500
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Thanks to new technology, a paralyzed man was able to move his hand with his own thoughts for the first time in four years.

Ian Burkhart was paralyzed four years ago in a diving accident. He was the first of five subjects to test the new Neurobridge system.

"The 23-year-old quadriplegic said he didn't mind being a guinea pig of a pioneering research program. But he never dreamed he'd be able to do this." (Via Sky News)

Neurobridge is an electronic neural bypass developed by surgeons from Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center and Battelle, a nonprofit group in Ohio focusing on spinal cord technology.

Engadget describes Neurobridge as a chip "that's been implanted into the patient's motor center, which relays those signals, via a muscle stimulation sleeve, directly to the subject's muscles. That way, the technology bypasses the damaged nerves, essentially cutting out the middleman and restoring direct muscular control to the brain."

Burkhart underwent surgery in April to implant a 0.15-inch-wide chip into his brain, which has 96 electrodes that "read" what he is thinking. He then had weeks of practice sessions where he focused on moving his fingers to move a digital hand on a computer. (Via International Business Times)

The chip can deliver signals in about a tenth of a second, so it's not as fast as the natural biological process. But it could still help those that are paralyzed lead normal lives.

"Picking up a cup of water and drinking it or brushing your teeth or feeding yourself, you know those things. If you can do those on your own, it makes a big difference in your life." (Via The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

According to Mayo Clinic, quadriplegia can stem from "A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae."

Ian's surgeon believes that a day will come when those with disabilities will be able to move their arms and legs with the use of technology.

<![CDATA[Seattle Woman Spooked By Drone Outside Her Window]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 07:31:00 -0500
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A Seatlle woman awoke Sunday morning to see a drone flying outside her window. Safe to say she panicked a little. (Via Flickr / Michael MK Khor)

"This is what Lisa Pleiss didn't expect to see when she looked out her window on the 26th floor of her Seattle apartment."

"It was freaky."

"Police say owning and flying a drone is legal." (Via NWCN)

Pleiss told KOMO she felt violated when she saw the drone hovering outside her window. The owner of the drone did contact her and explained they were actually hired to take pictures in the opposite direction of a building under construction.

"It was not our intent to view anything other than the views from a 20-story office building that will be built across the street."

The Seattle Police Department lightheartedly joked the drones were not theirs and linked to this article that explains the department recently sold their drones to Hollywood.

The company hired for the project specializes in aerial photography using GPS-equipped drones, and the owner says they only fly over properties where they have permission. Pretty cool, as long as you don't wake up to see one outside your window. (Via Skyris Imaging)

"We're very apologetic ... towards anybody we may have startled."

"It's really opened my eyes in terms of why the public does have the concerns and that the public is very concerned about this topic."

And NBC reports the use of drones is growing. 

"Drones have moved in to stay in a lot of places, in war zones overseas ... in this country in studios like this one, HD camera and limited possibilities."

The owner of the drone that startled Pleiss did contact her and apologize. He also contacted the Seattle P.D. to explain the situation.

<![CDATA[CDC Launches Another Round Of Graphic Anti-Smoking Ads]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 17:51:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a familiar ad campaign Tuesday once again using very graphic stories from ex-smokers to warn people of the real dangers of smoking. 

The CDC's campaign, dubbed "Tips From Former Smokers," gives real first-hand accounts of things like gum disease, tooth loss, throat cancer and a premature birth from a mother who smoked during pregnancy.

And, perhaps most jarring, a woman named Terrie who died last September at age 53 from lung cancer. (Via YouTube / TRUTHAgainstTobacco)

"Don't start smoking. And, if you do smoke, quit. ... I don't want anyone to have to go through what I'm going through." (Via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Now, this isn't the first time the CDC has run with a fear-based campaign, and the first round of scary ads actually had a decent success rate.

The government's tobacco agency reported at least 1.6 million people tried to quit after the last batch of ads back in 2012 and more than 100,000 former smokers were able to kick the bad habit entirely. (Via USA Today, Flickr / Gonzalo Merat)

"So, it was a very effective because it showed the reality of smoking: suffering, disability, disfigurement. People not being able to go about their daily lives." (Via CBS)

In fact, according to TIME, the previous anti-smoking campaign "generated over 100,000 additional calls to the CDC's quit line," up 80 percent over the prior week when those spots weren't airing.

The new ads will run on TV, radio and other media beginning July 7.

<![CDATA[Students Aim To Send Your Videos, Photos And More To Mars]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 16:55:00 -0500
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​​​A group of students wants to send your ​selfies into space.

Student-led project Time Capsule to Mars was announced Monday. Its organizers, who come from MIT, Duke, Stanford and UConn, hope to land a digital time capsule on the red planet within the next three years. (Via Time Capsule to Mars)

But what's inside is up to you. The team is asking for messages, photos, audio clips and videos from people all over the world. 

The project's mission director told National Geographic"Our generation is all about social media and connecting, and [the Time Capsule to Mars] would be an extension of that. We'll be taking another step to connect Earth and Mars."

​The uploads will also go toward its $25 million funding goal. Anyone with a message for Mars can upload up to 10 MB to the site,, for just $0.99. (Via Time Capsule to Mars)

Other organizations, including NASA, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, have also pledged support for the project. If enough money is raised, three CubeSats full of your digital gems will make their way to Mars. (Via Time Capsule to Mars)​ 

If you're unfamiliar with CubeSats, NBC explains they're 4-inch cubes built to bum rides into space from government and commercial launches.

Once the CubeSats break through the atmosphere, though, the students plan to use an ion electrospray propulsion system developed at MIT to rocket them toward the red planet.

​However, The Verge notes, "A lot of the technologies that the students plan to use haven't been tested yet, so that [2017] target date might take a hit."

But chances are the cubes will reach Mars before humans do. In the past, President Obama has said NASA will launch a manned mission into Mars' orbit around 2030. (Via Scientific American)

For ambitious crew, that's just not soon enough.

The Boston Globe reports the idea came after students attending last year's Humans 2 Mars summit in Washington "noticed that many of the summit's attendees seemed to be more motivated by the fame they would get from being the first to land on Mars, rather than using a mission for technological advancements and a better understanding of the universe."

The project's mission director says Time Capsule to Mars aims to "push forward humanity." So at least make it a good selfie.

<![CDATA[Intellectually Active Lifestyles Might Lower Dementia Risk]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:45:00 -0500
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You know the old saying, "You learn something new every day"? Now health researchers are saying it's probably a good idea to make sure that happens. 

"Keeping the brain busy might protect older people from the onset of dementia. ... A higher level of education and intellectual activity may delay the start of Alzheimer's symptoms by nearly nine years." (Via CBS)

In a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied nearly 2,000 men and women between the ages of 70 and 89. The team used education and occupation as well as mid- and late-life cognitive activity — think playing games, reading books — to give each person a score. (Via Flickr / Tripp, Brenda Clarke, Marc Lagneau)

HealthDay reports those who scored lowest were the most at risk for dementia, but "regardless of educational and professional background, all participants who routinely engaged in intellectually stimulating activities in middle-age and their later years also ended up seeing their relative risk for dementia drop."

Although we've known an intellectually enriched lifetime can stave off dementia, this study succeeded in showing a significant link between mid- and late-life intellectual stimulation and a delay in cognitive impairment. 

Even more promising, researchers say those patients studied who were APOE4 carriers — a gene variant linked to a high risk for Alzheimer's disease  were able to hold off the onset of dementia for longer, based on their cognitive activity. (Via JAMA Neurology)

<![CDATA[Are Children Born In The Fall More Athletic?]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:08:00 -0500
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Do you dream of having a child who grows up to be a superstar athlete? Or at least one who isn't picked last in gym class? You might want to take a look at this.

