Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[Conflicting Reports On Cecil The Lion's Brother, Jericho]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 16:23:00 -0500
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It's been less than a week since Cecil the lion was killed in a Zimbabwean national park and now it's being reported his brother, Jericho, was also illegally killed Saturday by a hunter. 

A Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force official told USA Today"I'm very disappointed, I'm heartbroken. It's just too much."

But a researcher monitoring the park's lions told Reuters the lion is alive and well, according to data from a GPS tag. 

Just Friday, the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Unit reported Jericho was protecting his brother's cubs from rival male lions looking to take control of the pride. (Video via CecilTheLion.org

Since Cecil was killed, Zimbabwe officials have asked America to turn over Walter James Palmer, who has admitted to killing the beloved lion. (Videos via University of Oxford / YouTube / River Bluff Dental)

Zimbabwean officials have reportedly suspended hunting lions, leopards and elephants in an area near where Cecil was killed. The illegal killing of a lion in Zimbabwe can cost up to $20,000 with a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars. (Video via NBC

This video includes images from Vince O'Sullivan / CC BY NC 2.0.

 

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<![CDATA[8,000 Firefighters Trying To Control California Flames]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 11:11:00 -0500
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California is in a state of emergency as wildfires continue to burn across the drought-stricken state.

At least 23 large fires were reported in California by the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Eight thousand firefighters have been called in to battle the flames. On Friday, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter from the Black Hills in South Dakota was found dead after he went missing in the line of duty.

And hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes. Despite the increase in fires this year, fire officials have told reporters the total number of acres burned has actually been lower due to swift responses from firefighters and forgiving weather.

Many of the fires are believed to have been sparked by lightning, and California officials warn even more dry thunderstorms are expected in the coming days. (Video via NBC)

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[What Exactly Does NASA Use Its Earth Sciences Money For?]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 09:37:00 -0500
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NASA makes a lot of headlines for the outward exploration it does, and rightly so. But it also spends a lot of time looking at Earth. (Video via NASA)

The pale blue dot is so important to NASA, it gets its own category on the agency website next to those for the International Space Station and NASA’s Mars initiatives.

But earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an annual budget that slashed NASA’s Earth sciences funds by 25 percent.

It calls for NASA to get $1.45 billion toward Earth sciences in 2016. (Video via NASA)

With this money, NASA will keep running its fleet of 20 Earth-facing satellites, and continue the development of another 10 for the years ahead. (Video via NASA)

The data from these orbiters informs a constant stream of research studies and other analysis — on everything from rainfall and ice reserves to hurricane behaviors and emissions tracking.

A six-month analysis to show the effects of this year’s rainfall so far? Thank the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite constellation. (Video via NASA)

Drought and wildfire tracking in California? That’s GRACE, and instruments aboard the Aqua satellite

Flood prediction tools to improve safety and minimize economic damage come from GPM satellites. 

And researchers even use these eyes in orbit to help predict the movements of endangered whales.

Keeping all of these going is a high priority for NASA administration. In April and May when the House was weighing its cuts, NASA head Charles Bolden said for all the exploration NASA spearheads to other planets, "none is more important than the one on which we live." (Video via NASA)

The whales probably agree. (Video via National Geographic)

This video includes images from Getty Images and music by Frenic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[NASA Visualizes Just How Much Rain We've Endured — Or Missed]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:21:00 -0500
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Depending on which part of the country you live in, the rain — or the lack of rain — has been bad this year. Now, NASA has released data showing exactly how much some states are suffering.

NASA just released six months of composite data from its Global Precipitation Measurement mission. The joint operation with Japan’s space agency gathers data from a constellation of rain-tracking satellites around the globe. (Video via NASA)

It shows a harshly divided U.S., where parts of the country got way too much rain, and others didn't get nearly enough. (Video via NASA)

The South Central U.S. got swamped, with as many as 40 inches of rainfall in the first six months of the year. (Video via CNBC)

This year to date, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has seen 32.6 inches of precipitation. That’s more than the annual totals for each of the last 10 years.

Meanwhile, most of the other side of the Rockies has seen less than 20 inches of precipitation all year. California in particular is now looking at a year’s worth of “rain debt.”

Typically, the bursts of moisture that get pushed in off the Pacific Ocean water the region over the course of the wet season. (Video via NASA)

But for the last three years, they’ve been so anemic, California now needs need a year’s worth of precipitation just to get back to its average levels.

There’s a stronger-than-usual El Nino brewing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which could bring more rainfall to the state. (Video via KABC)

But NASA researchers say it will take years of higher-than-average precipitation for California to recover.

This video includes images from Getty Images and NASA. 

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<![CDATA[We're Getting Closer To Stopping Ebola]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:11:00 -0500
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Described as a potential "game changer," a new Ebola vaccine could save countless lives. (Video via World Health Organization)

VSV-EBOV underwent a trial in Guinea between April 1 and July 20 of this year. 

The vaccine had a 100 percent success rate in preventing new Ebola cases.

Once it was determined a person had Ebola, the researchers vaccinated a "ring" of family and friends close to the diseased person. Some were vaccinated immediately, while others received delayed vaccinations.  (Video via World Health Organization)

None of the patients who were vaccinated immediately contracted the virus. Of the group who received delayed vaccinations, 16 contracted Ebola.

The World Health Organization said the research, which was published in the British medical journal The Lancet, was an "extremely promising development." (Video via World Health Organization)

The trial will now expand its patient criteria to children ages 13 to 17. It'll also be given immediately to all of the patients, rather than having a separate group receiving a delayed vaccination. (Video via Doctors Without Borders)

Since its outbreak early last year, Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the three countries hit hardest by the disease. (Video via World Health Organization)

This video contains images from World Health Organization / S. Hawkey and music from Birocratic / CC BY ND 3.0.

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<![CDATA[How Pro Athletes Fared When Returning From Cancer]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 23:49:00 -0500
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"There was many times when I was like, 'Man, I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow.' I'd just be up thinking, scared to go to sleep. Then it'd be a point where I'd be like, 'Forget it. I'm going to sleep. If I don't wake up, I don't wake up," Berry said in a press conference. 

Kansas City Chiefs all-pro safety Eric Berry returned to the practice field Wednesday after an eight-month battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. (Video via KSHB)

Now that Berry's back, he can draw inspiration from other athletes who beat cancer and led successful professional lives.

In 2009, doctors diagnosed Boston College linebacker and 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich with a rare bone cancer. Herzlich came back in 2010 for Boston College and made 65 tackles that season. (Video via ESPN)

"When I picture my fight through all this, the end result is me running out of the tunnel with the team behind me going through that banner," Herzlich said.

Herzlich eventually signed with the New York Giants, where he won a Super Bowl in his rookie season and where he still plays as a backup linebacker. (Video via USA Network)

Former NFL punter Josh Bidwell sat out the 1999 season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He then bounced back, won the starting punting job and had an 11-year NFL career. He was selected to the pro bowl once following the 2005 season.

Athletes from other sports have also proved it's possible to return to all-pro form after a cancer diagnosis.

NHL legend Mario Lemieux won his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same type of cancer Berry had, in 1993. (Video via Mario Lemieux Foundation)

He missed 24 games because of radiation treatments, then came back in the middle of the season to lead the league in scoring.

And finally, MLB first baseman Andrés Galarraga came back in 2000 after sitting out the 1999 season from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He blasted a home run in his first at-bat of the year and went on to hit .302 and earn comeback player of the year honors.

Galarraga actually beat a return of the same cancer in 2004, and retired the year after with a 20-year-long career in the majors.

Fans will have their first chance to see Berry in action Aug. 15 when the Chiefs play their preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. (Video via KSHB

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Friday's Lunar Event Happens Once In A Blue Moon]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 11:44:00 -0500
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Look up at the sky Friday night, and you'll see a moon so rare, it lives up to that old saying.

Okay, so you won't actually see a blue moon Friday night — more like a whitish-gray one.

Still, it's pretty rare. If you miss this year's, you won't see another until January 2018. While each month usually has only one full moon, a blue moon is a second, sneaking its way in.

The cause is really just the difference between the lunar calendar and the solar one that months are based on.

And while Friday's moon may not necessarily be blue, NASA says moons can actually appear blue.

The secret lies with volcanic eruptions and forest fires. Specifically, the ash they release into the sky; each can be a millionth of a meter in size. (Video via National Geographic)

That's about the same size as red light on the electromagnetic spectrum, making the ash particles perfect for scattering red light and letting blue and green reach our eyes.

Something similar happens when the moon sits low on the horizon, only in this case, the moon looks red.

Just like volcanoes or forest fires, other particles in the air can also affect the color. Except in this case, those particles match the size of the wavelength of blue light and filter it out.

Be sure to check out the "blue moon" on Friday — even if it is white. You won't see something like this again for two and a half years.

This video includes images via Daniel / CC BY NC ND 2.0Luis Vásquez / CC BY NC ND 2.0, Carl Jones / CC BY NC 2.0, davidsancar / CC BY 2.0 and David Yu / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music from Revolution Void / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Learning A Skill? Raw Talent Might Trump Hard Work]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:56:00 -0500
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Conventional wisdom says if you want to play at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden –– even your local talent show –– it's going to take a lot of practice. 

But too much faith may be put in the saying "practice makes perfect."

Researchers from McGill University recently published a study in the journal Cerebral Cortex saying while certain parts of your brain get molded by experience, others are based on talent.

The researchers studied 14 adults between the ages of 20 and 34 who wanted to learn how to play the piano.

Music gives interesting insights into learning since there's both the bottom-up, sensory information in the notes you hear, as well as the top-down, abstractly reasoned rules you learn for what makes or breaks a melody.

Past studies have shown certain areas of the brain can be characterized as having more bottom-up roles and others have more top-down functions.

You need both types to learn a new skill. But the researchers showed not all parts of your brain change for the better with practice, so what you start with can affect how well you learn.

The study design went something like this: Brain scans measured activity in both bottom-up and top-down regions. Next came six weeks-worth of piano training, with participants progressing through harder and harder levels. (Videos via Cambridge Brain Sciences and Pianist Magazine

Then a final brain scan with auditory tests. In these, music was played (bottom-up, sensory information) and participants judged if notes fit with the overall melody (the top-down ability to imagine music). 

The researchers found the abstract parts of the brain improved with participants' piano skills. But the sensory-encoding parts of the brain didn't. 

But most importantly, how active or "good" the participants' sensory-encoding  aspects were before they started playing the piano predicted how quickly or slowly they'd learn how to play.

The study shows which parts of the brain predispose you to the speed at which you learn. We should note though, the study was a short-term one, and more brain changes may occur in the long-run. 

This video includes images from Getty ImagesMorgan / CC BY 2.0Russ Allison Loar / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music from Little Glass Men / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Utah Teen Is Allergic To Proteins In All Solid Foods]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 12:32:00 -0500
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For the past four years, a Utah man hasn't been able to eat solid food because he's allergic to the proteins found in it. 

19-year-old Alex Visker told People: "I can't even put something in my mouth just to taste it, and that's hard because I remember what food tastes like. ... But I don't want to feel miserable."

WebMD reports about 4 percent of teens and young adults have food allergies. 

"Somebody eats a peanut and their immune system causes an immediate response. They might get hives, shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing, persistent vomiting, even low blood pressure," said Dr. Karen Demuth from Emory University

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says the foods that the majority of those with food allergies react to are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. 

But Visker's allergies are extremely rare, since eating any solid food gives him hives and extreme nausea. 

So much so, that People reports Visker missed more than 300 days of high school. His doctors have found that having Visker get nutrients through a feeding tube bypasses any allergic reactions. 

Because Visker's medical bills are so high — about $7,000 every month — his family has set up a GoFundMe page. So far, more than $6,000 has been raised. 

Visker hopes to one day attend an online college and become a computer programmer. 

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<![CDATA[The Pluto Payoff Is Helping NASA's 2016 Budget Prospects]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:42:00 -0500
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NASA was on Capitol Hill this week, making the case for its planetary exploration budget. (Video via Google Earth)

It’s holding up its New Horizons mission to Pluto as ongoing evidence for the importance of that funding.

