Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:03:00 -0500
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Russia's space agency claims to have found sea plankton on the outside of the International Space Station. Wait, what?

A report in ITAR-TASS quotes Russia's ISS mission chief saying, "We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further." The report claims this finding is part of a long-term study, which proves some life can exist in space.

The discovery apparently occurred after Russia's two cosmonauts currently onboard the ISS started cleaning off the station's illuminators — that's space language for "windows." The astronauts reportedly discovered the plankton after examining the residue on the illuminators. (Video via NASA)

State-run TV network RT confirmed the news — also referring to the find as part of a study. Since the plankton isn't native to the ISS resupply launch sites in Kazakhstan, the prevailing theory appears to be that this plankton was blown into orbit from the surface of the ocean by rising air currents.

If that sounds pretty far-fetched to you, then don't worry. NASA's a little skeptical of the news, too.

A NASA spokesman told Space.com the agency hadn't been informed of the discovery, and noted the Russian astronauts weren't looking for plankton while cleaning the windows. "What they're actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows. ... That's what they were taking samples for. I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from."

The idea isn't totally unreasonable, though — in 2007, a hardy microscopic creature known as the tardigrade became the first living organism to survive exposure to space — they've also weathered extreme temperatures, pressures, radiation, and possibly every mass extinction event in history. And in 2013, NASA scientists raised the alarm that contaminated parts on the Curiosity rover might have accidentally carried Earth bacteria to Mars.

Russian cosmonauts might only have six years left to find any more plankton up there at the ISS. The head of Russia's space agency told reporters in May Russia only plans to commit to funding the ISS until 2020.

This video contains an image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

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<![CDATA[Study Suggests Children With Autism Have Extra Synapses]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:14:00 -0500
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Children with autism ​might have extra snypases, or cellular connections, in their brains. That's according to researchers from Columbia University Medical Center. 

Brain synapses are the connections between nerve cells that allow information to travel from one neuron to another. There are trillions of these synapses in the human brain.

The researchers studied the brains of 26 children with autism who had died of other causes between the ages of 2 and 20, as well as 22 brains from children without the disorder.

According to The New York Times: "In typical brain development, there is an explosion of synapses very early and then a pruning process begins. That process is necessary to ensure that different areas of the brain can develop specific functions and are not overloaded with stimuli."

The researchers reportedly found, in the brains of younger children, there was very little difference in the number of synapses between the two groups. But when it came to the adolescents, those with autism had significantly more than those without.

According to a Columbia press release, researchers have studied a drug that sped up that pruning process to normal levels in mice with autism-like behaviors. While the drug can't be used in humans, a professor not involved in the study said:​ "The fact that we can see changes in behavior suggests that autism may still be treatable after a child is diagnosed, if we can find a better drug."

The study was published Thursday in the journal Neuron.

This video features images from Mike Seyfang / CC BY 2.0 and Mouagip / CC BY SA 3.0​

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<![CDATA[American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0500
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The two American humanitarian workers who were treated for Ebola in an Atlanta hospital have now been released. One of the patients, Dr. Kent Brantly, along with hospital staff, made statements upon the release. 

BRANTLY VIA CNN"I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family." 

DR. BRUCE RIBNER VIA WXIA: "We are hopeful that what we learned here will assist our colleagues in Africa in caring for these critically ill patients."

Both patients received doses of the experimental drug ZMapp. ZMapp contains man-made antibodies believed to fight Ebola. Right now it's unclear whether the drug played a significant role in the patients' recovery.

ZMapp was also given to three doctors in Liberia, who are now showing signs of improvement. But again in this case, it remains unclear whether they recovered because of the drug or because of early detection. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers cannot legally say the drug works until they complete a scientific trial. They need to be able to compare the results of a group that received the drug and a group that did not. And no trials have been done yet on humans. 

But if it might help, why aren't more people getting the drug? Ebola has already killed more than 1,000 people in Africa. 

The developer of the drug, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, says because ZMapp is so new and still in the experimental phases, not much of it is available. 

The released patients will be receiving follow-up care from the hospital. 

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<![CDATA[Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:34:00 -0500
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Researchers have known, as people get older, they have more difficulty falling and staying asleep. And now we might know why.

A new study from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the University of Toronto says the loss of brain cells that act as a so-called "sleep switch" may be one of the reasons why many seniors have trouble catching some zzz's.

To come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which includes nearly 1,000 people who joined the project at age 65 and will be studied until their death.

They found elderly people and Alzheimer's patients show a significant decline in a specific group of neurons called the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, which is responsible for regulating sleep patterns in the brain.

The study's senior author told WBUR's Common Health, "This is the first time that anyone has ever been able to show in humans that there is a distinct group of nerve cells in the brain that's critical for allowing you to sleep."

The researchers noted by the time people hit their 70s, they're sleeping, on average, an hour and a half less than they used to when they were in their 20s.

And that lack of sleep can lead to a number of other health problems, as HealthDay points out, including thinking and memory issues, increased blood pressure and a tendency to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Disrupted sleep can even lead to issues that may end in institutionalization for Alzheimer's patients, like nighttime wandering.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, wandering and incontinence are the top two causes of institutionalization in Alzheimer's patients.

But one of the study's authors told The Huffington Post they hope this new finding could help scientists develop a drug that would help smooth disruptive sleep patterns by pinpointing the specific group of neurons without negatively affecting other functions like other sleep medications do.

The researchers say it's unclear when a drug like this would be available for use. The study was published in the journal Brain Aug. 20.

This video contains images from Getty Images, Leonardo Allocca / CC BY NC ND 2.0​ and Steve Wilde / CC BY NC ND 2.0​.

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<![CDATA[Neanderthals Probably Died Out Earlier Than We Thought]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:14:00 -0500
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​A big question plaguing paleoanthropologists — that is, people who study ancient humans — is just when did Neanderthals disappear?

Most thought our early human ancestors went extinct about 30,000 years ago.

But — and we’ll get into this a little more later — dating really old bones can get tricky.

And in what The New York Times called "the most definitive answer yet," a new study suggests Neanderthals actually disappeared from Europe 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The simplest way we can explain it is that researchers used radiocarbon dating but removed contaminants they think were making samples seem older than they actually were. (Video via Natural History Museum London)

It all comes from University of Oxford researchers who published their findings in the journal Nature.

The study is actually chock-full of interesting Neanderthal-related findings. A glance at the headlines provides a sampling of what various editors thought was most interesting.

Including the extinction date we just discussed and the fact the study suggests Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted and interbred for thousands of years.

And New Scientist focuses on the revelation that humans played a role in Neanderthal extinction, characterizing us as "an invasive species."

Another theory the study might have turned on its head: that Neanderthals disappeared all at once. Instead, researchers think their evidence suggests it happened "at different times in different regions."

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<![CDATA[Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:31:00 -0500
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Our biological relatives might have answers in the search for a cure for Ebola, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,300 and infected nearly double that number.

According to a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, 16 rhesus macaque monkeys survived a Marburg virus infection — a disease "closely related" to Ebola — thanks to a new experimental treatment.

​While we've seen several experimental drugs, NBC reports this one is unique because of its efficacy. It's "the first time such a drug has been shown to work so many days after infection." Some of the macaques didn't receive the drug until three days afterward.

And that's why the drug could be useful: Many are unaware of an Ebola infection until it's too late. 

While it's true the drug was used for a "cousin" of Ebola — Marburg virus — the company behind the treatment is also working on a drug for Ebola. It's one that's "been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration," according to NBC.

The New York Times explains both drugs use a technique called RNA interference. When a virus enters the body, it begins to take over the body's cells, forcing them to make copies of the virus. The RNA interference technique stops the virus's ability to make copies of itself. (Video via World Health Organization)

Despite promising results, one doctor quoted by The Washington Post cautioned, "It would be a mistake for people in those countries to think that these drugs are going to be available in large enough quantities to alter the course of this outbreak."

He told the outlet "adherence to traditional public health measures" is the best way to get the outbreak under control. 

Another drug being used in the treatment of Ebola has proven effective. ABC reports Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — two Americans who contracted Ebola — will be released from the hospital after being treated with ZMapp.

This video includes images from Kees de Vos / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and European Commission DG ECHO​ / CC BY ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:09:00 -0500
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If you live in a big city and somehow weren't a little creeped out by spiders before, you definitely will be now.

According to a new study out of Australia, spiders get bigger and multiply faster when they live in the city. Cue the giant spider nightmares.

Researchers from the University of Sydney found that golden orb weaver spiders like this one living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney tend to be larger, better fed and have more offspring than their country-dwelling counterparts. (Video via YouTube / MyBackyardBirding)

To come to this terrifying conclusion, the study's authors collected 222 female golden orb weavers from different places around Sydney and measured each area's urbanization based on qualities like leaf-litter cover, grass coverage and amount of hard surfaces, such as concrete.

The researchers then measured the spiders' body size, fat reserves and ovary weight to determine their reproductive capacity. And, sure enough, the more urban the area, the bigger, fatter and more potentially fertile the spiders were. Lovely.

One of the study's authors told The Atlantic's CityLab they believe two factors present in most cities are responsible for this so-called superspider trend. 

First, the hot microclimates sustained by a paved-over city makes for an ideal environment for spiders to grow and thrive.

And second, thanks to the massive amount of artificial light in cities, they attract an abnormal amount of insects to the area. Translation: the spiders are never without a plentiful food source.

Now, this may seem like bad news all around for city dwellers. But as gross as spiders are, they're actually good to have around.

They eat insects we consider to be annoying pests, like flies and mosquitos, and keep their populations down. And they're also an important food source for other creatures, including frogs and toads. Ah, the circle of life.

While the research in Sydney was confined to just one species of spider, the study's authors say other types of spiders are probably reaping the benefits of city living too. You can check out the entire study in the journal PLOS One.

This video contains images from Getty Images.​

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<![CDATA[Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:44:00 -0500
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A half-mile of ice isn't enough to suffocate life. A team of scientists who drilled into one of Antarctica's subglacial lakes last year says the lake is pretty well-packed with living things.

The U.S.-based team used a sterile hot water drill to reach and collect samples from Lake Whillans, one of Antarctica's roughly 400 lakes, which are kept liquid by pressure, friction and the planet's heat.

Shortly afterward, they announced they'd found life in the lake water, and after a year and a half of study, they've confirmed nearly 4,000 species, many of them completely new.

Life existing at all in a lake that hasn't gotten any sunlight in more than 100,000 years is definitely impressive. As you can probably guess, energy is scarce beneath the ice.

But the single-celled organisms that live there have a creative trick: they eat the rock to survive, having found ways to use minerals like iron and ammonium for energy, similar to how microbes on the bottom of the deepest oceans get by.

Science writers are calling this a first: "the first sample ever retrieved directly from a subglacial lake", "the first organisms ever retrieved from a subglacial Antarctic lake." But that depends on who you ask.

A Russian team collected samples from Lake Vostok shortly before the U.S. team got to Lake Whillans. They published findings of life under the ice a year ago, but many scientists said their drilling technique risked contamination.

Now it's definitive: life can survive under Antarctica's ice sheets, far away from sunlight. And that has some big implications.

Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa are both potential candidates for alien life. The findings in Antarctica are more evidence that life could thrive under the moons' ice crusts.

The team hopes to return to Lake Whillans this winter to take more samples and see if they can find more species, including, perhaps, some small animals.

This video contains images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Reasons Why Teen Birth Rates Are At An All-Time Low]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:38:00 -0500
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A new government report shows teen birth rates have fallen drastically in the past two decades and have even hit a record low.

The report, published Wednesday on the CDC website, shows teen birth rates took a 57 percent nosedive between 1991 and 2013. At the end of that period, American teens were less than one-third as likely to give birth as they had been in 1957. The decline was seen across all 50 states and all races and ethnic groups.

In fact, outside of a brief spike on the graph between 1986 and 1991, the report says teen birth rates have been steadily declining for nearly a half-century. So why such a big drop? Well, there are a number of theories.

Let's start with money. This 2011 Pew Research Center study shows a strong correlation between the birth rates for women of all ages and the overall ebb and flow of U.S. economy.

Pew also says "less sex, more contraception and more information" has helped sustain the downward trend.

Interestingly enough, a Brookings Institute study says reality shows like MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" have played a huge role in bringing teen pregnancy to the public eye.

"We attribute 5.7 percent reduction in teen child bearing to the introduction of '16 and Pregnant' in June 2009. So, to be clear, that's a third of the decline in the overall teen child bearing we've seen for this period."

There are also a number of public health initiatives playing a role.

Colorado, for example, has seen a 40 percent drop in teen births over the past few years, which The Washington Post reports is being credited to a program that provides long-term contraception, like IUDs or implants, to young women.

As for the study itself, one expert on preventing teen pregnancy celebrated what he said were "eye-opening" stats with HealthDay. "These historic declines in teen pregnancy and births truly represent one of the nation's great success stories over the past two decades."

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[ALS Ice Bucket Challenge And Sports Are Deeply Connected]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:29:00 -0500
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The Ice Bucket Challenge is everywhere on social media right now and it's all in an effort to raise awareness about ALS. But, cold water isn't the only thing shocking about former NFL linebacker Tim Shaw's recent Ice Bucket Challenge video. 

Shaw posted a video of himself doing the challenge on the Tennessee Titans website Tuesday. In that video, Shaw made a surprising revelation — announcing he too is battling ALS. 

Shaw, who's 30, last played in the NFL in 2012 as a linebacker with the Titans. The Penn State alum also played for the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears throughout his career. 

ABC points out Shaw isn't the only former NFL battling the disease. The outlet says former players Steve Gleason, O.J. Brigance and Kevin Turner are among others in the same situation. 

As The ALS Association describes it, "Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord." Those with the disease slowly lose speech ability and use of their muscles. Ultimately, they become paralyzed. 

But, the links between ALS and athletes is deeply rooted. 

ALS is also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," named after one of Major League Baseball's greatest players who was diagnosed with it in 1939. 

ALS THERAPY DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE, LOU GEHRIG: "I might've been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

Gehrig died two years later. 

And the whole "Ice Bucket Challenge" social media sensation started this year thanks to a pair of athletes. (Video via The Boston Globe

It started with many people on social media donating to their favorite charity or face the icy water. But, The Golf Channel reports it's golfer Chris Kennedy who first started connecting it to ALS with this video. Kennedy's cousin suffers from the disease.

That's when the trend first got goin' and ESPN reports former Boston College player Pete Frates really brought it to mainstream social media. Frates, 29, was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. (Video via A Life Story Foundation

"Last month, one of Pete's friends introduced him to the Ice Bucket Challenge. ... Pete couldn't do it himself, but he could ask others to do it. 

And the rest is social media history. Pete eventually did do the challenge at his home team's Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park.

​According to The ALS Association, the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $31.5 million in donations since July 29th with the numbers growing higher everyday. The Association received $1.9 million in donations over the same time period last year.

In the video, Shaw challenged the Tennessee Titans organization, Penn State football coach James Franklin and his Clarenceville, Michigan community.

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<![CDATA[Common Antibiotic Could Lead To Heart-Related Death]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:42:00 -0500
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A common antibiotic used by millions worldwide could be linked to hundreds of deaths from heart problems every year.

Clarithromycin, which is used to treat things like pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections, was linked by Danish researchers to dozens more deaths per year than penicillin.

Their new study, published in the British Medical Journal, studied hundreds of cases where a patient died from heart problems while taking one of the two drugs, and found clarithromycin had a 76 percent higher risk than penicillin.

​Though the risk from either drug was small, the researchers said in a statement, "Clarithromycin is one of the more commonly used antibiotics in many countries and millions of people are prescribed this drug each year."

The researchers aren't urging doctors to stop prescribing the drug, though, citing the low risk and the need for more research. (Video via WLNE

In an email to Medscape, one of the researchers said, "This finding should probably have limited, if any, effect on prescribing practice in individual patients (with the possible exception of patients who have strong risk factors)."

Instead, they're more worried about the industry-wide reliance on the drug. The Telegraph reports doctors in the U.K. prescribed the drug 2.2 million times last year.

As for the U.S., a writer for KCNC says American doctors are much less likely to prescribe the drug, saying, "In fact, clarithromycin isn’t even on the top ten list of prescribed antibiotics in America—we simply have better and more effective ones with fewer side effects."

But there are other related medications out there that have been linked to heart problems.

The FDA announced last March that azithromycin, which is similar, may lead to irregular heart rhythm that could potentially be fatal.

The Danish researchers urged more studies using different techniques to back up their findings.

This video contains an image from Esther Simpson / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:53:00 -0500
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Could the number of guests at your wedding directly correlate with your marital happiness as the years go by?

A new report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia suggests it does. 

Over a five-year period, the study followed 418 people who got married — the overwhelming majority in formal wedding ceremonies. Forty-seven percent of those who had at least 150 guests at their weddings reported marital happiness in the top 40 percent of the sample. 

writer for the New York Post came up with a point that might lend some credibility to the larger-weddings-equals-happier-marriage thing.

"It may be that having all those people at your wedding is a sign you have a large, extended network of family and friends who'll support you in your marriage — people you can turn to in times of tensions with your spouse."

Now before all you brides and grooms freak out and decide you need to add a bunch of people to your guest lists, a writer for Refinery29 pointed out some potential flaws in the findings. 

First, the happiness factor was entirely based on what the couples told the researchers. And second, the couples have only been married for five years at the most because that's how long participants were followed. It's also important to note researchers only studied people between the ages of 18 and 40 and only couples who married someone of the opposite sex.

The Washington Post came to this conclusion after taking a look at the study: "Don't drive yourself deeply into debt with a gigantic wedding just because of a couple of bar charts."

We decided to take a look at factors others believe contribute to long, successful marriages. 

A doctor of psychology says relationships take communication, honesty and compromise to work. 

And in a post written for a site dedicated to marriage, a couples mediator advises people to pick their battles with their spouses and says it's all right to disagree, but it doesn't have to turn into a full-blown argument.

To read more about the study, head over to the National Marriage Project's website

This video contains images from Pierre Fridel / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Adam Woodrow / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:11:00 -0500
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Poachers killed as many as 100,000 African elephants in the space of three years, according to a new study.  

The study found unsustainable amounts of elephants were killed between 2009 and 2012, peaking in 2011 at 8 percent, which translates to 40,000 elephants killed that year alone. 

The escalation of poaching, which National Geographic reports has reduced the elephant population in Africa by 64 percent in the last decade, comes with new methods and equipment used by poachers. 

CBC: "They were telling me on the ground in Tanzania that people were coming in in helicopters. It is economically viable for them; this is not a fly-by-night operation, so to speak."

That study also found the increase in the illegal killing rate correlated with the increase in the price of ivory. So where is the demand coming from?

​​NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: "By every measure, China is the world's villain when it comes to the illegal ivory trade. ... The reasons are obvious: It has a long history of ivory consumption; it has a booming economy."

As The Washington Post reports, prices of ivory have soared in the last five years, starting when the Chinese government authorized a "one-off sale" of ivory, despite signing on to a ban on the international trade of ivory in 1989.

To help stop China's ivory imports, activists have employed one of the country's most famous exports, Yao Ming. 

The towering basketball player traveled to Africa and met elephants in a documentary called "The End Of The Wild," which was put together by WildAid. 

WildAid is one of a handful of organizations aiming to combat poaching by addressing the consumption of poached goods, such as ivory in China. It's employed Chinese stars Jackie Chan and Vincent Zhao as well as Ming.

WILDAID: "You don't have to play ball to be a great shot blocker. Never buy illegal wildlife products, and we can save our endangered animals. 'When the buying stops, the killing can too.'"

But the buying doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon, as the study reports preliminary findings showed unsustainable killing of elephants continued in 2013. 

This video contains images from Getty Images and Ross Huggett / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Why Shanghai Subway Passengers Ran Away From Man Who Fainted]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:09:00 -0500
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If a stranger fainted right in front of you, your first move might be to try to help them. 

But passengers on board a subway car in Shanghai earlier this month had a very different reaction. And it was all caught on camera.

Check out this surveillance footage released Wednesday by CCTV. You can see a man suddenly slump over in his seat. And as he rolls to the floor, his fellow passengers bolt for the train's door.

According to a tweet from People's Daily, China, the subway car was empty within 10 seconds, and the unconscious passenger was left alone on the ground.

If you watch the rest of that bizarre footage, you can see the man who fainted regain consciousness, looking confused as a new wave of passengers boards the train and subway employees arrive to investigate the incident.

After the video's release, several major news outlets criticized the passengers' skittish reaction to the incident, with some critics even blaming the city of Shanghai as a whole for being too unfriendly.

But a blogger told the South China Morning Post that response could have something to do with the increasing number of alleged terrorist attacks in Yunnan and Xinjiang provinces in recent weeks.

"People have been strained and [are a bundle of] nerves nowadays. ... In the closed space of a subway train, a stranger's abrupt collapse ... can trigger every frightened person to flee from the scene."