"There's a new study in the Journal of International Sports Medicine that found that children born in the fall have an edge when it comes to physical fitness." (Via ABC)  

The Guardian reports researchers at the University of Essex in Great Britain studied more than 8,000 children ages 10-16 for three measures of fitness: stamina, handgrip strength and lower-body power.

Researcher Gavin Sandercock says: "A boy born in November can run at least 10% faster, jump 12% higher and is 15% more powerful than a child of the same age born in April." (Via The Guardian)

So what makes a November baby more likely to be the next LeBron and an April baby more likely to watch on the sidelines? The researchers hypothesize the cause is the sun. 

Babies who are in their final stage of development during the hotter summer months have increased intrauterine vitamin D levels. (Via Flickr / Art G.)

Researchers such as Victoria Drake say vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body that helps regulate skeletal growth and muscle strength. (Via Oregon State University, National Institutes of Health)

But another explanation could be something we're doing instead of a natural cause.

For years researchers have been studying birth month phenomena. The BBC reports in 2009, 57 percent of players in professional English youth academies had been September, November or December babies, and a mere 14 percent were born in June, July or August.

The theory of relative age effect says the September cutoff dates we impose in school allow children with birthdays immediately after the cutoff to be almost a year older than those born in July and August. According to the BBC, this means they're more physically developed than their classmates.

Because sports today are often through structured leagues, this early advantage in size leads to a greater chance of moving up to better teams with better coaching. (Via Flickr / USAG-Humphreys, The Wall Street Journal)

But if you happen to be a summer birthday don't fret yet. Superstars like Kobe Bryant have been born in the summer. (Via Flickr / Aaron Frutman)

And in the end, it's really all about loving the game.

<![CDATA[CERN Says LHC Really Found Higgs Boson, Will Restart In 2015]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 21:10:00 -0500
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Scientists at CERN made two announcements Monday, one letting the world know that, yes, that really was the Higgs boson they found, and the other letting us know to expect more proton smashing at the Large Hadron Collider early next year. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Maximilien Brice, CERN, Connor Behan)

​​The announcement that the Higgs boson had been discovered in 2012 was probably the LHC's biggest media moment, helped along by headlines throwing around the term "god particle." But once the Higgs had been found, there was still the task of figuring out what it's like and how it behaves. (Via CERN, Daily Mail, USA Today, Mashable)

Cue Monday's paper, published in the journal Nature Physics. Turns out the elusive Higgs acts pretty much how scientists expected it to act.

Basically, scientists had been looking for what happens to the Higgs after it's created. It was thought to quickly decay into bosons or fermions, two different classes of particles. Up until this paper was published, only the first class had actually been witnessed. (Via YouTube / TheATLASExperiment)

Now, scientists have seen both, meaning the particle continues to match theoretical predictions. But that's kind of a double-edged sword for physicists.

The Higgs boson was the last missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics, a theory that describes how subatomic particles behave. (Via Fermilab)

But several writers commenting on the story shared the view that it would have been much more interesting for the Higgs to do something else. A writer for ExtremeTech says, "If its decay path had been slightly different ... then whole new avenues of research would've opened up." A writer for ValueWalk says "With this new evidence the chances for a big surprise seem even more remote." (Via Wikimedia Commons / Lucas Taylor)

That brings us to CERN's other announcement: when the LHC will start looking for more surprises.

The giant particle smasher was shut down for upgrades in early 2013. The new equipment will allow the LHC to run at almost twice the energy it did before. (Via CERN)

CERN's director said, "​It's effectively a new machine, poised to set us on the path to new discoveries."

It might, for instance, be able to discover evidence of dark matter or dark energy, the mysterious stuff that makes up most of our universe. (Via NASA)

If everything goes according to plan, the LHC will be brought online and tested a few systems at a time, with the first new physics experiments expected to begin in the spring of 2015.

<![CDATA[Keeping Cool Boosts 'Good' Brown Fat, Could Fight Diabetes]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 18:26:00 -0500
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If you’re working on getting fit for the beach, you might want to turn up your A/C.

A new study, published in the journal Diabetes, shows exposure to cooler temperatures stimulates the growth of brown fat. If you’re new to that term, a University of Massachusetts researcher explains –

“Instead of storing the fat, it burns the fat and generate heat. … Because it’s burning fat as heat you could imagine that it could promote weight loss.” (Via University of Massachusetts)

​Essentially brown fat is good; white fat is bad. But Science World Report says, “How brown fat is regulated in people and how it relates to metabolism has been somewhat unclear.”

To test the theory, SBS reports researchers had five healthy men sleep in climate controlled rooms for four-months.  

For the first month, they slept in a “climate neutral” 75 degrees, so their bodies didn’t need to do anything to keep warm. For the next month, researchers dropped the temp to 66 degrees.

One of the study’s researchers says “What we found was that the cold month increased brown fat by around 30-40 percent.” (Via Garvan Institute)

Then, when the temperature was cranked up to about 80 degrees for the last month, researchers reported a drop in brown fat.

While the slight chill might help you get trim, the increase in brown fat could also help people with diabetes. (Via Flickr / clarkmaxwell)

HeathDay reports, the research found greater amounts of brown fat corresponded to greater insulin sensitivity. “That means that that people with more brown fat required less insulin after a meal to bring their blood sugar levels down.”

So anybody else going to go check the thermostat?

<![CDATA[Pesticide Exposure In Pregnant Women, Autism Linked In Study]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 15:35:00 -0500
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If you're pregnant, where you live could have an effect on your child's health. Researchers out of California have discovered a potential link between children with autism and certain pesticides. 

​​"Researchers at UC Davis found that women who live near farms that use chemical pesticides have a two-thirds higher risk of having a child with autism." (Via KREX)

The researchers believe for some specific pesticides, this is especially true just before conception and during the third trimester. But for others, the time of exposure reportedly didn't seem to matter. (Via WCAU)

"Women who live within a mile of where a lot of pesticides are used had a 60 percent higher risk. ... The study was done in California, and that's where there's 200 million pounds of pesticides used every year." (Via HLN)

The researchers believe the women were most likely exposed through pesticides that drifted into the air. Now, it's not just farms that can heighten the risk of exposure — pesticides are used in many other public spaces such as golf courses. 

Nine hundred and seventy pregnant woman were examined, and researchers used maps to track exposure — about a third of the participants lived within a mile of where chemicals were sprayed. The results showed 486 children with an autism spectrum disorder,168 with a developmental delay and 316 kids with normal development. (Via New York Daily News

An autism researcher at the University of Arkansas told The Verge these results should be taken very seriously. According to the outlet: "Taking steps to prevent autism and other developmental delays is 'much better for society' than treating children 'once they have been born with such abnormalities.' But to do that, he said, we need to proactively educate mothers about the risks — and what they can do to fight back."

Even families who don't live near areas that are spayed can take preventive steps, such as avoiding chemical pesticide use for, say, cockroaches. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Alkort / Alvesgaspar)

It's important to note, researchers only discovered a link, not a cause-and-effect relationship. Also, because of the data collection method, the amount of exposure for each participant was not measurable. 

Which makes a professor of environmental health at Harvard a bit skeptical of the results. He told CBS: "This study cannot pinpoint specific substances as a culprit. ... Also, they cannot relate to specific levels of exposure, and they have not taken into account the possible contribution by residues in food." 

Researchers at UC Davis hope to do more research on the subject in the future. There is currently no known cure for autism spectrum disorders.