In recent days, information from the piano-sized probe has shown a minor planet that's larger than expected, with its own hazy hydrocarbon atmosphere and evidence of an internal ocean.

Maybe even more exciting, NASA has received only 5 percent of the data New Horizons has collected so far. It will take until sometime in 2016 to transmit the rest of it back, and actual analysis is expected to take years. (Video via NASA)

Dr. John Grunsfeld of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate asked, "Are we alone? We are on the cusp of being able to answer that question … because of the investments we're making in space technology."

Rhetoric aside, he has a point, and some lawmakers seem to see it.

“It is crucial that NASA continue to explore our solar system. Planetary science teaches us about how our solar system works and provides clues about how it was formed,” said committee chairman Lamar Smith. (Video via the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

NASA's budget has big implications for its current and future projects: Maintenance costs on the New Horizons mission alone will have hit some $700 million by the end of 2016.

And it’s planning two more exploration-class missions to Mars and Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, for the mid-2020s — which needs funding from somewhere. (Video via NASA)

All the while, its budget is the subject of vigorous legislative discussion. 

In June, the House approved a 2016 NASA budget that increased funds for planetary exploration at the expense of its Earth sciences budget: The money it allocates to Earth-facing research. (Video via Newsy)

And then there's the president's proposed $3.99 trillion budget for 2016, of which Nasa would get… $18.5 billion, or 0.4 percent. (Video via NASAYouTube)

That proposal would slice $77 million from NASA's exploration budget. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology would see that restored.

“I would like us, as members of Congress, to step aside and make sure we provide you the resources you need, and expect that we may not know the value of that for 50 years in the running. I am indeed okay with that,” said committee member Donna Edwards. (Video via the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

This video includes images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Young Boy Undergoes First Bilateral Hand Transplant On Child]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:56:00 -0500
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Surgeons at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, announced they have successfully completed the world's first bilateral hand transplant on a child.

"When I was two, I had to get my hands cut off, because I was sick. I don't know what a child's hand looks like," said Zion Harvey.

Eight-year-old Zion Harvey lost both his hands and feet to a serious infection when he was just two years old. Earlier this month, doctors from Penn Medicine joined the CHOP team in a 10-hour surgical transplant of two hands for Zion. (Video via The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

The surgery, though completed early in July, was just announced Tuesday. L. Scott Levin, CHOP's director of the Hand Transplantation Program, said the surgeons took what they learned from the first bilateral hand transplant on an adult in 2011 and adapted that knowledge for Zion's surgery.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Zion's family was looking for prosthetics for the eight-year-old when they were introduced to Dr. Levin. The outlet quotes Zion's mom who said, "We came for prosthetics and the next thing we knew we were getting hands."

And things are looking up for the little guy. Doctors say he'll spend a few more weeks in rehabilitation before he'll be discharged. Starting with monthly checkups at first, Zion will eventually only need to be seen by a doctor annually.

Zion told NBC he's looking forward to having fun with his little sister.

"Pick up my little sister from daycare, and wait for her to run into my hands and I pick her up and spin her around," he said.

And doctors are hoping they can use what they've learned in Zion's transplant for future surgeries.

"What might we say about Zion Harvey in 10 years or 15 years? What might we say about this? I hope he's the first of literally hundreds or thousands of patients that are going to be afforded this operation," said L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Woman Hasn't Used Shampoo In More Than 3 Years]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:23:00 -0500
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When we go to wash our hair, we usually use shampoo, right?

Well, meet Lucy Aitken Read. Shampoo hasn't touched her red locks in more than three years. 

Instead, every 10 days, Aitken Read pours vinegar on her hair or cracks an egg over her head. 

"If you can't eat it, don't wash your hair with it. If you can eat it, then you should jolly well try and see what it does for your hair! It might be amazing!" Aitken Read says in a video on her blog

On her blog, Lulastic and the Hippyshake, Aitken Read wrote her hair is actually shinier and grows faster than it did when she used shampoo. 

The Huffington Post reports Aitken Read stopped using shampoo after she learned it could contain potentially harmful chemicals: "I always thought I'd used organic, healthy shampoo, but when I went upstairs and grabbed the bottle I was using I realized the ingredients were full of synthetic chemicals I'd never heard of."

So what are some other alternatives to shampoo besides eggs and vinegar?

A writer for Mother Earth Living suggests massaging baking soda into wet hair, saying it "removes styling product buildup."

And The Hippy Homemaker blog gives a few other options, such as using herbal infused tea, clay and honey in place of shampoo.

For healthier hair, Aitken Read also suggests washing your hair less often each week.

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<![CDATA[Oil Not Among Companies Giving $140B To Fight Global Warming]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:00:00 -0500
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The American Business Act on Climate Pledge is a new initiative by the White House, and it involves a lot of major U.S. companies. 

Thirteen in total. The list includes the holy trinity of tech companies, Apple, Google and Microsoft; both major soda companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo; and the world's largest company by revenue, Wal-Mart — just to name a few. 

According to the White House, the overall goal of the plan is to "increase energy efficiency, boost low-carbon investing, and make solar energy more accessible."

In more specific terms, more than $140 billion will be invested in new low carbon ventures and these companies will produce more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy.

All of the companies involved have made different pledges and picked their own timelines for getting the job done. Apple, for example, says it plans to bring an estimated 280 megawatts of clean power generation online by the end of 2016.

On the other hand, metals company Alcoa is giving itself until 2025 to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in the U.S.

This comes ahead of the landmark United Nations conference on climate change at the end of this year in Paris. Many believe President Obama is working to position the U.S. as a leader on the issue by committing to a 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.

TIME points out as great as this initiative could be, "The list of companies notably lacks an oil company, and it remains to be seen whether one will join."

And oil companies are very very important to the climate change equation, perhaps more important than any other industry. 

According to the Climate Accountability Institute, 63 percent of the carbon dioxide and methane emitted between 1751 and 2010 come from just 90 entities 

According to the White House, another round of similar pledges is expected to be announced later this fall.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Science, Tech Leaders Warn Of Worldwide AI Arms Race]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:24:00 -0500
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It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi flick, but major players in the tech and science industries are warning world leaders an artificial intelligence arms race could be a problem in the future.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, among other prominent figures, are warning world leaders of the potential problem as autonomous military weapons continue to grow.

In a letter presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, the group says, "AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms."

The argument, as The Guardian points out, is going to war would be an easier decision if robots are the ones fighting. 

Drone strikes are already a contentious issue in the U.S., but reliable statistics for how many are killed by those strikes overseas every year are tough to come by.

 Civilian deaths caused by drones are also an issue, though President Obama's defended their use

"Actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part, they've been very precise precision strikes against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and we're very careful in terms of how it's been applied," Obama said.  

Musk has warned of this kind of AI takeover before, including this August 2014 tweet reading "We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes." 

The letter asks the United Nations to ban the use of autonomous weapons. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Calif. Water Shortage Stoking Napa Valley's Wildfire Problem]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 12:03:00 -0500
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Firefighters are still working to put out a wildfire threatening Napa Valley, California, which has already spread over 7,000 acres.

NBC reported over 1,800 firefighters had 55 percent of the fire contained Saturday, and a mandatory evacuation order has been lifted — though the area's hills have been major obstacles.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the Los Angeles Times"Crews are having to hike way into there. ... It's not like we've had fire engines driving right into where the fire's at."

This map from the department shows just how bad the state's wildfire problem is; few current wildfires have been contained.

This is California's fourth year in a row of severe drought, creating the perfect conditions for fires to spark and spread.

The fire captain told KSWB"If we don’t have water to drink, we definitely won't have water to fight fires."

According to USA Today, wildfires have already burned a total of 5.5 million acres in the U.S. this year — the highest total since 2011.

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<![CDATA['Fantastic Four' Promos Explain The Science Of Superheroes]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 10:55:00 -0500
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"Remember, science and fantasy aren't too far away from each other," Dr. Michio Kaku says in a "Fantastic Four" featurette. 

20th Century Fox's promotions for the upcoming superhero flick "Fantastic Four" are turning heads by explaining the science behind the fiction in the film.

The studio has teamed up with renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku to create featurettes about the realities, and near possibilities, of the film's most fantastic elements — like alternate dimensions.

"An electron could have ended up anywhere. But only by noticing it did we pin it down to this reality. ... What about all the other realities that may coexist with ours? They vibrate at different quantum frequencies," Kaku says in a featurette.

And even the characters' powers, like invisibility, are more realistic than you might think.

"Metamaterials interact with light in bizarre ways. Here we see this Pyrex glass that seemingly disappears right before our eyes. The Pyrex and the oil have what we call, the same refractive index," Kaku says in a featurette.

Other scientists besides Kaku have long been trying to explain superhero phenomena. Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson got a cameo in a Superman comic after identifying the real-life version of Krypton, Superman's home planet.

And a physics professor who volunteers at the National Academy of Sciences says it's in studios best interest to get some of the science right.

"They don’t want to make something that’s 100 percent scientifically accurate because that would defeat the purpose of the escapist fantasy we paid our money to see, but rather they need to get it right enough that the audience buys into and doesn't stop and question the suspension of disbelief," professor James Kakalios.

And science can make us not want a superpower. Wired magazine's calculations show the speed and strength of Spider-Man's webs would probably kill those he's trying to save. (Video via Columbia Pictures / "The Amazing Spider-Man 2")

Still, we have a lot to learn from our favorite superheroes –– even the ones as human as we are. (Video via Paramount Pictures / "Iron Man")

"Basically I'm here to announce we're building Iron Man," President Obama said at a press conference.

The Pentagon is developing suits with exoskeletons that would lift hundreds of pounds, helmets that sense hidden threats and liquid armor that hardens when struck by bullets.

If you're wondering, batteries are actually the biggest issue for real-life Iron Man suits. So far, they either last less than an hour or emit enough power for the suit-wearer to run only 2.5 mph.

It's ironic that we can make something invisible, yet can't create a long-lasting battery. But the real effect of the "Fantastic Four" featurettes might flip what we think of as "super" on its head. 

You can check out all the featurettes on 20th Century Fox's YouTube channel.

This video includes music by Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Everything We've Learned About Pluto This Week]]> Sun, 26 Jul 2015 07:07:00 -0500
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Last time we checked on Pluto, New Horizons had just spotted a range of relatively young mountains made mostly of ice. (Video via Newsy)

In the last week or so, New Horizons has sent back a trove of new data, on more than just mountains. Here’s a rundown of its findings. (Video via NASA)

On its way past, New Horizons captured some of the best images yet of Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra. Yes, they’re still blurry, but more data is coming. And remember: a couple weeks ago these moons still looked like a few pixels to us.

Smooth ice plains on Pluto might be the work of convective processes from beneath its surface, and suggest the planet could still be geologically active.

Some of this ice flows like glaciers, despite the balmy ambient temperature of 390 degrees below zero.

 

Though they’re shorter than the Norgay range New Horizons first spotted, these darker peaks are thought to be much older: on the order of billions of years.

This is a cleaned-up false-color image from New Horizons’ cameras on approach. Looking pretty good, considering this time a few months ago Pluto still looked like this.

You can’t see it in those images, but scientists have also found particulate haze in Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere. Once New Horizons got past Pluto and the sun shone through it, scientists found it was about 50 miles thick.

This haze starts as methane. Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks it into other hydrocarbon molecules known as tholins, which then fall on Pluto’s surface as a sort of exotic snow and give it that reddish color. (Video via NASA)

The best part is all these features are still just the tip of the iceberg. Researchers won’t even receive all of New Horizons' data until about 16 months from now.

The probe itself, meanwhile, is headed further out into the Kuiper Belt: the ring of icy debris beyond Neptune’s orbit. Researchers hope to pick at least one target there for New Horizons to visit. (Video via NASA)

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

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<![CDATA[Top 3 Amusing Things We Learned From Studies This Week]]> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 13:13:00 -0500
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Often, when we think of studies, our minds automatically go to more serious topics, like medical breakthroughs or technology. But this week, some of the studies released were a bit more on the lighthearted part of the spectrum. They were even — dare we say — fun. 

First, have a sweet tooth? You can blame your family for that one. 

