Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From Newsy.com http://www.newsy.com/ <![CDATA[Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold]]> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:28:00 -0600
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Who doesn't love a good hug?

Hugs can make a bad day better, a happy day happier, and ... prevents illness? Well, sort of.

Carnegie Mellon researchers found frequent hugs really might protect people from getting sick. 

It all comes down to social support. No surprise here: people who receive a lot of hugs generally have a lot of people around supporting them. And that helps lower stress and ward off stress-related illnesses.

Researchers say they chose to study how hugs affected people because hugs are usually signs of having close relationships with someone else. 

As one of the researchers put it, "We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety."

Here's how they figured that out. Researchers gathered information from just over 400 healthy adults and intentionally exposed them to a common cold virus. 

Results showed those who received lots of hugs and social support had a reduced risk of infection and experienced less severe symptoms if infected. 

This is not an entirely new concept. Science has already proven how beneficial having a good support system is to health. 

"We've seen it with people who've had wounds, people who have had surgery. If you have good friends and family around you, you actually heal quicker," said Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Research has shown social support might even affect genetic weaknesses to illnesses. So, bring on the snuggles!

This video includes images from Araceli Arroyo / CC BY NC ND 2.0,  Raul Lieberwirth / CC BY NC ND 2.0Hans-Jörg Aleff / CC BY NC SA 2.0,  Tania Cataldo / CC BY 2.0, and Beauty and Peace / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[U.S. Has A Higher Preterm Birth Rate Than Libya. Here's Why.]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:34:00 -0600
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The U.S. is a global leader in medicine and technology, yet it has one of the highest rates of preterm births of any wealthy country.  

About 12 percent of all U.S. births happen before the 37-week mark, which ranks the nation in the middle of the pack worldwide.

Preterm births can lead to a variety of health problems and even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says preterm birth accounted for 35 percent of all infant deaths in 2010.

So why does the U.S. have such a high preterm birth rate? Health scientists are still studying this, but we do know this much.

March of Dimes reports 19.8 percent of preterm births are from uninsured women who may not have been getting adequate health care because of the cost.

Experts say the Affordable Care Act's expansion of insurance coverage, including through Medicaid, is one way to combat this.

A study by Stanford Medicine released this summer found women who are obese before becoming pregnant have an increased risk of delivering early.

The study looked at nearly 1 million California births and found obese women were more likely to deliver before 28 weeks of pregnancy.

That's pretty important considering one in three U.S. adults are obese. (Video Via CNN)

Age is another issue. A 2010 study found older women have an elevated risk of stillbirth and preterm birth when compared to younger women.

And American women are now having kids later in life. The CDC says the rate of women having their first birth between 40 and 44 has more than doubled since 1990.

And this last one should be no surprise: don't smoke while pregnant. A 2005 study found the more a woman smokes during pregnancy, the greater the risk of preterm birth.

The CDC reports about 10 percent of American mothers smoked during their last three months of pregnancy.

But on a positive note, trends do show a steady decrease in expectant mothers smoking over the last few years.

This video includes an image from Getty Images, Martin LaBar / CC BY NC 2.0 and music from Chris Zabriskie CC BY 4.0. 

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<![CDATA[Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:05:00 -0600
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It could save a lot of lives if we could predict vicious weather phenomena hours or even more than a day before they hit. 

Our science isn't quite there yet, but nature is. (Video via MSNBC)

This is the golden-winged warbler: tiny, yellow and according to a new study, quite the meteorologist. 

"There was a deadly tornado outbreak in April ... in several states including Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama," KSHB reports

That storm produced more than 80 tornadoes, killing 35 people. It was more than 500 miles away when the birds decided to flee their Tennessee breeding ground. (Video via NBC)

A National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow told NBC"Meteorologists were predicting that the storm might come our way. ... But by the time they were saying they were sure it was coming, the birds had already figured it out and were gone."

According to the study published in Current Biology, the birds likely heard the low-frequency rumble of the storm, not audible to humans. 

But as one researcher explained, getting a sense of the birds' weather-predicting abilities wasn't the intended goal. 

He told the BBC they "initially set out to see if tracking the warblers was even possible."

"This was just a pilot season for a larger study that we're about to start. ... The fact that they came back with the geolocators was supposed to be the great success of this season. Then this happened!"

However, researchers admit, even though the data is interesting, weather like cloudy skies could have affected the locator.  

But tornadoes aren't the only natural disaster animals have early warning instincts for. 

"The big tsunami that hit, I think it was in 2004, a lot of the natives said they saw the animals they noticed were going up the hills just before the tsunami," adds KSHB.

According to Firstscience TV"The tsunami claimed almost 300,00 human lives. Yet in all the ... areas destroyed by the tsunami, not a single animal that was free to move lost its life."

Interesting. So maybe the next time you see an animal acting a little strange, it could be an ominous sign of what's ahead. 

This video includes an image from University of California, Berkeley / Gunnar Kramer

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<![CDATA[NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:04:00 -0600
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This is one piece of NASA hardware that just won't stay down. It's like Rocky.

The Kepler space observatory is back in action, despite what was thought to be a mission-ending malfunction in 2013.

Kepler is the telescope responsible for helping astronomers find around 1,000 planets outside our solar system: Earth-like planets, giant planets, wobbly planets...

But when one of the spacecraft's reaction wheels froze up in May 2013, we were told that was it. There was enough data to keep scientists busy for years, but the Kepler spacecraft itself was kaput. NASA even wrote a eulogy. 

Time's Michael Lemonick told PBS, "With only two wheels still working, you can't point with the accuracy that you need. The telescope is still in perfect working order, it just can't aim in the direction that it's supposed to."

It turns out that wasn't quite the case. NASA may have given up on Kepler, but a group of astronomers and engineers were already trying to figure out some ingenious way to extend the mission.

What they came up with was using the force of sunlight — that's right, sunlight — to keep Kepler more or less steady so that it could continue to send back data about our galaxy. It even found another planet already. (Video via University of Colorado Boulder)

The sequel mission has been dubbed K2: Kepler's Second Light, and the Harvard grad student responsible for finding the new planet said, "Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries." He's clearly having a moment here. 

No word on how long scientists think they can squeeze more data out of Kepler, but its original mission was only planned to last until the fall of 2012, so it's all just a bonus at this point. 

This video includes images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Dads-To-Be Also Experience Hormone Changes During Pregnancy]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:47:00 -0600
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Expectant parents have a lot to look forward to through the duration of a pregnancy — Lamaze classes, for one.

"Nothing can prepare you for the battle that is childbirth, unless of course you've given birth before or have been repeatedly kicked in the stomach by a kangaroo." (Video via YouTube / BYUtv)

There's also the feeling of "Hey, did I put this crib together properly?" and the bundle, or bundles, of joy at the end of the road. 

Studies have shown mothers go through hormonal changes along the way — and we totally understand why — but they aren't the only ones. Dads experience hormonal changes of their own. 

In a study involving 29 expectant heterosexual couples, University of Michigan researchers tracked levels of four different hormones: salivary testosterone, cortisol, estradiol and progesterone. Levels in all four hormones increased dramatically in women during their pregnancies, but researchers also noticed a gradual decrease in testosterone and estradiol in expectant fathers within the same time periods.  

Previous studies have shown new dads experience a decrease in testosterone once their children are born. But the lead author of this most recent study found testosterone begins to drop much earlier for soon-to-be-proud papas.

Unfortunately, researchers still don't know exactly why testosterone drops. In this 2011 New York Times article, the writer cites experts who say the lower testosterone numbers suggest "men’s bodies evolved hormonal systems that helped them commit to their families once children were born" and "it underscores that mothers were meant to have child care help."

There were limitations with this most recent study, like sample size and demographic variety of study participants. But going forward, researchers said it'll be important to see whether hormonal changes in men are associated with fatherhood or general "pair-bonding." The study is published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

This video includes images from Bethany Brown / CC BY NC SA 2.0mooasaurus / CC BY NC SA 2.0sandragxh / CC BY NC ND 2.0Sean / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Kris / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:07:00 -0600
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Children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of pollution while they were pregnant could have up to twice the risk of developing autism, according to a new study.

Scientists at Harvard found women exposed to high levels of fine particulates in the air, especially during their third trimester, were much more likely to have children with autism.

This is the first nationwide study to look at the correlation between prenatal exposure to air pollution and autism. Previous studies have suggested such a link as well, although those studies were much smaller in nature.

According to the study, the greater the exposure to pollutants, the greater the chances of adverse outcomes.

Researchers looked at more than 116,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study II, which began in 1989.

They recorded where the women were located during their pregnancies and how polluted the air was in those locations.

The BBC explains particles from polluted air can pass from the mother's lungs to her bloodstream, where they can then damage the development of the woman's unborn child.

And NBC reports unborn babies are particularly vulnerable during their third trimester because that's when much brain development takes place.

Autism is a developmental disability that can cause communication, behavioral and social challenges.

The prevalence of autism has increased a great deal in recent years. In 2000, 1 in 150 children were identified with autism. In 2010, 1 in 68 were.

Little is known about what's causing this sudden increase.

The disorder is believed to be rooted in genetics, as it tends to run in families, but that doesn't explain the sudden spike — leading some in the medical community to believe environmental factors like air pollution must be playing a role.

Researchers said this study not only provides key insight into the origins of autism, but it also points to a potential solution to reduce the risk — lessening pregnant women's exposure to pollutants.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Robert S. Donovan / CC BY NC 2.0, Billy Wilson / CC BY NC 2.0 and hepingting / CC BY SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[EU Court Rules Obesity Can Be A Workplace Disability]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:22:00 -0600
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Obesity can now be considered a disability, according to an EU court ruling Thursday.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on the case of this man, Karsten Kaltoft, who says he was fired from his job as a nanny because he was obese. Kaltoft reportedly never weighed less than 353 pounds while on the job. (Video via YouTube / foawebtv

The ruling means employers are not allowed to discriminate against obese individuals. It also applies to service providers, meaning places like restaurants, airlines and more must make adjustments to accommodate obese individuals. 

The ruling affects the more than 20 percent of the European population considered obese. 

The BBC's legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman says, with this ruling, employers and service providers will now be required to make "reasonable" adjustments to accommodate such individuals. 

"So for example, a premiership football club, it may be reasonable for them to make two seats available for one obese person. ... But a smaller club, a non-league club with only 200 seats, perhaps not reasonable for them," Coleman says.

The Telegraph summarizes this key part of the court's decision: "Important to the ruling, is the EU court's judgement that the origin of the disability is irrelevant even if someone's gross obesity is caused by overeating or gluttony." 

And The Guardian points out the ruling "did not even resolve the case in dispute," saying a court in Denmark will later rule on whether Kaltoft is considered obese and if that's what cost him his job. 

In the U.S., however, it was just last year that the American Medical Association controversially recognized obesity as a disease

"Calling it a disease is unclear whether it's going to move things in the right direction or not," says Dr. Marc Siegel of the NYU Langone Medical Center.

A 2007 study out of Johns Hopkins University says obesity can lead to an increase in work-related injuries. 

Earlier this year, Kaltoft told the BBC he didn't view himself as disabled, but, more or less, didn't feel like someone should be fired for being obese. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Tony Alter / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:20:00 -0600
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NOAA has put out its annual Arctic Report Card, and the news is startling — Arctic air is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. (Video via NASA)

Part of the explanation is as the Arctic warms, it exposes itself to more factors that speed up warming, which is called feedback. 

For example, the more the Arctic warms, the more snow and ice melts, and the more water is exposed. Water absorbs more energy from the sun than ice and snow, which reflect it, and therefore amplifies the warming. (Video via NASA)

NASA has been tracking the rate at which the Arctic absorbs that radiation and reports absorption in the summer months has increased by 5 percent since 2000. The increase for the rest of the planet? More or less zero. (Video via NASA

And that's part of why the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, which hasn't really been warming much at all during the last decade. 

That pause, as it's popularly known, has been driven in part by ocean variability, as the world's deep oceans tend to feel the brunt of warming, which can disguise surface temperatures. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Nature's climate sciences editor Michael White explained, "Probably the leading explanation to date is that there have been increases in ocean heat content in the deep oceans."

But that's not to downplay the precipitous rise in temperatures in the Arctic, because it does have very immediate and substantial consequences, especially for polar bears. 

Earlier ice breakup in the spring and later freezing in the fall have both played a role in reducing the number of female polar bears in the Hudson Bay since the late '80s to just over 800 — down from close to 1,200 in 1987. (Video via National Geographic)

NOAA has put out its annual Arctic Report Card since 2006. 

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

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<![CDATA[Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:17:00 -0600
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Feeling a little sleepy, like maybe you didn't get enough shut-eye last night? Well, now you can add one more thing to your list of complaints about work — it's a sleep thief. 

That's according to a study out of the University of Pennsylvania that claims work is the ultimate killer of sleep, keeping us from getting those recommended seven to nine hours. 

"They took a look at the sleep patterns and work habits of more than 124,000 Americans. ... Those who got to work before or at 6 a.m. only got six hours of sleep a night," WBZ-TV explains

The researchers found work is the No. 1 thing Americans forfeit sleep for, with those who work more or earlier hours sleeping less.

To combat that loss of sleep, the researchers recommend pushing back work and school start times.

"A 10 a.m. start would give millions of workers seven to nine hours of sleep, which is what medical experts recommend for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness," says a WAGA reporter

One researcher told HealthDay"Asking for flexible hours might help. ... You could argue that you will be more productive if you are well-rested, and research would back you up."

But if you do decide to ask for better hours, be prepared for the inevitable comeback: Why aren't you going to sleep earlier? 

Like this chart from The Washington Post shows, you can't blame all that missing sleep on work. There are other factors to consider, like socializing, playing games and, of course, watching TV.

So if your boss won't budge on your work schedule, maybe you could try making more of an effort to shut off the TV and stick to your bedtime. 

This video includes images from star5122 / CC BY SA 2.0 and Alan Cleaver / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:26:00 -0600
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Good for the mind and good for the body. Scientists say doing yoga can improve your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and, most importantly, your heart. 

The health benefits of yoga have long been known, but a review of 37 previous studies claims it can be just as effective as biking and walking.

One lead researcher of the study, Paula Chu says, "This finding suggests that [people] who are physically limited in some way do not have to 'pound the pavement' in order to improve their cardiovascular risk profile."

The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and shows both healthy people and those with health risks saw similar benefits from yoga.  

Researchers believe yoga's health benefits might come from a reduction in stress. 

The American Heart Association says stress can lead to an increased heart disease risk and high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also affect eating, drinking and smoking habits. 

Yoga is becoming more and more popular in the U.S. A 2012 study by Yoga Journal found about 20.4 million Americans practiced yoga nationwide, up from an estimated 15.8 million four years prior. 

And Women's Health points out there are plenty of different styles of yoga to choose from.

Still, even though the study looked at about 2,800 people, the researchers say not to draw any "definitive conclusions" from the study, mainly because there are so many different forms of yoga. The amount of practice needed for these health benefits to happen is also a factor. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:50:00 -0600
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In what seems too good to be true, a new study says the key to losing weight is something you already do every day. In fact, you're doing it right now.

All it takes is a little of this inhale, exhale action. Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia say breathing is how you can shed those extra pounds. (Video via Animated Biomedical

They set out to answer the question, when you lose weight, where does it go? (Video via YouTube / davidlloydleisure

You see, scientists have known for some time that the excess carbs and proteins you consume are converted into a fat called triglycerides. It's a mix of three kinds of atoms — carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

What they didn't know is what happens to that fat when it's burned off during activity. The common assumption was that it converts to heat or energy. But these researchers say that's not the case. (Video via BiProUSA

Instead, 84 percent of that fat turns into carbon dioxide and escapes the body through the lungs. The other 16 percent turns into water that leaves the body through urine, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids. 

But don't cancel that gym membership just yet — the more you exercise, the more carbon dioxide you'll lose. 

In case you weren't convinced, the study found a 154-pound person who is just sitting around exhales about 8.9 mg of carbon with every breath. But if that same person is exercising, he or she can lose an extra 40 g of carbon from the body. 

So really, this study only confirms what we already knew. If you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. As the authors of the study put it: "None of this biochemistry is new, but for unknown reasons it seems nobody has thought of performing these calculations before."

The researchers are clear on one thing: Simply breathing really fast will only cause you to hyperventilate. For more on what not to do, check out the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.

This video includes images from Patrick J. Lynch / CC BY 2.5U.S. Air Force and Iain Watson / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:25:00 -0600
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So the Curiosity rover has detected methane on Mars. Cue scientific freakout. 

For the first time, the rover has seen a spike in the gas in Gale Crater, which means Mars is an active environment. That's why this is newsworthy, despite the fact scientists had already observed methane in the planet's atmosphere from earth. (Video via NASA)

That basically means there's just more stuff happening on the planet and in the planet's atmosphere than previously thought, but that's not why everybody's freaking out. 

No, headlines like these are prompted by one thing, and one thing alone — in our experience here on Earth, more than 90 percent of the time, methane is produced by living things, so people think it could therefore be a sign of life on Mars.

And it could be — scientists say there could be microbial organisms hiding in the rock of the planet, producing this methane. But it could also not be — we really don't know yet, as Curiosity scientists John Grotzinger told the BBC. 

"We also know that it is produced inorganically so a planet like Mars, any place other than earth, we have to first falsify the null hypothesis, that it is abiotic, so there's nothing that we can measure that allows us to do that," Grotzinger said.

So scientists can't prove just yet that living organisms are producing, or ever produced the gas, as the BBC explains, because the samples aren't substantial enough to measure the carbon isotopes in the methane. 

Isotopes, in this case, basically serve as markers of whether something is biological or not. The overwhelming majority of carbon found in living organisms on earth tends to be carbon 12. (Video via RicochetScience)

But compounding everyone's freakout — Curiosity also found organic, well, compounds on the planet's surface.

So organic compounds sound like a dead ringer for proof of life on the surface, but the organic in organic compounds isn't the same thing as the organic in the organic tomatoes you buy at the grocery store — it doesn't mean biological. (Video via Future360)

NASA's Danny Galvin explained, "There are several viable non-biological explanations including this organic material could've come down from space, from meteorites or comets. Or organics can be formed by geological reactions in the rock itself." 

These clues are just clues, they don't prove that there was life on Mars, just that the requisite parts for life to happen were, and that's enough to get any nerd salivating. 

Plus it doesn't help when NASA teases us with renderings like this one, of Gale Crater as a lush, vibrant lake. 

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<![CDATA[Feeling Young Might Mean A Longer Life Span]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 11:19:00 -0600
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The adage "young at heart" might actually mean longer life spans for seniors, according to a new study. (Video via CBS Films / "Last Vegas")

Published Monday in JAMA, the study followed about 6,500 British adults older than 52 for more than eight years each, on average. 

When participants enrolled in the study, researchers simply asked them, "How old do you feel you are?"

Andrew Steptoe told WCBS"People who felt younger than their real age were more likely to survive over the next eight years or so, compared with those who felt older."

The difference in fatalities was significant, especially among adults with cardiovascular disease.

So much so that participants who said they felt older were more than 40 percent more likely to die in the next eight years. (Video via YouTube / LoftusHealthRec

That's compared to people who said they felt three or more years younger than they actually were.

Study results remained the same even when factors like education, income, gender, ethnicity and previous illnesses were controlled, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Researchers believe the difference lies in people's outlooks about their health and aging.

According to Medical News Today, the authors hypothesize that a "greater resilience, sense of empowerment and will to live" might explain the positive health benefits of believing that age is just a number.

Because perceived age can change, researchers are now considering that positive messages about aging might actually increase longevity for seniors.

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<![CDATA[Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 09:17:00 -0600
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Scientists tracing the horse's genome have found as humans domesticated the wild horse thousands of years ago, they affected the horse's DNA.

Scientists looked at two samples from the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia, one of which dates back some 16,000 years and the other more than 40,000 years — well before humans domesticated horses. (Video via National Geographic)

In their research, two groups of genes covering social behavior, learning capabilities and muscular development, among other traits, could've been key in the domestication process. 

They also found that wild subspecies of the domesticated horse, such as the Przewalski's horse, aren't actually ancestors of the domesticated horse, but a sister species that developed concurrently. (Video via American Museum of Natural History)

By comparing the genetic samples from Siberia with the genome of domesticated horses, scientists were also able to see how human domestication could negatively impact horses — specifically through inbreeding. 