<![CDATA[Pa. Mom Gives Birth During Open Heart Surgery]]> Sun, 22 Jun 2014 10:49:00 -0500
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A Pennsylvania mom is sharing her story after miraculously giving birth while undergoing open heart surgery.

"The pain, it wasn't sharp pain, it was just pressing. ... The last thing I remember is emergency people coming. That's it."

WTXF reports Edita Tracey, who was eight months pregnant at the time, suffered a tear in her aorta — a major artery in the heart. When doctors put her to sleep for surgery, Tracey's daughter was born about 30 seconds later. A heart surgeon says it was the most complicated procedure he has done in the last 30 years.

Not only that, but the tear was about a foot long. After giving birth, Tracey underwent a nine-hour-long surgery. She made it out okay, and she told ABC she's happy that she and her daughter are both alive and well.

ABC reports Tracey has Marfan Syndrome, which The Marfan Foundation says involves weakened tissue including the walls of blood vessels.

On top of that, Tracey was also reportedly preeclampsia, which the Mayo Clinic says involves developing high blood pressure during pregnancy. That, coupled with Marfan Syndrome, made Tracey's condition potentially deadly.

Both mom and baby are now at home and doing well.

<![CDATA[Great White Sharks Making Comeback On North American Coast]]> Sat, 21 Jun 2014 19:48:00 -0500
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Scientists say the number of great white sharks in the ocean off the coast of Eastern North America is increasing. But, before you start reliving your "Jaws" nightmares, try not to sweat it. Scientists say this is actually a good thing.

Great whites help control the population of other species and their survival is key in keeping the oceanic ecosystem in tact. (Via National Geographic)

The animals are currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning they will likely become endangered if the factors threatening the species do not improve.

Great white shark numbers dropped significantly through the 60's, 70's and 80's. (Via YouTube / Free Documentary)

Scientist believe the reason the numbers are getting better is because of conservation efforts, like the 1997 act that prevented the hunting on great whites.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a study this month in the journal PLOS ONE showing the recent increase of great whites.

Data for the study came from a variety of sources including fishery statistics, commercial fishery observer programs, scientific research surveys and word of mouth. (Via Discovery)

And remember how we said this whole increase in sharks is a good thing? Well, scientists say you are 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning than die from a shark attack. So I guess, don't be afraid to hit the beach — just head inside if you think a storm's coming.

<![CDATA[Arthritis Drug Helps Cure Rare Baldness Disease]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 20:48:00 -0500
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A new treatment is giving some people who suffer from a rare disease new hope. This disease causes people to lose the hair on their head and body, but doctors have found treating the disease with an arthritis drug can actually help patients grow their hair back.

The disease is called alopecia universalis. It's an autoimmune disease, and can cause partial to complete baldness. (Via YouTube / Dinesh Bhutada)

"The body's germ fighting cells attack the hair's follicles as if they were a bacteria or a virus. This causes the immune system to stop the hair from growing. (Via YouTube / Belgravia Centre)

CBS reports Yale researchers were able successfully re-grow a 25-year-old patient's hair after eight months of treatment with the arthritis drug Tofacitinib Citrate.

In a Yale press release, co-author of the study Dr. Brittany Craiglow said, "The patient has reported feeling no side effects, and we've seen no lab test abnormalities, either" and senior author of the study, Dr. Brett King, said,"The results are exactly what we hoped for. This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition." (Via Yale University)

MPR states this is the first reported successful treatment in the disease's history. 

The patient also suffered from a plaque psoriasis, a condition that causes scaly red areas of skin. The arthritis drug helped him with that condition as well. According to the release, Dr. King hopes to perform clinical trials to further study treatment options for patents suffering from different forms of alopecia.

<![CDATA[Ancient Skulls Provide Insight Into Neanderthal Ancestry]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 09:27:00 -0500
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Researchers studying the evolutionary patterns in Neandertals say they have discovered new insights into the ancient humans. (Via Flickr / Paolo C.)

They analyzed 17 skulls from the Middle Pleistocene time period, all of which were found in a Spanish cave known as Sima de los Huesos. (Via Google

The report, published in the journal Science, explains how the evolution of Neandertals — also known as Neanderthals — is a bit more complicated than we previously thought. 

"Facial modification was the first step in the evolution of the Neandertal lineage, pointing to a mosaic pattern of evolution, with different anatomical and functional modules evolving at different rates." (Via Science)

The study leads researchers to believe these primitive humans developed their facial features before developing large brains — not all at once. (Via Flickr / Jacob Enos)

Which helps explain away controversy previously surrounding the Sima de los Huesos fossils.

International Business Times says researchers used to believe the Sima fossils were around 530,000 years old but were unsure because scientific evidence, such as carbon dating, didn't match up with the shape and development of the skulls. Using six different techniques to date the fossils, the team discovered "they all converged on 430,000 years ago."

The researchers say this discovery helps to confirm something called the accretion model.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the model holds that "late Pleistocene hominids evolved in partial or complete genetic isolation from the rest of humanity."

​In simpler terms, the researchers have compared the model to HBO's "Game of Thrones." While large tribes competed with each other for survival, each tribe's gene pool was still largely isolated and evolved to survive based on their environment. (Via Christian Science Monitor)

One more comparison to the popular series: The scientists noted environmental changes like thick patches of ice and glaciers may have led to the different periods of diversification. In other words, "winter was coming ... and [it] came many times."

<![CDATA[Newly Discovered Dinosaur Sported Wing-Shaped Crest On Head]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:42:00 -0500
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It’s the newest name in dinosaurs, and it might have some of the strangest headgear to date.

Paleontologists recently discovered this new dino — now known as Mercuriceratops gemini. It's a horned dinosaur, with unique boney, wing-like protrusions on top of its head. (Via Cleveland Museum of Natural History

It kind of looks like the triceratops we know and love — but about half the size at about 20 feet long and weighing around 2 tons. (Via BBC)

Oh, and of course, that crest on its head. According to the team behind the discovery, it's unlike any other scientists have seen before. 

The Los Angeles Times quotes lead researcher Michael Ryan who says: “We would never have predicted this from our experience with working on horned dinosaurs. It’s modifying an element of the skull that’s never been modified before.”

And according to NBC it likely had more than one practical use — like identifying other dinosaurs, protecting itself, and of course, attracting mates. Here's Ryan again: 

“If you can add an extra wing, or an extra frill on the side of that, make yourself even more elaborate and ornate than your buddies are, chances are you’re going to have the best pick of the herd.” (Via Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

Now as for that name, those aren't just random Latin words.

The "Mercury" in Mercuriceratops comes from the Greek god Mercury — who, not unlike our new dino, wore a winged helmet. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Peter Paul Rubens)

The "gemini" comes from the two different fossil finds — one in Montana, the other in Alberta, Canada — that led to the discovery of the new species. In all the name translates to "Mercury horned-face twin." (Via Google Maps)

Researchers say Mercuriceratops was likely a plant eater, with a beak-like mouth, that lived around 77 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. 

Their research was published in this German journal whose name we're not even going to try to pronounce. (Via Naturwissenschaften)

<![CDATA[Mysterious Sea Creature Finally Identified]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:13:00 -0500
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For two years, a mysterious sea creature has been captured on video as it swims 5,000 feet below the surface, but scientists have been in the dark as to what exactly it is.

"They believe it is a rarely seen jellyfish plodding its way, not at great speed, through the Gulf of Mexico. The video was actually shot by an underwater gulf rig camera." (Via NBC / Disclosure TV)

The fish's species was, at first, hard to identify because it appeared to have no eyes, mouth, tentacles, front or back. 