Researchers discovered there's actually a gene that affects how sweet a person thinks something tastes. 

To come to this conclusion, they had about 250 pairs of identical twins, 450 pairs of fraternal twins, and just over 500 unpaired individuals test four different types of sugar — two were natural and two were synthetic sweeteners. 

Turns out, genes account for a 30 percent of "person-to-person variance in sweet taste perception."

"Researchers say some people are born with an inability to process sweets normally. So they need more than others to satisfy their urge," NBC's Matt Lauer reported. 

Next, striving for the perfect vacation? 

We've got you covered. Researchers in Finland studied 54 people who went on vacation for an average of 23 days and came up with this fun tip. 

First, while quick weekend trips are fun, longer vacations are more relaxing. 

"The Journal of Happiness Studies claims holiday happiness peaks at day eight. Leave Friday night, come home a week from Sunday. You'll only miss five days off work," an ABC reporter says

Another tip: Go somewhere new. A psychiatrist told The Wall Street Journal"Once we've already seen somewhere we're not necessarily absorbing what's new about it. People who always go to the same place will often sort of start to have memories blur."

Finally, want to know the best way to embarrass your kids? Apparently, if you're a dad, all you have to do is dance. 

The Thorpe Park Resort in the U.K. spoke with around 2,000 people to discover what caused their children discomfort. 

Besides dads dancing, it was revealed that moms dancing, parents trying to use "youthful lingo," and telling stories from their kids' childhoods all made children want to run and hide. (Video via NBC / "The Tonight Show")

The Telegraph spoke to a psychologist to try to help bridge the gap between these types of parents and their embarrassed offspring. 

Her advice for parents is, "Try to remember how embarrassing your own parents were and then vow not to repeat the cycle." While she wants to tell kids, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and copying you is their way of demonstrating how proud of you they are."

This video includes images from Getty Images and stringy / CC BY NC 2.0 and music from Pierlo / CC BY 3.0 and Kevin MacLeod / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[GMO Food Bill Moves Forward Amid Animosity And Confusion]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 13:39:00 -0500
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The House of Representatives passed a bill barring states from requiring GMO labels on bioengineered foods –  and the political divide is so deep it even affects the name of the bill. 

The Republican-controlled House passed H.R. 1599 under the name "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act," but some liberal consumer groups and Congress members prefer "The Denying Americans the Right to Know," or "DARK" Act.

Supporters say it will keep food costs down and make agriculture less complicated. The bill would override state legislatures that have passed laws requiring that companies using Genetically Modified Organisms — or GMOs — include that information on food labels. 

Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have already passed such laws. 

In a Facebook post, the House Agriculture Committee said this bill "establishes a voluntary, nation-wide program that gives consumers what they want while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation."

As you may have gathered from the name "DARK Act," detractors aren't too happy. They say it keeps consumers in the dark about the real ingredients in their food. 

The science around GMOs has been clouded in the debate. A Pew Research study showed that 88 percent of scientists think GMOs are safe for consumption, but only 37 percent of American adults think the same.

The bill now heads to the Senate, and it still carries its official name: "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Another Concern At The Ocean: Dirty Beach Sand]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:26:00 -0500
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If you think you can protect yourself from danger at the ocean by staying on the sand, think again. A new study found that sandy beaches might not be as clean as you think. 

Dr. Marc Frischer of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Georgia told WSAV, "There's about 100 times more bacteria in the sand, per the same amount of volume, as there was in the water."

That's right, sandy beaches are dirtier than the ocean waves.

A new study out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa found E. coli, known for causing abdominal problems, in beach sand due to sewage contamination.

The researchers found that the bacteria tends to decay more slowly on the beach than in the water.

ABC did its own experiment and took samples of sand from three different beaches to be tested at Stanford University. Its findings were similar to those in the study.

"It's not unusual. We find this bacteria in sand at beaches all over the country and all over the world," Dr. Alexandria Boehm told ABC

To prevent getting sick from the sand, here are some tips: Keep a close eye on your children to make sure sand doesn't reach their mouth, keep your hands clean, and be aware of beach restrictions.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music by Podington Bear / CC by NC 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Even A Grounded SpaceX Likely To Keep Its Market Advantage]]> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:16:00 -0500
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SpaceX says a failed strut caused the explosion of its ISS supply launch last month. (Video via NASA)

Maybe the company should hire more people familiar with the Kerbal Space Program. (Video via Kerbal Space Program)

Anyway, SpaceX's Falcon 9 series is grounded until the investigation is complete. 

But the setbacks probably won't damage SpaceX's position in the commercial space race, if only because its competition has its own set of problems.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is arguably SpaceX's most serious competition, as it's the only other group with  government certification to launch military payloads. (Video via United Launch Alliance)

But SpaceX has undercut ULA's prices from the beginning, and that's only getting worse.

Corporate wants ULA to trim its budget. CEO Tory Bruno says, "They've had us on a very short leash" since last year, trying to catch SpaceX.

What's more, SpaceX's Merlin engines are U.S.-made, not sourced from Russia the way some of ULA's engines are. (Video via SpaceX)

That's a point of controversy and political wrangling. Congress plans to ban the import of RD-180 engines from Russia in 2019, a move ULA execs worry could hand SpaceX a monopoly on some commercial launches. (Video via United Launch Alliance)

In the meantime, Fortune reports a bunch of commercial communications providers — and NASA — are now stuck waiting. The rides to space that aren't booked for the next several years have their own share of explosive reliability issues to work through. (Video via NASAYouTube)

SpaceX, for its part, plans to inspect each individual strut it uses from now on.

When he discussed the failure, CEO Elon Musk said"To some degree I think the company as a whole became maybe a little bit complacent after 20 successes in a row."

Falcon 9 service will resume in September at the earliest.

This video includes images from Getty Images and SpaceX / CC 0.

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<![CDATA[NASA's Kepler Peers Into Space, Uncovers Earth-Like Planet]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:43:00 -0500
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Are we alone in the universe? To answer that, NASA's Kepler space program has searched the cosmos for planets like ours. On July 23, they announced they'd discovered "Earth 2.0."

They call it Kepler-452b. It's close to the same size as Earth and revolves around a star that's roughly the same surface temperature as our sun. But this star is older, thus 20 percent brighter than the sun, and Kepler 452-b orbits it every 385 days.

Now, this isn't the program's first discovery of a potentially habitable planet, but it's the most like Earth yet. Its star and our sun release the same amount of energy. And the new planet's distance from its star matches that of the Earth and the sun.

Alright, let's get back to the basics. Think of the Kepler spacecraft as a roaming telescope. 

Its mission is to search the Milky Way Galaxy for planets one-half to two times the size of Earth, revolving around their stars' "habitable zones" — more on that in a bit.

The probe estimates a planet's size by calculating how much light is blocked from our view when it crosses its star. And the time it takes a planet to cross helps us estimate the size of its orbit. 

Since evolutionary theory says life on Earth began in water, finding oceans on other planets is the next logical step.

Planets' distances from their stars have to be just right. Too close, and the water is a gas. Too far, and it's ice. Researchers call it the habitable zone, or "Goldilocks Zone."

In 2011, the Kepler mission confirmed its first potentially habitable planet, revolving around a star similar to the sun, at the perfect distance for liquid water. But having the potential for life doesn't mean a planet does.

Mainly because liquid water isn't the only thing needed for life. Space.com's recipe for a habitable planet gives us a good idea of the delicate balance of what's required. 

So you can see why Kepler's new findings are so exciting, but until more details are discovered, Earth is still one of a kind.

This video includes images from NASA and PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE / CC BY NC ND 2.0

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<![CDATA[Breathe Easy: Boa Constrictors Don't Suffocate Their Prey]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:50:00 -0500
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For years, scientists thought when boa constrictors wrap tightly around their prey, they were suffocating their dinner.

But it turns out that theory was probably wrong.

Researchers from Dickinson College wanted to find out what's really happening when boa constrictors kill their food. They discovered the snake is actually cutting off the animal's blood, not its air.

National Geographic explains: "Once blood flow ceases, organs with high metabolic rates — such as the brain, the liver, and the heart itself — begin to shut down. Doctors call this ischemia. Snakes call it lunch."

"And we believe that that's a valuable piece of information, something that's interesting to know just in general how snakes function but also specifically to understand how those snakes evolved, how they came about, why they became so successful, why there are so many species to day," said lead researcher Scott Boback, associate professor of biology at Dickinson College.

In 2012, Dickinson researchers also discovered how long the snakes squeeze is based on the victim's heartbeat.

The study involved putting the rats to sleep and measuring their blood pressure as the constrictor squeezed them. The rats died, but the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee reviewed the project to "make sure [they] did not experience pain or suffer."

This study's findings will be published in the August issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology.

This video includes music by Birocratic / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Unusual Sea Hares Spotted In Florida Waters]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:45:00 -0500
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Ever seen this slimy-looking thing before at the beach? Many of these sea creatures have been spotted recently along the Florida coast. 

"Essentially they're like a snail without a shell," Dr. Zach Jud from the Florida Oceanographic Society said. 

"They're called Atlantic black sea hares and can grow to be a foot long," a WPTV reporter said

"There were just so many of them, I – we couldn't even count them. ... They're black and kind of slimy," beachgoer Harriet Conn said. 

The good news for beachgoers, according to Newsy's partners at WPTV, is that these sea hares are harmless to humans. 

Sea hares defend themselves from predators by emitting a purple ink. It's usually their last line of defense.  

As for why it's called a sea hare?

"They have little projections on their head that make them look almost like a rabbit," Jud said. 

The Florida Oceanographic Society says that because of their extensive neural circuits — interconnecting neurons in the brain that pass messages — sea hares are often utilized in medical research. 

It also says anyone who comes across a sea hare washed up on the beach should just scoop it up and put it back in the water. 

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<![CDATA['Fat Guy' Back On The Road, Biking Across America]]> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 07:10:00 -0500
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Eric Hites is a 560-pound man taking transformation to a whole new level. In a mission he himself calls "Fat Guy Across America," he's biking from the East to West Coast to lose weight. 

Hites started in Massachusetts, and he told The Newport Daily News he lost 60 pounds in the first two weeks.

But 90 miles from where he started, equipment problems slowed him down, and for days he was stuck in Rhode Island. 

So many people have been inspired by his story, though, he's already received almost $2,500 in donations for a new bike on his GoFundMe page. 

But that money is probably going to be used for the camping aspect of his trip instead. Rhode Island bike shop owner Rob Purdy actually built Hites a new bike, which reportedly should make it all the way to California. 

Purdy told WCAU"I was pretty inspired. I was like, he's kind of crazy, you know what I mean? That's an interesting way to approach trying to lose weight and get your life on track." 

But losing weight is actually Hites' second goal. On his trip's blog, he said his No. 1 goal is "to prove things to my wife and my love." 

Hites told The Newport Daily News the more than 800 people following his trip keeps him motivated. He said, "By completing this ride I hope to encourage others to get up and get moving no matter their weight." 

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<![CDATA[Eli Lilly's New Drug Could Lead To Alzheimer's Cure]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 09:04:00 -0500
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On Wednesday, a new drug is being unveiled that scientists say has the potential to cure Alzheimer's, a disease that so far has only had its symptoms treated. 

The Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company will debut their new drug solanezumab at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

The drug is said to be an antibody to amyloid plaques, a cause of the disease. These plaques are sticky proteins that bind together, blocking brain cells from communicating with one another. 

Most of the company's recent test results of the drug have been kept secret, though. 

Of the previous treatments tested by the company that were shared, one actually made the disease worse. Then trials in 2012 showed a new version slowed brain deterioration in those who took the treatment during the early stages of the disease. (Video via Eli Lilly and Company)

The director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK said in a press release"While everyone was disappointed when solanezumab failed to meet its primary outcome measures in two phase III trials, there was evidence that the treatment was slowing down the disease process in people with mild Alzheimer's."

But an analysis by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, published in January 2014 in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the drug to a placebo for that same group — those with mild to moderate Alzheimer's — and found no measurable benefit for the drug.