Researchers found that by domesticating wild horses, humans created a bottleneck, basically limiting the diversity of the horse's gene pool and opening the door to a number of genetic defects. (Video via U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Those defects and the other genetic effects of inbreeding are in line with a hypothesis known as the cost of domestication, which says harmful genetic mutations become more common as humans selectively breed species.

The earliest evidence for horse domestication comes from Kazakhstan, where scientists found traces of mare's milk in pottery tracing back some 5,000 years. (Video via YouTube / Karachai Cherkesia)

The scientists in the study say it shows how sequencing ancient genomes can shed light on how the domestication process works.  

This video includes an image from Adibu456 / CC BY NC 2.0.

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<![CDATA[2016 Olympic Waters Feature 'Super Bacteria' Researchers Say]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 07:50:00 -0600
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The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are still about two years away, but problems with pollution are already surfacing. 

Researchers announced Monday they found a drug-resistant bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase, or KPC, in the waters of Flamengo Beach, an area surrounded by Guanabara Bay where Olympic water sports are supposed to take place. 

Contracting the KPC bacteria can result in pneumonia, blood infection and urinary tract infection. 

Brazilian news outlet VEJA reports scientists from Instituto Oswaldo Cruz took multiple samples from waters in Rio in July. The super bacteria found in Flamengo is reportedly often found in hospital waste. 

Which wouldn't come as a complete shock. The area is known for subpar sewage disposal systems. 

The BBC reports, "Nearly 70% of sewage in Rio — a city of some 10 million people — is spilled raw into the waters of Guanabara Bay." 

Despite the government getting $1 billion in loans over the last 20 years to clean up the bay, it still remains a mess. 

"Officials cite new sewage treatment plants, floating garbage barriers and small trash collecting vessels called eco-boats as measures to prepare the bay for 2016," reports Simon Romero for The New York Times. 

Officials say locals have been notified of the dangerous bacteria and are being told to stay away from the area for now. 

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<![CDATA[Is There Any Hope For The Northern White Rhino?]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 07:37:00 -0600
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An already rare rhinoceros is one step closer to extinction. One of the last northern white rhinos in the world died of old age Sunday at the San Diego Zoo. Angalifu was 44 years old. (Video via KGTV)

This brings the total number of northern white rhinos in the world to just five. One of those, a female named Nola, is also at the San Diego Zoo.

The sixth-remaining white rhino died in October in Kenya, where three other known members of the species are kept.

The associate curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park credits two factors for the reduction in the rhinos' numbers: living in areas historically ravaged by civil war and, of course, being poached for their horns.

Those horns, according to a CNN report, can fetch tens of thousands of dollars and are "becoming more lucrative than drugs."

So, we know what's killing the rhinos. But why can't someone figure out a way to breed them? 

"Zoo officials say they tried to get him to mate with the other northern white rhino, their other white rhino, but it didn't work."

Well, it's not for lack of trying. The zoo said it "at one point [sawed] off the horns of female rhinos to keep them from fending him off." (Via San Diego Union-Tribune)

Then there's this from a Los Angeles Times report. They've actually kept some of Angalifu's semen and testicular tissue at the zoo "for possible use with the rhinos in Kenya when new reproductive technologies are developed."

That's something the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research focuses on. Not just for rhinos, but for species such as elephants and giant pandas, as well.

We mentioned the three surviving white rhinos in Kenya and the one in San Diego. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the fifth known white rhino is at a Czech zoo.

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<![CDATA[Tornado Season Set To Be Mildest On Record]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 17:16:00 -0600
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This U.S. tornado season is shaping up to be unusually mild overall, despite a rare tornado touching down in Los Angeles Friday.

"I heard this noise and like a whistling sound, and I heard this thunder like 'boom,'" one Los Angeles resident told KESQ

Across the country, weather experts say 2014 is set to have around 400 fewer tornadoes than average, between 800 and 900 total, making it one of the calmest years on record — and this trend goes back several years. 

In 2013 there were 908 tornadoes in the U.S., while 2012 saw 940, including the one that hit Moore, Oklahoma.  

"It's just getting more violent," said a storm chaser with KFOR

This graphic from the National Weather Service helps put things into perspective. The last three years are all significantly lower than any period since the 1950s, with the next-lowest period occurring in the mid-'80s.

So has mother nature just been giving us a break or is there some other reason for the drop? In short — scientists aren't sure.

One popular theory is that low summer temperatures in 2014 might have played a role. One meteorologist told KRMG, "The less contrast in temperature and maybe not a quite as hot summer, that would generally tend to help things." 

Whatever the reason, there's no sound way to predict the severity of a tornado season ahead of time, so it's impossible to say whether the trend will continue in 2015. 

This video includes an image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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<![CDATA[Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend]]> Sat, 13 Dec 2014 17:39:00 -0600
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It's that time of the year again. No, I'm not taking about Christmas, I'm talking about meteors. 

Each December, Earth passes through the cloud of debris produced by rock comet 3200 Phaethon, resulting in arguably the best meteor shower of the year — the Geminid shower.

This year's shower will peak Saturday night into Sunday morning and NASA says as many as 100 to 120 meteors will fall per hour. 

3200 Phaethon is believed to have come from the asteroid belt and produces a tail of debris when its orbit takes it too close to the sun.  

The Geminid meteoroids got their name because they appear to fly out of the constellation Gemini.

NASA explains Geminids are very dense and are able to penetrate deep into the atmosphere, producing bright and visible "falling stars."

Some of the meteoroids are so dense they could even make it to the Earth's surface. 

Last year, the moon was so bright the shower was hard to see, but this year the moon is waning and should allow more visibility for the meteoroids. 

Experts say for best viewing, get away from city lights, find an elevated spot to watch the show and give you eyes plenty of time to adjust to the dark. But, if you don't want to brave the cold to watch the shower, there are other options. 

NASA is providing a Ustream feed from a telescope at its Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The agency is also hosting an overnight web chat to answer questions. 

Slooh.com also will have live visual and audio feeds of the shower. 

This video includes images from Shan Sheehan / CC BY ND 2.0, Luis Argerich / CC BY NC 2.0, Sergiu Bacioiu / CC BY NC 2.0 and Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[What To Know About The New HPV Vaccine]]> Sat, 13 Dec 2014 13:59:00 -0600
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The new Human Papillomavirus vaccine is making waves in the medical community for its ability to protect against even more HPV strains. Here's what you should know about the vaccine. 

The Food and Drug Administration, which approved the new vaccine, Gardasil 9, this week, says it has the potential to prevent around 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. The current Gardasil vaccine prevents about 70 percent. 

Gardasil 9 protects against nine strains of HPV, five of which can cause cancer and two of which can cause warts.

The original Gardasil vaccine protects against five strains and the only other HPV vaccine, Cervarix, protects against two.  

Gardasil 9 is not yet on the market and it unclear when it will be. It still needs to be mass manufactured and insurance companies need to decide if they will cover it or not. Until then, doctors are still recommending patients get the current vaccines.

It is also not clear at this time if those who have been vaccinated with traditional Gardasil or Cervarix can be revaccinated with Gardasil 9 to get the additional protection when it becomes available. (Video via CNN)

Gardasil 9 will be administered in three doses over several months just like the current HPV vaccines. (Video Via CBS)

The vaccine is recommended to girls 9 to 26 and boys 9 to 15, preferably before they are sexually active. 

The FDA says the side effects of Gardasil 9 are minimal. The most common are injection site pain, swelling, redness, and headaches. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this summer saying far too few Americans are receiving HPV vaccinations. 

In Americans aged 13 to 17, only 57 percent of girls and 35 percent of boys received at least one dose.

That's opposed to the around 80 percent vaccine coverage in other industrialized nations.  

The CDC lists lack of knowledge, safety concerns and the belief the vaccine is not needed as factors as to why many American parents choose not to vaccinate their children against HPV. 

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<![CDATA[Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:59:00 -0600
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Have you ever seen truTV's show, "World's Dumbest"? 

*Men blow up boat.*

truTV: "Go Jacob. Oh, ah man." 

Or maybe you've checked out a few prank videos on YouTube. "Yo, you got some paper towels or something?" 

"What the... ? Are you serious, did you just put sh** on my hand?" 

Now, here's a brain twister for the day — what do most of those idiotic videos have in common? The answer: men! Because men are idiots, and now there's a study that proves it. Bask ladies. Do I sound bitter?

To get the findings researchers in a British study analyzed Darwin Awards Nominations from 1995 to 2014. 

One thing Charles Darwin is known for is the theory of natural selection. Which basically suggests the weakest, dumbest, least desirable members of the population die out to make room for the more viable members. 

Every year the Darwin Awards "salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it." 

One example of a "winner," in 1999 three men played Russian roulette with unexploded land mines in Cambodia — and blew themselves up. 

Through their analysis, researchers found over the past 10 years men have earned the award 88.7 percent of the time. 

One researcher explained to the BBC a possible reason for the results. "I think we're just more likely to take risks. ... I think alcohol plays a part here."

Somewhat proving that point, the Centers for Disease Control actually found "Men average about 12.5 binge drinking episodes per person per year, while women average about 2.7 binge drinking episodes per year."  

But TIME notes the study does cut men a little slack suggesting "idiotic male candidates may have been more newsworthy than idiotic women — but nevertheless concluded that 'men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.'"

Well guys, someone has to sacrifice for the good of human survival — sorry. 

This video includes images from Robert Ashby Collection, and  Erin Kohlenberg / CC BY 2.0

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<![CDATA[Is 'Feel Full' Supplement The Future Of Weight Loss?]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:10:00 -0600
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If you're trying to lose weight, most diets will suggest eating less. But researchers have claimed they've created a supplement that could make those hunger pangs disappear. 

The “feel full” chemical is the product of researchers at Imperial College London who published their findings in the medical journal Gut on December 10.

In two studies, researchers gave volunteers a chemical called inulin-propionate, while others were only given inulin. Those who received the new compound ate 14-percent less than those who received inulin.

In a follow-up study, the same was done with 60 overweight adults over the course of six months. Of the 49 who completed the study, only one of the 25 who took the supplement had noticeable weight gain. (Video via National Geographic)

Propionate is fatty acid naturally created in the body after a person consumes inulin. Inulin is a dietary fiber naturally found in some foods like bananas and onions. It's also specifically added to other foods like cheese and cereal.

By adding propionate to the inulin people already consume, lead researcher Gary Frost told Quartz they were able to give study participants the equivalent of 100 grams of fiber a day. It's that additional fiber that apparently helped them lose weight. (Video via Imperial College London)

It sounds like a lot, but Americans only average about 15 grams of fiber a day. Frost told Quartz some other nations average much higher— closer to that 100g amount. 

So the supplement can make us eat less by essentially giving us more fiber. But, as great as it sounds, it could have negative effects— as with most dietary supplements. 

A professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado told HealthDay it's possible the supplement makes gut bacteria more efficient at sapping nutrients from food. That, in turn, could lead to people getting less nutrition from their diet.

And ABC’s chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser, was skeptical as well, saying “So far, no, this is not the silver weight loss bullet.”

Frost is currently working on another trial using the inulin-propionate compound and says the ingredient could be used on foods in as little as two years.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Breast Cancer Radiation Treatments Might Be Taking Too Long]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 16:24:00 -0600
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A new study claims most American women who are being treated for early-stage breast cancer are getting radiation for longer than necessary. 

Researchers from University of Pennsylvania looked at insurance records and found as many as two-thirds of post-surgical patients are getting six to seven weeks of radiation therapy. (Video via University of Pittsburgh Medical Center)

That's despite multiple studies that have shown three-week courses of higher-dose radiation are just as safe and effective. (Video via Texas Health)

The short treatment plan, called hypofractionated radiation, gives the patient the same amount of radiation overall, but with less of a time commitment. The technique is widely used abroad and is endorsed by several U.S. cancer treatment organizations.

And a 2011 study found most women undergoing treatment prefer the shorter treatment plan.

It even lowers total costs, though mostly for the insurance companies instead of the patients, most of whom have hit their deductibles either way. (Video via Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists)

But The New York Times and NBC quoted American industry experts who explained doctors can be hesitant to switch to new treatments, especially if they've been using the same technique for decades.

And a researcher explained to MSNBC there's also a financial incentive for doctors to use the older, longer treatment plan.

"The fact is that they are also paid substantially more to give the longer treatment. ... One is much better for women, and they actually pay the one which is better for women less," said Ezekiel Emanuel.

The researchers behind the new study said new financial incentives should be put in place to encourage doctors to explore the shorter plan with their patients.

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<![CDATA[Poor Sperm Quality Linked To Various Medical Conditions]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 15:40:00 -0600
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A poor sperm count might be a sign of other health problems. 

Researchers from Stanford University found high blood pressure, heart disease and skin and glandular disorders might all be linked to low-quality sperm in men. 

Lead researcher Dr. Michael Eisenberg explains, "It may be that infertility is a marker for sickness overall."

Eisenberg and his team looked at the medical records of more than 9,000 men who were evaluated for infertility at Stanford Hospital and Clinics between 1994 and 2011. 

Medscape Medical News reports the researchers found there was a strong correlation between the infertility issues and the patients with nonischemic heart disease, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. 

A reporter for Medical Daily said this correlation "made sense," given the profound effects high blood pressure and stress can have on the body.

Stress can be one cause of poor sperm quality. The Mayo Clinic says other causes include infection, hormone imbalances, exposure to heavy metal and even alcohol and tobacco use. 

And a study out of Denmark last year also suggested not getting enough sleep can result in lower sperm count. 

Now, the Stanford researchers didn't look into how semen deficiencies affect these health issues. This was strictly a correlation study. 

Though Fox News reports, "10 to 15 percent of the DNA in a man's body is devoted to reproduction, and most of these genes also have diverse functions in other bodily symptoms."

Eisenberg, who previously found infertile men have a higher chance of dying from cardiovascular disease than fathers do, wants to continue studying the correlation.

He said in a press release: "Given the high incidence of infertility, we need to take a broader view. As we treat men's infertility, we should also assess their overall health. That visit to a fertility clinic represents a big opportunity to improve their treatment for other conditions, which we now suspect could actually help resolve the infertility they came for in the first place."

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Fertility and Sterility

This video includes an image from Iqbal Osman / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[More Than 5 Trillion Pieces Of Plastic In The World's Oceans]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:17:00 -0600
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5.25 trillion — that's a conservative estimate of just how many pieces of plastic are swirling around the world's oceans, from microscopic fragments, to giant islands of trash. And they're not going away anytime soon. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

That's 700 times the number of humans estimated to live on the planet, and there's no part of the ocean that's completely unaffected. 

Want more big numbers? All that plastic trash is estimated to weigh just under 270,000 tons, about as much as either 38,000 full-grown elephants, 157,000 Volkswagen beetles or just under 7 billion coffee lids ... 

Those numbers come from a paper the 5 Gyres Institute released Wednesday, after six years of surveying some 1,500 locations across all the world's oceans. 

The institute gathered samples with mesh nets and conducted a visual survey, under the leadership of the institute's research director Marcus Eriksen. (Video via 5 Gyres)

Eriksen told The Washington Post"What we are witnessing in the global ocean is a growing threat of toxin-laden microplastics cycling through the entire marine ecosystem." 

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic less than 5 mm in length that can easily be swept along ocean currents and often carry toxins or foreign microbes and other organisms to non-native environments. (Video via Stichting De Noordzee)

Because they're so small and the plastic is so durable, microplastics present a long-term threat to ocean ecosystems across the globe. 

While those microplastics can be virtually invisible in the water, the largest concentrations of trash often get swept up in the five major gyres — ocean currents that move in circular patterns in each of the world's oceans. (Video via One World One Ocean)

Those gyres can sometimes produce large islands of trash, although phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are usually just patches of ocean with higher concentrations of debris and not physical landmasses. (Video via Grassroots News)

The study's authors say the estimates on the number and weight of plastics in the ocean are highly conservative and are actually probably the minimum. 

This video includes an image from Lindsey Hoshaw / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Glucose, Fructose Compared In Study On Overeating]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:07:00 -0600
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Skipping that second helping at dinner might not be all "mind over matter," according to a study on sugar.

Researchers at the University of Southern California found fructose, a fruit sugar often used as a sweetener, could encourage overeating.

The key correlation found in the study involved the hormone insulin, which suppresses appetite. Essentially, ingesting higher amounts of fructose produced less insulin. Less insulin means less desire to put the fork down.

To test this theory, the researchers pitted fructose against its sugary cousin glucose, which triggers the production of insulin.  

Using a small sample of 48 young adults, researchers gave participants drinks sweetened with either fructose or glucose. Then they showed the groups pictures of food, like chocolate cake. Participants described how hungry they felt while hooked up to a brain scanner which reported signals from the "reward center" of the mind. Overall, hunger was greater in the fructose drinkers.

The catch: Typically people don't consume just one or the other.

However, a peer review of the study speculated fructose does not trigger the same insulin response in the body as glucose. A poor response can lead to overeating, weight gain, heart problems and more.

So why does the food and beverage industry rely so heavily on fructose? It’s cheaper to use than cane sugar. It's also more stable and mixes more easily in processing. Counter studies have tried to explain our body can't tell the difference when breaking down fructose versus regular sugar. 

If more tests involving insulin production prove otherwise, it could make a strong case against the industry's favorite sweetener.

The takeaway for you: stick with nutrient-rich foods and whole grains if you want to avoid fructose. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture

This video includes images from Food Thinkers / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Prenatal Exposure To Common Chemicals Might Lower Child's IQ]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 12:22:00 -0600
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Pregnant women, drop the lipstick. Your beauty products could be affecting your unborn child. 

A new study found pregnant women's exposure to the chemicals in common beauty products and household items might cause their children to have lower IQs. 

Researchers from Columbia University found children exposed to high levels of the phthalate chemicals DnBP and DiBP while they were in the womb had IQ scores that were, on average, more than six points lower than those of children exposed to lower levels. 

Researchers measured exposure to these chemicals for 328 pregnant women and then performed IQ tests on their children when the kids were 7 years old.

DnBP and DiBP are found in commonly used products including many dryer sheets, vinyl fabrics, hairspray, nail polish, soaps and lipstick.  

Study authors say this is the first study to report a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and IQ scores. 

But we already knew phthalates could be harmful to children. Earlier studies have pointed to associations between children's exposure to the chemicals and poor cognitive and motor development and behavior.

Several phthalates have been banned from children's toys in the U.S. and Europe. (Video via NTDTV)

But researchers say, so far, no steps have been taken to protect unborn children from the chemicals' potential harms. They note the harmful chemicals are rarely even listed on the ingredients of household products in the U.S. 

Researcher Robin Whyatt said"The magnitude of these IQ differences is troubling. ... A six- or seven-point decline in IQ may have substantial consequences for academic achievement and occupational potential."

While some contact with the chemicals might be unavoidable, researchers recommend pregnant women try to cut back on their exposure by not using products the chemicals are commonly found in.    

This video includes images from Getty Images

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<![CDATA[Scientists Discover Oldest Horned Dinosaur Of North America]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 10:11:00 -0600
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If you've ever wanted a dinosaur that you could fit in your lap... well that's kind of a weird wish, but we've got you covered. 

Scientists in southern Montana have discovered an ancient species of horned dinosaur called Aquilops americanus. 

Well, they found the skull anyway, which is significant, because up to this point all they had were teeth and skull fragments that indicated there were horned dinosaurs in the area, but not a whole lot more. 

Researchers found the skull in the Cloverly Formation, and determined Aquilops, whose name appropriately means "American eagle-face," is the oldest-ever horned dinosaur found in North America. (Video via Youtube / jules1957)  

Scientists didn't necessarily call it that for patriotic reasons, but instead because of the curved beak at the front of its face, which they say it would have used for eating vegetation. 

Aquilops is a Ceratopsian dinosaur, coming from the ancient greek "Karos," meaning horn, which means Aquilops has some pretty famous descendants.   

Namely, triceratops — the three-horned dinosaur that's been featured in popular media, from Jurassic Park to Transformers, and is the official state dinosaur of Wyoming. (Video via National Geographic)

According to the findings, Aquilops lived some 40 million years before Triceratops, and scientists theorize it probably came over from Asia via the Bering land bridge that once connected the two continents. 