One of the most terrifying attacks happened at a train station in Yunnan province back in March. Men dressed in black and armed with knives burst into the station and began stabbing people at random. (Video via Arirang)

But the subway panic in Shanghai, according to some observers, is just the most recent example of public reluctance in China to help others.  

strikingly similar situation on a subway in Guangzhou back in June sparked panic when a passenger fainted and caused others to rush out of the train. Six passengers were hurt in the chaos.

And the 2011 case of a 2-year-old girl in Guangdong province who was hit by two vehicles and ignored by at least 18 people before someone helped her stirred a massive debate over common decency. (Video via TVS)

To combat this type of behavior, the city of Shenzhen implemented China's first Good Samaritan law last year, which aimed to protect people from being subject to liability while trying to help others.

China has experienced several high-profile cases in which those trying to assist others in need were sued after their efforts didn't succeed.

As for this most recent incident, the identity of the man who fainted is still unclear, and his condition is currently unknown.

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<![CDATA[Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:55:00 -0500
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Here's yet another reason to hang those nonsensical, poorly-drawn pictures your kid creates onto your fridge: they might show just how smart your child really is.

A study published Monday by King's College London found a link between 4-year-olds' doodle drawings and those same kids' intelligence levels a decade later.

The study looked at more than 15,000 children. Parents asked each 4-year-old to draw a picture of another kid. Then the researchers graded the pictures on a scale of 0 to 12, giving points if the drawings had correct features like eyes, nose, mouth and so on. The kids were given intelligence tests both at age 4 and age 14. The researchers were surprised to find that, not only were drawing scores linked to intelligence at age 4, the effect was still there 10 years later.

But there's no need to run out and sign your kid up for drawing classes just yet. The researchers say the correlation is "moderate." Lead author Dr. Rosalind Arden spoke with Sky News

"There will be many children who can barely put pen to paper who turn out to do brilliant things in later life."

And as anchors at KUSI said:

"If your kid isn't a very good doodler, don't worry." ...

"So, there's only a plus to this, there's no negative to this?" 

"There's no real negative to this."

LiveScience points out the 'draw-a-child' test was first developed in the 1920s for similar reasons. But the researchers say it's the strong link between the drawings at age 4 and age 14 that's surprising. 

Dr. Arden says because the sample size was so large researchers are very confident in their findings. 

This video contains images from joamm_tall / CC BY-SA 2.0​ and King's College London.

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<![CDATA[American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:25:00 -0500
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The reported improvement of an American Ebola patient being treated at Atlanta's Emory hospital made national news Tuesday.

​​The patient is Nancy Writebol, whose husband, David, announced she was getting better after he was cleared from quarantine and allowed to see her. (Video via CBS)

Writebol — along with Dr. Kent Brantly, the other American infected — is being treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, and they're not the only ones who seem to be recovering after taking the drug. Three African doctors also appear to be getting better.

BBC: "'Remarkable signs of improvement' are the words of the Liberian information minister. ... They started taking this experimental drug, ZMapp, last Thursday evening."

Tack onto that the news that 17 patients were recovered after disappearing during looting of an Ebola clinic in the Liberian capital of Monrovia and you might be forgiven for thinking the signs are encouraging. (Video via Euronews)

But the death toll from the outbreak continues to climb, with the World Health Organization announcing Tuesday more than 1,200 people have already died from the virus in West Africa. 

And the company that manufactures ZMapp announced supplies of the drug, which had been provided at no cost, have been exhausted. 

Then there was this news out of Berlin Tuesday. 

​​The Wall Street Journal reports police in the German capital cordoned off a job center ​​after a woman reportedly showed signs of having an infectious disease. 

Authorities didn't say what the disease might be, but that didn't stop German outlets from picking up the story, with one even calling it an "Ebola alarm."

Europe has already seen one person die from Ebola: Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who contracted the virus in Liberia and was also treated with ZMapp. 

This video contains an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:52:00 -0500
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Octopuses and squids are known for their ability to blend in with their surroundings at the drop of a hat to hide from dangerous predators.

And now, scientists inspired by their impressive camouflage techniques are working on a device that could make us humans just as adept at staying hidden. (Video via YouTube / et/ufo disclosure)

Researchers at the University of Houston and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign designed this heat-sensitive sheet that quickly changes color when it detects light.

So far, it only changes from black to white and back again, which doesn't even come close to the multitude of colors an octopus's skin is capable of shifting to. (Video via National Geographic)

But it seems to be a solid step toward developing a sea creature-inspired camouflage material for human use.

One of the lead scientists on the project told the BBC their current device is more about proof of principle. "It's nothing close to being ready to deploy. ... It's really a beginning point, to focus on the engineering science around how you might create systems that have this type of function."

The science behind this new device is complex, but to put it simply, the magic is all in its layers. 

There's a light-detecting sheet at the bottom with a silver layer on top of that that gives the device its shiny white base. And on top of that is a sheet of diodes that heats dye located in the top layer. That dye appears to be black at low temperatures and clear at high temps. And the whole thing is mounted on a flexible base.

Someday, the researchers say they hope their method can be used to design military vehicles that can automatically camouflage themselves.

And other research in recent years has focused on providing a similar benefit for the military.

Back in 2011, BAE Systems announced the creation of ADAPTIV, a form of camouflage that can be used to trick heat-sensing technology.

According to its designers, ADAPTIV can make a CV90 light tank completely invisible to thermal sensors or even make it look like something else entirely, like a cow. Yes, a cow. (Video via YouTube / defenseupdate)

The creators of this newest device say they have a lot more work to do on the device. But one of the lead researchers told National Geographic he doubts they'll ever make something that truly acts like an octopus's skin.

"As an engineer looking at movies of squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish, you just [realize] that you're not going to get close to that level of sophistication. We tried to abstract the same principles and do the best we can with what we've got."

The research on the new color-changing device was presented this week in the journal PNAS.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:46:00 -0500
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Most of us probably have a mental picture of what it's like to put a satellite into orbit: a dedicated rocket launch, stage separation, the slow unfurling of the solar panels. (Video via NASA)

How far we've come. Monday, a Russian cosmonaut on board the International Space Station put a satellite into orbit with about the same amount of effort you'd use to toss your keys onto a table.

During a spacewalk, Oleg Artemyev deployed a Peruvian nanosatellite called Chasqui I by just picking it up and throwing it off the ISS. The satellite is meant to transmit pictures of Earth to Peru's National University of Engineering.

Satellites have been launched from the ISS before, most notably the bizarre SuitSat, a retired space suit outfitted with sensors that was thrown overboard in early 2006.

But Chasqui I and other small spacecraft are part of a big change in the satellite world: the theory that less is more.

Headlines talking up tiny satellites have been around for a couple years now, praising them for "doing the job of older satellites cheaper" and having price tags "in the reach not just of small firms, but also of start-ups and researchers.

A Forbes writer even went with the bold lede, "In the future, everyone on Earth will have ubiquitous access to outer space."

Many small satellites, like the standard 4-inch-square CubeSat, are light weight and rely on off-the-shelf components, pushing the price to get them into space down into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's like one or two potato salads. (Video via European Space Agency)

Hundreds of small satellites are set to be launched in the next few years, though the vast majority won't be delivered by hand from the ISS.

This video contains an image from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Bone Marrow Drug Regrows Hair In Some Alopecia Patients]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:06:00 -0500
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​New hope for those with the autoimmune disease alopecia, as researchers have found a bone marrow drug to regrow hair in some patients.

​Researchers from Columbia University performed an experiment using an FDA-approved drug known as ruxolitinib, which is normally used to treat a bone marrow disorder. They found it to be successful in the majority of patients. (Video via YouTube / Jakafi

KTVD: "After experiments with mice were successful, the drug was then tested on three patients with moderate to severe forms of the disease. And all three experienced total hair regrowth within four or five months."

The disease, alopecia, is an autoimmune disorder affecting about 1 percent of the population. It occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys hair follicles — causing hair to fall out. (Video via YouTube / SBS2Australia)

YOUTUBE / BELGRAVIA CENTRE: "The body's germ-fighting cells attack the hair follicles as if they were a bacteria or a virus."

The drug reportedly works on the disease by blocking enzymes that in turn suppress immune system activity. (Video via YouTube / Dinesh Bhutada)

And although the disease isn't life-threatening, the study's lead author says it could change the lives of those affected by alopecia. 

"We've only begun testing the drug in patients, but if the drug continues to be successful and safe, it will have a dramatic positive impact on the lives of people with the disease."

But others are urging researchers, and those affected by alopecia, to pump the brakes before jumping to any conclusions.

Speaking to The New York Times, a dermatologist with the University of Pennsylvania said the way the drug was administered was "very toxic" with the possibility of causing side effects such as liver and blood problems. He added, "Patients are going to rush in demanding this treatment, and I would not give it."

The bone marrow drug isn't the only one researchers are looking at to regrow hair, though. As we reported in June:  

"Yale researchers were able to successfully regrow a 25-year-old patient's hair after eight months of treatment with the arthritis drug tofacitinib citrate."

The bone marrow drug was taken in tablet form twice daily. Unfortunately, researchers say it will not be effective for other forms of hair loss, such as male pattern baldness, as that form is caused by hormones. (Video via TXCN)

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<![CDATA[Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:18:00 -0500
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​​Researchers published a study Monday showing a decade's worth of changes when it comes to the number of children with disabilities, and the numbers are generally mixed.

CNN reports the study found disabilities in children rose 16 percent from 2001 to 2011, but not all disabilities saw an increase. Physical disabilities in children — including asthma and vision problems — had fallen 12 percent, while mental and neurological disabilities such as epilepsy and ADHD increased 21 percent.

According to USA Today, there was also a difference among children who live in households with different incomes. Higher-income homes saw the largest percentage increase in the number of reported disabilities. But children living in households in poverty still had a much higher number of disabilities compared to the top income bracket.

The scientists behind the study say parents in higher-income households are more comfortable and more likely to get help from their doctor, which might be behind the increase among that group.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics Monday morning and says the prevalence of disabilities in children over the past 50 years has increased significantly. 

There have been multiple studies published in the past backing up that claim. This CDC data from 2008 shows over an 11-year period, developmental disabilities increased in children by nearly 20 percent.

ABC also cited recent CDC data which showed the rate of autism in kids, which actually wasn't included in the most recent study, jumped to 1 in 68 — a 62 percent increase since 2006.

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<![CDATA[Man Who Raised $100,000 For ALS Research Drowns]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 09:32:00 -0500
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A tragic story coming out of the revelry surrounding the success of the ice bucket challenge. A man who'd helped raise more than $100,000 for ALS research died over the weekend. Across local outlets, friends and family are all saying the same thing.

WHDH: "Corey was all about family, friends and giving back." 

"Corey threw himself behind a lot of causes, way more so than anyone of our generation, and just put his heart and soul behind these things."

NECN"Just kind of the way Corey's always lived his life — it was about other people."

WFXT"He was very committed to giving. He put 100 percent effort behind it for several different causes."

In what the Nantucket Police Department says was a drowning accident, 27-year-old Corey Griffin jumped off the roof of a local business and into a harbor around 2 a.m. Saturday.

His family told The Boston Globe he'd been in Nantucket to raise even more money for ALS research. His father said Saturday: "He was the happiest guy in the world. He called me last night and told me he was in paradise."

That happiness had come, at least in part, from Griffin's success — he'd already raised more than $100,000. 

Griffin was a friend of Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball player with ALS who is credited with inspiring the ice bucket challenge. So far it's raised more than $11 million. (Video via ESPN)

Griffin also attended Boston College, where he played hockey. Frates wrote on his Facebook page"Team FrateTrain lost a good friend today. ... He worked his butt off these last few weeks for ALS. We texted everyday, planning and scheming ways to raise funds and plan events."

Griffin was a Massachusetts native but had been living in New York City, where he worked for a finance company. He's survived by his parents, brother and sister. He had also worked for years to raise money for Boston Children's Hospital.

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<![CDATA[Ebola Isolation Clinic Looted, Up To 20 Patients Flee]]> Sun, 17 Aug 2014 15:56:00 -0500
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Of all the places to loot, an Ebola isolation clinic probably isn't the best place. 

Armed protestors stormed an ebola clinic in Liberia's capital Saturday stealing blood-stained bedding and forcing as many as 20 infected patients to flee into the city's tightly packed West Point township. 

 

According to the United Nation's Integrated Regional Information Networks, or IRIN, the West Point "shantytown" has about 70,000 residents and suffers from debilitating sanitary conditions. The population has access to only four public toilets, meaning street defecation is commonplace.  

There are now fears that with West Point's dense neighborhoods, poor sanitary conditions, and the Ebola patients now on the loose it could make fighting Liberia's already serious Ebola outbreak even more complex. 

A senior Liberia police official told BBC "This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in my life" and that the looting of blood-stained mattresses and bedding could spread the virus to all of West Point.

Sky News reports West Point residents were already upset that Ebola patients were being brought from other parts of the capital to the isolation clinic in their township. The protestors were reportedly shouting that Ebola was a scam created by the Liberian president for money. 

According to Front Page Africa, the assistant health minister said Thursday there are plans to quarantine West Point, but first food and supplies must be brought into the township. 

While West Point wouldn't be the first place to be quarantined by the Liberian government, it might be the largest if the health ministry does decide to quarantine the area. 

The West Point clinic looting came the same day the Kenyan government announced a travel ban on West African countries afflicted with the deadly Ebola virus. (Video via Kenya360TV)

Kenya Airways, which is owned by the Kenyan government, announced that flights going to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone will be suspended starting Tuesday at midnight. 

None-the-less, the World Health Organization, or WHO, reiterated that the spread of Ebola through air travel is very low and has advised against travel bans. 

According to the WHO, more than 400 people have died in Liberia from Ebola and more than 1,100 in total between Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. 

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<![CDATA[A PhD In Chocolate? Cambridge Makes It A Reality]]> Sun, 17 Aug 2014 15:42:00 -0500
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Getting ready to head off to college this fall and still not sure yet what you want to do when you grow up? Well, how about getting a PhD in chocolate?

You probably think we're joking, but it's the real deal. The BBC reports it's all possible at the University of Cambridge through its Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology.

SKY NEWS: "They're actually advertising for a PhD student to research this so you can basically spend your whole time researching the meltability of chocolate. Wouldn't that be an amazing job?" 

When you first hear about the program, you might imagine something similar to a real-life "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," but it's not necessarily the case. It turns out there's plenty of science behind it. 

While Cambridge calls the program "mainly experimental," The Independent reports it also says you need to be good at math and have studied sciences including physics, chemistry or engineering for at least four years.

As Metro comically writes: "Sadly, a long history of polishing off family-size Galaxy bars in front of Gossip Girl won’t count as credentials."

Enough about the requirements. What will the student actually do if they're selected?

On the ad, posted to its website, Cambridge says an applicant should find ways that chocolate can stay solid in warmer climates and keep its quality at the same time. The internship is fully paid for and would last three-and-a-half years.

No surprise, there are plenty of other odd majors out there — some of which The Telegraph has compiled into a list of majors you might not have heard of.

The list includes a degree in making the perfect wine, a degree in brewing, a degree in the science of surfing and one in so-called "ethical hacking."

If you're interested in applying to the internship, you don't have a lot of time. The application deadline is August 29. The selected applicant, who has to be from the EU, would most likely start studying in January.

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<![CDATA[Are Experimental Drugs The Answer To Containing Ebola?]]> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 15:27:00 -0500
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The Ebola outbreak continues to grow across west Africa, and, according to estimates, the disease has now infected more than 2,000 people.

As the problem worsens, several experimental drugs have surfaced in an effort to help slow the virus' progress. 

"In Nigeria there at least a dozen confirmed cases of Ebola. Supplies of an experimental drug called ZMapp have already been depleted. Officials are now hoping for a new drug."  

"The outbreak has sparked a debate over the ethics of giving untested drugs to the affected patients." 

But in countries with limited healthcare supplies, even in some of the best hospitals, are experimental drugs really what's going to help stop the rapid spread of Ebola? 

Likely not. Bloomberg's Editorial Team suggests what's really needed are things like masks, gloves, gowns and boots. "This gear enables doctors and nurses to care for Ebola patients without risking their own lives by coming in contact with the virus in patients’ vomit, blood and feces. The equipment is in such short supply in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that, for lack of it, medical workers have fallen ill."

The Wall Street Journal points to a chilling example in a rural Liberian hospital where there was a glove shortage. One doctor used plastic grocery bags to cover his hands while delivery a baby. But "his staff didn't bother even with those when a woman in her 30s stopped by complaining of a headache. Five nurses, a lab technician—then a local woman who was helping out—cared for her with their bare hands. Within weeks, all of them died. The woman with a headache, they learned too late, had Ebola."

And after its chief doctor died from Ebola, Liberia's main hospital sits nearly abandoned. After panic set in, most patients were taken home and hospital staff left their posts.

REPORTER: "In other parts of Liberia there are similar stories."

NURSE: "We want to make sure that we have all protective gears available and protective materials that we need to protect ourselves." 

In some of the more well-supplied areas, this is what healthcare workers must wear to protect themselves — head-to-toe body suits. 

DR. SANJAY GUPTA: "We're talking about a pathogen that is not particularly contagious, doesn't spread easily from person to person. But it is highly infectious, meaning only a small amount can make somebody sick, even a droplet of something."

The World Health Organization claims the outbreak is being widely underestimated. Writing in a statement,  "WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, agencies within the United Nations system, and others."

​And President Obama has made a similar promise to help the affected countries contain the outbreak — talking by phone with presidents in Liberia and Sierra Leone. (Video Via The White House

Friday, medical news site DOTmed reported 22 of the world's top medical companies are sending resources to west Africa. That includes 2.3 million gloves, 65,000 masks, 92,000 gowns and antibiotics.

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<![CDATA[Could Kilobots Be The Technology Of The Future?]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:07:00 -0500
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Harvard says it has created the first robot flash mob. 

These individual little robots called Kilobots are only an inch wide and can form shapes as a group by just blinking at one another. 

The bots operate completely on their own once an instruction is given.

Four Kilobots work as markers, and the other bots receive the 2-D image they're supposed to form. Any mistakes that might occur, like a robot traffic jam, can be corrected without human intervention. 

This might not seem like much now, but scientists believe these bots could eventually work together to help with environmental cleanup and disaster response.

Boston Globe reporter even theorized this research could lead to the Kilobots "building a base on another planet before humans arrive" or "crawling into rubble after an earthquake to search for survivors."

A National Geographic article says the scientists behind the Kilobots were inspired by ants working together to form a common goal. 

And when you think about it, the Kilobots do kind of look like freaky Space Age bugs.

Surprisingly, Kilobots are actually pretty cheap. Each little bot only costs about $20.

This video contains photos by Mike Rubenstein and Science/AAAS.

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<![CDATA[Shocker: Alcohol Makes You Care Less]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:04:00 -0500
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Ever find some embarrassing emails or texts the morning after drinking? Well, you might not be able to blame them on that extra cocktail anymore.

In a study from the University of Missouri, researchers looked at how alcohol affects someone's awareness of their mistakes. It found alcohol doesn't necessarily cause those mistakes, but people care much less about making them.

The researchers gave three groups of people either a soft drink, a placebo or an alcoholic beverage. Those individuals were then given a series of computer tests designed to purposely cause mistakes. The researchers say everyone was aware of those mistakes, even those who drank alcohol.

The study was published back in 2012 but just recently made headlines when an outlet in Australia picked up the story.

That outlet is News Limited. It quotes the study's lead researcher, who believes alcohol silences the body's "alarm signal."

 

"It is very common for people to respond more slowly following an error, as a way of trying to regain self-control. ... The alcohol group of participants didn't do this."

So as some media outlets put it: "Drunk words really ARE sober thoughts" and "Alcohol is just a truth serum."

But if you're wondering how to prevent those drunk dials in the future, we know of a few apps that might help you out.

There's the Drunk Mode app that prevents you from contacting any number of people from your contact list for a specified amount of time.

​And then there's the BAC Calculator that estimates your blood alcohol content, showing you how intoxicated you really are — if you can even remember to use it.

The study was published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

This video contains an image from Alpha du centaure / CC BY SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Mother And Son Find Woolly Mammoth Tusks 22 Years Apart]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 11:10:00 -0500
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Like mother, like son — an Alaska man uncovered a woolly mammoth tusk 22 years after his mother found one in the very same location.

According to the Alaska Dispatch, 25-year-old Andrew Harrelson was fishing with his fiancee and his two children near his home village of White Mountain Sunday when he spotted the massive 12-foot-long fossil covered by a stump in the water.

HARRELSON VIA KTUU"It looked super dark, almost greenish, greenish black, and I knew it wasn't a stick because there was no limbs, no branches coming off.  So, I told myself, 'That's a tusk.'"

And if that discovery itself wasn't cool enough, Harrelson spotted the tusk in the same part of the Fish River just 10 feet from where his mother found a 79-pound tusk back in 1992.

After his own discovery, Harrleson and a relative pried the tusk out of the water later in the day.

They then weighed it on a bathroom scale — according to their unofficial measurements, the fossil was about 162 pounds.