NPR reports the first idea was that it was a whale placenta. They ruled that out because it would have been a large target for predators at that depth and likely would have been eaten sooner. Then "Deep Sea News" Chief Editor Craig McClain noticed the creature had a sex organ similar to a giant jellyfish called Deepstaria enigmatica. 

Case solved? Not quite. 

​According to the Daily Mail, it was a small detail — the hexagonal pattern on the creature's skin — that gave strong evidence that this jellyfish is actually a Deepstaria reticulum, or a placental jellyfish. 

The species is native to Antarctic waters, which are significantly colder than the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists don't know how or why this particular jellyfish ended up in the Gulf. 

When we think of exploration, we normally think of space, but perhaps even greater mysteries lie in our oceans. (Via Flickr / Gabriel Lascu / gnews pics)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says oceans cover 70 percent of our planet's surface, yet 95 percent of it remains unexplored. 

Odds are the oceans contain many other incredible mysteries to be solved and unfamiliar creatures to identify.  

<![CDATA[Are Americans More Depressed Than Europeans After Job Loss?]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:11:00 -0500
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For many people, losing a job can be extremely difficult. And according to researchers, the strain can often lead to depression. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Sander van der Wel)

And a new study shows Americans are much more likely to feel the weight of unemployment compared to our counterparts in Europe. 

KRIV points out the findings are particularly true for workers over 50 years old and for those who lose a job due to plant closure.  

When it came to overall impact, the findings revealed a 4.8 percent increase in depression for Americans who suffered a job loss compared to 3.4 percent for Europeans. (Via Medical News Today

Which might not seem like a lot, but when looking at job loss due to plant closure, the numbers were much different, with a 28.8 percent increase in the U.S. and just 7.5 percent in Europe.

To get the results, the researchers looked at 38,000 people in the U.S. and 13 European counties by studying surveys conducted between 2004 and 2010. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Stefan Ertmann)

According to the study's leader, one reason for the results could be because in wealthier countries like the U.S., the impact is felt more heavily than for people with little or no wealth. (Via International Journal of Epidemiology, HealthDay

Another possible reason — safety nets. For instance, "social protection programs in European countries, which might be 'buffering the impact of job loss among less wealthy workers and their families.'"

CBS points out the link between depression and job loss for Americans is nothing new. Back in 2009, when a record number of Americans were on unemployment, the network talked to a medical analyst who explained the connection. 

"Specifically people who are providing for the family start questioning and doubting themselves that, 'Here I am, supposed to be supporting everybody, and I can't do my job.' I think that can be very damaging." 

When it comes to this most recent study, researchers say they need to do further studies on the reasons behind the disparity. 

<![CDATA[Study Says Kids With Anxiety Have Bigger 'Fear Centers']]> Wed, 18 Jun 2014 12:50:00 -0500
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A new study could shed some light on children who have issues with anxiety. 

Researchers at Stanford University's School of Medicine say kids with anxiety problems have larger amygdalae — the area of the brain known as the "fear center." (Flickr / greg westfall)

Researchers looked at 76 children between ages 7 and 9. Parents completed assessments about their kids' anxiety levels. 

The study's authors also used non-invasive MRI scans to look at the children's brains.  (Via Flickr / Penn State)

They found kids with bigger amygdalae, and also more connectivity with the areas of the brain responsible for attention and emotion perception, had higher levels of anxiety than other kids. (Flickr / Tracy Abildskov)

They were even able to come up with an equation that predicted anxiety levels based on MRI measurements of amygdala volume and connectivity.

The study's first author explains its importance: "Understanding the influence of childhood anxiety on specific amygdala circuits ... will provide important new insights into the neurodevelopmental origins of anxiety in humans." (Via Elsevier)

Bioscholar News sees treatment possibilities here — that awareness of the amygdala's importance could mean better treatment for kids at risk of anxiety disorders at earlier ages.

Still, HealthDay is skeptical, noting the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The researchers went with children ages 7-9 because they say anxiety levels can be first be accurately identified in that age range. The study is out in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

<![CDATA[McCaskill Scolds Dr. Oz For 'Miracle' Weight Loss Claims]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 22:49:00 -0500
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Senators on Capital Hill blasted Dr. Mehmet Oz Tuesday at a Congressional hearing, as the celebrity doctor fell under heavy scrutiny for promoting health products and weight-loss ideas on his TV show that Congress believed were bogus. (Via Wikimedia Commons / David Berkowitz)

SENATOR MCCASKILL: "When you call a product a miracle and something you can buy, and it's something that gives people false hope... I just don't think you needed to go there."

DR. OZ: "My job on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience." (Via CNN)

DR.OZ: "I used flowery language. I used language that was very passionate but ended up not being helpful but incendiary."

SENATOR MCCASKILL: "I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true." (Via NBC)

Senator McCaskill chairs the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, which goes after false ads and products that lack scientific merit. (Via U.S. Senate)

So, it's easy to see how Dr. Oz was at the forefront of the conversation given he pulls in about 12 million viewers per health-branded show, according to CBS.

As an example, McCaskill showed this clip from "The Dr. Oz Show," where Dr. Oz espoused green coffee bean extract using some not-so-medical terminology.

"This miracle pill can burn fat fast."

As expected the product exploded: the so-called "Dr. Oz Effect." Problem is, that included hack products as well. 

The Federal Trade Commission went after and sued the marketers behind the Pure Green Coffee dietary supplement pill who started making wild claims within weeks of the program, like: "lose 20 pounds in four weeks" and "lose 20 pounds and two to four inches of belly fat in two to three months."

"People want to believe they take an itty bitty pill to push fat out of their body. ... I know you know how much power you have. ... And, you are being made an example of today because of the power you have in this space." (Via CBS)

Though, Dr. Oz was very clear he didn't receive any kickbacks nor did he want them.

"I don't sell anything. If they see my name, my picture, or any part of the show involved in an advertisement, do not buy the product." (Via ABC)

Near the end of the hearing, McCaskill asked if Dr. Oz wanted to be part of the solution or the problem, and Dr. Oz adamantly said he want to be part of the solution.

<![CDATA[Living In 'Walkable' Area May Reduce Diabetes, Obesity Risk]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 19:00:00 -0500
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We all know there's significant healthy benefits from walking: it tones the body, makes the heart strong, lowers disease risk... the list goes on. (Via Flickr / Len Matthews)

But, a lot of times the big challenge is either a) finding the time to get out the front door, or b) finding a good place to take a stroll. Well, a new study from Canada says some places have the best of both.

Research published in the journal PLOS One found people who live in "walkable" neighborhoods – that is, where the essentials are all in walking distance – have lower obesity rates and are less likely to have diabetes than people who live in areas dependent on cars to get around. (Via YouTube / videofilmik)

The reason? Researchers believe it's because the surrounding environment promotes walking.

The study tracked Toronto residents over a 10-year period and found people in walkable areas were, according to HealthDay, three times more likely use their own two feet or a bicycle's two wheels to get from point A to point B and were half as likely to rely on a car. (Via YouTube / Vivre Au, Alain Grandemange)

The factors that make an area "walkable" are more typical of major cities: neighborhoods are less spread out, streets are all grid-like and there are more places like shops, schools and rec centers you can get to by foot. (Via YouTube / John Wood, WNBC)

Lead researcher Dr. Gillian Booth said, "How we build our cities matters in terms of our overall health. ... As a society, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives. Every opportunity to walk, to get outside, to go to the corner store or walk our children to school can have a big impact on our risk for diabetes and becoming overweight." (Via Medical Daily)

Apparently, Canadian researchers have been following the footsteps of walker-friendly neighborhoods for awhile.