Aquilops was around 3 pounds and in the neighborhood of 2 feet long so, about the size of a bunny. But with a face like that, probably not quite as cuddly. 

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<![CDATA[Drug-Resistant Bugs Could Lead To 10M Deaths By 2050]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 08:07:00 -0600
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Infectious bugs are getting stronger and more resistant to drugs. Because of that, a British government-commissioned review released Thursday says these "superbugs" could lead to more than 10 million deaths and a $100 trillion global economic impact by 2050. 

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance states about 700,000 people die from antimicrobial resistant bugs each year right now, but that could grow to 10 million — more than the number of people who die from cancer — if action isn't taken. 

The study started in July and was lead by Jim O'Neill, a former Goldman Sachs chief economist. O'Neill was selected by United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron. 

The review looked at three bacteria already showing concerning levels of resistance — Klebsiella pneumonia, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus — and three public health issues in HIV, tuberculosis and malaria for which resistance is already a concern. 

"Something like this which is going to affect everybody, it could have a devastating impact on international trade and travel and globalization,"Jim O'Neill said via the BBC

After the findings were released, British Prime Minister David Cameron made a call to action saying, "If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine." 

And much of the blame for these bugs gaining resistance seems to be getting put on an overprescription of drugs. 

"People who are waiting for joint replacement, transplant surgery, cesarean section, those are high risk operations for infection afterwards. If we don't have antibiotics that work anymore, that's serious stuff. It means we can't do those operations," Dr. Hilary Jones told ITV

The review focuses on the world's two most populated countries, India and China, as some of the most egregious offenders of overprescription. 

O'Neill says a global effort is needed to fight these resistant bugs and is calling for new drugs to be developed. 

This video includes images from Getty Images

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<![CDATA[Rosetta Finds Earth's Water May Not Have Come From Comets]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:51:00 -0600
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The first findings from the world-famous Rosetta mission are in, and comet 67P has thrown cold water on the leading theory for the origins of Earth's oceans.

The new study looked at water on 67P's surface and concluded comets might not have brought water to Earth after all, despite several previous findings pointing in that direction. 

Scientists aren't exactly sure why Earth, unlike other rocky planets like Mars and Venus, has vast oceans of liquid water. One explanation is that as much as half of the water currently swirling around our planet came from elsewhere. (Video via NASA)

And though last month's mission to land a probe on comet 67P might have gotten most of the glory, it's the orbiting spacecraft that's helping to answer whether comets were Earth's water source. Here's how:

At some point, we've all learned that water is one part oxygen, two parts hydrogen, but sometimes one of those hydrogen atoms can have a neutron tagging along, making the water molecule a bit heavier. The difference doesn't affect the way water behaves, but the ratio of heavy to light molecules can tell scientists whether two water samples came from the same source.

As you can see in this graph from the European Space Agency, the comet's water is way heavier than Earth's. That kind of throws a wrench into the comet theory.

The lead researcher told the BBC, "It is more than three times higher than on the Earth, which means that this kind of comet could not have brought water to the Earth."

That was a surprising finding, because Rosetta isn't the first spacecraft to study the water from comets.

A NASA probe called Stardust captured water vapor from a comet as it passed by Earth in 2004, and in 2005, another probe actually smashed into a different comet, allowing scientists to study the resulting dust cloud. Both of those missions suggested the water on comets shares an origin with the water on Earth.

The next-likely contender for the cause of Earth's oceans is asteroids, though scientists say we can't rule out comets based on this one study. Maybe 67P is just weird.

This video includes images from the European Space Agency.

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<![CDATA[Despite Declining Smoking Rates, Cancer Deaths Continue]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0600
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Despite public information campaigns and declining smoking rates, a study by the American Cancer Society found cigarettes continue to cause about 30 percent of all cancer-related deaths in the country. 

The study found about three out of 10 cancer-related deaths are caused by smoking. A study done 30 years ago came to similar conclusions. (Video via CNN)

To get this stat, researchers looked at 2010 National Health Interview Survey data on smoking rates and the portion of cancer deaths caused by smoking.

Although smoking has gone down in the past 30 years, new cancers have been added to the list of cancers that can cause death from smoking, possibly keeping the percentage the same.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists 12 cancers that can be directly caused by smoking in adults 35 years of age and older. They include stomach, liver and kidney cancers. 

In 2012, the CDC estimated a little more than 18 percent of the adult American population smoked cigarettes. Study authors say although it is a good sign smoking is declining, this study proves continued work needs to be done to protect public health. 

Researcher Eric J. Jacobs said, "Reducing smoking prevalence as rapidly as possible should be a top priority for U.S. public health efforts to prevent future cancer deaths."

The authors also noted the estimates do not include potential cancer deaths from other types of tobacco like cigars, pipes or smokeless tobacco. 

Cigarettes are the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and kill more than 480,000 Americans a year. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Laughing Gas Might Lift Depression Symptoms]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 12:58:00 -0600
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A new study is breathing life into the treatment of clinical depression where traditional medicines fail.

Published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers found nitrous oxide improved depression symptoms in two-thirds of patients studied.

You might better recognize nitrous oxide by its more common name — laughing gas, the same stuff you might be given at your dentist's office for small procedures. (Video via YouTube / yellowpages)

The improvements found in patients were significant and rapid. Nitrous oxide reaches the brain in 20 seconds, and patients reported mood boosts within two hours.

Dr. Peter Nagele, an author of the study, was inspired by similar research that showed ketamine, a general anesthetic, could produce rapid depression-symptom improvement in patients. Ketamine works on the same brain receptor that nitrous oxide does.

But ketamine has to be injected, so laughing gas would reach the brain faster and would be painless to administer — great news for those afraid of needles.

However, if misused, nitrous oxide exposure can be fatal.

Most doctors' offices argue extreme adverse effects would be impossible, though, since administration is constantly monitored and dosage can be instantly changed. (Video via YouTube / Gentle Family Dentistry)

The need is high for relief of depression symptoms when common treatments aren't effective. (Video via YouTube / AsapScience)

"Depression's been called the 'common cold' of psychological disorders. Which is not to say that it isn't serious, but it's common and it's pervasive and it's the top reason people seek out mental health help." (Video via YouTube / CrashCourse)

In fact, 1 in 10 American adults, the TMS Wellness Institute reports, has clinical depression. (Video via TMS Wellness Institute

Though this study's sample size was small, 20 patients, researchers hope to replicate the research in larger groups over longer periods of time. Three patients reported total depression symptom remission from the use of nitrous oxide.

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<![CDATA[BPA Now Linked To Increased Blood Pressure]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:12:00 -0600
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A chemical commonly found in food containers and sealants is under fire from a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

The thing is, this isn't the first time. We're talking about Bisphenol A, or BPA, the safety of which has been controversial for years.

According to Facts About BPA"A sturdy plastic sometimes used in clear, hard food storage containers, and it is also used to make epoxy resins. Epoxy resins have been widely used for more than 30 years."

Epoxy resins are used as lining on the inside of canned foods like soups and vegetables so that food doesn't touch metal. (Video via Voice of America)

Previous studies have shown that BPA might be linked to reduced lung function in children, birth defects, miscarriage and increased risk of developing asthma.

In the most recent study from Hypertension, 60 people drank soy milk from either a can coated with BPA or a glass container.

Urinary BPA concentration was 1,600 times higher in study participants drinking from cans, and systolic blood pressure rose.

Researchers believe this might mean BPA can lead to increased blood pressure, though the increase found in participants was still acceptable in a normal daily range. 

The Food and Drug Administration refuses to pull BPA products off of grocery shelves for adults, saying that the small amount of BPA absorbed in the body is harmless. (Video via NBC)

BPA Coalition says, "Our body is very effective at quickly transforming these very low BPA residues into an inactive kind of sugar which we excrete via the urine rapidly."

According to a 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost all Americans surveyed, aged 6 years and older, tested positive for some BPA in their bloodstreams, signaling widespread exposure.

If you're trying to avoid BPA exposure, scientists suggest eating fresh foods and using glass containers.

This video includes an image from Katie Chao and Ben Muessing, CC BY NC 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Malaria Deaths Have Been Cut Nearly In Half Since 2000]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:02:00 -0600
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New numbers released by the World Health Organization show worldwide, the number of people dying from malaria has been cut in half.

The malaria mortality rate has fallen by 47 percent worldwide and 54 percent in Africa since 2000, the organization reports. 

It attributes much of the success to a distribution of mosquito nets, which helps protect people against bites from infected mosquitoes. 

However, the numbers show the disease continues to disproportionately affect children, as about 437,000 of the 584,000 killed by the disease in 2013 were African children 5 years of age and younger. 

Some experts are confident the illness can be completely eradicated. But the issue is becoming more difficult as mosquitoes in some countries are developing resistance to insecticide, which makes some methods of prevention less effective. 

According to the World Health Organization's report, there are still 278 million people in Africa who lack access to an insecticide-treated mosquito net. The report projects that 214 million nets will be delivered to sub-Saharan Africa alone in 2014. (Video via LifesystemsUK)

But the BBC notes Ebola might slow progress in the fight against malaria by using resources and people normally focused on malaria. A doctor familiar with the situation told the outlet:

"Now those pediatric wards are becoming ghost areas, because of the lack of manpower there. So we don't know who has malaria, and who is dying from it."

And citing a previous report from health officials, Bloomberg says 20,000 people died in 2013 in the nations worst affected by Ebola. That number might be higher in 2014 due to a combination of fewer available resources and people avoiding treatment because they fear they'll contract Ebola from a medical facility.

The World Health Organization's analysis demonstrated that despite a 43 percent increase in population across sub-Saharan Africa, only 128 million people were infected with the disease in 2013, which is down from 173 million in 2000.

If the same rate of annual decrease continues into 2015, the malaria mortality rate will have decreased by 55 percent globally and 62 percent in Africa over the past 13 years.

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

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<![CDATA[Curiosity Rover Finds New Signs Of A Lake On Mars]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 09:26:00 -0600
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NASA now has new clues the Red Planet could have supported life — microbial life, that is.

This is Gale Crater. It was formed some 3.5 billion years ago when a meteor crashed into the surface of Mars.

In the center of the otherwise barren crater is a formation that, until now, had stumped scientists — a 3.5-mile-high mountain known as Mount Sharp.  

After studying two and a half years of data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover, scientists have found layers of bedrock that looked a lot like those found at the type of river deltas you'd find on Earth. 

NASA believes these hundreds of rock layers alternate between lake, river and wind deposits. These sediment deposits accumulated over tens of millions of years to form Mount Sharp.

This is huge because it calls into question the widely held idea that wet conditions only existed underground on Mars. (Video via NASA

In other words, if the climate allowed for a lake, it's possible rain or even an ocean could have existed on Martian soil. (Video via NASA

Or as one NASA scientist put it: "Knowledge we're gaining about Mars' environmental evolution by deciphering how Mount Sharp formed will also help guide plans for future missions to seek signs of Martian life."

The data collected by Curiosity is part of NASA's ongoing preparation for a human trip to Mars in the 2030s. (Video via NASA

This video includes images from NASA

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<![CDATA[Ariz. County Might Refuse To Hire Smokers]]> Sun, 07 Dec 2014 14:56:00 -0600
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An Arizona county's board of supervisors will vote this month on whether to refuse to hire smokers and penalize current employees who smoke. 

If passed, the policy would require prospective Pima County employees to provide a doctor's note or drug test proving they have been tobacco-free for a year in order to be hired and would put a 30 percent surcharge on current tobacco-using employees' existing health-care costs. 

The policy would not penalize people who use nicotine replacement products like gum or patches, but would penalize those who use e-cigarettes. 

Non-smoking employees who sign a form saying they are nicotine-free can receive a $5 health-care discount each pay period. 

The county says it would not subject employees to random nicotine tests, instead supervisors would be watching for signs of policy violations and request nicotine tests if they suspect a worker has been using tobacco products. 

Proponents of the policy predict it could save the county more than $1 million a year on health-care costs noting the county is self-insured.

The Pima County Health Department says about a third of its more than 2,300 employees use tobacco and cost the county about $13.4 million a year in health care costs. (Video via CNN)

The county's human resources director Allyn Bulzoomi told The Arizona Daily Star , "It's not an attempt to punish anybody ... It’s an attempt to encourage people to be healthy."

However,  Wall Street OTC reports the policy is also being called discriminatory by some. One public health professor said, “It is a form of employment discrimination. Discrimination is essentially making employment decisions based on a group to which someone belongs rather than their qualifications for the job.”

Currently, twenty-nine state have legislation against denying employment to smokers. Arizona is not one of those states.  

This video includes images from Getty Images and David Guro / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Text Messages Remind Patients To Take Meds]]> Sat, 06 Dec 2014 16:39:00 -0600
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There's an endless number of illnesses that require patients to take medications, and many times those prescriptions save lives. 

But what if you've had a busy day and forgot to take that blood pressure or cholesterol pill? Well, results from a study out of London show a text message reminder can be very helpful. 

"This was a randomized trial that included 300 patients who had all been prescribed blood pressure ... or cholesterol lowering tablets. ... They were getting one text a week. ... The results showed that one in six patients were helped,"said research leader Professor David Wald said. 

The study continued for six months, and the participants were able to respond to the texts sent by the researchers to say if the message actually helped.  

David Taylor, a professor at the University College London explained in a press release, "The health implications of these results are considerable from both an economic and a health gain perspective. The method is not limited to cardiovascular disease prevention and could be used for patients on treatment for other chronic diseases." 

Economically, the method could save more than the equivalent of $781,000,000 in wasted medication costs in the U.K. That is, if patients properly participate. 

There have been past studies done in the U.S. testing medication reminder texts; the most recent was in May of this year. Although the sample sizes were different, one looked at more than 500 people the other looked at over 650,000. The results were on target with the most recent British findings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 83 percent of Americans take at least one form of medication. 

But a previous study from Pew showed only 73 percent of Americans receive and send text messages. So, if you happen to fall in the category of those who prefer not to be bothered by a text, there are other methods for reminders — like email. 

With the study released this week, researchers say they hope the study will help identify patients who have recurring issues with taking medications — information that could potentially help health care providers gain additional information on their patients. 

This video includes images from See-ming Lee / CC BY 2.0,  Andy Melton / CC BY SA 2.0, and Joi Ito / CC BY 2.0

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<![CDATA[NASA To 'Wake Up' Pluto-Bound Space Probe]]> Sat, 06 Dec 2014 14:35:00 -0600
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NASA's New Horizons deep space probe is scheduled to awake from hibernation Saturday as it prepares to approach Pluto.  This mission makes New Horizons the first space probe to venture past Neptune's orbit and explore the dwarf planet.

When the probe first launched in 2006, Pluto was still considered a planet. Since its launch, New Horizons has spent about two-thirds of its flight time hibernating to conserve energy. 

NASA's been using periodic cruise-flight hibernation to reduce wear and tear on the New Horizon craft's equipment and also to lower operation costs. The agency said in a statement the mission "pioneered routine cruise-flight hibernation for NASA."

On average, NASA wakes the craft up just twice a year to make sure everything still works and to make any course corrections, if necessary. 

When it wakes up this time, New Horizons will send radio signals to the mission's control center at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. 

Five weeks of prep work will then begin as scientists do a few final tests to make sure the probe is ready for the encounter. 

New Horizons' observation of Pluto is set to begin January 15 and continue until late July. It is expected to be at its closest on July 14th. 

On that day, the probe will be just 8,509 miles from Pluto and will take the first detailed photos of the dwarf planet. 

This video includes images from NASA. 

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<![CDATA[Obesity Could Cut Life Expectancy By Almost A Decade]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 15:56:00 -0600
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It's no secret obesity often leads to serious health concerns, like increased potential for developing diseases or shortening your life span. Now, according to a new study, we know just about how many years could be knocked off your life. 

The study out of Canada revealed life expectancy could be shortened by up to eight years due to obesity-related illnesses. (Video via KTLA)

About 4,000 white men were considered in the study, which specifically looked at heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Now, lower life expectancy wasn't the only worrying outcome — obesity also can affect your quality of life. 

"It robbed people by as many as 19 years of healthy living," added an anchor for KHOU.

Because of that, researchers expressed higher concern for children struggling with obesity. A medical analyst explained further"If you are obese in kindergarten, you are twice as likely to be obese in eighth grade and four times as likely to be an obese adult and battle obesity for the rest of your life." 

Smoking was also considered in heart disease and diabetes risks.

We will note the data from the Canadian study was actually gathered from a U.S. study done between 2003 and 2010. As you can see from this graph provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the results were very similar. However, the CDC also looked at women who, on average, lost significantly more years. 

Dr. Steven Grover, a professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, noted he and his team hope the findings will help improve patient-doctor relations. 

"Appreciating the impact excess pounds has on our life expectancy and healthy years of life will hopefully provide health professionals with a new diagnostic measurement to motivate some individuals to make healthy changes to their lifestyle." 

However, the findings are not an end-all, be-all of research on the issue — the only obesity-related illnesses that were considered were heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

This video includes images from Sophie Riches / CC BY 2.0 and Dennis Brekke / CC BY 2.0. 

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<![CDATA[China Says It Will Stop Harvesting The Organs Of Inmates]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 12:44:00 -0600
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China announced Thursday it plans to cease the controversial practice of harvesting organs from executed inmates. But the move might create a host of new problems for the world's most populous country.

The news came from China's state-run newspaper, China Daily, which says the government will only rely on voluntary donations starting Jan. 1.

China has one of the lowest organ-transplant rates in the world, with only about 10,000 of the 300,000 organ transplant operations needed every year being fulfilled.

In comparison, the U.S. performed almost 29,000 transplants in 2013, with roughly 121,000 needed.

It's because of the low donation rate that the Chinese government harvests the organs of executed prisoners — a practice that has long been criticized by governments and human rights groups alike.

Although China doesn't give out execution statistics, a U.S.-based human rights group estimates China executed 2,400 people in 2013 — more than the rest of the world combined. 

A 2006 investigative report claims the Chinese government not only executed inmates on demand for wealthy organ buyers but also performed the surgeries on inmates who were still alive. (Video via International Coalition to End Organ Pillaging in China)

According to the report, the Chinese government specifically targeted prisoners who affiliated with the Falun Gong religious movement. Both the European Parliament and U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee have passed resolutions calling for the targeted harvesting to stop. (Video via Voice of America)

China attempted to spur voluntary donations in 2010 by launching a national donation program, but Chinese citizens have been slow to donate.

A Human Rights Watch director tells CNN he's "extremely skeptical" about whether China could give up using prisoner organs cold turkey, saying "Many Chinese citizens would be unconvinced about voluntarily signing away their organs, even for altruistic (reasons)."

Part of the reluctance to donate stems from traditional beliefs in China that the body should be whole in death. The other part is a distrust in the government.

And a 2012 poll by the Canton Public Opinion Research Center found 81 percent of Chinese people surveyed feared "organ donation inevitably leads to the organ trade."

One doesn't need to look too far to find examples of that organ trade, either.

In July, 12 people were arrested in China for setting up a smuggling ring where kidneys were being sold for about $20,000 apiece and being disguised as seafood for shipping.

Just a month later 15 more people, including some doctors, were arrested for harvesting and selling 51 kidneys. The organ donors were only given a little under $3,500 in exchange. (Video via China View)

Still, as The New York Times notes, this Jan. 1 deadline is the strongest sign given to date that China plans to stop taking organs from inmates. The country has previously given vague announcements it would cease the procedures in 2011 and 2012.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[NASA's Second Orion Launch Attempt Goes Off Without A Hitch]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 07:59:00 -0600
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Okay, now it's a big day for  NASA

Today was the first test flight of its Orion crew capsule, marking the first U.S. government-sponsored spaceflight mission since the shuttle program ended in 2011. (Video via NASA)

Orion lifted from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Friday morning under mostly clear skies.

The spacecraft is designed to carry as many as four astronauts, though for this test it's unmanned. During the flight it will make two orbits at roughly 3,600 miles high, for a total flight time of about 4.5 hours. (Video via NASA)

For this flight test, Orion rode a Delta IV Heavy Rocket from United Launch Alliance. It's the highest-capacity rocket currently available.  

NASA will have to use even bigger boosters to get long-duration missions into orbit, though. It's designing the Space Launch System to carry enough fuel and supplies to support jaunts to Mars.