And it turns out, Harrelson's big find could be worth some big money. Woolly mammoth tusks can sell for thousands of dollars, as you can see from this listing on Fossil Realm.

The reason behind that mammoth price tag? Woolly mammoth tusks are collected for their pure, high-grade ivory, much like elephant tusks.

And because most woolly mammoths died off about 12,000 years ago, their tusks are all the more valuable and rare. 

Early humans used tusks for tools and making art, but today, they're often used in knife handles and jewelry like the pieces sold by this store.

Harrelson says prospective buyers have been making him offers for his newfound tusk. His father says he's sure his son will use any money he gets toward a down payment on a house.

This video contains images from Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY SA 2.0 and Rob Pongsajapan / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[The Untold Dangers Of Ramen Noodles]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 10:48:00 -0500
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In those moments of late-night cravings, Ramen Noodles seem to be your lifeblood — the key to survival, exactly what you need to keep going.

"Consistent quality and the finest of ingredients."

But according to a new study — they're killing you. OK, not necessarily, or not outright, but the research shows instant noodle products like Ramen can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome for women. 

And metabolic syndrome can mean increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The study found women who ate instant noodle products more than twice a week were the ones in trouble

The team behind the study explain one possible reason why women are more at risk here: The chemical BPA is used for packaging these noodles into Styrofoam containers. BPA has been reported to interfere with hormones such as estrogen. 

The study focused on people in South Korea because the population consumes an especially high amount of instant noodles, and the nation has also seen rising heart disease. 

And of course, instant noodles don't exactly have a reputation for being healthy in the first place. They've been called out in the past for high fat and salt content.

The doctor behind the study says he hopes this will lay down a foundation: "Many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks."

So, for those of you making Ramen food porn on the Internet or just hitting "start" on your microwaves at 3 a.m., take heed. Though — that may be hard — because you might be drunk.

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<![CDATA[Human Activity Blamed For Increase In Melting Glaciers]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 23:15:00 -0500
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Climate scientists have argued human activity is responsible for a significant portion of glacier melting but haven't been able to pinpoint just how much of an affect we've had until now.

A panel of researchers put together by the United Nations found human-made greenhouse gas emissions account for about two-thirds of glacier melting specifically between 1991 and 2010. In the 140 years prior to 1991, they said humans only contributed about a quarter of the total amount. (Video via Submarine Deluxe / 'Chasing Ice')

This marks the first time scientists have been able to attach a specific number to how drastic an effect the human carbon footprint is having on ice melting — especially recently.

The lead researcher​ is quoted in USA Today saying, "In our data we find unambiguous evidence of anthropogenic (human-caused) contribution to glacier mass loss. ... In the 19th and first half of 20th century we observed that glacier mass loss attributable to human activity is hardly noticeable, but since then has steadily increased."

The researchers used data from the Randolph Glacier Inventory — which is a global database created a couple years back, in large part, to help climatologists track sea levels.

According to LiveScience, the researchers studied around 200,000 different glaciers in the catalog using various climate models. 

They were able isolate both human-made and natural influences on the environment and found a substantial and growing influence from manmade emissions especially in the past 25 years. (Video via National Geographic)

Pennsylvania State University glaciologist Richard Alley didn't participate in the study but told NBC the findings presented concrete evidence that humans are causing the glaciers to melt. "At some level, this is the pound on the table 'no there are no holes in this (argument).’ We've done the work. We've done the work. We've done the work."

So why does it even matter that glaciers are melting so fast?

Well, the obvious affect is rising sea levels which has recently caused many island nations who are the first ones to feel the affects of rising waters to seek help from the United Nations. (Video via YouTube / eddywyc​)

And, it could do a number to water supplies and possibly lead to droughts. National Geographic points out when ice melts and becomes water, it evaporates faster because "glacial ice keeps the water locked away in a form in which it doesn’t easily evaporate." Plus, the cycle doesn't appear to replenish once the ice is gone.

The study's author also told NBC roughly 70 percent of glaciers could be gone by the turn of the century if nothing is done to reduce manmade green-house gas emissions. But, if significant measures were taken it's still possible to curb the trend. 

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA['Salmon Cannon' Could Save Fish By Firing Them Into Air]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 14:01:00 -0500
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Saving the environment is rarely as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. 

But it might be as easy as shooting fish out of one. This is the Hydrovision 2014. Salmon swim into it, and it gently and quickly sucks them through a tube, spitting them out on the other side of a dam and into the water. It's pretty awesome technology — the fish go through at up to 22 mph, they're misted during the trip, and in just a few seconds they land in the water on the other side. The machine can transport dozens of fish per minute.

But why do we need a salmon sucker? 

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC"Most adult salmon spend their lives at sea, but when it comes time to lay eggs, they head home to the river they were born in."

You can imagine if a fish is traveling thousands of miles, it might encounter a dam or two. 

Fish ladders have been used to help get fish over obstacles. But they've been criticized.

Groups like Idaho Rivers United say the ladders are too difficult and fish die during the passage.

A paper by a Queens College professor of biology declared them ineffective last year.

Salmon are also sometimes transported — expensively, we'd guess — by truck or helicopter.

So could what the team at Whooshh Innovations affectionately calls the "salmon cannon" be the solution to saving the fish? The system's been tested at three sites in Washington state. In September the Department of Energy will run another test. 

By the way — how did Whooshh even get the idea? The group actually invented this system to transport fruit so it wouldn't get bruised. 

The company's president told The Verge"We put a tilapia in the fruit tube. It went flying, and we were like, ‘Huh, check that out.'"

Fruit, fish. Tomato ... tilapia. 

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<![CDATA[Playground Equipment Can Cause Burns Even On Mild Days]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:48:00 -0500
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Parents, listen up! ABC tested the temperature of playground equipment across the U.S. with an infrared thermometer at the hottest time of day, and their findings were unbelievable.

ABC"This baby swing in Houston, 138 degrees. This swing in Phoenix, 150. The black top at the same playground, a whopping 185 degrees."

They also tested plastic slides, which are usually popular features on any playground, and the temps ranged from 158 to 189 degrees. 

This is scary, but it suddenly makes sense of the burning butts we remember getting as kids on the playground.

To put the temperatures into perspective, the standard temperature for a hot tub is 104 degrees. 

These high temperatures can cause severe burns, and it could only take a matter of seconds.

These are cases of children making headlines for getting burned by playground equipment. Some of them have been serious.

CBS did a a small investigation back in 2010 and talked to a parent whose 18-month-old got second-degree burns from a slide in Des Moines, Iowa.

​"Little Madison suffered burns that blistered on her hands, stomach and knees."

"She was screaming on the way to the emergency room."

So if children have been getting burned by playground equipment for years now, why is it still happening today?

It might be because it's often unexpected. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it doesn't have to be scorching hot outside for playground equipment to reach dangerous temperatures.

"Even in mild weather, as long as the equipment or surfacing is in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, there is a risk of sustaining a thermal burn injury."

Madison from Des Moines was burned by a 160-degree slide on an 80-degree day. 

So how can you defeat the heat and still have fun at the playground? (Video via YouTube / Ashley Jessen)

The Burn Foundation gives us some direction. Make sure to:

--Use playground equipment that's shaded 

--Check the equipment's temperature before having fun

--Look out for warnings on playground signs 

--Wear shoes at all times

It's also important to know that the younger a child is, the more at risk he or she is because their skin is thinner and more fragile.

This video contains images from Kate Davidson / CC BY 2.0 and Andrew Hyde / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Fossils Reveal Ancient Flying Reptile With 'Butterfly Head']]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:14:00 -0500
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New research has shed light on a remarkable species of extinct flying reptile with an extraordinary piece of headgear. 

The species is called Caiuajara dobruskii and was discovered in southern Brazil near the border with Paraguay.

LiveScience reports the fossils were originally found by a father-son duo in the 1970s, but "The find was forgotten for decades, and then rediscovered just two years ago."

The new species was a pterosaur — an extinct group of flying reptiles which also contains the famous pterodactyl that lived alongside dinosaurs. (Video via National Geographic)

Although it's Caiuajara's elaborate crest that has made headlines, it belongs to a family with similar distinctive features. 

"The bizarre looking Tapejara" Caiuajara belonged to the family Tapejaridae, many of which had distinctive crests, some of which rival Caiuajara's for colorfulness and size. (Video via BBC)

Just take pterosaurs like Thalassodromeus, with its large sail-like crest, or Nyctosaurus, which had a more mast-like crest. But what purpose did they serve?

The American Museum of Natural History explains the crests, which developed in later species, may have served to help pterosaurs recognize their own species, cool their bodies, steer during flight or even attract potential mates. 

But scientists say the crux of the study is the number of fossils found in one place. 

A paleontologist told National Geographic the find was "unprecedented" and "The discovery offers the 'best evidence ever uncovered' that the extinct dinosaur-era animals ... may have lived in colonies."

And the reconstruction of the crest is pretty remarkable too, considering the scientists who wrote the paper did the reconstruction using only a handful of bones, as this image from the study shows. 

Scientists say the find is also significant because it contained individuals from different stages of their life, which allowed them to chart the animal and its crest's development. 

This video contains images from Mark Witton / CC BY 3.0, Maurilio Oliveira / Museu Nacional - UFRJ and Dinoguy2 / CC BY 3.0.

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<![CDATA[FDA-Approved Sleeping Pill Not Compared To Other Drugs]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:25:00 -0500
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For people who have a hard time falling or staying asleep, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of a new sleep aid that works differently from other drugs on the market. 

CBS"Typically sleeping drugs are a knock-out punch to the brain. ... Think of a house where you get a surge and the electricity goes off. ... So this drug is actually like a switch that turns off just the lights." 

That switch being orexin — a neurotransmitter that regulates wakefulness. 

The medication is called Belsomra. Now that it's been approved by the FDA, it's undergoing review by the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

The maker of the drug, Merck, creates products for brands such as Claritin, Coppertone and Dr. Scholl's. 

Before the FDA approved Belsomra, three separate studies with more than 500 participants were conducted. According to the FDA, those who took the drug fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than participants who took a placebo. 

But in a statement, the FDA did point out a few things to consider, like safety. Because Belsomra was not compared to other drugs, it's not known whether it's safer than other sleep medications. 

But, as with similar medications, there can be side effects like headaches, impaired wakefulness and performing tasks while not fully awake. (Video via National Geographic)

There's been no official announcement of a release date, but according to Merck, Belsomra could become available as early as this year. 

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Poor Sleep Could Increase Suicide Risk In Older Adults]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:18:00 -0500
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Older adults who have trouble sleeping might be at a higher risk of suicide — even when they don't show any other symptoms of depression.

In a new study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, people aged 65 and older who reported having sleeping difficulties were more 1.4 times more likely to commit suicide over the next ten years than those who reported sleeping soundly. 

The Huffington Post notes that number was lowered to 1.2 when the researchers controlled for depression, but it's still a pretty significant figure.

The study's researchers say they included difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up early in the morning, experiencing daytime drowsiness and not feeling fully rested in the morning as poor sleep.

 The study's lead author said in a press release,

"This is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors."

To come to this conclusion, researchers studied more than 14,000 people aged 65 and older over the course of 10 years. During that time period, 20 died by suicide.

The research team compared the quality of sleep of those 20 people with the sleep patterns of 400 people similar to them in age, gender and location.

They found those participants who later committed suicide, on average, rated their sleep quality as poorer at the start of the study than that of the comparison group.

Several media outlets note these findings could provide doctors who treat patients with depression with another warning sign of suicide.

But the medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute told HealthDay he's skeptical about how well the study accounted for depression symptoms because they're so similar to those associated with poor sleep.

"We have to ask what's the cart and what's the horse because it's not common to be really sleep-deprived and then be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and positive about things."

The research was published just days after news broke of famed comedian and actor Robin Williams' death, which authorities believe was a suicide.

The study's lead author told The Washington Post in a phone interview, 

"It just shows that no one is immune to the risks of depression."

Researchers say they are now investigating why the link between poor sleep and suicide might exist.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Leonardo Allocca / CC by NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[The Great Salt Debate: Experts Disagree On Ideal Intake]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:01:00 -0500
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The common belief among health experts is too much salt is bad for your health. But a new report from Canada is shaking up those guidelines, saying that might not necessarily be the case. 

Current sodium daily intake guidelines from U.S. government agencies and other health organizations fall between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams — well under the 3,400-milligram average consumed by Americans every day.

But according to new research, those guidelines might be too low. Researchers working on an ongoing study to observe global nutritional and lifestyle changes say out of the 100,000 people studied, those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium had a 27 percent increased risk of death or cardiovascular disease.

The researchers say only those with hypertension, the elderly and people who consume more than 5,000 milligrams of sodium per day should worry about reducing their salt intake. (Video via CNN)

Otherwise the researchers warn you should not only avoid too much salt but also too little salt — suggesting the optimum range for sodium intake is between 3,000 and 6,000 milligrams per day. But hear us out before you go grabbing that bag of salty potato chips.

Some experts say the research is flawed and potentially dangerous to worldwide health efforts.

And the American Heart Association also rejects the study's claims, saying most of the scientific evidence today suggests lowering salt intake is key to lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health.

And another study published in the same journal also supports current guidelines and estimates high sodium intake has contributed to about 1 in 10 deaths in 2010.

So why is there so much debate within the scientific community about ideal salt intake levels?

One health expert tells NBC salt might not be the problem. After all, Japan is one of the highest salt consumers yet has one of the longest average life spans in the world.

The recommended limits on salt consumption have been raised before, suggesting salt is not as bad as previously thought.

Sodium does play an essential part in healthy cell function. But although health professionals can't agree on the acceptable levels of sodium intake, it's widely accepted that excessive levels contribute to high blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.

And now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is preparing to release guidelines of its own in an effort to pressure the food industry in the U.S. to reduce excessive salt levels in food.

Perhaps many of us don't even know how much salt we're really consuming. The New York Daily News points out some foods with surprising levels of salt, such as 300 milligrams in two slices of whole wheat bread and more than 1,000 in a ham and cheese sandwich.

Health experts suggest cooking your own food to monitor the salt content and avoiding processed or fast food.

This video contains an image from Dubravko Soric / CC BY 2.0, Robbin Gheesling / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Why The Amazon's Biggest Fish Is Quickly Going Extinct]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:30:00 -0500
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A massive species of fish that used to dominate the Amazon river is quickly dying out in several areas.

A recent study of fishing communities in the state of Amazonas, Brazil found the giant arapaima (air-ah-pie-ma) is already extinct in some parts of the Amazon basin. (Video via Animal Planet)

The BBC notes, of the 41 communities researchers studied, arapaima populations were extinct in eight of them.

And the giant fish, which typically weighs in at more than 400 pounds, is rapidly disappearing in other parts of the Amazon. (Via via Tennessee Aquarium)

So what's the reason behind the arapaima's rapid extinction? Scientists have a simple answer: overfishing.

LiveScience quotes a researcher involved in the study, who says the arapaima is just too easy to catch. 

"Arapaima spawn on the edges of floodplain forests and come to the surface to breathe every 5 to 15 minutes, when they are easily located and harpooned by fishers using homemade canoes."

And with populations growing and the fishing industry finally reaching Amazon villages, the research says these massive fish don't stand a chance.

See, there were two competing theories the researchers explored: The first is essentially the idea that overfishing can't cause extinction because fishermen have to move on when supply starts dwindling. The second theory is basically the opposite: That fishing can drive a population to extinction. 

One of the study's authors said in a statement, "Bioeconomic thinking has predicted that scarcity would drive up fishing costs, which would increase price and help save depleted species. If that prediction were true, extinctions induced by fishing would not exist, but that is not what has happened."

The arapaima isn't the only aquatic creature in the Amazon to recently fall victim to local fishermen.

Brazil's Fishing and Aquaculture Ministry announced in June it is in the process of outlawing the fishing of a certain breed of catfish to protect the Pink Amazon River Dolphin, whose flesh is often used as bait for the catfish. (Video via National Geographic, BBC)

But there was also some good news that came out of the arapaima study. In communities where arapaima fishing is regulated, the species is actually doing pretty well, giving scientists hope that the species could be spared.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Ebola Protein Discovery Could Clear Path For Treatment]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 21:13:00 -0500
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As the medical community scrambles to find ways to combat the deadly Ebola virus, researchers found new clues to just how the deadly virus messes with the immune system — clues that could lead to future treatments.

When an infection enters the body, proteins called interferons send an alert to the body's antiviral immune system that something bad is happening. That message carrier, labeled "STAT1," gets a kind of super highway or "emergency access lane" to deliver the alert to the immune system's nucleus as quickly as possible, so the body can start battling the virus. Now, here's where the researchers say Ebola is different. The deadly virus comes equipped with a protein called VP24 which zeros in on STAT1 and blocks it from rolling down that super highway, thus keeping the immune system in the dark, so it can't put its defense system in action.

Lead author and Washington University professor Dr. Gaya Amarasinghe said in a university statement"What we see in this particular case is that interferons do not function in the normal way." And he says VP24 is the culprit. "What we found was that it very specifically blocks this one protein that's important for the host signaling."

Study co-author and professor at Mount Sinai University Dr. Christopher Basler told The Huffington Post he plans to keep testing forms of the VP24 protein to see what happens to the virus.

 "If we can use the information in this study to develop drugs that would block the function of this viral protein, we can make the body's natural defense more effective and beat the infection that way."

The new findings come as the World Health Organization continues to look for ways to contain West Africa's deadly outbreak. Just Tuesday, it approved the use of experimental drugs in region.

MAPP Biopharmaceutical sent the entire remaining supply of its ZMapp serum to the beleagured region. And the Canadian government donated up to 1,000 doses of its own unlicensed drug to WHO on Tuesday. (Video via NBC)

WHO's decision to allow drugs that haven't gone through clinical trials raised some serious ethical questions. One noteworthy headline from Bloomberg: "Who Gets It?"

According to Bloomberg, as of Wednesday, WHO still hasn't decided how it will administer them.

The new research on Ebola's VP24 protein will appear in the Aug. 13 issue of the scientific journal Cell Host & Microbe.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[For Heart Attack Survivors, It's Risky To Exercise Too Much]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:04:00 -0500
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If there's anything the average person knows is supposed to prevent or treat heart disease, it's regular exercise.

For anyone worried about their ticker, the answer has usually involved some form of "Get out there and get moving!" — even for those who've already had a heart attack.

Johns Hopkins tells survivors"​Exercise can be a frightening proposition in the aftermath of a heart attack. ... But recent research indicates that a reasonable amount of regular exercise is the best way to strengthen the heart after a heart attack."

But, like most things, moderation is key, and a new study says some heart attack survivors take it way too far.

KOVR: "Researchers say survivors who ran more than 30 miles or walked more than 46 miles per week are overusing their heart and increasing their risk of death."

The research, conducted at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that, yes, exercise does reduce a heart attack survivor's risk of another episode to a point, but the benefit disappears for people who take it to extremes.

The 30-mile-per-week mark shouldn't be too surprising, though. We've heard it before as the threshold where the benefits of running start to disappear, even for people who haven't had heart attacks.

Earlier this summer, The Wall Street Journal, citing new research, dubbed breaking the 30-mile limit "the exercise equivalent of a cheeseburger" in terms of its effect on the heart.

CBS: "Those people have also a higher risk of having heart problems. So the people who are at the two extremes — nothing at all or too much — had heart problems."

But that's not something most of us will have to worry about. Very few people are marathon or ultramarathon runners — or even regular runners.

In fact, one of the key figures on the subject of over-exercise, cardiologist and former endurance athlete James O'Keefe, says as many as half of Americans might be getting too little exercise, compared to the estimated 5 percent getting too much.

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<![CDATA[Rare Dust Storm Sweeps Through Wash. State]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 12:30:00 -0500
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A combination of weather conditions had parts of the Evergreen State looking more like the Sahara on Tuesday. 

This massive dust storm  — also known as a haboob, as many outlets eagerly pointed out — rolled through eastern Washington on the back of heavy winds caused by a storm. (Video via KIRO)

KHQ-TV: "It changed day to near night in minutes yesterday. ... It caused several crashes yesterday afternoon and into the evening, temporarily shut down I-90 west of Ritzville."

As Spokane newspaper The Spokesman-Review reports, the storm that caused the haboob was strong enough to knock over trees, down power lines and cause three separate brush fires.

This summer's dry conditions in the state have already produced what is reportedly the worst wildfire Washington has ever seen — the Carlton Complex Fire, which was also started by lightning strikes. (Video via KCPQ)

But it was the dust storm that grabbed national attention, with Fox News picking up the story as well as MSNBC.

Although outlets reported storms like this are rare, they're not unheard of in the region.

KREM: "The National Weather Service says we see major dust storms like this once about every two years."

In fact, less than a year ago, Washington saw another big dust storm in the same part of the state.

Still, haboobs tend to stick to much more arid environments like deserts, and in the U.S. they're most common in the Southwest, near the Sonoran Desert. 

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<![CDATA[U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Turtle Tangled In Fishing Line]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 12:03:00 -0500
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We often hear about the U.S. Coast Guard being dispatched to rescue stranded boaters, but Saturday crew members were sent out into the water for a very different reason. 