Back in 2012, researchers found immigrants who moved to Toronto's least walkable areas were "more than 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes." (Via The Atlantic)

So, taking this a step further, which were the most "walkable" cities in the U.S?

Smart Growth America, in tandem with George Washington University, published this study ranking America's cities and – to no real surprise – found Boston, New York City and Washington D.C. gained the most strides.

<![CDATA[Sitting Too Much Could Be Linked To Cancer: Study]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:35:00 -0500
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We've always been told sitting around isn't good for our health. But exactly how bad is it? A new study presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research conference observed that in addition to obesity and heart disease, too much sitting could be linked to cancer.

"Researchers found those who were the most sedentary had an increased risk for colon, endometrial and lung cancer, and this risk existed even if participants exercised." (Via KNBN)

According to NBC, the researchers collected and analyzed data from 43 different studies and were able to identify specific trends. For every two hours sitting, the risk for colon cancer increased 8 percent, the risk for endometrial cancer increased 10 percent and the risk for lung cancer increased 6 percent.

HealthDay reports people sitting in front of a television are at a higher risk for colon cancer because people are more likely to eat unhealthy foods while watching their favorite shows. 

"The more we sit, the more health issues we have. In some ways, the couch is the new cigarette." (Via NTV)

​Even those who exercise often are at risk. Speaking about a related study in 2011, epidemiologist ​Alpa Patel told USA Today"Even among individuals who were regularly active, the risk of dying prematurely was higher among those who spent more time sitting." 

If you spend most of your workday sitting, the Mayo Clinic advises you to take advantage of opportunities to stand — whether that be while taking a phone call, or just getting up from your desk every once in a while.

<![CDATA[Microwave Helmet Can Tell If You've Had a Stroke]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 08:30:00 -0500
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It's being called a microwave helmet, and it probably doesn't look like you think it does. (Via Flickr / Chris KellyOleg.)

BBC reports the microwave helmet can determine if a person has had a stroke, and the device could prove to be lifesaving because of a faster diagnosis. 

"​The wearable cap bounces microwaves off the brain to determine whether there has been a bleed or clot deep inside." (Via BBC)

This technology could save many lives — strokes are currently a leading cause of death in the United States, killing 130,000 each year, according to the CDC.

EmaxHealth notes, "It is capable of telling [the difference between] a stroke that is caused by a clot compared to one that is caused by bleeding."

Now, that's a big deal because treatment varies based on what type of stroke someone has had — and figuring that out is often one cause of slower treatment.

"Most of the strokes that we see are what we call ischemic strokes and that means the oxygen has been cut off and usually that's been caused because there has been a blood clot somewhere in the brain. Twenty percent of the strokes that we see are called hemorrhagic strokes." (Via CTV)

The device developed in Sweden could quickly predict the type of stroke and speed up treatment.

Something NPR says is crucial, noting best results are seen if treatment starts less than 90 minutes after the onset of the stroke. As for this device, the designer told NPR it was inspired by research used to determined the effect cell phone radiation has on the brain. 

"We realized that when you change the brain it changes the wave patterns from mobile phones going through the brain, and we looked into the possibility that these wave patterns could detect brain trauma."

Currently, doctors rely on CT scans to determine treatment for those who have had a stroke. Those machines aren't small and portable like the microwave helmet. (Via The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne)

So far in studies, the microwave helmet has been tested on 45 stroke patients. Further trials still need to be done, and ambulance trials begin this autumn. 

<![CDATA[International Space Station To Receive First Coffee Machine]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 08:11:00 -0500
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The International Space Station is getting a brand new perk. Literally. (Via NASA)

"Guess what it's going to get. Its first coffee machine! How the heck did they go this long without that morning java?" ​(Via Fox News)

NBC reports the capsule-based espresso machine, creatively dubbed the ISSpresso, will finally give astronauts a better alternative to the instant coffee they've been drinking on board the space station for the past 13 years.

​The vice president of Lavazza, the coffee retailer that helped create the ISSpresso, said in a statement, "We have been thinking about taking espresso into space for some time. Today we are in a position to overcome the limits of weightlessness and enjoy a good espresso... on board the International Space Station."

The first prototype of the ISSpresso was actually built last year, and the current model is reportedly undergoing some rigorous testing to make sure it's ready for space travel.

The cosmic coffee machine apparently contains so many backup and safety systems, it actually weighs around 44 pounds! Talk about a heavy brew. (Via Lavazza)

The ISSpresso should be ready to go just in time for the November launch of European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. She'll be the first Italian woman to go to space.

And she seems pretty pumped to enjoy a real Italian espresso while in orbit.

Christoforetti said on Twitter, "How cool is that? I'll get to operate the first space espresso machine!"

According to Digital Trends, the machine will be placed in a new "corner cafe" on the ISS, which is apparently a designated place for socializing while on board. 

Perhaps Starbucks will be opening a branch in space sometime soon? We can only hope.

<![CDATA[Caffeine More Risky For Young Boys Than Girls?]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:17:00 -0500
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It's no secret that boys and girls bodies react differently to different stimuli and now you can add caffeine to the list. 

According to researchers from the University at Buffalo in New York, after puberty, boys have a greater response to caffeine when it comes to heart rate and blood pressure. (Via WJZ-TV)

"They also found that young women experienced different reactions during their menstrual cycle which makes researchers think hormonal factors might be at play." (Via WYOU)

This study comes after the Food and Drug Administration announced it was looking into the safety of caffeine in kids. 

Over the years there have been a number of teenage deaths reported where energy drinks were cited as a possible factor. And while it's not distinctly proven that energy drinks caused the deaths, researchers say the connection is unsettling. (Via The New York Times, Daily Mail, Medical Daily

According to Time, the result does have a few holes as the study group mainly consisted of white, well-educated, middle class participants. 

According to the study's author, "Future research will determine the extent to which these gender differences are mediated by II factors, such as steroid hormones, or psychosocial factors, such as more autonomy and control over beverage purchases." (Via American Academy of Pediatrics

As of now, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommenced adolescence consume caffeine.  

<![CDATA[Father Helps Son With Diabetes, Develops 'Bionic Pancreas']]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 09:50:00 -0500
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Father ​Ed Damiano has a nightly ritual. 

An alarm clock goes off and he jumps up to check on his son, David, with Type I Diabetes. (Via Flickr / Alan Cleaver​)

And now, Damiano has developed something that may let him sleep through that alarm, especially as his son is approaching college age.

"He's 14 years old now and soon after he was diagnosed I realized that my background as mechanical engineering, applied mathematics, applied mechanics and I realized I had a certain skill set that leant itself to building a technology." (Via YouTube / Glu Staff)

"That's where the bionic pancreas comes in. Using a continuous glucose monitor, blood sugar levels are checked every five minutes.​"

"That information is transmitted to a special iPhone app."

And that app figures out what the body needs — and then can give a shot of insulin or glucagon. It's delivered through an injection site. (Flickr / Melissa Jde Fatto)

"The bionic device has three parts. Two cell phone sized pumps ... and an iPhone wired to a continuous glucose monitor. Three small needles go under the skin, usually in the belly, to connect patients to the components." (Via NECN)

USA Today reports the bionic pancreas has been tested, and the results have been good. Damiano is hoping for FDA approval before his son leaves for college.

"People with type 1 diabetes who used a 'bionic' pancreas were better able to control their blood sugar levels than those who monitored their levels manually, a small new study shows."