Still, the Delta IV was enough to send Orion farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

The spacecraft was originally scheduled to launch Thursday morning, but coordinators had to postpone the first launch attempt thanks to a boat that wandered into the exclusion zone in the Atlantic Ocean, where the spacecraft can splash down in the event of an emergency during launch.

Then high winds at the launch pad made it too dangerous to lift off. And finally a portion of the rocket's fuel pump system stopped working. NASA tried some live troubleshooting but eventually exhausted Thursday's launch window and declared the mission a scrub.

Orion will re-enter the atmosphere later today at around 20,000 mph — another milestone human spacecraft haven't hit since Apollo — and will splash down in the Pacific Ocean with the help of 11 different parachutes. (Video via NASA)

This is the first chance for NASA's scientists to see how Orion's systems perform in the more rigorous environment of space. They'll test its radiation and heat tolerances to make Orion safer for eventual manned flights to the Moon and Mars. (Video via NASA)

Those flights won't take place until 2021 at the earliest. NASA plans to run more tests between now and then, including an uncrewed flight to orbit the moon.

This video includes images from NASA HQ PHOTO / CC BY NC 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Smoking May Cause Cancer In More Men Than Women]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:02:00 -0600
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We've seen the posters and we've heard the stories.

"Hi, my name is Suzie and I've had a stroke due to my cigarette smoking."

It is clear that smoking is very, very bad for you. But apparently, it's worse for men than for women.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science found smoking puts men at a greater risk for some cancers than women. 

Researchers believe this may be because smoking reduces the number of Y chromosomes in blood cells. (Video Via CNN)

Y chromosomes are only present in men and previous research has indicated cancer is more likely to occur when men lose those chromosomes.

To come to these conclusions, Uppsala University researchers in Sweden evaluated more than 6,000 men and looked at at how a variety of factors impacted Y chromosomes — including age, exercise, cholesterol and smoking. 

In the end, researchers found both age and smoking appeared to be associated with loss of Y chromosomes. 

But its not all bad news for men. The study also noted Y chromosomes returned to the blood cells of those who kicked the habit, indicating the process may be reversible. 

Earlier this year, the same researchers found a relationship between the loss of Y chromosomes and shorter lifespans in men. 

They found the age-related loss of the Y chromosome may explain why men generally do not live as long as women.  

That study is published in Nature Genetics

This video includes images from Getty Images

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<![CDATA[Did Columbus Bring Syphilis To Europe? Study Raises Doubts]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 17:25:00 -0600
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In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And in 1495, the first recorded mass outbreak of syphilis in Europe infected many people and left few alive. Coincidence, or is there a connection here?

The origins of syphilis in the Old World have been a controversial subject for many years, but the prevailing theory holds the venereal disease hitched a ride to Europe from the Americas in the bodies of some early explorers.

As one History Channel host said, "Some scientists believe it was a disease introduced to the continent by none other than Christopher Columbus after his voyage to the New World."

But that theory has its critics, including the authors of a new study which claim the disease was always present in Europe and just wasn't diagnosed properly until the 1495 outbreak. Their evidence? Bones. 

Syphilis is one of the few diseases that can leave physical scars on the skeletons of its victims. Researchers at Croatia's University of Split analyzed 403 skeletons from various eras for syphilitic marks.

Their findings, published Thursday in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, record one syphilitic skeleton from the 2nd to 6th century — well before Columbus's voyage.

The study's authors suggest the Columbus theory of syphilis needs to be rethought in light of their discovery, but the theory's proponents aren't willing to let it unravel over one skeleton.

After all, other skeletons with bone scarring have been held up as evidence of syphilis in pre-colonial Europe before. But a comprehensive study published in 2011 discarded those examples as inconclusive.

One researcher told HealthDay this new skeleton is no different; the researchers findings "actually suggest a kind of abnormal bone growth" rather than syphilis.

So the study might not settle the issue once and for all, but it does highlight how important understanding the origins and spread of syphilis really is. Knowing the origins and spread of syphilis can provide a road map for dealing with other sexually transmitted epidemics like HIV/AIDS.

This video includes images from The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Sebastiano del PiomboGetty Images, Wandering Eyre / CC BY NC SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[DNA Pioneer Sells Nobel After Outrage Over Racist Remarks]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 16:12:00 -0600
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This is James Watson. He's one of the scientists who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, and he's not a very popular guy in the scientific community. 

Despite partaking in one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century, the 86-year-old has isolated himself through a number of controversial comments to the point that he recently described himself as an "unperson." (Video via Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)   

That was in an interview with The Financial Times about Watson's unusual decision to auction off the Nobel Prize he won for the double-helix discovery.

Watson told the Times he was auctioning it at Christie's in New York because he needed to supplement his income. He was fired from the boards of companies for making comments about intelligence being tied to race. (Video via Christie's)

According to Christie's, the medal went to an anonymous buyer for just more than $4.7 million, exceeding the auction house's estimates, which put it between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.  

And his decision to sell his Nobel medal hasn't gone over too well with some. Slate described him as a peevish bigot and called his auction "a fit of pique and self-pity."

He made his most controversial comments to The Times of London in 2007, when he implied testing showed intelligence in Africa was different than "ours," and despite hopes that everyone is equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

Although he apologized for those comments in a way, he attracted criticism again in 2012 for telling a conference in Dublin that while having women around in the scientific community is more fun for men, they're less effective. 

Watson is the first living Nobel laureate ever to auction off his medal. His collaborator, Francis Crick, had his medal auctioned last year following his death for just under $2.3 million. 

In addition to supplementing his income, Watson said he would probably donate some of the money to academic institutions, although he was also interested in buying a David Hockney painting, which can run into the millions of dollars. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[The Flu Vaccine Might Not Have You Covered This Year]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:59:00 -0600
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Doesn't it seem like we're always reporting that the latest flu vaccine might not keep up with the latest strain? Well, here's another unfortunate warning as we head into the depths of flu season. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says much of the flu virus going around this year has mutated, making this year's vaccine less effective. (Video via CNN)

So far, most flu cases this year are being caused by a strain called H3N2.

The vaccine to combat that strand was formulated months ago, and it worked ... at first. But because the strain has changed since then, it's now unable to protect against it as well. 

It's not uncommon for flu strains to mutate. Flu.gov explains flu viruses are constantly changing, and that's why we're supposed to get a flu shot every year. 

But there is some good news. Although the vaccine does not completely protect against the H3N2 mutation, it does offer some cross protection. 

Meaning the vaccine's formula still partially protects against viruses it wasn't specifically designed for. So it could reduce the chances of getting severe symptoms if the strain is contracted. 

In addition, the vaccine still adequately protects against the some of the other flu strains going around, and because of this, health officials are still recommending most people over six months of age get the shot. (Video via University Of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center)

Because more people might become ill this year with H3N2, the CDC is reminding doctors the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza are available to treat those who are infected. 

Flu season usually peaks between December and February. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Spinal-Injury Treatment Focused On Sticky Scar Tissue]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:23:00 -0600
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An idea from two graduate students at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio could revolutionize treatments for people with broken and injured spinal cords.

Their mentor, decorated neuroscience professor Jerry Silver, admits he originally thought the students' idea was far-fetched. (Video via YouTube / unite2fightparalysis)

It all comes down to scar tissue, which surrounds an injury in the body. (Video via NBC)

"Sugary proteins" released by the scar tissue make a type of "glue" that discourages nerve cells from growing. One scientist likened the proteins to fly paper that traps the nerve cells.

If the nerve cells don't grow back, people often face paralysis below the injury and a loss of urinary and genital control. (Video via YouTube / unite2fightparalysis)

But the graduate students at Case Western designed a compound that helps the nerve cells avoid the sticky trap of the sugary proteins. They injected it into rats with spinal injuries.

A whopping 80 percent of the rats injected displayed bladder control improvement, movement improvement, or both, according to the study, which was published in Nature.

It's important to remember that all of the rats in the study were newly injured, so the compound might not work as well on older injuries. But those rats who responded, responded well.

Professor Silver told the BBC"What we could see was really remarkable. Some recovered to a fantastic extent and so well you could hardly tell there was an injury."

Current recovery methods for broken and damaged spines are mainly invasive surgeries, usually in the form of nerve transplants, stem cell injections and neurostimulator implants. (Video via ABC)

This treatment would be less invasive, with potentially higher efficacy. 

Researchers says they'll try the compound on larger animals like pigs next before human trials begin. (Video via Case Western Reserve University)

This video includes an image by Michael Dorausch / CC BY SA 2.0 and music from Broke For Free / CC BY NC 3.0.

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<![CDATA['Invisible' Extinction: Giraffe Population Down 40%]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 08:04:00 -0600
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A decline of 40% in the last 15 years and on the brink of extinction. 

That's the way things are looking for the world's tallest animal, the giraffe, according to Giraffe Conservation Foundation. 15 years ago, 140,000 giraffes roamed Africa the group says. Now, their numbers are down to just 80,000.

There's currently nine subspecies of the giraffe. The GCF says six of those nine are decreasing and/or unstable and two, the Rothschild giraffe and the West African giraffe are officially listed as endangered. 

The foundation says the main reason for such a steep decline is mainly from a loss of habitat and poaching.

But unlike elephants and rhinos being poached for their tusks or horns, giraffes are often poached for a different reason — their meat. 

UK outlet The Week writes, "Giraffe meat is said to be sweet and is popular among locals. Some traditional healers even tout giraffe meat – particularly the bone marrow and brains – as a cure for HIV/Aids, fueling the illegal trade."

Speaking to ABC, executive director of the GCF Julien Fennessy called it a "silent extinction" and the outlet, quoting another giraffe conservation expert, reports killing giraffes is easier than killing other animals and provides more meat for the effort. 

Efforts are underway to help protect the giraffes and the Association to Safeguard Giraffes in Niger has reported increasing numbers of West African giraffes in the area in recent years. 

Fennessy says giraffe conservation groups don't get as big of a budget as groups protecting elephants and rhinos. He's hopeful, with enough early action, the giraffe population will be able to rebound. 

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<![CDATA[UT Says Missing Brains Were Actually Disposed Of]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 20:25:00 -0600
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Remember the case of the 100 missing brains we told you about Wednesday morning? Well as it turns out, they weren't actually missing at all. 

University of Texas officials released a statement Wednesday explaining its 100 human brains that were believed to be missing were actually disposed of in 2002. (Video via KEYE)

It was about half the university's collection that was reported missing earlier this week and a professor told the Austin American-Statesman"We think somebody may have taken the brains, but we don’t know at all for sure."

Multiple outlets report the university obtained the brains in 1986 from the Austin State Hospital under a "temporary possession" agreement. 

The collection included brains inflicted with Parkinsons, dementia and Down syndrome. 

But the university says when it obtained them in the '80s they were in such poor condition they couldn't be used for research or teaching, so they were eventually destroyed. 

University officials now say a committee will review the decision to dispose of the brains.

"As researchers and teachers, we understand the potential scientific value of all of our holdings and take our roles as stewards of them very seriously," UT said in a statement. 

The University also said there was "no evidence" one of the missing brains belonged to sniper Charles Whitman, as previously thought. (Video via Discovery Channel)

UT says it's also looking into reports some of the brains were sent to other universities or health institutions. 

This video contains an image from Simon Hucko / CC BY NC ND 2.0

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<![CDATA[Mean Girls Not As Prevalent As Bullying Boys]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 12:42:00 -0600
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Most women with painful high school memories know: There's little worse than a mean girl.

"And evil takes a human form in Regina George. She knows everything about everyone." "That's why her hair is so big. It's full of secrets." (Video via Paramount Movies / "Mean Girls")

But it turns out catty girls might not be the biggest emotional bullies on the block. (Video via Lionsgate)

According to a new study published in the journal Aggressive Behavior, emotional bullying or "relational aggression" appears to be more prevalent among boys and young men in every grade from 6 to 12, compared to girls and young women.

This revelation was a bit surprising to researchers, considering female relational aggression has been a topic of discussion since the 1970s.

Previous studies have published information on different expressions of bullying, citing male physical aggression and female emotional aggression, based on the belief that women put more stock in social relationships and are therefore more likely to manipulate them. (Video via YouTube / PrimoEducation)

Websites like stopgirlbullying.com and theopheliaproject.org are aimed specifically at helping young women cope with peer aggressors.

A boys-only anti-bullying set of literature doesn't seem to exist. If not aimed at girls, most anti-bullying information seems to be generalized for all children.

But it appears boys and young men utilize many of the same social exclusion methods that girls and young women have been associated with, as both sexes aim to just fit in, according to the researchers.

The most shocking part of this study is how widespread relational aggression is among children and young adults, even if it's a small amount. (Video via HASfit)

More than half of the study participants, boys and girls, showed only low aggression toward others, but almost all partook at some point during the study: 96 percent.

Bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, declining school performance and social maladjustment, which is spurring researchers to delve deeper into understanding the behavior. (Video via YouTube / Mormon Channel)

If you or someone you know is affected by bullying, log on to stopbullying.gov for resources.

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<![CDATA[A Mediterranean Diet Can Keep Your Cells In Better Shape]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 12:25:00 -0600
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The fountain of youth is running with fish and fruits, according to some reports.

So you might be seeing some headlines like this: 'Mediterranean diet your ticket to healthy ageing,' 'Follow the Mediterranean diet, stay young forever.'

Quite the sell. Here's the reality: A new study says a Mediterranean diet — meaning fish, fruits, nuts, veggies and olive oil — can keep your cells in better shape. Now, that's still pretty good news.

It's not, of course, news we haven't heard before about the Mediterranean diet.

But this study is new because of its big sample size and its focus on one specific marker of longevity. The study looked at around 4,700 women and found that those eating a Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres.

"If the candy is the chromosome, the telomeres are the ends of that chromosome. As you age, those telomeres get shorter. ... on the Mediterranean diet, more likely to have longer telomeres," said CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And telomeres — the little white caps on these human chromosomes — are key because researchers believe they protect your chromosomes from deteriorating.

So we want to keep them from shrinking quickly. Speaking of shrink rate — that might actually be a shortcoming of this study.

"It looked at one point in time. It didn't follow the shrinkage or shortening of the telomeres, which may be more important than the length," cardiologist Dr. Tara Narula told CBS.

And the study only looked at women of European descent, so while the researchers did control for things like smoking habits, activity levels and BMI, it didn't control for other genetic differences between the subjects.

Still, the researchers, out of Harvard Medical School, found it's the diet as a whole that helped, not one particular food — all these foods we mentioned earlier are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

One last note — another component of the Mediterranean diet? Staying away from red meat and dairy.

You can have red wine, though, so there's that.

This video includes an image from Hannahdownes / CC BY SA 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Watch President Obama Get His Face Scanned For Science]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 07:09:00 -0600
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"3-D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything," said President Obama at the 2013 State of the Union address.

That was President Obama during the 2013 State of the Union address. Now, more than a year later, 3-D printing is even revolutionizing the way we make presidential busts.

"He will be surrounded in front by 50 custom-built LED lights, eight high-resolution sports photography cameras and an additional six wider-angle cameras. In about one second, as he holds his presidential pose, he will be illuminated by 10 different lighting conditions," explained Paul Debevec during the photo shoot.

A team of 3D imaging specialists from the Smithsonian Institution and University of Southern California captured 80 photos and millions of data points to craft a 3-D model of our 44th president. 

The Smithsonian team says it got its inspiration right out of the history books. Way back in 1860 and again in 1865, President Lincoln's likeness was captured using plaster paste applied to his face. The team has since scanned these so-called life masks, and are now available to view online.

The team noted it probably took about 15 minutes for the plaster paste to dry on President Lincoln's face, all while he breathed through straws placed in his nostrils. President Obama, on the other hand, sat comfortably for about seven minutes while the team captured the data they needed. 

Eight minutes' difference in more than 150 years — not bad, science, not bad.

In a blog post revealing the behind-the-scenes video, The White House explained this is all part of the Administration's efforts to encourage engineering and innovation in education and manufacturing.

In fact, The White House in June hosted a Maker Faire where it focused on emerging tech like 3D printing. (Video via The White House)

It was at this event where President Obama's 3D-printed bust was first revealed, but we didn't get an inside look at the process until today.
The portraits are now on display at the Smithsonian Institution Building and will be there until the end of the month. 

The Institution notes President Barack Obama is one of three presidents with an actual model of his face. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have a "life-mask" courtesy of that antiquated plaster paste method.

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<![CDATA[100 Human Brains Mysteriously Disappear From UT's Campus]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 04:02:00 -0600
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Where did they go? About 100 jars containing preserved human brains have disappeared from The University of Texas at Austin, and no one knows where they went.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin State Hospital transferred a collection of 200 formaldehyde-soaked brains to UT about 28 years ago, but half the lot has up and vanished with little clues as to where they might be.

One UT professor told the outlet, "We think somebody may have taken the brains, but we don’t know at all for sure."

Of the missing brains, one belongs to Charles Whitman, who went on a sniper rampage at UT in 1966 and killed 16 people, in what is considered one of the deadliest campus shootings in the past sixty years. (Video via Discovery Channel)

"When Charles Whitman was shot they found a note and in that note he asked that his brain be left to science and looked by the pathologist to find out if there was something wrong with him," journalist Alex Hannaford told NPR.

And NPR also says that pathologist turned out to be the same guy "who put the collection together in the first place." Still, knowing that doesn't really leave a lot of clues for the Sherlock Holmes wannabes out there. But the story gets more intriguing. 

According to a 1986 Houston Chronicle report cited in The Atlantic, there was a bit of a tug-of-war for the collection between UT, Harvard and other colleges in what was labeled "the battle for the brains" — we kid you not.

Aside from that clue, the brains whereabouts are pretty much anyone's guess at this point, though there's certainly plenty of creative ideas out there floating through social media on where they might be.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Study Finds HIV Becoming 'Watered Down' Over Time]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 08:48:00 -0600
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Diseases are known for their ability to mutate, becoming worse as they adapt to people's immune systems. But it turns out that works both ways. A new study shows HIV could be evolving into a milder form.

A study done by the University of Oxford and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that HIV is taking longer to progress to AIDS. The study cited two possible factors: our immune systems and access to antiretroviral drugs. (Video via Wellcome Trust)

The study found that those with stronger immune systems essentially water down the HIV virus by forcing it to weaken itself in order to survive. As it's passed on, it becomes weaker and less able to replicate. (Video via Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Researchers examined 2,000 HIV patients from Botswana and South Africa. Patients in Botswana, which has had the virus longer than its southern neighbor, were taking longer to progress from HIV to AIDS. (Video via World Bank)

Using a mathematical model, the second part of the study found that using antiretroviral drugs against the most virulent HIV cases has a similar effect and also weakens the virus's ability to replicate.

Both of these are good signs to one virologist from the University of Nottingham, who told the BBC"In theory, if we were to let HIV run its course then we would see a human population emerge that was more resistant to the virus than we collectively are today — HIV infection would eventually become almost harmless."

That said, a professor at Cardiff University cautioned to the BBC HIV was still a long way from becoming harmless and the development of a cure is vital.

And in November, a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS warned if further progress isn't made against AIDS in the next five years, it might rebound.

According to the United Nations, 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV do not know they have the virus.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Find 10-Million-Year-Old Reason For Drinking]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 07:59:00 -0600
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As scientists continue to search for clues to better understand how modern-day humans evolved from our hominid ancestors, apparently the bar could be a good place to look. 

Scientists have determined that our current taste for alcohol could stem from a mutation some 10 million years ago, when the early hominids first started living on the ground, instead of in the trees. (Video via Bloomberg)

When those hominids came down from the trees, they found a whole lot of rotting fruit, which contains higher concentrations of ethanol, what we call alcohol, and the hominids with the mutation to better digest that fruit survived more successfully. (Video via PBS)

So in other words, as soon as our early early ancestors were learning to walk on solid ground, they might have also been learning how to get drunk enough to fall over. 

But the study's lead author told LiveScience even though they could metabolize alcohol, they didn't necessarily have a taste for it. "If the ancestors of humans, chimps and gorillas had a choice between rotten and normal fruit, they would go for the normal fruit. Just because they were adapted to be able to ingest it doesn't mean ethanol was their first choice, nor that they were perfectly adapted to metabolize it."