The Coast Guard recently released this video of three of its members helping to untangle an 800-pound turtle from a fishing line off the coast of New Jersey. As you can see, they were eventually successful, and the turtle swam off into the ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified after someone spotted the turtle earlier that morning. 

After receiving GPS coordinates of the turtle's exact location, the Coast Guard teamed up with employees of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, a nonprofit organization that helps rescue sea turtles and marine mammals in trouble along the New Jersey coast.

One of the petty officers involved in the rescue explained what he and the other members of the crew found when they arrived at the turtle's location. 

"The turtle was all tangled up. He had a blind from a buoy holding the fishing troll wrapped around one of his flippers." 

It's believed the tangled-up turtle was a leatherback turtle like the one shown in this picture. 

The Coast Guard said it was about 5.5 feet long and weighed about 800 pounds.

There's a good chance that turtle is still growing though, since National Geographic says leatherback turtles can grow to be "seven feet ... long and exceeding 2,000 pounds."

And they've tangled with fishing buoys before. The U.S. Navy rescued three turtles in January. 

According to National Geographic, leatherback turtles like the one rescued Saturday can be found in all major bodies of water except the Arctic and Antarctic oceans.

This video contains images from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region / Claudia Lombard / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Freak Flash Flooding Wreaks Havoc On East Coast]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 10:30:00 -0500
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Heavy rain and flash floods wreaked havoc Wednesday morning on the East Coast, where some places saw a month's worth of rain in just a few hours.

NBC"The water came down 5 inches in Islip, New York, came down in one hour. Yesterday in Maryland, we ended up with about 10.5 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. That's enough rain for two month's worth."

As you can see from this radar map a meteorologist for The Weather Channel posted to Twitter, the nasty storm system stretches from Washington, D.C., to New York.

And according to The Weather Channel, the New York area and southern Connecticut were among the hardest hit, with reports of more than 10 inches of rainfall in some towns. It definitely sounds like a lot.

But this video taken by WNBC's SkyCam above the Southern State Parkway in Long Island says it all — you can see more than a dozen abandoned cars swallowed by water as the rain continues to fall.

The National Weather Service dubbed the torrential downpours a "dangerous and life-threatening" situation, and the media outlets in the area seem to agree.

No injuries have been reported, but emergency responders in boats were dispatched to several areas to rescue drivers trapped on flooded roads. (Video via MSNBC)

The massive flooding also caused power outages throughout the storm's path, and there were several reports of downed trees and road closures to boot. (Video via WBFF)

ABC"When the water started coming in and it started flooding my bed and everything else, I knew we were in trouble."

Even sinkholes are becoming a serious problem thanks to the heavy rain — a woman was hospitalized after her car fell into a massive sinkhole that opened up in a Pennsylvania parking lot. (Video via WPXI)

Some relief might not be too far off — forecasters predict the rain should move out of the region by midday Wednesday. But another round of storms is possible in the evening.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Reluctant To Stop 'Red Tide' Algae Bloom]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:02:00 -0500
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​Beachgoers could soon be seeing red off the Florida coast. A microscopic algae is growing out of control in the Gulf Coast. Although it can be toxic to marine life, some scientists are unsure if stopping it is the best option. 

"Scientists say a huge bloom of red tide is coming to Florida's west coast and this could be the biggest bloom the state has seen in more than 10 years. They say it has already killed thousands of fish out in the gulf and moving southwest." (Video via WTVT)

​​Karenia brevis, or K. brevis for short, is the blood-red algae to blame. On Monday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the bloom was a whopping 90 miles long, 60 miles wide — and growing. It sits just 20 miles off the coast of western Florida. Researchers monitoring the bloom say it was around 80 miles wide a few weeks ago.

This event is often called the "Florida Red Tide" and occurs when the K. brevis algae begins to multiply rapidly. The algae releases toxins into the ocean which are harmful to marine life.  

The commission reports its hotline has already received reports of thousands of dead reef fish. While it's not deadly to humans, the toxins could become an airborne threat and move on shore where they can irritate those living with asthma or emphysema. Despite its current size, several media outlets pointed out it's the not the biggest bloom ever recorded, but it is the largest since 2005.

In fact, Florida's red tide is not an unusual event and is well-documented by researchers. That said, a Wildlife Conservation commissioner told WFTS the tide reminds him of a destructive bloom in 2005 that reached Florida's shores.

"In 2005 we also had a hypoxic event near the same area, and it killed a lot of reefs and reef fish. So we're kind of nervous seeing that again."

These algae blooms are also naturally occurring. The Orlando Sentinel reports this puts scientists in a tough position — they have little control over the algae, and some don't think it should be disturbed. Hayley Rutger, a spokeswoman with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, explains:

"Because they are naturally occurring, if you try to alter them you could affect other marine life in ways you hadn't bargained for. Trying to affect the bloom in some way is a lot more complicated than you'd want it to be."

NBC reports last Thursday, researchers predicted the algae bloom could reach Florida shores within the next two weeks.

This video includes images from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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<![CDATA['Ice Bucket Challenge' Gives Major Boost To ALS Donations]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 14:41:00 -0500
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If you've been on social media this past week, you might've seen videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. 

By now the trend has swept up the likes of Matt LauerMartha Stewart and "The Fault In Our Stars" star Ansel Elgort

FOX NEWS: "It's the Ice Bucket Challenge — we showed you Elisabeth yesterday. It's to raise awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and also to raise money!"

ALS is a disease that causes neural deterioration and leads to impaired motor functions, paralysis and ultimately death.

The ALS Association reports more than 5,000 people are diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. each year and as many as 30,000 Americans are living with the disease at any given time. 

That answers the question of why people are taking the challenge, but why the challenge consists of dumping ice water over your head is a little unclear. 

The challenge originated with Peter Frates, a former collegiate baseball player from Massachusetts who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 at age 27. (Video via YouTube / Will McAuliffe)

FRATES VIA A LIFE STORY FOUNDATION: "I was one of the worst offenders, not knowing enough about ALS. ... I didn't really know what it did; I didn't know the ramifications."

In an interview with "Today," Frates' father, John Frates, said the family started the challenge a few weeks ago, saying, "When the ice hits you, even the toughest guy becomes a puddle."

A lot of times when a cause goes viral over social media, like Kony 2012 or the #bringbackourgirls campaign, pundits start to question whether they actually do any good. But the Ice Bucket Challenge seems to be making a real difference.

As USA Today reports, since July 29 the challenge has helped to raise $2.3 million for the national ALS Association, compared to just $25,000 during the same period last year. 

The trend doesn't seem to be showing signs of slowing down, either, with Justin Timberlake joining the increasingly long list of celebrities to get soaked — and challenges have been issued to both former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, with the latter's representatives saying the president would make a monetary donation instead.

This video contains images from Frank Gaillard / CC BY SA 3.0 and Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Son Of U.S. Ebola Patient Gives Update On Mom's Condition]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:31:00 -0500
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It's been just a week since Nancy Writebol, one of the two Americans who contracted Ebola while performing missionary work in Africa, was brought back to the U.S. for treatment. Tuesday, her son, Jeremy Writebol, sat down with NBC's Matt Lauer.

​​"She's been doing well. We've just seen her get physically better, her eyes brighten up, her countenance goes up, smiling, even joking a little bit."

But this wasn't what he and his family were thinking when they saw Nancy being wheeled out of the ambulance on a stretcher last week after finally arriving at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Jeremy couldn't help but compare his mother's condition to that of Kent Brantly, the first Ebola patient to be treated in the U.S. Brantly was able to walk from the ambulance through the hospital doors. Jeremy told NBC he was devastated.

​"To see her wheeled out of the ambulance ... I was on the floor sobbing. It was an emotionally wrenching moment for all of us, I think."

Before arriving in the States, doctors gave Nancy two doses of an experimental drug called ZMapp, which had never been tested on humans before it was administered to her and Brantly. CNN reports four monkeys infected with the Ebola virus were given the drug 24 hours after infection and all survived. 

​​Although Nancy didn't seem to show as great of an improvement as Brantly did, she was well enough to be flown to the hospital in Atlanta, which has an area specially designed to contain the virus, according to The New York Times

Since then, Nancy's family and the president of SIM USA, the aid group she was working with in Liberia when she contracted the virus, have been keeping the public updated on her condition, which seems to be getting progressively better. 

Jeremy says he's able to see his mother twice a day at the hospital, but one family member who isn't allowed yet is Nancy's husband, David. According to WRAL, he returned from Liberia Sunday and is being kept in quarantine in North Carolina for at least three weeks as a precautionary measure. 

Jeremy says his father can't wait to see his mother again once his quarantine is over. To watch Jeremy's full interview, head over to NBC's website

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<![CDATA[FDA Approves Take-Home Colon Cancer Test]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:31:00 -0500
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In a move that might help stem the number of deaths by colon cancer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new at-home test it calls both accurate and noninvasive.

The test, called Cologuard, is made by the company Exact Sciences and boasts a 92 percent accuracy rate.

"Colon cancer is actually thought to be the most preventable but least prevented cancer."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., and the earlier it's found, the better.

That's why health officials recommend a colonoscopy at least once every 10 years for every American over 50.

The problem, according to doctors, is that patients shy away from getting colonoscopies. That's why the new test could be a game-changer.

In the press release, the FDA said as many as 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be avoided if people were getting properly screened. So the hope is that people who won't get colonoscopies might at least use take-home tests.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it's even considering paying for the test for people over 50 who use its service nationwide.

Still, Cologuard isn't perfect: It has a fairly high chance of coming up positive when nothing's actually wrong. But the next step after getting a positive result is to get a colonoscopy, which is what officials want people to do anyway.

This video contains an image from the U.S. Navy.

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<![CDATA[Why Are There Twigs, Wheat In Your Coffee?]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 10:38:00 -0500
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How do you like your coffee? Cream, sugar — soybeans, twigs? A new report says some coffee suppliers are intentionally using fillers in ground coffee to compensate for supply shortages and increasing costs.

According to researchers in Brazil, coffee shortages mean fillers such as wood, husks, wheat and even dirt might be lurking in your cup of joe.

One researcher tells Yahoo most people can't even tell the difference once those fillers are roasted and ground up with the coffee beans. Sounds pretty unsettling, right?

The fillers aren't necessarily harmful, although they might become a problem for people with allergies. But with changing weather affecting crops in Brazil and global demand for coffee increasing, these fillers might not be going away anytime soon.

Severe droughts and torrential rains in recent years have affected crops in Brazil, the world's largest coffee bean grower. Paired with a significant increase in demand, coffee prices have gone up by as much as 75 percent around the world.

 But the good news is, there's a test that might be able to detect any impurities in coffee.

The team from a Brazilian university has developed a process for finding adulterated coffee grounds using liquid chromatography, a technique that can detect impurities with 95 percent accuracy.

Common tests currently used aren't nearly so accurate as they rely on taste, smell or microscopes to identify any unwanted ingredients. (Video via Coffee Analysts)

Coffee isn't the only thing in your kitchen with fillers, either. Researchers have identified olive oil, milk and honey as some of the most adulterated foods in the food industry.

Even tea has been known to contain fillers like grass or fern leaves.

If you're concerned about the mystery additives in your coffee, we think sticking with whole beans you grind yourself at home might be your best bet. The researchers plan to present their new technique at an American Chemical Society meeting Tuesday afternoon.

This video contains images from Julius Schorzman / CC BY SA 2.0, American Chemical Society, and Haneburger.

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<![CDATA[Spaniard Dies From Ebola, Despite Experimental Treatment]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 07:52:00 -0500
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The Spanish priest who had contracted Ebola and was being given an experimental treatment died Tuesday morning at a hospital in Madrid.

The priest — 75-year-old Miguel Pajares — had been working at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, when he tested positive for the disease. (Video via RTVE)

As this video from the Spanish Ministry of Defense shows, Pajares arrived in Madrid on Thursday, in a special containment unit, before being taken to the hospital. 

Apart from being the first European infected during the recent outbreak, Pajares' case made headlines because of the experimental drug he was given — ZMapp — the same the two infected American care-givers received.

The fact that Pajares was treated with ZMapp stoked the fires of the ongoing ethical debate over who should receive the untested drug. 

As Bloomberg points out, part of that debate stems from the limited supply of ZMapp, with the World Health Organization convening a panel of ethicists to decide "whether drugs that haven’t been widely tested for safety should be used in an outbreak where about 40 percent of infected people survive with just supportive care." Then, Tuesday:

BBC: "Today the World Health Organization has ruled that that drug and others are ethical to use even though they haven't been tested on humans so their efficacy and side effects are unknown." 

Soon after that news, Al Jazeera reported the drug will be sent to Liberia, with the U.S. approving a request from the Liberian government for doses of Zmapp.

But Pajares' death, in particular his condition leading up to it, raises some concerns about the drug. 

Spanish newspaper El Mundo wrote that Pajares condition seemed to have stabilized after receiving the drug, and similar reports circulated in the hours leading up to his death.

MSNBC: "Spanish priest from West Africa, they took him to Spain, still very critical but he seems to be getting better, and these two Americans seem to be getting better..."

There is no known cure for Ebola, and the WHO reports the outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Doctors Believe Ebola 'Patient Zero' Might Have Been Toddler]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 17:36:00 -0500
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Doctors think the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa might have been triggered by a two-year-old in a village in Guinea.

Their findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show the toddler was suffering from a fever and vomiting before the child's death in December 2013. The patient's 3-year-old sister, mother and grandmother died with the same symptoms not long after.

The child who doctors believe to be Patient Zero lived in the village of ​Guéckédou in Guenia. It is believed the virus might have started to spread after two of the people who traveled to the grandmother's funeral became infected and took the virus back to their home village. 

It continued to snowball from there through health care workers and family members. 

It is not clear how the toddler originally contracted the disease. The World Health Organization says Ebola is transferred from animals to humans through fluids or tissue.

Rural areas in West Africa typically lack the health care resources to properly handle this sort of outbreak, which has helped spread the virus. 

Cultural traditions could also be partly to blame. Time spoke to a regional expert who used Liberia as an example: "Liberia is full of cultural practices that propagate the spread of the disease, the biggest being the veneration of the dead, including washing and kissing the corpse.”

The New York Times writes that people in those areas blame health care workers for the spread of the disease. So, many don't immediately go in for treatment. In one instance, a local gang of youths stopped workers from entering a village to treat the sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insists the outbreak is not a threat to the U.S., and it can eventually be contained and controlled in West Africa. But it could take several months. 

This is the largest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history with more than 1,700 people infected.

This video contains images from the European Commission DG ECHO.

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<![CDATA[Light, Regular Exercise May Reduce Cancer Risk By 10 Percent]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:46:00 -0500
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A recent study out of France found even a small amount of regular exercise, like walking, can help postmenopausal women cut their risk for breast cancer. 

WPTV: "The study followed postmenopausal women who walked at least four hours a week over the past four years. Their risk of breast cancer was 10 percent less than when we exercise less." 

Specifically, more than 59,000 postmenopausal women in France were observed for an average of eight and a half years. 

Now, it's definitely not a secret that exercise is good for your health, and it's long been known to be beneficial when it comes to fighting breast cancer. 

The National Cancer Institute even names exercise as a "protective" activity. 

Which is why Alison Estabrook, the chief of the division of breast surgery at two New York City hospitals, told HealthDay​ she's too not surprised by the findings.

 

"As a breast cancer surgeon, one of my roles is to discuss prevention strategies for women. ... Exercise is certainly one prevention strategy I discuss for many reasons, and this study emphasizes the importance of physical activity."​​

But in the press release on the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the lead researcher explained what exactly sets apart these findings from the rest. 

"Physical activity is thought to decrease a woman's risk for breast cancer after menopause. However, it was not clear how rapidly this association is observed after regular physical activity is begun or for how long it lasts after regular exercise stops."

 

Although part of the answer might be consistency. 

WOWT: "The key is keeping up with that exercise. The women who walked earlier in life but stopped later had no decreased risk for that disease."

It's important to keep in mind factors like weight and fat index were not considered in the study. 

This video contains images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Sen. Chuck Schumer Warns Fitness Trackers Threaten Privacy]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 10:50:00 -0500
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More and more people are using fitness tracking apps and bracelets to make sure they're getting enough exercise, but one lawmaker is calling the technology a threat to privacy.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer warns that fitness trackers can sell their users' data without informing them first.

Waving a Fitbit bracelet and standing in front of some joggers, Schumer said Sunday:

"These bracelets could also represent a true privacy nightmare."

Now, it's obvious fitness trackers collect user data. That's pretty much what they're for.

Wireless devices like the Fitbit Flex can track steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and can even monitor sleep habits, allowing users to see hard data on their activity levels.

But in a statement, Schumer said, "There are currently no federal protections to prevent those developers from then selling that data to a third party without the wearer's consent."

Fitbit responded to the senator's comments by saying it's not part of the problem: "Fitbit does not sell user data. Our privacy policy prevents us from doing this."

Still, Schumer's point is that Fitbit could sell that data if it wanted to. We know other activity-monitoring apps do sell sensitive information about their users.

Earlier this year, the FTC released a report studying 12 mobile and fitness apps that sold data like location, activity level, names and email addresses and even searches for medical symptoms.

And it's not just fitness apps. The agency also recently settled a complaint against GoldenShores Technologies for secretly selling user data. The company's Brightest Flashlight app tracks location data for some reason.

Schumer is asking the FTC to require all mobile apps to give users the ability to opt out of having their data shared, kind of like his efforts last year to set up SmartStorePrivacy.org, a website letting users opt out of having their cell phones tracked in stores and airports.

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<![CDATA[Experimental Ebola Vaccine Due In 2015: Why The Wait?]]> Sun, 10 Aug 2014 18:49:00 -0500
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The World Health Organization announced on Saturday a British drug company is fast-tracking an experimental Ebola vaccine. It's set to go through clinical testing as early as next month and be ready for use in early 2015.

British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is working with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to create a preventative vaccine to try and thwart the worst Ebola outbreak in history. (Video via Arirang)

CBS reports the experimental vaccine has worked on monkeys and is set for to be tried out on humans this fall. One health official said, if tests are successful, "by January we should be able to scale up in its production."

Currently, there is no known cure for the deadly virus, and it's killed nearly 1,000 people during this latest outbreak in West Africa.

WHO declared the epidemic a public health emergency last Friday. As the death toll continues to mount, health officials are searching for ways to contain the massive outbreak. (Video via ABC)

The chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center told The Wall Street Journal Ebola's spread has a lot to do with population density.

VANDERBILT MEDICAL CENTER'S DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: "Previous outbreaks of Ebola occurred in remote villages. ... But it's now gotten into larger urban areas and it's much more difficult to contain."

Still, 2015 seems like a long time to wait for a vaccine to be used in an outbreak that has already killed so many. So what's the hang-up?  

One bioethics professor tells CBC the scientists first need to know if there'll be any potential side effects.

"You need to know, for instance, whether a couple of months or maybe a half of year or a year down the track there are suddenly serious side effects. ... If you think about giving something to large number of people you have to be really sure about what it will do eventually."

WHO's announcement comes a week after an two American workers in Liberia showed significant improvement when given a dose of a so-called "secret serum" developed by MAPP Pharmaceutical.

CNN speculated those two cases fell under the FDA's "compassionate use" regulation which allows drugs to by-pass normal clinical trials.

The results prompted Nigeria to ask for some of the experimental serum, but the United States denied the request. A CDC spokesperson said "there are virtually no doses available."

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Typhoon Halong Hits Japan Causing Floods And Evacuations]]> Sun, 10 Aug 2014 08:29:00 -0500
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The third super typhoon of 2014 hit Japan on Saturday, causing massive flooding and at least one death. 

Typhoon Halong, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, made landfall in southern Japan and triggered landslides in Kōchi Prefecture.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency — as of Sunday evening, all of Japan was under an advisory because of the storm, with a warning issued for the greater part of Honshu, including the capital, Tokyo.

"We are about to be done with it, just a little more rainfall. In fact Tokyo, you'll be seeing the heaviest of the rain as this begins to scoot off to the north and east."   

As The Washington Post reports, Halong was actually fairly mild before intensifying, "from a weak typhoon with winds of 75 mph to a massive super typhoon with winds of 150 mph within a period of 24 hours."

The amount of rain being dropped on parts of Japan has been described by multiple outlets as unprecedented, but the storm itself is not— it's actually the second super typhoon to hit Japan this summer. 

A month ago, Typhoon Neoguri reached super typhoon status a few days before making landfall in southern Japan where it caused 3 deaths, despite being downgraded to a tropical storm before reaching Kyushu.

For a quick refresher, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a typhoon becomes a super typhoon when it reaches "maximum sustained 1-minute surface winds" of 65 meters per second, or around 150 mph. 

But some analysts say it's the rain that can cause the bulk of the damage. 

"The rain is very hard to protect against when these flashes and landslides hit there's very little these communities can do to build to withstand that so it's really a case of evacuating those who are most vulnerable."