As for the name "bionic pancreas"? Diabetes Daily let Damiano explain:

"It’s a strange word, says Damiano, but accurate: 'It’s an externally worn device that emulates biological function through mechanical means. It’s a bio-pancreas.'"

Keeping blood sugar levels where they need to be is a delicate balance. (Via Flickr / Amanda Westmont)

WebMD reports people with Type I diabetes, which has also been called juvenile diabetes, need to make sure their blood sugar isn't too high OR too low. Both can lead to a series of complications like eye and kidney damage, etc.

​Damiano's son David was diagnosed with diabetes before he was a year old, and as an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, Damiano focused on helping his son. NPR reports it has been successful so far:

"...Damiano has gotten approval to launch a new round of testing. Dozens of adult and adolescent volunteers will use the system on their own for 11 days."

And according to NPR, the first of those volunteers have already started. David has faith in his dad, telling NPR he has just known his entire life his father was going to have the bionic pancreas ready by the time he leaves for college in 2017.

<![CDATA[Calif. Health Officials Declare Whooping Cough Epidemic]]> Sun, 15 Jun 2014 13:33:00 -0500
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Health officials in California have declared whooping cough an epidemic as cases skyrocket across the state.

KOVR reports the number of whooping cough cases statewide is already higher this year than it was in all of 2013. In Sacramento County for example, there were 74 cases last year. So far this year, 177 cases have already been reported.

According to CNN, health officials in California have seen 800 cases of the highly contagious whooping cough in just the past two weeks. According to the CDC, one person can spread the illness to up to 15 others.

The San Jose Mercury News says whooping cough typically peaks every three to five years, which would put this latest outbreak right on time. California's last whooping cough epidemic took place four years ago.

Officials say the best way to prevent yourself from getting the disease is by getting vaccinated. (Via NBC)

NPR reports California's 2010 whooping cough epidemic was the worst in more than 60 years. More than 9,000 people contracted the disease and 10 infants died. Health officials say part of it had to do with some parents refusing to get their kids vaccinated.

Infants and young children are typically the hardest hit during whooping cough outbreaks. Acccording to KNBC, a 2-month-old in California has died from this year's outbreak.

Nationally, the CDC says cases are up 24 percent from January to April of this year compared to the same time last year.

<![CDATA[4,000 Pounds Of Beef Recalled In Missouri Mad Cow Scare]]> Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:54:00 -0500
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Beef — maybe it shouldn't be what's for dinner.  (Via Wikimedia Commons / David Reber)

Fruitland American Meat in Jackson, Missouri has recalled more than 4,000 pounds of beef over concerns of possible mad cow disease.  

"Fruitland American Meat... is defending itself saying the finding is based on a clerical error." (Via NBC)

During a review of the company's slaughter logs, the USDA says it discovered a portion of the dorsal root ganglia, which are branches of the nervous system located in the spine of cattle, was not fully removed. It is considered to be specified risk material that could carry infective agents. 

According to the USDA"The problem may have occurred as a result of the way some company employees were recording information and determining the age of various cattle... Dorsal root ganglia ... must be removed from cattle 30 months of age and older." 

This is a class 2 recall, meaning there is a "remote" possibility of harmful heath effects. So far, no cases of mad cow disease from this incident have been reported, and Missouri heath officials are working to make sure all tainted meat is disposed of. (Via KMOV)

"Fruitland of America produced the beef from last September to April and they sent it to Whole Foods Distribution center in Connecticut and two restaurants in New York and Kansas City." (Via HLN)

People can contract the potentially deadly disease by consuming the diseased beef. According to WebMD, the disease can be hard to diagnose in humans. Symptoms include issues with the nervous system like loss of coordination, depression and dementia. It's usually fatal within 13 months. 

Fruitland American Meat has reportedly warned its customers and told them to destroy the beef. 

<![CDATA[Scientists Detail Enormous Subterranean Water Reserves]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 12:11:00 -0500
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New evidence suggests Earth's oceans might themselves be just a drop in the ocean. Scientists now theorize there's more water hiding beneath the planet's crust. A lot more.

A team of U.S. geophysicists has released a paper detailing a suspected rock layer in the Earth's mantle that could hold roughly three times the water present in all of the planet's surface oceans. (Via Science)

BBC reports scientists credit a mineral called Ringwoodite, which has a sponge-like crystalline structure that's perfect for trapping and holding hydrogen and oxygen atoms. So it's not H2O down there, but rather hydroxide — one atom each of hydrogen and oxygen.

In March, scientists at the University of Alberta discovered a natural diamond carried up from Earth's mantle by way of a volcano. It contained the first known sample of Ringwoodite and led scientists to theorize there was a lot more where it came from.

More recently, scientists used seismometers to track the progress of shock waves triggered by earthquakes.

The way the waves moved suggested there were vast deposits of Ringwoodite slowing them down. As New Scientist put it, "It takes them longer to get through soggy rock than dry rock."

"There was then a hypothesis that maybe the deep earth has a lot of water. We found it. This is the direct evidence." (Via The Weather Network)

The confirmation supports other theories — for example, that Earth's original water came from within, and not from space aboard comets. One of the study's co-authors told The Guardian: "I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet."

But this water reserve is out of reach at 440 miles down in the mantle. The deepest humans have ever drilled into Earth is 7.6 miles, at the Kola Superdeep Borehole in northern Russia. (Via Atlas Obscura)

In any case, the water is probably better off down there. We'd have trouble with sea levels four times higher than they are now. (Via 20th Century Fox / "The Day After Tomorrow")

Scientists now want to determine whether this layer of Ringwoodite extends all the way around the globe. In the meantime, their findings have been published in the journal Science.

<![CDATA['Cool' Kids Lose Their Cool After Leaving School]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 21:26:00 -0500
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Looks like "Revenge of the Nerds" was as much a prophecy as it was a cult comedy, because it turns the "cool kids" in school that tried so hard to climb the popularity ladder might not be so cool later in life.

A new study published in the journal Child Development tracked 184 teens in seventh and eighth grade and followed them for a decade. (Via KOB-TV)

The researchers found teens who engaged in, let's say, "Mean Girls" behaviors — like making a point to hang out with popular kids, rebelling and getting a quick start on their romantic lives — were more likely to lose popularity in their 20's, while being more prone to relationship problems, drugs and criminal behavior. And, sorry, Biebz, we just had to use you there. (Via Paramount Pictures / "Mean Girls", ABC)

CNN points to a couple of the study's bigger numbers. Once the "cool" teens became adults, they were 40 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol and had a 22 percent greater chance of having run-ins with the law.

Study author Professor Joseph Allen calls it the "high school reunion effect. ... The student who was popular and was running with the fast crowd isn't doing as great later on." (Via NPR)

So why do so many of these "cool kids" make a turn for the worse?

Allen speculates that as time went on these teens needed a bigger fix or "more and more extreme behaviors to try to appear cool." Kind of equating "coolness" to a drug in its own right. (Via CBS)

"So maybe when you're the first to be drinking beer at 13 people are like 'Oh, wow! That's so cool. ... But at 23 if you're like, ya know, drinking three six packs a weekend, and people are saying that's not so cool, that's kind of pathetic." (Via CNN)

Iowa State University Director of the Center for the Study of Violence said the results are spot on and parents also shouldn't worry if their child is a loner at an early age because popularity then isn't really all its cracked up to be. (Via HealthDay)

So, the next time you or your 13-year-old feels downtrodden for spending weekend nights buried in books, just remember ... it gets better.

<![CDATA[Friday The 13th's Strawberry Moon Is Almost Too Unlucky]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 21:15:00 -0500
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If you're the superstitious type, you probably already know Friday the 13th is coming up. But did you know you could be facing double the bad luck this year?