For perspective, 10 million years ago was well before the recognizably human-looking hominids came along — upright, bipedal genuses like Australopithecus didn't come along for at least another 5 million years and Homo — our genus — only evolved some 2 million years ago. (Video via History Channel)

To pinpoint the mutation, the scientists charted a specific enzyme — ADH4 — that first comes into contact with ethanol, through various points over 70 million years, and looked at how ADH4 evolved. 

Scientists say their research could help us better understand the medical complexities of how humans interact with alcohol today, specifically when it comes to alcoholism.  

This video includes images from Getty Images

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<![CDATA[NASA To Test New Craft For Carrying Humans Into Deep Space]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 14:08:00 -0600
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Now that humanity has put a robot on a comet, you might be wondering when we'll get around to sending some human beings out there in the solar system.

Well, NASA is planning to take a big step in that direction in early December. That's when the Orion spacecraft, seen here beginning its trip to the launchpad, is scheduled to be sent into space for the first time.

"The four-and-a-half-hour flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1, will send Orion 3,600 miles from Earth on a two-orbit flight to confirm its critical systems are ready for the challenges of eventually sending astronauts on deep space missions to an asteroid and Mars."

Orion is the first new human-ready spacecraft NASA has built since the shuttle, and although it's still years away from carrying anyone into space, NASA is hyping this first test launch.

A seven-minute video released last month explains the testing mission and touts the craft's new features.

"This is the largest heat shield of its kind ever made!"

The most obvious new feature is the Launch Abort System, that big pointy thing at the top.

In the event a mission has to be aborted — or even if a rocket explodes — Orion detaches and is carried out of harm's way by the Launch Abort System, allowing the crew capsule to parachute back down safely.

But there won't be a crew on board this time around. In fact the first manned mission isn't scheduled until 2021 at the earliest. 

SpaceX's Dragon capsule is expected to carry humans into low-Earth orbit years before Orion. So why the hype?

Orion isn't going to low-Earth orbit. December's test flight will take the capsule 15 times farther out from Earth than the orbit of the International Space Station. And when that first manned mission finally does happen, it'll likely be the first time humans have ventured that far from our planet since the final trip to the moon in 1972.

This video includes an image from the European Space Agency.

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<![CDATA[Foot-Powered Scooters Could Be The Most Dangerous Toys]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 12:59:00 -0600
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We've all been there. The parents take the training wheels off the bike, and boom — a scuffed-up elbow and a throbbing knee. 

But new research suggests it's scooters — not bikes — that kids might have the most painful memories of. 

Between 1990 and 2011, toy-related injuries jumped about 40 percent according to research from Nationwide Children's Hospital. Scooters, wagons and tricycles caused 42 percent of injuries to kids between 5 and 17 and 28 percent of injuries to those younger than 5. Scooters alone caused 580,000 injuries between 2000 and 2011. Doctors blame a spike in scooter sales as well as a lack of proper scooter safety equipment. 

"If there were three things that you could do to prevent injury to a child on a scooter or other ride-on toy, those three things would be wear a helmet, wear a helmet, wear a helmet," said study senior author Dr. Gary Smith.

In all, about 3.3 million kids were sent to emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in those two decades, which breaks down to about one injury every three minutes. 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, toy-related injuries are injuries "related to, but not necessarily caused by, toys."

Younger children are more susceptible to swallowing toys, so parents can be proactive by checking toy packaging for warnings about choking hazards and supervising the children as they play.   

The study, published in Clinical Pediatrics, also states injuries on those foot-powered scooters, along with wagons, tricycles and other ride-on toys, increased as kids got older. 

For more safety tips, especially during this gift-giving season, the Consumer Product Safety Commission provides a full list of toy recalls and safety guidelines. 

This video includes images from Getty Images, Tim Pierce / CC BY 2.0 and Jenn Durfey / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[World AIDS Day Events Praise Progress, But More Work Needed]]> Sun, 30 Nov 2014 22:03:00 -0600
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People around the world will gather Monday to recognize World AIDS Day and help raise awareness about the disease.

Since it was first recognized in 1981, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide. There are currently more than 35 million people living with AIDS or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. (Video via UNAIDS)

Treatment and prevention has come a long way since the disease was first discovered, and new infections have fallen by 40 percent in the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But aid organizations say there is still work to be done, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for three-fourths of all new infections. 

The U.N. estimates there were about 2.1 million new infections worldwide last year — 240,000 were children — and 1.5 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses during that time.

World AIDS Day will be marked by many events memorializing those who have died and supporting those living with the disease. 

The White House will have a special commemoration, which will be live streamed on the White House website.

And The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is holding free HIV/AIDS tests in several states throughout the country. A list of events can be found on the organization's website.

This is the 26th World AIDS Day. The event was first established in 1988.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Ebola Outbreak Worsens In West Africa, Death Toll Rises]]> Sun, 30 Nov 2014 07:54:00 -0600
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Close to 7,000 have died from Ebola in West Africa since the start of the outbreak, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization.

Its most recent reports shows 16,169 cases across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; and 6,928 deaths.

Less than a week ago the organization was tracking 15,901 cases and only 5,674 deaths.

The WHO attributes the jump to previously unreported deaths, and warns it's probably worse than it looks, thanks to unreliable reporting and limited access to healthcare in some areas. (video via eNCA)

Sierra Leone is especially hard-hit — officials warn it could soon pass Liberia for the most heavily-infected nation in the outbreak. (Video via France 24)

Portions of the country are on lockdown, forcing some students to attend their classes by radio from home now, for example.

But the WHO is still tracking hundreds of new cases a week.

A report in the New York Times shows a frustrated population stuck with slow aid response and a lack of protective gear.

Medical professionals in Britain last week warned without review and reinforcement of aid practices in Sierra Leone, “health services will collapse entirely.”

This comes as the U.S. National Institutes of Health and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline saw successful preliminary trials of an Ebola vaccine for humans.

NIH officials said they hope to start larger-scale trials on the ground in West Africa. (Video via CNN)

Another Canadian trial is underway as well. Study results for that drug’s effectiveness are expected in early 2015, and if it shows promise it, too, will be tested in West Africa. (Video via CBC)

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<![CDATA[WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 14:56:00 -0600
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The World Health Organization, or WHO, is offering new advice for male survivors to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus: don't have sex. 

In an article posted on its website, WHO recommends male survivors of Ebola to abstain from sex — or at least wear a condom — for at least three months after showing symptoms of the virus.

We know Ebola can be found in bodily fluids, like blood, vomit, feces or even semen. Although sexual transmission of Ebola hasn't been reported, WHO cites four studies that found the virus in semen up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms. WHO says the results as to whether semen with the virus is infectious are inconclusive.

This latest suggestion from WHO is just one of many efforts being made to stem the flow of the Ebola virus and help treat those infected. (Video via BBC)

Senegalese scientists have reportedly developed a 15-minute Ebola test, which can be used in room temperature and comes in a mobile solar-powered suitcase — two advantages over the current testing device. Researchers will begin testing the device in Guinea. 

WHO said earlier in the week the virus had stabilized in Guinea, where French President Francois Hollande visited Friday. But the outbreak has been rapidly worsening in Sierra Leone. This headline from The New York Times describes the virus as "raging" within the stricken country. More than 1,800 new cases were reported within Sierra Leone in the month of November. 

WHO reports more than 5,600 have died so far in this most recent West African Ebola outbreak. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:08:00 -0600
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Ah, the Thanksgiving post-meal nap. Is there anything more glorious?

Of course, we can all blame that pesky chemical tryptophan in the turkey for our comatose states ... right?

It turns out tryptophan might be a bit of a holiday scapegoat left over from the 1980s, when tryptophan was sold as a popular sleep aid, according to LiveScience.

The belief in tryptophan's soporific powers is widespread. 

For Thanksgiving Day, 2014, Google even featured the question on its homepage. "Ok Google, what is tryptophan?"

"Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids. Essential, because people have to get it from their food." "The body uses tryptophan to make seratonin, a brain chemical that promotes feelings of well-being and relaxation." (Video via YouTube / BitesizeScience)

Turkey does contain tryptophan, but here's a Thanksgiving bomb drop: turkey has no more tryptophan than pork or chicken! And the list of everyday foods that contain tryptophan?

Chocolate, milk, cheese, bananas, peanuts, oats, pumpkin and sunflower seeds ... it's exhaustive, and exhausting. 

In the past few years, science has tried to combat the notoriety on tryptophan's ability to produce extreme torpor. (Video via Everyday Science)

Headlines include "Don't blame the turkey this thanksgiving," "No, turkey doesn't make you sleepy" and "Sleepy on Thanksgiving? It's not all the bird's fault."

Most studies agree that it's actually the high-carb and high-fat food intake that is making you sleepy, by diverting blood flow to your digestive system and stimulating insulin release. (Video via YouTube / Bite Sci-zed)

So enjoy that Thanksgiving dinner to its fullest. Just remember that it's likely the sides, not the size of your turkey serving, that are putting you to sleep afterward.

This video includes an image from Alexis Fisher CC BY NC SA 2.0 and SuperFantastic CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 10:06:00 -0600
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Initial human trials of an experimental ebola vaccine show promise, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

A recent study exposed 20 healthy adults to the prototype drug, which was supposed to trigger an immune system response to Ebola.

According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday, each patient showed antibody response “in the range reported to be associated with vaccine-induced protective immunity…” In other words, it appears to have worked.

The NIH worked with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to accelerate the potential vaccine through to human testing phases.

Researchers based the vaccinations on a flu found in chimpanzees. It contains genetic material from two strains of Ebola, including the one responsible for the current outbreak. (Video via CNN)

The reaction from medical experts and NIH officials is one of cautious optimism.

“We’re hoping to start this much, much larger efficacy trial in, first Liberia, to determine if it actually works,” Said NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Even the White House is getting involved. Press secretary Josh Earnest says President Obama will visit the NIH next week to deliver congratulations, get a progress report and to continue pushing congress to approve funding to combat Ebola.

If development yields a usable vaccine, health care workers are expected to get the first doses. The latest numbers from the World Health Organization show 337 workers have died since the start of the outbreak.

Worldwide, the WHO attributes 5,459 deaths to the latest strain of Ebola.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 09:06:00 -0600
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On this Thanksgiving, an invisible shield protecting the earth from dangerous super fast electrons might not be too high on your list of things to be thankful for, but maybe it should be. (Video via NASA)

Scientists found this barrier through NASA probes in the Van Allen radiation belts, which range from about 620 miles to 37,000 miles above the earth's surface. (Video via NASA)

Dr. Nicky Fox of Johns Hopkins University explains, "The radiation belts are two donut-shaped regions that encircle the earth. They're home to very intense radiation, both electrons and protons. And when these particles get very energized they can cause problems for satellites and astronauts."

The scientists who looked at the NASA probe's findings described a barrier that keeps the highest energy particles, electrons in particular, out in the further region of the belts. "The presence of such a clear, persistent and seemingly impenetrable barrier to inward transport of ultrarelativistic electrons at this very specific location presents a substantial puzzle."

So the scientists say their findings weaken previous theories — which held that the decline of high-energy or ultrarelativistic electrons was gradual, and caused by the earth's magnetic field. (Video via NASA)

Instead, researchers think the explanation is probably a little more gassy. 

As the Los Angeles Times explains, "the researchers think it could have to do with electrically charged cold gas in a zone called the plasmasphere, which starts around 600 miles above the Earth and stretches thousands of miles into the outer, electron-dominated zone in the Van Allen belt."

If this all seems a little overwhelming to you, don't worry. You're not alone. 

"Not sure what all of that means, but I'm glad it's there," said KWGN's Tom Green.

So if you plan on watching a little Thanksgiving football via satellite, now at least you know what to thank — an invisible barrier of electrically charged gas hovering some 600 miles above the earth's surface. 

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<![CDATA[Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:08:00 -0600
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Ah, the plight of the Blu-ray disc. 

Though Blu-ray was touted as superior to DVD, its introduction to the market came at a bad time, when cloud technology and high-speed Internet were blossoming. (Video via TDK)

ComputerWorld released a 2014 article titled "Bye-bye, Blu-ray" about the same time Kotaku wished Blu-ray "Fare thee well" following its headline "Blu-Ray is Dying" due to declining worldwide sales.

But it looks like Blu-ray discs could have a second life ... one that happens to be green.

It started with researchers at Northwestern University cutting the edges off a Blu-ray disc. They were hoping to get at the internal structure of encoded data. (Video via International Data Group)

It turns out the encoded binary data on the disc formed patterns that are a couple hundred nanometers, making them "near-optimal" sizes for trapping photons. (YouTube / MinutePhysics)

These same photons are the type that renewable energy afficionados hold in such high regard. That's right, we're talking about solar panel technology.

Because of all the "islands and pits" — basically physical imprints of data on the disc — Blu-ray internal structures absorbed over 20 percent more photons than a regular solar panel design, according to the study.

The more photons absorbed, the merrier.

Blu-ray configurations made solar panels about 12 percent more efficient, which means researchers could consider them for molds for future solar panel construction.

So what movies make the best solar panels? Turns out it doesn't matter. Discs just have to have something written on them, compressed and error-controlled in the Blu-ray format.

For the record, researchers at Northwestern University used Jackie Chan's "Police Story 3: Supercop." 

This video includes an image from MrWichtig / CC BY SA 2.5.

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<![CDATA[Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:22:00 -0600
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Prosthetic limbs used to consist of wood and rubber, with maybe a pulley or hook to restore manipulation lost with a hand.

But today's cutting-edge prostheses look — and feel — a lot different. Thanks to advances in materials, electronics and surgical procedures, researchers are making prostheses more functional and high-tech than ever.

With the latest synthetic hands, wearers can feel what they’re holding, thanks to touch sensors built into the fingers and palm.

They’re accurate enough to differentiate between different textures — sandpaper and velcro, for example — and sensitive enough for users to handle fragile fruit without damaging it. (Video via DTSciVids)

The latest bionic arms, like the modular limb from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, can be wired straight to the wearer’s existing nerves. This reduces the amount of conscious thought necessary to operate the hand.

Not everyone can say they have some of the most advanced legs on the market. But Hugh Herr can, thanks to the technology he and his team have developed.

“We’re at a point of history now where we’re going beyond just a normal human using a tool. Bionics is a seamless integration between human physiology and electromechanics.”

Herr’s BiOM prosthesis mimics the human ankle and foot. It uses custom springs, microprocessors and battery power to deliver more energy per step, and in an upcoming release, users will be able to customize their legs’ settings with an app — more or less power, depending on the activity. (Video via TED, BiOM)

There’s no neural integration — yet — and one leg still comes with a $40,000 price tag.

But Herr tells Smithsonian he and his team are working on tapping into the nervous system for control, and they expect insurers will start to come around as high-end prostheses become more commonplace.

But these advances take time to get out of the lab, and brand-new technology isn't cheap. Many of the people who want or need prostheses can't afford them.

Some groups, like the Open Hand Project, are trying to figure out how to create low-cost, high-function prostheses, like this hand made from 3-D-printed plastic. It can't transmit sensations, but with a price point projected below $1,000, it’s much more affordable.

But replicating the subtlety and detail of human vision is a much more challenging — and expensive — endeavor.

Current retinal implants can only transmit basic shapes and flashes of light to the brain. Researchers tackling the problem in Australia say the tech needs higher resolution before it can come close to replacing vision. (Video via The Telegraph)

Still, the FDA approved an ocular prosthesis that restores limited sight in 2013.

The Argus II interprets footage from a video camera. A retinal implant sends the signals as light patterns to Larry Hester’s brain.

“The light is so basic and probably wouldn’t have significance to anybody else. But to me it’s meaning I can see light.” (Video via Duke Medicine)

Seeing again doesn’t come cheap — only seven people have received an Argus II, and it costs $145,000. Hester says Medicare covered his.

But that’s not always the case, which The Boston Globe points out is an ongoing problem for prosthetics. “Medicare and private insurers can be reluctant” to pay up for top-end devices.

Proponents say they want to change that mindset. After all, these devices have the potential to make people healthier and more productive.

Again, as Johns Hopkins prosthetics engineer Michael McLoughlin tells NPR, it will come down to the widespread use of prosthetics.

“If you start using robots to help people out who are disabled, or who work in dangerous situations, and it's all the same technology, the volumes go up and that drives the price down.”

This video includes images from Adam Zubin for The Noun Project / CC BY 3.0 and Wellcome Images / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[China Looks To Push Green Goals Through Financial Sector]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:56:00 -0600
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China has announced its latest plan to go green through its all-important financial sector — one of its biggest climate announcements since this month's environmental agreement with the U.S. put the spotlight on the country's climate strategy. 

The People's Bank of China Deputy Gov. Pan Gongsheng said on Wednesday the country will try to foster the growth of green industries and businesses. (Video via Hong Kong Economic Times)

Bloomberg reports in addition to that announcement, a top climate official in China said the country plans to start the nationwide trade in carbon permits within two years. 

These two announcements come in light of the biggest climate announcement China has made, at least in the context of U.S. relations, which hit earlier this month.

That agreement would have the U.S. and China making big changes to reduce emissions: the U.S. doubling the pace of emission reduction, and China pushing for less reliance on fossil fuels.  

President Obama said, "I commend President Xi, his team and the Chinese government for the commitment they are making to slow, peak and then reverse the pace of China's carbon emissions."

Republicans criticized that deal, saying the U.S. had to do too much and China too little.

Sen. John Barrasso said"To me this is an agreement that's terrible for the United States and terrific for the Chinese government and the politicians there."

That's not a new stance for many Republicans, who have over the years pointed to China's inaction on climate change to argue even if the U.S. did substantially cut emissions, it wouldn't outweigh China's. 

In a supercut of Republicans taking that stance, John Boehner said, "We can't do it alone as one nation."

Sen. James Inhofe added, "The problem's in China, the problem's in Mexico, the problem's in India."

"If we've got India, China and other industrialized countries not working with us, all we're going to do is ship millions of jobs overseas," said Boehner.

Still, Wednesday's announcement came after another announcement a week earlier that would cap China's coal consumption by 2020 and set a limit of 62 percent of the country's energy from coal. 

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

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<![CDATA[NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 07:42:00 -0600
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The International Space Station keeps getting all the creature comforts of a high-tech home — wi-fi, breathable atmosphere and now a 3D printer.

NASA astronauts made their first 3D printed part aboard the International Space Station Tuesday.

The printer and its product look much like those you’d find on earth, and uses the same heated plastic materials to create its projects. (Video via NASA)

The part was a faceplate for the printer itself — with the logos for NASA and Made in Space, the company that built the printer.

It’s an important step in proving the printer’s durability. It won’t break down as easily if it can build its own replacement parts, after all.

It’s also valuable as space agencies plan missions to more distant targets. NASA’s Bill Hubscher explains the further a mission is from Earth, the more useful creating its own supplies would be. (Video via NASA)

“When a part or a tool is broken or is not working correctly, and the spare part is 200 miles away here on the surface of the earth — explorers traveling to Mars or to asteroids will face these same challenges, but they won’t be able to get any resupplies,” Hubscher said.

The concept applies to more than just equipment. NASA is looking into using 3D printers to create space food, too — which has the potential to be compact and low-waste.

Made in Space chief engineer Mike Snyder writes on Space.com: tools, food, and more — anything is fair game as the printer technology develops.

“Future facilities will keep increasing the capabilities, to a point where the only items necessary to be launched into space are the astronauts themselves.”

The printer’s first set of parts will eventually make it back to Earth, however. Scientists want to compare them to versions printed on the ground to see how weightlessness affects the printing process.

This video includes images from NASA.

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<![CDATA[Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:20:00 -0600
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Hundreds of millions of people around the world have type 2 diabetes, and according to a new study, eating yogurt can reduce that risk. 

But HealthDay reports the study's lead author Dr. Frank Hu also says, "It's not a huge effect, about an 18 percent reduction [in risk]."

Eighteen percent might not be that much, but it's pretty significant when you consider researchers found no reduction at all when compared to consumption of other types of dairy. 

To come to these conclusions, Hu and his team of researchers from Harvard School of Public Health looked at the lifestyles and medical histories of health professionals from three different studies.

Medical News Today reports of the almost 200,000 participants, a little more than 15,000 reported having developed type 2 diabetes during the follow-up to those studies. 