Today's unveiling by Eli Lilly will at least put the company's research up for comparison. It is possible that the drug's efficacy has been improved in the year and a half since the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study analysis.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[How Humans Landed In The Americas Might Not Be So Simple]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 07:22:00 -0500
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New research from Harvard is putting a wrench in the prevailing theory about where native North and South Americans came from. 

For years, many researchers believed a single large wave migrated through Eurasia and modern day Alaska to populate the Americas roughly 15,000 years ago. 

But now, genetic analysis from skeletal studies shows some Amazonian tribes share more in common genetically with native populations in Australia and New Guinea. 

This study, published in the journal Nature, suggests there could have been two migratory waves that populated the Americas. 

The findings go against two recently discovered genetic links to modern Native Americans. One was found in the DNA of 11,000-year-old feces in Oregon, and another in a 12,000-year-old skeleton found in a Mexican underwater cave. 

But it's in line with 2003 findings that ancient Brazilian and Colombian skulls resembled those of Australians more than other Native Americans. 

It also supports a 2012 study led by the same Harvard genetics researcher, David Reich.

The Harvard lab said genetic analysis of Amazonian tribes had been relatively sparse until now. It compared the genomes of 30 Native American groups to each other and 197 other populations from around the globe. 

The vast comparisons showed three Amazonian tribes still had more in common genetically with native people from Australia and New Guinea than any group native to Siberia. 

The study does have its critics, like geneticist Dr. Cecil Lewis Jr. of the University of Oklahoma, who argues Amazonian populations have low genetic diversity, which, "raises very serious questions about the role of chance … in creating this Australasian affinity."

However, there's never been genetic evidence linking Native Americans to groups beyond Eurasia, and at the very least, this research is making scientists wonder if the ancestry of the Americas is more complicated than previously imagined. 

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<![CDATA[NIH Body Weight Planner Cuts Through Calorie Confusion]]> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 04:11:00 -0500
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Weight loss and fitness are about a whole lot more than sticking to a 2,000 calorie diet.

And the National Institutes of Health wants to help you figure out the “whole lot more” with its Body Weight Planner, a calculator that uses your weight, sex, age, height and physical activity to help you determine what your diet and exercise should look like in order to reach your goal weight.

And here's some good news: Unlike some weight loss plans and strategies, this one's backed by actual science.

"The math model behind the Body Weight Planner ... was created to accurately forecast how body weight changes when people alter their diet and exercise habits. [It] was validated using data from multiple controlled studies in people."

If you want to calculate your calorie and weight loss goals, head over to the website and plug in your information — the planner will guide you every step of the way. And if you're a little more experienced, there's even a detailed Expert Mode.

As an example, a 25-year-old, 5'5" woman weighing 150 pounds who leads a moderately active lifestyle would need to add some light running to her exercise regimen and reduce her diet to a little over 2,000 calories in order to reach her goal weight of 132 pounds in half a year.

OK, that was certainly a lot to take in. We'd encourage you to give the planner a try yourself — there are quite a few knobs and gears to turn. Now, there are a lot of calorie and fitness trackers — with plenty of knobs and gears — on the market. So what makes this one any different?

TIME points out the Body Weight Planner is unique because of its detailed calculations. "Adding in a routine of light running isn't the same as starting intense swimming, and in a distinctive feature, the calculator doesn’t weigh all physical activity equally."

The planner actually asks how, when and what kind of exercise you'll incorporate into your daily life to reach your goal weight, all while giving you a timeline for that goal — 180 days for our aforementioned example.

After you've figured out your calorie count and exercise plan, the site encourages you to sign up for the USDA's SuperTracker. SuperTracker gives you a detailed meal plan and help you stay on track with your physical activity goals.

A USDA executive explains how the two work together"The NIH Body Weight Planner helps consumers make a plan to reach their goals on their timeline, and SuperTracker helps them achieve it."

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Tools like the USDA's SuperTracker and the NIH's Body Weight Planner can help us achieve, and then maintain, a healthy weight. (Video via Cleveland Clinic)

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Brenticus / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Florida's 9 Leprosy Cases Linked To Armadillos]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 19:15:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Floridians to avoid armadillos after a rise in leprosy cases. 

According to local outlets, nine cases have been reported so far this year. That's nearly Florida's annual average, within just seven months. (Video via Jim Mullhaupt / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

"What's happened this year is not necessarily concerning, but what is interesting is those cases involved people who were in direct contact with armadillos," Dr. Sunil Joshi told WFOX

The CDC says some armadillos are "naturally infected" with leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease. It's a bacterial infection that can affect the nerves and damage the skin.

"Armadillos carry it and never show any symptoms. But if a human handles it, it can be transferred to humans," Ron Magill told WFOR

To make matters worse, it's breeding season for armadillos, and Floridians could see more of them than usual.

Despite the high number of cases this year, the risk of contracting leprosy from an armadillo is still low. The CDC says the disease is treatable, and experts advise people to immediately wash their hands if they come into contact with an armadillo. (Video via Granger Meador / CC BY NC 2.0)

This video includes images from Getty Images, Jim Mullhaupt / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Robert Nunnally / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Science Confirms The Dad Bod Exists]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:26:00 -0500
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Once again, it's time to talk about the dad bod. 

"Undefined abs and maybe even a little bit of flab are actually in. GQ's even coined it the dawn of the dad bod," ABC reports.

It's described as "a nice balance between a beer gut and working out" and really went viral thanks to a Clemson University student's article about why women supposedly love them so much. 

Now, a new study out of Northwestern University says the dad bod is real. Published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, the study followed more than 10,000 men for 20 years, starting when they were 12 years old.

It found fatherhood caused a weight gain of about 3.5 to 4.5 pounds, or a jump in body mass index of about 2.6 for men. 

At first, the findings surprised researchers who previously found dads try to clean up their act when they have kids. 

But as lead author Dr. Craig Garfield explains, "You have new responsibilities when you have your kids and may not have time to take care of yourself the way you once did in terms of exercise."

In contrast, researchers found men without kids lost 1.4 pounds over the same 20-year period.

But don't worry, single, skinny men. There's still hope if you want to jump on the dad bod train.

"You don't have to be a dad to have a dad bod. You just have to be really lazy."

The researchers suggest because many dads don't have personal physicians, pediatricians can be good sources for advice about fatherhood health.

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<![CDATA[Living In Poverty Might Physically Alter Children's Brains]]> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:04:00 -0500
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The deck is already stacked against children living in poverty, and now, there's growing evidence that living in poverty can negatively affect children's brains.

A study by researchers from universities in Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina found poverty can diminish the brain's gray matter — the tissue that processes information.

The reduction in gray matter volume was found throughout the brain but most noticeably in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and hippocampus –– areas tied to learning.

The researchers found children in a home at one-and-a-half times the federal poverty rate had 3 to 4 percent less gray matter than the average child, and that number more than doubled once a household went below the poverty level.

That had a very real effect in the classroom. Children from low-income households scored four to seven points lower on standardized tests compared to children with higher socio-economic statuses.

The U.S. Census Bureau put the poverty rate for children just under 20 percent in its most recent 2013 finding. The researchers behind the gray matter finding have a pretty controversial solution though. 

They argued funding should be increased for programs that help those below the poverty line — but the effectiveness of those programs has been debated. 

The Head Start program said its funding has been reduced the past few years, leading to 53,000 children being cut from the program. This year, the budget has been restored, but future cuts are feared.

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<![CDATA[Teen's 12-Year HIV Remission Latest 'Functional Cure' Case]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:34:00 -0500
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Researchers at an AIDS conference say a French teen's HIV infection has gone untreated for 12 years, and yet the virus has remained under control. 

It's possible the teen, who was last treated when she was almost 6, might have some sort of natural resistance, or the results could be due to early and more aggressive treatment than what children normally recieve. 

Whatever the cause, the record remission has revived hope for a "functional" HIV cure, where the virus stays at a low level without continuing treatment. (Video via University of California, Santa Cruz)

The last such hope to be reported involved 14 Italian adults who were treated shortly after they were infected. Three years later, the group stopped taking their prescriptions. 

CNN reports"Today, 12 remain in control of their infection and without drugs and they have an average of 10 years in remission."

The French teen's case is important for two reasons: The first being the 12-year remission without treatment, which is unprecedented for such a young subject. 

Additionally, when the teen was a child her treatment was out of the ordinary. 

She received the standard six-week treatment with an anti-viral drug, but that treatment was followed up with a powerful four-drug combination. 

Doctors reporting the news did say the girl experienced one rise in virus levels when she was 11. But even then, the flare up resolved on its own. 

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<![CDATA[A Return Trip To The Moon May Be Easier Than We Thought]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 20:46:00 -0500
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"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind," Neil Armstrong said when humans first reached the moon. (Video via NASA

It's been 46 years since those words were spoken, and more than 42 since anyone has walked on the moon. But a new study says humans could return soon and not even break NASA's bank. 

The study claims humans can be back on the moon in five to seven years, with a permanent base possible just 10 years later. And the cost? Ten billion dollars to go and another $40 billion to stay. That's a lot less than the current $100 billion estimate. (Video via NASA

The low cost is thanks to public-private partnerships. Basically, by using resources from privately owned companies like SpaceX, NASA's current budget will remain unchanged. It's a process NASA already uses to resupply the International Space Station. (Video via NASASpaceX

And what about NASA's plan to head to Mars? Well, researchers say a lunar base could mine resources on the moon, making travel to other destinations easier. Think of it like a space gas station. 

A return to the moon could be blocked by D.C., though. In 2010, President Obama essentially grounded a return to the moon, but that was before the huge price cut. (Video from The White House

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<![CDATA[Search For Alien Life Just Got A $100M Boost]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 13:19:00 -0500
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If you've always wanted an alien friend like E.T., don't give up hope just yet. 

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced Monday he's donating $100 million to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The global initiative is called Breakthrough Listen.

Thanks to the donation, researchers will scan the skies for chatter that could be coming from life on another planet. So, what does $100 million buy when it comes to hunting for aliens? (Video via NASA)

Two things: the first is observation time on the world's best radio telescopes. The Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in Australia will be the new offices for a slew of researchers. (Video via National Geographic)

The giant telescopes will give the team access to 10 times more sky than previous efforts. Researchers hope to find noise in the otherwise "quiet zone" that is usually obscured by the Earth's atmosphere.  (Video via Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Item No. 2 up for purchase: the technology to process the recorded data. Another team will set up shop at the University of California, Berkeley, to begin developing the necessary electronics.

Renewed interest in this project comes on the heels of the latest discovery from NASA's Kepler mission to find habitable planets. NASA found that planets orbiting in the "habitable zone" — where liquid water can exist — are more common than previously thought. 

One of the researchers on the case, astronomer Frank Drake, said in a statement: "Right now there could be messages from the stars flying right through the room, through us all. That still sends a shiver down my spine. The search for intelligent life is a great adventure. And Breakthrough Listen is giving it a huge lift."

And if the effort fails and researchers don't find any aliens? Wired reports Milner says he'll throw more money in the pot.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Over Here! How We Direct Our Attention Might Be Unique]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 11:28:00 -0500
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Humans have longer attention spans than animals?

"Squirrel! ... Hi there," said a character in the film "Up." 

(Video via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / "Up") 

Yeah, no surprise there.

But researchers at Columbia University Medical Center not only mapped the neural networks humans use to control and redirect attention, but also they say the way humans do so could be completely different than other animals. 

In the study, human and primate subjects underwent the same attention task while brain scans were taken. 

All participants had memorized images and were trained to raise a hand when they saw one of those images. But covertly, other small pictures would be displayed. The machine could track where their eyes looked so those brain scan images could be matched with when their attention was redirected and then returned.

Human attention is controlled by two main networks: the dorsal attention network (DAN) and ventral attention network (VAN). The dorsal focuses attention on a specific thing, while the ventral allows you to shift focus.

And, while one is active, the other is silent. The study's lead researcher says, "This give-and-take between the DAN and VAN allows us to reorient our attention to what is most important."

But the primates' brain scans didn't look anything like the human participants'. The primates had no equivalent for the ventral network, and humans' dorsal network had more connections across the brain's two hemispheres.

The stark difference in the species' networks is surprising, given that the type of primate studied and humans share 93 percent of their DNA.