Hundreds of thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate towns in central Japan where the heaviest rain is set to fall.

This video contains images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[International Response To Ebola: Travel Bans, Funding]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 18:32:00 -0500
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Deaths from West Africa's Ebola outbreak, the deadliest outbreak in history, continue to rise as more people become infected everyday — so what are countries able to do about it? 

Well, starting in West Africa — they're closing borders. According to Guinéenews, ​the afflicted nation announced Saturday its closing its borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia in an attempt to stymie the influx of infected people in and out of the country.

Al Jazeera quotes the country's health minister as saying: "We have provisionally closed the frontier between Guinea and Sierra Leone because of all the news that we have received from there recently."

The news the health minister is referring to is probably the recent statement from the World Health Organization labeling this Ebola outbreak an "extraordinary event" and calling for international aid.

"The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries."

Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leon have all declared states of emergencies following the Ebola outbreak, putting limitations on civil liberties and closing public institutions like schools.  

Airlines have started suspending flights to the ailing West African countries as well. CNN reports that British Airways and Emirates have stopped flights completely while others such as ASKY and Arik Air have started restricting flights.

And while travel restrictions don't really help the struggling nations, money might. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim appeared on CNN to explain the organization's $200 million pledge to the region.

"But the other thing we're trying to do is, we want to point out that this can happen to any country. What countries need is a functioning public health infrastructure."

On Friday, the European Union announced that it was expanding its aid to West Africa by $10.7 million, bringing its total aid to almost $16 million. It is also planning to deploy further medical aid to bolster the three countries' weak public health infrastructure.

So we have money, states of emergencies and travel restrictions. But what about that experimental serum used to treat the two Americans infected with Ebola? 

"I think we gotta' let the science guide us, and you know I don't think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful." (Video via C-SPAN)

That was President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit responding to a question on whether or not he planned to send the experimental ZMapp drug used on two American patients to West Africa. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ZMapp is still in an experimental stage and only produced in a limited supply, so it's not quite ready to be used except under special circumstances. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did release a statement saying a vaccine was being developed with the assistance of the Department of Defense, but it's unlikely that we'll see anything out of that for at least another year. 

While international governments and organizations figure out what to do about this deadly Ebola outbreak, individuals are feeling the impact of the devastating virus as well. 

One of those individuals is Saah Kanda, who moved from Liberia to Charlotte, North Carolina 15 years ago. Between May and July, he has lost seven family members to Ebola in his home country. (Video Via WCNC). 

In an interview with WCCB, Kanda blamed a lack of information for the deaths. "People have to be careful. You've got to be preventive, take sanitation as a priority. But people were not. They were in denial."

And Kanda isn't alone. The Washington Post covered local efforts by West Africans in the U.S. to raise awareness of the virus and donate medical supplies. Liberian officials had urged them to help educate those in the country, saying, "Please call your people in the villages, tell your people, even if they don't believe government officials. Ebola is real."

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Remains Of Ancient Horses, Lions, Found In Wyo. Cave]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 15:51:00 -0500
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Lions and tiger and bears — oh my. 

Well in this case it's more like lions, horses, cheetahs and bison. But don't be afraid — researchers believe these particular animals haven't roamed the Earth for about 100,000 years. 

The remains of these ancient animals were discovered in Wyoming's Natural Trap Cave. (Video via YouTube / Australian Centre for Ancient DNA)

Located in Bighorn Canyon National Park the Natural Trap Cave is 80-feet deep and 15-feet wide at the entry. "Over 30,000 specimens have been collected from the cave over the years, mostly from extinct animals."

Among those — the North American Lion, one of the largest cats ever to exist. It's believed to be about 20 percent bigger then the modern day African Lion. Many other animals, including the remains of smaller ones like birds and lizards, were also found but have yet to be properly examined. (Video via History Channel

"What's unusual about this cave is a very high concentration of very strange carnivores, most people wouldn't even know about."  

The News Ledge notes, since the caves discovery in the 70s, officials have blocked off its entrance to keep people and animals from falling through — which is exactly what's believed to have happened to the animals paleontologist have discovered. 

"Over the millennium thousands of animals have fallen to their deaths. ... Preserved below the surface are bones dating all the way back to the Ice Age."  

As fossils are discovered researchers from Des Moines University bring the bones back to be examined. But there's something very special about the preservation of these fossils. 

As Viral Global News reports, the cave's cool and moist atmosphere aided in preserving the bone — many of which were found buried safely under about 30 feet of sediment. The "temperatures proved ideal for ensuring the DNA remained intact over such an extensive period." 

One researcher told CNN, "Some of the bones we're finding there have collagen in them. That is where you could get the ancient DNA. ... There is so much to dig. We have two more years for funding that we can be out there, so we are going to try to dig up as much as we can." 

The study of the Natural Trap Cave is the first in more than 30 years. Researchers say a big goal is to find out more about the DNA structure of the now extent animals, along with other information like their diet.  

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<![CDATA[Ringing In Your Ears? Try Drinking Coffee: Study]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 15:11:00 -0500
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We're pretty bombarded with stories about the miraculous effects of drinking coffee, from promoting long-term memory to preventing certain cancers. But now a study says coffee may help cure a condition it was once thought to cause.

The study, published in The American Journal of Medicine found that regularly consuming caffeine gives you a lower risk of developing Tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is a condition where a person perceives a high-pitched ringing or whining. We've all experienced ringing in our ears, but for some 50 million people in the U.S., the ringing almost never goes away. (Video Via The Tinnitus Clinic)

The American Tinnitus Association says there's been an ongoing debate among people with the condition over whether drinking coffee makes their tinnitus better or worse. 

Some people with the condition say it improves when they cut back on their coffee consumption, others say it gets worse.

The new study looked at data from a decades-long health survey following some 65,000 women, and found those who reported a higher caffeine intake were at lower risk for developing the condition.

The effect was strongest in women who drank three or four cups of coffee a day, but keep in mind, that much caffeine really isn't recommended.

The Mayo Clinic says drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day causes insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors.

And a study earlier this year found drinking 4 or more cups is also linked to shorter life expectancy.

More studies are planned to help better understand the correlation between caffeine and tinnitus. Right now, researchers don't know why coffee seems to reduce the risk, or whether increasing coffee consumption could actually help treat the disorder.

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<![CDATA['Zombie Star' Discovery A Universal Ruler (Of Sorts)]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 19:17:00 -0500
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NASA says there are zombies in outer space! Ok, maybe not human zombies, but they did find what they're calling a "zombie star." 

NASA says for the first time ever, they have discovered a supernova that brought a white dwarf star back to life. 

White dwarf stars are old, dying stars that still have some light. Stars like the one in our solar system fuse hydrogen in its core into helium. White dwarf stars have already burned up all of their hydrogen. 

Supernovas are large massive explosions that would usually finish off a white dwarf star. But, in this rare case it rejuvenated it.

The white dwarf star was sucking energy from another nearby star when it became unstable and exploded into a supernova. The explosion resurrected the white dwarf and it is now fully functioning. 

That's when scientists say a second, smaller supernova occurred. So, all of this kind of sounds like a random and totally common celestial event, but some scientists say this case is special. 

This has given scientists a lot of new information about Type Ia supernovas, supernovas that are caused when one star gives energy to another, such as the case with the "zombie star." Scientist previously had never seen the explosion process. 

Scientists study supernovas to measure how the universe is expanding. The Los Angeles Times reports a supernova created by a star this small, can really help them calculate distances. 

And that's not it: because of this discovery, scientist have been able to identify 30 similar supernovas that could also leave behind other "zombie stars." 

This video contains images from NASA

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<![CDATA[Meet The Tick Causing Allergies To Red Meat]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:01:00 -0500
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​​When you think tick bites, you probably think Lyme disease. We're guessing you haven't heard of developing an allergy to meat as a possible complication.

Named after the state of Texas, the Lone Star tick's bite might have caused the thousands of sudden aversions to red meat that have been reported along the East Coast as far back as 2011.

The tick made headlines in 2012 when doctors speculated there might be a link between the tick and the allergies but weren't completely sure.

And now the number of cases are increasing as the ticks spread into the Midwest and southern parts of the U.S.

OK — looks like your chances of getting a Lone Star chomp have increased. Doctors say once you're bitten, you can develop the allergy almost immediately.

​And once you're allergic, say bye-bye to burgers. Many describe getting hives, a swollen throat or tongue or a burning sensation just a few hours after eating red meat. (Video via Companion Animal Parasite Council)

And why does this happen? Maybe because the tick's saliva contains a sugar also found in red meat. As NBC explains, that sugar is usually harmless when digested, but when delivered through the bloodstream, it triggers the body's immune system response.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Virginia first identified a possible link between tick bites and allergies to meat. They said 90 percent of those who reported a sudden meat allergy had a history of tick bites.

Researchers still don't know whether the allergy is permanent. But for being named after a state that loves steak, the Lone Star tick sure is ironic.

This video contains images from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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<![CDATA[Tainted Tattoo Ink Might Cause Infection]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 10:26:00 -0500
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If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, you might want to keep an eye out for tainted ink. Some tattoo ink bottles sold online might be contaminated, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Last month, White and Blue Lion Inc. recalled inks and needles in home tattoo kits after discovering bacterial contamination in some unopened ink bottles. The kits, which were sold through Amazon, are also used by tattoo parlors. (Video via Vice)

At least one infection linked to the recalled products has been reported. But despite the recall, the FDA believes some consumers might still be purchasing or using the contaminated kits obtained from other distributors. To see photos of what the products in question look like, head over to the FDA's website.

Minor skin infections caused by tattoos are not rare — sometimes only resulting in redness or swelling. But the FDA warns severe infections can lead to sepsis, which requires hospitalization.

"Tattooing poses a risk of infection to anyone, but the risk is particularly high for those with pre-existing heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems."

And proper sterilization does not always guarantee safety, as one New York tattoo parlor realized two years ago. A similar outbreak stemming from contaminated water in tattoo ink resulted in 19 reported infections.

The dangers of tattooing are not unique to permanent tattoos. The FDA also warns temporary tattoos, such as those using henna, can cause skin reactions such as blisters, loss of skin pigmentation and even permanent scarring.

Tattoos weren't always as common as they are today, and the number of infectious outbreaks have increased as more people have gotten tattoos in recent years.

According to CNN, despite the negative attitude toward visible tattoos in many workplaces, one poll found 40 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo in their household — compared to just 21 percent 15 years ago.

The FDA urges anyone to seek medical care if they experience signs of infection from a tattoo and to dispose of any ink bottles that have no brand name or are missing the manufacturer or distributor. 

This video contains images from Deanna Wardin / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and catty01 / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Another Gene Mutation Linked To Higher Breast Cancer Risk]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:06:00 -0500
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We know family history is a major indicator of breast cancer risk and that early detection is crucial to survival. Now, researchers have singled out a specific gene mutation that is linked to a high risk.

And that discovery could lead to earlier diagnoses​ and even save lives, as the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine pointed out. It found women with mutations in one of their genes have about a 1 in 3 chance of developing breast cancer by 70. 

The study analyzed 154 families with a history of breast cancer and found that women who carried rare mutations in their PALB2 gene had a 35 percent chance of developing the disease.

PALB2 is a gene that is crucial to proper cell growth and division in the body. 

Leader of the study Marc Tischkowitz says: "Now that we have identified this gene, we are in a position to provide genetic counselling and advice. If a woman is found to carry this mutation, we would recommend additional surveillance, such as MRI breast screening."

The study's authors recommend that women with this mutation talk to their doctors about the possibility of having a mastectomy to reduce their risk. The article notes the surgery cuts back on the risk by 90 percent. 

Actress Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy in 2013 because she carried a different mutated gene that gave her a high risk of developing breast cancer. 

Jolie's mutation was of the BRCA1 gene, another gene that helps controls cell growth and division.

And a Miss America contestant also made headlines for deciding to undergo a double mastectomy last year because of her family history with breast cancer. 

Around 1 in every 1,000 women has a PALB2 gene mutation. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and the National Cancer Institute.

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<![CDATA[Coolest Math Teacher Ever Sets World Pull-Up Record]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 11:26:00 -0500
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We're guessing your middle school math teacher probably couldn't do this ...

That is Kyle Gurkovich. Back in June, the 28-year-old New Jersey resident broke the world record for most pull-ups in 24 hours, performing a muscle-achingly incredible 4,182. That's more than 2.9 per minute — for an entire day!

While obviously an amazing achievement, it's one with a very personal meaning for Gurkovich.

According to The Star-Ledger, one of the students at his school died of cancer aged just 14. A childhood friend of Gurkovich's died in 2007, also of cancer, so he says he knew how his students felt and wanted to do something to help.

So he came up with the pull-ups idea, which, as you can imagine, was no easy feat.

The previous record-holder, David Goggins, took three attempts to set the record, twice pulling out with injuries. And he's a Navy SEAL! (Video via Vimeo / Experience Your Potential)

And Military Times reports Washington-based sailor Mike McCastle​ had to pull out of a recent attempt after just more than 3,200 pull-ups. 

And if those guys struggle, you know it's hard, which we think makes Gurkovich maybe the coolest, toughest math teacher in the country.

Thursday Gurkovich appeared on "Fox & Friends" where not only did Guinness recognize his record as official — "You are officially amazing" — but the CEO of Retro Fitness also presented him with a check for $5,000.

That money, along with $3,060 Gurkovich raised during his record attempt, will go to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where both his friend and the student were treated.

Gurkovich told The Star-Ledger he'll try to break his own record in November. We ache all over just thinking about it ...

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<![CDATA[Low Vitamin D Levels Might Be Linked To Dementia]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:08:00 -0500
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Experts say someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's disease every 67 seconds. And now, a recent study suggests the disease and other forms of dementia might be linked to a vitamin D deficiency.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, followed more than 1,600 seniors over six years, after which more than 170 developed dementia and more than 100 developed Alzheimer's.

And the researchers say the risk of developing dementia increased by more than 50 percent in those with low levels of vitamin D. The risk in those with a severe vitamin D deficiency increased by 125 percent.

Now, that might lead you to assume vitamin D deficiency causes dementia. But the authors warn that might not be the case, and the answer might not be as simple as taking vitamin D supplements.

The researchers say future studies should look at whether vitamin D sources, including sunlight, supplements and food, can lead to a lower risk for dementia.

According to the BBC, this is not the first study suggesting this link, but the researchers note it is the largest with stronger results than they were expecting.

Researchers are really trying to tackle the question of what causes dementia, and if you're a regular consumer of health news, you're probably remembering more than a few recent headlines.

An earlier study says incorporating a combination of exercise, healthy eating and brain-stimulating activities might contribute to a lower risk of memory loss. (Video via NBC)

And another study suggests a link between depression and dementia. 

Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 5 million individuals currently living with the disease. (Video via Alzheimer's Association)

The researchers say they still don't know why dementia and vitamin D deficiency might be linked, adding there could be a third contributing factor they haven't looked into. In any case, getting enough vitamin D — which you can get from eggs, milk and fatty fish — can't be a bad thing. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Obama Resists Fast-Tracking Ebola Drug, But New Test Cleared]]> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 23:04:00 -0500
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The same day that President Obama told reporters at a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that the he wasn't ready to share any experimental Ebola treatments with West Africa, the FDA has approved a diagnostic test for the devastating virus. 

"I think we gotta let the science guide us, and you know I don't think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful." (Video via C-SPAN)

The drug Obama is talking about is called ZMapp and it was used to treat two Americans infected with Ebola before they were brought back to the States from West Africa.

According to WebMD, ZMapp takes a long time to produce partly because of the the weeks it takes to grow its ingredients. That, combined with it's lack of FDA approval, means it's not quite ready for mass production. 

But even with Obama's announcement, it appears the FDA at least fast-tracked a diagnostic test for the virus.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a previously unapproved Ebola test has been authorized by the FDA under a "special emergency-use provision" — although an actual vaccine is still a ways off with officials saying one won't be available until 2015.

The diagnostic test is meant to detect the Zaire strain of Ebola, the same one that has infected more than 1,700 and killed as many as 932 people in Sierra Leon, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. 

​​A statement provided to health care workers by the FDA says it was authorized because, "At this time, no FDA-approved/cleared tests that identify the existence of the Ebola Zaire virus ... in clinical specimens are available."

A new test is definitely a good start, but are there any treatments besides ZMapp on the horizon?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released a statement saying that the National Institutes of Health is working on developing one and it's "aiming to launch phase 1 clinical trials ... in the fall."

The statement also said that two other companies, Tekmira and Biocryst Pharmaceuticals, are being funded by the Department of Defense to develop therapeutic treatments while a third, Newlink, is working on a vaccine. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Smoking So Addictive Even 10% Of Cancer Survivors Can't Quit]]> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 19:27:00 -0500
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Cancer survivors smoking? Sounds pretty crazy right?

A news study shows 1 in 10 cancer survivors still smoke.

​The CDC reports smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and more than 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking. 

So how could someone who already went through the horrors of cancer increase their risk of getting it again by smoking? Chances are, they are really, really addicted. 

Nicotine changes the levels of chemicals in the brain causing that relaxed feeling many smokers enjoy. But, the more they smoke, the more the brain gets used to the nicotine. That makes you need more to get the same affect.

Then, if you try to stop smoking, your brain has a hard time adjusting and you can experience withdrawals and cravings so powerful it may be difficult to quit — even if you've already been through cancer treatments.

A report from the Surgeon General says, "Nicotine is just as addictive as heroin and cocaine."

And the American Heart Association lists irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, and weight gain as side affects of nicotine withdrawal. 

An article by the American Cancer Society recommended that "doctors take a more assertive role in asking cancer patients whether they smoke, and referring smokers to quitting programs."

Health organizations usually suggest patients gather support, stay away from things that trigger their smoking habit and develop coping strategies when trying to quit smoking. 

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<![CDATA[Aspirin Use Could Significantly Reduce Cancer Deaths: Study]]> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 14:05:00 -0500
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People often take aspirin to reduce their risk of heart attack. But a new study from the U.K. says it could also dramatically cut down the number of cancer cases and cancer deaths.

The research found daily aspirin use among 50- to 65-year-olds in the U.K. over the course of 10 years could reduce deaths from stomach cancer by 35 percent, colorectal cancer by 40 percent and esophageal cancer by 50 percent.

"This 2,000-year-old drug has benefits today that we need to be paying attention to."

But, as Newser's headline shows, it's not all good news. There's also the risk of stomach and brain bleeding if you take too much aspirin, and in some cases this can be deadly.

The study, published in the Annals of Oncology, even points out the biggest risks tied to aspirin use are internal bleeding and even strokes. But the scientists say the benefits outweigh the risks.

"In terms of things you can do to prevent cancer, it's clear that the most important thing to do is to avoid smoking ... After that, this is probably the second most important that anyone can do to prevent cancer." (Via BBC)

A Forbes writer calls the findings "encouraging."

And The Guardian calls it the "biggest study yet." The study suggests about 130,000 lives in Britain could be saved if more people took aspirin. Still, one of the study's scientists says: "[It] should not be seen as a reason for not improving your lifestyle."

Scientists say they'll still need to do more research to figure out what the ideal dosage is and the number of years people should take it daily.

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<![CDATA[Rosetta Probe Reaches Comet To Study Origins Of Life]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 23:02:00 -0500
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Ten years, four billion miles, and several complicated maneuvers later, the Rosetta probe is readying itself to enter orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (that's Chury, for short) and make history. 

After much planning during the 1990s, the European Space Agency, or ESA, launched Rosetta in 2004 from French Guiana to the tune of 1.3 billion euros with the expressed purpose of eventually meeting the 2-mile-wide Chury in deep space. (Via DLR / CC BY 3.0)

​In order to do that, the probe had to undergo a winding series of maneuvers to reach the comet including using Earth as a space slingshot not once, but three times, and going into a deep space hibernation for two and a half years. (Via DLR)

It woke up from that hibernation in January of this year and has been steadily approaching Chury ever since. (Via Space.com)

Now that it's finally within orbitting distance of Chury, Rosetta will match its speed, perform several triangular orbits as it approaches, and deploy a fridge-sized lander called "Philae" in November once it gets close enough. (Via European Space Agency)

So beyond the fact that both orbiting and landing on a comet will be historical firsts for mankind, what's the point of Rosetta's mission? Simple, to learn more about where we came from.

"The biggest question that we're trying to get an answer to is where did life on earth come from. It's like, did it start, how did life get going, was it the building blocks of life that were brought to us from comets." (Via BBC)

​​Discover Magazine notes that seeing as how comets have been around since before planets themselves even existed, "They consist of material that’s believed to be relatively pristine. ... Scientists hope to gain valuable insights into the origin and evolution of the solar system, including our own planet."

The odd shape of the comet, which some have compared to a rubber duck, may pose a problem for landing, though. The Guardian spoke to a member of the research team who seemed a little concerned.

“The scientists are saying, 'Which bit do we want to land on?,' and the engineers are saying, 'Blimey, how will its shape affect the gravitational field?' At the end of the day we just want a safe landing. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”​

But, as a writer over at The Planetary Society notes, ESA plans to select five candidate landing sites by the end of the month and a final site by mid-September. So they still have plenty of time to figure out how they want to touch down. 