The researchers did not take into account what types or brands of yogurt the participants ate or whether eating more than a single serving — which the website Livestrong says is about 8 ounces — can increase the 18 percent reduction in risk. 

People living with type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of the disease, either have issues producing insulin or the insulin that their body produces doesn't do an effective job of processing the glucose in their bloodstream. 

And type 2 diabetes is just one medical condition in a long list that yogurt seems to help. 

Earlier this month, eating yogurt was found to lower depression. It's also been credited with lowering blood pressure and protecting pregnant women and children against heavy metal poisoning

So why specifically yogurt and type 2 diabetes? Problem is, no one seems to know the answer. 

Hu told Forbes, "One hypothesis is that the probiotics in yogurt may help to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation."

But he also suggested people who eat yogurt could just live healthier lives in general. So again, the researchers don't really know why there might be a link. 

The Harvard School of Public Health also suggests maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and avoiding eating foods like red meat and white bread to lower one's risk of type 2 diabetes. 

The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was published in the journal BMC Medicine

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 08:30:00 -0600
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Antarctic sea ice is increasing — that's old news — but now it's also thicker than scientists thought, and that's only adding to the confusion. (Video via NASA)

A project to map Antarctic sea ice over the last four years from below using an underwater robot has produced the most detailed images of the sea ice to date, surveying an area of 500,000 square meters, or a fifth of a square mile. (Video via National Science Foundation)

For years the expanding sea ice in the Antarctic has been the focus of a lot of research, and a source of controversy, with climate change skeptics claiming it offsets the wide scale melting of Arctic sea ice. (Video via National Snow and Ice Data Center)

That's what Jay Lehr has argued. Lehr is the science director for the Heartland Institute — a conservative think tank that has repeatedly spoken out against climate change science. (Video via The Heartland Institute)

Lehr said, "Global warming activists like to claim global consequences resulting from carbon dioxide emissions, yet they conveniently forget to discuss the global nature of polar sea ice data. Instead, they only talk about Arctic sea ice, because that is the only polar region where sea ice is receding"

But scientists say the melting in the Arctic and the expanding ice in the Antarctic don't really balance each other out at all. 

NASA's Dr. Walt Meier put it this way: "That's simply not true. If you look at just simply the magnitude of the changes we're seeing in the winter time, the Arctic is decreasing about twice as fast as what the Antarctic is increasing."

And while scientists haven't pinpointed the main cause of expanding sea ice in the Antarctic, they're not exactly clueless. 

RiAus's Paul Willis said, "More rain and snow other effects of climate change could be layering the southern ocean with a cool dense layer on top. Rain and snow could also be freshening the surface waters and thus increasing the local freezing point for sea-ice formation."

Another possible reason is because Antarctic ice is based around a landmass — the continent of Antarctica — cold winds come off the continent and help form more ice, something that doesn't happen in the Arctic. (Video via NASA)

Adding to the confusion, while Antarctic sea ice is expanding as a whole, there's also a lot of melting going on, at uneven rates. 

"Here in the Bellingshausen Sea we find the area of sea ice is shrinking rapidly, compared to other areas of the Antarctic sea ice so therefore we're trying to understand the process of why this area of sea ice in the Bellingshausen sea is reducing," said Jeremy Wilkinson.

Scientists hope this first survey of sea ice thickness can pave the way for more extensive surveys in the future. 

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

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<![CDATA[From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 08:13:00 -0600
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You can run, but it's getting harder to hide from knowing exactly how many calories are in whatever you're eating. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will update its rule book, requiring everything from movie theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts on their menus. 

The new rules, required under the Affordable Care Act, are meant to fight growing obesity in the U.S. (Video via YouTube / SlimGenics)

The move has been praised by some activists. A public health professor at New York University told The Washington Post, "This is great news for public health and, hopefully, an incentive to restaurants to reformulate their offerings to be lower in calories.”

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg was equally positive saying “This initiative is really all about trying to provide consumers with information that they can use to make more informed food choices for themselves and their families."

Still, not everyone is thrilled they'll have to start showing customers just how much they're consuming.

One example: movie theaters. One of those large tubs of buttery popcorn can hold up to 1,200 calories according to WebMD

According to The New York Times, the Obama administration received a lot of pushback from both theater and pizza chains who weren't keen on sharing calorie counts. A research fellow with the Heritage Foundation told the Times the new rules amounted to "a shocking power grab."

But, the new rule set has its allies in the industry, too. The Wall Street Journal says the National Restaurant Association was in favor of the changes and more than 200,000 restaurants throughout the U.S. will have to update their menus now. 

Whether adding calories to menus actually changes peoples' eating habits is still up for debate though. 

Some point to a 2008 Starbucks study by Stanford that found out of 100 million transactions, displaying calorie counts only resulted in about a 6 percent drop in average calories purchased. (Video via Starbucks)

The new rules will be announced on Tuesday with restaurants and other businesses having one year to implement the changes and vending machines two years.  

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

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<![CDATA[Take Nestlé's Fat-Burning Drink Story With A Grain Of Salt]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:58:00 -0600
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If you're not one of the lucky few of us that actually enjoy a morning jog or a spin class, easy weight loss in a pill is still the dream.

Americans spend an estimated $2 billion a year on supplements that claim to boost metabolism, suppress appetite or make us thinner in one way or another. (Video via Hydroxycut, Xenadrine)

It can be hard to tell which, if any, of those products actually work, which you'll know if you've tried a few yourself. But when a big-name company like Nestlé says it's developing its own fat-burning potion, even some of the most jaded consumers will pay attention.

Last week, the company announced a team of health scientists were developing a compound that can mimic the effect exercise has on your metabolism — "Unlocking the metabolic 'master switch'" as they called it.

A paper in the journal Chemistry & Biology earlier this year detailed their creation, Compound-13, and its effects on the body's energy systems. It's been described in the media as "exercise in a bottle," a way to get fit while avoiding the gym.

One KNBC anchor admitted, "The idea of having a Nestlé Quik instead of going to that aerobics class, I'm in."

But you know by now that these stories always come with a catch, right? In this case, several catches.

The first is that the company says Compound-13 won't replace exercise, just boost its effects. You'll still have to lace up.

Second, the chocolate company's compound is still in early testing. Lots of products that look promising in the beginning fail to pan out, so you may never get that fat-burning Kit Kat.

And third, let's be honest: the diet pill industry has a really dubious past. 

Miracle weight loss supplements are a dime a dozen, many of them promoted in front of wide audiences by figures like Dr. Oz.

"And now I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It's raspberry ketone."

But government health sites warn that not nearly enough research has been done on weight-loss supplements to call any of them truly effective. And some supplements can actually be dangerous, resulting in things like liver failure

Fox News contributor Dr. Nina Radcliff said, "Any time we get news that there's an innovation that can help us lose weight without breaking out a sweat, we get excited. But we need to take it with a grain of salt. ... Don't forget Fen-Phen."

Host Martha MacCallum asked, "That caused heart problems, right?"

Radcliff replied, "It caused heart problems and people dying."

Still, it would be nice to have an extra tool in the fitness toolbox, so there's probably no harm in crossing our fingers and hoping Nestlé gets it right. 

This video includes images from will ockenden / CC BY 2.0 and rosmary / CC BY 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:50:00 -0600
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Raises, promotions, authority — all reasons for moving up in the workplace, but are these goals a hidden stressor for women?

The truth is authority, like the ability to hire and fire or set salaries, might add stress to anyone's workday. However, a study conducted by the University of Texas found "Exercising job authority exposes women to chronic interpersonal stressors that undermine the health benefits of job authority."

In other words, the conflict of, say, firing someone contributes to depression symptoms in high-ranking women. Of course, the same feelings were found in men as well, but the study concluded as men grew in their authoritative positions, depression decreased instead.

The study focused on a group of adults toward the end of their careers. The group included 1,300 men and 1,500 women.  

Researchers surveyed the group in 1993 when all participants were age 54 and again in 2004 when they reached the retirement age of 65. The Washington Post notes the subjects weren't given a clinical exam for depression, but rather they answered questions linked to depression, like "How many days did you feel depressed this week?"

So what's contributing to women counting more days than men? Lead author Tetyana Pudrovska says gender barriers continue to sponsor the belief men in power are more normal or more accepted when using authority.

"Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders. But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine. This contributes to chronic stress."

Another reason cited in the study: Internal conflict brought on by executing authority is amplified in women. But a writer for Jezebel says the ability to exercise that authority isn't the root problem.

"Obviously women can handle the authority and are willing to sacrifice some mental wellness for it. It seems the same social stigma that women overcome in order to attain positions of power can still stand in women's way when it comes to mental health."

Researchers published their findings in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Going forward, the study suggests leaders in the workplace environment should address the "gender discrimination, hostility, and prejudice against women leaders."

This video includes images from Getty Images, National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru / CC BY 2.0 and Fortune Live Media / Stephanie Merriken / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 07:27:00 -0600
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The ancient Roman city of Pompeii is a tragic story - destroyed in 79 AD by an eruption from Mount Vesuvius killing an estimated 16,000 people

Now, scientists are saying they've found an "underwater Pompeii," although no one is sure what caused this city's demise.  

The ruins are located off the coast of Delos, a Greek island. The settlement sank to the bottom of the Aegean Sea, and archaeologists have now found pottery remains and collapsed buildings in the water. 

The pottery remains are where the Pompeii comparisons come in because researchers found similar workshops in the ancient ruins off the Italians coast. This Greek island itself has an interesting history. 

In Greek mythology, the God of the sun, music and various other things (a Jack-of-all-trades God, it seems) Apollo, was born on Delos. He was the son of Zeus.

And according to the "Rough Guide to Greece," to add to Delos' quirkiness, no one was allowed to die or give birth on the island.

Given the island's history, it has long been an important historic site. Before the "underwater Pompeii" findings, the ruins were just thought to be a port. Archaeologists are planning further research.

This video includes an image from Jens Dahlin / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and music from Marika Papagika / CC BY NC ND 3.0.

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<![CDATA[Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It]]> Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:16:00 -0600
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Winter doesn't officially begin until Dec. 21.

But with daylight saving time and the crazy weather we’ve seen lately, it sure feels like the old man has arrived. The shorter days and freezing temps can make it fairly easy to start feeling a little blue. (Video via NBC)

That feeling is often referred to as the winter blues, but you should also be on the look out for more serious conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

According to WebMD, SAD has feelings of depression much like the winter blues, but it's more difficult to treat and reoccurs from year to year. KTVI explains a few signs to look out for if you think the winter weather might be bringing you down. 

"This disorder is characterized by severe depression, extreme fatigue ... so they sleep 10-15 hours a day. ... When they're awake they get a lot of cravings for carbohydrates so they gorge on carbohydrates. " 

While symptoms of the winter blues and SAD are similar, you can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in any season. Though in the summer and spring you'll see different symptoms like insomnia, loss of appetite and weight loss. 

Dr. Robert Levitan explained to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health"Seasonal depression is about 80% in women and only 20% in men." In the U.S. about 6 percent of the population or roughly 18 million people. 

Untreated depression can have a long list of adverse effects on your health. Including an increase in risks behaviors like abusing drugs or alcohol, difficulty maintaining personal and professional relationships and making poor choices when trying to overcome other health problems like a heart attack or stroke. 

So, if you are feeling down in the dumps don’t ignore it. There are actually quite a few steps you can take, even at home, to combat feelings of depression.

One of the main culprits of winter depression is a lack of sunlight. While it is possible to get too much sunlight, there are so many benefits to sufficient exposure.

According to Medical Daily just 15 minutes of sunlight can help you get a better night's sleep, increase mood, lower blood pressure and provide vitamin D. 

If you do catch a sunny day, go outside and soak up some rays. But there are options for the gloomy days too, including something called light therapy. 

Light therapy devices including boxes and visors mimic natural light and can help boost your mood.  (Video via YumaLite)

"I get up in the morning, I sit down at a table and use my light box while I read the morning paper. Twenty minutes in the morning is just enough to get me going each day. Light therapy really, really made a huge difference." (Video via Discovery)

Exercise is also a good tool. Just an hour of exercise outside can heat up the body and help boost your mood. That hour has about the same effects as two hours of light therapy. (Video via YouTube / Lisa Andrews)

Also, don't forget to take your vitamins. Multivitamins are good because they include needed nutrients and supplement the missed vitamin D. 

Other than a lack of sunlight, the temps can often keep us from wanting to go out and socialize. Being around loved ones can really help improve your mood. 

So if you're making plans, think about what you're going to wear. Lifehacker reports bright colors also have an effect on mood. But it's also noted, "This tip isn't a cure for the seasonal affective disorder. It's a simple and easy way to beat the monotony of the season." 

WNEP talked to a psychologist who has one last tip. Stay busy instead of concentrating on what you can't do because of the winter weather. 

"Try to plan for activities that you might be able to do in the spring, like planting your garden. Try to look forward to those things." 

If none of these methods work, antidepressants are sometimes used to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Just make sure to talk to you doctor first.

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<![CDATA[Don't Fall For Flu Shot Myths]]> Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:21:00 -0600
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Have you gotten your flu shot? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most Americans older than 6 months get the shot as soon as it becomes available in the fall, but every year some pass on the drug because of some common misconceptions.   

One myth is that the flu shot shot can give you the flu. The CDC says that's just not the case. 

While some flu shots do contain the flu virus, the virus has been inactivated and cannot infect you. The most common side effects are just slight irritation where the shot was given. 

And then there is always the commonly held belief you'll be fine this year because you just got a shot last year. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. 

Mayo Clinic explains you have to get vaccinated every year because the flu viruses evolve every year. The flu viruses that you were vaccinated for last year, probably aren't the same viruses that are going around this year. 

Now, if you haven't gotten the vaccine because you thought you waited too late in the season, here's some good news. 

Flu.gov explains early immunization is best, but you can get the vaccine at any time during flu season. It just takes about two weeks for you to be protected against the illness. 

Every year around 200,000 people are hospitalized from the seasonal flu in the US. 

The CDC says the shot reduces your odds of getting the flu by 70 to 90 percent. 

Those advised not to get the shot include children younger than 6 months, and those who have allergies to any of the vaccine's ingredients. 

Afraid of needles? You're in luck. Most providers also offer a nasal spray vaccination option. 

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<![CDATA[Poo-Powered Bus Hits U.K. Streets]]> Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:02:00 -0600
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A new bio-bus is capturing British hearts and minds...and excrement.

GENeco, a subsidiary of the water and sewage utility in Southwest England, unveiled a bus that runs on bio-methane produced, in part, by human waste. (Video via Wessex Water)

The press has already dubbed it the "poo bus" and "the number two," the 40-seat single decker has been dropped into an existing shuttle route between the city of Bath and the Bristol Airport. (Video via ITV)

That's about a 20 mile trip and sees up to 10,000 passengers a month according to the Bath Bus Company, which runs the service.

The bus can travel up to 186 miles on a single tank gas, the equivalent of the annual deposits of 5 people. As one bus company spokesman told ODN, all joking aside, that human waste is a highly sustainable energy resource. (Video via The Telegraph)

"Bio-methane is not a fossil fuel. It's infinitely renewable. All the time there are people on the planet producing waste, the bio-methane will be produced. So it's carbon neutral."

GENeco says the bio-methane it generates can also be injected into the national grid and used to heat houses and powering stoves, not just buses. (Video via GENeco)

"So when you are cooking your breakfast at home you'll be cooking it on what you've just potentially flushed down the toilet," GENeco general manger Mohammed Saddiq told the BBC.

This is not the first time bio-methane buses have taken to the streets of Europe. 

Back in 2009, Oslo converted 80 of its municipal buses to run on bio-methane as part of its plan to become carbon-neutral by the year 2050.

And the city of Iasi, Romania modified 30 of its buses to operate bio-methane in 2011.

The arrival of the bio-bus is almost perfect timing for the Bristol airport, as the city of Bristol itself has been named the European Green Capital for 2015.

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<![CDATA[Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You]]> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:41:00 -0600
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The ocean is an amazing place: such a vast area full of mysterious and rarely seen creatures. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The anglerfish is one of them. It's rare that the creature is caught on film, but one aquarium recently did just that. (Video via National History Museum

The Monterey Bay Aquarium released a photo of the fish a few days ago on Facebook explaining, "This is the first time we've captured this fish on video in its habitat." At more than 1,600 feet below the surface, where it's pitch black, that's a rare accomplishment. 

The picture attracted a ton of attention, so the aquarium shared a video Friday. 

"Anglers have a remarkable apparatus on their heads — a fishing pole with a luminous lure on the tip which they use to attract prey. In the darkness of deep water they flash them to attract prey and draw them near the angler's mouth. When a fish ... swims up it is quickly inhaled," explained the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Not exactly something you'd want to take home and cuddle. You probably couldn't even if you wanted to. According to the aquarium, only about half a dozen of the fish have been caught on video in its natural habitat. 

"I'm going to get you. I'm going to swim with you. I'm going to be your best friend. Good feelings gone." (Video via Walt Disney Pictures / "Finding Nemo")

Even Disney couldn't throw some cuteness magic on Ms. Anglerfish. I say Ms. because the most well-known feature of the fish, that little rod, is only on women — they're appropriately nicknamed Black Seadevils. 

"The lure is created by bioluminescent bacteria that live inside the angler. ... If it's difficult to find food this deep it's even more difficult to find a girlfriend. Deep sea angler fish solve the problem by have extremely clingy relationships and never letting go, ever," explained National Geographic

By comparison, the males are actually pretty helpless. No, very helpless and tiny — it searches through the waters only to find a mate which it then clings on to using its sharp teeth and fuses with the female. Then ... well, then it gets creepier.  (Video via Animal Planet

"He then atrophies, losing his digestive organs, brain, heart and eyes and winds up nothing more than a pair of gonads, which release sperm when needed. ...To the female angler fish the human male is a very loud, annoying and unnecessarily complicated pair of gonads." (Video via Youtube / zefrank1)

 

Hey, everyone or everything is entitled to his or her opinion, right? 

While spotting the anglerfish is rare, given that they live in one of the least habitable places on Earth, there are actually about 200 different species of the carnivores fish lurking through the waters. As you can see, none of them look any less freaky than their counterpart. 

There's still a lot researchers don't know about the anglerfish. The ladies are typically about a foot long but can sometimes grow up to three and a half feet and 110 pounds. Also, it's able to eat prey twice its size. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Which means no one is safe, not even this guy

On that note, sweet dreams. 

This video includes an image from Masaki Miya et al. / CC BY 2.0. 

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<![CDATA[You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:48:00 -0600
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A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most of the country’s excessive drinkers are not alcoholics.

It found nine out of 10 Americans who drink large amounts per setting do not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence.

Dependence meaning strong cravings, an inability to limit drinking and withdrawals.

This study challenges a common myth that the only people who need treatment for drinking are alcoholics.

The CDC says excessive drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths annually, but only a fraction of those came from alcohol dependence.

These deaths were from health complications that resulted from years of overconsumption of alcohol.

Study author Bob Brewer said, "We need to look at this problem with a wider-angle lens and consider not just treatment for those who need it."

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines "binge drinking" as drinking enough to get your BAC above 0.08 — about five drinks for men or four drinks for women in two hours.

Researchers found binge drinking to be be highest in young men — with most coming from households with an annual income of $75,000 or greater.

Yet alcoholism was most common in households with an annual income less than $25,000.

Researchers encouraged people who are alcohol dependent to seek specialized treatment. And those who are not dependent, but drink excessively to consider counseling.

Among the recommendations to lower excessive drinking, researchers suggested stiffer penalties for stores that sell to intoxicated customers and higher taxes on alcohol.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Alexander Rabb / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:15:00 -0600
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Are you one of those people who's always in a relationship?

Or maybe you're perpetually single?

Well, your status might have something to do with your genes, according to a new study out of China.

Researchers in Beijing discovered the gene named 5-HTA1. Carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single.

According to the Daily Mirror: "5-HTA1 is thought to lower serotonin levels - a feel-good chemical - which causes people to feel uncomfortable in close relationships."

Carriers are also generally more neurotic and have a higher rate of depression.

And researchers found those attributes are "detrimental to the formation, quality and stability of relationships."

But some experts questioned the reliability of the research — this was from a relatively small sample size of 600 people, and all of them students.