The researchers believe social communication was the driving force behind this adaptation for humans, as those who could pick up subtle messages, like an arched eyebrow, had a better chance of passing on their genes.

Now the researchers are using this finding to better understand schizophrenia, a disorder where people have trouble responding to social cues and expressing emotion. 

They're testing to see how the VAN, the network for shifting focus, communicates with the rest of the brain for people with schizophrenia. If the impairment lies in how their VAN is organized, a treatment might restore a degree of their social communication.

This video includes images via Getty Images and opacity / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Could Canada Be The Standard For Tackling Climate Change?]]> Sat, 18 Jul 2015 22:17:00 -0500
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You may have noticed and now it's official, last year was the hottest year on the globe in the 135 years of actual record keeping. In a newly released report, researchers from around the world found almost every region on Earth saw an increase in temperatures, with 20 countries breaking heat records. (Video via Nasa) 

A high concentration of greenhouse gases is largely to blame for the heat wave. According to the report, worldwide emissions have increased 36 percent compared to 25 years ago. (Video via UNEP

Many countries have already pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But there's one country they should look to for guidance on tackling the very tough issue — Canada.

Oh yes. The land of Justin Bieber and maple syrup touts a 5.1 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2012.

According to Statista, Canada is one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet. The country is responsible for less than 2 percent of global CO2 emissions. Compare that figure to top polluter China, which is responsible for more than 23 percent. (Video via Expedia and Expoza Travel

Canada recently strengthened regulations in vehicle emissions standards and its already clean electricity system. The country has also concentrated on using more renewable fuels, with gasoline being required to contain five percent renewable content. 

A worldwide climate change action agreement could be on the horizon. With the United States, China and the European Union concentrating on reducing emissions, other countries may follow suit. "Other countries will have a harder time avoiding dealing with climate change with the three 800 pound gorillas in the room," geoscience professor Michael Oppenheimer told PBS News Hour. The UN is holding its annual meeting to fight climate change in November. 

And scientists say worldwide buy-in on fighting climate change is urgent because in the last 18 years, 17 of those have been the warmest on record. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Can Psychology Reason Its Way Out Of A Replication Crisis?]]> Sat, 18 Jul 2015 06:59:00 -0500
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Replication. It's the cornerstone of science. Experiments in physics, chemistry, and biology are supposed to show the same results, every time. But psychology seems to be running into some problems.

The issue was magnified in a special issue of Social Psychology. The journal published a failed replication of a 2008 moral judgment study that had been cited almost 200 times. 

The replicators in this recent study failed to get the same findings in the original experiment. One even called it an "epic fail" in a blog post. And it grabbed a lot attention.

The replicators say the original study had too few participants to have a definitive conclusion. But the original experimenter says despite others trying to perfectly recreate her study, she was largely kept in the dark regarding their process.

The controversy isn't limited to this one experiment. In April, Nature published an article in which 100 well-known psychology studies were replicated. Only 39 had their findings confirmed. 

Some in the psychological community noted, however, this ratio isn't as bad as it may seem, considering hard science fields — like cancer biology and drug discovery — actually have worse positive replication rates, according to a Standford University researcher.

Psychological studies are arguably harder to replicate too because human subjects have their own thoughts, feelings, biases and susceptabilities. 

The Economist noted in 2013 one major obstacle to accurate findings is a phenomenon called "priming," where subjects are swayed "by apparently irrelevant actions or events that took place just before the cusp of choice."

It's incredibly difficult for replicators to copy all of the original experimenter's actions, words, tones and demeanors. And replicators can add their own primes as well. Hence, the problem of figuring out who is right.

Funding is down for fields like psychology, political science and economics, in part because of replication woes. The U.S. House approved a bill in May giving roughly 45 percent of social science funding to fields like math, biology and engineering.

Some, though, argue psychology and other social sciences' research affects people's lives enough to merit working through issues like replication.

In regard to Congress' debate over cutting funding, a Washington Post writer said, "The quality of our lives depends a lot on families, schools and economic prosperity — to pick a few fundamental topics that social scientists study."

As the bill awaits the Senate, two large questions remain: How to improve social science replications, and, given a different process of research, if they deserve a different standard in replication success.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Science Attempts To Explain The Scream]]> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:26:00 -0500
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Any movie buff is going to recognize this sound.

It's a scream, of course. More specifically, the most likely overused Wilhelm scream. But it doesn't sound that scary, does it? Turns out science may be able to create a scarier scream. (Video via YouTube / Pokevalley)

We start with a group of neuroscientists at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in New York and Geneva, and their kids. 

"Many of the postdocs in my lab are in the middle of having kids and, of course, screams are very much on their mind," one researcher told NPR"So it made perfect sense for them to be obsessed with this topic."

With screaming on their mind, they decided to figure out what makes a scream, well, a scream.

(Video via Paramount Pictures / 'Psycho')

What they discovered was that screams stir up a part of the brain called the amygdala — a small region of the brain in charge of generating a person's fear response.

Why this happens isn't fully understood, though one researcher told NPR it might have something to do with babies and their need to survive by activating fear in their guardian. 

Speaking to The Washington Post, the same researcher explained some real-world applications: "You could optimize alarm signals. But you can also make scarier movies, scarier soundtracks, scarier YouTube videos. You can scare the bejeezus out of everybody."

This video includes an image from Getty Images and an image from Jack Fussell / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Polar Bears Don't Hibernate Through Summer Starvation]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 20:16:00 -0500
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The poor polar bears can't seem to catch a break. A new study debunks a theory that polar bears are able to make up for a lack of food during the summer, which would have been good news for the vulnerable species. (Video via National Geographic

The theory was that polar bears could enter what was called a "walking hibernation" during the summer months when food can be scarce. Basically, the bears were thought to use less energy by slowing their metabolism to keep from starving. (Video via U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

But the new study found polar bears don't actually have any special protection against summer starvation. One researcher told The Washington Post, "If there was hibernation metabolism … you would see all of them have a very steep, abrupt decline in body temperature, ... but we don’t see that.”

This is just another blow to a species that has struggled with the effects of climate change. 

Just last week, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service noted the "decline of sea ice habitat due to climate change" as the primary threat to polar bears. 

Currently, it's estimated there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears on the planet, with some populations on the decline. 

The research team told The Washington Post this new info will allow more accurate studies on polar bear populations. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, rubyblossom / CC BY-NC 2.0 and trasroid / CC BY-NC 2.0

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<![CDATA[How A New Dinosaur Could Help Science And 'Jurassic Park']]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 15:37:00 -0500
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Two of the biggest problems scientists had with "Jurassic World" were with its raptors. (Video via Universal Pictures / 'Jurassic World')

"A lot of raptors were small and lightly built; those guys look a little bit like they're on steroids," a paleontologist told Downtown Podcast.

"Many dinosaurs had feathers, especially velociraptors," CBS' Ben Tracy said.

A paleontologist he spoke with explained, "It fundamentally changes how you imagine these animals looked and behaved."

But paleontologist Steve Brusatte may have a solution to both of those problems.

"If they want something a little bit bigger and something maybe even a little bit scarier, then I am very happy for the producers to go with Zhenyuanlong," Brusatte said.

He was on a team that recently found a close relative of the raptor in China.

"But it's quite a bit bigger, almost the size of a mule something like that," he explained. "It would have been about 2 meters long, it would've weighted about 20 kilos or so."

Zhenyuanlong's significance lies in its arms — or rather, wings.

"It really really really looks like the wing of birds today. The wing of an eagle, the wing of a vulture. ... What we've never seen before is a dinosaur this size, with wings," Brusatte explained.

It raises a lot of questions about the function of feathers and wings and how exactly they came about. (Video via Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Brusatte posited: "Maybe these wings were being used for display. Think of what a peacock does with its tail. It's not flying with that tail, but it's using it to attract mates or to scare off its rivals. Or maybe this new dinosaur was using its wings to protect its eggs or its nest — or maybe for something else." (Video via YouTube / deepaksankat)

But that's a good thing. 

"For those of us that study fossils, that's a great thing because we love questions. This is now something else that we can go out and try to study," Brusatte said.  

This video includes images from Junchang Lu, Chuang Zhao and hjhipster / CC BY NC 2.0.

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<![CDATA[10-Year-Old's Condition Is So Rare, It's Nameless]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 09:04:00 -0500
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A 10-year-old Florida boy is beginning his path to recovery from a vascular condition so rare, the diagnosis doesn't even have a name.

"I just usually had pain," John Kemp told WPTV"We used to always turn back before we got to where we were going because I couldn't make it."

John Kemp first experienced severe pain in his legs and back about six years ago. He told Newsy's partners at WPTV, the pain became so bad he needed a wheelchair, yet doctors couldn't determine the cause.

The last straw was Christmas 2013, when John was in too much pain to open his presents. 

"So we'd have to take breaks like every 15 minutes," John's father told WPTV. 

John's parents sent images of a vascular malformation near his spine to doctors across the country hoping someone could solve the mystery.

Then, about a year ago, a doctor at Johns Hopkins did just that.  

He figured out there was an extra blood vessel between John's kidney and spine. The extra blood flow put pressure on his back, which doctors alleviated by clogging the vessel.

"I was just happy and thinking, finally I know what's going on," John told WPTV. 

John still has many medical issues, but with the diagnosis in place, he now has a path to recovery. His parents are sharing the diagnosis with the hope that others affected by the condition my finally get help.

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<![CDATA[California's Water Contains Potentially Toxic Materials]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 21:24:00 -0500
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A study by the U.S. Geological Survey found the state's drought isn't the only water problem California residents have to deal with. 

The agency's research, beginning in the early 2000s, looked at California's public water supply. It turns out one-fifth of the state's groundwater, which helps supply public water systems, contains high levels of contaminants that could be toxic. (Video via KQED)

If you live in the state, or have visited recently, you probably didn't notice the water looking any different than — say — normal drinking water. The USGS says that's because the ground acts as a natural filter, taking out any particles that can be seen with the naked eye. (Video via Dasani)

But just because the water looks clear doesn't mean it's free of contaminants. 

The study looked at roughly 11,000 wells, which service 99 percent of Californians who get their water from the public water system, and found arsenic, uranium and manganese. But so far, the state's drought is still the more pressing issue. 

The USGS only looked at public water wells, but it's possible the contaminants could also be present in California's more than 250,000 private wells.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[New Horizons Gives Us A Close-Up Of Pluto]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:28:00 -0500
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After completing the first ever flyby of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft has sent back images containing the best look at the dwarf planet yet. 

Probably the most interesting was a close-up of Pluto's surface. It revealed mountain ranges that were as high as 11,000 feet and, scientists believe, only around 100 million years old — which is pretty young compared to our 4.5 billion year-old solar system. 

We also learned a lot more about Pluto's biggest moon, Charon. An image revealed a huge stretch of cliffs and troughs that extends for about 600 miles. Scientists also believe Charon to be relatively young due to the lack of craters. 

And thats only a tiny fraction of the information New Horizons gathered, but it's expected to take 16 months to send it all back to Earth. 

"We have a healthy spacecraft, we have recorded data on the Pluto system and we are outbound for Pluto."

It was a nine-year, 3 billion-mile journey to Pluto, so there was quiet a bit of excitement when team members at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory finally got that "mission accomplished" message.

Though it cost $700 million and weighs 1,000 pounds, New Horizons is only the size of a baby grand piano. It came within 7,800 miles of Pluto's surface flying at 8.5 miles per second. 

NASA scientists say a successful mission to Pluto means that NASA has completed its initial exploration of our solar system.

But there is still more to do. After Pluto, New Horizons is headed to the Kuiper belt, a region beyond Neptune which could contain as many as 100,000 comets and asteroids. 

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<![CDATA[Single Mother In California Survives Heart Attack And Coma]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:40:00 -0500
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"What were the doctor's first words to you?" a reporter for KGTV asked Jessica Hoover. 


"You died. You shouldn't have lived," Hoover said. 

It's a survival story with multiple miracles. Jessica Hoover collapsed while jogging in California on Dec 1. Doctors say a virus, possibly from a recent case of pneumonia, caused a heart attack for the 37-year-old.