This Friday the 13th will also give us a full moon, a creepy coincidence that hasn't happened since the year 2000. (Via The Weather Network)

June's full moon has a couple different nicknames, including the Strawberry Moon, because it's during strawberry season. Its also called the Honey Moon because its position in the sky can give the moon a gold tint. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Kevin Burkett)

The last time one of June's full moons lined up with Friday the 13th was way back in 1919 — way before anyone thought "Friday the 13th: Honeymoon" sounded like a horror movie.

But why do the two events give some people the creeps? LiveScience says the origins of Friday the 13th superstitions aren't known, but probably stem from anxiety around Friday and the number 13 separately. The Independent explains the number 13 is bad luck in ancient Christian and Norse traditions and Friday was the day of most hangings in Britain.

As for full moons, the belief that they're unlucky also goes back to ancient times. Aristotle reportedly believed the brain was affected by the tug of the moon, just like ocean tides.

Even today, some police and hospital workers say full moons are more dangerous nights, a belief so widespread it's been studied for decades. (Via U.S. National Institutes of Health)

So, if you're prone to back luck, you might feel more comfortable just staying in this Friday. But there is some good news. (Via Youtube / FailTab)

"You won't have this coincidence again until Friday, August 13th, 2049." (Via The Weather Channel)

If you want to see the full moon at it's brightest, you'll have to stay up a little. The full moon will occur just after midnight Friday morning on the East Coast.

<![CDATA[10,000 Suicides Linked To Economic Recession]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 20:58:00 -0500
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It turns out the economic downturn, or the Great Recession, might have hit more than the world's pocketbooks. A new study claims the recession also caused more than 10,000 suicides in North America and Europe.

The study found that between 2007 and 2010, suicides increased by 4.5 percent in Canada, 4.8 percent in the United States and 6.5 percent in the European Union, resulting in about 10,000 more suicides than usual. 

The study, performed by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, used information from the World Health Organization. The researchers report rates were also 4 times higher among men. (Via Voice of America)

The study explains that job loss, home foreclosure and debt are leading causes of suicide during an economic downturn. (Via WSTM)

David Stuckler, the study's co-author, told Al Jazeera: "Suicides are just the tip of the iceberg. This data reveals a looming mental health crisis in Europe and North America. In these hard economic times, this research suggests it is critical to look for ways of protecting those who are likely to be hardest hit."

The study suggests nations that invest more into assistance for the unemployed reduce the risk of suicide. The authors estimate that for every $100 invested into such programs that suicide risk is lowered by .4 percent. (Via University of Oxford)

Struckler says Sweden was one country who had strong support for the unemployed or for those who were struggling financially and their suicide rate did not rise during the recession.

A professor of epidemiology at Columbia University not associated with the study said the findings have important implications for policy makers. "The social welfare aspects of economic downturns like this can't be ignored. When our economic belts get a little too tight, we shouldn't be cutting things that help the average Joe." (Via USA Today)

This latest study seems to reinforce the findings of another, smaller-scaled study from earlier this year. 

A University of Portsmouth study links spending cuts in Greece to more than 500 male suicides between 2009 and 2010.

Aaron Reeves, a researcher on this most recent, says the data points out that rising suicide rates might not be inevitable seeing that they weren't observed everywhere. 

<![CDATA[Teens Smoking, Fighting Less, But Texting While Driving More]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 20:08:00 -0500
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​A new survey released Thursday offers some good news about high school students.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, put out by the CDC, found the rate of smoking, sex, and fighting among high school students has dropped.

The current teen smoking rate is now at 15.7 percent which met the U.S’s national Healthy People 2020 goal of getting adolescent cigarette use below 16 percent. (Via CDC)

Although there is an increase in hookah and e-cigarette use to be concerned about. (Via Flickr / brokendownlover)

The percentage of teens who had been in a physical fight in the last year is also down, dropping from a whopping 42 percent in 1991 to 23 percent in 2013. (Via ABC)

Last but not least, the percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active dropped from 38 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2013. (Via WALB)

The study is conducted every two years and has the participation of more than 13,000 U.S. high school students to give more insight to adolescent behaviors. CDC Director Tom Frieden said there’s plenty to get excited about with the survey’s results.

“It’s encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking, and not having sex.”  (Via CDC)

But not all of the study’s findings were good. Researchers found an increase in texting while driving among high schoolers.

Forty-one percent of students who drove a car in the past 30 days admitted to texting or emailing while driving. (Via WXYZ)

And although the rate of sexual activity has decreased, the rate of condom use has dropped too, going from 63 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in 2013. (Via NBC)

Officials say conducting this survey is extremely helpful in understanding what needs to be done to prevent students from making poor decisions when it comes to their health and safety.

CDC spokeswoman Laura Kahn said in the study’s press release, “We can use these data to help schools, communities, families, and students reduce youth risk behaviors that are still prevalent and to monitor those that are newly emerging."

<![CDATA[Protein-Rich Diet Might Protect Against Stroke]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 12:53:00 -0500
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A diet rich in protein could significantly lower your chance of stroke, according to a new study. 

Researchers in China say people with the highest amount of animal-based protein in their diets are 20 percent less likely to suffer strokes than those who eat little to no protein. (Via HealthDay)

Scientists also say that for every additional 20 grams of protein consumed, the risk of stroke decreased by 26 percent in those being studied. (Via KXXV)

HealthDay quotes one of the researchers as saying: "If everyone's protein intake were at this level, that would translate to more than 1.4 million fewer deaths from stroke each year worldwide, plus a decreased level of disability from stroke."

The researchers at Nanjing University School of Medicine conducted seven studies in China, Japan and Sweden with more than 250,000 total participants. They say they accounted for external factors that could impact the results of the study, such as smoking and high cholesterol. (Via Al Jazeera)

​In their analysis, which is published in the journal Neurology, they conclude that animal proteins — particularly fish — provide twice the protective benefit against stroke compared to vegetable-based protein sources. (Via KPHO)

Protein quality might explain this difference, since animal proteins are "complete" proteins, meaning they carry all the essential amino acids humans need. But some warn this doesn't mean you should rush to start consuming lots of potentially fatty animal meats. 

WebMD quotes a researcher at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine who says, "I don't think this study means to the public you should run out and start eating burgers and red meat." Instead, the researcher says the focus should be on lean protein consumption.  

The study's authors emphasize the importance of a balanced diet in which animal protein consumption is focused on fish and white meat, which is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. 

<![CDATA[N.M. Bachelor Party Stumbles Upon Giant Fossil]]> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 08:54:00 -0500
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Probably the last thing you would expect to happen at a bachelor party is a scientific discovery. But that's exactly what happened in New Mexico.

"As we were coming back down the shore, I see something in the ground."

"Yeah, that 'something' was a huge fossil!" (Via KOB-TV)

Antonio Gradillas and his bachelor buddies were hiking around Elephant Butte Lake State Park about 150 miles outside of Albuquerque when they made the discovery. (Via YouTube / Matt Pelletier

When the guys first spotted the giant fossil, they said they thought it was a woolly mammoth. But when they sent pictures to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, the scientists there said it looked more like a Stegomastodon, a 9-foot tall, 13,000-pound, prehistoric pachyderm that roamed New Mexico millions of years ago. (Via Flickr / Flying PuffinWikimedia Commons / WolfmanSF)

​Think a jumbo dumbo, or giant elephant — which makes sense; they were at Elephant Butte Lake. KRQE has a closer look at their massive find. (Via Flickr / guido da rozze

​​"The area has been blocked off so paleontologists can work to excavate the fossil and confirm what it is. The public is asked to stay away and help protect the area." 