One relationship expert told the Daily Mail: "If someone's difficulties with dating are flagged up to them, I believe they can learn to interact in a way that will make them more successful in meeting somebody."

Still, when Grandma asks you again this Christmas why you're still not married, you can tell her she's at least a teeny bit responsible.

This video includes images from Know Your Meme and Tom Woodward / CC BY NC 2.0

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<![CDATA[5 Hot Months, 1 Warm Year And All The Arguments To Follow]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:42:00 -0600
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The country's attention shifted this week to crippling snowstorms in the northeast burying entire cities under several feet of snow, so let's talk about how ungodly warm it's been this year. No, really.

Despite the eastern United States being one of the colder zones on the planet this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just became the latest organization to pronounce 2014 likely the hottest on record. (Video via WGRZ)

The NOAA released a dizzying set of statistics Thursday marking October as the fifth month so far this year to set temperature records.

In fact, the agency's climate monitoring chief said in a conference call the question now is less about whether 2014 will break the heat record. "The remaining question is: How much?" Deke Arndt said. (Video via TakePart)

Again, this is one of several stats and maps NOAA put out Thursday, but it shows the average temperature since January compared to historical data. Bright red means record high temps.

Much of the record temps have been attributed to warming of the oceans, despite the complete absence of a major warming weather event like El Nino this year. (Video via NASA)

Global warming remains one of the more contentious issues world leaders face — widely accepted and documented by science as contributing to climate change, yet fiercely denounced by businesses and ignored by countries reliant on fossil fuels.

The most recent argument for global warming detractors came from a 15-year slowdown in the rise of temperatures even as greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase.

It remains to be seen if 2014 marks the beginning of the end for that argument, but it comes only a week after NASA released similar statistics showing this year's October tied for the warmest since 1880 and Japan's Meteorological Society called it the warmest October ever.

Last week, President Obama and China's Xi Jinping struck a historic deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.

For more on future climate conferences and why they could produce meaningful results for the first time in decades, check out this Newsy story linked in the text of this story.

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

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<![CDATA[Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 07:52:00 -0600
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A new study finds — you’re not getting any younger.

No, really. Researchers at NYU and UCLA found as people approach the next decade in their lives, it can weigh on them. They found data to suggest when people hit that big X-9 — right before they tick over into a new decade of life, that is — they engage in little existential crises and search for more meaning in their lives.

“Because life transitions tend to prompt changes in evaluations of the self, people are more apt to evaluate their lives as a chronological decade ends than they are at other times.”

One of the study’s authors told The Washington Post there’s something psychological to those particular birthdays.

“They seem big, they seem looming and they seem more important to us than the others. They make us step back and think about how things have been going up until then and how we want them to go moving forward.”

The study found people change things for the better or for the worse. It analyzed results from other studies, and crunched statistics from marathon registration, dating website use and suicide rates. They all spike among people about to reach their next decade. (Video via The Guardian)

This even affects purchasing habits — people tended to pay up for expensive things, including life insurance and cosmetic surgery.

The authors say "Being aware of the tendency to do so can help consumers decide if they are making such decisions for the right reasons."

As if there’s a wrong reason for a flashy new Corvette, right?

The full text of the study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This video includes images from jpstanley / CC BY NC SA 2.0, Beth Punches / CC BY ND 2.0 and Daniel Dionne / CC BY SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:49:00 -0600
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Your job could be protecting your aging brain. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found the more complicated someone's job is, the more likely they are to score well on memory and cognitive thinking tests into old age.

The researchers first looked at the childhood IQ tests of around 1,000 elderly participants. They then compared those results with cognitive testing done when the participants were 70 — years after retirement for some.

Researchers defined the complexity of a job by using definitions from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and scored jobs on level of complexity. They divided jobs into two types: jobs that require you to work with people, and those that require you to work with data.

In terms of working with people, jobs that ranked as highly complicated included lawyers or surgeons. Examples of less complicated jobs? Factory workers and painters.

Highly complicated jobs involving data included architects and civil engineers; less complicated included construction workers and telephone operators.

Researchers found the participants who had jobs that had scored high in either category also scored higher in cognitive testing — like memory tests.

So whether you're working with people or data, if your job is complicated, you're likely scoring better on cognitive tests into old age.

One thing to point out, though — researchers found many people who had higher IQs had gone into more complex fields. In fact, they found the childhood tests accounted for about 50 percent of the differences in the scores.

But the other 50 percent of the variance in scores did appear to come from the participants' time on the job — making the case that exercising the brain through work really can benefit cognitive health.

Researchers have asked study participants to return for more testing so they can discover how career choices affect the brain into more advanced ages.

This video includes images from Patrick / CC BY NC 2.0James Mutter / CC BY NC ND 2.0Seattle Municipal Archives / CC BY 2.0George Smyth / CC BY NC, Kompania Piwowarska / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY 2.0 and music by Podington Bear / CC BY NC 3.0.

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<![CDATA[What's The Point Of Climate Conferences?]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:04:00 -0600
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The United Nations conference on climate change in Paris is more than a year away, but already there's optimism that world leaders might actually reach a substantial agreement.

To understand why that's such a big deal, it's worth looking at conferences that have come before.

Berlin, Kyoto, The Hague, New Delhi, Montreal, Copenhagen, Durban, Doha — these are just a few of the cities that have hosted a United Nations climate conference since 1995, and during that time global carbon emissions have continued to rise.

September's climate summit at the U.N. headquarters in New York featured more than 120 world leaders, making it the biggest summit yet. (Video via United Nations)

But for all that, how many substantive agreements has the U.N. produced?

Environmental Defense Fund chief scientist Michael Oppenheimer told NBC: "160 different countries 160 different economies, 160 different views."

The only agreement you might have heard of is 1997's Kyoto Protocol. 

It went into effect in 2005, and the first four-year commitment period started in 2008 — during which some 37 countries, along with the European Union, were meant to reduce emissions by around 5 percent from 1990 levels. (Video via TakePart)

In all, 192 countries signed on to the agreement, but global emissions continued to rise because of a notable absence: the United States. 

At the time of the Kyoto summit, the U.S., followed by China, was the world's biggest polluter when it came to greenhouse gas emissions, and it was reluctant to agree to a uniformly binding deal. (Video via American Lung Association)

But now, those two countries have brokered their own agreement, which aims to reduce the U.S.' emissions 24-26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. (Video via The White House)

China's side of the agreement is a little less binding: It has to peak its emissions by 2030, by which time it also has to produce 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources. (Video via DuPont)

Not only has the U.S. agreed to the China deal, it's also pushing the issue globally. At the most recent G20 summit in Brisbane, President Obama focused on climate change, despite behind-the-scenes pushback from his host, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. (Video via Sky News)

"You'll recall at the beginning I said the United States and Australia has a lot in common. Well, one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon … which means we've got to step up," President Obama said.

With that in mind, it's easy to see why Paris 2015 — where world leaders are expected to draft a new protocol on climate change — is getting so much attention.

Thousands of demonstrators turned out in the French capital to protest the perceived ineffectiveness of such meetings ahead of September's summit in New York — a reflection of the skepticism climate conferences tend to draw. (Video via Press TV)

But there is optimism and, importantly, urgency about next year's conference, as Bloomberg's Michael Liebrich explains. (Video via Bloomberg)

"The science, technology, economics, and finance all point to a deal being more likely in Paris in 2015 than in Copenhagen in 2009. It will be more significant than the largely meaningless Copenhagen Accord."

However, Liebrich doesn't expect any accord to keep the global temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius — the benchmark established in Copenhagen to define “dangerous” climate change. (Video via Cop15)

And as Vox points out, "Recent analysis by MIT researchers looked at what was realistic to expect from countries in terms of emissions pledges. … The 2015 pledges would fall short of the cuts needed to stay below 2°C of global warming."

And if previous climate conferences have shown us anything, it's that when it comes to optimism — the bar is set very, very low. 

The hype about Paris has all but overshadowed the U.N.'s next climate conference which will be taking place in Lima, Peru in less than a month — a conference which has cost the country millions of dollars to organize. It begins Dec. 1. (Video via Interior Ministry of Peru)

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

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<![CDATA[Obesity Costs Almost As Much As War And Terrorism]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 09:15:00 -0600
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It's easy to get lost in the sea of statistics surrounding the obesity epidemic, but this most recent number jumps out at you — $2 trillion. 

That's the impact a study says the obesity epidemic has on the global economy, putting it just behind war and terrorism, and smoking. (Video via ABC)

Analysis from the McKinsey Global Institute cites the number of obese people in the world — some 2 billion — and argues an intervention is needed because current trends would leave close to half of the world's population obese by 2030.

In the United States the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current numbers show close to 40 percent of adults are obese, with 17 percent of children obese as well — numbers that are projected to rise. (Video via George Washington University)

Child obesity in particular goes a long way toward hiking up healthcare costs — a study earlier this year found child obesity could increase the cost of care by close to $20,000 over a lifetime. (Video via CBS)

But obesity rates aren't rising in the U.S. alone — the developing world has also seen a spike in the number of obese people. 

Steve Wiggins of the Overseas Development Institute told The Guardian"The statistics are quite sensational: it's a tripling of the number of people who are considered overweight and obese in the developing world since 1980"

As The Atlantic reports, analysts chalk up the increase in obesity in developing countries to rising incomes, urbanization and television. 

McKinsey advises a number of specific measures, such as reducing portion sizes, but says to make a real dent in obesity rates, change has to come from all sectors of society. 

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<![CDATA[Texting Is Like Adding 60 Pounds To Your Spine]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:19:00 -0600
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Now-a-days smartphones are basically attached to peoples' hands. 

But a new study shows using the devices so frequently really can become a pain in the neck — quite literally. 

NBC Anchor Savannah Guthrie said, "When you text it is equal to four bowling balls on your spine."

"What?" 

"Every time you look down at your smartphone ... the pressure's equal to 60 pounds." 

To get the findings, one researcher at Surgical Technology International explained, "We made the calculations using neck + head, which gave an average weight of [13.2 pounds]." This graph shows how much pressure is added to your spine depending on the degree your head is titled. Even with your head in a neutral position, there are still 10-12 pounds to support. But it can be a bit alarming to see that number increases to 60 pounds when your head is at a 60 degree angle — which is just about chin to chest. 

For perspective, a punching bag weighs around 60 pounds. I've personally never had a punching bag on my neck — but i'd imagine it wouldn't feel too great. 

Those large and pretty shocking numbers have lead some outlets to be a bit skeptical of the findings — more specifically the amount of blame for back and neck problems placed on cell phones. 

WYOU: "You know what else can cause those problems? Shoveling five feet of snow." 

At this point there's plenty of that — particularly for people living in buffalo.

And what about cleaning, cooking, eating, reading, sometimes even walking — you know, if it's been a particularly rough day. But on average, a person will spend way more time on their phones than any other named activity. 

According to the researchers "People spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted over reading and texting on their smart phones and devices. Cumulatively this is 700 to 1400 hours a year of excess stresses seen about the cervical spine."

If you're worried about the findings, researchers recommend cutting back on texting time or staying upright while using your devices. 

This video includes images from Garry Knight / CC BY SA 2.0, the U.S. Marine Corps and Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Trans-Fat Foods Now Linked To Poor Memory]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 12:14:00 -0600
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What you're eating might be eating you ... well, eating at your memory banks, anyway.

A new study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions this week has shown a link between trans fat consumption and memory loss. 

To come to that conclusion, scientists showed healthy adults flashcards with words to memorize. They then tested whether the participants could remember which words they had already been shown.

The most striking results were for men between ages 20 and 45 whose diets were high in trans fats. These participants remembered 11 fewer words, or about 12 percent less, than their healthier cohorts.

NATALIE MORALES FOR NBC"That's regardless of their education or ethnicity. More studies are needed to determine if these fats have the same effect on young women."

Trans fats have traditionally been used as food preservers, extending the shelf life of many processed foods since the 1950s. They also give taste and texture to many foods we know and love.

"Spreads and margarines. Packaged Foods. Packaged soups. Fast foods. Frozen foods. Baked goods. Chips and crackers. Breakfast cereals and energy bars." (Video via YouTube / ehowhealth)

Though according to Medical News Today, trans-fat consumption has decreased about one-third since 1980. That's due to regulators pulling trans-fat products from grocery shelves and out of restaurant foods.

Research has shown that diets high in trans fat have other negative health impacts.

JEAN GUTIERREZ FOR RT: "Trans fats are strongly linked to very high risk for heart disease and cardiovascular death."

Even in the past year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stepped up the pressure to get trans fats out of food. (Video via ABC)

ANCHOR FOR ABC"A big announcement from the FDA requiring companies to phase out all trans fats from our foods, saying this could save up to 7,000 lives a year."

And the lead author of the memory study made her opinion on trans fats clear, saying, "As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people."

The recommendation for cardiovascular health is to cut out as many trans-fat foods as possible. Now doctors can add improved memory to the benefits list. 

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<![CDATA[Why You Should Give A Crap About World Toilet Day]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 09:38:00 -0600
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All right, folks, it's time for some toilet talk. Seriously. This Wednesday marks the second annual World Toilet Day, and while the subject is easy to make fun of, it's a big issue.

That's because according to the United Nations, 2.5 billion people, or 35 percent of the world's population, currently don't have access to basic sanitation such as toilets and latrines.

THE GUARDIAN: "More people around the world have access to mobile phones than to toilets. The numbers are actually quite close both are around the 4.5 billion mark but the implications are clear — we value a text, a tweet and blinking pixels more than one of our most basic sanitary needs."

According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, more than 1 billion of those people without access to basic sanitation are forced to practice open defecation, which can spread illnesses such as diarrhea or cholera through contaminated water. 600 million of them live in India.

The unsanitary practice is not only a risk to those who are forced to clean it, as Human Rights Watch shows in this video, but also to millions of children under the age of 5.

It's an issue that's led to the creation of some rather interesting sanitation campaigns by world organizations — such as this UNICEF cartoon.

UNICEF: "Let's take the poo to the loo. Let's take the poo to the loo."

Nonetheless, toilets are important for other reasons aside from health. According to the World Health Organization, poor water and sanitation costs developing countries $260 billion each year, or roughly 1.5 percent of their GDP. (Video via WaterAid)

And the World Bank's "Take it On" campaign for sanitation also points out how open defecation can hurt women's dignity or even put them at risk of being attacked while vulnerable.

India isn't the only country facing the problem of open defecation and lack of sanitation. It's a global issue, and it's even caught the attention of some celebrities.

MATT DAMON VIA WATER.ORG: "And so in protest of this global tragedy, until this issue is resolved, until everybody has access to clean water and sanitation, I will not go to the bathroom."

With the United Nations' goal of improving global sanitation and ending open defecation by 2025, it seems like Mr. Damon might be waiting awhile for that trip to the bathroom.

This video includes a logo from the United Nations

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<![CDATA[Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 09:06:00 -0600
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An ambitious space project hopes the idea of preserving a piece of yourself in the cosmos for millennia is enough to get you to invest.

Lunar Mission One, which dubs itself "the most inspirational Moon project since the Apollo landings," wants to raise nearly $1 million on Kickstarter over the next month with plans to drill into the moon's surface.

RICHARD HOLDAWAY, DIRECTOR OF RAL SPACE: "There's a lot of science that's been carried out on the moon, but never below the surface. ... Because it has to drill down to be able to bring out core samples, it's going to put something back in." (Video via Lunar Mission One)

That something back in, as we said, could be a piece of you. (Video via Lunar Mission One)

And we mean that both figuratively and literally. Donors who reach a certain level can send Lunar Mission One with a digital hard drive of essentially whatever they'd like preserved.

The mission also claims you can also even preserve your DNA for a billion years by sending along a strand of hair.

As far as the point of the mission, which is slated for 2024, the British researchers believe Lunar Mission One's drilling could tell us more about the origins and development of the moon and Earth along with looking for subsurface water. (Video via NASA)

This certainly isn't the only commercial lunar exploration in the works. Google's offering $30 million to the winner of its Lunar X Prize to land a robot on the moon, move it 500 meters across the surface and send HD video back to Earth.

But just think of the urban legends and the conspiracy theories that could go with this one!

Instead of Walt Disney cryogenically frozen in some super secret vault, DNA stored in the underground of the moon.

That long-awaited, second solid angle to supplement the Zapruder film could someday get loaded onto a spaceship to be buried 240,000 miles away from Earth.

Alright, that's all a bit of a stretch. And to be fair, it doesn't look like you're exactly running out of time to sign up. The highest levels of donation for Lunar Mission One currently appear to have plenty of spots still available.

This video includes images from Getty Images, Melanie Cook / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and Gator Chris / CC BY NC SA 2.0 and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.

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<![CDATA[Why A Russian Object Is Being Called A 'Satellite Killer']]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:53:00 -0600
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Outer space is having a moment. In recent weeks, we've celebrated at least one great success — with the Rosetta mission — and two setbacks, one of which resulted in the death of a Virgin Galactic pilot.

Now, there's a space mystery brewing, with some outlets using terms like "satellite killer" to describe a Russian spacecraft currently orbiting our planet. 

Russia reportedly launched a rocket back in May containing a few military satellites. Afterward, an object that was thought to be debris started making maneuvers, even seemingly making contact with other Russian spacecraft.

Fueling speculation is the fact Russia didn't initially declare the object's launch until much later. That of course doesn't mean there's a sinister objective for the satellite. Patricia Lewis, space security expert for think-tank the Chatham House, told The Washington Post, "I have no idea what it is." 

But speaking to the Financial Times, Lewis did give some guesses to what it could be, saying, "It could have a number of functions, some civilian and some military. One possibility is for some kind of grabber bar. Another would be kinetic pellets which shoot out at another satellite."

Those highly-imaginative possibilities sound a bit unsettling but aren't exactly shots in the dark. 

This is a U.S. Department of Defense sketch from 1986 of what an anti-satellite weapon would've looked like — shooting pellets.

As it turns out, Russia actually had an anti-satellite program called Satellite Fighter program. The Soviet Union launched its first "killer" satellite in the '60s, but the program eventually fell apart after the Cold War.

Again, nobody really knows what this new satellite is, but if it really is a satellite killer, it isn't the only one of its kind.

Robert Christy, a long-time satellite tracker, told The Moscow Times via phone the U.S. and China are developing similar technology. He said, "In a nutshell, you've got all three countries doing the same thing."  

In fact, just last year, Chinese satellites also had "experts guessing" after one intercepted another.  

If you're interested in tracking the Russian satellite that has revived this anti-satellite weapon conversation, log on top n2yo.com and search for Cosmos 2499. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images. 

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<![CDATA[Popular Cholesterol Drug Now Proven To Have Positive Effects]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:20:00 -0600
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A cholesterol-lowering drug that's been given to patients for more than a decade has just now been proven effective in a study presented by the American Heart Association. So what's the story here?

The drug in question is Zetia, a cholesterol absorption inhibitor. It was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002 but fell under controversy six years later.

That's because in 2008, Zetia's makers Merck and Schering-Plough saw their stock prices fall as they announced that in clinical trials, Zetia did not reduce fatty plaque in subjects' arteries like it was supposed to. (Video via MedPage Today)

KATIE COURIC FOR CBS: "In fact, it actually increased the amount of plaque, did it not?"

DR. STEVEN NISSEN: "Well, the differences were not statistically significant, but the trend was going in the wrong direction."

Though Zetia, generic ezetimibe, and Vytorin, a Zetia-statin combination drug, have still been prescribed to patients since that report, sales of the multibillion-dollar franchise have fallen since 2008.

In fact, with the recent positive results announced Tuesday, multiple outlets are producing headlines like "Study Lifts Cloud Over Heart Drugs Zetia, Vytorin" and "Controversial Cholesterol Drug Redeemed By Global Clinical Test."

"The drug did lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients already on aggressive therapy. This in a study that lasted almost a decade." (Video via Nightly Business Report)

Those already in "aggressive therapy" are what researchers call "high risk," which were the only patients to see significant benefits from using Zetia. They had to have a previous heart attack or unstable angina to qualify for the study.

But the benefit for those high-risk patients was notable. When Zetia was combined with a statin, cardiac events like heart attack and stroke dropped 6.4 percent, according to The New York Times.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, on average, 1 in every 4 deaths in America each year is due to cardiac events and heart disease.