ESA will be live streaming Rosetta's final approach starting Wednesday morning.

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<![CDATA[Amid Stem Cell Research Scandal, Co-Author Commits Suicide]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 20:11:00 -0500
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The co-author of an infamous and controversial stem cell paper that was eventually retracted has died of an apparent suicide. (Via Getty Images)

Yoshiki Sasai, heralded as "the brainmaker" by the journal Nature in 2012, was found dead Tuesday in his research building. (Via NHK)

Sasai co-authored a stem cell paper released in January that claimed stem cells could be created using a new revolutionary method called STAP, or stimulus-triggered acquisition and pluripotency. (Via LiveScience)

The widely reported technique was too good to be true, and the paper was retracted in July after attempts to replicate the study failed and other researchers found signs of plagiarism and misconduct. 

While Sasai was found not to have committed misconduct himself, the lead author and his ​protégé, Harujo Obokata, was eventaully found guilty of fabricating parts of the study. (Via YouTube / Jijineta dōga)

He issued an apology in early July saying he was "deeply ashamed" the research had to be retracted and that he didn't catch the errors. 

As to whether the retractions and surrounding media attention played any role in his death, a spokesman for his lab told The Washington Post

"It’s certainly possible, but I don’t know what else was going on his life, so it’s very hard to speculate. … He had the stress from the retractions and there was also the prospect that he would face disciplinary action due to the finding of research misconduct."

According to NHK, a Japanese broadcasting corporation, three letters were found inside a bag at the scene. One was addressed to a Center for Developmental Biology official, another to a lab member and the third to Obokata.

Sasai's loss was mourned by scientists around the world with a stem cell scientist in Boston telling The Boston Globe his death is a "huge loss" and that he was a "gifted scientist destined to continue to make momentous contributions".

And a Canadian doctor in Toronto told Nature that Sasai "was a rigorous and innovative scientist and his loss will be deeply felt."

Obokata is currently attempting to replicate the stem cell STAP findings while under video surveillance at the RIKEN lab.

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<![CDATA[Could HIV Drugs Be The Key To Treating Multiple Sclerosis?]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:11:00 -0500
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A newly published study says people with HIV have a smaller chance of developing multiple sclerosis. 

​The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, notes even though both HIV and multiple sclerosis are well-known and documented:

"There is only a single case report of a patient with MS and HIV treated with HIV antiretroviral therapies. In this report, the patient's MS symptoms resolved completely after starting combination antiretroviral therapy and remain subsided for more than 12 years.​" (Via Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry)

​Those involved in the study hypothesized that people being treated for HIV might also be "coincidentally" treated for MS. 

"Drugs used to treat the virus could have an effect to reduce symptoms and block MS. The MS society says more research is still needed." (Via WMAQ)

And HealthDay points out the longer the person had HIV, the lower their chance was of also developing multiple sclerosis. 

"Compared to people in the general population, the risk of MS was 75 percent lower among people who had tested positive for HIV more than a year ago. The risk of MS was 85 percent lower among those who had tested positive for HIV more than five years ago."

The study looked at more than 21,000 people with HIV and had a control group of more than 5 million people.

As The Economist notes, "Results do not indicate whether it is the infection or its treatment that is suppressing MS."

The Economist also pointed out if it's the HIV drugs suppressing multiple sclerosis, it might be possible to use existing drugs to treat MS.

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<![CDATA[Horses 'Talk' To Other Horses With Ears, Eyes: Study]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 09:45:00 -0500
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Animals often use different sounds to communicate, but one study says horses in particular use more: their eyes and ears. (Via Thomas Quine / CC BY SA 2.0)

And until now, scientists didn't know how large a part they play in horse communication. (Via National Geographic)

According to a recent study, horses' highly mobile ears are visual cues to direct other horses' attention away from predators or toward food. (Via Current Biology)

Researchers set up an experiment with about 70 horses to see if they used visual cues to decide from which of two buckets of food to eat.

Each horse was led to two buckets below a life-size photo of another horse. Some photos showed a horse with its eyes covered, some with its ears covered and the rest without anything covered. (Via BBC)

The researchers say the horses that were shown the photos with both eyes and ears uncovered most often chose a bucket depending on where the photo horse's eyes and ears pointed to.

As for the horses who saw the other photos — with either the ears or eyes covered — they chose a bucket at random. And according to National Geographic, the researchers say this is the first of such evidence that horses signal to each other about food.

Now, this doesn't mean humans have never looked at horses' ears to read their body language before. But the researchers say previous studies have only focused on the animal cues humans use.

Horseback riders often pay attention to a horse's body language, such as the position of its ears, to determine if it's attentive or angry, for example. (Via Equestrian Life)

The study was published in the journal Current Biology. The researchers say they plan to study horses' facial features to express emotion.

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<![CDATA[How TMNT Inadvertently Caused An Environmental Crisis]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 09:17:00 -0500
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The movie is set for release Friday. (Via Getty Images)

And how could any child of the '80s or '90s— while staying loyal to the original brand — not at least be curious about what the latest version of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" will bring to the big screen? (Via Paramount Pictures / "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles")

But The Daily Beast notes a beef environmentalists in the United Kingdom have with the half-shell heroes that dates back to those original years. Turns out, turtles as pets turned the red-eared terrapin from the U.S. into an invasive species in the U.K.

Apparently in the early '90s, the turtles invaded the UK in a very real, non-cartoony way. (Via CBS / "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles")

British children began buying up red-eared terrapins at pet stores, and it's easy to see why. They're cute as babies. This YouTube user named all these turtles Michaelangelo after the TMNT character. (Via YouTube / thomodachi)

​But they soon grow to adults — full size of about a foot long, and pet owners often abandoned them in ponds instead of buying a new tank. Big problem when you consider they eat ducklings, small water birds and amphibians. (Via YouTube / expertvillage)

The founder of a British wildlife rescue organization told The Daily Beast, "They’re quite a voracious animal as far as the diet. They can eat so many things that they are detrimental to the actual balance to the nature and waterways once they get introduced to them.”

Wait a minute. That doesn't sound like the turtles of my childhood.

LEONARDO: "You know, even a really small garden helps to refurbish the soil." (Via CBS / "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles")

Ironically, throughout the cartoon or costumed existence of TMNT, the brand promoted environmentally friendly messages. (Via New Line Cinema / "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles")

The movie already upset some die-hard fans with various moves like the casting of Megan Fox as April O'Neil, Michael Bay's hints that the turtle origin story might turn them into aliens, and then Paramount Pictures tweeting a poster of the turtles jumping from an exploding building many felt was too 9/11-ish for a movie based in New York City. (Via Getty Images, Getty Images, Twitter / @ParamountAU)

Paramount quickly apologized for that last one and pulled the poster. (Via Variety)

​The chairman of the British Chelonia Group — chelonia is the scientific classification for turtles — issued a statement saying it'd be nice if producers would issue their own statement warning against impulse turtle buys. Doesn't sound all that likely to us, but then again, neither does a cartoon causing an environmental crisis.

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<![CDATA[Lego Responds To Sexism Critiques With Female Scientists Set]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 19:58:00 -0500
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Legos allow you to build pretty much anything, and now the Danish company that inventd the toy is trying to build something else — support for females in technology fields. (Via Getty Images)

Introducing: the Lego Research Institute set. It includes three women with scientific professions including a paleontologist, astronomer and chemist. 

The product was released through Lego's Lego Ideas program, which allows designers outside the company to design custom sets that then have a chance of becoming actual products after recieving 10,000 votes.

​The release comes months after a 7-year-old girl wrote Lego a letter complaining that all the girl Legos did was just ​"sit at home, go to the beach and shop" and had no jobs, while the boys "went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks." (Via The Society Pages)

While it may seem like a pretty routine product announcement, there's a lot of scrutiny these days when it comes to how toys portray gender, particularly when it comes to showing women in STEM jobs — that's science, technology, engineering or math.

Mic says the decision is exactly what young women need, writing: "Rather than just releasing Lego sets featuring women in traditionally 'unfeminine' roles (whatever that means), the set features strong, driven, smart women in an array of STEM jobs."

And a ThinkProgress writer says that the new toy will "help combat some of the subtle ways that society signals to girls that they shouldn't get interested in the STEM fields."

But despite the Lego Research Institute set, the company has sometimes been a target of those who see toys as the first step to ending harmful gender stereotypes.

Earlier this year, a guest writer at Scientific American found that for every female Lego minifigure, there are four male ones. Hardly any of the female characters represented STEM professions. 

And an article by a female physicist on The Guardian criticized Lego for including female stereotypes in a recent set, which included a grandma, a diner waitress and a pretzel girl.

"Lego is modular. It is perfectly designed for avoiding this issue, because you can just make all the bits ... and let children put them together for themselves. Why impose the stereotypes on them at all?"

The company also got quite a backlash when it released "for girls" sets called "Lego Friends" — which traded in the traditional minifig for dollhouse-style characters. (Via Disney / 'LEGO Friends')

So it looks like Lego still has some work to do to silence its critics, but the fact that the Research Institute set has already sold out might show they're on the right track. 

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<![CDATA[What's The Story Behind The 'Secret' Ebola Serum?]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 17:53:00 -0500
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The two Americans infected with Ebola have seen some improvement after being administered an experimental treatment.

Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol were both infected while trying to stem the outbreak in West Africa, working with the humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse. (Via ABC)

Brantley received a dose of the experimental serum and within an hour his condition significantly improved.

Newscasts even showed him walking into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after he was flown back to the U.S. for treatment. (Via WXIA)

Writebol received two doses of the serum and, although she hasn't shown as much improvement as Brantley, she did get well enough to allow doctors to transfer her to Emory Hospital as well. (Via WCNC)

So what's the story behind this experimental treatment?

The serum was developed by MAPP Biopharmaceutical and has not yet been approved for use by the FDA. It hasn't even undergone human testing, which makes Brantley and Writebol the first people to receive the drug.

The drug, called ZMapp, is one of the first treatments to show promise combatting Ebola and works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells. (Via European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY-ND 2.0​)

Normally, it would be illegal to administer an un-tested drug but CNN speculates this case falls under the FDA's "compassionate use" regulation which allows for drugs such as this one to be used outside clinical trials.

It's unclear how much of this serum exists right now. ABC reports that when the three doses were shipped to Liberia, doctors weren't even sure if there would be enough for the two patients.

However, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency announced it will increase funding for MAPP Biopharmaceutical to further develop the drug. (Via Global Biodefense)

There's currently no timetable for when the drug will be formally tested, so it's not clear when the serum will become more widely available or whether it could have an impact on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed at least 800 people so far.

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<![CDATA[Elderly Couple Dies Hours Apart After 62 Years Of Marriage]]> Sun, 03 Aug 2014 19:34:00 -0500
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A elderly couple's sweet love story in Bakersfield, California is getting national attention. 

Don and Maxine Simpson made the promise "till death do us part" when they were young, but the phrase gained new meaning this week when the two died just four hours apart. Instead of mourning, the Simpsons' family is choosing to celebrate their love. (Via Melissa Sloan)

“All Don wanted was to be with his beautiful wife. He adored my grandmother, loved her to the end of the Earth.” (Via KERO)​

Don and Maxine were married just a few months after they met and were together 62 years. (Via Melissa Sloan)

Maxine had been battling cancer all this year and two weeks ago, Don broke his hip. But the couple's granddaughter, Melissa Sloan, found a way to keep the two together as their health deteriorated. (Via Melissa Sloan)

Sloan cleared out a spare bedroom and put two beds together so that the couple could speak and hold hands. Maxine was the first to pass away.  (Via Melissa Sloan)

Melissa Sloan: "I walked them out with her body. Walked back in to check on grandpa and he quit breathing as soon as her body left the room. He left with her." (Via KERO)

Elderly couples dying around the same time isn't unheard of, and it's usually celebrated as a sign of love.

Earlier this year, a couple that had been together for 45 years died just 10 minutes apart. The couple's son said, "You have to look at it in a romantic way. They did everything together." (Via WFOR)

And there's actually some research that says dying of a broken heart is a real thing.

According to NBC, scientists say the death of a spouse "can lead to a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline, which can cause the left side of the heart to suddenly balloon in size."

Recent studies in the Journal of Nursing Research and The New England Journal of Medicine found that the elderly are more likely to pass away shortly after their spouses, though not always as close together as the Simpsons.

Don and Maxine leave behind two sons and several grandchildren. 

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<![CDATA[Ebola Fight Hinges On Getting West Africans To Avoid Bats]]> Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:34:00 -0500
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It's the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, and it has doctors in western Africa fighting an unlikely foe. 

"Bats are carrying Ebola, possibly spreading the virus to other animals and then to people." (Via CNN)

That's right: Bats. Because although to Americans they're little more than pests, in western Africa they're a part of many people's diet. (Via Sean McCann / CC BY NC SA 2.0, European Commission / CC BY ND 2.0)

Which is a huge problem, according to the United Nations. A report issued by the organization in July warns that fruit bats are the "reservoir species" of the Ebola Virus.

That means the bats are unaffected by the virus but can carry it — and will pass it off to animals who are then eaten by humans. (Via K24 TV)  

The solution seems clear: Just tell people to avoid bats, and the bush animals they infect. 

But in a part of the world where witch doctors are sometimes the only trusted physicians, it's not that simple. (Via New York Magazine)  

"The Red Cross truck coming and they say, 'That's the ebola truck! The ebola truck!' and they run away from it and they go to their traditional medical doctors." (Via Fox News)

Epidemiologist Jonathan Epstein explains in The Atlantic"There's been intense mistrust of Western health care workers. ... You're battling a lot of perceptions and convictions.”

“Has the meat caused you any problems?"

“Nothing.”

“Before we were born, our great grandparents were born, they were eating meat. No Ebola in meat.” (Via Vice)

And while all of this hasn't stopped the UN and public health NGO's from trying, the head of the World Health Organization on Friday called the response "woefully inadequate". (Via Al Jazeera, United Nations, International Business Times

"The Ebola outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives." (Via World Health Organization)

So far, the prediction seems to be holding up. As of July 30th, WHO confirmed 1,440 cases — and out of those, 826 deaths.     

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<![CDATA[Story Of Baby With Down Syndrome Shows Surrogacy's Pitfalls]]> Sun, 03 Aug 2014 15:09:00 -0500
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The kindness of a 21-year-old Thai woman has captured the world's attention and brought to light a concerning issue within the county. 

Pattharamon Janbua was hired by a surrogate company to be a surrogate mother for an Australian couple. Early in her pregnancy it was discovered she was going to have twins, and one of those twins has Down's Syndrome. (Via BBC)

According to The Wall Street Journal, "The agent said the couple wanted her to have an abortion, and that there was a way to achieve it, but Ms. Pattharamon said she refused." Pattharamon then told the agency she would raise the child herself​.

Pattharamon: "I love him. He was in my tummy for 9 months. It's my child. I love him like my own." (Via ABC Australia)

After the twins were born, the Australian couple took the little girl, but left Gammy, her twin brother, in Thailand. (Via 9 News)

Pattharamon has raised Gammy while also raising her two older children. Which likely isn't an easy feat — besides Down's syndrome, Gammy has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection. 

Gammy's medical bills have totaled more than $141,000. Australian charity, Hands Across the Water, has been paying the bills. (Via The Sydney Morning Herald)

This GoFundMe Page has also raised more than $200,000 for Gammy. 

Australia, like many other countries, has laws prohibiting surrogacy  — prompting many couples look to poorer nations like Thailand.

In February, 14 women were rescued from a surrogate trafficking ring in Thailand where reports say the women were forced to have babies and live inside the agency. (Via LifeSiteNews)

The Telegraph says the surrogate laws in Thailand are poorly regulated, but are strengthening as more the topic has become more and more public. 

In a new development, The Sydney Morning Herald reports Thai health officials announced Wednesday, ​"The only legal surrogacy cases were those in which a married couple cannot conceive a child and engage a blood relative to carry their child."

Pattharamon says the surrogacy agency she worked with has not paid her in full yet and still owes her more than $2,000. (Via The Sydney Morning Herald)

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<![CDATA[NASA Tests 'Impossible' Engine, Finds Out It's Really Fast]]> Sun, 03 Aug 2014 13:45:00 -0500
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It took the Curiosity rover more than eight months to reach Mars and land on the little red planet, but what if we could shave that down to a matter of weeks? (Via Getty Images)

Meet Guido Fetta, the inventor of the "Cannae Drive" — a space engine that traditional physics said wasn't supposed to work. 

That's because the Cannae Drive doesn't use any liquid or nuclear fuel to produce propulsion, just microwaves. Fetta was able to convince NASA to test his engine out and, surprisingly enough, it worked. Though they aren't sure how.

Without getting too much into the technical jargon, the paper's abstract says the Cannae Drive was able to produce 30-50 micro-Newtons of thrust on two test engines without using "classical electromagnetic phenomenon" and thus, potentially used "quantum vacuum virtual plasma". They plan to do more testing in the future.

A writer at ExtremeTech provides a somewhat more layman explanation:

"The central insight here (assuming this isn’t all a big mistake) is that something called quantum vacuum fluctuations will occasionally spontaneously create particles all throughout the vacuum of space ... The thruster essentially turns these virtual particles into a plasma and expels them out the back of the ship."

And The Verge notes that, if produced on a larger scale, this sort of engine could result in "ultra-light weight, ultra fast spacecraft that could carry humans to Mars in weeks instead of months, and to the nearest star system ... in just about 30 years."

So, quantum particles get turned into fuel by the engine and that creates thrust. Got it. But we might not want to jump on the next ship to Proxima Centurai yet. Popular Science spoke with a former NASA engineer who cautioned folks not to get too excited.

​​“Whenever you get results that have extraordinary implications, you have to be cautious and somewhat skeptical that they can be repeated before you can accept them as a new theory.” 

Fetta's not the first to venture into this microwave quantum-ish thrust engine type. The whole concept of the Cannae Drive is similar to a prototype engine Wired reported on last year called the "emDrive" developed by a British scientist and successfully tested for the first time in China — something they note the West didn't seem interested in.

While we're on the topic of getting around in space, we might as well look at some of the other ideas out there that aren't quite in use yet.  

First up is a sail, in space. Called a "lightsail", this eliminates the need for fuel, like the Cannae Drive. It uses the power of light beams to move about space. It would also need a very large sail to go anywhere outside the solar system.  (Via YouTube / The Planetary Society)

Another theory is to use what is called a warp drive, which would use negative energy to move space, instead of the ship itself. It could allow for faster-than-light travel, but this would require massive amounts of energy that we can't currently produce. (Via Space.com)

If neither of those pan out, there's always wormholes, which essentially serve as "shortcuts" through space. The idea's on NASA's "What We'd Like To Achieve" list. (Via National Geographic)

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<![CDATA[Ancient Skulls Show Civilization Rose As Testosterone Fell]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 21:47:00 -0500
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With all due respect to all the macho men out there, you guys might have been holding the human race back — at least in prehistoric times. Researchers at Duke University and the University of Utah say the rise of human civilization as we know it is linked to a drop in testosterone levels.

The paper, published in the journal Current Anthropology, posits that a testosterone deficit facilitated the friendliness and cooperation between humans, which lead to modern society. Study lead Robert Cieri posits "reduced testosterone levels enabled increasingly social people to better learn from and cooperate with each other."

While Homo Sapiens are at least 200,000 years old, the species didn't really start acting human until at least 50,000 years ago, when widespread use of tools and ornaments first appeared. (Via PBS)

Cieri theorized that a drop in testosterone might be correlated with that renaissance, and looked to ancient skulls for evidence. Testosterone levels can significantly shape the development of certain facial features, particularly the brow ridge and upper face.

​The scientists examined 1,400 human skulls in total from various prehistoric and modern periods. Comparing the newer skulls to the ancient ones, researchers noticed a sharp decline in features sculpted by testosterone; modern skulls have smaller brows and more rounded faces. (Via Matt Celeskey / CC BY SA 2.0High Contrast / CC BY 3.0 DEThomas Roche / CC BY SA 2.0)

Based on these findings, the study concluded two things; "the fossil record of H. sapiens does reflect reductions in craniofacial masculinity," and "it seems likely that important increases in human social tolerance developed during this interval." (Via Current Anthropology)

Or as The Washington Post puts it, the decline of testosterone lead to "less head clubbing and more community building, basically."

There's some precedent for these findings in the animal kingdom. The researchers cited previous studies of Siberian foxes, whose appearances became more juvenile as they were domesticated. They also noted the differences in facial structures between aggressive chimpanzees and their more relaxed cousins, the bonobos. (Via Vimeo / Tyler Cole, Psych USD / CC BY SA 3.0, Thomas Lersch / CC BY SA 3.0)

But there's only so much information researchers can glean from the ancient skulls. For instance, the study doesn't reveal whether the testosterone-lacking skulls were actually caused by a testosterone deficiency, or if the developing humans simply had fewer and fewer receptors for the chemical.