Newsy's partners at KGTV report Hoover's heart had stopped beating for five minutes before a man performed chest compressions.

That man was David Raasch.

"I think he's my hero," Hoover told KGTV. 

Even with her heart beating again, Hoover remained in a coma. Doctors feared if she ever woke up, she'd have severe brain damage from the lack of oxygen. 

Five days later, to the doctors' astonishment, she started talking. 

"And I probably wouldn't have the will to survive if I wasn't the sole provider for my kids," Hoover told KGTV. 

But after seven months, her heart is still too weak for her to work. 

She said it's "gut-wrenching" not being able to provide for her four children. Until her strength returns, a GoFundMe page is collecting donations for her and her family.

Hoover still has high spirits, though, and is putting things in perspective. She told KGTV: "I'm grateful for every day because I shouldn't have woken up. Every day is a gift." 

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<![CDATA[Michigan Woman With Hair Condition Has An Inspiring Message]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:37:00 -0500
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"Marjorie McAllister, who prefers to be called Jo, began losing her hair very early in life. Did kids tease you?" WXYZ's chief health editor Dr. Partha Nandi said. 


"Oh, yes. They would pull them off. And you know how when you're little, kids pull off your winter caps and play 'monkey in the middle?'" Jo McAllister said. 

For most of her life, Jo McAllister from Brighton, Michigan, has been living with the various stages of a condition known as alopecia.

According to WebMD, people with alopecia experience hair loss after their "immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, which is where hair growth begins."

"It changed from alopecia areata, which is, you know, just spots of hair loss with my scalp," McAllister told WXYZ.


"Then it progressed, turning into," Nandi said.


"Alopecia totalis, which was then total hair loss on my head. I still had my eyelashes, my eyebrows. But total hair loss on my head," McAllister said.

Then, McAllister's Alopecia totalis turned into alopecia universalis, meaning she no longer has any hair on her body.

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation predicts that more than 4.5 million Americans — or 2 percent of the population — will be affected by some form of the disease in their lifetimes. 

And while there is a chance people with alopecia will have their hair grow back, there is currently no known cure for the disease. 

McAllister spoke with Newsy's partners at WXYZ about the advice she had for anyone suffering from alopecia.

"Be your most true self. Be who you are. Be strong. If people are teasing you, don't let that get you down," McAllister said. 

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<![CDATA[Study Finds Most Women Don't 'Regret' Getting An Abortion]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 08:57:00 -0500
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A majority of women, 95 percent, do not regret having an abortion, according to a new study published in the medical journal PLOS One. 

The study, conducted by the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine, surveyed 670 women over three years.

Many women said they had an abortion because of financial reasons and it being "not the right time."

According to the nonprofit research organization Guttmacher Institute, seven states require that before women have an abortion, they undergo counseling about the negative psychological effects.

While the study suggests less than 5 percent of women regret abortions, many anti-abortion proponents contest that.


"Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and it's a very widespread problem," Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council Center for Human Dignity said

One of the study's lead researchers, Dr. Corinne Rocca, acknowledges these emotions but says they're not always long term.

She told Yahoo: "As we note in our 2013 paper on women’s emotions one week after the abortion, we found that many women experience negative emotions (anger, sadness, guilt, regret), as well as positive emotions (relief, happiness), with relief predominating." 

She says this new research shows after three years, relief is the most common emotion among women.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Early Mars May Have Been A Lot Like Early Earth]]> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 08:53:00 -0500
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The Curiosity rover has been poking around the Gale crater on Mars for a few years now, and it turns out the place may be more similar to Earth than we originally thought. (Video via NASA)

Using rock data gathered by Curiosity, a recent study published in Nature Geoscience found that many of the rocks in the crater had similar chemical makeup to ones found in Earth's crust. 

The crust of a planet is its outermost layer — what you're standing on now. The rock on land, or the continental crust, is typically lighter than what you'd find deeper in the oceans, or the oceanic crust. 

The paper's international team of authors say they've found evidence of this continental crust on Mars, which is new. A writer at Popular Science explains:

"Scientists thought for a long time that Earth was the only planet with a continental crust, because typically it takes a very long time on a very active planet for the lighter rocks to rise to the surface and form into the chunks that make up the continental crust."

The team used data from a total of 22 Martian rock samples, some of which was gathered using Curiosity's ChemCam — a laser that the rover shoots at rocks to gather reveal chemical makeup. 

The discovery will help with our understanding of not only the history of Mars as a planet, but also the makeup of parts of the planet unexplored by terrestrial rovers such as Curiosity. 

This video includes images from NASAWolfgang Staudt / CC BY 2.0 and Alice Radford / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Does Planned Parenthood Vid Describe 'Donations' Or 'Sales'?]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 22:26:00 -0500
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The video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood executive casually discussing the body parts of aborted fetuses can be disturbing. (Video Center for Medical Progress)

But is what she's describing the illegal sale of body parts, like the group that produced the video claims, or the legal donation of tissues for research, like Planned Parenthood claims?

"A lot of people want intact hearts these days. ... Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs. ... Always as many intact livers as possible," Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola said

In the video, released by anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola discusses certain types of fetal tissue and, at one point, throws out a number. 


"I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100 [per specimen], depending on the facility and what’s involved," Nucatola said. 

The Center called the video proof of a "criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts." But Planned Parenthood and its defenders say what she's describing is legal and meets ethical guidelines laid out by health officials. 

Planned Parenthood released a statement on the undercover video, saying, "In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases." 

Researchers have used fetal tissue cells to help develop vaccines for hepatitis A, rubella and even rabies. And in stem cell research, fetal tissue cells are more desired than adult cells because the former can be used to treat a wider array of illnesses. 

But it's how researchers get a hold of fetal tissue that's key to the legal and ethical concerns. According to the National Institutes of Health, researchers wanting to use fetal tissue cannot be involved in the termination of a pregnancy and no profits can be involved in acquiring fetal tissue. 

Which brings us back to the video. Nucatola mentions a figure. In today's political climate, it's virtually guaranteed that fact will lead to accusations that the organization is profiting from fetal tissue. 

Conservative politicians have issued strong statements condemning Nucatola and Planned Parenthood, and several Republican governors have directed state agencies to investigate the organization. 

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<![CDATA[NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Sends Back Pluto Photo]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 11:45:00 -0500
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Nine years and nearly 3 billion miles. That's the journey the New Horizons spacecraft has taken to complete a flyby of Pluto. 

After launching in January 2006, New Horizons was set to pass the dwarf planet Tuesday morning, but we won't know if the mission was successful until it sends a message back to Earth Tuesday evening. 

But NASA has already teased a high-res image that New Horizons was able to send back before its flight around the planet. 

The project will give scientists a better look at Pluto than they have ever had before. Researchers hope to learn more about its atmosphere, its geology and its five moons. 

Specifically, scientists are looking at Pluto's moon Charon because of its similarities to our own moon. 

"Interestingly, both those moons formed from impact events. Our own moon was formed from debris after a Mars-sized planet smashed into the early Earth. Similarly, Charon was formed when a Pluto-sized body smashed into a young Pluto," said a NASA spokesperson.

After it's taken a spin around Pluto, New Horizons' next task is to check out the Kuiper belt, a region beyond Neptune of more than 100,000 comets and asteroids. 

This video contains images from NASA and music from Broke for Free / CC BY NC 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Noninvasive Prenatal Tests Can Also Detect Cancer In Mothers]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 06:56:00 -0500
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Prenatal tests are designed to detect genetic diseases or birth defects in the fetus before the baby is born. 

But now, those same tests may also be able to detect if the mother has cancer. 

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center looked at eight different cases, where the mothers all received abnormal results on their noninvasive prenatal tests. (Video via The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

Upon taking a second look, the women's fetuses were healthy. But a more thorough look at the mothers' blood taken during those noninvasive prenatal tests showed all eight women had markers for cancer. 

The study's lead author told The Wall Street Journal that this finding is just further evidence that women should have their prenatal testing results confirmed by another test, especially if the results come back positive. 

CBS spoke with one mother who discovered she had cancer while she was pregnant with her son. She ended up giving birth early so doctors could start her cancer treatment. 

"I'm thankful for every minute I get to spend with them. I refuse to believe that there's gonna be any other outcome than 'it's all gonna be okay,'" Marin Mejia said. 

The Washington Post reports researchers still don't know if these noninvasive prenatal tests are able to detect all types of cancer and at what stages. The lead author told the publication, "It's important to emphasize this test was not designed to detect cancer."

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was funded by a company that produces a noninvasive prenatal test. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[New Horizons Flyby Will Shed Light On Pluto's Mysteries]]> Sun, 12 Jul 2015 23:37:00 -0500
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After more than nine years in transit, NASA's New Horizons probe is finally ready to fly past Pluto and give us the best glimpse ever of the dwarf planet. And if the last few days leading up to the flyby are any indication, we're about to see some pretty wild stuff. 

Up until now, we had no idea what the surface of Pluto actually looked like; the icy dwarf planet is too far away for conventional telescopes to make out clearly. But the increasingly clear pictures New Horizons has been sending back have revealed dark spots and polygonal shapes on Pluto's surface — evidence of complex geology. 

We'll learn more about what Pluto looks like on July 14, when New Horizons passes within 8,000 miles of the planet's surface. The probe is scheduled to take a series of observations which should tell us, among other things, the chemical composition of Pluto's surface and atmosphere. 

New Horizon's mission doesn't end after Pluto; the spacecraft is slated to study one or two other objects in the Kuiper Belt, the region of small asteroid-like objects surrounding the edge of the solar system. 

It will take months for New Horizons to send back all of the data it will gather during its flyby, and the information will probably keep astronomers busy for even longer. But if you want to see what the flyby might look like for yourself, you can check out NASA's animated preview app.

This video includes images from NASA, ESA and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute) and NASA / Johns Hopkins University / Southwest Research Institute.

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<![CDATA[The Big Problem With Lake Erie's Big Algae Blooms]]> Sat, 11 Jul 2015 09:36:00 -0500
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Researchers at the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warn Lake Erie is looking at one of the most severe algae blooms in recent years.

The enormous bursts of greenery are thanks mostly to cyanobacteria, which aren’t actually algae at all, but single-cell bacterial organisms that run on sunlight and nitrogen. And for such tiny things, they can cause big problems. (Video via Lake Erie Center)

Cyanobacteria cause dead zones in both fresh and saltwater. When a bloom dies it absorbs all the oxygen in the water. The bigger the bloom, the greater the oxygen drain.

This throws the rest of the ecosystem out of balance. Fish and other animals that can move to richer waters leave the area, everything else runs the risk of dying due to oxygen depletion. (Video via NOAA)

Certain variants of cyanobacteria are also toxic to humans and animals. Last month, one such bloom on the Pacific Coast caused seizures in sea lions. (Video via NBC)

NOAA therefore warns against swimming and boating in high concentrations of algae, or drinking water where blooms occur.

Last year’s bloom on Erie, for example, was enough to shut down water supplies in Toledo, Ohio. (Video via Newsy)

And on paper, at least, this year’s bloom is shaping up to be even more significant. UM researchers are awarding Erie’s 2015 outlook an 8.7 on a scale of 10, where 10 is the worst bloom ever recorded. Last year was a 6.5.

They blame the worsening conditions on industrial runoff — specifically, fertilizer.

“The excessive algae are being produced by too much nitrogen and phosphorous going into those systems from land. Most of that nitrogen and phosphorous is coming from agriculture.” (Video via University of Michigan)

Reducing those emissions is key to cutting down on harmful blooms. In the meantime, NOAA runs a bloom tracker, updated twice weekly with the latest imagery from NASA satellites.

This video includes images from USGS / NASA Earth Observatory, NOAA and Nara Souza / Florida Fish and Wildlife Commision / CC BY 2.0. Music by Inchange / CC BY NC SA 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Study Says Your Nose's Imagination Could Affect Your Weight]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 09:21:00 -0500
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Those who can generate vivid mental imagery of foods based on smells could be at a higher risk of obesity, according to a new Yale study.

Researchers gave participants a series of questionnaires to determine how vividly they could imagine the sight, smell or idea of a food.