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<![CDATA[Scientists Find Out What's Been Killing Millions Of Starfish]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:45:00 -0600
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Scientists have identified the culprit behind a disease that's killed millions of starfish along the West Coast — an outbreak that could have a significant impact on marine ecosystems.

In a study published Monday, researchers said they could chalk up the wasting disease to a specific virus that drastically weakens the starfishes' immune systems. 

The virus can lead to some pretty gruesome symptoms, like the starfish detaching its own arms without regenerating them, and essentially dissolving the starfish into goo. (Video via PBS)

Over the past year the disease has been detected on coastlines from Southern California all the way north to Alaska, with the bulk of the reports coming from the Northwest. 

Divers in Washington state were some of the first to report the massive die-offs, including diver Laura James, who took extensive video of the dead starfish. (Video via Vimeo / Laura James)

Although the starfish killer now has an identity, the timing is still kind of a mystery. 

The researchers said they have found the virus in starfish dating back 70 years, so it's not really clear why it only just started causing such massive die-offs. (Video via One Health Institute)

A writer for National Geographic points to the booming number of sea stars, which "may have given the virus newfound impetus. ... The virus could have more easily jumped from host to host, or developed mutations that made it more transmissible or virulent."

But an Oregon ecologist told the American Association for the Advancement of Science he believes it could be the increasing acidification of the world's oceans, a phenomenon tied to warming oceans. 

Whatever it is, the effects could be far-reaching, because believe it or not, starfish are actually pretty important predators. 

DREW HARVELL VIA KCTS"We're losing a whole guild of stars that are voracious predators, all of which can control their ecosystem, and so to lose all of them at once, we don't even know what's going to happen." 

Scientists say they're not sure how to reverse the trend on a large scale, although breeding resistant starfish in captivity is one option they're looking at. 

This video includes an image from Wolfram Burner / CC BY NC 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Second Polio Strain Possibly Eradicated, What's Next?]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:41:00 -0600
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In what researchers are calling  a "historic milestone," poliovirus type 3 might be completely eradicated — there have been no new reports of the strain in two years. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if a strain of polio has not been seen worldwide in three or more years, it can then be considered eradicated. This month brought the two-year mark. 

A quick clarification — there are three known strains of the poliovirus: types 1, 2 and 3. 

Type 2 was officially stamped out in 1999, but type 1 is still spreading rampantly throughout Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Breitbart reports Pakistan, in particular, has reached troubling and record-breaking numbers, topping 200 people infected with the debilitating virus in 2014. Polio can lead to irreversible paralysis and even death. 

BBC: "More than the virus, they have to battle cultural taboos and Islamist militants who are opposed to the vaccination. Islamist militants think it's a Western ploy to sterilize Muslims and a cover for Western spite." 

It also didn't help ease locals' skepticism when the White House confirmed earlier this year the CIA used vaccination campaigns to hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Unfortunately, stopping the spread becomes extremely difficult without vaccination, as polio is highly contagious.

Although many people with polio have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, LiveScience explains type 1 poses the most danger, "causing illness in 1 out of every 200 people it infects. Type 3 sickens about 1 in 2,000 people it infects."

Now, with that being said — the chance of completely ending the spread of polio is still very possible. 

"We're this close." In 1988 the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched with the goal of creating a polio-free world. Currently 200 countries are involved in the effort. (Video via Rotary International)

And as the World Health Organization notes, since the initiative began, "polio case numbers have decreased by more than 99% (with only 416 polio cases reported in 2013)."

EDUCATION PORTAL: "This virus is spread from person-to-person via the horizontal transmission route. Such as when someone ... is around someone who sneezes or coughs out this virus, drinks water contaminated with a sick person's feces or eats food with the virus on it." 

And in the three countries where the transmission of polio has never stopped, sanitation is poor, health care systems are weak, and as mentioned earlier, there's a lack of knowledge about vaccinations, which can be critical in stopping the virus. 

However, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has a long-term plan to increase vaccinations. Set to run through 2018, the plan spotlights Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the organization says the program has shown positive results so far.

The possibility of eradicating polio in the coming years is significant, especially considering the virus is believed to have been around since prehistory. Ancient Egyptian artwork depicted what looks like people infected with polio.

This video includes images from Getty Image and Tom-B / CC0 1.0.

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<![CDATA[Sierra Leone Surgeon With Ebola Dies At Neb. Hospital]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 08:59:00 -0600
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Dr. Martin Salia, the surgeon from Sierra Leone being treated in the U.S., has died. 

The Nebraska hospital that was caring for Dr. Salia tweeted the news Monday morning, saying he passed away because of advanced symptoms of the disease and he was in extremely critical condition with his lungs and kidneys failing when he arrived. 

Authorities took Dr. Salia to the Nebraska Medical Center Saturday because it has a special biocontainment unit and had already treated two other Ebola patients earlier this fall, both of whom recovered. (Video via Nebraska Medicine)

Salia lived in Maryland but had been working with Ebola patients at a hospital in Freetown in his native Sierra Leone when he tested positive for the virus on Nov. 10. (Video via The United Methodist Church)

Salia initially tested negative for the virus on Nov. 6, despite showing symptoms — something doctors say could have happened because he still didn't have enough of the virus in his system to show up on the test. 

After he was diagnosed, doctors on the ground took five days to determine whether he was well enough to fly to the U.S., by which time his symptoms had advanced considerably. 

The hospital says it used every available treatment on Salia, including the experimental drug ZMapp, as well as plasma transfusions from another Ebola patient who survived the virus. 

In a press conference Monday, health officials said Salia was in the 13th day of his illness, while the other patients they treated arrived only six and eight days in. 

The doctors also said the health workers who cared for Salia will be self-monitoring over 21 days, and they adjusted their equipment to compensate for the fact that Salia's advanced symptoms made him more contagious. (Video via MSNBC)

Salia is only the second person to die from Ebola in the United States — the other being Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas in October. (Video via KJRH)

Some of Salia's blood samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and his body will be cremated. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[ESA Releases Images Of Philae's Kilometer-High 'Bounce']]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 06:16:00 -0600
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If landing highly specialized scientific equipment on a comet wasn't already nerve-wracking enough, the European Space Agency had to wait to see if the Philae mission would succeed as the spacecraft bounced a kilometer up off the comet during landing.

Late Sunday, ESA posted this blog entry showing what the agency believes is Philae's landing spot on Comet 67P/C-G. The dust cloud had already been observed, but you can now see what scientists believe is Philae itself and its shadow.

Philae has since gone dark because scientists believe it landed in a shady area of the comet blocking its solar panels, and the spacecraft ran out of battery Friday evening.

The world has been fascinated by ESA's successful attempt to land a manmade device on a possibly billions-of-years-old space body. But while the space agency received data from Philae, it still didn't know where it landed. (Video via European Space Agency)

In fact, ESA released these images taken by the Rosetta mothership Friday with the note Philae had landed at "a still unconfirmed location likely outside of these images."

The BBC notes the 200-plus pound spacecraft bounced approximately a kilometer up off of 67P/C-G and landed hundreds of meters from that first dust cloud.

Philae did manage to drill into the comet and transfer some data back to Earth. BBC reports just before the spacecraft went to sleep, it was ordered to raise itself a few centimeters and rotate in hopes of putting itself in the best position to someday catch more sun and recharge.

This video includes an image from the European Space Agency / CC BY SA 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Spread The Love, Tons Of Bacteria With A 10-Second Kiss]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 01:31:00 -0600
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Here's something you'll never be able to forget: next time you lean in for a kiss, keep in mind you're transferring and receiving millions of bacteria. How romantic!

A group of scientists from the Netherlands asked 21 couples at an Amsterdam zoo to participate in the study. The couples had their mouths swabbed before and after sharing a kiss, and researchers examined the swabs for bacteria. (Video via YouTube / Bart Weber)

According to the study, published in the journal Microbiome, an "intimate kiss" lasting 10 seconds transfers an average of about 80 million bacteria. The researchers had one member of the couple consume a probiotic yogurt drink to measure the transfer, so they could identify the specific bacteria found in the yogurt. (Video via YouTube / Tatia Pllieva)

And other than that stomach-turning statistic, the researchers also discovered the couples shared similar bacterial colonies.

In other words, two individuals in a couple have more similar bacteria than two strangers. Which makes sense, given they're swapping 80 million bacteria on the regular. 

Now, before you go making your significant other swig a capful of mouthwash before every kiss, it's important you consider the benefits of all that bacteria. 

Time quotes one of the scientists in the investigation who says, "There are a number of studies that show if the diversity in bacteria increases—more different types of species—this is a good thing," because it helps build up your immune system response.

And in the grand scheme of things, 80 million bacteria really isn't all that much. According to the National Institutes of Health, microorganisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1 — that puts the numbers in the trillions, folks. (Video via YouTube / TinyScience)

And so we implore you, go forth and do your part to add to those trillions.

This video includes images from Marco / CC BY 2.0 and Thomas Hawk / CC BY NC 2.0.

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<![CDATA[Campaigns Challenge Myth That Women Don't Get Heart Disease]]> Sun, 16 Nov 2014 19:32:00 -0600
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Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing more deaths than all forms of cancer combined. But for decades, it's gone under-diagnosed because of the belief that heart disease affects mostly older men. Thankfully, that misconception is slowly changing.

I spoke with cardiologist and American Heart Association spokesperson Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum about how this shift took place.

STEINBAUM VIA SKYPE: “When I go out and say heart disease is your number one killer more than all cancers combined, I remember 10 years ago, I remember five years ago everyone saying ‘Really? Are you sure?’ Isn’t it breast cancer? ‘And I see now they’re saying, yeah, we’ve heard of that.’”

Women’s health advocates point out most research on diagnosing and treating heart problems has relied on male subjects. But symptoms often look different for women. Even heart attacks can sometimes be so subtle in women that they aren't properly diagnosed.

STEINBAUM VIA SKYPE: “Women are different. We need to investigate and figure out what’s going on with women’s bodies. We can’t just extrapolate the data like we have been doing for many, many years.”

In 2004, the AHA began the Go Red for Women campaign after finding women and doctors were not paying enough attention to heart health.

STEINBAUM VIA SKYPE:“We just didn’t think of women back then of having heart disease.”

The campaign encourages women to learn more about heart disease and take steps to protect their heart health, using testimonies of women who've experienced heart problems.

“I have a hole in my heart.”

“I was sitting in my tub and I started to get dizzy. Everything started to go black.

“I started having some drooping of my lip and my face was numb.”

It's also relied on celebrities like Star Jones, Jennie Garth and Betty White to help get the word out.

GARTH VIA AHA GO RED FOR WOMEN: “There’s nothing like a group of women that rally together in support of one another. Together we truly can prevent heart disease.”

In 2011, Elizabeth Banks appeared in the AHA’s short film “Just a Little Heart Attack,” acting out real-life stories of women who were tempted to ignore early warning symptoms because they were too busy.

“Mom, I think you’re having a heart attack.”

“Honey, do I look like the type of person who has a heart attack?”

That short film used comedy as a method of generating awareness, but a new organization is taking a different approach.

I AM THE LADY KILLER: “I quietly kill one woman every minute. I don’t care about your hair color. I don’t care about the color of your skin.”

A creepy set of ads called "I Am The Lady Killer" uses shock to spread the word. The ads were put out by the Women's Heart Alliance, co-founded by Barbra Streisand, following a disappointing survey that showed most women still underestimate their risk of heart disease.

Since Go Red for Women took up the cause 10 years ago, more than 900,000 women have committed to improving their heart health and more than 200,000 healthcare workers have received information specific to women and heart disease.

Steinbaum says she hopes the awareness campaigns continue to encourage women to make heart health a priority.

STEINBAUM VIA SKYPE: “I think all women need to empower themselves to get checked, to know what their risk factors are, to push their doctors, to become aware of their own bodies and know if they’re not feeling well.”

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<![CDATA[Healthcare.gov's Second Enrollment Going Much Smoother]]> Sat, 15 Nov 2014 17:03:00 -0600
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Healthcare.gov and online state insurance marketplaces are now enrolling in select states across the country, and it appears things are going a bit better this year. 

Early Saturday, the first day of second round enrollment, there were reports the site would not let people log in to their new account. But the issue appears to have been resolved within a couple of hours. And it's a small hiccup compared to last year.

2013's online enrollment was riddled with technical issues and criticisms that the process was too confusing. But the president expressed confidence in this year's second round process in his weekly address.

OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE: "We've spent the last year improving and upgrading healthcare.gov to make it faster and easier to use." 

Some states even offer local help through the enrollment process. 

But this year does come with its own challenges. For one, the enrollment period spans three months — half the time given last year. 

Then, the government is tasked with not only attracting new customers, but with working to maintain those who signed up last year. 

The Obama administration has reached out especially to historically uninsured demographics, including young adults and minorities.

The administration has also encouraged Americans who already have plans to look at some of the options that are new to this year and see if they can find a better deal.

The same incentives as last year still apply: fees for not being insured along with tax credits for those who sign up

The Washington Post reports, in the first eight hours of enrollment Saturday, about 23,000 people had completed applications. That's a bit more than the embarrassing first day figure from last year's enrollment, when only six people were successfully signed up.

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<![CDATA[Why Don't Men Ask Directions? Evolution.]]> Sat, 15 Nov 2014 13:31:00 -0600
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Ladies, we might finally have an answer as to why men refuse to stop and ask for directions. It may pose a threat to their evolutionary manhood. 

A new study from the University of Utah suggests men might have evolved better navigational skills in order to find more women to have children with.  

To come to this conclusion, researchers tested and interviewed members of the Twe and Tjimba tribes, which live in a mountainous, desert area of Namibia. The tribes have dry season camps in the mountains where they forage for food. 

These tribes were chosen for the study because it's common for men to have children with women besides their wives. The researchers say they likely wouldn't have gotten as accurate of results from a monogamous community. 

Researchers tested both men and women tribe members and found men did much better on spacial and navigational tasks than women. They also found men who tested higher for spacial relations had traveled farther than other men and also had more children with more women in their lifetime. 

And researchers say the differences in spatial skills between the men and women in the study have been observed in other cultures as well — leading to the conclusion the skills were evolved. 

Researcher Elizabeth Cashdan said, "Some of the links have been demonstrated, but this study looks at the whole chain and that's what is novel about it."

Researchers say this principal is true with other mammals as well, including voles and mice. 

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<![CDATA[Philae's Power Loss Puts It Down ... But Not Out]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:43:00 -0600
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After making probably the greatest landing since the movie “Flight,” spacecraft Philae is dealing with a whole new challenge — one that could keep scientists from examining possibly billions-of-years-old material from Comet 67P/C-G.

Philae ran out of battery life Friday evening, as European Space Agency scientists predicted. The spacecraft was in the process of transmitting data from a dig back to the ESA.

In a statement that reads like a pseudo-eulogy, the head of operations for Philae said, This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.”

Scientists knew there could be trouble after Philae bounced, then landed in a shady area of the comet. As of Friday morning, ESA scientists still weren’t exactly sure where the spacecraft was.

Philae does have solar panels so it can regain power, but it needs sunlight for that — and its current positioning apparently isn’t ideal. (Video via ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

But before going dark, the lander did manage to send back some data — Philae’s operation head told The Guardian the agency’s accomplished about 80 percent of the observations they were hoping to get out of the mission.

And we’ll definitely give kudos to the Rosetta team and Philae for snagging some dope pictures of the comet, so far.

But it’s not over just yet! ESA scientists say their next chance to communicate with Philae is Saturday morning.

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<![CDATA[Warmer Temperatures Could Lead To More Lightning Strikes]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:29:00 -0600
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We're used to hearing about how climate change will impact the weather: more storms, more hurricanes. But you might not have thought about another threat that goes hand in hand with severe weather: more lightning. (Video via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, say one of the effects of higher global temperatures could be a huge increase in lightning strikes. 

Publishing in the journal Science, the study's authors say every degree Celsius of warming could translate to a 12 percent increase in lightning strikes — around 50 percent more by the end of the century.

Lightning is notoriously tricky for climate scientists to predict, but lead researcher David Romps says he's come up with a much better model.

He tested that model against lightning strike records taken in 2011, saying, "We were blown away by how incredibly well that worked to predict lightning strikes."

He then turned his model toward climate change predictions stretching out to the year 2100, and found there will be three lightning strikes then for every two that occur now.

The study does have some limitations. For one thing, the relationship between all of the variables Romps studied isn't concrete yet and might not stay the same as temperatures increase. (Video via NASA)

A NASA researcher told LiveScience, "The question is whether something that works in the current climate is also applicable to a climate change."

Lightning strikes kill around 30 people per year in the U.S., but like most other effects of climate change, pose a much greater risk to developing countries. They're also one of the leading causes of wildfires.

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

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<![CDATA[Not Just India: Coerced Sterilizations A Global Issue]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:26:00 -0600
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The recent death of 13 Indian women at a “sterilization camp” this week and the subsequent arrest of the doctor allegedly responsible has put sterilization programs — in India and elsewhere — under the international spotlight.

As the world’s second largest country with more than 1.2 billion people, India’s government relies heavily on sterilization for population control. (Video via United Nations)

In 2011, a United Nations population report found 37 percent of India’s women used sterilization as a contraceptive, one of the highest percentages in the world.

And it’s the rural, poor families that account for most of the procedures. As Bloomberg noted last year, monetary incentives of up to 1,400 rupees, or $22, and improved welfare benefits are used to lure desperate women to unsanitary sterilization camps. (Video via YouTube / Trickle Up)

The procedure, which involves snipping and tying off a woman’s fallopian tube, can lead to illness or death due to how quickly they are performed and how unsanitary the tools are. (Video via CNN)

And yet some women simply have no choice.

SHALU YADAV VIA BBC: “It's the poverty more than their personal wish that takes them to these camps.”

Although India abolished sterilization quotas for doctors in 1996, Human Rights Watch says health workers are still pressured on the state level to meet certain targets. They’re threatened with pay cuts or humiliation if they fail to meet them.

While India is one of the leading nations in sterilizations, it’s far from being the only place where they occur on a large scale.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found women living in Latin American countries face pressure to undergo sterilization if found to be HIV-positive. And a report from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting revealed a similar trend in South Africa, where HIV-positive women are sometimes tricked into getting sterilized.

As BBC reported in 2012, some countries such as the reclusive Uzbekistan allegedly don’t even bother with monetary incentives, instead sterilizing women without their knowledge after they give birth.

Even the U.S. has a history with sterilizations — in 1976, the government admitted its Indian Health Service agency sterilized more than 3,400 Native American women without their permission.

More recently, an Arizona Republican lawmaker was forced to resign after suggesting poor women should be sterilized.

But for all of these sterilization pushes, a writer for Bloomberg View points out there are safer methods.

Specifically referring to India, the author points to states with both high education and low population growth and says its family planning awareness, not sterilization,leads to lower fertility rates.

Analysts at the Human Rights Watch offer a similar conclusion, asking the Indian government to offer family planning alternatives which don’t involve sterilization.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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<![CDATA[Preemies Might Be Harmed By Plastic Used To Treat Them]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:20:00 -0600
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Hospitalized premature babies might be harmed by the very equipment used to treat them, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University. 

The study found infants were being exposed to a chemical most commonly referred to as DEHP. 

DEHP is used to increase the flexibility of some plastic devices, and researchers found it in hospitals' tubing, catheters, and fluid and blood product bags. Researchers said the infants' greatest exposure came from the tubes placed in the babies' airways for breathing support. 

The study noted previous research finding DEHP might interfere with normal hormone function and could also increase inflammation and cause problems with the liver, lungs, brain and eyes.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also notes the chemical might affect the development of testicles in newborn boys.

The study found the babies' daily DEHP intake was about 4,000 to 160,000 times higher than recommended to prevent side effects. 

Senior researcher Eric Mallow says"It's remarkable that the care of sick and developmentally vulnerable preterm infants depends on an environment composed almost entirely of plastic."

Researchers noted DEHP is unregulated when it comes to medical devices, but is limited in children's toys and products. They recommend replacing all DEHP-containing equipment with products that do not contain the chemical.  

Europe has already begun working to eliminate the chemical from medical products. DEHP is one of six chemicals being phased out by the European Commission.  

In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did recommend that non-DEHP medical products be used hospitals. 

This video includes images from Evelyn / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Martin LaBar / CC BY NC 2.0.

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