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<![CDATA[Water Toxins Spur State Of Emergency In Toledo, Ohio]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 17:20:00 -0500
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Residents of Toledo, Ohio are being warned not to drink the water as it is likely toxic. 

"The governor is involved. They've declared a state of emergency. The national guard is involved. The Ohio Department of public safety is involved. The Ohio emergency information center is up and running..."​ (Via WUPW)

The City of Toledo released this notice just after midnight Saturday telling all Toledo water customers not to consume the water. The notice says two sample readings from the water treatment plant showed excesses of microcystin in the water. 

Microcystins are toxins produced by bacteria and can cause vomiting and diarrhea when consumed. (Via Environmental Protection Agency)

The city advised residents that boiling or filtering the water will not solve the problem. As expected, water bottles began flying of the shelves at local stores. Multiple media outlets report the city is working to provide water to those who need it.

"The city contacted us and asked if we would give away water for free, so we're giving away water at all three of the fire stations." (Via  WTVG)

"The water storage in Fremont has two filling stations that are open 24 hours a day. Its one of those things where you bring your own container." ​(Via WNWO)

Some Toledo businesses have closed because of the warning. And many school athletic functions and community activities have been canceled. 

The city has known its water is a problem for at least a year. It spent $3 million in 2013 and requested an additional $1 million to pay for chemicals to treat the water supply. (Via Toledo Blade)

The city's water comes from Lake Erie — a lake with lots of algae and bacteria. (Via ​ RyanHodnett / CC BY SA 3.0)

"Nutrients, like nitrogen and prosperous found in sewage and fertilizer feed the algae. And the lake, made warmer from climate change, provides a comfortable environment."  (Via QUEST Science)

Officials say they are currently not sure how long the water advisory will last. 

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<![CDATA[American Ebola Patient Arrives In U.S. For Treatment]]> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 13:23:00 -0500
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The first of two American Ebola patients has arrived in the U.S. for treatment.

"Humanitarian workers Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are the first patients to be treated for the virus here in the United States. They contracted it while working in west Africa." (Via HLN)

"Dr. Kent Brantly will be treated at the Emory hospital. The secondary patient is expected to arrive next week." (Via CNN)

USA Today reports the plane that transported Brantly has an isolation unit specially made for people with infectious diseases. 

The hospital where the patients will be treated, Emory University Hospital, also contains a special isolation unit that was built in collaboration with the CDC 12 years ago.  (Via Getty Images)

The Daily Beast obtained a letter addressed to hospital staff saying the hospital is "prepared and ready" to treat the Ebola patients. 

Isolated or not, the presence of Ebola patients in the U.S. is raising a lot of concern — at least on social media.

Many opposed to the move wrote on Twitter Saturday, with this user calling it "irresponsible."  (Via Twitter / @Deansheremet Twitter / @HollyRFisher, Tiwtter / @wiffy81)

A statement by the U.S. Department of State stressed, "Every precaution is being taken."

This latest outbreak of Ebola in Africa has infected more than 1,300 and killed 729 people.

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<![CDATA[Reasons To Keep Calm About Ebola Patients Entering U.S.]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:38:00 -0500
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Ebola in America. It's a pretty scary thought, and one that's likely been weighing on people's minds given the current outbreak in West Africa. So when the news broke that two Americans infected with the virus are being transported to the U.S., people were understandably a little freaked out.

The identities of the two patients haven't been officially announced, but they're widely believed to be healthcare workers diagnosed with the virus last week. They're both being flown via private jet to secure containment facilities in Atlanta's Emory University Hospital for further treatment. (Via Samaritan's Purse, CBS)

The two patients were infected battling the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The World Health Organization estimates the virus has killed over 729 people so far, with an approximate fatality rate of 56 percent. There is currently no vaccine or cure for the disease. (Via Doctors Without Borders)

CDC director Tom Frieden told CNN the decision to evacuate the patients was made by the organizations they worked for — but added the U.S. government has an obligation to provide the best possible care for the stricken workers. (Via Geoffrey Cowley / CC BY SA 3.0)

"I know that it creates a fear in people, but I really hope that people's fear won't outweigh their compassion. ... If people who are working on that response get sick, we care for them."

Still, the decision is generating a lot of fear and anger on Twitter from people worried about an accidental outbreak on American soil. Even Donald Trump joined the criticism of the evacuation effort, arguing the patients can be adequately cared for in West Africa. (Via Twitter / @Schmidt2R, @TheBardockObama)

In the face of this potential hysteria, medical authorities throughout the media are making one thing very clear: those fears are groundless.

"U.S. hospitals are well prepared to appropriately handle an infected person." (Via WAGA)

"It is safe, it is smart, it is prudent, it does not put people at risk." (Via NBC)

"They are sure to get good care, and it will be done safely. There is no risk to the general population." (Via Fox News)

To reassure people, health officials are emphasizing two key points about the decision — first, that it's not as easy for the virus to spread as you might think. Ebola is not airborne and transmitting the virus requires direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who's already infected. (Via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization)

The other thing to keep in mind is America's stringent protocols for handling patients with infectious diseases, which Vox goes into some detail about. Those procedures ensure that, even in a worst-case scenario, "[it's] still unlikely that Ebola will get farther than a local problem in one city or town.​"

Of course, none of this changes the severity of the West African outbreak, which WHO officials warn is spreading faster than they can control it. On Friday, the organization announced a $100 million plan with other affected nations to fight the outbreak. (Via The New York Times)

The CDC notes Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days, and can manifest itself symptoms such as fever, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

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<![CDATA[Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:54:00 -0500
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Work can be a stressful place — there's even a name for it, occupational stress. And a new study finds, depending on where you work, being on the job can be detrimental to your health. (Via Getty Images)

According to the study, published Friday, there are a lot of factors to consider. Things like job stress, exposure to air pollution like dust and secondhand smoke, noise — all raise your risk of heart attack and stroke. 

And certain types of jobs are more detrimental than others, too.

​​"Workers with a college degree were less likely than workers with less education to report a history of CHD/stroke." (Via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The study also explains it's easy to get caught in a vicious cycle. If you're a smoker and you're stressed out at work, you have more trouble quitting smoking. If you're already at risk for heart attack, a stressful job certainly won't help.

Gender was a factor, too — working men and former smokers were more at risk than working women and nonsmokers for heart disease and stroke. (Via CBS)

But what's perhaps more alarming is the chance of unemployed adults developing health issues. Among unemployed people looking for work, 2.5 percent had an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and those not looking for a job jumped to 6.3 percent.  

It's long been known unemployment can do a number on your health — according to previous studies, unemployed individuals are more likely to become obese, have high blood pressure and develop other dangerous conditions. (Via PsychCentral, New York Daily News, Drexel UniversityHealthDay)

According to the CDC, heart disease remains the leading cause of death among Americans — a stat that led a professor of cardiology to remind HealthDay preventative steps should be taken within the workplace. 

 

"Implement and take advantage of comprehensive workplace wellness programs and better utilize effective interventions to prevent heart disease and stroke."

It's important to note there were limitations during the research for this study, and no cause-and-effect link between employment status and heart health was found, only an association.

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<![CDATA[Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:18:00 -0500
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As the deadly West-African Ebola outbreak continues to spread, health officials are working to fast-track an Ebola vaccine. (European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY ND 2.0)

According to The Washington Post, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration to begin Phase I human testing of an Ebola vaccine in September. If the trial is completed by January and the vaccine appears to be working, "researchers could conduct more robust human trials later in 2015."

And while it gives the impression fast-tracking a trial would only serve to launch more trials, USA Today reports there's a far more helpful result.

If the drug is proven to be safe and effective, "it could be given to health workers in affected African countries sometime in 2015 ... on an emergency basis."

NBC explains patients infected with Ebola currently receive only immune system support — saline to replace fluid, painkillers for fever, and antibiotics for "secondary infections." (European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY ND 2.0)

Ebola has a 90 percent fatality rate. With the death toll climbing, many are asking why we haven't already created a vaccine for Ebola. It seems to be a simple — if disappointing — answer: money. 

Vox reports there are actually a few Ebola vaccines that have shown promise in "non-human primates." But because there's no market for a drug that "surfaces sporadically in low-income, African countries," pharmaceutical companies don't want to provide funding for research and development. 

Vox spoke with one researcher who said current funding for a vaccine comes almost exclusively from the National Institutes of Health, and it only comes because of a concern over the Ebola virus being weaponized. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

In other words, the researcher believes if a bioterrorism concern didn't exist, funding for a vaccine probably wouldn't either. 

ABC points to another barrier for Ebola vaccine research. Because outbreaks are generally sporadic in nature, researchers are unable to conduct successful field studies. Compared to HIV or malaria, Ebola is far more unpredictable. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1976 the second-largest Ebola outbreak infected 318 and killed 280. Since then, only two other outbreaks resulted in more than 200 deaths — until this year. 

With more than 1,000 infected in a few months, health officials hope pharmaceutical companies will find monetary motivation in an Ebola vaccine. 

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<![CDATA[Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer]]> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:05:00 -0500
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A new study published in the journal Cancer Research is linking certain types of oral contraceptives to a higher risk of developing breast cancer. (UCI UC Irvine / CC BY NC ND 2.0+mara / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Past studies had already made a link between oral contraceptives, AKA "the pill," and breast cancer. 

The American Cancer Society says women who use the pill are at a greater risk for breast cancer. But that the risk can even out again once use of the contraceptive is stopped. 

But this latest study specifically links oral contraceptives with high estrogen levels to breast cancer. Researchers looked at the records of more than 1,000 women with breast cancer between the ages of 20 and 49. (Via American Association for Cancer Research)

Time points out the numbers were actually pretty drastic.

"Compared to women who formerly used birth control pills or never used them, the risk for breast cancer was increased by about 50% for women who did."

It was pills high in estrogen that were deemed the highest risk. Medical News Today explains it's basically too much of the hormone — even though that hormone is natural.

"It is well established that estrogen and progesterone that occur naturally in the body can increase the risk of some cancers. Some studies have suggested that man-made versions of the hormones found in oral contraceptives can have the same effect."

But of course, there's always a flip side...

"Researchers say that their findings need to be confirmed and stress that breast cancer is rare in young women and that oral contraceptives have many health benefits." (Via KHOU)

And according to WebMD, oral contraceptives can actually decrease your risk for ovarian cancer. 

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<![CDATA[London Tests 'Sobriety Tags' On Alcohol-Related Offenders]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:07:00 -0500
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London is testing out ankle bracelets that can detect if a person is still drinking after being ordered not to.

The program, launched by London Mayor Boris Johnson targets people who commit minor crimes while under the influence, such as drunk-driving or assault. ITV reports it's not intended for alcoholics or those who might suffer withdrawal symptoms when going through a sobriety period. (Via ITV)

The bracelets, which will go through a one-year trial period, measure a person's sweat every thirty minutes to see if he or she has been drinking. If the device registers a violation or or somebody tampering with it, an alert is sent to the person's probation officer. (Via SCRAM Systems)

The device is already being used in the United States where it already has it's own celebrity sponsor - well, in the form of Lindsay Lohan being ordered to wear one. (Via Daily Mirror)

According to a release, Johnson based his plan on the devices' use in the U.S., where a former White House Drug advisor said it had "a transformative effect on alcohol-fuelled crime."

Northamptonshire was the first in the U.K. to try out the program and three people were fitted with the device in May. (Via Northamptonshire Telegraph)

In the London trial, up to 150 people convicted of alcohol related crimes will be banned from drinking for up to 120 days and fitted with the device. (Via SCRAM Systems)

The Daily Star reports the first person in London has already been ordered to wear the tag for 80 days after pleading guilty to charges of using abusive language and provoking unlawful violence. 

However, a spokesperson for Alcohol Concern told The Guardian the device isn't treating the bigger picture. "The alcohol detection tag is a good idea and worth trying, but to work effectively it's important that people are given support and access to treatment to truly help them tackle their drinking problems."

If an offender in London is busted by the device, he or she could receive a warning or be forced to return to court and potentially face further punishment.

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<![CDATA[Breakdown: Why Is Deadly Ebola Outbreak Still Spreading?]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:23:00 -0500
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Spreading across West Africa, there are now four countries that have reported the presence of the Ebola virus: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In all, more than 700 people have died from the disease in recent weeks.

​The New York Times reports Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone, has now declared a public health emergency — the Times explains the status is a call for help with quarantining those infected. 

Wednesday Koroma posted a message on the presidential website saying: "The disease is beyond the scope of any one country, or community to defeat. Its social, economic, psychological and security implications require scaling up measures at international, national, inter-agency and community levels." (Via The Republic of Sierra Leone​)

In the address, Koroma also announced he has canceled plans to go to the U.S. and meet with President Barack Obama for the United States-Africa summit. He will instead go to Guinea Friday to discuss what's believed to be the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. (Via Getty Images

So to put it into perspective of just how big this outbreak is, the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history killed 280 people — compare that to this outbreak's 729.

As this outbreak has continued to grow, so has international aid. But the risk of infection for medical staff is now so great, many volunteers are being pulled out of the affected countries. 

In this age of technological and medical advancements, how has this virus grown to such alarming proportions? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta blames it on a lack of education. 

"Despite what we're talking about on television, they don't hear these messages. They continue to touch the bodies of people who are sick with Ebola, then get sick themselves."

And CBS notes many family members of the infected are choosing to keep loved ones at home due to the high mortality rate in clinics.

"And by causing these bodily fluids to be out there, this virus can be spread very easily. There are cases of when somebody has died and at the funeral everybody goes and touches the body. Everybody that touched the body had dies of Ebola." (Via CBS ) 

"Don't you guys ever worry about Ebola? Do you think that it's real?"

"No, I don't believe that Ebola is real." (Via Vice)

And that lack of understanding is also a huge issue when it comes to fighting the virus with a fatality rate as high as 90 percent. 

A CDC official compares the spread to forest fires, saying: "And, like forest fires, the outbreak can be 'reseeded,' sparking onto a new patient and ravaging a new region, as long as more victims are available for contact. And despite international efforts, the fire's been hard to put out." (Via The Wire) 

Those who get infected with Ebola risk a painful fate — as the virus causes internal hemorrhaging and the infected essentially bleed to death. (Via PBS)

It's believed the outbreak began in Guinea in March. There is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola, making it one of the deadliest viruses known to man. 

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<![CDATA[New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:07:00 -0500
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The moon might look like a perfect circle to us here on Earth, but scientists say it's shaped less like a perfect orb and more like a citrus fruit. (Via Getty Images)

A study published this week in the journal Nature explains the moon is actually slightly squashed and has two large bulges, kind of like a lemon.

Scientists have known the moon's shape was irregular but until now have not been able to pin down what that shape is and why it's like that. (Via Getty Images)

Early research ruled out the moon's rotation or tectonic plates as culprits. (Via Getty ImagesThe Record)

The study says the deformation likely happened early in the moon's history when it was very hot and vulnerable to the Earth's gravitational pull. Researchers believe the Earth's pull could have stretched out the moon's crust, causing it to thicken in the middle and thin at the poles. 

Scientists also say as the moon cooled down and moved away from Earth, it was likely frozen in its current form. 

To discover all this, Gizmodo reports the researchers used a laser altimeter to map out and study the moon's surface.

The Verge says these were the first scientists to "get a clear picture of the moon's real shape — other scientists who have attempted the same in the past have been foiled by the sheer number of craters pockmarking the planetoid's exterior."

And according to the BBC, they were able to get past all of those craters on the moon by solving complicated math problems. Study researcher Ian Garrick-Bethell said, "We did a lot of work to estimate the uncertainties in the analysis that result from those gaps [in the data]." 

So be sure to check out the moon on the next clear night and see if you notice its lumpy shape. 

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<![CDATA[Depression Contributes To Dementia In Older Adults: Study]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:49:00 -0500
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Once again we're hearing there's a correlation between depression and dementia in older adults, but now we have more details about how they affect each other.  

Last year, The British Journal of Psychiatry compared more than 20 different studies that researched the link but was unable to say which caused the other. 

But Wednesday the journal Neurology released the findings of a study suggesting it's depression that contributes to dementia.

This study included more than 1,700 older adults who had no signs of dementia at the beginning of the study. In the end, researchers discovered those who had depression were more likely to develop the disease later on. As for why — that question remains.  

Time notes, "Some research suggests that people with depression may have high levels of hormones that interfere with the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory aptitude."

But again — that's just a theory. Another is inflammation of the nervous systems of those with depression. The thinking there is that somehow that inflammation makes blood flow to the brain difficult. 

Either way, a professor of psychiatry told The New York Times, "We think depression is toxic to the brain, and if you're walking around with some mild brain damage, it will add to the degenerative process."

HealthDay pointed out this means treating depression early could help prevent dementia later on. 

Researchers are now looking at exactly how depression increases the risk of dementia so that better treatment may be provided. 

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<![CDATA[Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:02:00 -0500
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​The e-cigarette has rapidly risen to popularity over the last few years as a way for cigarette smokers to kick the habit — despite studies that call into question the science behind e-cigs. (Via Science NewsGetty Images

But now, a new study says despite claims of unknown effects of e-cigs, they are at least better for you than the real thing.

The study was done by Queen Mary University of London and published in the journal Addiction. It says e-cigs cut tobacco-related deaths. The researchers came to this conclusion after looking over more than 80 previous studies. (Via HealthDay

Science Daily quotes one of the researchers as saying: "​The evidence we currently have is clear: e-cigarettes should be allowed to compete against conventional cigarettes in the marketplace. ... Smokers who have not managed to stop with current treatments may ... benefit from switching to e-cigarettes."​

The first e-cigarette can be traced back to 2003 and has grown in popularity since. 

Due to this rapid increase of usage, many critics have raised concerns over e-cigs' benefits and if or how they should be regulated. (Via NewsdayMedscapeTimes of San Diego

"One of the biggest concerns about e-cigarettes is that they will be attractive to minors who will then transition to real cigarettes." (Via CBS

Most e-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, which means minors can still get their hands on them and the potential health risks of them are not fully known. (Via Getty Images

Vox reports, for the most part, e-cigarette companies have been able to scoot by regulation and are largely excluded from local tobacco laws. 

The World Health Organization wrote back in June that it was "currently reviewing the existing evidence around electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)" and "working with national regulatory bodies to look at regularity options as well as toxicology experts to understand more about the impact ENDS may have on health."

CBS reports 2014 is expected to be the first year the e-cigarettes industry is worth more than a billion dollars. Bloomberg says it could reach as high as $1.5 billion. 

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<![CDATA[Where Did The World Trade Center Shipwreck Come From?]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:29:00 -0500
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​​

An apparent shipwreck found beneath Ground Zero. The story was fascinating enough from the start — and now we know just how old it might be. (Via Getty Images)

Archeologists say the remnants found four years ago are more than 200 years old.

In 2010, construction workers excavating a lot for a parking garage near the former World Trade Center site discovered the 32-foot long piece of a ship about 20 feet below street level. (Via NY1)

And now we know some pretty interesting details. 

Scientists from Columbia University studied the tree rings from the oak used in the ship to determine its origins. (Via BioOne)

They say the wood matches the same wood from a forest in Philadelphia dating back to about 1773, right before the Revolutionary War. (Via News 12 Long Island)

They also suggest it's the same type of wood used to build Independence Hall. (Via Rdsmith4 / CC BY SA 2.5)

Researchers still don't know for sure why the ship sank — whether it was by accident or deliberately used for landfill to expand the island of Manhattan as we know it today.

Two researchers tell The New York Times they think it was probably the latter — pointing out sawed-off beams that could indicate it was purposely sunk.

But the scientists do know, based on artifacts taken from the ship, it was used for carrying Dutch passengers and cargo over shallow water. (Via  WNYW)

And LiveScience cites previous studies that said it might have even traveled as far as the Caribbean for trading — where scientists say it was affected by a form of "shipworm" that might have contributed to its demise.

Archeologists have also found many other artifacts while excavating Ground Zero. They say discovering the ship and its origins helped them date those other artifacts.

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<![CDATA[Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:48:00 -0500
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The Peace Corps announced Wednesday it is temporarily withdrawing more than 300 volunteers from three different West African countries as health care professionals battle the largest Ebola outbreak in history. (Via European Commission / CC BY ND 2.0)

In a statement on its website, the Peace Corps said volunteers are being temporarily removed from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, though the organization will continue to monitor the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. 

The evacuation follows news of two unnamed Peace Corps volunteers being isolated after coming in contact with the virus. Two other U.S. volunteers  — Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — have displayed symptoms of the virus and Patrick Sawyer, a U.S. citizen traveling from Liberia to Nigeria, has died from an Ebola infection. 

So far the virus has spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia, with fears the spread could continue. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,200 cases have been reported and 672 people have died. (Via MSNBC)

The Peace Corps is just one of several organizations — including SIM USA and Samaritan's Purse — to pull workers out of West Africa because of the outbreak and ongoing security issues. 