Their findings suggest the better people were able to imagine the smell of food, the higher their risk of food cravings and obesity.

And the data showed the effect was stronger among participants with a higher BMI.

But the researchers aren’t sure which came first, higher BMI or the increased ability to imagine scents.

Earlier research has shown those with a higher BMI experience more frequent food cravings.

But the Yale study is the first to examine how much of a role our noses play.

According to the researchers, identifying such specific triggers for food cravings is an important step in developing effective weight loss behaviors.

They’re scheduled to present their findings this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Ingestive Behavior.

This video includes images from cookbookman17 / CC BY 2.0, Jens Tarning / CC BY 3.0, Marcus Michaels / CC BY 3.0, Edward Boatman / CC BY 3.0 and tommy chheng / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Researchers Want Closer Look At Schizophrenia-Smoking Link]]> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 07:31:00 -0500
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Many studies have shown that people who have schizophrenia are more likely to be smokers.

Now researchers say more studies should be done to find out if smoking plays a role in the development of schizophrenia.

The disorder may cause people to hear voices or have other incidences of psychosis. The higher rate of smoking among patients diagnosed with schizophrenia was previously thought to be explained by self medication — researchers thought smoking was used by patients to help them relax. (Video via CNN)

But a recent study found that schizophrenics who smoke may have developed the disorder at an earlier age on average, although it says the effect of smoking "seems to be modest."

It also found that about 57% of people who are experiencing their first incident of psychosis are smokers. And the risk of smoking in individuals experiencing their first episode of psychosis is about three times that of non-smokers according to the study. (Video via WFTS)

The team of researchers looked at 61 other studies that involved 14,555 tobacco users in all.

One of the authors of the study told the Guardian, "While it is always hard to determine the direction of causality, our findings indicate that smoking should be taken seriously as a possible risk factor for developing psychosis, and not dismissed simply as a consequence of the illness."

The study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Dog With Unique Allergy Adopted By Vet Who Treated It]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 10:06:00 -0500
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Humans having pet allergies is a pretty normal thing. But what happens when a shelter dog has an allergy to humans? 

"Just like we can be allergic to dogs, he is allergic to human dander," said Robin Herman, owner of Lucky Dog Retreat Rescue.

So the veterinarians did what any human doctor would do: prescribed Adam the dog medication specifically tailored to him.

"They just put a serum together like they do with kid's allergies and other dog allergies, and he starts on allergy shots this week," Herman said.

Adam will be on that medication for the rest of his life. Newsy's partners at WRTV in Indiana first reported on the dog last year. Now, he's found his forever home.

And, to make this story even sweeter, Adam's new mom is one of the women who cared for him at the dermatology clinic where he was treated. She took him home permanently earlier this year.

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<![CDATA[X-Ray Probe Spots Tiny Flares Heating The Sun]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 08:57:00 -0500
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Typically, you shouldn't point telescopes at the sun — you could go blind. But NASA makes an exception with its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

NuSTAR, launched in 2012, is an orbiting X-ray observatory originally designed to track distant supernovas and black holes. (Video via NASA)

But it can also collect X-ray images of our own sun in unprecedented detail. When its data is combined with readings from the ultraviolet Solar Dynamics Observatory, you get this: (Video via NASA)

A sort of heat map of the sun. Its surface measures millions of degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s not evenly heated throughout.

NuSTAR has spotted even hotter spots, which researchers say are the work of microflares.

These are like solar flares, but on a much smaller scale. They don’t launch explosions of energy and matter away from the Sun, but they are thought to make parts of the corona — the Sun’s atmosphere, basically — hot enough to stand out in the X-ray spectrum. (Video via NASA)

And they’re not well-understood, yet. Researchers plan to use NuSTAR’s cameras to study these tiny flares in more detail, and hunt for evidence of even smaller bursts called nanoflares. (Video via NASA)

They’ve presented their findings so far at this week’s National Astronomy Meeting in Wales.

This video includes images from NASA and music from Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Medicare Update Focuses On End-Of-Life Discussions]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 07:16:00 -0500
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There's a new plan for how much money physicians will receive as a part of Medicare and it's stirring an old debate over so-called "death panels."

"And they would be deemed incompetent having not read the law to understand that death panels are a part of this atrocity," said former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin on Fox News.

Of course we're not actually talking about death panels here. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its proposed policy changes for 2016 and, among them, is a reimbursement system for something called "advance care planning." 

The CMS gives the example of a 68 year-old man with heart failure and diabetes who's on multiple medications. 

Essentially, advance care planning allows a patient to plan ahead in case they become too sick to make their own decision or their condition worsens. (Mercer University School of Medicine / Alan Stecker)

As The Washington Post points out, it doesn't change much from the kind of conversations doctors already have with their patients, except now they'll be paid for it. And that, a medical professor told the paper, makes the conversation more valuable. 

Medicare currently covers more than 50 million Americans, most of whom are elderly. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Shell Continues With Arctic Drilling Plan Despite Setbacks]]> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 14:12:00 -0500
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Since at least 2012, multinational oil and gas company Shell has been trying to drill off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea. And since then, the multibillion-dollar company has encountered problem after problem.

Shell is set to break land in the Chukchi Sea this summer with two 400- and 500-foot-long oil rigs (the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer), 30 support vessels and seven aircraft.

Back in 2012, Shell tried a similar arctic drilling plan in the Chukchi Sea that went horribly wrong; the company had to rescue more than a dozen workers and two of its rigs ran aground.

According to OilPrice.com, this new venture has cost the oil company upwards of $7 billion to get ready.

And while all signs point to Shell continuing on with its new drilling plan, this go around has also had its roadblocks, the first of which weighs 4,000 pounds and has two very large tusks hanging from its mouth.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a letter to Shell saying the oil company cannot drill with two different rigs simultaneously if the drills are less than 15 miles apart in the Chukchi Sea.

Reason being walruses, polar bears and other marine mammals are known to be sensitive to the sounds of drilling, and drilling also limits the arctic ice available for the animals. (Video via U.S. Geological Survey)

Predictably, Shell has also dealt with protests from environmentalists. When one of its oil rigs bound for Alaska docked in Seattle, a group of protesters in kayaks circled the rig. (Video via KOMO)

And just this week, Shell discovered a gash in one of its support vessels, though Shell says this won't affect its drilling schedule — a schedule that's particularly tight. The company has to do its drilling in the summer before the water freezes over.

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<![CDATA[How The President Wants To Expand Access To Solar Power]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:56:00 -0500
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The Obama administration is boosting access to solar energy for low- and middle-income communities. (Video via The White House)

The plan calls for loans for solar panel installation, a nationwide program to provide solar energy to renters and tripling planned solar power in federally subsidized housing by 2020. (Video via Which?)

On top of those executive actions, $520 million in commitments from the public and private sector entities will help install solar paneling in low-income communities. 

The average solar energy system costs around $10,000, a roadblock for renters and low-income homeowners interested in renewable energy. (Video via Missouri Wind and Solar)

Obama has been pushing for energy reform for a long time.

"Using fuels we can grow right here on our shore, we can reduce our oil imports by more than 7.5 million barrels a day," the president said in 2006.

"And I've called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal," President Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008.

"If we do our part right now to rebuild an economy and transition to a clean energy future, we will create more jobs, we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and we will leave our children with a better America and a better future," he said last May.

In some sense, President Obama's vision is supported by the decreasing price and growing popularity of solar panels

But some, including Bill Gates, argue renewable energy isn't used enough to impact the environment or the economy.

"We need to get the message out, we need to have this dialogue be a more rational, understandable dialogue, including the steps that the government takes," Gates said.

Maybe that's why the president has been ramping up his focus on renewable energy in recent months. 

"We've got to lead by example. Invest in the future," President Obama said in April.

The new proposal comes a few months after the president announced a plan to train 75,000 people for the solar workforce by 2020. Both initiatives are part of a broader plan to use his remaining time in office to solidify the administration's clean energy legacy.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[A Brief History Of Quaaludes]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 12:31:00 -0500
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Quaaludes. 2005 court documents released Monday showed Bill Cosby admitted to giving the drug, made popular in the 1970s, to at least one woman he wanted to sleep with and several "other people."

Sure, the drug is still around today, but how many people under 30 really knew what it was before Leonardo DiCaprio's infamous "Wolf of Wall Street" scene

Basically, Quaaludes are to Methaqualone what Advil is to Ibuprofen.

Methaqualone, the generic drug name, is a central nervous system depressant.

It was originally developed in India in the 1950s as an anti-malaria drug and a substitute for barbiturates, which are drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizures.

In a prescription dose, which ranges between 75 mg and 300 mg, Quaaludes slow pulse rates, promote sleepiness and cause a drop in blood pressure.

They also can leave the user with a sense of euphoria, which is a trait that can lead to addiction.

Tolerance develops quickly with Quaaludes. Depending on a user's tolerance to Quaaludes, one could potentially survive taking up to 20,000 mg of of the drug, while another person could die after an 8,000 mg dose.

The most popular recreational usage was "Luding out," which happened when people took the drug with wine.

By 1980, the Drug Enforcement Agency reported 20 million pills in circulation in a single year, making it second to marijuana usage. The DEA predicted that number could double by 1981, giving Quaaludes the same circulation numbers as heroin.

Usage became so dangerous and widespread that the U.S. government traveled to countries that produced methaqualone and asked them to shut down trade.

Cosby's use of Quaaludes never resulted in a criminal charge because most of the two-dozen accusations are barred by a statute of limitations.

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

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<![CDATA[There's A Chance The Doctor You're Seeing Is Sick, Too]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 11:08:00 -0500
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Germaphobes might want to click out of this story now. A recent survey found 80 percent of doctors go to work when sick. Isn't "stay home and rest" one of their catchphrases? 

Researchers surveyed hundreds of physicians at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and 83 percent admitted to having cared for patients when they themselves were sick at least one time in the past year. That's despite 95 percent of those surveyed saying they believe doing so puts patients at risk.

A pediatrician told NBC half-jokingly he thought the other doctors who said they stayed home were lying, but he did say, "I really do think it's out of good will and dedication."

The reasons doctors gave for working while ill fall in line with that sentiment. Of those who admitted to going to work sick, almost 99 percent cited not wanting to let colleagues down. Interestingly, not wanting to let patients down was cited by roughly 92 percent. Perhaps some believe the care they give outweighs the risks.

It's important to note the study surveyed only one hospital, so its findings may be limited. However, a review in 2013 found it to be the country's second largest children's hospital. 

A corresponding editorial published by The JAMA Network said, "Creating a safer and more equitable system of sick leave for [health care workers] requires a culture change in many institutions to decrease stigma—internal and external—associated with [health care workers'] illness." 

The editorial stressed prioritizing patient safety while still keeping workforce demands in mind. Almost 95 percent of doctors in the study cited staffing concerns as a major reason why they still went to work sick. This might be a reason why more than half said there's a strong cultural norm of doctors going to work unless they're "remarkably ill."

This video includes images via Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Ohio Woman Once Scared To Leave Her Home Wins Beauty Pageant]]> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 10:49:00 -0500
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"I think it all started to change when my husband passed away in August of 2010. When he passed away, I knew it was time. It was time to change," Jenifer Quinn-Wilson told WCPO

Jenifer Quinn-Wilson is a hermit turned beauty queen. She told Newsy's partners at WCPO that she spent a whole decade too scared to leave her home after two strangers accosted her when she was 18 years old.

"Opened up my back door and threw his girlfriend in my backseat ... and informed me that their car broke down and I needed to take them somewhere where they needed to be," Quinn-Wilson said. 

Quinn-Wilson ended up developing an anxiety disorder known as agoraphobia. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, people with agoraphobia "fear an actual or anticipated situation," which for Quinn-Wilson was the fear of leaving her house. 

After her husband passed away in 2010, Quinn-Wilson made the decision to overcome that fear. She entered the Ohio Plus America Pageant in May and won. 

"I want to change the way people look at plus-size women," Quinn-Wilson said. 

That win means she'll head to Atlanta at the end of July to compete at the national pageant, more than 450 miles away from her hometown of Maineville, Ohio. 