One of those researchers, Gary Morgan, told CBS he's never seen anything like the fossil in his 30-year career. "(The skull) looks virtually 100 percent complete, a very important scientific discovery that we may put on public display."

Excavation is only expected to take about six hours but will require some pretty heavy-duty machinery. The skull is filled with sand and might weigh as much as 1,000 pounds.

<![CDATA[Married Men More Likely To Get Regular Health Checkups]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 19:36:00 -0500
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If you value your health, then you've probably put a ring on it.

A report released Wednesday from the National Center for Health Statistics says men are more likely to go into the doctor for regular checkups if they are married. (Via Centers for Disease Control and PreventionFlickr / Matt Stratton)

And no, living with your significant other doesn’t cut it. In fact, you're worse off. The report says, “Cohabiting men were less likely than other not-married men to have had a health care visit.” (Via Flickr / Brenda Clarke)

The report surveyed about 24,000 men in 2011-2012. Take a look at the numbers.

76.3 percent of married men aged 18-64 had at least one health care visit in the past year. Single guys came in at 65.1 percent, followed by cohabitors at 60.3 percent. (Via  Flickr / Jennifer Morrow)

And according to NBC, this surprised a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who speculates on why “live-in” significant others don’t play the same health-promoting role.

“Maybe wives are more willing to actually make the doctor’s appointment for their husbands or maybe men are more likely to listen to their wives than to their girlfriends.”

The report says, yes, spouses play an active role in encouraging check ups, but they can also “indirectly evok[e] in men a sense of economic and social obligation to the family” that could prompt a doctor visit. (Via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Some experts say this is consistent with previous knowledge that married men enjoy more health benefits than unmarried men.

However, an associate professor at Cornell University told LiveScience, “The new study did not take into account all the ways that married and cohabiting couples differ, it's difficult to determine the exact reasons behind the new findings.”

One thing is clear though, health insurance matters. Only 42.6 percent of uninsured men visited the doctor that year, compared to 78.6 for men who had insurance. (Via Flickr / Douglas Sprott)

So maybe before you put a ring on it, make sure you're insured.

<![CDATA[Ancient Fossil Could Show Evolution Of Early Jaws]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 18:52:00 -0500
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The Cambrian Explosion was a time in Earth's history when some of the weirdest-looking animals ever could be found swimming around the oceans. And now scientists say one of those oddities could be the ancestors of fish, mammals, birds, reptiles ... pretty much everything. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Talifero, Nobu Tamura)

This little guy, about the size of a human thumb, lived 500 million years ago and has some of the earliest features that would come to define vertebrates: eyes, a nose, a tail, a precursor to a spinal cord and, possibly, the first step toward a working jaw. (Via Royal Ontario Museum)

The scientists found it here, at Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, which has a treasure trove of ancient fossils. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Florian Fuchs, Yetiwriter)

In a new study, scientists at the Royal Ontario Museum highlight one of the fossils that shows the tiny fish's features in unprecedented detail.

The lead researcher tells the Toronto Star there were a few surprises. "I was like, 'what!? This thing had eyes?' I had no idea."

It would have needed them, too, to avoid predators like this 7-foot-long beast, the king of the oceans in those days. (Via Wikimedia Commons / H. Zell)

But the study, published in Nature, also says the fossil fits what some scientists think an animal with the precursor to jaws would have looked like.

Jaws gave vertebrates the ability to actually hunt and chew prey, rather than just filter-feeding along the ocean floor, so the new fossil find may show the beginnings of one of the biggest evolutionary shifts in history. (Via BBC)

The lead researcher called it "stunning find," adding "In some ways, you can recognize yourself in there. ... He has all the features that all vertebrates will eventually share." (Via CBC)

The team say they believe there are many more fossils where this one came from, and are planning to do some more digging this summer.

<![CDATA[Spider-Man Soldiers? New Climbing Gear Inspired By Geckos]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 08:47:00 -0500
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Ever wonder how geckos and other animals managed to pull this off? So did the military. The tiny reptiles inspired the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — or DARPA — to make soldiers look more like superheroes. (Via Flickr / WahjFlickr / Ed Suominen)

Or at least one superhero, in particular. The ability to climb walls no matter how slick would pose advantages to a lot more than just Spider-Man. (Via Columbia Pictures / 'Spider-Man')

This month, DARPA showed off the results of a 2009 grant to Draper Laboratory and University of Massachusetts researchers, who developed what they called Geckskin.

In the test, a 218-pound man carrying an extra 50 pounds climbed two-and-a-half stories straight up a glass surface using nothing but gecko-inspired paddles. While he wore a safety belt, DARPA said he didn't need it.

How does it work? Gecko toes are covered with hundreds of thousands or even millions of microscopic hairs called setae. Normally weak molecular interactions called van der Waals forces get multiplied that many times and give an intensely strong grip. (Via Flickr / Bernat Casero)

The researchers at UMass Amherst believed it wasn't just the gecko's toes doing the work, but the whole structure of the foot. So they mimicked it.

"This allows the pad to drape over a surface to maximize contact. Further, as in natural gecko feet, the fabric is woven into a synthetic tendon yielding a design that maintains stiffness and rotational freedom." (Via University of Massachusetts Amherst)

DARPA points out the development could be huge for soldiers who ideally try for the high ground whenever they can get it, but warfare is rarely ideal and ropes and ladders haven't developed much in thousands of years.

"They also only allow for sequential climbing whereby the first climber often takes on the highest risk."

No word on whether the labs have mastered the spider web-slinging feature to swing from building to building, but DARPA says the research for climbing is ongoing. (Via Columbia Pictures / 'Spider-Man 2')

<![CDATA[Skepticism Follows Study Linking Breast Cancer To Red Meat]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 08:08:00 -0500
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Red meat. It's an American diet staple. From burgers to spaghetti sauce to a medium-rare steak. (Via Flickr / Ernesto Andrade | jeffreyw | su-lin | Mike)

However, newly published research in BMJ indicates higher red meat consumption in early adulthood could cause a greater risk of breast cancer. 

In 1991, 88,803 premenopausal women took a questionnaire on their diet. Researchers did 20 years of follow-up and recorded 2,830 cases of breast cancer.

"Twenty years later, statistics found high red meat consumption was associated with a 22 percent increased risk of breast cancer." (Via WYOU)

And according to the study's researchers, there's a way to reduce the risk, too. 

"Replacing red meat with a combination of legumes, poultry, nuts and fish may reduce the risk of breast cancer."

Wait, do we really have to give up our towering and delicious bacon sandwiches? (Via Flickr / jeffreyw)

Well, hold up. Don't start slamming down all the burgers you can find just because you feel like you'll soon be denied. The study has been met with its fair share of criticism. 

Like in this article from The Guardian, where it's pointed out no previous studies could show such a "significant association between red meat intake and the disease."

BBC spoke with Professor Tim Key, who's an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. He also didn't appear to support the study's findings:

"The US study found 'only a weak link' between eating red meat and breast cancer, which was 'not strong enough to change the existing evidence that has found no definite link between the two.'"

And even the study's lead researcher said the biological reasons behind the connection aren't clear.

"​Because this is a so-called observational study, it doesn't prove that more red meat increases breast cancer risk." (Via HealthDay)

The study still hypothesizes nixing one serving of red meat a day for a combo of legumes, poultry, fish and nuts could lower the breast cancer risk as much as 14 percent. 

Well, we've always been told moderation is key. So, heck, have that bacon sandwich. Just don't have five of them.