But SIM USA President Bruce Johnson told The Wall Street Journal the mass exodus of workers from U.S.-based organizations means even more help is needed to combat the virus. "This is a growing crisis of proportions that will cost, we think, thousands of lives and maybe more. ... The international community has the resources and people to respond, but they need to respond."

Meanwhile, doctors and other health workers continue to calm fears of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.:

"The risk of having an outbreak of Ebola in the United States is exceedingly unlikely and rare because of the infrastructure we have for good infection control." 

"Right now, everybody's very heads up that if someone comes in from a West African country and even remotely feels ill, the first thing you do is you put the person in isolation." (Via NBC | CNN)

However unlikely a U.S. outbreak might be, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has considering raising the travel warnings to discourage "nonessential" travel to the affected West African countries. 

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<![CDATA[Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:57:00 -0500
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Extreme weather is killing roughly 2,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to a new study released by health officials Wednesday. (Via masaru minoya / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

But most of the deaths aren’t from floods and tornados. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the deadliest weather conditions are heat waves and cold snaps.

It took a look at weather-related deaths from 2006-2010. Of the more than 10,000 deaths reported, one-third of them were caused by excessive heat. Excessive cold was significantly more lethal, accounting for two-thirds of deaths.

The study found, older people, men, non-Hispanic black people and people living in lower-income areas had a higher risk of dying from both extreme heat and cold. (Via Matt DeTurck / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

That said, according to the study, the number of deaths attributed to weather is likely underreported.

For example, heat can exacerbate pre-existing heart problems. But it’s not likely heat would be listed as the cause of death in this case, even though it played a role. (Via Kullez / CC BY 2.0)

The CDC adds, “The frequency and intensity of all types of extreme weather events...is expected to increase in the future as a result of changing weather patterns.”

But it’s too early to link weather-related deaths to climate change, according to a health scientist at the National Center for Environmental Health. “We examined weather-related deaths over a five-year period. The time period studied is not long enough for us to draw conclusions about trends in weather-related deaths” (Via HealthDay)

But that hasn’t stopped some from making predictions. A UK study released in February estimated that heat wave deaths in England and Wales could triple by the 2050s. (Via LiveScience)

We haven’t forgotten about hurricanes and thunderstorms. But it turns out, these types of weather events only accounted for 6 percent of weather-related deaths. (Via The Weather Channel)

To which a WQAD meteorologist speculates, “It is likely the rate of death for severe storms is decreasing due to accurate forecasting by Meteorologists and more attention by local news media.”

So then let us be the ones to tell you, be careful in the extreme heat this summer by staying hydrated and inside when possible. And when winter rolls around, layers and the indoors are your best friends.

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<![CDATA[Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:31:00 -0500
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Get ready for some numbers that might make you cringe. 

Consumer watchdog group the Center for Science in the Public Interest released its Xtreme Eating list of meals or food choices from chain restaurants that either hit or get close to 2,000 calories. 

Why is 2,000 calories a significant number? Well, health officials recommend that adult men consume between 2,000 and 3,200 calories daily — a number that varies with age and how active they are. For adult women, the recommended daily caloric intake ranges from 1,600 to 2,400. (Via U.S. Department of Agriculture)  

These next dishes push that limit by fitting the daily number of calories into a dish. 

Here's the lineup: First, Chevy's Super Cinco Combo, which, according to the menu, consists of two enchiladas, a crispy or soft beef taco, a pork tamale and a chile relleno.

Next is Red Robin's Monster Burger, which comes with bottomless steak fries.

Then BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse's Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza.

After that is Famous Dave's dish called The Big Slab, which offers you ribs, cornbread and two side options.

And last but not least in the calorie count is The Cheesecake's Factory's French Toast Napoleon.

So let's do some comparing to put these dishes into perspective. What better way than to use McDonald's Big Mac for some scale? It's listed at 530 calories, and if that number frightens you, brace yourself. 

​According to the group, Chevy's Super Cinco Combo has about 1,920 calories, or around three and a half Big Macs' worth.

 

Red Robin's Monster Burger with one side of fries has an estimated 2,040 calories. You'd have to eat almost four Big Macs to reach that monster number.

 

If you order the 9-inch Signature Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza from BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, you're about to consume 2,160 calories ... or about four Big Macs.

 

At Famous Dave's, if you choose fries and baked beans with your Big Slab order, you're talking about 2,770 calories … or about five Big Macs.

 

Finally, The Cheesecake Factory's French Toast Napoleon has 2,900 calories, which equals the calories in about five and a half Big Macs.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said this year's list is particularly unique because most of the "winners" exceeded the 2,000-calorie mark. When the Xtreme Eating awards were first handed out in 2007, the Center wrote, "We were shocked to see 1,500-calorie entrées."

Although the nutritional value of these meals are pretty much nonexistent, the health care reform law signed in 2010 by President Obama could soon help you identify which foods you'd want to stay away from ... or just totally gorge on. (Via Getty Images, Getty Images)

The law — which will require restaurants with at least 20 locations to display calorie counts on menus — is being finalized by the Food and Drug Administration and the White House.

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<![CDATA[U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:01:00 -0500
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Imagine reading the paper, doing a crossword puzzle or even taking a nap while your car drove you to work by itself. For U.K. citizens, that may soon be a reality. 

The government says it is going to allow driverless cars on public roads. Currently, these vehicles are just allowed on private roads. (Via ITV)

The cars will be introduced to just a few cities next year in a sort of test run. (Via Sky News)

The U.K. Department of Transportation points to the driverless cars potentially helping reduce traffic, improve safety and being environmentally friendly. Business Secretary Vince Cable also told the BBC he hopes this will make the U.K. a leader in the automotive industry. 

CABLE: "We want Britain to be a center of research. We want our own car industry to be ahead of the field." 

The vehicles are already legal and on the streets in Japan, Singapore and Germany. But only four states have legalized the cars in the U.S. (Via RT)

Although the topic is in legislation in some states, most of the U.S. has no plans to make laws legalizing the vehicles. (Via Mojo Motors)

Though they actually might not be illegal in the first place. GlobalAutoRegs reports an international law requires every vehicle to have a driver that is able to control it. Since most driverless cars are able to be overridden by the driver, it's unclear if they even violate this law. 

And Mojo Motors reports, "In terms of automotive laws, anything not clearly prohibited is technically allowed."

But how do these cars even work? Google probably explains it best. 

"While we take in a ton of information using our sensors, it's our software that really processes all of this and differentiates between objects. ... Cyclists will be red, pedestrians yellow and the vehicles will appear as either green or pink." (Via Google)

The driverless vehicles will hit British public roads in January.

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<![CDATA[Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:33:00 -0500
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Women who start dieting when they're younger might be at a higher risk for some dangerous, long-term health consequences. (Via Getty Images)

According to a new study presented at a meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in Seattle, dieting at a young age could lead to harmful health habits later in life.

HealthDay quotes one of the study's researchers: "The younger a woman was when she started her first diet, the more likely she was [later] to use extreme weight control behaviors — like vomiting or laxative misuse. ... She was also more likely to misuse alcohol and be overweight or obese when she reached her 30s."

​To come to this conclusion, researchers asked more than 1,000 women when they first started dieting. They then followed up with those women for 10 years to study their dieting habits and health as time went on.

One of the study's authors told CBS the age at which participants first started dieting ranged from 3 to 26. She said, "Younger age of dieting predicts greater problems 10 years out from college."

Now, what the study isn't clear on is why women who diet early in life are more prone to developing these unhealthy habits. (Via Getty Images)

But doctors say it might have something to do with their social environment or genetic makeup.

DR. DYAN HES, PEDIATRICIAN AND OBESITY SPECIALIST: "They have this ideal that is maybe unattainable, and they do extreme things like purging and taking laxatives and diuretics and following fad diets." (Via CBS)

As WebMD points out, these fad diets usually restrict food choices and sometimes even require special food or pills.

But despite the serious health problems fad diets and eating disorders can cause, young women often feel the need to try them to conform to a certain physical standard.

​According to this chart from Health Research Funding, more than half of teenage girls are or think they should be on diets.

The study's authors say the most effective way to prevent outcomes like this is to teach children how to make healthy choices early on. (Via Getty Images)

These choices include what you might expect — more exercise, less time in front of the TV and on computer and eating more fruits and vegetables. (Via YouTube / ProjExploration)

Doctors say this new research is a reminder that extreme diets aren't good for your health in the long run. They say the most effective way to maintain a healthy weight is to make the proper lifestyle changes with the help of a professional.

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<![CDATA[Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice]]> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:27:00 -0500
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​​Parts of the Arctic Ocean are seeing bigger waves than they've ever seen before — mainly because they used to be covered in ice. (Via ​Guido Appenzeller / CC BY 2.0)

The Washington Post reports, "Researchers have now measured swells of more than 16 feet in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea, just north of Alaska."

That poses a big threat because it could compound the already accelerated rate of Arctic sea ice breakup. (Via Submarine Deluxe / "Chasing Ice")

"As the sea ice retreats, you start to transfer that heat in that ocean water onto the land and you increase the thawing rate and you release that methane you're talking about." (Via CNN)

The Post article cited a report published by the scientists who measured the waves. They also note, "It is possible that the increased wave activity will be the feedback mechanism which drives the Arctic system toward an ice-free summer." (Via Geophysical Research Letters

As with all things climate change, a single factor, like an ice-free Arctic summer, can cause a domino effect with wide-ranging consequences for the human race. 

As The Guardian reports: "Some research has pointed out a link between the warming Arctic and changes in the jet stream, contributing to unprecedented weather extremes over the last few years. These extreme events in turn have dramatically impacted crop production in key food basket regions."

That report that's being cited in most articles on the Arctic waves was published back in May, so it's fair to ask why, with such serious potential consequences, it hasn't received a lot of media coverage until now. (Via Nature World News, MarineLink, The News Ledge)

Well, given the recent crisis in Ukraine, and then the fighting in Gaza, it seems like coverage of climate change issues like the Arctic waves has been somewhat overshadowed. (Via The Telegraph, Fox News)

But despite the bleak outlook, the BBC managed to find a potential silver lining. 

"There's a realistic possibility ships could travel for about 60 days a year across the north of Russia, opening a faster, cheaper shipping route from the East to the West."

We're currently in the middle of the Arctic's melt season — a period of increased ice breakup — which lasts until the fall.

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<![CDATA[Surgeon General Issues 'Call To Action' Against Tanning]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 21:38:00 -0500
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The nation's top medical official says a generation of bad tanning habits has led to a surge in the deadliest form of skin cancer. (Via Getty Images)

For the first time, acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak released a "call to action" report Tuesday labeling skin cancer a "major health problem that requires immediate action."

The report said overexposure to ultraviolet rays — whether outdoors or in a tanning salon — has lead to a 200 percent spike in melanoma-related deaths since 1973. (Via KNBC)

The report also points out that every year in the U.S. nearly 5 million people are treated for some form of skin cancer — at a cost of around $8.1 billion — and of those cancers, melanoma causes the most deaths at 9,000 per year. (Via Getty Images)

Now, Lushniak isn't suggesting people stop tanning altogether, but he did say "the facts speak for themselves." And, along with reminders on how to protect skin, he urged state and local officials to get moving on legislation that would regulate indoor tanning — especially for young people.

In fact, of those 9,000 melanoma-related deaths we mentioned, two-thirds came from indoor tanning. (Via Getty Images)

And according to the Melanoma Research Foundation, "Exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent, and younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them."

Currently, 11 U.S. states have rules in place barring people under the age of 18 from using tanning salons. Just less than half of U.S. states have bans for younger minors. (Via National Conference of State Legislatures)

In an interview with The Washington Post, Lushniak equates the problems of youth tanning to smoking.

"We certainly know it’s something that’s become popular amongst youth. And much like the surgeon general comes out very vehemently against youth smoking, I am coming out quite vehemently against youth exposing their skin to ultraviolet radiation in tanning booths."

And President Obama is on board too, including a 10 percent tanning tax provision in the Affordable Care Act to deter people from using tanning services.

USA Today says, predictably, the Indoor Tanning Association is not pleased. It accused Lushniak of playing up the the risks of tanning for press attention.

"[Tanning critics] always exaggerate the risks of exposure to ultraviolet light in order to get the attention of the public, the media and the government." 

The organization claimed UV rays aren't any more harmful coming from a tanning bed than from the sun as long as it's done in moderation. (Via KYW-TV)

Some well-known tips for decreasing chances of getting melanoma include frequently applying sunscreen and getting plenty of time in the shade while outdoors. 

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<![CDATA[How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:10:00 -0500
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Researchers in England are saying your physical appearance largely impacts how others perceive your personality. 

"Facial features like the shape of a person's jaw, mouth and eyes can almost instantaneously contribute to what kind of personality we sum up someone with. ... A lot can ride on a single selfie." (Via ABC)

It's no wonder people are taking so many darn selfies right now — apparently, a lot rides on those photos. 

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says: "Despite enormous variation in ambient images of faces, a substantial proportion of the variance in first impressions can be accounted for through linear changes in objectively defined features."

Yeah, that sounds like a bunch of scientific gibberish. So let's break it down. Researchers took 1,000 faces from the Internet and showed them to at least six people, who then rated their perceptions of the photo subjects' intelligence and other characteristics.

"They tracked 65 facial features, noting the subtle differences in the jaws, the eyes, the mouth and the cheekbones." (Via CBS)

Using that data, researchers built a model of how someone's face could quickly give impressions of three main characteristics: approachability, dominance and attractiveness. (Via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Once the cartoon faces were created, it was test time again. 

As BBC notes, the researchers' cartoons evoked the appropriate responses from people.

"When the researchers quizzed more participants about their impressions of the artificial, cartoon faces, the ratings matched. People said that the computer's cartoon prediction of an approachable face was, indeed, approachable - and so on."

Medical Daily points out previous studies have found links between facial expressions and first impressions, and this one follows suit. 

"The researchers suggest that the study could have implications for people who have to provide photos of themselves to get jobs, such as actors, models, and the like. For these people, putting their best face forward could mean the difference."

OK, so they've figured out an approachable facial expression. Does that mean we should wax our eyebrows into a perfect arch for first impression's sake? (Via jon collier / CC BY SA 2.0)

Eh, not really. The BBC quoted a doctor from the study who said, "It's very difficult for us to pin down with certainty that a given feature of the face is contributing to a certain social impression."

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<![CDATA[Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:40:00 -0500
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​The latest Ebola outbreak in Africa is being called the worst yet, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say there is little threat to the U.S.

Ebola is not an airborne disease, so in order to become infected, you must come in direct contact with someone who has the virus. NBC quotes a CDC official who said:

"Transmission is through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious."

And HealthDay reports the two Americans who were infected with Ebola in Liberia were directly caring for patients with the virus.

Even though the CDC says there's not much risk of the U.S. having an Ebola outbreak, there's still concern in controlling the outbreak in West Africa.

Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC, said in a press conference: (Via The Daily Beast)

​​​"The concern is the outbreak can be reseeded much like a forest fire with sparks. Until we can identify and interrupt every chain of transmission, we won't be able to interrupt the outbreak."

As of now, the Ebola outbreak is primarily contained to a few countries in West Africa.

"The current outbreak started in West Africa's Guinea in March. Within days the virus had spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone." (Via NBC)

The CDC issued an alert for airline staffers with precautions and information on controlling the spread of Ebola.

Those traveling from West Africa or those who come in contact with recent travelers should look out for the following symptoms of Ebola: fever, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, as well as joint and muscle aches and a headache. (Via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Currently, the World Health Organization says the outbreak in West Africa has seen 1,201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths.

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<![CDATA[Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:43:00 -0500
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​PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: "Climate change is no longer a distant threat. It has moved firmly into the present." (Via The White House)

The White House has long warned against inaction on climate change. 

But a report out Tuesday puts a whopping price tag on it: about $150 billion a year. It comes from the president's Council of Economic Advisers. 

Basically, the council urged quick action — and also put a price on delay, saying for every decade action isn't taken to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the cost increases 40 percent. 

Which earned the report lots of scary headlines but not much explanation within the coverage. (Via Time)

So here's what's included in that number: the cost of severe weather damage, an anticipated drop in crop yields and the cost of new programs to fight climate change. But it's hard to discuss the issue in the current political climate.

Case in point: The conservative Washington Times' first paragraph characterizes the new report as "an attempt to justify [the Obama administration's] controversial actions."

Controversial actions like an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to limit carbon emissions from the nation's power plants — who say it will cost them so much, the new guidelines could cripple the industry. (Via Getty Images)

So really, when it comes to both sides of this argument, the issue tends to come down to the cost of action versus the cost of inaction. But putting a price on either is where things get sticky. 

For example, climate change proponents figure in things like the combined $122 billion in congressional aid for damages following hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. (Via Proud Novice / CC BY SA 3.0)

Problem there is you could argue it wouldn't be accurate to attribute all that damage to climate change. But in a Washington Post op-ed, former Council on Foreign Relations co-chair Robert Rubin argues the environmental and the economic are tied together, despite the difficulty of putting an exact number on it:

"​We do not face a choice between protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment."

In any case, prepare for more budget battles in the fight to win the PR war. 

The Hill's Laura Barron-Lopez says the new report shows "the White House is now starting a debate on climate change around expenses in the federal budget."

This week the EPA will hold several public hearings on its plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants. And Tuesday a Senate Budget Committee hearing will debate "The Economic and Budgetary Consequences of Climate Change."

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<![CDATA[Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:06:00 -0500
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Attention, everyone who hates to run: Turns out you only need to torture yourself for about five minutes a day to reap some important health benefits. (Via Getty Images)

According to a new study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, those who jogged or ran for as little as five minutes a day reduced their risk of premature death by about three years.

USA Today quotes the study's lead author, who says those who run for less than an hour a week reap the same health benefits as those who run more, regardless of age, gender or health conditions: "More [running] may not be better in relation to health benefits."

To get these results, researchers studied the exercise habits of more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over the course of 15 years.

They found compared to those who didn't run at all, those who ran less than an hour a week were 30 percent less likely to die for any reason during the course of the study. (Via YouTube / Running Wild)

And on top of that, those runners were also 45 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. (Via Getty Images)

A cardiologist and chief medical officer of Virginia Heart in northern Virginia told CNN"That's important to note. Even with all the negative factors, such as obesity, smoking and diabetes, those who were, let's say, obese and ran had a less likely chance of dying from heart problems than those obese people who didn't run. Same with smokers, diabetics, etc."

Other studies have offered conflicting results — finding that taking your running routine to the max on a consistent basis may do more harm than good.

Research presented at the American College of Cardiology back in April found those who run an average of more 20 miles a week don't live as long as those who run less than 20 miles per week. In fact, they apparently live, on average, about as long as people who don't run much at all.

It seems consistency is key here. The study that said running could add years to your life found those who ran consistently over a six-year period gained the most health benefits — 29 percent saw a lower risk of death, and 50 percent had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. (Via Getty Images)

The researchers advise those who want to start running should start off slow with walking, then move to jogging and running. 

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<![CDATA[Could 'Fist Bumping' Become The Healthy Handshake?]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:59:00 -0500
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We already know it’s cooler than a handshake … (Via Getty Images)

(Via YouTube / Funny Shorts, YouTube / OllyMom, YouTube / Owned by a Boxer, MSNBC, The Irish Independent, The Commercial Appeal, Instagram / snoopdogg, CNN)

But turns out there’s another advantage to the fist bump: it’s also apparently more hygienic. (Via Getty Images)

Or at least, those were the findings of a new study that examined which of three common greetings — the handshake, the fist bump, and the high five — is most likely to spread bacteria.

The study was conducted by researchers at a university in the United Kingdom. One brave scientist dipped a gloved hand into a jar of E.coli and then proceeded to greet a colleague — who was wearing a clean glove — with each of the three gestures. (Via YouTube / Aberystwyth University​, American Journal of Infection Control

Then they measured how much bacteria was transferred. Sounds gross, right? Well, the findings might be even worse. (Via CBS

As USA Today reports, the team found a handshake spreads ten times more bacteria than the fist bump — even when held for the same amount of time. It quotes study author David Whitworth saying, "A short, sweet fist bump will transmit the least bacteria."

And the reasoning behind why the handshake is so much worse, even when duration is accounted for, is pretty simple: surface area. (Via Getty Images)

As Time writes, Dr. Whitworth hypothesized that fist-bumps are more hygienic mostly because they minimize the surface area of hand-to-hand contact, and they’re usually quicker than handshakes.”

And that's not even taking into account that we touch way more things with our fingertips and palms than we do with the backs of our knuckles. (Via Getty Images)

OK. So, what exactly are we supposed to do with this information?

Some have suggested getting rid of the handshake altogether — at least in settings like hospitals — and maybe even going with something like this. (Via BBC

A doctor with the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology told KSHB, “Other than replacing the handshake with something else that has contact, probably the better approach to keep patients safe is really not to do it at all.” 

She also noted that hand washing could help reduce the spread of bacteria.

The study is set to be published in the American Journal of Infection Control in August.

Oh, and about those high fives. They were found to spread about half as much bacteria as your average handshake. How awesome is that?

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