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<![CDATA[Pope's Latin American Tour Ties Climate Change To Poverty]]> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 13:40:00 -0500
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The pope's visit to South America is ostensibly focused on poverty. (Video via Vatican)

It's the first trip to the region he's gotten to schedule, and it jives with his record as pope that he's visiting three of the continent's poorest countries. (Video via La Television)

But it also jives with his other major focus: climate change. 

The pope's argument in his widely publicized encyclical last month was that those two things are invariably intertwined: Climate change will have a disproportionate effect on the world's poor. (Video via GoPro, Why Poverty?)

And there are few places that illustrate that better than Latin America, especially in the Andes. (Video via Heifer International)

Take, for example, Bolivia. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line, and in rural areas that rate rises to more than 75 percent. (Video via YouTube / nils169, UNICEF)   

The majority of those people are subsistence farmers who rely on their harvests to survive, which leaves them especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. (Video via Al JazeeraUniversity of Arizona)

"They're also vulnerable to freezes, particularly if they occur after crops have been planted; protracted droughts and delays to the start of the rainy season, which typically starts in November," University of Arizona climatologist Zack Guido explained.

And the country, as a whole, relies on its glaciers for water, so with the glaciers melting, Bolivia's water supply is in jeopardy. (Video via The New York Times)

That in a country that a little more than a decade ago saw armed conflict over water, driven by economic instability and the privatization of water supplies. (Video via The Democracy Center)

To the pope, Bolivia is one of several countries in the global periphery set to suffer the worst of the consequences of climate change; a problem it has done little to cause. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from YACHA-SACHA / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Mammoth DNA Study Pinpoints Key Difference From Elephants]]> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 22:30:00 -0500
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You know how in "Jurassic Park" scientists take dinosaur blood from a prehistoric mosquito preserved in amber to clone the dead-and-gone giants back into existence?

Not to alarm you or anything, but scientists are doing something similar right now with the woolly mammoth.

Most recently one of the groups — yes, there's more than one — might have successfully isolated what makes a mammoth so different from elephants. The key was in resurrecting a mammoth gene.  

Vincent Lynch, an evolutionary biologist who worked with the group, told the Los Angeles Times, "We looked for the changes that make a woolly mammoth a woolly mammoth." (Video via The University of Chicago Medicine)

After all, mammoths were very similar to the modern elephant. The biggest difference — aside from all that hair — is that today's elephants tend to live in hot climates and the mammoths survived in the extreme cold. (Video via BBC)

The study, published in Cell Reports, said researchers sequenced three Asian elephants' genomes and two wooly mammoths' genomes. They ended up finding multiple mammoth-specific features, but only one of them stood out.

One mammoth gene had three functions — all dealing with how the body might adapt to climate — including sensing temperature, fat digestion and absorption, and regulating hair growth.

So, what’s next? Crossing the DNA of today's elephants with this particular mammoth gene? And then building a prehistoric-themed park?

Even though some researchers have started trying to do exactly that — not the theme park, the other thing — Lynch told NPR he doesn't think it'll work. 

"You could change this one gene in an elephant and maybe make it woolly mammoth-like with respect to some things," said Lynch.

"Trying to recreate a mammoth in all it’s woolly glory would require a ton of other genetic changes — so many that scientists don't have the technology to do it," said NPR reporter Nell Greenfieldboyce.

But that’s probably for the best. Aside from the ethical dilemma of actually resurrecting an extinct creature, we're not exactly sure what we'd even do with a massive creature that used to be dead — put it in a zoo I guess.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Pierlo / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Shark Week Risks Boosting Unfounded Fears]]> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 11:41:00 -0500
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Another summer means another "Shark Week" and another round of questions about whether it's any good for the sharks. (Video via Discovery)

Now in its 28th year, Discovery's annual shark extravaganza has drawn criticism in the past for sensationalizing the predator and building on ungrounded fears. (Video via Oceana)

Ungrounded because sharks aren't really a huge threat to humans. Sharks only killed three people last year, the world over. 

But the natural fear people have of them means whenever there are shark attacks, like the recent spate in North Carolina, they get a whole lot of attention. (Video via WILM)

"Well this is terrifying. An outbreak of shark attacks on the North Carolina coast and now a sixth shark attack in just two weeks," Greta Van Susteren said on Fox News.

And it's that same mechanism that draws people to "Shark Week," something Discovery's capitalized on, with thoroughly unscientific stories about giant prehistoric sharks and tales of brutal shark attacks. 

"The shark continued to shake me, basically like a dog would a rag doll," a survivor told Discovery.

That from a program called "I Escaped Jaws."

At the same time Discovery has affirmed its support for shark conservation, and the channel is partners with conservation groups like Oceana.

But it still generates a lot of fear, as a shark specialist told New York Daily News"I know television has to provide entertainment, but those distortions hurt the effort to educate people."

So in light of that, we're just going to stick with Hannibal Burress' interpretation of "Shark Week," which seems a lot more harmless. (Video via Comedy Central)

This video includes an image from Hillary / CC BY SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[How Vital Was That Successful Space Station Supply Mission?]]> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 09:18:00 -0500
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The International Space Station finally got its resupply.

A Russian Progress capsule docked to the station Sunday, carrying more than three tons of fresh food, water and equipment.

It's a relief for everyone involved, especially the crew aboard the ISS, who depends on these flights for luxuries like air and water.

Until Sunday, the ISS had gone 69 days without resupply. A Russian Progress supply flight failed in April, and SpaceX's Dragon broke up on launch in June. (Video via NASA, SpaceX)

A launch failure is never good news, but it was also never as bad as it could have been. With each setback, NASA reiterated the crew aboard the ISS was safe.

"We're in good shape from a food standpoint, from a water standpoint. We need to watch the multi-filtration bed that purifies water. There was a replacement bed on this flight, and we'll have to watch water levels," said NASA's William Gerstenmaier after SpaceX's mishap. (Video via NASA)

Keeping the orbiting laboratory loaded with food and water actually is rocket science, so planners err on the side of caution. (Video via NASA)

As of April 2015, food reserves and waste processing equipment — which are in shortest supply in orbit — still would have lasted through early September.

Now that Progress 60 is docked, those deadlines will get pushed back. But had supplies run out, the ISS crew could have left the station. (Video via NASA)

NASA and the Russian Space Agency keep at least one Soyuz capsule docked to the station 24/7 to serve as a lifeboat in case of emergency evacuation. They can seal up in minutes, and the crew is trained to manually return them to Earth if necessary. (Video via European Space Agency)

But Sunday's successful docking marks a return to business as usual — mostly. The next Progress cargo launch is scheduled for September. SpaceX flights are postponed pending the results of an investigation into its latest launch.

This video includes images from NASA. Music by Planet Boelex & bad loop  / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

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<![CDATA['Sailing' Spiders Prove Escaping From Them Is Futile]]> Sat, 04 Jul 2015 20:27:00 -0500
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Arachnophobes: If you thought there was an ocean wide enough to keep spiders away, guess again. 

Researchers the University of Nottingham's Spider Lab found some species of spiders are like tiny Magellans, in that they can "sail" across the ocean to colonize new areas. Their study is published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. 

To explore the seafaring characteristics of spiders, researchers collected 325 of them from 21 species around Nottingham in the U.K. When placed on water, more than a third of the spiders adopted yoga-like postures that allowed them to use wind and glide across the surface.

Postures like the legs-up-legs-out and the butt-up-head-down. Don't try this out on the water, folks. 

Some spiders were also able to use their silk to attach to other objects, presumably to float to a safer location. 

Scientists already knew terrestrial spiders had the ability to travel through a technique called ballooning, where the creatures use their silk to fly through the air. But sailing is a newly-observed trick, perhaps because they are so small. (Video via Pristurus / CC BY SA 3.0)

"It shows that when they land somewhere that's not really ideal for them, they may have strategies to cope with that," study co-author Dr. Sara Goodacre said. 

Goodacre added that some spiders are important for agricultural reasons because they can act as pest controllers on, let's say, a farm. This recent study helps explain how spiders are able to get there in the first place. 

As a follow-up, Goodacre says Spider Lab researchers hope to examine spiders that have taken the plunge and live below the surface of water — like these guys. Good luck sleeping! 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Alex Hyde, Norbert Schuller Baupi / CC BY SA 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Joey Chestnut Meats His Match, Loses Hot Dog Eating Contest]]> Sat, 04 Jul 2015 13:33:00 -0500
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Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest kicked off on Coney Island in New York, pitting 20 hungry contestants against each other in the July 4th battle for gastronomic supremacy. And we have a new champion.

Favored from the beginning was Joey Chestnut, who'd won every year since 2007 and holds the all-time record — 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

“He did it!”

“And he crushed the record!" (Video via ESPN)

But this year, Chestnut's reign came to a stunning end at the hands of Matt Stonie, who scarfed 62 hot dogs to Joey's mere 60.

"Paul, I think this kid is going to to do it! This would be a huge upset! This would be 'Nova over Georgetown in ’85, this would be the Pats over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Youth is speaking in Coney Island today," said the announcer.

The spectacle is pretty awesomely appalling, but that doesn't stop 50,000 New Yorkers from showing up to watch in person or millions more from tuning in on ESPN. (Video via Major League Eating

But then again, it's not really about the dubious aesthetics or prodigious ability of these dog-munching athlet— well, Americans. It's about the hot dog, and its singular place in American life. (Video via New York Post)

Nobody knows exactly from whence it came, only that like America itself, it's a product of immigrants — in this case German immigrants, who brought over the bratwurst and frankfurter in the 19th century. (Video via The Library of Congress)

And while brats are fine, it wasn't until someone started putting them on buns and mixing up the meat that the "hot dog" was born — a name taken either from its resemblance to the body of a dachshund or, allegedly, from the type of meat put in its early variants. (Video via The Science Channel)

Either way, hot dogs became an American phenomenon and a symbol of how American life is the sum of our immigrant experience. (Video via Food Network)

Today, we eat them at ball games and barbecues and, yes, gross eating contests. We even have motorized giant hot dogs that drive coast-to-coast passing out little hot dogs, like a nesting doll made of meat. (Video via National Geographic and Wisconsin Public Television)

And so however you're celebrating July 4th, eat a hot dog, and take a moment to enjoy it — unless you're in an eating contest, which in case, good luck.  

This video includes images from Getty Images and music by Broke For Free / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[A Shark Named Mary Lee Is Helping Us Understand Her Kind]]> Fri, 03 Jul 2015 22:28:00 -0500
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Despite the unusual number of shark attacks off North Carolina's coast this summer — seven since June...  (Video via NOAA)

"I'm punching the shark, trying to get the shark away from me," shark attack survivor Patrick Thornton told WWAY

...shark attacks are still very rare.

What's even more rare? A 3,500-pound great white shark, with a remarkable Twitter presence, teaching researchers more about the underwater predators. Her name is Mary Lee. 

Since being tagged in 2012 by non-profit shark research organization OCEARCH, Mary Lee has been on the move. She's covered more than 21,000 miles in the past three years. OCEARCH scientists are hoping to glean some information from Mary Lee about the hows and whys of sharks. 

International Shark Attack File curator George Burgess, an expert on this topic, appeared on several networks just in the past week to explain a mixture of factors contributed to attacks off North Carolina's coast: more people using beaches, sharks following their food, higher water temperatures, etc. Ultimately, though:

"That doesn't absolutely explain why we've had seven incidents in three weeks," Burgess said

Pinning down a single reason for the attacks seems unlikely — as does identifying culprits. Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, a marine biologist at the University of North Florida, told a Wilmington, North Carolina, paper there are 10 species of sharks that frequent North Carolina's coast. (Video via WJXT)

But OCEARCH scientists believe Mary Lee is the key to answering at least some questions about sharks and how they tick. And answers could be coming soon. 

"Where do they give birth? Where do they mate? And Mary Lee is coming up on completing that first full migratory cycle, and if she returns to Cape Cod this fall, it will really put the pieces of the puzzle together on mating and so forth," OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer said

This video includes an image from Getty Images and music from Matt Lloyd / CC BY 3.0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could make a great campaign for Hershey's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from SpaceX / CC0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from SpaceX / CC0 and NASA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from NASA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what will the newest makeover look like? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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